- 4 years ago
I’m sure this has been addressed here several times, but I am new and would love some insight.
I always hear if you marry the man you marry the in-laws. My boyfriend (who I know is saving up for a ring) comes from a very dysfunctional family. Absent father who recently died, recovering alcoholic mother, a sister who’s estranged from the family, and my biggest issue, a SIL who now hates me and has raged at me on more than one occasion about “turning her brother against her”. It happens because she’ll get me alone and tell me not to come to family events or make catty comments, and when I try to work it out with her, she becomes very hard to deal with. So eventually I tell him what’s going on and he confronts her and tells her to be nicer. She sees this as tattling.
At one point she lost it while we were alone and ripped into me for an hour, telling me everything she disliked about me, and then telling the remaining family a number of things I’d told her in confidence. When I got away to a room, she came in to get her dog, yelled at me to go home then when I said I had no way out, she turned off the lights on me, slammed the door. She screaed at her baby and when her mom stood up for me, she attacked her, pummelling her until her brother’s wife pulled her of. I was an hour out of town and had to call my brother to come get me because I was scared I was going to be attacked. It was the most bizarre experience I’ve ever been through. She apologized later, but only at the prompting of her other brother on facebook, but I didn’t accept it quickly enough (was still blindsighted and felt the situation was very serious), and when I finally offered to meet and talk, she brushed me off saying she was too busy with her friends, then the next day she raged at me again, this time at work in front of people. I’ve since left that job to get some distance (amoungst other reasons) because she works so close.
He asked her why she can’t be civil with me and she cut us both off telling him he could be like the other estranged sister who she’s cut off and that he’s making big deals of nothing. That one day when he has a kid like her, his life will be in perspective.
It’s been 4 months, and I haven’t heard from her since. What’s weird is that SHE was the one who set me up with him, and in the beginning she had me on such a high pedestal. When I got kicked off it for reasons that are extremely unclear to me, it was a tough fall. I know she has a lot of shame about her family, but I honestly did not care about their issues, until I became the target. I have dated someone with an alcoholic parent before. But she’s so embaressed by her and will tell her so. And yet even though everyone can see she has shame issues with her family, she will deny it and simply call your family dysfunctional, as she did with my own, and project a lot of her own flaws onto you, accusing you of things she’s doing. I have never said anything remotely close to what she’s said to me, and I have never seen the SIL take responsibility for anything.
The rest of the family is very passive and things revolve around the dramas of this SIL. The mom is used to abuse, so she made up with her because she doesn’t want to “lose another daughter”. And the other brother and his wife see her most often because they both have kids and she has a very charming and likeable side sometimes. There is a tendancy to say “she was stressed” or brush it off, when no one else gets that benefit, even if they recognize there is a problem there. My boyfriend’s needs and wishes come last.
They have guilted me about setting boundaries saying “family forgives”. I have given her repeated chances to talk and tried to look past it, but whenever I think we’re past things, I find out she’s seething. It’s to the point where I am legitimately frightened of her and what she’s capable of. I also have lost of a lot of respect for the family in their passivity, and felt like I am now being made out to be the person pulling my boyfriend’s strings when he stands up for me. I was told she has a strong personality and I need to get used to it to be part of the family. I had no idea going into it because she seemed so sweet, charismatic and likeable. She seemed like the girl who had everything going for her, and she’s very well liked at work.
I’ve since tried to go out with the brother and his wife to get to know them aside from what this SIL tells them about me. I took the initiative to contact his wife to suggest it to show there were no hard feelings after the incident. We did all go out and the SIL blew up the phone the entire time we were there, and then got mad at them for going out with us. Since then, I’ve heard nothing from them, and both his and my birthdays were not really aknowledged, even though it’s usually a big family affair for these things. Because I am quieter too, I feel like this was a disadvantage, and they interpretted my quietness in a negative light. I am not getting much of a chance to have them get to know me, so I fear there are misinterpretations everywhere.
I am not comfortable being cast as the villian for standing up for myself, and I believe that when it gets to a certain point, my boyfriend needs to manage his family. My attempts to do so were unsuccessful and I’m completely out of my comfort zone because my family, even though they had their own issues, were not like this. But every time he does, I get treated like I’m trying to get between them. I’m not. I want him to have a relationship. I do not want to be dumped on in the process, however.
My issue is this: my boyfriend is on my side. He has told them it is unacceptable for people to treat me poorly and expect him not to take issue. But he is at the bottom of the totem pole in his family. Growing up, his nickname at school was “Foster” because he was like the neighborhood foster kid. He stayed with friends to avoid having to be at home during the turmoil. He is one of the more well adjusted members, and to my knowledge, he’d not introduced any of his girlfriends since high school. I’m shaking up the family dynamics big time because they are not used to him actually getting his needs met (this is my interpretation). He normally takes care of everyone else and puts himself last. But he still sees his mother occasionally (and she’ll say “I love you” to me) and his brother, but otherwise, it’s like we don’t exist.
I am so angry sometimes about these people, though, and I’ve been warned that if I marry him, I take the family too. A psychologist I saw after the night everything went down has asked me to seriously consider whetehr I want to be part of this family. I am conflict. I am unsure of how long my boundaries will be successful and I worry that the worst has not passed, even if he says he’ll stand up for me, too. If he made a lot of excuses for his family, I would feel differently, but he has apologized for them and said this is the kind of thing he’s tried to avoid himself. He’s also the sweetest person I’ve met, and the two of us are a great couple aside from this, so I feel like I need to be cautious about throwing things away.
Have any of you had a similar situation and navigated things successfully?
Before the incident, his brother “welcomed me to the family” and said my boyfriend was doing so much better with me, and was like a “new man”. I have seen him become happier and healthier as well. His mom told people she thought I was a “beautiful person” and told him that she liked me. It’s the SIL and the brother’s wife who didn’t know what to make of me. The SIL has been going to this brother’s wife about me for over a year now, I found out, when I thought things were going well betweeen us. Since the incident, it’s like we don’t really, or I don’t really, belong in the family.