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How do you deal with unpleasant family members?

ChloeTheGreat

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I had dinner tonight with my future father-in-law. He is a really frustrating person to be around (ignorance ie: racist comments and the like) He was sober tonight, which was unusual. He is also extremely selfish and nosey and to be honest, hasn't been a wonderful father to my fiance. They have that family dynamic that makes you wonder "how did the kid turn out so good with a parent like that?"
He has been a topic of discussion a lot lately with plans for our upcoming wedding. We are intending to get married at our local courthouse and then take a honeymoon to Las Vegas. We have tossed around some different ideas, such as including famiiy and close friends, etc...but the fact of the matter is this man is not welcome. There is no good way to include some family but not others.

How do you deal with inlaws/relatives you don't want to be around (not just in wedding situations)?
 

texaskj

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An oldie but a goodie? Move away, you'll know how many miles you need. I know tons of people who have saved their sanity doing this. Some people are simply so toxic, this is the best solution.
 

kenny

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ChloeTheGreat|1311994306|2980272 said:
I There is no good way to include some family but not others.
Just tell him he's not invited.

I say screw manners after people have demonstrate that THEY don't have any.
Manners is a two way street.

When someone kicks me in the face I'm going to react in an appropriate way.
I am not a doormat.

Maybe you'll do him the best favor of his life and he'll get a clue.
 

ChloeTheGreat

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Kenny, I like the way you think.
 

sonnyjane

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texaskj|1311994959|2980279 said:
An oldie but a goodie? Move away, you'll know how many miles you need. I know tons of people who have saved their sanity doing this. Some people are simply so toxic, this is the best solution.
This is why my husband and I live in California, my crazy family lives in Florida, and his crazy family lives in Boston :) When I hear people's terrible accounts of run-ins with their families, I am so relieved that we are separated by 3,000 miles. I get along fine with them in an occasional email or phone call, but if I had to see them regularly my life would be unpleasant. We have VERY different views about politics, religion, and family values.
 

cookies

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I guess you will have to include him in the courthouse, unless your fiancé doesn't want to do so. My sister-in-law is an extremely unpleasant person to be with, and my hubby and I thought about not inviting her to our ceremony.. Then a few weeks before the ceremony, she told my hubby, she would hate us forever if we didn't invite her. I really don't care if she hates me, because what she did to me before the wedding (e.g. trying to stop us from getting engaged and married, trying to make me sign an insulting prenup, etc) already made me have resentment towards her. But hubby doesn't want to lose his sister, so we ended up inviting her.
 

cookies

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sonnyjane|1311996573|2980301 said:
This is why my husband and I live in California, my crazy family lives in Florida, and his crazy family lives in Boston :) When I hear people's terrible accounts of run-ins with their families, I am so relieved that we are separated by 3,000 miles. I get along fine with them in an occasional email or phone call, but if I had to see them regularly my life would be unpleasant. We have VERY different views about politics, religion, and family values.
:shock: My crazy family lives on the other side of the earth, but I am far from relieved. They keep saying they raised me for nothing!
 

Haven

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It has taken me a long time to accept the fact that my father will never be the father I want him to be. I allowed myself to expect impossible things from him for a very long time, which always led to pain, of course. It's been only the last year or so, really, that I've been at peace with the fact that he is who he is, and I either had to choose to cut him out of my life entirely, or allow him to remain in it as is. I opted for the latter, and I've been much happier where he is involved since I've accepted him as he is and stopped lamenting the father he is unable to be.

I'm not saying it's easy. But I think that sometimes we have to choose between keeping them in our lives and accepting them for who they are, and cutting them out entirely because we just can't do it.
 

Gypsy

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I avoid them. I am hoping to move across the country in the next few years. I miss being on the east coast and having 2000 miles of buffer.
 

TristanC

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I simply never do anything I'm obliged to, morally or socially or whatever.

I do what I want to. So even if it was something I did not want to do, once I chose to follow that path, attend that occasion or event etc. So If I wanted to do a family thing, knowing that there might be unpleasantness - then I suck it up. If I'm not in a mood, I skip it altogether.

I have great parents. To a point of course. We are different people, but nothing too irreconcilable.

Whether he comes or not is the choice of his child? At least that's how I would have it.
 

AmeliaG

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Haven|1312001910|2980370 said:
It has taken me a long time to accept the fact that my father will never be the father I want him to be. I allowed myself to expect impossible things from him for a very long time, which always led to pain, of course. It's been only the last year or so, really, that I've been at peace with the fact that he is who he is, and I either had to choose to cut him out of my life entirely, or allow him to remain in it as is. I opted for the latter, and I've been much happier where he is involved since I've accepted him as he is and stopped lamenting the father he is unable to be.

I'm not saying it's easy. But I think that sometimes we have to choose between keeping them in our lives and accepting them for who they are, and cutting them out entirely because we just can't do it.
Ditto Haven.

My father is the typical Archie Bunker, just more bombastic. I couldn't deal with him for a long time so I cut him out of my life. Lately, we've renewed connections, he's still the same but it doesn't bother me as much because he has some very good traits. It's not going to be the relationship I wanted but I'm OK with that.

Your FI can either accept his father as he is and still get something from the relationship or he can't. If he can't, he does need to cut him out, at least temporarily. But this is your FIs problem, not yours.

As far as the wedding goes, it seems nice and easy to say that only the couple's wishes matter, but once you invite family, a wedding becomes a family event. Is your FI going to feel a bit guilty about his father not being there when he sees the rest of his family? Are some of the family members there going to be sad that the father's not there and put a damper on your celebration? Is the fact that you're inviting the rest of the family but not the father going to overshadow the happy fact that you're getting married? That's what I would worry about.

I love my sister to death; I was her maid of honor - and she loves my father to death. There is no way I could ask her to be my MOH without inviting my father. She wouldn't be able to get over it and because I am close to her; I wouldn't be able to get over it. If I couldn't invite my father, I wouldn't be able to invite the rest of my family, because it would destroy the atmosphere at my wedding. I can ignore my father, but not my entire family.
 

ChloeTheGreat

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Thanks to all for the suggestions.

I would like dear father-in-law to be cut out of our lives completely, but FI won't do it. (In the wedding discussions we've had, FI doesn't want his father to be a part of it either...I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression that it is only me who thinks his father is toxic.) I think that should be a sign to FI...that if he doesn't even want his own father included in our wedding, he should really think about their relationship as a whole. There is no way we'd be able to get away with inviting FI's grandparents (who we do have a good relationship with) and not his father. I think we've decided that we will not INVITE anyone to the courthouse for our ceremony, but if my parents happen to show up, it will be ok. ;))

My mother likes to remind me "that is the family you're marrying into..." I don't think that means my relationship with this man has to change just because his son and I have a piece of paper. :rolleyes:
 

JewelFreak

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If you can get away from them, do! If you must live nearby, you need to establish firm boundaries -- such as, don't come over without an invitation: "We are terribly busy" or be honest: "You behave horribly." And stick to them.

My MIL was awful. I never heard her say a single nice thing about anyone she wasn't related to by blood. Including her other DIL, who was so so nice to her. She'd come home from their house & tear apart the food, child-raising, clothing, everything. Me? I was the alien American who stole her beloved firstborn male child -- and made him do humiliating things like run the vacuum. :saint: She butted into our lives way too much when we lived 45 min. away. When we moved back to the States, 3000 miles was a lovely distance! I let DH visit home by himself -- of course he was fond of his mother, fine, but I was always "too busy" to get away. I'm sure he got an earful about how substandard his wife was whenever he saw them -- I tried not to say negative stuff about her; that does more harm than good usually.

If your relatives are such that you can find some understanding of them, it helps you maintain sanity. Either way, keeping your distance is the only answer.
 

missy

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I agree with many of the sentiments stated here. Accept them as they are realizing they will not change their behavior or who they are and try to have as little interaction with them as possible. It is sad but they are not the people you wish they are and they will never be so for your emotional health and well being (as well as your FI's) try not to engage them.

When you are around them be pleasant cordial and ignore any toxic behavior if you can and try to be around them as little as possible. If you invite your future FIL to your wedding try to invite more positive and happy people to counteract his presence. That was one of the main reasons we had a bigger wedding than we originally planned to because I wanted more happy there than negative. Originally we were just going to have family but with my MIL and SIL being who they are I just couldn't have family so invited our friends as well and we had a blast. It was an amazing day and loving experience despite the presence of a few undesirables.

Sometimes in life we have to just suck it up and do the best we can with who/what we have. I wish you all the best and know you can overcome this negative influence and I disagree with the statement that when you marry the man you are marrying the family as well. I do not know how my dh turned out to be the wonderful, generous, good and kind man that he is but he did and we have very little to do with his family. It no longer affects our lives in any way. But we had a steep learning curve to arrive at this place so I wish for you to have an easier road and know it is all worth it to share your life with your wonderful FI. Best wishes!
 

Circe

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Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. I love my parents deeply, but we're the products of different cultures, and by contemporary American standards, they can say the most appalling things. I used to get upset and get into teary shouting matches trying to bring them around to my point of view: now, I shrug and either, a) say agree to disagree, or, b) say I've got to go.

It's tougher, I think, when they're not your family, but I think the same policy should hold true: Toxic FIL starts spouting off about how women belong in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, smile, nod, say "Totally opposed to my own views! Hey, I need a drink," and just ... don't come back until the end of the evening. Amazing what it can do for one's blood pressure.
 

packrat

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We didn't invite my husband's father to our wedding. Someone that toxic, I guess I don't care who it is, I wouldn't invite them. So he's mad..um..who gives a crap? What's he going to do, not talk to you? Get on his huffy bike and ride away? I'm not that invested in people, family members or otherwise, to encourage them to be around me and then treat me like gum on the bottom of their shoe. I have family members on my side that I don't speak w/, and the stupid reasons make me wonder how old *they* are. They can go have their pity party in the sandbox w/the rest of the whine baby pee pants kids and I'll go about my business as an adult. I guess if your soon to be husband is dead set on inviting him, let him come and be civil and hope he acts appropriately!
 

wannaBMrsH

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I think you have some great advice here. My two cents:

Placing your own expectations on people can only bring you disappointment and heartbreak. I used to WANT my dad to be like other dads, to get me things I wanted, to be faithful to my mom, to not go on 2-3 day drinking binges, etc. And then I realized that it's not who he is. I'm not saying it's easy, I am now 33 and I've been trying to figure this out since I was 13. But I realized that just because he was a crappy husband to my mom, it didn't make him a bad father. Once I moved away, I started calling him once a week just to talk about whatever he wanted to talk about without the expectation of anything (he didn't even have to buy me dinner, just stay on the phone!) and 20 years later, he is one of my favorite people to talk to. He is still a womanizer (he's just not married to my mom anymore!) and he still drinks from time to time (just not as heavily as he used to) and he still forgets to do things he volunteers himself for, but he is actually a great guy to have around when things are rocky and he is a great source of solace for me when things go wrong. I've just learned to appreciate him for what he is and not resent him for what he is not.

The story is similar with my mother, except change the drinking and the cheating to lack of education and being a doormat. Again, once I got over the fact that she will never be who I wanted her to be, I was able to appreciate all the things she is: caring, solid, loving and capable of a tremendous amount of sacrifice.

I think it's hard for children in particular to get past the shock and heartbreak of realizing their parents are not perfect. I truly believe that children who are able to overcome the "trauma" of accepting their parents for who they are are the ones who are best equipped to become their parents' peer. I love the relationship I have with my parents today. I truly consider them among my best friends. But I had to move away and deal with the heartbreak on my own before I could accept that I WANTED them in my life much more than I wanted them to be my idea of perfect parents. I can appreciate all that they sacrificed for me and my sibilings and I know in my heart that I am not capable of that type of love, but I would never have known that if I never got past the fact that my parents couldn't pay for college and that I am still paying for my own education.
 

AmeliaG

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ChloeTheGreat|1312024926|2980439 said:
Thanks to all for the suggestions.

I would like dear father-in-law to be cut out of our lives completely, but FI won't do it. (In the wedding discussions we've had, FI doesn't want his father to be a part of it either...I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression that it is only me who thinks his father is toxic.) I think that should be a sign to FI...that if he doesn't even want his own father included in our wedding, he should really think about their relationship as a whole.
Whoa there, aren't you setting up some unrealistic expectations for your FI? I can tell you, having had to break off relations with a toxic father, it ain't that easy and if I'd been pressured by my SO to break things off before I was ready, it would have done more harm than good. I would have probsbly broken up with the SO first.

It's easier for YOU to cut off all relations with the man because he's not your father; you didn't even KNOW him before you met your FI. For your FI, however, the relationship is a whole other ball of wax. You can't even begin to compare your situation with your FIs even if your FI is agreeing with you that his father is toxic.

But that's your saving grace. His family is NOT your family so you don't need a relationship with them other than managing some pleasanteries at a limited number of family events. So start working on that now. Sit down with your FI and figure out how you're going to handle his father with things like holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, births of new children, etc. And give him space to figure out the relationship with his father on his own so long as it doesn't negatively impact you.

BTW, I think the courthouse wedding is a brilliant idea. This way you can meet up with individual family members you want to afterwards in a casual setting and it won't be that big of a deal. I also liked the idea of inviting more people, and more positive people at your wedding but that can get expensive.
 

movie zombie

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Amelia has it right: time to set the boundaries and lines of your involvement now before marriage.

its your wedding. you do not have to invite anyone.

you're not marrying the man, you're marrying into a family. you can limit your time spent with them w/o imposing the same on your FI/husband. talk about it now. come up with the guidelines now. life is too short not to do so and the success of your marriage could well depend on what you do now regarding this issue.

there is a lot written about toxic relationships, including

http://www.amazon.com/Toxic--Laws-Strategies-Protecting-Marriage/dp/0060507853/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1312043306&sr=8-1
 

centralsquare

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I wish I don't know what this is like, but sadly I do. And, sadly, it's my family that has the hurtful and intolerable person. I wish I could cut this person out of my life, as does DH. But I won't. Despite being evil, in my opinion, I won't turn my back. I couldn't live with myself for being as cruel as he is. At least I can sleep at night thinking I'm a better person.
 

Tacori E-ring

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I don't take it personally. It's usually THEIR issues and has nothing to do with me. I don't absorb their bad behavior, moods, or comments. I detach, I pray, and try to set boundaries.
 

ChloeTheGreat

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AmeliaG|1312037918|2980498 said:
ChloeTheGreat|1312024926|2980439 said:
Thanks to all for the suggestions.

I would like dear father-in-law to be cut out of our lives completely, but FI won't do it. (In the wedding discussions we've had, FI doesn't want his father to be a part of it either...I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression that it is only me who thinks his father is toxic.) I think that should be a sign to FI...that if he doesn't even want his own father included in our wedding, he should really think about their relationship as a whole.
Whoa there, aren't you setting up some unrealistic expectations for your FI? I can tell you, having had to break off relations with a toxic father, it ain't that easy and if I'd been pressured by my SO to break things off before I was ready, it would have done more harm than good. I would have probsbly broken up with the SO first.

It's easier for YOU to cut off all relations with the man because he's not your father; you didn't even KNOW him before you met your FI. For your FI, however, the relationship is a whole other ball of wax. You can't even begin to compare your situation with your FIs even if your FI is agreeing with you that his father is toxic.

But that's your saving grace. His family is NOT your family so you don't need a relationship with them other than managing some pleasanteries at a limited number of family events. So start working on that now. Sit down with your FI and figure out how you're going to handle his father with things like holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, births of new children, etc. And give him space to figure out the relationship with his father on his own so long as it doesn't negatively impact you.

BTW, I think the courthouse wedding is a brilliant idea. This way you can meet up with individual family members you want to afterwards in a casual setting and it won't be that big of a deal. I also liked the idea of inviting more people, and more positive people at your wedding but that can get expensive.

Oh I didn't mean to sound like I actually think that's realistic. Sure, in an ideal world FIL wouldn't be around, but I know that FI won't cut ties with him, nor have I ever pressured him to. I would just like to avoid the occasional dinner with FIL; I go anyway because FI wants me there. (Like a couple of years ago, future FIL took us to dinner for my birthday...he was drunk and grabbed the waitress' a**...extremely uncomfortable and inappropriate. A better way to celebrate my birthday would be to NOT have to go to dinner with him!)
 

Jennifer W

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kenny|1311996067|2980292 said:
ChloeTheGreat|1311994306|2980272 said:
I There is no good way to include some family but not others.
Just tell him he's not invited.

I say screw manners after people have demonstrate that THEY don't have any.
Manners is a two way street.

When someone kicks me in the face I'm going to react in an appropriate way.
I am not a doormat.

Maybe you'll do him the best favor of his life and he'll get a clue.
This. No invitations (to my home, anyway) for racist people. I don't care to offer hospitality for the sake of manners, to people who offend with racist / homophobic / sexist / bigoted /etc views. Life's too short.
 

AmeliaG

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ChloeTheGreat|1312024926|2980439 said:
I would just like to avoid the occasional dinner with FIL; I go anyway because FI wants me there. (Like a couple of years ago, future FIL took us to dinner for my birthday...he was drunk and grabbed the waitress' a**...extremely uncomfortable and inappropriate. A better way to celebrate my birthday would be to NOT have to go to dinner with him!)
Now that should be TOTALLY realistic! If your FIL gets drunk regularly and embarasses you in public, then you should be able to have a conversation with your FI that he just makes you uncomfortable and you'd prefer not to tag along for the occasional dinner. No reason why FI can't go.

Give and take works both ways - you can't force your FI to cut his relationship with his father but your FI can't force you to have a relationship with his father that you're uncomfortable with.

You may have to go through incident by incident with your FI - I don't want to be exposed to this, I don't want to be exposed to that. It doesn't mean your FI can't have a relationship with his father; you're just limiting your involvement. A hint - it may be easier to focus on the behavior you don't like and not your FIL per se, such as 'I'm not used to seeing waitresses' a$$es pinched by my tablemates. I really don't want to see that again.' If your FIL has repeatable behavior problems, bring that up - a recurring pattern as something you don't trust not to appear if you go out with your FIL again.

Good luck!

ETA: Or, if you've had this conversation with your FI several times before and gotten nowhere, it may be time to say, 'I've tried. I just can't go out to dinner with your father any more'.
 

luv2sparkle

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I didn't invite my father (and I use the term loosely) to my wedding and I never regretted it for one minute. He never really wanted
anything to do with me, so it was not any loss. Really, the only thing he ever did was cause me a whole lot of pain. He is dead now,
and I am still not sorry. I have long come to terms with the fact of who he was.

If you can avoid having him, I would, if he is going to spoil your day or make you unhappy in any way.
 

maplefemme

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A deep hole and enough concrete to fill it.... :naughty:

No seriously, you have to advocate for yourself in these situations. I have dealt with this with my former MIL and a not so supportive spouse, and I find THAT to have been the greatest challenge of all.
I finally put out there like this, I said what I wasn't willing to tolerate, that was my choice, and she had a choice to either stop or not be in my company, that was her choice
So I'm divorced now :lol: but HAPPY!
 

Imdanny

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I wouldn't give up one minute of my life to spend time with any family members I didn't want to be around, although I do realize as a gay person with a SO who lives 5,000 miles from nowhere, I probably don't have as much pressure to be around family I don't like as many people do. Still, I sat through about 20 years of family dinners, with the occasional bigot or two mouthing off. I'm an adult now, and you couldn't pay me to put up with that kind of unpleasantness.
 

LGK

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ChloeTheGreat|1312024926|2980439 said:
Thanks to all for the suggestions.

I would like dear father-in-law to be cut out of our lives completely, but FI won't do it. (In the wedding discussions we've had, FI doesn't want his father to be a part of it either...I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression that it is only me who thinks his father is toxic.) I think that should be a sign to FI...that if he doesn't even want his own father included in our wedding, he should really think about their relationship as a whole. There is no way we'd be able to get away with inviting FI's grandparents (who we do have a good relationship with) and not his father. I think we've decided that we will not INVITE anyone to the courthouse for our ceremony, but if my parents happen to show up, it will be ok. ;))

My mother likes to remind me "that is the family you're marrying into..." I don't think that means my relationship with this man has to change just because his son and I have a piece of paper. :rolleyes:
DH finally came to the point where he cut his mother out of his life, after long, drawn out painfulness- it wasn't an easy decision but it has really been WAY better. It did take a long time to get to that point for him. I sympathize with your FI, so sorry you're both dealing with this.

I ended up inviting my estranged father to our wedding but luckily he didn't show. In your situation, I think you have made the right decision. Let the cards fall where they may afterwards. There's no perfect solution unfortunately.
 
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