What to do about an uncaring family?

Not my family, thank Og, but my husband’s.

Backstory: B has had a very severe headache condition that he was recently hospitalized for. Prior to that he suffered for 18 months. His family has never been warm and fuzzy, but they are exceptionally cold to him about everything, including his medical problems. Let me also say that EVERYONE else who knows B thinks he is a wonderful guy, a great dad, and just an all-around good person to have around. He’s one of the sweetest, most loving people I’ve ever known. But is is obviously not a genetic thing.

B has two brothers, S and J. Their parents aren’t nearly as cold to S and J as they are to B. They are extremely religious (Catholic) and his dad has been going through phases to become a deacon of the church. Since he started with this their family has been more and more distant from each other. S and his family play into the Catholic thing, and I think that’s why his mom and dad like him best. But the weird thing is that J is gay and they treat him far better than they’ve ever treated B.

S is married with four children, and my husband was previously married and has two children from that relationship. His parents actively participate with S’s kids, but won’t give B’s kids the time of day. And they are all really well-behaved and lovely children. B says his mom has always been hot and cold, and that sometimes when they were kids she would “take the summer off,” meaning that she would go live away from her family for that time.

When B got married the first time, he was only 18 and had gotten the girl pregnant. This is the only thing we can think of that would have made his parents act the way they do about him. Well, that and his non-participation in the church.

We just got done in Michigan, where B spent two weeks at a hospital being treated for his head condition. His family didn’t call, didn’t send a card, nada. But my family sent flowers and lots of others called to wish him well and see how he was doing. He sent some emails giving updates about everything and they didn’t even respond.

Now that he’s back home he has called his mom a few different times to see if he could come by to visit and she’s actually said no. She gives no reason. Understandably, this upsets my husband greatly. He’s searched his heart and mind for the answer to why his family wants nothing to do with him, but comes up emptyhanded.

I don’t understand this and it breaks my heart. For fuck’s sake, people who haven’t even met B ask me how he is doing. I have girls at work asking, people at the school, my family, and pretty much anyone else who knows about it. Hell, my dad offered to pay for him to go to the Mayo Clinic back before we knew about the Michigan Clinic. And he offered to drive B there himself.

B just called me to tell me that he called his mom and she told him he couldn’t come over. She gave no reason. He is hurt beyond belief over it and doesn’t say anything to them when they treat him like this. I don’t know what to do or if I should do anything at all. Part of me just wants to send his mom an email to tell her how much their uncaring attitude has hurt B. But, the boundaries of what is appropriate are keeping me from doing anything.

What would you do? Or would you do anything at all?

What a sad and difficult situation. Since you have nothing to lose, what do you think about confronting them in a civil way? You know, ask them why they are angry with your husband.

If it were me I’d just drop them. I’m sure it hurts not to have a supportive family in your life, but no support is better than active rejection. I wouldn’t give them any more opportunities for rejection. Save your time and emotional energy for people who return it.

I can see two options for him and depending on how the one works out, possibly using both of them.

  1. As much as you want to say something to her, I would advise against it. It really is his own responsibility to let his mother know how her behavior affects him. Depending on the fallout of that there is…

  2. Avoid contact with them. The initial separation would be painful but in the longrun it could be beneficial to his (and your) mental well being. It sounds like you both have a great support system apart from his family and it could very well be in your best interest to maintain distance from them.

(((Indygrrl))) I’m sorry to hear about this, I’ve been through something similar and strongly sympathize with your pain.

I really don’t think you should do anything. As Antinor01 said, there is just too much potential for fallout.

You might encourage your husband to write her, either e-mail or snail mail, to let her know how much this coldness is distressing him and ask her why she is doing it.

Then let it go. If his mom has been cold all his life there is little chance of her changing now.

How is your husband doing, by the way? I hope everything is better for him.

I’m going to ask a dumb question here, but did you actually go through with the proposal in this thread:


If you insulted his parents’ parents with his blessing, I can understand how they might be a litle upset. I’m not saying they were right or wrong in what they did, but it’s understandable at least to a point. I think they are going overboard, however.

No, it was his grandparents who actually sent the card. Nothing was ever said to his parents or brothers about any of it. That thread was just a fantasy of things I’d like to say to them. Unless they are on the Dope and know me as Indygrrl, I highly doubt they’d know anything about that stuff.

And this has been going on for years and years prior to that incident.

Yes, but what if the grandparents tattled to your husband’s parents? What if they have decided to shun you because of the “horrible insult” rolls eyes you handed his grandparents?

I know it was the gramps who got your donation, any possibility they were aghast and said something about it to the In-Laws?

I will admit, I do regret sending that donation in his grandparent’s name. If that is what caused this I will never forgive myself. I come from a family that forgives even the biggest mistakes, so I’m from an entirely different mindset than these people.

Hell, my parents found out I was a stripper two months after I had my daughter (and I was unwed). I did all sorts of crazy shit for years after that. My brother has been arrested countless times and has actually gone to jail. Most recently he holed up in his house over the winter, causing the entire family to worry and speculate whether he was suicidal or on drugs.

My point is, no matter what we’ve ever done wrong, my family forgives it. They might shame you over it for a long time, but they certainly won’t shun you.

People can get weird when they feel their beliefs are threatened. It could be that B’s parents know how you and B feel about the church and their role in it, and it hurts and threatens them.

If they asked a friend or church member for advice about the "wayward - heathen - unbeliever son, maybe someone told them pretty much what you’ve been told here – put those people out of your life, protect yourself.

It ain’t right, but it might be the problem. Especially since B’s family is close to the kids who share their beliefs.

This is just about the only explanation that makes sense. If it’s true, how sad for them. It is truly their loss to not be involved. B and his kids have already been assimilated into my family, so those kids will have grandparents no matter what. But it still won’t make it hurt any less for them.

But if that is the reason it is a direct contradiction, because they are fine with their gay son. If they followed the church to the letter wouldn’t they believe he was going further into hell than a non-believer? It’s not like he hides it or denies it. He even brings his boyfriend home for visits. He might attend church with them on Xmas, but that’s about as far as his Catholic involvement goes.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand this family. It really puts things into perspective, though. My family isn’t perfect, but we sure do stick together. And I am grateful for that.

I’m sorry that your husband is going to have to make this tough decision. I made it myself, so I know what it feels like. If the other kids in his family are treated like they belong, and they treat your husband like shit, and there seems like no end to it, he will have to make one himself. It’s very hard to excommunicate yourself from your own family. It leaves a hole that can’t be filled by anything, really. But the love and support of a wife and in-laws can make up for it. My wife and her relatives are my family now. They aren’t judgmental or condescending or cruel, and if you do right by them, they’ll do right by you. That’s an entirely different kind of family than I know.

You can only beat yourself up so much for being unwanted and unloved and treated like a pariah by the people that made you; then it becomes a kind of sickness. If they aren’t going to make you feel like you belong, then you don’t belong. To them, anyway. So go and belong to some nice people for a change. It’s amazingly different when you don’t have to worry about what kind of crap they’re going to lay on you next, because they don’t do that to the people they love. Your family sounds like they’re that kind of people. I don’t know how to put this a kinder, gentler way, but you don’t have to take that shit from anybody, whether you have their blood in your veins or not. There has to come a point where you are no longer willing to bear the brunt of their cruelty, and that’s where you cut them off. If that’s how they want to be, they can be that way all by themselves. Your husband doesn’t have to take it.

I don’t normally take pot shots at religion, but I have to say here that if the church teaches his parents that it’s OK to behave this way to their son, then there is something fundamentally wrong with whatever it is they are teaching. Either that or the parents are totally misinterpreting the teachings to absolve thmselves of the blame for their own despicable behavior. You have to wonder how people like that can look at themselves in the mirror and not be ashamed, and go to church on Sunday thinking that they’re all good and right in their actions.

I wish the best for your husband, and I hope his treatments go as expected. And I wish him strength and conviction to deal with ejecting garbage from his life. I’ve read enough of your posts to know you’ll take care of him, and your family will accept him as one of their own. Actually, it sounds like they already have.

Accepting the gay son is less dangerous for them than accepting the son who doesn’t believe. They aren’t threatened by the gay son – being around him won’t make them gay. But being around the nonbeliever – that’s dangerous. I picture them with their fingers in their ears going “La la la la, I can’t hear you!” Easier for them to just remove the temptation.

To be honest, that’s the first thing I thought too re: the donation made to his grandparents. At the time you posted I thought to myself about the possible consequences of those actions. Yes you were annoyed that they did the same for you, but they’re stringent, unforgiving, indoctrinated while you possibly consider yourself more freethinking, not religious etc.

I also understand that you’re from a different mindset from your husband’s family. In my last relationship my ex’s family was completely “you do what you want to” kind of people, whereas my folks (especially my mother. :rolleyes: )feel the need to follow a particular path, tradition, belief.

I can only hope that maybe in time they’ll come around. If not, sad as it is, it seems that you guys have a loving unit together and also with his kids, and to learn from his folks how not to behave.

I would think the donation had to do with it if all this had started after that happened. But, unfortunately, it’s been going on for most of my husband’s life.

Here’s another question, do you think it’s normal for children to spend the night at their grandparent’s house? I do, and it was a major part of my childhood. But stepkids have never once had an overnight with their grandparents. And the fucked up thing is they have a finished basement that is set up “for the grandkids,” and yet the grandkids never spend time there. Fucking weirdos.

It sounds like your husband has some warm and supportive friends, plus you and your family. Maybe he should take comfort in what he has, and not go crazy over what he can’t have. If he severs relations with his family, it’s their loss, not his. He’s got you.

Some grandparents are more involved with the grandkids than others. We see ours (my husband’s, I don’t have any) on birthdays and holidays, and more often in the summer, but we haven’t had them for more than a few hours since they were babies.

I think it depends on how well you know the kids. If there’s been distance, it’s like having strangers in the house. Little ones, who eat all your candy and who shouldn’t watch The Sopranos.

I have very caring and loving parents who’ve taught me a lot of important things, one of the main one being that you can simply cut off contact with family when it stops being healthy for you. I would treat a family member exactly like i would a friend, you are part of my life as long as you are a positive part of it. So i guess if i had an uncaring family i would simply stop caring right back and move on with my life.

A divorced son whose second wife used to be a stripper… I think the one you need to speak with is your inlaws’ parish priest, or whomever is working with your father in law re the diaconate. A pity that you don’t know which parish priest would be good.

Since I was four, we lived in a different town from both Dad’s Mom and Mom’s Parents. I only slept in DM’s house without my parents also there once: while Mom was setting up the new house in the new town, I stayed with DM for several weeks. She wasn’t a person who liked kids, but I’d learned to be neither seen nor heard during Dad’s two-year depression, so shrug

We’d go to MP’s twice a year; we stayed there without Mom and Dad when they celebrated 25 years of their first encounter with a trip to Paris.