“Name something you’d like to give your mother-in-law for Christmas.”
“A one way ticket to Australia.”
“What’s your favorite thing to do when your in-laws visit?”
“Help them pack to go home.”
“What famous person would you say your father in law reminds you of?”
“What do you think his/her family says about you?”
“I sure wish he/she had married someone else…anyone else!”
These answers are funny when they’re on a TV game show. We laugh along with the host and the audience, wondering which team will win the big prize.
But when it’s real life, and your real situation, it’s anything but funny.
I’ve written before that when we marry we marry the entire family, not just our spouse. But it’s not always the in-laws who create family disagreements and feuds. Our own families can do that quite well without involving any other families in the mix.
Sure, every family has their issues, and I’m speaking of our extended families, not just husband/wife/children, or divorced families, which is a whole other subject.
We always hear how “blood is thicker than water.” And yes that’s true in some cases, but more and more we hear stories about dysfunctional families and the rifts that certain family members can cause, many of which are never healed. Obviously the blood in that situation has really gotten thin!
And that’s sad. Because everyone misses out. We don’t get to share family stories, and we don’t have those happy holiday get-together memories that the media shows us every season. The ones we envy, and miss, or in some cases, can’t imagine what it would be like.
Some families have never experienced closeness. In fact, you almost wonder how the marriages of some of the members ever produced any children!
My own father’s family, at least the only few members I met were a prime example. I remember asking my dad one time when I was really little if he had any parents, because I’d never met them or even heard him talk about them. My mother quickly shushed me and changed the subject.
The subject never came up again until one day a few months after my father had died. I wasn’t quite 9 years old when a car came driving into our yard on a Sunday afternoon in April, just about three months after my dad had died. And I remember my mother saying “Oh my gosh it’s Mr. and Mrs. Chapman!” I asked her innocently who they were.
“They’re your daddy’s parents. Your other grandparents.”
Up until that day I’d never known they existed; I’d never heard about them, let alone met them. To this day I don’t even know if they even went to his funeral. As I got older I finally asked my mom what had happened between her and my dad and his parents and the only answer I got was that when they met me for the first time as a baby, they weren’t real thrilled and kept making comments about me that weren’t very nice, and my dad evidently said “enough!” And stopped seeing them.
I thought it was really strange, because my mom’s family was very close, and loving, just the opposite of my dad’s family. But as I got older, I discovered almost every family has those issues to one degree or the other.
One man tells the story of how his mother used to stop speaking to him or one of his brothers or sisters if she got mad with them, and it would go on for weeks until the child apologized! Later when he was going through a nasty divorce he asked her for help, and she stopped having anything to do with him for ten years!
Another family refuses to invite their daughter’s husband to family events because they don’t like him. (They’ve never even tried to get to know him.) She brought him with her a few times and her family was so rude to him she hasn’t gone back. And sadly, now they have a baby, and her parents still haven’t met their new grandson.
Siblings and cousins aren’t immune to these types of threatening conditional love-hate relationships. Perceived slights and insults can separate once loving family members for years, never reconciling because neither side will make the first move; because they’re right and the other is wrong and that’s it!
Family feuds can be started by major events, or little things that, left unchecked, grow into big things. And sadly, most families never recover.
Who loses out? Everyone. But most of all, the next generation who will never have the opportunity to know their relatives; never have a chance to bond and learn family history and exchange family stories. They’re separated not necessarily by miles, but by canyons of anger, pride, and resentment. And building a bridge over those canyons is usually next to impossible.
But we still need to try. As another recently popular saying goes, it’s sad to think that most family reunions are now being held at funeral homes. And then it’s too late.
Feuds and disagreements happen in every family. I don’t know one that’s not been affected at some point in time. And there’s certainly nothing funny about it. That’s only on game shows; not real life.
What’s going on in your family that needs to be changed? Your attempt may fail, and you may not be able to fix it, but what can it hurt to try?