Trouble relating to Catholic in-laws


#1

I am a non-Catholic married to a man from a very conservative Catholic family. We were married in the CC, but my husband’s family did not approve of the union. My husband continued going to the CC for about a year after we were married, but never being a person of strong Christian faith, and no longer being in a strictly controlled environment, he has since converted to a form of paganism.

We have a very happy marriage and a 3 yo son. We are happy, that is, until it comes to the holiday season. The majority of my in-laws treat me very poorly. We have been married for 5 years now. I don’t think that they will every accept our marriage. After every holiday season, I become very depressed and agitated for about a week after visiting my in-laws. Now it is becoming worse because my BIL’s wife is pregnant and they are already treating her unborn baby better than they ever have my son. I foresee some very unpleasant explanations to my son in the future as to why he is treated so poorly compared to his cousin(s). My husband always just says: “ignore them” that is how they are" and then we argue.

I will say up front that I have my own strong convictions and will not convert to Catholicism. I just want to understand my in-laws better. Is there something I can do to “bridge the Gap” without compromising my own principles? or should I just completely cut them out of my life for my own sanity. Please, someone help me understand why they hate me so much!


#2

I don't think there's anything we can point you to read on why your in-laws are rude and obnoxious. There isn't any book on why grandparents treat grandchildren poorly or unfairly. That's a character flaw, not a tenet of the Catholic faith.

Certainly you can understand why people who devoutly believe the Catholic faith is true, that Jesus is God, and that Hell is real would be upset that their son (a) married someone who does not believe this (b) rejects this belief and (c) is now raising a child to reject this belief. And, certainly they believe you influenced him in this matter (and likely you did in one way or another). I, as a parent, would be most displeased. And, I'd continue to pray for you all.

But, his departure from the faith and your belief system are no excuse for poor treatment of your child or treating you uncivilly. Perhaps, since you don't believe in the Christian faith you should avoid visiting his parents on Christian holidays, and stick to secular holidays like Fourth of July and Thanksgiving (although Thanksgiving has very overt Christian roots). Or visit during no holiday at all.

If they cannot be civil to you, him, or your chil(ren) then maybe you will need to rethink visits.


#3

[quote="Inanna, post:1, topic:178591"]
I am a non-Catholic married to a man from a very conservative Catholic family. We were married in the CC, but my husband's family did not approve of the union. My husband continued going to the CC for about a year after we were married, but never being a person of strong Christian faith, and no longer being in a strictly controlled environment, he has since converted to a form of paganism.

We have a very happy marriage and a 3 yo son. We are happy, that is, until it comes to the holiday season. The majority of my in-laws treat me very poorly. We have been married for 5 years now. I don't think that they will every accept our marriage. After every holiday season, I become very depressed and agitated for about a week after visiting my in-laws. Now it is becoming worse because my BIL's wife is pregnant and they are already treating her unborn baby better than they ever have my son. I foresee some very unpleasant explanations to my son in the future as to why he is treated so poorly compared to his cousin(s). My husband always just says: "ignore them" that is how they are" and then we argue.

I will say up front that I have my own strong convictions and will not convert to Catholicism. I just want to understand my in-laws better. Is there something I can do to "bridge the Gap" without compromising my own principles? or should I just completely cut them out of my life for my own sanity. Please, someone help me understand why they hate me so much!

[/quote]

*What is very sad to me, is when I see Catholics, treat people who are not Catholic who marry their kids...with such disdain. That is NOT what we're called to do as Catholics. We are to be like Christ to others, not mean and rude to people who don't believe what we do. Your husband made his own choice, yet they seem to blame you. That seems to be the issue. You can't change them. They choose to be meanspirited, and not loving to your son even? :mad: which is a crying shame, considering that they represent the faith. :( That said, all you can do is choose your reaction to them. Be kind, cordial..they are your husband's family. Pray for them. Are you Christian? I didn't get a sense if you follow any particular faith from your post...your husband ''converting'' to paganism...was that a choice he made on his own? Just need some details fleshed out, if you don't mind? *


#4

*I will add too, that I will be disappointed if my children ever leave the faith. I would also prefer that they marry Catholics, some day, as I think it is beautiful for two people in marriage to share each other's faith. It can be a lonely life, if one or the other spouse doesn't worship as the other does. (or at all) If they choose to marry non Catholics some day, as a Catholic my response must always be love. Not disdain. Following Christ isn't always easy because He requires us to love when we don't always want to. But for His sake, as Catholics, we must choose love. :o

Your inlaws have taken the disappointment that they feel and have turned it into way more than it needs to be. Instead of viewing you as a loving wife and mother, they snub you because you are not Catholic. (I'm assuming that is their main reason, not knowing them) They are in need of prayers, which we should do that for them. Please know Catholicism is a faith of love and compassion. I would encourage you to explore it a bit...on your own. :)*


#5

I don't know a whole lot about Catholicism, which is why I was drawn to this site. The only practicing Catholics I know are my in-laws. It is hard for me to discern what is "church culture" and what is "family culture" (if that makes any sense). That is why I want to learn more about Catholicism. If I can better understand maybe I can be less offended, or less offensive?

I am not Christian, but my husband came up with Paganism on his own. I do not consider myself Pagan, though we do observe solstice as a family.

I can understand the being frustrated and disappointed when your child rejects your teaching. My own family is Methodist; I am not. My mom was very upset at first, but has learned to respect my point of view.

Thank you for all the thoughtful comments. There might not be any easy answers for me, but a little education may help me better sympathize with where they are coming from. Family is important to me even if they are behaving badly.


#6

I’m sorry to hear of your issues with your parents in law. That sounds like it has to be hard. I’m not sure exactly what you can do, but try to put yourself in their shoes. I also don’t know all the details, I am sure there is a long relationship there which is too much to put into a few lines. But I had a few thoughts…

I am in my 20s, but I know that if I ever left the Catholic Faith it would break my parents heart. Truthfully I am not sure if they could bear to continue a relationship with me at all, not because they would suddenly hate me or stop loving me. Quite the opposite, they would always continue to love me, but it might be too painful for them. So maybe that is possibly what you are feeling when you are around them. (They could also just be misdirecting their anger, which is unfair to you.) Try to also keep in mind that they seem to want a relationship with you in spite of the religious differences.

I am also torn about how to approach the holidays. When we gather for Christmas and Easter, although Santa and the Easter Bunny are a part of the holiday, they are not the focus. That might not be the case in your husband family, where they might treat it as a secular holiday. You could try attending Mass with them (I would make sure to learn the customs of Mass if you do this, and do not take communion). Or you could always try to spend these holidays with your side of the family or just with your husband and child. (That also might make the in laws really miss and appreciate you and your family more.)

Lastly, my grandmother does not get along well with my mother at all. So I understand how your son will feel. I know she has always loved my cousins more and when I visit her she talks about how great they all are, but it does not bother me too much. My parents loved me plenty growing up, I received more than enough love from them to make up for that. And if anything it is only your in laws’ loss, they are the ones who might look back and regret they did not try to cultivate a stronger relationship with you and your son. You can only do so much.

Good luck, hope it all works out.


#7

[quote="Inanna, post:5, topic:178591"]
I don't know a whole lot about Catholicism, which is why I was drawn to this site. The only practicing Catholics I know are my in-laws. It is hard for me to discern what is "church culture" and what is "family culture" (if that makes any sense). That is why I want to learn more about Catholicism. If I can better understand maybe I can be less offended, or less offensive?

I am not Christian, but my husband came up with Paganism on his own. I do not consider myself Pagan, though we do observe solstice as a family.

I can understand the being frustrated and disappointed when your child rejects your teaching. My own family is Methodist; I am not. My mom was very upset at first, but has learned to respect my point of view.

Thank you for all the thoughtful comments. There might not be any easy answers for me, but a little education may help me better sympathize with where they are coming from. Family is important to me even if they are behaving badly.

[/quote]

*Yes, it would be disappointing for a devout Catholic family, but as 1ke stated, their behavior is not indicative of the Catholic faith. I would search around on these forums as a way to explore the faith, and also check out EWTN's website for teachings. But, again...learning about Catholicism will not help you to understand their behavior towards you because they are not acting out Christian love by treating you and your son as though you're ''less than'' to them. That is not a Catholic teaching. :o But exploring on your own will help you to see that Catholicism is really a faith of robust beauty and compassion.

I hope things get better and that they will come around...and accept you...they don't have to be your best friend, but they should at least respect you and show you love, especially around the holidays. Prayers that things will get better. :gopray: *


#8

[quote="SmileyGirl3, post:6, topic:178591"]
I'm sorry to hear of your issues with your parents in law. That sounds like it has to be hard. I'm not sure exactly what you can do, but try to put yourself in their shoes. I also don't know all the details, I am sure there is a long relationship there which is too much to put into a few lines. But I had a few thoughts...

I am in my 20s, but I know that if I ever left the Catholic Faith it would break my parents heart. Truthfully I am not sure if they could bear to continue a relationship with me at all, not because they would suddenly hate me or stop loving me. Quite the opposite, they would always continue to love me, but it might be too painful for them. So maybe that is possibly what you are feeling when you are around them. (They could also just be misdirecting their anger, which is unfair to you.) Try to also keep in mind that they seem to want a relationship with you in spite of the religious differences.

I am also torn about how to approach the holidays. When we gather for Christmas and Easter, although Santa and the Easter Bunny are a part of the holiday, they are not the focus. That might not be the case in your husband family, where they might treat it as a secular holiday. You could try attending Mass with them (I would make sure to learn the customs of Mass if you do this, and do not take communion). Or you could always try to spend these holidays with your side of the family or just with your husband and child. (That also might make the in laws really miss and appreciate you and your family more.)

Lastly, my grandmother does not get along well with my mother at all. So I understand how your son will feel. I know she has always loved my cousins more and when I visit her she talks about how great they all are, but it does not bother me too much. My parents loved me plenty growing up, I received more than enough love from them to make up for that. And if anything it is only your in laws' loss, they are the ones who might look back and regret they did not try to cultivate a stronger relationship with you and your son. You can only do so much.

Good luck, hope it all works out.

[/quote]

*I think these are great suggestions. Inanna...it is not personal to you, I don't believe. I think that their expectations (which we all have as parents) were for their son to marry a Catholic girl. But, he didn't...and the best you can do, is be kind and loving. Keep discussing your thoughts with your husband. I imagine that since he left the faith, they are trying to make sense of that as well. So, it's not personal with you...that might help you feel a little less offended. :o They have a lot of emotions swirling around, in their defense. But, it's been five years now that you have been married? They need to decide to love you for you, and end the cold shoulder. I could see if you had just joined the family...but five years is a long time for them to be harboring this type of resentment. Prayers for all involved. I agree with you Inanna, family is very important. You are very compassionate to want to do your best to mend fences w/your husband's family. *


#9

[quote="Inanna, post:5, topic:178591"]
I don't know a whole lot about Catholicism, which is why I was drawn to this site. The only practicing Catholics I know are my in-laws. It is hard for me to discern what is "church culture" and what is "family culture" (if that makes any sense). That is why I want to learn more about Catholicism. If I can better understand maybe I can be less offended, or less offensive?

I am not Christian, but my husband came up with Paganism on his own. I do not consider myself Pagan, though we do observe solstice as a family.

I can understand the being frustrated and disappointed when your child rejects your teaching. My own family is Methodist; I am not. My mom was very upset at first, but has learned to respect my point of view.

Thank you for all the thoughtful comments. There might not be any easy answers for me, but a little education may help me better sympathize with where they are coming from. Family is important to me even if they are behaving badly.

[/quote]

Perhaps it would help if you learned about Catholicism and why it brings so much joy to so many people. If nothing else it would help you understand the faith your inlaws practice.


#10

[quote="estesbob, post:9, topic:178591"]
Perhaps it would help if you learned about Catholicism and why it brings so much joy to so many people. If nothing else it would help you understand the faith your inlaws practice.

[/quote]

*True, but they are not spreading the joy and love that we have as Catholics. I think a huge encouraging factor for someone looking to ''join'' another person's faith, not necessarily Catholicism, is seeing that those who profess to be followers of Christ, are loving. Not always easy to do, but the main component of what it means to be Christian. Remember too, her husband left the faith. *


#11

Agreed-but learing about the Catholic faith is a no lose situation.


#12

[quote="estesbob, post:11, topic:178591"]
Agreed-but learing about the Catholic faith is a no lose situation.

[/quote]

*Agreed...I highly encourage anyone who is not familiar with the Catholic faith, to explore and find out for yourself that it's a full and rich faith. *


#13

[quote="Inanna, post:1, topic:178591"]

We have a very happy marriage and a 3 yo son. We are happy, that is, until it comes to the holiday season. The majority of my in-laws treat me very poorly. ** We have been married for 5 years now. I don't think that they will every accept our marriage. After every holiday season, I become very depressed and agitated for about a week after visiting my in-laws. **Now it is becoming worse because my BIL's wife is pregnant and they are already treating her unborn baby better than they ever have my son. I foresee some very unpleasant explanations to my son in the future as to why he is treated so poorly compared to his cousin(s). My husband always just says: "ignore them" that is how they are" and then we argue.

I will say up front that I have my own strong convictions and will not convert to Catholicism. I just want to understand my in-laws better. Is there something I can do to "bridge the Gap" without compromising my own principles? or should I just completely cut them out of my life for my own sanity. Please, someone help me understand why they hate me so much!

[/quote]

In what way do the treat you and your son poorly? Is it a matter of them not being as warm to you as they are say to your BIL's wife, or are they openly rude and mean?

If it's the latter, I would say it's time to stop visiting them until they change. There is no reason to expose yourself and especially your child to abuse. If your husband feels he must visit his parents over the holidays, let him do so alone.

(And as others have said, it has nothing to do with them being Catholic but rather the kinds of people they are.)


#14

I should clarify, my husband comes from a large family (10 children) so this doesn’t apply to all of them. I would say that my MIL, most of my SIL and one of my BIL were openly hostile (and very childish) at the beginning of my marriage, but have gotten more passive aggressive over time. They used to make fun of me, especially because I’m short, shut the door on me when I was walking through it after them, things like that. Now they mostly talk about me loudly to each other. A couple thanksgivings ago, my BIL’s then fiance kept telling Lutheran jokes (I’m not even Lutheran). Last Thanksgiving, my son was having temper tantrums because he didn’t want to be there and they talked about how glad they were that my BIL’s child wouldn’t be like him. They are not mean to my son, just not real interested him. The other day they saw my mother at the store and proceeded to talk about her, point and laugh as she walked by.

As for my BIL’s wife, they treat her the total opposite. They were very excited about the wedding, dressed up really nice, got their hair done, talked about how ravishing the bride was. During my wedding they actually went downstairs where I was getting ready and made fun of my dress and shoes. It is hard to not have hurt feelings.

My MIL is also an isolationist and has what I would call “paranoid” ideas. Could it be that she interprets church teaching in error to justify some of these things as well as using her religion to feel superior to me, and as an excuse to shun me?


#15

[quote="Inanna, post:14, topic:178591"]
I should clarify, my husband comes from a large family (10 children) so this doesn't apply to all of them. I would say that my MIL, most of my SIL and one of my BIL were openly hostile (and very childish) at the beginning of my marriage, but have gotten more passive aggressive over time. They used to make fun of me, especially because I'm short, shut the door on me when I was walking through it after them, things like that. Now they mostly talk about me loudly to each other. A couple thanksgivings ago, my BIL's then fiance kept telling Lutheran jokes (I'm not even Lutheran). Last Thanksgiving, my son was having temper tantrums because he didn't want to be there and they talked about how glad they were that my BIL's child wouldn't be like him. They are not mean to my son, just not real interested him. The other day they saw my mother at the store and proceeded to talk about her, point and laugh as she walked by.

[/quote]

Just wow. Are they adults or 12 year old bullies?

I think it's time for you to stop visiting them. You said family is important to you, so how about keeping in touch with those members of his family who treat you well?

Pointing and laughing at your mom, making fun of your height (wow....), making fun of your clothes on your wedding day (!!!!!!1) and shutting the door on you is so nasty and frankly ridiculous that I just don't have words.

I think you are way too kind to them, and your child really doesn't need to be around them.

My MIL is also an isolationist and has what I would call "paranoid" ideas. Could it be that she interprets church teaching in error to justify some of these things as well as using her religion to feel superior to me, and as an excuse to shun me?

You know, it's hard to say what could be going through her mind. But I think her behavior is so nasty and ridiculous that it's pointless to try to understand it.

You really need to stop going there. Don't subject yourself to abuse. Don't talk to them, don't go there. It's not about holding a grudge, it's about protecting yourself and your child.


#16

As the kid who was your son when I grew up I'm going ot tell you now that if they are truly being awful like you say, it's going to be better for him in the long run to completely avoid the situation. When I was growing up, my Dad remarried my stepmother and her parents hate him and me. I have two stepsisters and a stepbrother. Now I know I'm not a natural child and that it is a little different but when kids are young, they don't understand the difference. I remember one Christmas we all had to go over to the stepgrandparents. My older stepsister was a teenager and her boyfriend was with us. Not that I am a material person and I never have been but all of the kids, including the boyfriend, got multiple Christmas presents and I didn't get any. That was a little upsetting but that's not what bothered me the most. The most upsetting thing for me was that when it was time for dinner they had already set the table and stupid place cards with everyone's name written on them......everyone's name except mine. They even had a place setting for my sister's boyfriend. They knew I was coming. I heard my stepmother on the phone when we were leaving the house tell them I was with them. How hard could it be to set another place at the table before I got there? But they didn't do it because they didn't like me. I was about 10 or 11 years old and I was so upset I walked out and started walking home. My Dad made me go back in though. I was not a bad kid at all. I really wasn't. They just didn't like my Dad which made them not like me. And like I said, that episode (and others like it) happened when I was 10 or 11 but it has stuck wtih me my entire life. I am 38 years old and it still hurts me when I think about it. I have forgiven them but I am glad I don't have to see them anymore.

So, for your son's sake, please protect him from all of that crud. You are an adult and you can deal with it but your son isn't. And you never know what is goign to stick with your son for the rest of his life.


#17

Wow, this has nothing at all to do with being disappointed that you are not Catholic, or being disappointed that their son left his faith. This is all about them being mean-spirited nasty people. And even though family is important to you, you certainly don't need these people as family. The sad thing is, since these are the only people you know who call themselves Catholic (though they certainly aren't acting like it) you have nothing else to go on. And its also sad that these were the examples of Catholicism that your husband had to follow. No wonder why he ran like heck as soon as he was free of them. He ran about as far as you could possibly run... Not even to a non-Catholic Christian denomination, but away from Christianity altogether. This should tell you something about how horrid these people are. Pointing and laughing is flat out NOT NICE. How does your husband feel about his family? Does he want to stay away from them, or is he wanting to spend time with them? Is he pushing for family gatherings? If he is OK with not playing their nasty games, just say no. Don't go. Don't participate. You have your own family now. I don't know what else to say...I'm at such a loss for words they are so mean.


#18

[quote="noclevername, post:16, topic:178591"]
As the kid who was your son when I grew up I'm going ot tell you now that if they are truly being awful like you say, it's going to be better for him in the long run to completely avoid the situation. When I was growing up, my Dad remarried my stepmother and her parents hate him and me. I have two stepsisters and a stepbrother. Now I know I'm not a natural child and that it is a little different but when kids are young, they don't understand the difference. I remember one Christmas we all had to go over to the stepgrandparents. My older stepsister was a teenager and her boyfriend was with us. Not that I am a material person and I never have been but all of the kids, including the boyfriend, got multiple Christmas presents and I didn't get any. That was a little upsetting but that's not what bothered me the most. The most upsetting thing for me was that when it was time for dinner they had already set the table and stupid place cards with everyone's name written on them......everyone's name except mine. They even had a place setting for my sister's boyfriend. They knew I was coming. I heard my stepmother on the phone when we were leaving the house tell them I was with them. How hard could it be to set another place at the table before I got there? But they didn't do it because they didn't like me. I was about 10 or 11 years old and I was so upset I walked out and started walking home. My Dad made me go back in though. I was not a bad kid at all. I really wasn't. They just didn't like my Dad which made them not like me. And like I said, that episode (and others like it) happened when I was 10 or 11 but it has stuck wtih me my entire life. I am 38 years old and it still hurts me when I think about it. I have forgiven them but I am glad I don't have to see them anymore.

So, for your son's sake, please protect him from all of that crud. You are an adult and you can deal with it but your son isn't. And you never know what is goign to stick with your son for the rest of his life.

[/quote]

I'm so sorry that happened to you. I have a daughter who will be 11 in a couple weeks, and I just couldn't imaging doing something so mean to a child.


#19

[quote="Inanna, post:14, topic:178591"]
I should clarify, my husband comes from a large family (10 children) so this doesn't apply to all of them. I would say that my MIL, most of my SIL and one of my BIL were openly hostile (and very childish) at the beginning of my marriage, but have gotten more passive aggressive over time. They used to make fun of me, especially because I'm short, shut the door on me when I was walking through it after them, things like that. Now they mostly talk about me loudly to each other. A couple thanksgivings ago, my BIL's then fiance kept telling Lutheran jokes (I'm not even Lutheran). Last Thanksgiving, my son was having temper tantrums because he didn't want to be there and they talked about how glad they were that my BIL's child wouldn't be like him. They are not mean to my son, just not real interested him. The other day they saw my mother at the store and proceeded to talk about her, point and laugh as she walked by.

As for my BIL's wife, they treat her the total opposite. They were very excited about the wedding, dressed up really nice, got their hair done, talked about how ravishing the bride was. During my wedding they actually went downstairs where I was getting ready and made fun of my dress and shoes. It is hard to not have hurt feelings.

My MIL is also an isolationist and has what I would call "paranoid" ideas. Could it be that she interprets church teaching in error to justify some of these things as well as using her religion to feel superior to me, and as an excuse to shun me?

[/quote]

*:( I don't have any other advice, than to say maybe flyingfish is right, maybe don't always go there on the holidays...when you're around them, take the high road, and be kind...smile...be polite. It will be hard no doubt, their behavior is hurtful and uncalled for. I am not sure why your MIL is behaving this way. Praying that you and your husband can find a way to deal with his family in a peaceful way. *


#20

Okay, yeah - when I first saw this thread I thought it was going to be about the sort of misunderstandings about each other’s holiday customs that come up so often in mixed marriages - but this is just over the top.

You don’t need to be around these people. Who cares what religion they are. The last time I was around people like that was in Junior High school, and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

You don’t need to put yourself through this. Just tell your husband that if he wants to visit them, that’s fine with you, but you and your son are going to stay home and do whatever you guys do for the holidays, without being laughed at or made to feel “less than” by people who really should know better than that.


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