Sunday night, Grey and I had a long conversation with my uncle and aunt. Passing the phone back and forth to one another, even though it was on speaker, we talked with both of them about the condo (we fired our management company!!!!; more on that soon), Cyrol drama, updating them about the Beats (both kids were so excited to talk with them) and about how we were doing in general. The conversation was an easy one and when it was time to say good-night, both Grey and I were feeling good.
Given all the drama from this past weekend, I've been reflecting on why my interactions with my uncle and aunt are so seamless in comparison. What is it about this relationship that leaves both Grey and me feeling safe to interact independently? Grey and I talked about it yesterday, reflecting on it all. Trying to work out what we can do to get there with the rest of family.
My relationship with all of Grey's family has been strained for several years now. Part of this was due to wariness from the start. Prior to us dating, Grey had been in a relationship with a woman where she actively tried to separate him from his family. Being young and in love, combined with some additional factors of inclusion into a new group of people who were incredibly supportive of his choices to follow in their footsteps, he found himself slowly drawing away from them. Luckily he didn't marry this woman, ultimately cutting all ties with these people (even though they still stalk him to this day), but the unspoken hurt has remained that no one has really addressed. So from the beginning they were suspicious. Would I do the same thing, separating him from them? To counteract that, I made an extra effort to show that I wouldn't. I called my MIL regularly, made a point of pushing for us to spend holidays with the family, ganged up on Grey when his sister chose to marry a guy who seemed way too interested in promoting his values over SILs, would go on to knit baby blankets for the then niece and nephews and even flew out with Grey to support his brother Lucas after his twins were born and they were in crisis.
Then infertility hit. And I struggled. I struggled as my MIL would talk on and on about her grandbabies during our conversations, knowing full well about our diagnosis. I struggled as holidays were being spent with the in-laws gathering on a different coast with the expectation that if we wanted to be included we had to fly out. I struggled greatly with this news. And this incident. So a wall went up as I didn't feel safe expressing how much I hurt. Even when I did with David's encouragement, it felt like it all fell short. Resolution never happened.
The wall didn't go away. During my whole pregnancy, I bucked a lot of the bonding my MIL wanted to do over the pending arrival of the Beats. We only saw them once while I was pregnant, with me finding ways to spend as little time with them. An offer of a baby shower by Grey's sister was immediately dismissed, largely due to my fear that doing so would jinx the pregnancy. The Sip & See proposed for later lead was ultimately a complete disaster. But the kicker came the day I was admitted to Chateau L&D. Grey's mother had also booked plane tickets out to see her other grandchildren. Calling to insist that she would cancel the trip, Grey reassured her that it wasn't necessary as we would likely be going home. But I knew he was in denial. As I watched the doctors and nurses, I knew the Beats would be making an early arrival. When she talked to me, I told her to go; to take that trip out to see her other grandchildren. And with that she not only missed their birth but was also kept away for almost a month as they were in NICU.
Over the past three years, there's been slow attempts to heal. Appreciation for gifts received was always made known and I tried resuming conversations with MIL. I even wrote Lucas a brief email apologizing for my past behavior and thanking him and his wife for all the clothes they were sending us. But during that first year, my uncle and aunt became very involved with helping us with the Beats. Weekly visits happened, with them giving us some much needed relief (usually in the form of sleep for me) and company while also helping with housework and providing meals. It was with my uncle and aunt that the Beats grew into toddlers, hitting those first milestones under their care and support. And though my in-laws were never actively excluded, the distance meant they missed all of that while they were aware that the Beats had gained another set of grandparents.
There's another level, though. One that I've struggled with. Lucas's wife is a woman who is easily described as a sweetheart. Getting pregnant for them always only took a month of trying (they have conceived their twins on their honeymoon) and they made a point of requesting MIL's help since the beginning. As much as I hate myself for this, there has been jealousy. Even after the Beats arrived and despite Grey's countering, I've felt that I've been tolerated while this woman has been embraced as part of the family. I'm outside looking in.
Over the past few days, following all the scars hurting and this new knowledge about MIL's confession, I've been reflecting on what I want moving forward. Knowing now that we're at a point where conversations have to start happening and things need to be hashed out. Because I'm tired of feeling like I fall short all the time. That somehow I'm less and am trying to keep Grey from them. Granted I have my role to play in all of this. But just as they have had their reasons, I've had mine. I had to protect my heart and my sanity.
The irony of all of this is I've witnessed what happens when complex issues like this go unresolved. My mother has an older sister who is estranged from the family. Years upon years of feuding and old hurts where they can't be in the same room as one another. The last time was at my grandfather's funeral. Watching all of them interact, never addressing the hurts directly but instead playing their respective roles, I truly wondered if I was witnessing a soap opera being filmed. More to the point, as angry as my aunt with every person in that room (24 total), it was me that she did well with. Me because I confronted her, made it clear that I would respect her as long as she respected me and actually took an interest in some of the things her husband was working on. Those witnessed interactions between this estranged aunt and I have become family legend with them all clueless as to why she did so well with me. The idea that this aunt was lashing out because she was hurting and that maybe, just maybe, peace could come through empathy, has been so profoundly foreign to all of them.
All this said, I still have no idea how to proceed forward. Mainly because this is still Grey's family and I don't want to push him into doing something he doesn't agree with. But also because with how complex all of this is, I'm still trying to figure it all out. A sorting game if you will. Emotions are high at the moment. Any misstep is likely to set off so many bombs. And I'm terribly afraid. But, like with my parents, it's time. So we play the game.
Any suggested moves would be greatly appreciated.
Listen Up and then BE HEARD!
3 hours ago