No, You Don’t Have to Spend Holidays With Terrible In-Laws
…or any terrible family members, for that matter.
First of all, Happy early Thanksgiving! I hope that you get to enjoy the day, however you choose to spend it.
Secondly, how great is it that we’re living in a time when it’s no longer socially unacceptable to decline being a room full of people determined to test every last one of your boundaries.
I’m big on boundaries, ya’ll.
For years I’d allow others, friends, family, strangers, to overstep. I’d sit in great discomfort for the sake of someone else’s, and I never confronted disrespect. It seemed easier to just “let it go,” or “take the high road” than to deal with the stress that came with confronting and potentially upsetting someone.
It happened when my (extended) in-laws accused me of sleeping with my husband’s cousin, and then defamed my character further by throwing in a very elaborate, but poorly planned story about me stealing their grandmother’s credit card. There were two women in the family who made it clear that they did not like me, and did not want me to be with their nephew. According to them, I’d ordered $400 worth of pizza over the phone because “they said it was a woman on the other end.” Then, they said they were going to “trace my computer,” to prove I ordered it.
My response? Go ahead and trace it, I didn’t do it.
Even though…I’d supposedly ordered it over the phone…since it was a “woman’s voice,” and all. When I pointed that blindingly obvious detail out, I was chided for “talking back” as if I were a small child. I wish they’d clarified the time and date of the claim that I was laid up with one of their nephews, but they weren’t able to…because it didn’t happen. After the gossiping and rumor-spreading finally died down, it was never brought up again. I never addressed it, nor did my husband.
…but it hurt, and I was completely humiliated.
I continued to go to holiday events, only to sit in a corner and watch as people stared and whispered off to the side. Come to find out, they’d also spread these exact same rumors about another girl who was previously married to someone in the family. The details were completely the same, just my name instead of hers. Ironically, she and I were pretty close after that, there’s an example of a trauma bond for ya.
It happened again during Christmas when I was asked to partake in a family photo. As we all gathered round the tree to take the picture, one of the women who had spread the rumors said “Celia, get out! This picture is for FAMILY ONLY.” I looked at my husband (then boyfriend) hoping he’d speak up and acknowledge how incredibly f**king rude it was, especially since I’d been asked to get into the shot.
Especially because I was sick of being treated this way.
Especially because I didn’t deserve this.
Especially because we were coming up on seven years together, and I’ve never had a big family; especially because I wished they’d accept me.
After this particular instance, and plenty more that I don’t care to share, I was done. I’d had enough. I didn’t want to be part of their holidays, gatherings or celebrations anymore. I felt more alone in a crowded room with them than I ever had on my own.
About four years went by, and I thought maybe, just maybe it’s time to turn a new leaf. Maybe I should forgive and forget, maybe I should just try again.
So, I turned up at a reunion of sorts. Everyone was there.
As soon as we pulled up, people lowered their eyes and went inside…I immediately recognized that this was a huge error in judgment. I should’ve let my husband do this and kept myself at home. Sadly, hindsight is 20/20, and it didn’t take for the belittling to begin. Again, I remained silent. Not long after, the heckling spread to Facebook, I cut contact. Permanently.
It caused some friction in my relationship, but it didn’t matter. He was not willing to stand up to them, and I was no longer willing to throw my dignity to the wind anymore. A weight was lifted, and I haven’t been to a holiday with my extended in-laws since. The downside? It’s been harder to remain close with the immediate family, but I do keep those lines of communication open.
When it’s all said and done, I will not be a doormat.
…and neither should you.
Not for your own family, and not for someone else’s.
You deserve love, support, understanding, and kindness.
You deserve a sense of safety and belonging.
You deserve to look forward to holidays instead of dreading them.
You deserve to enjoy a good meal with someone who cares.
So, please. Never feel as though you have to spend time with anyone who mistreats you. Contrary to popular belief, the world will not explode when you finally put your foot down. The sky isn’t going to fall, gravity will still exist as we know it. You can stay home if you want to.
Even if their family.
Even if it’s Thanksgiving.