The Vine: December 15, 2010
My partner and I have been together three years now.We have a wonderful relationship and both feel very fortunate that both sets of parents are accepting of our relationship.Now, here comes the "but."
My partner's sister and her husband are not accepting of our relationship. They are very religious and we often feel our mere existence offends them.This makes family get-togethers uncomfortable because they usually end in hurt feelings.
We've tried to just ignore their disdain and be civil.However, last Christmas we got everyone in their family a gift. My partner got a gift from them, but I did not.Further, my partner's sister always sends a Christmas card addressed only to my partner, despite the fact we've been together three years.
While I find this rude and childish, I'm willing to overlook it because I can't force them to accept us. What I can't overlook is the fact that she and her husband often refuse to acknowledge we're even in the room at family events. We always speak and are at least civil but the courtesy isn't returned.It not only hurts our feelings but more importantly it hurts my partner's mom and dad.
I think confronting them in front of the family is the wrong answer. But aside from skipping family get-togethers, what can we do to make this situation more comfortable?
Miffed in MO
You can't really do anything else; you've done everything you can do. You've behaved politely, and you've remained civil and mature, but you can't "fix" these people, and you can't really act on Partner's parents' discomfort, either — it's they who should do something, if it's genuinely hurtful and upsetting to them.
Not that you can't remove yourself from the situation. You can always tell Partner's parents, "Look, we love you guys and we wish we could make it for the holidays this year, but Sister and Husband give us the silent treatment and pointedly exclude Mo, and we don't need to be made uncomfortable that way. Have a great Christmas, and we'll see you some other time."
That may prompt Partner's parents finally to tell Sister and her spouse that they expect a certain minimum of good manners (not to mention Christian grace, for fuck's sake), and that, if the un-Christian soldiers insist on continuing to treat you and Partner the way they have, they are not welcome at family gatherings anymore. Let them give the shitty behavior some consequences for a change.
It's not your fault, or your responsibility. If you do choose to spend time with Partner's family this year, keep doing as you have done, but it's not up to you to spare Partner's parents the pain of someone else's wrongheaded horseshit if they're not going to put a stop to it themselves. Keep smiling, buy Sister a copy of Miss Manners and a sparkly Hanukkah card, and let yourself off the hook for this one.
Tags: the fam winter-holiday agita