First I need to say that I can’t believe it’s been over 2 months since I have written anything here! I suppose that is a good sign. Writing is always my go to place when I have too much crazy swirling in my head. When the noise has quieted, I don’t feel the need to write much. Life has been good. However, today is Christmas Eve. And my brain is chatting non-stop. So I need to empty it out in order to fully enjoy the holiday. Here goes:
Today I have been thinking about the relationship between my husband and his step-mom. My father-in-law passed away about 2 1/2 years ago, and since he was the primary person in my husband’s life who abused him and caused him to feel shame, their relationship was complicated. His wife is a warm fun, lovely person who has always been wonderful to our family. After more than 25 years in relationship with my father-in-law, she knew how difficult he could be. She often caught glimpses of his dark side and was frequently the victim of his verbal abuse. But she was the peacemaker (aka codependent), which allowed everyone to get along as well as possible.
What I didn’t realize until about 6 months after my father-in-law’s passing was that she harbored a huge amount of hostility towards my husband and, to a lesser extent, his brothers. She has told me on more than one occasion that she did not appreciate the way all the boys spoke to their dad. She felt that it was disrespectful, and it hurt her to hear them take shots at him. What she didn’t realize was that for this emotionally dysfunctional family, life generally resembled a guys’ trip to fishing camp. Lots of chummy backslapping, drinking, burping, talking sports, and endlessly ragging on each other. It’s just what they did. It was the only way they knew how to communicate with each other. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked for them. She said that my father-in-law never complained about it, but she believed it hurt him terribly. But she never felt comfortable bringing it up to him or to my husband.
Until now. Now that he is gone, she has made it her personal mission to verbally lash out against those who she feels wronged the man she loved. During the past 2 years, she has taken some pretty hard shots at my husband, picking fights over dumb little things, just to have the satisfaction of attacking the attacker. My husband cannot make any sense of this. Shortly after he returned from his first rehab, he sat down with them to make his amends. It was his first one, and it was awkward and difficult for him. But he did it. He took responsibility for his part in his relationship with each of them, and he apologized for everything. Since then he has changed his life in countless ways, becoming a better man than any of us ever imagined possible. He has earned new respect from all who know him and care about him and understand the true nature of addiction and recovery. Somehow though, it’s not enough for her.
My husband has kept his distance since their last altercation in May of this year. Tomorrow is Christmas, and we will spend a little bit of time with her before she heads to Florida for 4 months. The last time I spoke with her, she admitted that she went too far in the way she spoke with my husband the last time she saw him. She said it came from her grief and some frustration from biting her tongue for so many years. But she didn’t apologize; didn’t say she owed any apology to my husband. She didn’t even say that she would stop doing it. So I am somewhat apprehensive about seeing her tomorrow.
I would love nothing more than to point out to her the errors in her thinking and her behaviors. I want her to know that I am also hurt by the rude and disrespectful way that she spoke to my husband. I want her to see him as the man he is today rather than the cocky younger version of him who often drank too much and said all the wrong things. I want her to acknowledge his hard work of the past 6 1/2 years in rebuilding his life and his relationships. I want her to make amends, just the way my husband did. Because I am the peacemaker (aka codependent) who wants to see everyone get along. Biting my tongue and staying out of things is hard for me. I understand her feelings. We are the same in our desire to defend the men we love from those who aim to injure. But I am different. I know that this is not my fight. I don’t have the power to make or keep peace among other people. I can only make peace in my own relationships through my own actions.
In anticipation of a difficult time with her tomorrow, I have been drafting a letter/speech to her in my head. I thought that if I could only show her the man my husband has become and remind her of all he has done to repair the past, she would change her attitude and own her bad behavior. I know, though, that this will not happen. As I write the words in this post, I have come to realize that I am powerless over that whole situation. I don’t know if there will be any kind of incident tomorrow. If there is, it’s none of my business. If my husband and his step-mom want to find a way to move forward more peacefully, they will have to figure that out together.
Either way, I am off the hook, and that is my gift to myself this year.
Merry Christmas to all, and here’s to a happy, peaceful 2019!!