Open Thread

by epi on March 26, 2013

Welcome to the Etiquette Daily

This open thread is your space to use as you like. We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kendra March 26, 2013 at 3:24 pm

I really need help with my “in-laws,” cliche as that might be, my boyfriend’s family is a huge point of friction. My struggle is mostly with myself because I am well aware that I cannot control any other players in the dynamic. I find that I am disappointed in how much anger I feel in regards to my partner’s family. I am not an angry person, I have seen enough of life’s true troubles to know what a waste of energy and life harboring resentment really is. I know this cognitively.
My instinct is to oblige, to the point that I have conveniently denied my own voice and experience in the past (we began dating many years ago — I was young and eager to please at first). I am not looking for confrontation, but basic dignity is also not too much to demand. I am just not equipped to always respond fast enough when met with this foreign culture of bullying and manipulating. It’s almost as if I can’t process the horrific behavior in the moment. Only later on the drive home do I realize and allow myself to feel, how judged and disregarded I and we have been.
I need strategies. I want to be able to just dig into the fact that I am living the life I want with the man I want to be with. I know that we are a team and will not surrender our path to anyone else, and yet I find that these corrosive moments that never result in (anything approaching) closure eat at me for days, weeks and months. I truly have compassion for them in broad strokes — I know that the saddest truth is how unhappy they are. But that compassion does not override my frustration at particular those moments of extreme insult.
I can’t live like this anymore. I know I should be able to let these moments roll off my back, but I rework the conversations in my head over and over (makes for some excellently thorough dish scrubbing I might add!). My lack of honest-in-the-moment-response-capabilities leaves me embarrassingly entangled far after the indecent moment has passed.

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Alicia March 26, 2013 at 3:57 pm

You are right you can not change others actions but you can change your own. I am unclear on what they are doing exactly that is making you upset but having a polite spine is a good thing.

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Clara March 26, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Kendra, could you give an example of a conversation in which you are made to feel insulted? Politeness is important but it is also important to be able to defend yourself, in a polite manner.

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Elizabeth March 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm

I agree with Alicia, and would only add: perhaps you need to distance yourself from your partner’s family? If they are toxic to you, your boyfriend should stick up for you. If they are toxic to you both, there’s no reason to subject yourself to it. Obviously this is a conversation you need to have with your boyfriend. You need to agree to draw boundaries and enforce them strongly but politely. If an insulting comment is made, you can politely leave. “I’m sorry, but that comment is hurtful and we won’t be able to stay for the rest of the evening.” If they try to bully you into making a decision or a promise that you don’t want to make, you can say, “We will need to think about that and get back to you.” “We’re not sure, and need to check our schedules/finances/etc. We’ll let you know.”

Depending on your situation, there are plenty of people here who can suggest polite but firm phrases to use. The difficulty lies when the people you’re dealing with don’t respect YOU, and are blatantly rude. You can only behave with integrity and be the people you want to be (without caving to bullies). I think it’s really hard to come up with witty retorts in the moment if that’s not how your mind works, but some rehearsal (thinking through what might be said, or how the conversation might go, as well as being really clear about what you will and won’t do) can help immensely.

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Nessy March 27, 2013 at 4:13 am

Hello. Firstly – I feel for you and am sorry you have this constant on-going tension in your life. I myself have very difficult family on my side and on my husband’s side so understand what you are going through. Secondly – the situation is probably having more of an effect on you than it is on them. You are worrying and agonizing over them and their behavior whilst most probably, they are busy, self-absorbed in their own lives and personal demons.

I speak from experience – this sort of situation will end up making you ill. Please don’t take this the wrong way – but as they aren’t going to change you need some help to change the way it makes you feel. Maybe see a counselor to help find strategies so you are not worrying so much or feeling such anger. Get some distance – use caller id. Be vague and non-committal and respond when you are ready. Sometimes, like in my situation you may have to step back and let your fellow do the “dealing”. I won’t answer the phone to most of his family, he chooses when to answer to them and we try to limit the time we spend with them. Having dinner in a restaurant – neutral ground and it provides a “time limit” for the visit – ie “eat it and get out” and possibly (hopefully!) meeting in a public place demands a certain level of civility.

I wish you all the best x

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Kendra March 27, 2013 at 11:07 am

Thank you all. I really appreciate your support and wisdom. It’s helpful — I feel less alone and more comfortable standing up for my own needs. This community is pretty special, I’m really grateful for the strength you’ve given me!!

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