Family v. Biological connection relation

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-23-2010
Family v. Biological connection relation
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Sat, 09-25-2010 - 10:05pm

I had an interesting discussion with ODD this afternoon concerning SM and I'm not sure what the right answer is for this one. My natural instinct is for her to own her own emotional chit and the consequences for her own reactions but she's making it about me with my daughter and not sure if I handled this correctly.

It's open for debate.

Up until two years ago, I was not on speaking terms with my former in-laws. I didn't think those relationships would last a divorce and didn't feel it was appropriate to pursue them if they didn't pursue me. I was very close to former SIL while married to ex.

Four years ago, former SIL, SM's now SIL, had a falling out because paternal Aunt confronted SM about being abusive towards ODD/her DSD...the abuse was done in front of former SIL and SIL is the kind of person who cannot be apathetic in response. Part of the confrontation included mention of me...because SM was verbally berating ODD at a restaurant dinner table about ODD crossing her legs and apparently, what was part of the dialogue was ODD mentioning something about her "Mama gave me this dress" and it sent SM into verbal frenzy. Former SIL, the next day, asked to speak to Dad and SM in private after the kids went down and confronted SM on her verbal abuse (while Dad was in the bathroom but done in front of her with ODD) and SM didn't deny it.

That falling out was four years ago. At that time, I was not on speaking terms with former SIL nor any of the paternal family. Paternal family was completely cut-off from ODD.

Fast forward two years, and I'm passing through her paternal family's city of residence with ODD traveling to see my family with her. ODD asks to call them and I offer them an opportunity to see her...that was the start of reconciliation and renewal of our relationship again. As ODD's mother, not as ex-husband's wife.

And we've been behaving like family ever since...genuine relationship. But I've made it VERY clear that if I ever become a stumbling block to reconciliation with ODD's father and his wife...I'll step out. The family has emphatically stated they don't want that even though they would like reconciliation with ODD's father.

Fast forward to today, where my daughter mentions she thinks SM is jealous of me. SM believes the paternal family has always preferred me and there is no room for her. I guess SM had a conversation with her about why they don't visit her Kansas paternal family and she's made it about me to ODD. She told ODD that she can't have a relationship with them when she is made inferior in relation to someone else: me. She went on to say that the family shouldn't be treating me the way they do because I'm no longer in the family.

I told ODD I totally "get that" point of view and agree with SM. I'm NOT in the family because I'm not legally married to her father anymore. However, I am her mother and I do have that connection to the family in that way along with mutual relationships. I told ODD that I would be more than willing to step back if needed if my relationship with them is being used as reason for her father not to visit his family. Further, I think her father should be the one taking her to see them, not me. But if he's not willing to do that, I am for her best interests. I asked her her thoughts on it and if she thinks her interests would be better served no longer taking her to see them. She said "no, I'd never see them if not for you".

On to my debate questions....

1. Is it overstepping for the other biological parent to facilitate a developed relationship with former in-laws when the other parent refuses to do it?

2. If an ex is a parent to former in-laws kin, are they family? Who determines that? The in-laws, the ex or the former spouse/new spouse?

3. Would you step out if you knew your facilitation of a relationship with the former in-laws was now the excuse being used to no longer try to reconcile?

It has never been my intention or goal to further estrange ODD's father and SM from his family. I don't believe I was ever the cause of it but now my daughter is being told the family's favoritism between SM and I is the reason for the estrangement. ODD knows better but it still bothers me I'm being used as the convenient excuse for it.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 02-04-2010
Sat, 09-25-2010 - 10:37pm

1. Is it overstepping for the other biological parent to facilitate a developed relationship with former in-laws when the other parent refuses to do it?



Yes. If the OP wants a reconciliation, they will seek one out. It's not your place. But kuddos on your reconciliation.



2. If an ex is a parent to former in-laws kin, are they family? Who determines that? The in-laws, the ex or the former spouse/new spouse?



You're not family to ODD's paternal family anymore, but you're ODD's family nonetheless. I think this means you are entitled to have a relationship with her paternal family if it's what you, ODD, and paternal family want. If DH and I ever split, I would try to maintain a relationship with his parents. They're awesome!



3. Would you step out if you knew your facilitation of a relationship with the former in-laws was now the excuse being used to no longer try to reconcile?



No. As long as my relationship wasn't affecting my child negatively, I wouldn't care at all how my ex or his new wife felt about it. It's really none of their business. They are adults and can negotiate their family relationships on their own. They're using you as a convenient scape goat for their family troubles. They didn't try to reconcile with the family

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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-09-2009
Sat, 09-25-2010 - 10:42pm

<<<1. Is it overstepping for the other biological parent to facilitate a developed relationship with former in-laws when the other parent refuses to do it?>>>

I don't think that it is overstepping at all. A parent has the right to facilitate their child's relationship with anyone (so long as the person is safe, yadda, yadda). Speaking as a SM, it would be really awkward if DH's EX had a close relationship with one (or all) of my in-laws, but it would be none of my business. They are all free agents, with the ability to have anyone they please in their lives, and I'd just have to suck it up.

<<2. If an ex is a parent to former in-laws kin, are they family?>>>

Not anymore, but who cares. If they want to stay in each others lives then they can.

<<<3. Would you step out if you knew your facilitation of a relationship with the former in-laws was now the excuse being used to no longer try to reconcile?>>>

Only if I was asked by the in-laws to step-out of their lives. Otherwise, I'm staying in, and EX and new partner can deal.

<<>>

I'd tell DD that it sounds like BS and that I was sorry that she had to endure such an awkward conversation with SM (and/or BD).

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-24-2008
Sat, 09-25-2010 - 10:44pm
1. Is it overstepping for the other biological parent to facilitate a developed relationship with former in-laws when the other parent refuses to do it?





No. Not in my eyes. It could be overstepping in the eyes of the biological son/SM but theirs is not the only viewpoint that counts, and it sounds like they would be in the minority with that viewpoint given you, ODD and dad's family are fine with it.





2. If an ex is a parent to former in-laws kin, are they family? Who determines that? The in-laws, the ex or the former spouse/new spouse?





Anyone who wants to can call themselves family. The people who have the relationship decide it. My mom maintained a connection to my dad's family after his death until my sister and I were grown. My paternal grandmother considered my mom her family even after the divorce (well more so after his death but my mom is the forgiving type). My paternal grandmother considered my SF her family after my mom remarried even though my grandmother only met SF a couple times. My grandmother said anyone her children marry is family to her, and if they divorce, anyone the children's ex marries becomes family to her. I thought it was sweet. It's like saying "anyone who is family to my family is also my family." It's a way to make your family as big as possible, and I like it.





3. Would you step out if you knew your facilitation of a relationship with the former in-laws was now the excuse being used to no longer try to reconcile?





No. I would not step out because SM came up with this excuse. The child knowing this connection through her OP is the only way she gets to see her family is enough for me to justify continuing those relationships. SM's excuse is just that, an excuse.





It has never been my intention or goal to further estrange ODD's father and SM from his family. I don't believe I was ever the cause of it but now my daughter is being told the family's favoritism between SM and I is the reason for the estrangement. ODD knows better but it still bothers me I'm being used as the convenient excuse for it.





But it still comes back to your ODD knows better, you know better, so that's what I'd hang my hat on. Think about it, this all started because SM was verbally abusive to your ODD. Now she's being verbally manipulative, again with your ODD. She's mad because she's not getting her way, she feels inferior to you and is blaming everyone else for how she feels. If she wanted to stop feeling inferior to you, she could accomplish that with or without reconciling with SIL and regardless of what you do. She's not willing to do the work necessary to get out from under that feeling, so she continues to feel inferior, and there's absolutely nothing you can do to change it. If she didn't feel inferior to you, she likely wouldn't have freaked out over your DD's comment at that dinner. She felt inferior when she had a relationship with dad's family, and that didn't change when became cut off from dad's family. It probably wouldn't change even if you stepped back and she reconciled with SIL. The only thing that is going to change how SM feels is SM changing how she think about it.

"Life is the art of drawing without an eraser."


John W. Gardner





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iVillage Member
Registered: 02-04-2009
Sun, 09-26-2010 - 2:56am

In general (as a general rule) I agree with your premise that an ex should step back from former inlaws if it's going to cause a rift between current inlaws.

However, in your case, I think you're a very convenient excuse. They were estranged LONG before you reconciled with his family, with no indications that they wanted to mend fences. Now that you have reconciled with the former inlaws, they have the perfect excuse NOT to reconcile--you. But if you dropped off the planet today, I sincerely doubt they would reconcile. Then they'd claim you caused too many problems, or SM would find a new offense.

In short, I agree with your ODD. Keep doing what you're doing as it's the only way she'll have a chance to be with that side of the family as long as she's a minor.

************

Kitty



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iVillage Member
Registered: 04-27-2007
Sun, 09-26-2010 - 8:09am

<1. Is it overstepping for the other biological parent to facilitate a developed relationship with former in-laws when the other parent refuses to do it?>

Is that the same as saying that it is right to deny the children a relationship with the in-laws if the other parent wants to cut them off? No. I think it could be cruel to the child and to the in-laws to deny a child a relationship. I don't think it's overstepping UNLESS the in-laws have been accused of abuse.

<2. If an ex is a parent to former in-laws kin, are they family? Who determines that? The in-laws, the ex or the former spouse/new spouse?>

The adults determine the value of their own relationships.

<3. Would you step out if you knew your facilitation of a relationship with the former in-laws was now the excuse being used to no longer try to reconcile>

In your case, absolutely not. Your relationship has nothing to do with the relationship between SM and your DD. It's subterfuge on on SM's part.

In general, I think I would not. But it depends on what you mean. I assume that the in-laws are also adults, able to make decisions, people with feelings. If they wanted a relationship with me, I would not cut them off just because it upset the ex.

However, if they want to cut the relationship with me off to please the ex or because they are uncomfortable with it, then I understand.

BUT...once cut off, it's cut off. If they ex cuts them off for some other reason, then that's it. I won't be dragged back in.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2010
Sun, 09-26-2010 - 8:36am

>>>1. Is it overstepping for the other biological parent to facilitate a developed relationship with former in-laws when the other parent refuses to do it?<<<

Probably.

>>>2. If an ex is a parent to former in-laws kin, are they family? Who determines that? The in-laws, the ex or the former spouse/new spouse?<<<

I don't think so. I don't see myself as kin to CFP's family, or them as kin to me. They exist in a completely different sphere. But I can certainly understand that other people feel differently and manage their relationships accordingly.

>>>3. Would you step out if you knew your facilitation of a relationship with the former in-laws was now the excuse being used to no longer try to reconcile?<<<

Nope. If I'd chosen your tack, I'd carry on with it. If the SIL told me "I'm sorry, we can't be friends anymore. It's a matter of choosing between you and my brother, and while I love and respect you, *he* is family...." I'd respect that. SM telling me that I can't be friends with SIL? SHE can pound salt.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-23-2010
Sun, 09-26-2010 - 10:21am

Thanks all for the feedback. I wasn't sure if there was an angle I was missing that needed due consideration.

I do think SM is emotionally manipulating ODD because ODD was feeling sorry for her as though she "never had a chance" to be important in the family...and that's simply not true. In fact, she was up until she abused ODD, her and Dad chalked it up to "parenting style difference" and then subsequently cut-off the paternal family for years before I reentered the scene...and the only reason I really did was for ODD's benefit. To fill the void left by SM...SM and Dad are still free to pick that back up as far as I'm concerned. I think Dad needs to be the one taking his daughter to see them.

But this conversation happened because ODD was brave enough to say to Dad, "instead of another cruise or scuba diving trip, can we just go out to visit family in Kansas?" and that's when SM responded with emotional manipulation.

And the fact Dad is allowing his wife to influence his decisions on this in a negative way is probably why I feel so strongly against spouses having that kind of "power" in the blended family...and hope I never allow my spouse the influence to cut-off relationships, especially familial ones.






Edited 9/26/2010 10:23 am ET by peripheral_mom
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-24-2008
Sun, 09-26-2010 - 1:44pm
And the fact Dad is allowing his wife to influence his decisions on this in a negative way is probably why I feel so strongly against spouses having that kind of "power" in the blended family...and hope I never allow my spouse the influence to cut-off relationships, especially familial ones.





I can see being against BD/SM's choices and behaviors, against what they have chosen to do. But against spouses having power or influence? I don't get that. BD is exercising his right to put his own and his wife's interest above his child's interests or his family ties. He's the one with the ultimate authority to make this happen. If he was like you, he'd settle on a better choice. The problem is personality and choices, not spousal influence or personal power. Spouses are right to influence each other in a marriage and parents are right to exercise their power when it comes to family relationships, even if we don't like the outcome other people settle on. What if she chose to use her influence to encourage BD to reconnect? Would you be against "spouses having power" in that situation?

"Life is the art of drawing without an eraser."


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iVillage Member
Registered: 06-10-2009
Sun, 09-26-2010 - 1:48pm

And the fact Dad is allowing his wife to influence his decisions on this in a negative way is probably why I feel so strongly against spouses having that kind of "power" in the blended family...and hope I never allow my spouse the influence to cut-off relationships, especially familial ones.



I dunno.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-04-2009
Sun, 09-26-2010 - 1:54pm
But that's got nothing to do with the scenario in the OP. In the OP, the BD and SM had cut off ties with BD's Mom 4 years prior to the BM reconciling with her ex-MIL. I'm not sure how much you would be able to 'dimish' from a place of "no contact for the past 4 years".

************

Kitty



"Jackie Kennedy would not have camel toe"--Tim Gunn

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************

Kitty

"If you can't annoy somebody with what you write, I think there's little point in writing."-- Kingsley Amis, British novelist, 1971 t .

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