But they're family!
After the wedding fiasco I wrote about below, I forgot a detail that seems important to mention in a new post. NMIL called my own mom... expecting her to be on their side??? To this day it confuses me.
Our parents had met only once on an extended weekend where they hosted my family up at their second home on the lake front up north. Hardly knew each other. The visit was scripted to say the least and I had the suspicion it was faked but kept it to myself this visit to avoid drama.
The N's tried hard to appear as model parents and after that weekend, I knew I wasn't the only one who felt the control in the family. My mom had taken me aside after and said his mother and grandmother control everything, they really did dictate how everything happened during my parents stay. My mom didn't know all the details of my first 2 week long visit with them, but she knew I didn't like it there and knew I wasn't the most thrilled being there again for that weekend.
During the whole drama ordeal which unfolded that fall, my mother got a call on her cell from my NMIL-to-be, we were still only engaged at the time. This was almost directly after one of the abusive, yelling-voice-raising calls DH and I were subjected to that week. I was incredulous to why they would STOOP to call my parents into the drama. It seemed surreal and really scared me.
I heard my mom's voice, polite as always but I could tell she was pissed. I could also tell NMIL was pumping her for information about ME, her own daughter. If she knew of any reason I wouldn't want to be with them, etc, etc. Do I really think they're racist? (her question, something NOT put in her head by me or my mother) I also found this odd considering the comments I'd received during my time with them in the past. Every way she could point a finger at me, my mothers arrogant, strong-willed daughter... she did. I was mortified. So was my mother. I remember my mom hanging up, telling me NMIL was pissed she didn't get any information out of her about me. I could tell she was seriously angry this woman tried to GET any dirt on me as if my own mother would spill the goods and juicy gossip about her own daughter. It really boggles my mind.
My parents are not welcoming towards the NIL's. Certainly not after that. My father a little more so than my mother. During our wedding planning he agreed to host DH's friends as well as family over if we wanted to see them, but said his parents were not welcome in his home. My dad's a pretty mild-mannered guy and I have never heard him say this about anyone as long as I can remember.
But yet... the standards double. My mom has urged me on more than one occasion that 'of course they'll be there' when the baby is born. That I can't 'keep them away'. That I should try to invite them into my home and entertain them while DH is able to talk with his family. Regardless of how many times I openly say that DH wants nothing to do with his family, these comments are still made. The NIL's are still 'family'.
I have heard over and over again to give them grace, to extend forgiveness and to open up my heart and home when I feel it would be very unwise to do so. Somehow being a part of the family by law should indicate that I would bend over backwards to make amends for damage I didn't do. And here comes the great lie: you have to forgive them. And by forgive I mean the notion to welcome them back into your life.
Being raised in a Christian home has faced me with a unique set of challenges as I hear this all the time from those well-meaning people who really don't understand everything. After coming to terms with the fact the N-family is ALL Christian and holier than thou- my faith was shaken. I walked away from the church for a while as I didn't want to subject myself to the abuse that 'they're family, you're supposed to forgive and forget with family'.
And that's when I learned a hard lesson. When abuse is covered over with said 'forgiveness' the abusers do not grow in Christ. They do not grow as people. For the abused to begin the healing process the abuse must be seen as such! It must be validated. And that is exactly where I believe the church failed me, personally.
During this break from Christianity I rediscovered myself, I found purpose in finding out more about groups that support women who are abused. Strangely, I found that many (well, most) cases of domestic violence are verbal. Oftentimes these wounds can leave the deepest scars. Oftentimes the perpetrators cannot be punished by law because no physical violence occurred. Belittling and abusing power over someone is terribly common. This breaks my heart.
The fact that my blog has gotten over 50 hits already strikes a chord in me that all these readers looking for the answers and a way to live with such people.... that should just NOT be the case. It saddens me that so many people are affected by this with little to no validation of their own brokenness. No way to heal, and by no means ready to forgive those who are not sorry. Abuse is okay because 'it's family'. Does the excuse 'it's family' also prevent incest??? Does it protect physical abuse within a marriage??? Why then should anyone assume verbal, emotional or mental (even spiritual) abuse is okay? When is abuse EVER okay because 'it's family'?
I'll get off my soap box now but that really gets to me. My heart goes out to anyone stuck facing that mentality after being abused. You have a voice and you deserve to be heard. Abuse is never okay.
One of the things that has helped me most in healing is coming to terms with what forgiveness means and what I'm supposed to do with all the anger and hurt pent up inside me from the NILs. I realized forgiveness means and what it does not mean.
letting go of the hurt so you can move forward with peace, letting go of what happened in order to move on and no longer be another person's emotional prisoner.
It does NOT mean:
Being buddies with the person.
Talking to or even seeing them again.
Being 'ok' with what happened.
Condoning the abuse.
Forgetting the past and moving on to a future with this person in it.
I don't pretend to have all the answers. I am NO Biblical scholar nor do I claim to be so. Any and all information I share here is simply what has helped me personally.
In my next post I hope to address that terrible R-word, reconciliation.