Oh, the sentimental cliché that was uttered to me by my mother-in-law in the weeks following her realization that her son had in fact been cheating on me with another woman and had walked away from me and our children to pursue a relationship with Janice Andrews.
Fast forward 5 1/2 years and in that time there has been one phone call by my mother-in-law with my father-in-law on the other end and they brought me a birthday gift when they were in town 4 months later to see my daughter dance. Then…crickets. I reached out once by email to my in-laws, including my brother-in-law, about my ex’s disturbing behavior and my concern but no response. They have been to visit their son at least once/year and never once have they called or wanted to see me. I have seen them in passing at my daughter’s dance recitals during their visit but that was it. My father-in-law, in particular, especially during his visit this year, was extremely cold.
Two things got me thinking about this phrase. Firstly, I had coffee this morning with a friend of mine in her late 70’s and her husband in his 80’s. I have know their son and daughter-in-law for over 20 years. Their daughter-in-law had an affair on their son over a year ago and destroyed their marriage. There is no chance of reconciliation. Yet, even though their son was betrayed (and the details and consequences for him as a result of the affair were severe–he lead a church and lost his job) have indicated she will always be their daughter-in-law and they have proven it by continuing to have a close and personal relationship with her. My friend told me, “I forgive her.”
We talked about another couple that we both know, who are my age with 2 girls the same age as my girls. They are part of our little circle of church connections who migrated to Vancouver Island at the same time and who have also recently split. She told me that my girlfriend told her mother-in-law (we are also friends with her mother and father-in-law) she was so afraid she would lose her in the split. Her mother-in-law replied, “You will always be my daughter-in-law” and they continue to hike and kayak together even though her mother-in-law has fallen into a deep depression over the split and also as a result of her husband’s recent Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis.
My friend asked me this morning if I had a relationship with my in-laws. They had met them at our house during one of their visits. I told her that I did not. She was sorry. I didn’t cheat on their son so why did they betray me too? Why is that my friend is still able to embrace the daughter-in-law who has hurt her son and grandchildren and the rest of their family so cruelly and my in-laws don’t care about the mother who is trying so hard to raise their grandchildren despite everything their son has done to tear apart their lives.
Secondly, my ex sent me a bizarre email. This was a comment that he wrote at the end of a long rant about something completely unrelated:
“Do you think (my mom’s name) would act or request the things you do? She was selfless and always acted with kindness and regard for others. She always made a point of being inclusive when others were trying to exclude, such as (my brother-in-law’s name). You should try acting and honouring your mother rather than being the antithesis of everything she was and stood for.”
I have no idea why my ex suddenly brought my mom into his email and I was trying to understand why he was feeling excluded. He is correct that even after my sister and her husband separated my mom invited my brother-in-law to every birthday and special occasion dinner. It caused tension sometimes, especially for my sister, but we all see now how beneficial it was to everyone in the family in the long run and how amazing my mom was to put her relationship with my sister on the line to do what she felt was right and loving for her grandchildren especially but for the family as a whole because we are all still family. My mom practiced love and would have without a doubt, if she was here, done the same for my ex. I don’t think, however, he would have had the courage to step into her circle of love. A lot of my family did reach out to my ex after our split but he didn’t answer or return any of their calls. My girls have asked him to do things with me and them together but he has always refused. I told my ex, I would do things with him and our girls and put everything aside for those moments they needed for their well-being but he would not even try. He excluded himself. If he loved my mom so much as he claims that he did, why isn’t he honouring her by acting the way he says she acted. He loves to tell me what I “should” do and hold me to some standard while ignoring it himself. It is he who is the “antithesis”.
When I told my ex that I had no understanding of his comments about my mom and his feelings of being excluded in context to his email subject he responded:
“You’re exactly right you don’t understand. My point was that your mother didn’t take sides. She didn’t get caught up in the politics. She didn’t hold grudges. She didn’t try to paint people in a negative light. She looked for ways to try and draw people together despite difficult and challenging life situations. (My brother-in-law’s name) was a perfect example. He didn’t pay a dime of child or spousal support. Your sister didn’t want him around for family functions but your mother would always invite him. Make sure it was about the children and there being able to spend time with their Dad. Despite the fact that she may not have agreed or been happy with (my brother in-law’s name), she never spoke negatively in front of the kids and was trying to make the best of the situation. Completely opposite of what you have chosen to do.”
He praises my mom’s behavior but it is the complete opposite of what he and his family have done. I have no intention of ever doing anything with Janice Andrews but I have offered on many occasions to do the “family” thing for my girls. Maybe my ex should be sending his praise of my mom’s nature to his parents. After all, it was his mom that told my daughter this summer, “Your mom will always be our daughter-in-law but your dad is our son.” In reality her words are backed up by “Your mom will always be our daughter-in-law but we choose to wish the mistress Happy Birthday on Facebook instead.”