Seniors: When Inlaws Act Like Outlaws

Nov 3rd, 2009 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

If your family dynamic has about it a very toxic situation in which inlaws act like outlaws, what are the options for creating some kind of peaceful coexistence? Sometimes it happens, from early on, that one or another of the in-laws cannot abide one or the other of the other in-laws.  Neurotic probably, at best, and psychotic, at worse, such a situation creates tension, despair, disappointment and considerable difficulty within the family as a whole.  It also requires tip toeing around certain individuals, avoiding times together, creating phony atmospheres, and reducing  or eliminating the possibility of a healthy good time for all involved.

Is there any solution?  The difficulty is that the behavior usually emanates from one person, but it inevitably includes his/her spouse as well.  So, it is them against the world.  So long as the rest of the family accomodates this behavior they hold all the power, veto on any discussion, hex on your grave. Such conflict is almost impossible to address, since it is much like some nations unwillingness to discuss issues, therefore negotiation is never possible.

There are two possibilities that may serve to provide an occasion for confrontation.  One is, of course, a very sad one.  That could occur when there is a death in the family, thus creating the climate in which the family is compelled to be together.  Even then, the dance of avoidance can still occur.

The other is a happy occasion and can occur around a celebration, a graduation of a child or grandchild, a wedding, a birth or some other celebratory moment. Here again, if the hostile camp attempts avoidance, there is little to be done without possibily creating a scene.  However, there is another angle to this.  The non hostile camp can decide to make some effort at polite appeasement.  Approach the other and extend your hand in greeting and congratulations re the occasion.  Don’t expect animosity, just invite courtesy and politeness.  If rudeness in behavior or vocubulary is the response, politely excuse yourself and leave the entire situation lying there on the ground.

In family situations such as these there just may come a time when the only option is to just leave it lying on the ground.  Until all parties are willing to create and find grounds for reconciliation, it won’t and can’t happen.  Sad, but that’s just the way it is.  If the party who carries its bag of complaints and grudges is unwilling to put it down, then there is little anyone else can do, try as you might. 

Good intentions are always worthy of attempt and usually sincere in effort.  It may help you to continue those gestures.  Don’t expect they will be returned, just be pleasantly surprised if they are.



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