Standing with Meghan
I’ve watched the interview, I’ve read the posts, and I’ve seen the outpours of support for Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, Archie, and girl baby on the way and like so many others, my heart broke for them.
I felt so empowered by the interview that it compelled me to write my own story. Having a shared experience like this is not one I relish. My husband, Mike, and I(along with our kids) don’t see or speak to his parents. Occasionally we see them at larger family gatherings but they have made it clear we are unwanted in their lives. This is not a complete catalog of the events that have transpired between us. I do not have the time or energy to even begin to write down every single thing and probably have forgotten incidents and details but I will never forget how they made me feel. I know I have made my own mistakes and have admitted them and forgave myself. Most of my transgressions I iquate to immaturity, lack of self confidence, and fear. I was a kid trying to grow up too fast or was very deep in PPD after our first child, Nathan, was born. The adults involved could have guided or supported us. They could have made us and especially me believe I was wrong, that I was welcome and loved but instead I was attacked, bullied, made to be the villain, and premier scapegoat.
Our relationship started out rocky. I was just sixteen years old and at a very fragile time in my life. I was made to feel inadequate from the beginning. For years I tried to play along and wear a smile when I saw them but I left every interaction in tears. I put what I thought was my best foot forward with them. I brought over baked goods, gifts for birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries, and tried to bond with them as much as possible. When Mike and I first moved out we made a point to drive to their house for the designated Friday night hang out as much as we could pending work schedules because we were told it was an open invitation but whenever we got there, no one else was and we returned home.
No matter what we did, but especially what I did, they were cruel to me. There was a problem with anything I did and when my husband(then still boyfriend) or I mentioned anything about their words or actions we were met with “you’re too sensitive”, “I’m just being sarcastic”, or “this is my humor”. I didn’t get it then and I don’t get it now. Being cruel is never funny.
I made the worst mistakes in building relationships with them when I tried to be as “funny” as them. It of course backfired. Comments or dumb gifts I gave fueled the fire even more to hate me even though I was just trying to fit into their way of life. That’s not how they saw it but nevertheless what I said or did was still kinder than they were treating me. To make matters worse, it was hard to discuss this with friends and family. I felt this terrible blend of guilt for speaking ill of them but also ashamed that I would put up with being treated the way they were treating me.
When our wedding planning began they were less than thrilled for us. We were young, in school, and had little savings but not even feeling emotionally supported was extremely challenging. My parents were willing to help with the cost however at the time were not financially prepared to pay for it all and neither were we. We were cutting corners, we settled for a venue we hated but it was cheap, and we scuffled with EVERYONE’S opinions from the dresses, the favors, and the music. We were financially and emotionally drained from the entire process. When we were given the guest list from Mike’s family it was a shock to say the least. Anyone from neighbors to distant friends we had never met were expecting invites. I’m sure every couple experiences something to this extent but this felt personal because they knew we couldn’t afford the 100 people list especially since our less than terrible venue only held 150 guests.
All of the wedding planning came to a head 5 months before the big day. We went out to celebrate Mike’s grandmother’s birthday. I remember the conversation Mike had with his brother when said he wouldn’t be a groomsman unless I made their then fourteen year old sister a bridesmaid. I tried including my future in-laws in conversation about the wedding but they were uninterested. I even made myself vulnerable letting his mom know I was having second thoughts about my dress choice. She rolled her eyes in such disgust as if I was causing a major problem. We got in the car to leave and it was the first time I didn’t cry after leaving an encounter with them. We sat in silence staring aimlessly. Mike turned to me and I looked at him. We both knew how hard this was but decided to ditch the wedding and elope. My in-laws were not happy but I can assure you no one, including us, were however the only ones that still hold it over our heads and hold a grudge almost 9 years later.
A few years later we bought our first house and found out I was pregnant with our son. When we told my in-laws there was no excitement. Their first grandchild and his mother could hardly muster up a smile. I didn’t expect jumping up and down or an outlandish gesture but a sliver of joy or a hug would have been nice. I felt like we were telling them I got arrested or something. They showed zero interest except for the conversation we had about what foods were making me sick. An odd conversation but they seemed interested so I was thrilled. A week later his parents hosted their annual New Year dinner party. To my surprise, the menu consisted of every item I told them made me sick. They offered to throw a baby shower which I tried to politely decline. I couldn’t imagine they would want to celebrate in any possible way. Guilt led me finally to agree to it and the hope that maybe they did care. Thank goodness for my now sister-in-law. She made a beautiful cake, took over decorations and basically planned the entire event.
When our son was born the day was full of love. My in-laws didn’t come to meet him until I had been up for over 24 hours and was going to bed. Their actions were disrespectful to say the least and the next time we saw them they continued their streak. My post pregnancy body(2 weeks after giving birth) was mocked and my baby was ignored. We didn’t see or hear from them for months. I tried to connect as much as possible but I was so deep in PPD but that didn’t matter. They had only invited us over because they were having a birthday party for my husband’s sister. Mike approached his mom about the lack of interest in our child. My mother-in-law told my husband that if our son wasn’t his, they(she and his family) would care more. He was beyond devastated. She tried to correct herself but her “correction” was just as terrible. I think about that comment every time I see them interacting with their other grandchild.
The chaos continued. More words were said over time from everyone and the situation only got worse. It still feels awful and makes me terribly upset but for Mike it is so much worse. His family, that has openly said I am the reason for all their problems, doesn’t want a relationship with him. Our main motive to even say anything at all was because we were unhappy with our relationship with them, with our child. All we wanted was a shrivel of desire from them to be part of our life. But in their eyes they only saw us as the problem because we even mentioned it. They deny everything now. Nothing is or ever will be their fault. The ax forgets but the tree remembers. And let me tell you this, they’ve cut me down more times than I could write about.
The last time we really interacted with them was the January before covid. We were at a party and it grew more and more awkward. Towards the end of the evening as everyone was leaving my mother-in-law started yelling at my son, questioning if he knew her. He was obviously terrified so I told him to go find his dad. After he walked away she started to pick a fight with me when Mike had to intervene. It was absolutely awful. I wrote them a letter but never sent it. It basically said we had never discussed the issues at hand with our kids hoping against all odds things would change. However they didn’t and now because our son was asking so many questions and making his own judgement calls on my in-laws we had to explain it to him. Obviously not in great detail because we still have hope but everyday they don’t open the lines of communication or try to work this out a little less hope leaves. They have broken Mike’s heart so much that it is no longer in pieces but in grains of sand. Sand that now fills an hourglass of the time he will leave the door open to them to come back into our lives.
These are part of a much larger story. This is from my vantage point. People may disagree with the things that are said but they are MY truth. Being able to say he has some relationship with any family members is a positive for us. It is both comforting and disheartening to know that I do not live in this situation and that so many others do. My intention of writing this was in no way to call them out, cause pain or conflict. My only intention was to be an open space for others. So that if they are experiencing something similar they know they are not alone. No one deserves to be treated as if they are unwelcome, unloved, or a burden in any way. Struggling with family is never easy. If you are lucky enough to have a family that puts love and respect ahead of scrutiny, disapproval, and hatred please count your blessings. If you do, we would gladly change places with you for even a day.