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This Exchange simulates the original Couples Coping Support Group. It is designed to help persons with concerns in their relationships, family, marriage, seperation, divorce, etc.Offering a wide range of real world, personal experiences, information, knowledge, suggestions, & views from real people.
Anyone here estranged from family?
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queston posted:
On the night before we were to leave to visit my wife's parents/siblings (in another state), they called to let her know that we weren't welcome. They are very conservative, fundamentalist Christians, and we are not. That is nothing new (we have been married for almost 25 years).

Apparently, though, through a little facebook "stalking" of my kids, they have learned some of the "troubling" details, which include that my daughter's bf is black and works at a store they don't approve of, and that our church and denomination (through which our oldest son is seeking ordination into the clergy) welcomes gay people.

We have always been aware of our extreme religious differences. While we have certainly not hidden them, we've also avoided conversations about it over the years, as I think most people do when they have a fundamental disagreement with family.

Anyway, here's my real question. Has anyone been in a situation like this? What did you do? Right now she has (understandably) a lot of anger toward them, and the wound is still very fresh. But eventually she may want to seek reconciliation. Part of me says that's a good idea, since it's a tragedy to be estranged from one's family. But another part of me thinks "why encourage her to take on the pain of dealing with them at all?"
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darlyn05 responded:
It has been my experience in this sort of situation to detach and disassociate from. You can still have a close relationship without the drama of their disapproval. It may not be as close as you would like it to be, and that is sad and hurtful. To no fault of your own. Even as christians we/they are taught to accept people regardless of color or race or ethinic background. So I ask you, if they are christians, what's the problem!?! Does this seem hypicritical(sp)? From what you've wrote, it does to me. So I, myself, would limit how much of myself I put into that relationship with them. Perhaps down the road it'll improve.

Under her anger she really feels hurt and needs to recognize that hurt in order to deal with it in a healthy, rational fashion. JMO.
 
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stephs_3_kidz responded:
Her family is her family. If they are practically disowning her bc they don't agree with her religious beliefs, then they are the ones losing out.

I have family who are atheists. I am not. But I don't hate them, I love them just the same as I love everyone else. You don't always have to agree with family,or accept their differences, but you should love them whether or not you share the same beliefs.

I have sort of been in the situation your wife is in. I figure the people who treat me that way are not worth my worry or my time. I have learned to live my life and be happy without their negative influence in my life. Your wife will come to that point someday. As sad as it is to live without certain people in your life, it is sometimes necessary for your peace of mind and well-being to just let it go. And if those people come around someday and decide they've been idiots, fine. If they don't they don't. I hope for your family's sake that they do learn to stop treating you all that way. It's a good possibility they won't. And you just have to get to the point where that's ok, too. Sad, but you have to come to peace with it.

I think that you should just encourage your wife, reassure that even the rest of her family haven't figured out what family means, that you and your children will always be there for her. And let her know that you will support her whatever decision she makes re:her family.

Sorry you guys had to go through that. It's not very Christian-like at all of them to act that way. If it's an example they're trying to set they're not doing a very good job of it.
 
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RoseLynn02 responded:
I'm atheist, my husband is spiritual ( but no sure exactly what it is he believes in), & my children are free to choose their own paths when they are old enough to so & once they have researched their options well enough to make an informed decision. They are 3yrs & 1 yr right now. My family & my in-laws do not at all agree with my choice or even my husbands ( his side is Christians & Mormons & my side is Catholics, Lutherans, & Baptists), but they live with it. They know not to try & give us ultimatums & that if they choose to dis-associate themselves with us do to our live choices that's their prerogative. We concern ourselves primarily with our own home & not worry too much about our outside family members. Her family may be testing her to see if she will change for them or maybe they are just too ignorant or naive to understand or to change their thought process. Regardless, it's her family & as hurt as she is she should continue to love them & understand that it's not her place to judge their faults anymore than it is theirs to judge hers. She has no control over their opinions or beliefs as they have none over hers obviously. Her hurt will heal in time, it helps if she can consider the source, but don't let her abandon her love for them or she would just be lowering herself to level that she is clearly better than.

I think this is a good time for us to remember that although we may not all agree with one another, we should always respect each other...even if our beliefs are different we can still be good people & get along. Good luck to you, your wife, & your family. I know it would be hard for her to get rejected by her family should she try to reconcile & fail...but if she does try you should support her efforts although they may go nowhere & just remind her to keep an open mind at the realistic possibility that it may go bad or worse & try to keep the door open should her family change their minds. Just my opinion, but I hope it helps some.

You should be proud of your remarkable children for having such open minds & such little/non-exsistant judgment in their hearts.

I'm from Las Vegas, I have tattoos(several), I'm an atheist, I've been with other races, have plenty of gay friends, & I'm a democrat.... I wonder what her family would think of me! I bet they wouldn't even know if I didn't tell them...my tats are pretty much always covered ( they have meaning for me & no one else & I didn't get them for show), I have never done a drug in my life & don't drink, I'm a young mother of 2 who have the same daddy with whom I'm married & yet I doubt that they would recognize any of the good in that if the knew my past...even if they knew how much my family is involved in charity or that I'm finishing my degree in forensic psychology so I can help people with substance abuse issues they would probably still judge me & condemn me to hell. Tragic really.
 
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darlyn05 responded:
I don't know much about facebook. My understanding is that it is a public profile of sorts for people (anyone). So how do people get 'stalked' on facebook? How does a person know if someone has viewed their profile? Just curious.
 
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queston replied to darlyn05's response:
I'm also not a facebook user. "Facebook stalking" is the phrase young people use for when you mine someone's facebook page (and their friends' pages) for information about them.

I'm not sure how one knows who has accessed their facebook page. In this case, we knew because my mother-in-law told us that that's where she had gotten the information.
 
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fcl replied to queston's response:
At the current time there is no way of knowing who visited your page (despite many ads to the contrary). If they don't tell you, you may never know.
There's nothing inherently dirty about sex, but if you try real hard and use your imagination you can overcome that.
 
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GuardSquealer responded:
My wife's family was in some weird religion when she was growing up. The church pressured her father into leaving the military just a couple of years before he would have been able to get retirement. Then her mom and dad split up, but the church forced them to get back together. So they were constantly fighting and unhappy.

Then that church had a split within itself and her mom went one way and her dad the other. So they eventually were able to divorce.

As soon as she was 18 she left the church and married as soon as she could just to get away from her family. She still had contact with them when we were married. But her mom always bugged her to do more things for the family. So one day my wife just cut off all contact with her mother. Then someone from her dad's church contacted my wife and her sister saying they needed to do more for their father. And wanted the church to be able to oversee what they did. So they told the church people to get lost. And they haven't heard from their father since. Don't even know if he is still alive.

Their brother sort of just estranged himself. Not sure what his deal is. But neither has heard from him in years either. We don't think he is in the church but he might be.

It doesn't seem to bother my wife at all. She never mentions it. It probably bothers me more. As sometimes I ask what happened to them or if they are still alive. She doesn't really seem to bothered by it at all. I guess she hates her childhood so much she has deleted them from her memory.
 
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BalconyBelle replied to GuardSquealer's response:
I'm pretty sure her behavior is not due to having 'deleted them from her memory'--it's far more likely that she HASN'T forgotten, and hasn't forgiven. That would be my guess for why she doesn't care whether her father is dead or alive.
http://erynlockhart.wordpress.com
 
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MissCaptainKirk responded:
We are estranged from my mom's side of the family. Her and my grandma never got along, and were always fighting. So they decided not to talk to each other anymore. My grandpa (my mom's stepdad) was always very kind to her and he never fought with anybody but my grandma pretty much contolled him so he doesn't talk to us anymore either. I haven't seen my grandma or grandpa on my mom's side since I was 8.

Summer of 2011 we found out through some friends who go to my grandparents' church that my grandma has mouth cancer. Then my mom's brother (whom she still talks to) came down from Chicago to help my grandparents and he told my mom everything that was going on. But my mom still won't directly talk to my grandparents.

I've struggled a lot with whether to try to talk to my grandparents. I don't know how they would respond. My mom has made it clear she'd be extremely hurt if I talked to them and would see it as betrayal. My relationship with my mom is still on the mend and out of respect I don't want to go behind her back. But at the same time...

Reconciliation with estranged family is hard. I'm sure your wife is really hurting right now. But her family seems really mean and judgmental (and racist!). Maybe it'd be good to not talk to them for a while and let their tempers cool down. Then offer some sign that you guys are still willing to talk to them because you're gracious even if they aren't. Maybe send them a card or something. If they still don't want to talk to you, that's their problem. Just send em signs once in a while that you're still willing to talk. It's up to them to reciprocate.

Family is all relative (no pun intended). I call people my family even though we aren't related because they do for me what family is supposed to do: they care for me, love me, and are there if I need them. Maybe this notion will comfort your wife. I hope she'd doing ok and the situation gets better. Much love! <3
 
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fcl replied to MissCaptainKirk's response:
MCK, never let anyone else make a decision about who you can see and who you can't. This whole dispute was between your mother and her mothe - you are in no way concerned and it's not nice of your mother to forbid you to see your grandmother. It's not because they couldn't get on together that you won't get on well with your grandmother.

OK, so let me confess that your story hit a nerve. My brother and his wife divorced about 15 years ago. She went out of her way to ensure that her three children understood that she didn't want them going near their father nor his family. She told them that THEY had divorced US. Only one of them kept in touch with us. The result was that my mother hasn't seen her two other grandchildren for all these years and her heart is breaking. They won't answer the phone, ignore her letters, one of them even ran away from her in the street ... Can you imagine the pain of that? Her granddaughter is now a mother of two and she will never be allowed to see her great-grandchildren.

My point is that what is between your mother and hers is their business and that it could do you and your grandmother a lot of good to get to know each other. If you don't fit, you don't have to be bosom buddies Just don't let your mother dictate your life to you. You're a grown up and your choices are yours. If you want to see your grandma then do so.
There's nothing inherently dirty about sex, but if you try real hard and use your imagination you can overcome that.
 
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MissCaptainKirk replied to fcl's response:
I was just using my experience as an example for queston. Basically, these things happen and they're very complicated and very hard.

My relationship with my mother is complicated and I'm still working on it, so I don't really want to do anything to damage it at the moment.
Although a bunch of stuff just happened last night/this morning with my mom's brother and his son and it involves my grandpa so I think I'll write to him and see if he responds. In light of the current situation my mother may be ok with it. I'm not asking for her permission though.

FCL, I'm sorry to hear about your family situation. I feel like this sort of thing happens all too often. It's very sad.
But that's why I'm pointing out to you, queston, that sometimes when your blood relatives aren't treating you like a family ought to, it's when you realize how there's other people in your life that are your family bcuz they treat you well. Just sayin I hope this helps your wife somewhat.
 
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Tones217 responded:
I can definitely sympathize with your situation. I have been estranged from my father for several years. When he remarried (to a woman he had known for 2 weeks in an internet chatroom) he said I was the biggest disappointment in his life and that he had a new and better family. Ouch, right?

I went on with my life and accepted I no longer had a father. On my 21st birthday he called me. Thinking he was going to apologize and make amends (and with encouragement from my boyfriend) I answered. He asked how I was and I updated him on my life, how I decided to become a pharmacist and told him about my boyfriend. I thought he would be proud. Instead he told me I was making a huge mistake and how I would become a druggie and "dip into my stash" (I have NEVER done drugs). That was the last straw for me.

I thought I would get my father back and instead he was just the same bitter, cruel man who broke my heart years earlier. My advice is this: this is painful enough for your wife. Don't push her in either direction. Be an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. If she asks for your opinion, of course be honest with her, but remind her this is her family and it's up to her how she wants to proceed. Keep in mind that if she decides to forgive them, their opinions of your family wont change and she may just set herself up to get hurt even more in the future.

Like you mentioned, it's a tragedy to be estranged from your family, but real family wouldn't treat you like this. Family is supposed to be loving, understanding and encouraging. They should love you for who you are. The real tragedy is your wife's family pushing away your beautiful family.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. --Ralph Waldo Emerson
 
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tlkittycat1968 responded:
I guess you could say we're estranged from my mom's side of the family. She wasn't raised with her youngest sister and several half-brothers/sisters. Her parents divorced when she was young due to infedelity on both sides. When her oldest sister was alive, she would invite us to various family functions such as birthday parties. My aunt passed away two years ago and now we're no longer invited. I'm in contact with her youngest sister and she'll mention birthday parties, get-togethers, etc with her half-nieces/nephews after the fact. We're in regular contact with two cousins and that's it.

Now my dad's side is totally opposite. We have an annual reunion the second weekend of August that has been going on for over 30 years (some of my cousins weren't even born when it started). We get together for weddings and baptisms.
 
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thedespised responded:
Yes,

My background and family life was so chaotic and dysfunctional that I wrote a book about it called THE DESPISED. You can find it at http://www.readthedespised.com
It is an unbelievable story with insights you'll never find anywhere else. It was a story almost 40 years in the making!


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