Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Knowing your father-in-law's weakness, speak accordingly
Q: When my husband and I learned I was pregnant, we couldn't wait to tell our parents. We told them together and asked that they not share the news until well after the first trimester. They agreed, but within five minutes of the conversation, my father-in-law had posted the news to Facebook — one action we had specifically asked they not do at all.
A month or so later we lost the pregnancy. I was devastated, but managed . . . that is, until a family event when a number of well-meaning relatives wished us congratulations, peppered us with questions and finally had to hear our sad news. They were visibly upset about it and we left the event because I was too shaken.
I'm trying to give my father-in-law leeway, because I understand he was excited and wanted to share good news. Unfortunately, he has little regard for other people's requests or feelings and this is a glaring example of it. It now makes me extremely worried that he won't adhere to our parenting requests when we finally do have a child. He ignores the requests of my sister-in-law and her husband.
The ones who usually suffer the consequences of his behavior are us, not him. How do I handle this?
A: First, I'm really sorry — that sounds awful on top of awful.
Second, it sounds as if you're being pretty charitable with your father-in-law, what with all the "he was excited" rationalizing, but it might make more practical sense for you not to be so charitable.
The relevant information about him is that "he has little regard for other people's requests or feelings," and you need to have that firmly in mind whenever you make a decision involving him — be it to share good news or to trust him with your someday children. Never lose sight of who he is, because he won't keep your news secret and he won't adhere to your parenting requests; your short description says he's all about what he wants when he wants it. You know this because you've witnessed it.
And you know you stand to be heartbroken (or worse) when . . . surprise! you expect better from him and then he acts exactly as he always does anyway. As bad as this recent experience was, it might prove valuable as a warning not to succumb to wishful thinking about his behavior.
Sadly, you don't have the luxury of acting on the "can't wait to tell our parents" impulse. Please talk to your husband about this before you reach another crossroads with your father-in-law, so you and your husband both agree on how to handle him.
Anonymous again: Thanks, Carolyn! Your advice is exactly what my intuition has been telling me. I wanted to know if those feelings were founded or just my working through the grief and loss and lashing out inappropriately.
I've been mentally prepping the conversation with my husband, and now I feel better about letting the words flow.
Carolyn: You're welcome, and I hope you have some good news soon on which to try out your new approach.