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Woman feels shunned by husband's family during separation

Woman feels shunned by her husband's family during split

Q: Last year my husband of 33 years and I were on the verge of divorce. He informed his family we were divorcing. The two sisters called me to say goodbye and have a nice life, but there was no other communication with anyone else. After a year of separation we decided to get back together. My problem is that I cannot get over the fact that the whole family, who were my family for more than 30 years, just dropped me from their lives as if I were dead.

Now that we are back together, I find it very difficult to be with them as a group and "pretend" everything is back to normal. I feel as if I am walking into a room full of people who rejected me. None of them talks about it to me or each other. The 800-pound gorilla in the room is always ignored. I hate to feel so badly about them, but I do. What is the best way for me to handle this?


A: The best way to handle anything you're stuck on: Look at it from a different perspective.

Specifically here: Why was it on them to call you?

I think it's great that the two sisters did call. But I don't believe their doing so translates into a clear mandate for his entire family to contact you.

You are an adult who had adult relationships with members of his family. Presumably, all of those relationships began solely through your link to your husband. Possibly some of these grew beyond that into affection or commonality independent of your husband. Inevitably, some of those relationships didn't grow and existed only through your husband.

It strikes me as natural and healthy to let the latter end with the marriage. For the former, it would make sense either to maintain or end with a formal goodbye — I agree with you there. However, because of that affection/commonality independent of your husband, I could argue that either you or the other party would be in a solid position to approach.

I'm not saying this to suggest you should have contacted these family members yourself. I'm merely pointing out that your perceived shunning is not as black-and-white as you set it out to be. When a 33-year norm gets broken, everyone involved is going to feel a little strange and lost. In-laws who feel warmly toward you, regard you as family and even missed you during your absence might have consciously chosen to hang back till the dust settled.

And just because these people fall under one title — "family" — doesn't mean they act monolithically. Two sisters were moved to reach out. Others, too, may have shared that impulse but overruled it out of (real or perceived or misplaced) loyalty to your husband. Others may have wondered why you didn't call. That some may have shrugged doesn't mean everyone did.

Try to strengthen your footing with the family members you missed, and consider yourself released from the obligation to reinforce your ties to the rest. Presumably you haven't gotten "back to normal" with your husband, but instead have worked through your problems and arrived at a new normal. That's what I'd shoot for with his family: normal, with needed renovations.

Woman feels shunned by husband's family during separation 08/26/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 12:53am]
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