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I really hate my in-laws

Melissa Chapman and her brood of three live in the urban concrete jungle of NYC. She writes Kids in the City Kids in the City a weekly column and blog for the Staten Island Advance, contributes to SheKnows, Time Out NY Kids Time Out N...

Hater in-law

I never thought I'd be in this position. In fact, growing up with a mother who had a tense, acrimonious relationship with her own in-laws I vowed I would never repeat her mistakes. Of course, being 5 years old, I don't think I fully grasped the gravity of the situation, nor did I understand the complex back story that shapes most relationships. But at that age -- when your basic understanding of the world is uncluttered by years of arguments and heinous hatred that, once spewed, can never be retracted -- you cannot conceive of a period in your life where all won't be rose-colored and the words 'I'm sorry' are not a cure-all.

 

A rocky past

I know there are two sides to every story. But growing up I was repeatedly told that my father's side of the family simply had it out for my mother from the moment they began dating. In fact, with each ensuing encounter, rather than finding a way to at least tolerate one another and live in a peaceful co-existence, my father's mother adamantly told him she did not approve of my mother and never would. My grandmother made it clear that as long as my mother was in the picture, theirs would never be a loving relationship.

And here we are, almost 44 years after the fact, and the lack of communication that began when my mother, a 15-year-old who went gaga for my 21-year-old dad, has deepened, and the patriarchal component of my family tree has essentially shriveled up and withered away. My father's ancestry, although deeply embedded in every fiber of my DNA, does not consciously inform who I am. I don't have any shared memories of growing up beside them. Rather, our last uncomfortable encounter was at my wedding when we artificially posed for a family picture.

History repeats itself

So here I am, 11 years into my marriage, and I seem to be repeating the history I swore at the tender of age of 5 I'd never succumb to. I've broken off ties with my in-laws. When my husband and I first started dating -- I was 24 and he was 39 -- initially both of our families felt a bit trepidatious about our 15-year age difference and were hesitant to give their seal of approval. I always felt this deep-seated chill from one of his brothers.

Although on the outside, he was quick to say all the appropriate things, I never felt like I was initiated into their "inner circle of trust". Also, upon our initial encounter, I was made aware of my husband's father's very public infidelity. At the time, he was openly cheating on my mother-in-law, who was relegated to her home stricken with multiple sclerosis. I think what incensed me most about the situation was the fact that my husband's relatives never scrutinized my father-in-law about his infidelity.

Still, I was marrying this man -- whom I loved. I thought our in-law relatioships would be typical: We'd see each other at those obligatory family holidays where we'd exchange pleasantries, comment about how big the other's kids have grown and then resume our very separate lives.

Feeling the chill

Then, when we were six-months pregnant with our eldest child, my husband and I moved five minutes away from my father-in-law. My mother-in-law had passed away at that point, and we really believed we'd have some sort of on-going relationship with him.

Unfortunately, he was still very publicly involved with this woman, with whom he'd been carrying on an affair while my mother in law was still alive, and had no desire to be with his son, or our kids. Rather, he spent his every waking minute with this woman, who also just happened to be married. So I accepted that our relationship, despite our close physical proximity, would be reserved for special holiday meet 'n' greets. We'd gather with all my husband's relatives, who'd whisper about my father-in-law's behaviors but never actually challenge him about them. I remain tight-lipped and smiled at a family I'd grown accustomed to seeing twice a year.

Next: The truth comes out

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