Tuesday, November 25, 2014

In-Law Trouble Puts Family At Odds

Dear Tazi:

My sister-in-law "Jolene" (my brother's wife) and my husband have never gotten along; but I only recently discovered that the rest of my family is not too fond of my husband, either. "George" can be an overbearing, temperamental, insulting know-it-all at times; but he can also be sweet, and kind, and caring, too. This is the side of him my family does not seem to notice.

A few weeks ago, my mother held a party for my father's 65th birthday celebration. Everyone was having a great time, but after the cake was cut and slices of it were being passed around, things melted down quicker than the ice cream. My two and a half year old daughter, "Sassi" had somehow gotten hold of the knife used to slice the cake - the one metal knife among the plastic - and was about to stick it into an electrical outlet. Jolene saw what was about to happen and since she was too far away from Sassi to stop her in time, she yelled at her. She said, "NO, Sassi! You put that down RIGHT NOW!". Sassi was so surprised she did drop the knife - and then started to cry, which upset George.

George, not liking Jolene to begin with, reprimanded Jolene in front of everyone; saying it was inappropriate of her to yell at Sassi and demanded that Jolene apologize to Sassi for upsetting her. The look on Jolene's face told me this was not going to happen and I tried to intervene before things got worse, but George shushed me. Seeing this sent Jolene - a feminist - over the edge, and she told George exactly where he could shove the knife that Sassi had been holding, before storming off. My family just stood by and laughed - partly to relieve the tension, and partly because it was kind of funny to everyone but George. George then proceeded to turn on my mother, asking her why the house was not child-proofed; to which she responded, "because no children live here". George insisted we leave immediately, which we did.

It has been two weeks since we left the party, and George is still steaming about it. He will not allow my brother or sister-in-law to see Sassi until "she gets the apology she deserves" and refuses to allow me bring Sassi to visit my Mom until she has the house "professionally child-proofed". I think that George is being completely ridiculous, and once again presenting himself as a complete jerk to my family. Do you have any advice on how to mediate this situation?

Torn Between My Marriage And My Family

Dear Torn Between My Marriage And My Family:

I would first like to say that I am glad that nothing unfortunate happened to your little girl. It would have been an absolute tragedy if she had succeeded in sticking a metal knife into an electrical outlet. I have to ask: If this had happened, who would your husband be blaming for Sassi's injuries? Would he be lashing out at Jolene - who saw what was happening - for not yelling at your daughter to drop the knife? It sounds to me that Jolene was in a no-win situation with your husband, and it appears that she knew it. Although her display of temper was uncalled for, I, too, am getting a snicker out of imagining the scene.

George was completely out of line in so many ways. First, if he had an issue with Jolene yelling at Sassi he should have approached her privately - or better yet, had you tacitly approach her; he should not have reprimanded her, like he would a child, in front of everyone. Second, Jolene does not owe Sassi an apology. I do not know where George gets off thinking that a toddler deserves an apology being scared out of committing a life-threatening act. Third, he should not have "shushed" you in front of your family when you tried to mediate the brewing confrontation between him and Jolene. He treated you as one would a child, and if anyone is owed an apology it is you. Fourth, he has no right to demand that your mother get the house "professionally childproofed". Although, as grandparents, your parents should take steps towards child-proofing the house; your mother's reaction tells me that there is more to this argument than your letter reveals.

You do not say why Jolene and George do not get along; but you do make mention that Jolene is "a feminist", which has me connecting the dots and seeing a better picture. The fact that your entire family, and not just Jolene, is not fond of your husband is something you should take into consideration as you try to mediate the situation. I suggest that you speak with your family privately - without George - and ask them for their frank opinion of him, and why they feel as they do about him. Once all the cards are on the table, you can go about mediating the situation; illustrating to your family the ways in which George is "sweet, and kind, and caring, too". Hopefully, you will be able to work from there. Both sides - your family and George - will have to be open to compromise, and to discussing the issues as mature adults, in order to repair these damaged family ties. Otherwise, the only one having to decide which side to take will be you.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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