My life has turned into one big, giant cluster-fluke and I need some help sorting things out. I come from a large family with several sisters and many female cousins; we all grew up very close and that closeness has not faded, even though we are now all adults with families of our own.
My problem started about two years ago, right after my youngest sister got married. Her husband “Sam” told me that, as much as it pained him to say it, he had to let me know that my cousin “Marcy” was gossiping about me and my sisters, telling him all kinds of dirty laundry as her way of welcoming him to the family. Although I had never known Marcy to gossip I had no reason to believe that Sam would lie about her, so I believed Sam.
Rather than confronting Marcy directly, I needled her every chance I got. If she commented on my Facebook page or pictures I posted, I would attack her – right there on my page, not in a private message – for some imagined slight in her words. When she apologized, I saw it as my chance to attack her further. Finally, Marcy got sick of it and told me that she “apparently only opens her mouth to change feet” and would stop posting anything to my page. I took this as an opportunity to gleefully and publicly announce that was going to unfriend her, since looking without commenting is creeping, and then I did just that. That was a year and a half ago, and I have not spoken to Marcy since.
Over the last year and a half my marriage has taken a downward spiral as my husband finds more and more reasons to stay out of the house and away from me and the kids. I have not said anything to my family, who think my marriage is picture-perfect – a façade I can uphold because I live an hour and a half away from the rest of my family. However, I live in a small town where nobody’s business is private and everyone here knows how much time my husband spends down at the bar. Enter Marcy, who just got a new job working in my small town.
The rest of our family does not know that we are not speaking; they just assume that we never see each other because we are both too busy to visit. When I heard Marcy was working in my town, I waited for her outside of work one night to talk to her, face-to-face, and tell her that I would appreciate it if she did not gossip about me to the rest of the family; that anything she heard in town should stay in town. Marcy looked at me icily and replied, “I have never gossiped about you in the past, why would I start now?” She asked me to give her regards to my Mom, got in her car, and drove off, leaving me to wonder if Marcy had forgotten all of the cruel things she had said about me and my sisters or if Sam had by lying about it.
I have been unable to get a moment’s peace since that conversation with Marcy. I need to know if she was telling the truth or if Sam’s story is the real one. I am worried that Marcy will tell my family about my marital issues (she has to know, everyone else in town does). If she is a gossip, she must have sworn everyone she told to secrecy; no phone calls from family have come in yet. If she is not a gossip, this means Sam was lying to me – but I have no idea why! I have noticed that Sam likes to be the center of attention, but he usually just blows his own horn and brags; I have never heard him put someone else down or tell tales about them.
So, to recap: my marriage is secretly a mess, the cousin I scolded into humiliation is the only family member who knows this, she may be a gossip but my brother-in-law might be lying and I have no idea which is true so I have no idea who to confront, nor do I know if my private business is going to be the next topic at the family barbecue!
Bothered And Bewildered
Dear Bothered And Bewildered:
Wow. You are living quite a soap opera, aren't you? The worst part of all this is that you have brought it upon yourself by believing…gossip about Marcy! When Sam came to you with an unfounded – and difficult to believe – accusation that Marcy was gossiping about you he in turn was spreading a rumor about Marcy; instead of approaching Marcy and sorting out all the confusion, you acted as judge and jury and condemned her on the spot. Using Facebook as a vehicle for your anger was cruel and childish and only served to further the gap between the two of you; I am reminded of the William Blake poem “A Poison Tree”. Do the lines ring familiar to you?
The first thing you need to do is trust your instincts. You say you have never known Marcy to gossip, so ask yourself why she would start. If you can’t think of a reason, give her the benefit of the doubt and approach Sam. Ask him point blank – as you should have to begin with – exactly what Marcy said about you and your sisters. If it was so harsh that he felt the need to tell you, I doubt his memory will have completely faded by now. If he tried to “save” you from hearing the details or uses any other kind of stalling tactic, there is a good chance he is lying to you. Why he is lying is not important; maybe he just doesn’t like Marcy for whatever reason, some relationships are like that. However, you cannot allow him to destroy your relationship with Marcy over (possibly) untruthful and (in my opinion) mean-spirited statements.
The next thing to do is to go see Marcy. You know where she works, so why not ask her to join you for coffee after work? I am sure she would love to see your kids again. Tell her that you owe her an apology for taking out your temper on her in such a public way, and tell her that you should have asked her about this in private two years ago: Did she ever gossip about you and your sisters, even to other family members? You do not have to tell her it was Sam who suggested that she was a gossip because she probably already knows, judging by her reaction to you in the parking lot of her job. Whatever Marcy tells you, accept her at her word – and accept that this relationship needs repair, starting with the two of you letting go of your anger towards each other.
Anger is a funny thing…we may think nobody knows about it but it can fester and affect the relationships we have with those around us – including a spouse. Could your husband want to spend less and less time at home because your attitude has changed over the last year and a half? Look deep for the answers; ask him to accompany you to a few counseling sessions to get to the root of your problems or even go by yourself to figure out why you were so quick to believe someone else’s gossip and so slow to let go of your anger.
Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.