The cat's out of the bag now!
So my husband, D, and I have now been poly for roughly a year or so and we are open and honest with our mutual friends as many of them are either poly or open/swingers and have been wonderful and helped us navigate what has been a really rough year emotionally (transitioning from open to poly, cancer, jealousy, etc.).
So earlier this year D came out to his parents and explained that we were poly and he had found a girlfriend. It wasn't pretty. Anyway, it took my husband refusing to talk to her for a month before she apologized. Slowly, over time they have started to come around or at least accept that their son and DIL are a bit "different" but still the same kids they know and love.
So that was several months ago, and about a month ago D tells me that somehow his extended family has found out as well. As he doesn't really talk to them there really is only one way that they could've found out.
Oh, and his extended family makes his parents seem wonderful in comparison.
So the holidays are coming up and D wants to go out to visit the family...all of them. I told him I would rather pull out my toenails one at a time with a pair of pliers than deal with them. It's bad enough since we are not Christian (which is funny since D is, just not the "right" Christian), don't want kids, and I have severe food allergies so can never eat more than a dish or two they make.
Well now they know and we are disagreeing on how to/whether to be honest. He wants to just be direct and honest. I prefer to tell them that it's none of their business and they don't have to right to judge the validity of my marriage. It's causing a bit of tension as I know his family wants to see him (he was diagnosed with lymphoma this year and just finished treatment) but I keep having all these scenarios going through my head and I just hate the fact that I am probably going to have to defend my lifestyle and my marriage (again, had to do it with his mom) to people who have no right to judge me/mine.
Any thoughts from the forum on how to navigate this? Suggestions on what to say to nosy/negative family? It's really giving me a lot of anxiety and I already have enough to deal with.
In my opinion, this situation gives you an opportunity to strengthen the relationship you have with your husband, by making this decision with him, regardless of whether that decision is to go or not. Make the decision with him as the partner you are to him. If the two of you decide to go, make the visit about being supportive of him and learning about you (I'll explain this in a bit). Don't make it about being judged by others.
Here are some things to think about that may help the two of you decide:
People who are nosy and judgemental are not confident in their own lives. The nosy and judgemental behavior is their way of trying to get approval from others, that they haven't figured out how to give to themselves. The nosy is their way of fishing into others lives for things they see as problems. The judgements are their way of trying to feel better about themselves by telling themselves they are better than what they see in you.
Think about your own confidence. Do you love yourself even when others judge you?
If you and your husband decide to go, I have a suggestion. When you are there, don't respond at all to the judgements you get. That means don't make eye contact with someone who is saying something negative to you, and don't move your lips in any way that would indicate you are going to speak to them. If you are talkng to someone who switches gears into "pick on you" mode, look away from them as soon as you notice the shift, and put your attention somewhere else immediately.
This will tell them you don't care what they think. It will do it in a way words will never be able to - even the words "I don't care what you think". I'm purposely not giving you an opinion about whether you should go or not. The most important thing is to make this decision with your husband. Having an open, honest, friendly, candid conversation with him will strengthen your relationship with him.
Following my suggestion of how to act when you are there ( if you go ) will take effort. It will also show them your strength. That will be a surprise they will remember. After experiencing your behavior, they will privately ( very privately ) wonder to themselves why they are not as strong as you are.
If the two of you decide to go ( I am repeatedly emphasizing the two of you making this decision on purpose), and you decide to do what I suggest, be present with yourself as you have the experience of receiving judgement after judgement and saying nothing in response. Being present with yourself means focusing your attention on your own feelings about yourself, as others say negative things to you and about you. Ask yourself how much love you have for yourself. Ask yourself if it really does matter to you what these particular people think. If it does, ask yourself why.
This will feel like a workout inside a pressure cooker. If you pay attention to your own feelings about yourself ( not your own judgements of who they are or their judgements of who you are), it will be a great opportunity for you to take a closer look at who you are and how you feel about yourself.
You know the saying you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. You're not going to change anybody's mind by getting angry and accusing them of judging.
And as to judging, we're very heavy on nonjudgmentalism these days, but I think there's a difference between 'judging' and having an opinion. These people do have a right to their opinion. They do have a right to have different moral beliefs than you do.
If you're at peace with your lifestyle, it doesn't matter what they think. Smile, change the subject, ask how their kids are, and if all else fails, walk away. Lead the way, set the example of showing peace and respect. If they continue shunning you or putting tacks on your chair before Thanksgiving dinner, simply don't go from now on. Problem solved.
He can go by himself, while you do something that appeals to you or visit people you enjoy being with.
Personally, I choose not to get onto angst-y situations and hang out with people whose company I do not enjoy, or against whom I will be defending who I am or how I live, just because of some arbitrary day on the calendar that society decides should be celebrated in a particular way. And I don't feel that family should get a spacial pass to take shit out on me just because they are related somehow. So, I'd be saying, "You want to go, fine - go, have a good time, but I'll be at such-and-such having a good time on my own. See ya when you get back." Boom, done.
My take on this is that it's his family, not yours. You don't have the right to decide whether or not he is out with his family, and whether or not he chooses to visit his family.
They may be ass holes, but they're his ass holes. It's not loving and supportive to tell your husband that his family is a bunch of ass holes whom he shouldn't be allowed to visit because doing so makes you uncomfortable.
Now, none of that means you have to go with him. As much as you don't have the right to prevent him, he doesn't have the right to force you to join. There's absolutely nothing wrong with married folks going on trips without their spouses. My husband and his daughter went on a Caribbean cruise last Christmas. I dislike heat and humidity so I didn't join them. I went to my home town and visited with my family instead. It worked out wonderfully, plus when we rejoined, we had stories to share.
The Best Advice I Could Give You
is the advice that was given to me in a similar situation, and it was life changing what those three words had done for me. What he said was,
"Fuck those assholes!"
And it took me a while before it finally stunk in, as the first week or so I honestly had so misinterpreted the meaning behind his words that he might as well have said,
"Fuck those assholes!"
And that was my first experience how the exact same terms can have completely different meaning depending on who you are and where you're from even though you speak the same language, technically.
Perhaps you should make an appt. to see your family doctor and get a prescription or two for some drugs that are personally tailored for your exact needs prescribed with absolute precision to ensure they don't do more harm than good.
I am sorry this is causing you such distress. I don't have any better advice than what has been given.
Me? I'd probably go just for the entertainment value - watching their silly reactions. But I am older - turning 50 this year, and an INTJ to boot. I sincerely have no feeling one way or another about what most people's opinions are of me.
You might ask yourself why you care about their opinions.
(And btw, in amongst their judgements is likely to be a good deal of curiosity, and in some cases envy.)
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