In laws and disrespect:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

What are your thoughts on these extra familial relations?  My husband’s brother in law
is very difficult to get along with.  You go over to his home and he  doesn’t acknowledge your arrival, no greeting, no warmth, does not participate in general conversation.   This is a typical visit.  The last time I went I got the same treatment until I began a conversation with his wife about another family member, and then he piped in only to say, “Well, who did you talk to?”  That was the most said to me from him while I was there.  So I went two days later to the same home only to visit my husband’s mother with our son.  He did not answer the door, so I went for a walk, and came back and only then did his mom and sister come out, with all these weird excuses.  My conundrum, I go over there to support my
husband, but I no longer want to subject myself to such negative behavior.  What are your thoughts?  We spend every Christmas Eve there.

Why Bother


Dear Why,

Families are a value judgment we have to all make and as we don’t get to pick our
families there often is no good answer.

That being said, I do not believe it serves anyone any good to place yourselves in a
situation that doesn’t feel right. I don’t believe we are duty-bound to suffer for the sake of family. But in removing yourself you are making a deliberate choice to let those people go.  I believe these decisions have to be weighed carefully as they are important. Children
learn through role modeling. It is quite important who we allow to be the role models for our kids; certainly we should at least discuss afterwards that WE don’t treat people that way.

I have heard people excuse bad family situations due to this fear: I don’t want to teach my kids to abandon me when I grow old. This is not sound reasoning unless you plan on being an asshole deserving of abandonment.  It’s better to role model to your kids that no one has the right to disrespect you and that you needn’t put up with other people’s bullshit.

Your in-law might be mentally ill but mental illness isn’t an excuse for bad behavior. If his whole family walks on eggshells around him, why should you? Again that would  be horrible role modeling and has serious repercussions.

An A-hole is an A-hole is an A-hole!!!! DON’T PUSSYFOOT around one.

If your husband values his family so much that he’s willing to let them treat him like shit then he can visit them without you and your son. Sometimes families treat their own OK and the newbies poorly; again you needn’t put up with that B.S.

If your husband wants you there then it is up to him and him alone to discuss and negotiate a better position and treatment for you and his son.  And very importantly: He does not get to isolate you by bringing his son without you. That would most definitely send the wrong message.


I hope this is helpful,

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny has a few questions. 1. When you go over to visit this loathsome ogre family,
do you invite yourselves… or are you invited? 2. It sounds as if this brother-in-law lives with your mother-in-law. Is he taking care of her? What’s her personality like? Why is it that she doesn’t live with you? 3. Do you ever invite these people to your house and offer them your hospitality? 4. Do you ever have family celebrations at your own home?

Since the answer to these questions are missing, I can only give you my gut reaction-
it seems you are invading your loathsome brother-in-law’s house every few days;
and he lives with your mother-in-law 24/7. If I lived at your brother-in-law’s house, I wouldn’t be that happy to see you either. I’d want to be left alone. Are you expecting him to entertain you? Did you bring anything for their entertainment? Do you ever offer to help with mom?

Until these questions are answered, it’s tough to assess the situation. But I gotta say, Granny’s initial impression is that your family seems very full of themselves regarding your desirability as frequent guests and you might want to examine this issue from another point of view- the people you are imposing on. In the meantime, go to Christmas Eve with a big smile on your face. It’s what families do, no matter how much they are sniping at each other. It may be a hypocritical tradition, but I think it’s preferable to sulking.


About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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2 Responses to In laws and disrespect:

  1. Why comments:

    Answers for granny,

    Dear Granny, I can understand what you might think and why you answered the way you did. Here are my responses to your questions; it may not change your response.

    Yes, I was invited. I have been invited each and every time for the past 14 years with always the same typical situation as I described. Yes, we do bring something.
    The living arrangement is new. Grandmas husband most recently put in the nursing home has gone through a life changing event, her words to me were, “I want to spend time with my grandchildren”, so I made the effort that day to visit “her” as I have always done when she was at her home with my son. I have put a smile on my face the past 14 years, but I am a very patient person, and just now, running out of patience for this kind of behavior. By the way, I am not the only in law that feels this way. Cold greetings, critical. And my husband feels this way of his brother in law, but loves his sister and therefore does his duty.

    Oh, and yes we have hosted the family and offer more, and he is the same here as well.

  2. Granny responds:

    Thanks to the reader for answering Granny’s questions!

    You know, I can see where your intent is good and I can understand why you feel perplexed. Having heard a bit more I have a glimmer as to the heart of this problem.

    You all seem very duty-bound. You are probably invited over because of a sense of duty on the part of your husband’s family. You husband attends out of a sense of duty.
    Yes, it’s all the correct thing from a duty point of view. But you have to understand that duty does not necessarily generate warmth, fun, camaraderie or actual enjoyment.
    It’s just some people sitting in a room together, determined to do the right thing.

    It sounds awful.

    I suggest you all throw your freakin’ sense of duty out the window and get real with each other. A layer of ice has formed upon your family tableau. Time for a melt down.
    Look, if you are going to be together, BE together. Don’t just tolerate each other and go home feeling cheated. Break the ice. You might even have it out. You might find some unpleasant feelings lurking under that sense of duty. Just get it out! Controversy can generate some real life drama. But it’s better than this empty cold war you’ve got going on.

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