Family Disputes .......

Updated on June 17, 2008
R.N. asks from Warren, TX
31 answers

Hi everyone, and thanks in advance for any and all comments, suggestions, advice, etc. .....

Things that people say and do in my extended family really "get under my skin". Perhaps I should not take petty squabbles so seriously. I will dwell on something for days, such as a remark that I think is unkind. It truly concerns me that one group of people is not speaking to another group. So and so won't be at an event because someone else not to their liking is invited. It seems to be an endless series of occassions. As one of the older extended family members, I sincerely make every effort not to spread gossip or take sides or reveal information that is none of my business. This is all complicated by the fact that there is a Mother/Mother-In-Law entwined in my tale and that is ALWAYS an issue ! Without going on here for pages, let me just ask my question. How do all of you cope with the inevitable family and extended family disagreements ?

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L.H.

answers from Houston on

I went through the "comments" and "questions" for 15 years. It happened from the FIRST meeting on. When I met my mother-in-law it was like a job interview. Holidays were dreaded. A few years into it, I would just say what I thought & move on. I did it as polite as I could. But, I stopped letting it bother me for weeks. I started answering my phone again. It certainly wasn't bothering them. And, guess what? The comments & questions stopped when I put my foot down & stopped taking it.

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W.C.

answers from San Antonio on

Yes, I also married into a family like this. It has taken years to get used to it since my family is nothing like this.
The only way that I have found to cope is to just do my own thing. Go to the family functions and love everyone. If someone begins to talk about someone in an unfavorable manor, I just tell them that I'm not up for that and change the topic or walk away. Standing there and taking it can often send the message that you agree, even if you don't. I was worried at first that people would get mad at for choosing to not listen to these things, but I actually found the opposite. I simply say, "I don't mean any disrespect, but I love___ and would prefer not to talk about this, just as I love you and would prefer not to talk about you with them." Talking about hatred breeds hatred. Talking about love breeds love.
For a very long time, I just listened to it. Even though I didn't want to have feelings about the topic, I found myself resenting the people involved for spoiling this time for everyone. It was poisoning my life without me even knowing.
Disengaging was the best thing I've ever done. Just love everyone and don't listen to the verbal poison. It saddens me that so many people let hatred rule their lives. Good luck and I'm sorry that you are going through this.

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K.W.

answers from Corpus Christi on

I just don't dwell on them, why ruin your day with it? I figure if someone is so petty they won't show up to an event because someone they "don't like" is there, then its their loss, not mine.

Some folks get so worked up over family squabbles, to me its just not worth my time... i don't want to spend my life in a constant state of turmoil because of the folks i happen to be related to. If there is drama within the walls of my house, i'll deal with it, but as for the rest of them.. they can sort out their own messes without me.

As for the gossiping, just don't participate in it... when someone starts it, just walk away or hang up the phone, they'll get the idea that you don't deal in gossip soon enough.

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C.B.

answers from Houston on

I decided a long time ago that I was going to live my life with my family the way I wanted too...regardless of what else is going on with other family members. I too, have experience much of what you have. I just started making comments, such as, "did you mean for that comment to come across as unkind, or rude, or however you interpret it?". and allowed the conversation to go from there. I will tell you it takes some guts to do it, but in many instances, most people don't always realize how their comments or statements come out. I always end with, if you don't have family, then you really don't have much do you? I also have sat down with inlaws, and told them that I was tired of listening to the pettiness, etc, and we were tired of trying to please everyone. We were going to attend functions we could, we were going to invite whomever we wanted, and if they could make it great, and if they chose not to attend, then it was their loss, not ours.
I also told many of them that they needed to put on their grown up pants and move on with life because it was way too short. I will tell you to suck it up and go with how you feel, say what you want, get it out and on the table. Sure, there may be some hurt feelings along the way, but I can tell that you love these people, tell them that several times, but you are just tired of the baggage they are hanging on to.

good luck,
C.

by the way, I have been married for 18 years, still am, and have i daughter who just turned 11.

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R.C.

answers from San Angelo on

I sent this one before reading what the other ladies posted, and so I may be repetitive here.

All you can do is stay out of things. I went through the same thing with my ex's family, and I was like you...I wanted to be the peacekeeper and keep everyone on good terms. With some families, that's just impossible. What I had to end up doing was offer to be a soundingboard and keep my mouth shut. I wanted to offer advice, but I learned that that often backfired because someone always got offended. Listen, but insist on not taking sides. Maybe you can see where the problem is; maybe you can't. As long as you stay out of it, it doesn't become YOUR problem, and for the sake of your own sanity, you need to keep it that way.

If they're trying to draw you into all of it, you take the fun out of it for them.

Good luck!!

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M.L.

answers from Houston on

I guess all families go through stress at some point. I am surprised at the number of responses from people that have a family issue going on. My family is having a stressful time as well. It is awful...it is also affecting my sleep (I am a dweller also). This past weekend we had a family reunion. We were lucky, all went very well. We all tried to not talk about the inevitable. I told my mother what I am willing to talk about and what I do not want to talk about. I either successfully change the subject or leave the area. It is important to me that she understands why I leave an area. It is very uncomfortable for me to do that. As a result, I also try to avoid too many family functions but I do make the important events. Good luck with everything.

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J.A.

answers from Houston on

R., I have only been married for 8 years, but it took about 7.5 of those to finally realize that the only way to deal with all the family "stuff" was to put my foot down about what I would and wouldn't tolerate from the extended family, PARTICULARLY my MIL. I had to start demanding total honesty and calling the "difficult" people on their bad behavior/bull hockey, and have even cut ties with the worst of them. I had to learn to stop excusing people (to myself) for their bad behavior and realize that they are what they are, and nothing will ever change them. I do not worry about their familial relationships with my child, because these arent the kind of people that you would introduce your child to if you WERENT related, so I see no need to make him a part of their lives (or vice versa). I also had to learn to tell myself, ITS NOT MY PROBLEM, and thats probably the best thing I could have done.
Good luck. I hope everything works out for you and your family.

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M.B.

answers from Houston on

I know that my family situation, complicated in many ways, is also simplified by the fact that family members live all over the place and don't travel, or at least not to see me. I am adopted and have warm relationships with both of my birth parents and their extended families. My adopted father and my brother -- the family I grew up in -- are both gay, and my father has been with his partner, who I love, far longer than any other parent has been married or in a relationship. When my (adoptive) mother was alive, she was an opera expert devoted to teaching youth about opera. My birth father is a beat poet from a family of anti-nuclear activists, and my birth mother is also a political activist and old beat. My husband's parents are southern Baptists in a military family who believe that homosexuality (and probably beat poetry and anti-nuclear activism) is an abomination. I guess the key is that we are the only people for whom this is a family -- the wedding was a bit rough, but it was the only time I had to have everyone in the same room -- having pulled it off once in a lifetime and lived to tell the tale is enough! Perhaps if there is anything to be learned from my unusual situation it is that while it takes more energy to work out relations with various family members directly rather than by relating to the family primarily as a collective, it also allows for much warmer, more authentic relations with individual family members. Since I don't have any center to my family, any family home where all the siblings and their families gather every month or on holidays or whatever, I just try to make our own family a welcoming space to relatives who are able to come visit, and to make a point of visiting those who can't travel as much as I can. I stay in regular touch by email with both individuals and various groupings. I certainly think your plan to not spread gossip or listen to it is key to addressing family members who enjoy stirring up drama, but perhaps you can also make a point of spending time with those who are excluded from any gathering and keeping things balanced that way -- you can't make your family as a whole behave less chaotically, but you can introduce your own order into the situation by making sure your own relationships with people in the family are all equally warm by doing more socializing on a small scale, and even just making sure to keep in touch with folks who are being excluded or scapegoated by phone or email. This is sort of a version of how Harriette Lerner in The Dance of Anger suggests dealing with family triangles. Another version of this would be to make sure to have family events at your house once in awhile, so that you have influence over the guest list sometimes, and can model a less "high drama" version of family togetherness!

Good luck!
M.

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S.M.

answers from San Antonio on

Sometimes you have to go from being the popular one to being the "unpopular" one. Let me explain...the popular one is the one that everyone comes to and let's off their steam! they bring you their gossip and gripes and such. to become unpopular, you have to make it not fun or even uncomfortable for them to come to you with this nonsense. You can give them a contrary answer to their gossiping questions as they try to "drag" you in. you can act dumb like you have no idea what they are talking about when they say "you know how so and so is" your answer "no I don't have any idea what you are talking about!" or you can simply tell them that you are just not comfortable with them talking negatively about this person in front of you, because you have nothing negative to say about that person, and don't like to hear others comment negatively about them. you can say "well they have always treated me with respect, so I don't care to engage in talk like this. After a few comments like this and them not getting what they came to you for (to engage in gossip or ugly talk) they will quit bringing these things up around you. Then you won't have to deal with it directly any more. you will still have to deal with the fact that someone did not come to an event because somebody else did...but that is their choice and their loss now isn't it!! I have applied the "unpopular " principal to my own life with an extended family member, suddenly they aren't so interested in talking to me! He made a comment once about being worried about being alone with a family friend, (as if he couldn't trust that they wouldn't engage in some kind of inappropriate activity, he is elderly and married, she is not and not interested) at first I acted like I didn't know what he meant (playing dumb, make him spell it out) then once he did, I let him know that i was pretty sure that he had nothing to worry about, and that I was pretty sure that if he could not trust himself, he could definitly trust her! HA! I think that he felt insulted and dropped the subject and I haven't heard any nonsense since! Good luck on dealing with this , put an end to it by making you the last person that they want to bring it to.

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K.C.

answers from Brownsville on

Girlfriend--I use to be in knots for weeks upon weeks over just what you are talking about and I had to get older & wiser to not get dragged into the drama. It was sad--most things I said was taken out of context and I would fret--be upset and it did not bother some of them at all. So my advise is to go to what you enjoy going to and stay away from what you "choose" to stay away. Your a woman listen to your spirit and don not second guess or let anyone put you on a guilt trip--you will be happier--because you can not change them.

When they ask you why you are not there be loving be kind and be honest without going into much detail--stay on issues not people.

Ask God for wisdom and leave the results to him.

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E.E.

answers from Houston on

just stay out of it and ignore the negatives. If someone skips a family event they are the one that missed out. If someone makes a misstatement, correct them and move on. Stress the positives whenever possible, you can't change someone elses behavior (I've tried) and you have to accept them for what they are. Life is too short to let others rain on your parade. Good luck!

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S.O.

answers from Houston on

It's a frustrating thing and I don't think there is a answer besides prayer. Which sometimes it can be a lifetime till works it seems. I'm the youngest of three a brother and sister and they have not been talking for two years. My mom doens't get in the middle of it but she always secretly will take my sisters side. Anyway their kids are hurt the most by this, its sad. Luckily I don't get in trouble by visiting with both sibblings. My brother did let my sister come over, he fobid my sil to invite her to a grad party, then we all have been praying about the situation. He came over my house the week before so I had my mom over, we had a nice visit and he told my sil to go ahead and invite my sister. He didn't talk to her, sad to say but I guess its a step. So just pray, maybe if we do my brother will soften his heart. I'm sorry for you I know its heart breaking when we just can't all get along. You like for all your kids to get together and get along. It helps you have a since of accomplishment I'm sure. So I will remember you also in my prayer R.. Have a good weekend.

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H.P.

answers from Houston on

Something that I've had to learn recently is to just go to the events that I want to go to and don't feel pressured to attend the others. Invite who I want to my event and enjoy those who show up. Oh, and keep a strong core group of friends who aren't connected to any of the mess. That way, no matter who shows up and who doesn't, you've got your good time built in.

It might sound too simple, but "too simple" helps me to avoid "complicated".

That actually reminds me of a current issue that I'm dealing with. Maybe I'll post it later and request some ideas.

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L.J.

answers from Cincinnati on

Hi R.,
My name is L.. I grew up in a family just like yours except it was my mother and her sisters who could not get along and caused major family issues.

I suggest, whenever there is a family event just invite everyone you would like to see. If they RSVP (which is not done much anymore) and indicate that they will not attend because someone else was invited. Simply tell them that you are truly sorry they will not attend as you would truly enjoy spending that occassion with them and that there will be others who would like to see them also. Tell them they might just stay away from the person they are in disagreement with, just for that day.

As for the Mother/Mother-in-law situation.... if you are on speaking terms with either of them you might discuss how difficult it is to make a marriage work today. Tell them that their behavior will cause more stress on the marriage and ask them how much the truly love their child and grandchildren.

Good Luck and God Bless You and yours.
Pray for them. I will say a prayer too.
L.

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V.O.

answers from Austin on

From someone who was in the midst of not speaking to a sibling, the worse thing that you can do is try to get them to talk or convince one that they need to speak to the other. I won't get into why I stopped talking to my sibling, but my husband and I both were very passionate about our child not being around a certain behavior. It took almost a year for us to be comfortable that our child would be sheltered enough to be around them. Please be understanding of their feelings as they may be legitimate and have founded reasons. If you feel comfortable enough with one of the individuals, you may want to ask them why they feel so strongly and if there is anything that you can do to help. But being pushy and aggressive about "making up" makes it very uncomfortable for everyone invoved. Sometimes nature has to take its course.

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D.A.

answers from Houston on

You have been instrumental in raising many members of your extended family, so you have a lot of influence. Take the high road and speak to people directly when they offend you. If someone gossips about someone else in your presence, tell them you don't want to listen to it and they should speak about it to the person involved. Sorry about the MIL - she must have been a thorn in your side for many years - but stick to your guns and people will respect you. They'll eventually shut up around you, hopefully, because they know they'll get a lecture and no sympathy!

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K.C.

answers from Houston on

lol....I know what you mean. I married into a family that is just like that and my husband doesnt help the matters. The family is divided into 3s or 4s I cant keep up. One sister isnt talking to another sister there for the third sister is mad at the 2nd sister but is also mad at the first sister and the list goes on to where none of them are taling to each other. Having birthday parties or family events are out of the question cause we would only get 10 (maybe less)people to show up....Personlly I gave up and told all of the other family that they were acting worse then my 5 year old also told them that when their ready to grow up and be a family we should all get together. lol. I still here from my husband from time to time that I cant talk to this person or that person cause he's made at them because they said something mean to someone else...I just reply by telling him his being childish because they didnt say it to him so he shouldnt be mad at them...and it goes on and on....

Easy way to put it is just keep your family out of it and be happy dont worry about all the others that are causing the drama.

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S.R.

answers from Austin on

AHHHHH, family --- they can get a bit hard to handle as they get larger and larger -- I call our functioning dysfunctional. You cannot make everyone get along, you can not make everyone do or be anything other than what they are. Unfortunately, some people function quite well outside the family, but revert when dealing with their families. But you have a choice - as to how much you will expose yourself and your children to them. You are not required to consistently expose yourself to bad situations. You have control on who you will spend time with and how much time -- maybe taking them on just a couple at a time. You don't have to listen to the ones gossiping, or grumbling - be as considerate and kind as you can when you are with them - shorten your length of time spent there -- and help out individuals in the family as you see fit - retreat when necessary for your own sanity. But also be compassionate and take people as they come - it is what I hope others will do for me -- because as long as we live and breathe we can keep changing and growing. Families - force us to learn a lot of life's lessons - patience, and hope being the top 2 on my list. You can choose to let things bother you or not --- you only truly have control on your own motives and actions. Keep loving them - but protect yourself as needed!!! Families --- ahhhhhhh -- gotta love 'em!!!

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R.C.

answers from Houston on

Prayer really does change things. Make sure that you have made Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior. If you haven't just pray and ask Him, simple as that. Pray for your family but also be prepared to wait on The Lord because He has to deal with them too! The biggest obstacle God has is us! Just trust Him and He will get you through anything! My husband & I have been praying for our children's future spouses and in-laws for that very reason. Peace in the family. The problem usually boils down to selfishness which no one wins. Where selflessness is a win-win!
God bless!

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C.H.

answers from Houston on

We need to keep in mind that life is too short for petty disagreement. You should have a "Come to Jesus Meeting". That means sitting the family down and reminding them, good or bad you are all each other have and that if the fighting doesn't stop someone will pass away, and then regret will set in. Now more than ever, families need to stay strong and stay connected, and stay together.

I'll be praying for you and your family...

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J.B.

answers from Victoria on

Good Morning R.. God Bless you. I am a 31 year old single mother of one very strong willed 10 year old. I know all too well of what you are speaking of. I find it very difficult to say the least, but what I have found to be the most benificial is just to lead by example. Focus on the positives, and when things get too out of hand...the gossip part....I will say something along the lines of..you know, we have so much to be thankful for let's concentrate on the positive things and leave the negative up to the man up stairs because in essence He is the only one that can truly fix them anyhow, and then I will lead in with something like...Granny, how are your petunias doing where we planted them? I have a very very disfunctional family so I am not at all suggesting I have the answers, but I have found that this makes me need a shrink alot less than letting it eat me up:) Smiles to you, and I will say a little prayer.

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L.T.

answers from Austin on

R.,
Family – it’s the luck of the draw. We don’t get to choose them, but we all have to deal with them. Just about every family I have ever observed has had some issue. And like tossing dirt under the rug – it always comes out when there is a crowd in the room. You are not alone in this. Be the leader. The best thing you can do is prepare yourself before an event by chanting; “God give me the strength to not be sucked into the fray. Let me remain above the petty nonsense and enjoy myself.” If anyone tries to drag you into negative remarks about family, excuse yourself and make it clear you do not want engage in this line of conversation. Then if anyone calls you the next day and says something negative about a family member, respond with, “I’m sorry I don’t have time for this right now I have to go shopping.” Hang up the phone and let go of whatever was said. Don’t give life to the gossip. You will feel better by not engaging in this behavior. If family members are coming to your house you have the right to set the guidelines on proper behavior. Set the rules: no swearing, no gossip, no fighting in front of the kids. The people who love you will respect this and the members who can’t control themselves will stay home. Sounds like a winning formula to me. The only person you can change is YOU. Worrying about all this nonsense isn’t going to change or stop anything. Making it clear that you do not want to engage in this dysfunctional behavior will put an end to people dragging YOU into it. Give it a try. Good luck. Life is too short to spend it gossiping or fighting.

About me: Mother of 4 grown daughters, grandmother of 3. I will probably never be able to retire. Lucky to be born to a large loving family with 5 aunts and uncles and 15 cousins on my mother’s side where everything was great until Grandpa died and his estate wasn’t dealt with properly.

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L.P.

answers from Austin on

Hi R., My advice is to hold your tongue. My mom often has hurt feelings by my extended family. I tell her often to just let it go for the sake of the family. Grandkids need their grandparents to set examples of love, not gossip or back biting. Certain things need to be worked out and talked through, but for the most part, holding your tongue will make life more peaceful. Take the "high road".

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D.B.

answers from Houston on

Like you, I had family issues come up, especially with my brother-in-law, and sometimes even with my own mother. I read books on communication and listening and tried techniques to fix the relationships, or at least be neutral to what was going on. The stress adn strain remained, as I would get "hooked" by what they did or didn't do or day.

In 2000 a close friend of mine told me aabout a 3 1/2 day course she had taken that turned her relationships and her life around, so I jumped in, and am I glad I did!! Ever since that weekend my brother-in-law and I have developed a great friendship and he actually calls me to talk and ask for collaboration in family matters! My relationship with my mother was a treasure through the last 5 years of her life, and she died a complete person with all her friendships and family relationships healed. And I am being so "un-hooked" at work and at church I have become a leader in both places, because I can listen, contribute, and get results.
It's not therapy or self-help. It is a personal growth and development course, the Landmark Forum. You can call me & I'll be happy to answer your questions & share where you can go for an introduction to the course, and you can go to www.landmarkeducation.com to see an online introduction and register if you like.
Regards,
D.
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R.D.

answers from San Antonio on

Erma Bombeck (humorist author) wrote a book years ago called: Family:the Ties that Gag and Bind!! Find it in your local library and have a laugh!! I have a large family and miss them when I don't see them and then w/in two days of the whole group being around, ready to come back home! But they are my family and we all have things that annoy others!

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C.H.

answers from Houston on

Hello R., I am a born/raised Christian. I've prayed all my life. I married into a family that behaves in a complicated, negative,I've-got-it-worse-than-you,squabbling,tattling,get-u-back style. Last year I was introduced to "The Secret, the Law of Attraction". A good friend gave me the CDs. I began to use the principles. They are all perfectly applicable to Christian, other faiths, nonbelievers, whomever. The law instructs: what you focus on, you attract more of. What you take your focus off, diminishes. I choose to utilize it in a prayerful manner by directing my prayer to God, also called "Source" "Creator" "Universe" or "Consciousness". My Personal Belief is that if you call God by "John Brown" God is still smart enough to know you are talking to Him. He is called worlds of names in the bible.
My friend's son was getting married in April. She'd hunted high and low for an appropriate dress without success. She worried about family bickering, who was going to be drunk in attendance, squabbling, rain, poor turnout, mosquitos, quantity of food. You get the pic. I explained the principle. Claim what you want in prayer. Express thanksgiving for receiving what you ask for Even Before it happens. At the mall, before we began to shop for a dress, I told her to enthusiastically believe this with me: "Thank You God for all these great dresses. They are perfect! Thank you that everybody who attends has a great time. The weather is beautiful, the food is delicious, everybody gets along and has a lovely time. Thank you God!" (She went home with 4 dresses, gave one to each of her sisters, unexpected surprise!) Every thing went off smooth as silk. Also important-- express each request in a positive manner. Avoid: Don't let Bob be drunk, don't let mama start a fight, etc. Claim it in a positive way: Bob and mama got along with everybody and we all had fun. (If somebody doesn't show, that's part of the answered prayer--they weren't present to cause a scene.) The friend said the wedding couldn't have gone smoother or more beautifully than it did. It was miraculous. There are many other authors, teachers on the Law of Attraction. That is what I started with and have read/listened to many others. What you focus on increases. Give it a try! :) C.

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K.B.

answers from Houston on

Hi R.-

I had to laugh as I read your post because you sound like my mother in law! Her heart is in the right place, but she spends so much time worrying about everyone else's little squabbles when they really have nothing to do with her. We are always telling her to go about her business-- talk to whomever she wishes to talk to, invite whomever she wishes to invite, etc.-- and if others have a problem with it just let it go!

I know it's hard, especially when you love everyone involved and just want a big happy family but sometimes you just have to worry about yourself and let everyone else deal with their problems.

Good Luck!
K.

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L.H.

answers from Killeen on

R. i wish you could give me the answer ,because i'm the mother of 2 grown sons 1 granddaughter 2 stepgrandchildren all of same family they mean the world to me ,i have 1 sister ,1 niece ,and i have to ask or be invited to birthday partys ,Thanksgiving,Christmas, everything my granddaughter played t-ball i did'nt know it till they invited me to her last game,so if you get any good answers please let me know they all went to the coast for 4 days ,my mom ,my d-i-l mother my niece but i was noy invited my son told my mom if she did'nt go he would'nt which was black mail
L.

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P.K.

answers from Houston on

Honestly, we have something going on it seems all the time. What we do is just suck it up and deal with it while the event is occurring. Everyone behaves in a civil manner. There are too many children around in our families and it's best if we all try to get along for a couple of hours.

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J.G.

answers from Houston on

I am the youngest of 4 and I had to deal with this for several years. My 2 oldest sister were not on speaking terms for a while. My other sister and I took turns doing stuff with one or the other. One of the oldest had a major problem with her son and the sister that lives closest is the other older sister. We are all not enjoying getting together as a family, the four of us. It was very stressful for a while so I quit doing things with them althogether. If you are at peace you should not let others ruin that.

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D.R.

answers from El Paso on

Frist i want to say "Great Job" as a mom and a grandma!
I am a mom of 2 and a grandma of 1.

These are just suggestion that have helpped me and I hope they will help you.
Before a get together if something presents it self between 2 poeple you care about and it may cause a possible situation at the get together, ask yourself dose it effect me directly or physically? if not release it, it's not worth your time there are other things more inportant.

If by chance your already at the gathering, then still ask yourself the same questions and if find it dosen't then think of a funny quick joke to say, then excuse yourself to the restroom or to get a drink or if by chance you think of something else. Doing this I have found creates no harm or foul, then let it go! It sounds like you have to much to brag about to worry about some one eles negative gossip you really don't want to here anyway.
If it is after a gathering has happened let it go, because you know the stores are going to change at least 5 times if not more before it's done being gossiped about, if the gossip stops.

Anyway, If nothing else I hope you got a laugh out of this, and I sure can relate to to your request.

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