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When someone new joins your FOO

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Amazonia posted 3/31/2013 16:05 PM

My brother is getting married. I'm happy for him, and like his fiancee as far as I've met her (we spent 2 days together at Christmas with my family).

However, she's really different from my family, and I find myself really struggling with trying to "impress" her, or meet the expectations that I assume she has.

My family is not especially close. I email with my parents 1-2 times a month, talk on the phone every couple. I see them 1x a year, at the holidays, typically. We don't exactly dislike each other, we just ... aren't close. There are a lot of differences of opinion, and lifestyles, and a lot of old pain that still aches when we spend too much time together, like an aggravated old wound when you work out on it too much.

FSIL (future sister in law) is very family oriented. She writes me cards and mails them. She sends friendly emails.

It's a little disconcerting, to be honest. I feel like I'm on pins and needles trying to be hyper polite and friendly and responsive. I'm sure my brother is surprised as hell that I'm engaging with her; I've talked more to her in 2013 than I have to him. I guess it helps that she asked me to be in her bridal party; about 1/2 the communication is wedding oriented.

To clarify, I think it's great that she's family oriented, and maybe fresh perspective will actually help my FOO work through some of our ish, it's just ... feels WEIRD!

Is this normal? Anyone been through it? It is important to me that I build a healthy relationship with her, because I'm choosing to assume she'll be in my brother's (and therefore my) life long term.

Any BTDT stories of encouragement (or words of caution) to share?

My XH was an only child with elderly parents who I'd known for years, so there was virtually no transition then.

Sad in AZ posted 3/31/2013 17:15 PM

If you are enjoying her company (albeit long distance), then relax and enjoy. Don't 'try' to make an impression. It's not fair to her because you know you won't be able to keep it up unless your brother goes along with it. It's not your job anyway. If she's become a friend, enjoy the friendship.

I suspect he will gravitate to her family and pull away from your family even more since family is important to her and yours will not step up to the plate.

NaiveAgain posted 3/31/2013 18:31 PM

I'm big on family connections (when the family members are not terribly toxic.) So I think it is great that she is reaching out and trying to make a connection with you. It sounds like something I would do. When I am a significant part in someone's life, then to me, their family becomes my family. I've already won over my new SO's family (all except his one grandma who I haven't met yet, because he wants to take his time with her because apparently she is a negative and scary person. I'm honestly looking forward to meeting her! I love the challenges!)

So, in that instance, I would not want you to try to impress me, I would just hope to have some type of relationship with you. I am also big on repairing old family wounds and bringing families closer together. My MIL's always loved me....

I'm sorry your family isn't close. It doesn't sound like they are toxic. It just sounds like people holding onto old hurts. Why? Life is short. Family can be lost so easily. If something happened tomorrow, would you have regrets over anything unspoken or not worked out? (Sorry, this is my propensity to try to bring families together, please ignore if it wouldn't work in your case, there may be some pretty serious stuff here so I don't mean to make light of it ....)

The only words of caution, and I have never had to deal with this personally, is to just watch that she is not befriending you just to get info on your brother. I am so much more cynical than I used to be. But in most cases....I think it is wonderful when our family grows and adds a new person and especially when that new person makes an effort to engage with us.

[This message edited by NaiveAgain at 6:32 PM, March 31st (Sunday)]

metamorphisis posted 3/31/2013 20:36 PM

I like my family and we are super close but there's 6 of us siblings and frankly I know we're weird, loud and intimidating. It's just how we are. My brothers wife met us all for the first time by coming on vacation with us. God bless her. Really.

I go completely out of my way to make the new ones feel comfortable and welcomed and safe. Because frankly if I didn't they'd run away screaming.

Kajem posted 3/31/2013 20:57 PM

I am family oriented, just not my immediate family. Well actually one brother, who doesn't talk to anyone in his family.

I am still close to XH's family. I retained SIL in the divorce (she Is my BFF) and recently his parents have renewed our friendship.

XSO and his family hadn't celebrated a holiday together in 30+ years. Till I put the idea in a few heads... his sisters and his mother and his. That was in 2010. Everyone loved that holiday. And that family has numerous FOO issues...

Someone new can change the dynamics of the family.. hopefully the changes are good ones.

Ama, if you like her... then go with it. My feeling is she is trying to impress you... most people coming into a family will want to do the impressing things. Relax, if you enjoy talking to her.. then open the door to a friendship. It may surprise you what happens within your family. I know I was surprised when SIL told me she doesn't divorce her friends.



Undefinabl3 posted 4/1/2013 09:38 AM

Is this normal?

Change is normal, feeling weird during change, also normal.

Honestly, you should probably be upfront with her. She may find this totally norma, and when you dont respond, or take to long, she may be getting frustrated as well.

I would either call her up or meet up with her and flat out tell her "our family is not very close, we love each other, but we do not write letters or send cards much at all. I am really enjoying that you are bringing this in, but it may take some time for this to be a more normal activity for me and the family. Please do not feel like we are ignoring your or do not care, we just may not know how to respond right off the bat"

FWIW, I am a very group oriented person...I love hanging out, BBQ's, family dinners, ect....Dh's family, no so much. I have learned how to stop asking people over for dinner and we generally just have 4 or 5 BBQ's over the summer and everyone is invited.

stretch13 posted 4/1/2013 10:11 AM

wow, ama, something new we have in common. i always feel like such a slug at christmas time. my mom was great at sending cards and letting us get to know our extended family. i think i've done that maybe once in my life. an as adults, my immediate family rarely speaks to each other, get the majority of info through the grapevine and don't often send a birthday card or any other missives or celebrations. i sometimes we do, others not. i'm closer to some than others, but even that closeness has walls built from years of old aches and exploited vulnerabilities.

i used the feel the same way about my xILs as you do your almost SIL. i "stepped it up" for them a was easier with them than family.

i think explaining it to her is a good idea. sometimes the "real family dynamic" is only discovered thanks to small insights from the FOO. do her a solid and ease her mind. she is probably really concerned about her new family accepting and liking her, and probably feels like her efforts sometimes fall flat.

[This message edited by stretch13 at 10:13 AM, April 1st (Monday)]

whensitover posted 4/1/2013 10:26 AM

I totally get what your saying!! When someone 'new' comes into our family (even in our extended family-cousins and such) I feel like I gotta try to impress them-one reason I think is maybe I feel like I want someone 'normal' to cling to, and the other reason I feel like that I may need to get them to the 'okay' point to be able to ease them into how dysfunctional our family is without them jumping ship and running for the hills! My family and I are not close at all. My mother's drug addiction has taken it's toll on our whole family and we barely speak to each other-honestly, not because we don't like each other, but because we just wore each other down over what to do for her. But I for sure know what you mean, it is odd when someone new comes into your family, especially when they are family oriented and you can't hardly explain why your not.

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