Any time I've asked you fine folks for advice, you've always given me new ways to approach a difficult situation, and I appreciate that you're willing to share your wisdom and experience with me. Thus, here I am again, and of all the things I've asked advice on before, I feel that this is the trickiest and most sensitive thing to navigate.
You guys know I love my in-laws. I've written about them plenty of times throughout the years because they play such an integral part of my life. However, courtesy of the divorce, those relationships inevitably have / will have shifted, and I'm not entirely sure how to handle the dissemination of important information.
There are two things I'm up against right now. The first is the apparent secrecy of the divorce, itself.
There are still family members that are unaware of the situation. This is due to a combination of factors - chief among them John's refusal to be bothered having the conversation. However, there are others who are refusing to say anything (and asking John not to say anything) because they're holding out hope that we'll reconcile.
This has created a plethora of awkward situations for me. A PLETHORA.
Since I'm not sure who knows and who doesn't know, I'm constantly walking on eggshells with people. Example: an uncle who actually works with John (WORKS with him!) still has no idea. Given the fact that he sees this uncle on a daily basis, you'd think that somewhere in the span of 10 months he'd've said something. So I messaged this uncle asking for his help with a Christmas project for my FIL (this uncle's brother). Instead of responding to me, he responded to John because he innocently thought John would know about my gift idea. That's when I realized this uncle didn't know about the divorce and I couldn't actually press forward with my gift idea because that'd inevitably reveal it to him.
This situation has arisen not just with the uncle, but with aunts, cousins, and even friends. It's incredibly frustrating because there is absolutely NO WAY for me to know who knows and who doesn't know because John refuses to tell me who he's said anything to.
With the friends, I was hit with multiple situations that were both embarrassing and hurtful, so I took it upon myself to simply e-mail them en-masse. I can't do that with John's family because I fear my in-laws would be angry with me for doing that. They'd likely view it as me being catty or childish or bitter when in reality, I'm just trying to extricate myself from the awkward situation where I say something that's apparently not supposed to be said.
Frankly, John should have had these conversations with them already, but instead of being an adult, he chose to only tell a few cousins hoping that they would take the information back to their parents (his aunts / uncles) so he wouldn't have to have the conversation with - ya know - actual adults. In fact, he couldn't even be bothered to tell his own sisters. After me basically cornering him into telling his parents (who likely still wouldn't know had I not insisted on it), he allowed THEM to have the conversation for him. When I suggested it was time he tell his aunts and uncles (whom we're very close with and who are all awesome people), he responded with, "F*ck them. Who cares? They don't need to know anything."
Yes, because the people we interact with on a routine basis won't be even the least bit curious as to why we're no longer together or why they're not seeing the kids as much as they used to. Let's just leave them in the dark to sort it out for themselves instead of simply being honest.
And yes, those were his ACTUAL words. About his own family. I'd never in a million years say that about his aunts and uncles. They've always been so kind, so generous and so wonderful to us. Hearing him just flick them away as if they were nothing actually made me angry for them. But what can I do about that? Nothing. So I made a call to his mother who agreed to tell them, herself, because at least SHE could treat them with respect. Ugh - I'm still annoyed about that.
Anyway, fast forward a few months. I had invited a cousin to a wine-tasting event. Since several of my personal friends would be there as well, I wanted to make sure that at least THIS cousin was aware of the situation so she wouldn't be shocked if she heard one of my friends mention something in passing. John said he'd handle it.
I still wanted to give HIM the chance to have the conversation, because if I were to be the one to initiate it, I'd inevitably been seen as if I was trying to start trouble. Again, some folks are trying to contain the information because they're (rightly) ashamed of it and don't want the rest of the family catching on in the hopes we change our minds. They want to control how and when this information comes out, but have absolutely no regard for the fact that I'm caught in the middle walking a tightrope I CAN'T SEE. I'm doing my best not to step on toes, but it's impossible given the fact that I don't even know whose toes are near me!
Anyway, I e-mailed this same cousin about a new wine-tasting event since she wasn't able to make the original one. I'd given John more than enough time to speak with her, and I'd reminded him twice more to talk to her since I'd be trying to plan an outing. He promised he'd talk to her.
I figured he hadn't said word one to her, so I very gingerly mentioned that we were in the process so she wasn't surprised to see that John's stuff wasn't at the house. I apologized copiously in case she was finding out through an e-mail instead of in-person or through a phone call, and I left it at that.
When I didn't get a response even a day later, I knew something was amiss. *Sigh*
So my question to all of you (ESPECIALLY if you've been through this process):
HOW DO I HANDLE THIS? If it were up to me, I'd just matter-of-factly say "John and I are in the process of a divorce. I still love you so much and want you to be part of my life and the lives of my boys. I still plan to attend family functions with them so long as I'm allowed. If you have questions, feel free to ask, but beyond that, please don't feel as though you need to act or feel awkwardly around me as my relationship with him has no bearing on my love and respect for you."
When I suggested to John that he (or I) just do this, I was met with such nasty resistance you'd think I was suggesting he take a bullet. He responds with "Who cares? I don't feel the need to tell the world" or "I don't care if you say something."
Problem is, he does and so do his parents. I don't frankly care about upsetting John, but I don't like the idea of disappointing his parents. How do I navigate this? I feel 120% damned if I do, damned if I don't.
Which brings me to problem #2 which is basically just symptomatic of problem #1.
How do I disseminate information regarding my sons to these folks? The answer SHOULD be "John's responsible for telling his family," but as the below example so painfully makes clear, that's not going to happen.
A few weeks ago, Vincent went through two separate psychological evaluations for his school's IEP. John took him to one of these sessions (I was unable to attend). This meeting was on a Monday. Since I was unable to attend, I followed up with the psychologist, myself, through a phone conference so I'd know precisely what the diagnosis was. I spoke with the psychologist on Friday. Between Monday and Friday, John offered absolutely NO information beyond "that doctor was a jerkoff."
When I spoke to the psychologist on Friday, he told me that he was able to definitively diagnose Vincent with Autism. They don't call it Asperger's anymore, but that's basically where he falls. After getting all of my questions answered, I called John because I now understood why he hadn't said much about the evaluation. I wanted to make sure he was okay processing the diagnosis and I wanted to answer any questions HE had because it was obvious he frustrated and scared by the word "Autism."
After answering his questions, I made a mental note to myself to contact his mom to answer questions I was sure she'd have as well. Since I'd be working throughout the weekend, I wanted to catch her BEFORE she flew back down to Florida. So that afternoon, I called her to touch base. She'd been with John all afternoon, so I assumed he'd mentioned it to her. I said, "Ma, since I'll be working all weekend, I wanted to reach out and answer any questions you had about Vince's diagnosis."
I could tell from the confused silence on the other end that she had no idea what I was talking about. I felt like a huge jerk in that moment, because I realized John hadn't said anything to her. At that point, however, there was no turning back, so I said, "Ma, John took Vince to the psychologist on Monday and was given an Autism diagnosis."
That didn't go over too well, and I felt bad because it likely would've gone over better had she KNOWN why I was calling. Ugh. I still feel bad about that.
Anyway, fast forward to the following week. I think it was Tuesday or Wednesday. I found a great article about Autism that I posted to Facebook with something along the lines of "For anyone not aware, Vince got this diagnosis last week and this article does a good job explaining it."
Mind you, my entire family and close friends knew about the diagnosis within just a few hours of me finding out. So posting to Facebook didn't seem like that big of a deal. Plus, John had known about it from Monday, his mom knew on Friday, and he works with his sisters / father. Given Vince's diagnosis has nothing to do with our divorce, I didn't think it was something necessary to hide. And it's not like it's a cancer diagnosis that you'd want to gingerly tell people about.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I got several messages from in-laws who were upset with me for posting the Autism article. I likely looked something like this upon reading those messages:
And I responded in kind.
How, exactly, was I supposed to assume an Asperger's diagnosis of MY OWN CHILD was a secret I needed to keep? Why, exactly, did I need to check with ANYONE ELSE about what I post about MY SON? And how on earth is it MY FAULT that JOHN did not have this conversation with anyone? Am I supposed to go around to each one of his family members henceforth to ask permission to share things regarding my children? Am I supposed to just assume forever that John's never going to have important conversations with anyone and that they're all just OK with that?
And while I want to just throw up my hands and say "Not my monkeys, not my circus," the fact remains that they are my monkeys. I love those monkeys, and I frankly love the circus, so I do feel as though I owe it to them to find some sort of workable solution that both ensures they get important information about the boys in a respectful way, but removes the responsibility from me since it's really not my place to pass it along to them anymore, especially since I'm not even sure who knows about the divorce and who doesn't.
Again, I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. How do I extricate myself gracefully and with as few bad feelings as possible? Because again - when you get right down to it, I love these people and do not want to foster bad feelings. I just don't know how to get around it when I'm constantly in danger of saying the wrong thing / doing the wrong thing because I don't know the whole situation, but I do know enough to make things explode.
So seriously - thoughts?
At this juncture, the best I've got is to have a heart-to-heart with his mom because she seems to be the only one willing to talk about this situation with other people. But I don't feel like it's fair for her to constantly be the one to have her son's conversations for him. However, it's not like I can say, "Ma, for the love of God, stop enabling your son to be a coward. He should be having these conversations himself." Besides, she's got a lot on her plate already and I'm sure she, too, has a lot of "damned if I do, damned if I don't" feelings about this entire mess, too.
The whole thing sucks, and it seems like, as usual, my MIL and I are the ones stuck cleaning up after an inept man-child.
So yeah - anyone able to offer solutions?
1/15/2016 11:30:31 am
To people who are upset that they found out about things (Vince's diagnosis, the divorce) via Facebook, I would just respond, "Oh, I'm sorry you found out this way but John said days ago that he would tell you. If you're upset you'll need to take it up with him." Turn the responsibility back squarely where it belongs.
1/15/2016 11:30:47 am
Look, you are getting divorced. It's a fact. There is no chance of reconciliation. I think, therefore, that you should just inform John that if he doesn't tell people and you come across someone who doesn't know, you will tell them. Nothing will change for the fact that you keep your mouth shut but the preservation of his dignity and honor - and he's sacrificed both already, so why work to preserve it? If he gets upset, oh well. Tell him the split was his decision, and you're not going to work to preserve the facts of his omissions and lies any more than you plan to keep working for the omission of the sacramental in your relationship and the lie that he made of his vows.
In light of the reaction to the autism diagnosis, me, personally, I'd tell everyone about the divorce. Not in a mean way, not in an impersonal way but I'd get it out there. I realize you don't want to upset your in-laws, but I think that horse has left the barn sadly :(. They've made it clear they do not want to live in the reality that is the remains of the marriage and it's not fair either to you or to the other family members that they hold all the cards in this regard.
1/15/2016 11:39:46 am
To clarify, yes, Shelby's father and I are still married (because I realize how that read) and he is the only other qualified person to decide those things...
1/15/2016 11:36:04 am
You've extricated yourself and your children from an unhealthy situation, so stop voluntarily living in it.
1/15/2016 11:40:34 am
I totally agree. One of the (few) nice things about divorce is that you get to stop tolerating/accommodating/enable your ex's annoying/destructive habits. Bugger THAT for a bunch of bananas. If he doesn't like the results of his nefarity, oh well. He shouldn't have been such a plunger in the first place.
1/15/2016 11:40:17 am
I am so sorry for yet another aspect of a supremely sucky situation. Here's my two cents, which are seldom worth even that. If I try to put my self in your shoes as you've described, here's what I would want my hypothetical self to try: You know those Christmas family updates that a lot of people send out with their cards? They're usually a one page summary of the year, with highlights so that all the extended family can know what's going on. I would seriously think about constructing one of those, with an eye towards mercy in your language, as you usually do, and sending it out to at least all of the family who attended your wedding. I would write it from your perspective, as John seems to have no inclination to take part in any dialogue regarding the situation. I would also include (because you have been so generous in your description of his family) the offer that if they would like to be given updates (Christmas cards, milestones, etc) that you would be more than happy to keep them in the information loop for Vincent and Nathan. I'm adding this part because my mom and dad were divorced when I was 3. My dad had either no ability, or inclination to care about what was happening in my life, or my siblings. The result was that I missed out on a whole side of my extended family- their culture, traditions, and (theoretically) their love and support. Granted, if they really cared, they could have made more of an effort, but that's not here or there. Lastly, if it would ease your mind, I might run this past your MIL to get her 'blessing' as it were, if you so desired. Her input or blessing is definitely not necessary, but if you feel that she would be in your corner on this, then I would seek out that ally if possible. She sounds like a good woman. For you to bear the brunt of communicating this is ridiculously unjust. For you to be smeared as the 'bad guy' is also such a load of dung. Set the record straight, if no one else will do so. As always, you're in my prayers. XO
2/24/2016 10:18:27 am
Totally agree with this. Send a letter and friend any relatives on FB that you want to keep informed. If they don't want to know about the kids or you, they can unfriend you. Unfortuneately in my family when my BIL and SIL got a divorce, none of my sisters in law wanted to have contact with her, as if she simply didn't exist anymore. That's healthy.......
1/15/2016 11:41:06 am
...and "Ma, I love you, but, for the love of God, stop enabling your son to be a coward. He should be having these conversations himself," wouldn't hurt either.
1/15/2016 11:51:38 am
Everyone else seems to have said everything I was thinking. John is being a complete ass to his family and relying on you and his mom to do his dirty work. You've put up with enough BS from him that you don't need this. I agree with having a heart to heart with his mom, and letting her know that you've given John ample opportunity to let his family is on the divorce and Vince's diagnosis. Anything you say from here on out is not done in malice or pettiness, but to let people know what the situation is, since he refuses to. If anyone is assuming you doing these things out of cattiness or payback, then they don't know you very well. As for getting "permission" to talk about Vince's autism, I'm gonna throw the BS flag on that one. He's your son, you decide what to share about him, not anyone else. Keep being the fierce woman and momma you are! Haters gonna hate, but you know you have support from them. <3
1/15/2016 11:54:44 am
I meant you have support from us, not "them."
1/15/2016 11:58:24 am
And may I point out that the probable reason that he's saying 'no one needs to know' and 'it makes no difference' is that he knows exactly what people will think of him for leaving his pregnant wife and autistic son? Even if no one says anything, he knows damn well they are/ will be thinking it. Why would he want, that considered, to tell people himself?
To add to what Dom said, I think part of your in-laws reluctance is that it sheds such a poor light on their son whom they love and in a sense on them as well as they know they've raised him better than this.
1/15/2016 01:07:52 pm
I think that you hit the nail on the head. He is acting like a child, the same way he did while you were married. You can't expect him to change his ways and suddenly man up to his responsibilities. Well, I mean those can be your expectations for him but not what you actually expect to happen.
1/15/2016 01:19:39 pm
All things look better from a little time gone by... Like everything It will pass...things are always changing and problems are problems till real problems come along to take their place... Look for the good in the moment ... And thank God for all His blessings, which , if you are looking for you will find
1/16/2016 02:03:14 pm
Don't try to figure this out on your own!
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