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Ask Ellie: Selfishness at root of relatives' shunning of family

Man has paid his debt to society

Dear Ellie: My wife, our three children now early-20s, and myself are estranged from my wife’s family. After the recent death of my own mother, I realize life’s too short to carry grudges and wonder if it’s time for me to intervene.

Although my wife claims she’s perfectly satisfied with the current arrangement, I regret that the once seeming unbreakable bond with her mother has transformed into something untenable, and because of me.

More than 10 years ago, I committed a heinous crime and spent almost three years in jail. Our life was turned upside down. My wife, immediate family, and many friends remained supportive. I’ll be forever thankful.

However, my wife’s family failed to offer her any support during this trying time, and still cannot cope with the perception that my wife chose me over them. They’ve essentially cut off all ties.

Would it be appropriate to send them a letter hoping with the passing of time, that they’d be willing to let go of their long-standing resentment and bitterness?

Is this relationship too far gone and should I even try to reach out? Am I the appropriate person?

I know they inexplicably blame my wife for the breakdown, but my wife believes, and I agree, that her parents should be ashamed of their behaviour and lack of understanding.

Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

It’s Complicated

You paid your debt to society through serving jail time. The support of your wife and grown children speaks volumes about their love and forgiveness.

But your wife’s family took this as a slight on themselves. They won’t re-connect lest “others” think less of them. Theirs is a self-centred view that negates support even for their own daughter and grandchildren.

No, you’re not the right person to change their minds. Your wife is, but it’s likely too painful for her to face the ugly truth of their abandonment of her.

They still blame her, because they’re trying to appear blameless of everything… even of her having married you.

They do not lack understanding. They know and don’t care. They lack the humanity to embrace their own blameless offspring.

Reader’s Commentary Regarding schoolchildren’s food allergies (Nov. 29):

“I don’t agree with the letter-writer’s sister-in-law that schools shouldn’t accommodate children with food allergies.

“I do have some problem with how schools handle this issue.

“To protect vulnerable children (like you said, “a no-brainer”), thousands of other children are inconvenienced every day.

“In one of our children’s classes with five different allergies to be accommodated, I had to cook my kids’ non-problematic lunches at 6 a.m. before I left for work at 7am daily.

“Some classes had only one allergic child but 24 others had to limit what they could eat at school. Parents suggested a safe space for the few allergic children, but were told that would isolate and punish the children as “different.”

“Several of our own family members and friends’ children had allergies so we’re used to gluten-free meals, no peanut-butter cookies, etc. to ensure the kids’ safety.

“Meanwhile, the woman’s husband whose daughter has peanut allergy needs to be firmer with his family and particularly his sister.

“The wife needs to grab the bull by the horn and try to make her understand, with the support and participation of her husband.

“These vulnerable children need to be protected and the SIL’s refusal to see that means either allergic children’s lives would be put in danger or they couldn’t attend school.”

Reader’s commentary regarding people who don’t know anything about mental health/anxiety but judge others as attention-seekers (Nov. 25):

“It is ignorant people who get me upset. People who judge others even though they simply do not understand anxiety. There is NO MAGIC PILL! Also, anxiety does not affect people in the same way all the time.

“Yes, the girl whom the letter-writer sees does enjoy running around. “Funny how her anxiety acts up only when she wants all her friends’ attention,” the writer says. Absolutely Not True!

“But that person should know, and get educated, that exercise and activities are one of the best treatments for anxiety.

“For me, going for a simple walk works wonders for my anxiety. I am totally different people before and after a walk.

“My great pet peeve is people who think we can “just suck it up” or even control when/where an anxiety attack happens.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Relatives who purposefully fail their own adult children/ grandchildren, do so for selfish, mean-spirited reasons.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

Follow @ellieadvice.