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ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

How would you handle a disrespectful family member?

Asked by ItalianPrincess1217 (10125 points ) June 9th, 2010 from iPhone

My grandmother likes to start drama within our family. My wedding is coming up in a month and it seems like this is her new focus. Instead of letting things run smoothly, my grandma has been causing problems as often as possible. She nearly ruined my shower on Sunday by sending me a very nasty and disrespectful email the night before. She was upset that the RSVP card for my cousin and his girlfriend said “Mr.Smith plus guest” instead of writing out his girlfriend’s name. Keep in my mind, everyone who wasn’t married had the exact same wording. But the family still flipped out.

So here is my dilema…My grandma has been at her little games for years and I’ve always let her get away with being rude, disrespectful, and evil. But enough is enough. This time around I wrote an email back to her explaining that my cousin and his s/o were not discriminated against in any way, and that if they continued to start silly drama that they can all skip my wedding. I want no negetivity on the big day. I also went on to defend myself and let her know how badly she hurt my feelings by sending such an awful email. This is not the first nasty email from her. It’s been a few days and she still hasn’t responded. My mother spoke with her yesterday and it turns out she’s upset about it. My grandma pulled the “I’m her grandmother and she should respect her elders” card. My mother is 110% on my side and understands how rude my grandma is and always has been.

So, here is my theory; in order to get respect, you must also give respect. Yes, she’s my grandma. But she has never been respectful of me or my family and it’s time someone stood up to her and let her know how wrong she is. Am I right? Or did I handle this inappropriately? Have you been in a similar situation? How did you handle it, and how did things turn out between the family?

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30 Answers

Val123's avatar

Yes. Time you stood up. In a respectful manner. Good for you!

PS. I’m with Gramma on the “Mr. Smith and one guest” thing. You should have written “Mr. Smith and BFF”.

perspicacious's avatar

Can’t you just ignore Granny?

marinelife's avatar

It depends on whether you want to be right or happy.

Your grandmother is unlikely to change. How would you feel if she was not at your wedding? How would you feel if this turned into a lifelong schism?

I am not advocating any position. It is truly up to you how you would feel.

If you want peace in the family and a dose of grandma’s drama at your wedding, you will apologize to your grandma and smooth everything over.

If you really feel you must stand up for yourself, and you cannot take grandma’s bullying and stirring up trouble, then hold your ground.

Just be aware that some family members will side with her and may boycott your wedding.

JLeslie's avatar

To be honest I am not great at handling people like your grandmother. I think it is a good idea that to stand up to her, but you could try to mend things also. Maybe go to her and say you were very hurt that she would think you would sinle out a particular relative and treat them differently. That you are sorry if you said anything that hrt her, but you felt as though you ere being judged incorrectly, and felt the need to straighten things out. Maybe ask her why she is seemingly trying to sabotage what should be a happy time for you and the family. Now, if she is awful all she will hear is you trying to apologize and decide “see @ItalianPrincess1217 was wrong, and now she is looking for forgiveness.” That has actually happened to me when I have tried to apologize for a bad interaction and mend things. Or, maybe she will be open enough to tell you she is sorry it came out like that, and she never intended to upset you.

If she is a total impossible bitch, after a few genuine tries when shit like this happens, I would not give her interference a thought. Just smile, be nice to everyone and rise above it. Let your relatives judge you by how you are with them, if they pay attention to her, that is their loss.

Also, since your wedding is so close maybe you want to just ignore it altogether, the less drama the better. Let her think what she wants. She is like that because of pain in her own life.

People standing on how things should be done and what they think respect is are a pain in the ass. When people love each other they should assume there is no malice or bad intent, and if they are hurt by what someone else in the family says or does, they should talk it though. Remember that for your marriage. If your husband hurts you, tell him it hurts you and why, so he can tell you he does not mean to hurt you and explain what he did mean.

I don’t question your statement about her email, but is there anyway she was pointing out to you it might be offensive to your cousin, rather than accusing you of something?

tinyfaery's avatar

Your family must have been allowing her to behave in such a way for quite along time because she obviously feels she has the right.

I don’t believe in that respect your elders nonsense. Age does not automaticaly incur respect. And holding a family hostage so you can get your way is in no way a sign of love or respect.

However, Marina is right. What means more to you, status quo or feeling good about your ability to establish and maintain your boundaries?

I say be the first one on your block. Everyone else seems to allow for the rudeness.

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, and I personally would not throw out statements like, “then don’t come to my wedding.” You get married once, it is better everyone be there.

rebbel's avatar

I don’t know your grandmother’s intention when she pointed you to how you addressed your cousin and his girlfriend.
Like @JLeslie asked, did she think it could be offensive to your cousin, or did she want to be a know-it-all and let you know you were acting wrong (in her eyes)?
I know that i felt a bit offended when the last x-mas my girlfriend got a present from my sister-in-law (and my brother) which was labeled Rebbel’s Girlfriend.
Granted, they had not met each other until that day, but a little more effort (from my sis-in-law) would not have been too much to do.
So, it can be seen as offensive.
I didn’t make a hassle about it, by the way.
It was x-mas.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@All Ignoring doesn’t work. She keeps at it until someone responds. She lives for drama. Honestly. She has been this way since I can remember.

She was passing along my cousins words as well as her own. There is a long history between my cousin, his girlfriend, and I. His girlfriend is even worse than my grandma. She has sex for money with other men, she has mental issues, abuses her little son, and she’s always hated me. So to be honest, she’s lucky to have been included at all. I only invited her because I dint want to upset my cousin. But it backfired anyway because of “plus guest”. Oops! I tried to do the right thing and this is what happened.

kheredia's avatar

I think you did the right thing. This is YOUR day!!! You shouldn’t have to feel afraid of what your grandma is going to say or do on your wedding day. I would’ve done the same thing if I were you. I have family members that I have problems with because of similar reasons. They know how I feel about them, they may not like it, but at least now they keep their mouths shut around me. You can’t always get along with all your family members so you just learn to tolerate them. I think you should focus on YOUR wedding day and everybody else comes second to that.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@kheredia I agree. The whole
family is aware of how she is. Everyone keeps saying things like “Ohhh I wonder if grandma is going to start any drama at the wedding…” That’s sad! And yes, I’d be very sad if my grandma didn’t come to my wedding but I’d be even more upset if she showed up
and caused a big stink and ruined the day.

Val123's avatar

@JLeslie Oh, if only it were that simple to mend things. People like that just will never change though, unless there is something that makes the uncomfortable enough to do so. Being nice and “explaining” isn’t the least bit uncomfortable to her, and in fact, she may very well see it as though @ItalianPrincess1217 is groveling.

You know your Gramma best @ItalianPrincess1217 and the fact that she hasn’t responded to your email, but you know that it “upset” her is a good thing, I think. Maybe she’s thinking. Stand your ground. Politely.

JLeslie's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 OK, then F**k them!!! We know and you know your intention was good, and you treated everyone fairly. I know @rebbel was trying to agree with me, but he/she said was not exactly what I meant, what I mean specifically is I don’t agree that they should be offended by how you worded the invitation, just that people do get offended.

I say you can’t win, be sickening sweet, ignore all of the mishpucha mishigas and I think in a few days you will feel better. Don’t let them suck you in. Once you start to carry yourself as though you don’t care they will be running to you for y our attention. Don’t let them have power over you and your happiness.

JLeslie's avatar

@Val123 Oh, I just saw your post. Yes, I agree, I tried to acknowledge that could happen in my first answer, maybe I did not do a good job. I am only learning this very dynamic now, in my 40’s and how to deal with it. That is why I said I am not great at handling such things :).

Val123's avatar

@JLeslie My Mom didn’t exactly create drama, not exactly, but she’d say really hateful, hurtful things without thinking. I’m not one to let things slide, so I’d call her on them…and she’d deny having even said it! Even if it happened about 30 seconds ago! Anything beyond a minute, and she’d accuse you of being the once who said it! It was sooo frustrating. I could handle it for me, but it just broke my heart when she turned her comments on my kids…..

@ItalianPrincess1217 BTW…CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR UPCOMING WEDDING! Please let us know how it all turns out….maybe telling Granny that if she can’t behave she isn’t welcome to come to the wedding is the kind of wake up call she needed. I hope so, anyway.

JLeslie's avatar

One last thing about the shoulds I mention. In anger management they say every time someone says should they are trying to control you. You should write the invitiation a certain way, you should say hello too your mother before your sister when you walk in the room, you should… They are angry people. Sad and hurt people. You probably can’t fix her.

Also, I had a little drama right before my wedding also, almost everyone does. Your day will be perfect. I know it. :)

@Val123 How awful. These people just can’t be wrong, can never say, “I made a mistake,” or, “I apologize, I was out of line.” We all say things we sometimes regret, but those type of people never own up or see themselves clearly.

rebbel's avatar

@JLeslie
I was not trying to agree with you, i do agree with you(r answer)!
And then i used your question to @ItalianPrincess1217 (“but is there anyway she was pointing out to you it might be offensive to your cousin, rather than accusing you of something?” to introduce my answer.
I’m a boy.

Val123's avatar

@JLeslie Exactly.
The only drama I had surrounding my first wedding was when whoever rung the ships bell for me to begin descending down the stairway (this wasn’t on a ship. It was in my Dad’s condo) I realized I’d forgotten my bouquet. Well….I made frantic motions to my Dad’s GF, and they stopped everything, got me the flowers and we started over. She was really upset with me for breaking some sort of wedding “rule”. Stupid, IMO.

JLeslie's avatar

@rebbel Yes, I did see you were agreeing with my answer; I hope I was not abrasive to you, not my intention. I was just clarifying that I would not be offended, I did not think they should be offended, but you gave an example of something that was offensive to you so I just wanted to restate my intention in my answer. I think your brother and his wife should have bothered to find your girlfriends name, but I would not be offended I would thinking they are lazy idiots. It would almost be funny to me, not hurtful.

rebbel's avatar

@JLeslie
Jeez, now i agree with you again.
It’s not that i change my mind concerning my experienced feelings whenever someone writes something to me, but now that i think of it again, i was more stupified then offended at the time.

JLeslie's avatar

@rebbel :) Thank you for allowing me to explain. I don’t think I stated it well originally.

I think people like @ItalianPrincess1217 grandma WANT to be angry. They want to catch her doing something “wrong” so they can feel better about themselves and superior. If they put her down they elevate themselves. These are insecure, weak, mean people who function like that.

YARNLADY's avatar

Unfortunately, it is not our job to change other people. We can’t really go around dictating who can be mean and who can be nice. We are only in charge of our own behavior and the most mature thing to do is to always be the very best person you can be.

You don’t need anyone else’s permission to be nice, and no matter how mean they are, you can still be your kindest self. No one can make you mad, no one can make you angry. You are in control of how you feel. Don’t give her power over your feelings.

Don’t buy into her drama. Say “Oh, granny, you are so funny sometimes.” “Granny, this is the happiest day of my life.” My Father-In-Law was like that, and the whole family decided to pity his inability to live a happy life, and get on with ours.

Val123's avatar

That’s a thought! Respond to her as though you don’t understand her problem in a way that’s inappropriate to the situation. Like the “Mr. Smith and other person,” issue….you could have laughed and said, “That’s so silly!” Then gone on to something else. If nothing else it would confuse the crap out of her!

Cruiser's avatar

Your grandma perhaps still sees you as her little grand daughter she is used to imposing her ways and values upon. It is time you showed her you are grown up and expect and deserve to have things your way.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

She only has the power that you give her. If you expect her to be a heinous witch, she can only live up to your expectations. If you expect her to act like the grandmother you wish she was, she will only disappoint.

It will be worse to have her ruin your day than to not come at all.

JLeslie's avatar

@YARNLADY said it better, she described what I meant about being sickening sweet and staying above the chaos.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Is she better in one-on-one situations? What if you took her to lunch, asked her about her wedding day and what she remembered about it. Ask her if anyone in the family did anything that made her cry on her wedding day. Ask about her mother or grandmother on her wedding day.

Tell her that she made you cry by insinuating that you deliberately slighted your cousin’s girlfriend, and that you hope that if she loves you, she will do what she can to make your wedding day a good memory for you.

Val123's avatar

@PandoraBoxx I’d be afraid to show anything that gramma could consider a weakness, such as telling her she made @ItalianPrincess1217 cry. Gramma sounds like a bully. Maybe just standing up to her to let her know she can’t be bullied any more. Probably shock the crap out of her, but maybe it would work. Call it what it is. If she’s being rude say, “You’re being very rude.”

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Sometimes family members tell you this sort of thing not because they intend to be mean, but because they fail to admit that the “kids” of the family are now adults, and their sphere of influence has ended.

Like it or not, you do reach a day when you should not continue telling your progeny what to do. Either you’ve done your job as a parent well, or you haven’t. But the only way to tell is to let them go, and learn from mistakes. LOTS of parents and grandparents fail to do this. They seem to think that as senior member of the family, everyone should do as they direct. It comes across as heinous witch, but it’s intended as a show of authority.

MissCupid's avatar

I hope your big day goes/has gone okay. What happened with your grandma?
I have a rude gran too. She speaks her mind with no thought to how it might hurt people. I know that it’s just her way so smile and ignore it. She is 90 after all and probably won’t be around for much longer. She said something to my sister about 6 years ago and my sister hasn’t spoken to her since. I think that is really out of order, because after all family is forever. And I say that even though my sister and I have fallen out in the past couple of years and I don’t really speak to her anymore. But I’m civil because it will upset my mum etc.
So if you’re still struggling, my advice would be: Emails? delete them without reading them. It’s your big day. It’s obviously just your grandma’s way of making herself feel needed/part of the family/relevant. Just do what YOU want to do – especially as you have your mum’s backing. Don’t let anyone get you down. Just smile and forgive. You have to forgive your grandma for being the way she is. Hard as that may be…
Hope you get it all sorted :D

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