Mother-in-law sends first birthday card/gift in 20 years

by Melissa
(Northampton, MA, USA )

Hi. My wife and I have been together for 20 years, married for 3 (when the laws changed). I am not close with my mother-in-law. Not that we dislike each other, we get along good enough, but I don't like to talk on the phone after 17 years of working on the Mental Health field. In the beginning, she was stand offish because of the whole lesbian thing, but that didn't last long. We get along in person. She does have a terrible habit of being nice to your face and then saying bad things behind your back. When my wife and I had our child 17 years ago, it took her several years to say she had 5 grandchildren instead of 4. I carried the baby. Fast forward 20 years and I get my very first birthday card with a $25 check in it from her. I wanted to send a thank you card, but my wife is freaking out because I won't call her on the phone. I would like to know what's socially appropriate as well as what your opinion is on if I should have to call her. I "spent" the $25 towards having flowers sent to the MIL as a thank you, but that's the most I have to offer. Now my wife is saying I don't even need to go to her funeral. How am I the bad person when it took her 20 years to acknowledge my birthday? Help...

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How to Respond
by: Ms P Etiquette

Hello Melissa,

Family issues can be difficult and a solution isn't always forthcoming. Speaking from the view of good manners, a thank you card is the perfect response to receiving a birthday gift of money. However, your relationship with your wife is more important than your manners. If she is upset, please have a heart to heart discussion instead of playing the offensive/defensive game. Try to take each others position seriously and work it out.

Really good manners means we try not to hurt anyone if we can help it.

Ms. Practical Etiquette​

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Sometimes it takes years
by: Anonymous

I'm sure your MIL had hopes that her your wife would someday marry a guy she could parade around to family and friends. She was probably disappointed when that didn't work out. But, at some point, even mothers grow up and accept what life has to offer. I'm sorry it took her so long but, if you truly love your wife, you will forgive your MIL for being judgmental about your lifestyle. And, BTW, I'm a 70 year old woman happily married to an 80 year old man and, believe me, my folks didn't like the age gap or the fact that he looks a bit foreign!!! I wish you well and please remember that holding on the hurtful things ends up hurting you the most!

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