*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Trying to have a good relationship with your in-laws is about patience, compromises, and avoiding arguments as much as possible. But what happens when they pass away and you don't feel like attending their funeral because there wasn't any positive connection between you in the first place?
Is that like offending the rest of the family, or should you make your own choices no matter what your other relatives think about it? Would you reconsider it as a way to improve your relationship with your extended family, or would you avoid any kind of interference in your choices?
My friend Amanda, who lives in Dallas, Texas, has been married to Nate, her husband, for eight years. They have three daughters together, and Amanda kept her job because they weren't able to cover bills and plan vacations with just one salary.
"It wasn't an easy decision. We took our time looking for a babysitter, and I only went back to the office once I was sure the person we hired was giving my little girls the attention and care they needed," Amanda said.
Her parents supported her decision and also offered to come by the couple's house in the afternoons and make sure everything was going well. Amanda is convinced her relationship with her husband was better because she kept her job since adding stress to their marriage would have caused several disagreements about money issues.
"We said we would always help each other, so it made no sense for me to stay home and wait for him to earn all the money we needed. We're partners, and our relationship is based on that. I think he respects me more because I can earn just as much, if not more, than him," the mom said.
Even if her mom and dad were on board with what the couple wanted, Nate's parents felt differently. His dad didn't try to convince them to change their minds, but Tina, Nate's mom, kept reminding Amanda that kids are happier when they have their parents close.
"I felt like she used every opportunity to criticize me and remind me I wasn't a good mom. I know she expected me to be a housewife, but she knew me since we got engaged, and I told her what our family would be like. Even so, she couldn't ever accept it and even complained to her neighbors about me and our distant relationship. She caused that, not me," Amanda said.
Things stayed the same during the last few years, and it got to the point where Amanda would avoid talking to her mother-in-law at all and only greet her when she came to pick up her daughters for a sleepover.
"I admit she had a very close relationship with my kids, and I'm thankful for how much she loved them. She was happy to be a grandmother, and I could tell that. As for me, she either ignored me or argued with me. She never really found a way to include me in her family or to have a positive relationship with me. I just wasn't the kind of person she approved of," Amanda said.
Her mother-in-law passed away two weeks ago, and Amanda decided it was best not to go to the funeral. Her husband and their daughters did go to pay their respects.
The mom, however, felt it wouldn't be honest to go there and pretend she'd miss Tina when all they did was argue since she got married to Nate. Most of the family accepted her decision because they knew how things had been, but Nate's dad, Andrew, thought there was more to it.
He wasn't pleased with Amanda avoiding the funeral, and what's more, he felt it might be an offense. When they met last week, he told her she should apologize and at least take some flowers to remember Tina, but when Amanda said she'd rather not, he got upset.
"We didn't get along; my father-in-law was offended I didn't attend her funeral. He just doesn't understand; it's no use keeping up a good opinion I didn't have about her. What's the point of behaving like I'm going to miss her? I won't, and he knows it. My daughters will miss their grandmother, and I let them take flowers, but I'm not going to do it," Amanda said.
This situation has been causing tension since Andrew expects Amanda to feel sorry for not being there with the rest of the family at the funeral. At the same time, the mom won't do something she doesn't feel and asked her husband to talk to his dad and explain it to him.
For now, Andrew won't have Amanda visit at all and isn't answering her calls. Nate went to visit him, but it didn't help. Andrew is set on receiving an apology, and Amanda feels annoyed by such behavior.
What do you think about this situation? Is it ok for Andrew to be upset with Amanda for not coming to the funeral, or should he realize that was a personal decision, not meant as an offense? Should he listen to what Amanda has to say and try to have a better relationship with his daughter-in-law instead of dismissing how she feels, even if he knows how his wife behaved to her?