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Friday, May 3, 2019

May 2- My Heart Poured Out

So we do have water right now, but we did briefly run out for a few hours earlier. And now there's rumors the temporary RWA has been dissolved... No idea. Craziness.  No one seems to know what's happening. But that's not what I want to talk about today.

Earlier I was listening to a Christian women's podcast that reminded me of the lonely and bewildering time after moving to India. The first couple years here in India were very hard.

I wasn't really able to be open with the blog then. Indian culture cares way too much about what others think and honestly I was being emotionally abused by my in-laws then. People they knew were curiously reading my blog so I had to be vague. Sadly this transformed my blog into a less safe place for me. When I was pregnant with Dreamer suddenly I had critical commenters who were tearing me down when my blog had previously been my safe place.  While I missed what blogging had been I was too emotionally raw and damaged to persist with the vulnerable style of blogging I had used for years and basically I've never really gotten back out there regularly.

We've worked through some of these issues over the past 6 years so I don't want anyone to read this, including my in-laws if they do, and think I'm saying this is who they are. But I need people to understand that the experiences I'm about to share utterly changed me for the rest of my life. If I am reclaiming my blog as a place that is free in Christ, I also need to be able to tell the truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Truthfully this is a writing of forgiveness. I'm not angry or hurting writing any of this and the purpose is just to shed light on one of the darkest valleys I've walked through so I can be honest going forward.

So it should be said that they had no idea what they were doing to me at the time. But it's also true they made no effort to understand. 90% of what they knew about me I'd had to volunteer because after like "so what do your parents do? How many siblings do you have?" and other basic questions they didn't even attempt to get to know me any deeper but 100% expected me to assimilate to their world.

I had never even been outside the US before moving to India and yet 6 weeks into living here my father-in-law berated me "What are using culture shock as an excuse for? When I went to America I figured it out the moment I got off the plane. You have already been here six weeks, culture shock isn't an excuse anymore!" I am a socially anxious person and we'd go out and I'd be all nervous but eager to socially interact with new people. I'd do my best, probably stepped on some toes unknowingly but was trying. We'd get home and I'd be verbally assaulted with a list of all the mistakes I'd made and told over and over again that I needed to just keep my mouth shut and observe until I knew EXACTLY how to behave like an Indian. When I tried to explain that like most people I'd learn faster through trial and error and people knew I'd just got here and didn't expect perfection they'd get angry at me talking back and tell Ryan to teach me better.

I was desperate for social interaction and friends in part because I'm an extrovert. Ryan and his parents all were working full time. I was alone all day and forbidden to go out alone because "who would get the packages?" I remember being like "well who got the packages before I moved here?" But really it was about control and fear. It was less than two weeks after I moved here that the infamous Delhi bus rape in December 2012 happened and his family and him were terrified of something happening to me. His mom spent every evening for two weeks telling us all the newest grisly details of the crime, she was obsessed. It absolutely terrified Ryan and I remember wanting to walk like 500 yards to a store to get like a soda or something and him begging me not to go with tears in his eyes because he was so scared. He was being emotionally abused too though it took me a few years to really realize how much. I felt imprisoned.

I remember one time, months in when things were a little more relaxed telling Ryan's dad I was going to the store to get a drink then going to the park to paint.  Ryan had bought canvasses and paints for me because I was desperate for a creative outlet. I got to the park and set up my canvas and it was amazingly blissful and exactly what I needed. I felt relaxed and at peace. But when I'd only been there 20 or 30 minutes suddenly Ryan's parents car pulled up and they barked at me angrily to get in. I did, bewildered and frustrated. Well apparently Ryan's dad had misheard me and thought I had said I was going to the store to buy paint and when I hadn't gotten back in a reasonable time frame they'd all jumped in the car driving around looking for me hysterically thinking I'd been murdered, raped or kidnapped and now were totally pissed off at me despite the cause of the stress being Ryan's dad mishearing me and not anything I'd done. I felt so oppressed and frustrated.

And Ryan's mom had a heart attack two months after I moved to India, one month before the wedding. Frustratingly it was after the first time I lost my temper with her. My mother-in-law has a very caustic way of communicating. She does it with Ryan too, but when he gets frustrated he'll tell her off and they'll argue and then all is well. But if I wasn't peaceful and demure I was the "rudest person on earth". I was just supposed to take it. So after several months I didn't take it anymore and I bit back and for the very first time treated her the way she was treating me.

The next morning when I woke up she looked very gray and I asked her if she was okay. She said she'd woken up with chest pains and they weren't going away and she was staying home from work. His dad had gone to work. I was very concerned and begged her for hours to get to the hospital. But she said no, and was trying to clean the living room. Ryan was reluctant to force his mom to do anything she didn't want to but started to realize maybe I was right. So he suggested maybe  we could call his dad to come back and get her and finally she agreed if he came she'd go to the hospital. So we called, it was just after lunch. He took a few hours to get home, I think he only left work an hour or two early at most. He clearly seemed irritated that we were making a fuss, he openly stated it wasn't a attack. But we all went to the ER. My FIL turned white when after tests they told us indeed she had had a heart attack. But instead of being glad that I had persisted and got her to a hospital many hours earlier than she would have gone if I hadn't been around he blamed me and gave me the silent treatment for many weeks. And while she had been sweet and appreciative of the care I'd shown during the attack after talking to him she decided it was all my fault too.

She had only known me for two months before the heart attack. At the time her health was poor enough that whatever incident next stressed her would have caused it, which happened to be me. But life is stressful and it still would have happened. Happily, since then she got on heart medication and as long as she walks regularly she keeps her diabetes managed. She's had one cardiac event since then but it wasn't an attack and she just needed her medication adjusted.

But way back when I was new to India being blamed for this was so traumatic. Even Ryan was like "well it's not your fault but don't you think you had a part to play?" I was like she's been mean to me almost every single day and I return in kind once and suddenly I'm responsible for her heart attack?

One time we were at a meal and I asked my MIL to pass me the salt. Suddenly my FIL lurched up and started screaming about how I was the rudest, most awful person in the world and how dare I talk to her that way. He told Ryan to "control his woman" and make me keep my mouth shut. Praying silently with all the self control the Holy Spirit could give me I said not a word and got up from the table and went into the bedroom while I heard him scour me and yell about my flaws for like 45 minutes. Afterwards my MIL and Ryan came in and asked me why I said what I'd said. I told them all I'd done was ask MIL to pass me the salt. Their jaws dropped. I forget what it was my FIL thought I'd said but basically he'd misheard me and exploded irrationally over a misunderstanding. However he never apologised for that or anything else he's ever done to me. Which made me upset and unable to forgive this for years but finally I grew past it. Ryan says he's never apologised to Ryan in his entire life for anything. And I've heard from others this is very common of Indian parents, especially fathers.

As an American to me an apology is the foundation of all reconciliation. If you aren't even willing to admit you were wrong verbally then you aren't actually sorry in American culture. Period. Actions are nice but without a verbal acknowledgement of the wrong doing they seem empty to me. However after literally years I've come to a place where I can forgive even without the apology. I've come to accept it's cultural and the American way is not the only way. But it saddens me. I feel like apologies done honestly are one heart humbling itself in repentance and without that while I can forgive now, it's hard to have any trust. If you can't admit when you're wrong, you're not able to be fully honest; if you can't be fully honest you're not someone who can ever be trusted.

One thing I wish I'd known then but had had no idea is why my MIL was so angry at me. Like a year and a half or two years after my marriage a woman from her church told me that "the way Ryan went about the engagement was so wrong" and I asked what she meant.

Apparently in India engagement is a formal event, like a party, with a ceremony. Ryan and I had realized quietly we'd get married within two months of meeting each other without even letting each other in on it. But as our relationship progressed we kept talking about "when we get married" and in time that turned into actual plans like me deciding to move to India and getting my passport. As we got to the getting a visa and a plane ticket stage my family was freaking out because I'd never even met Ryan in person. We'd been dating over two years but he was a total stranger. They were afraid I was going to be trafficked. I told Ryan we definitely can't have me moving to a foreign country if we're not even formally engaged! And if you don't get me a ring they won't believe you're serious. So we picked out a ring on Etsy and mailed it to me and once I got it resized I took a ring shot, put it on Facebook and we both changed our status to "engaged."

In India apparently my MIL was getting phone calls congratulating her on an engagement that she didn't know had happened. She was humiliated. Now I wasn't a secret, she and I had talked on the phone a couple times, but she was upset by the way it had been handled. But she didn't tell Ryan or I that. She instead told the ladies at church.

If I had had any idea than I totally would have been all for an engagement party/ceremony. Sure we'd done a ring picture and a Facebook status change but everyone knew we weren't in person so I'm sure her community would have been happy to celebrate with us once we were. But she never told Ryan or I that was something that mattered or needed to be done and since in America engagement parties tend to only happen with the wealthy it never crossed my mind I just knew I was twisting myself inside out trying to please her and failing miserably no matter what I did.

The wedding itself was sort of a highlight of my relationship with my FIL in those early days. Someone insulted us because we were having a civil marriage for legal purposes-- religious marriages are under a different law in India and foreigners who marry that way have difficulty legally with visas and stuff after. But another Christian told us we weren't having a "real marriage" because it wouldn't be in a church. My FIL came to our defense so fast! I felt a lot of love for him then. And I still do when I remember that. I do actually love both of them, it's just a very complicated love.

I was never cleaner than when I lived with her. But she was furious at how "messy" my room was. She'd go complain to Ryan then send him to take it up with me, putting him in an awful position. And I remember one day when I heard her voice slip out of his mouth "is this how you kept your room at your parents house?!" And I burst into tears saying, "My room was NEVER this clean at my parents house! This is the cleanest I have EVER BEEN and I can't do better" and I sobbed hysterically and Ryan totally melted and held me in his arms and let me have a melt down.

I'm an artist, a people lover, an intellectual and a God girl. I like to occupy my mind with beauty, politics, the theology expressed by a flower, the economic status of Finland despite not really being into economics or any connection to Finland. I love people and love learning about them. I eschew shallow talk but adore exploring the depths. And most of all I just shrivel up when my mind is occupied with only the monotonous material. Like I can do dishes but I don't want to think about doing dishes. Doing dishes is a good time for prayer or phonecalls or for podcasts or blaring a TV from another room. If my mind is feasting on the life of a friend or the goodness of God or on the next election then I can do the dishes and it doesn't stress me out much. But if I actually have to think about the dishes (or the laundry or picking up trash or sweeping or etc) while I do it then I just am crushed under the weight of the stress that descends on me. Cleaning and other simple practical material things are extremely, extremely stressful for me. But my MIL only cared about those things. I'd spend hours doing dishes or laundry only to be told the ten ways I did it wrong. And there wasn't much else to do.

I should have just not worried about it. Looking back I wish I'd shaken younger Pam and told her "don't kill yourself, no matter how hard you try she won't like you!" But I desperately was seeking her approval. I wanted her to like me so bad. So I kept just letting her treat me miserably, swallowing 99% of my misery and only exploding when it was something super serious. But I was losing it and falling apart inside.

One side effect of moving to India was my hormones shifted to allow weight loss. I have PCOS and no matter how hard I tried in the US the scale wouldn't budge. But after a very short time in India I'd already lost 8 pounds even though I was doing zero exercising and was actually eating a lot of fast food because if we went out they were worried outside Indian food might give me "Delhi belly" so we'd always get McDonald's or Domino's or KFC. In America I'd have fast food once a month maybe and here I was having it twice a week and still losing weight without trying.

So I started trying. And it worked. For the first time exercising and eating less actually equaled weight loss! I'd been frustrated to tears attempt after fruitless attempt in America, always gaining never losing. But now weight loss was "easy" which is to say if I ate less, I lost. I didn't have to put in a fraction of the effort I had put in America to get a zillion times better results so it seemed easy when really it's just what normal people experience when they try to lose weight.

"Wow! You look fantastic, it's obvious moving to India agrees with you! You look so much happier!" That was what I was hearing from family and friends in America. And it wasn't true of course, I was on the verge of a mental breakdown from the stress of living with emotional abuse but oh how good that felt to hear!

It doesn't take a genius to see mentally being unhealthy already paired with finding validation in weight loss equals developing an eating disorder. Especially since I felt so trapped, unable to leave the house unaccompanied without anyone freaking out, being treated like a stranger, unfairly blamed for the heart attack, etc. I wanted to take control back of one part of my life. So I began eating 500 calories or less each day. Took pleasure in eating a single slice of cucumber or making sure I drank 3 liters of water before I'd allow myself more calories.

It took only three weeks of this behavior before a sensible part of my brain said, "Hold up what the HECK?!" And I went to Ryan, confessed my newborn anorexia and told him that if he didn't find us an apartment of our own in the next three weeks I was packing my suitcase and living on the streets because it would be an upgrade from spending one more day under that roof. We fought for several hours but ultimately he did what I asked.

This didn't solve everything as sensible people might imagine. I wasn't one of those though. I thought as soon as we got away from his parents we'd be freeeeeeeeee and we'd be the happy newlyweds we were supposed to be. But Ryan was resentful about how we moved out and his mom's fearful influence did not cease. He'd agree to let me go out by myself then have a phone call with her and be in tears again. She fed his fears and it was extremely noticable because if he went a few days without talking to them our marriage would start to improve-- then she'd call and we'd be fighting again.

Not that that was the only thing we fought about. Ryan had never lived away from his family and had had no idea how much I was compromising. I had been allowing his family to oppress me, giving them their way in 80-90% of matters. So when we got our own place I was like FREEDOM and wanted to do everything in a more natural and happy and joyful and comfortable way to me-- but of course having only ever lived with them, this was all crazy town to him. From doing the laundry or the dishes differently to different meals or rhythm of the day etc it all was making him very uncomfortable. Meanwhile I got two kittens.

Now I had totally asked Ryan and he'd totally agreed I could get them. But then he turned around and for the next 4 or 5 years he would fight with me every time they annoyed him talking about how I "made" him get them. Which I resented since of course I hadn't made him do anything, I just held him to the choice he had made. In my family culture if you get animals, you commit to them. So we weren't going to adopt cats and then get rid of them just because they knocked down a coffee mug! And I took it very personal because to me I'd given up my country and my family and my friends and my church and moved to a foreign land where I didn't know the language (and he didn't pay for classes for me) and I wasn't free to go find friends easily (because his parents seemed to have spies on all my social interactions) and I just wanted something familiar, something joyous, something loving and to me that's obviously pets. My family adores pets, I've always had them. In some way to me I was trying to create family for myself in a land where I was so alone. So him attacking that and threatening to get rid of them all the time was him attacking my family and my right to have family in India. To me he was saying while I had to maintain a relationship with people who had emotionally abused me to the point of developing an eating disorder and he'd get furious whenever I said anything bad about them and instead had to go have dinner with abusers all the time and keep my mouth shut for his sake, he couldn't abide living with two innocent kittens with zero malice for my sake.

It was bad.

Additionally he was having meltdowns because the house was messy. Which to me was him pulling a bait and switch. When we were dating I'd told him I was messy. I'd even taken a picture of my bedroom which was like 6-10 inches high in laundry and the floor wasn't visible. I was honestly afraid he'd break up with me and was being incredibly emotionally vulnerable. And he amazingly lovingly didn't care. He told me it'd be a relief to not be married to someone as clean as his mom, that he was messy and would be relieved to not be lectured at for his mess. I was so happy and relieved and even more in love. And now here we were getting our own place and every single day he was railing on me about the mess. Thirty or forty times per day, no exaggerating. We lived within walking distance of coffee shops and I dreamed of taking my laptop there and chilling and writing but I never did it because every time I tried I'd be leaving the house with something undone and pause and think about how angry and mean Ryan would be when he got home and stay to do that thing instead. And then whenever he did get home he'd beeline to whatever I hadn't gotten to and focus on that. So if I spent the whole day at home cleaning and got the kitchen and living room and laundry done but the bed wasn't made and the bathroom was messy that's what I'd hear about. I was miserable.

Then I got dengue fever. And I couldn't get out of bed for three weeks. And the house disintegrated around us and I thought finally! Now that I am not doing it he'll realize how much I want doing and finally appreciate me and be kind and grateful going forward.

Nope. He was just angry about the mess.

And then I found out that I was pregnant. And I was so exhausted. My first trimester fatigue was insane. I realize now with hindsight that the dengue was probably the reason, it had forced me to lose stamina being on bedrest and I hadn't yet recovered (I'd had the dengue when I was unknowingly four weeks pregnant.) But then I was just frustrated and upset because I only energy for like 2 or 3 hours of activity a day and otherwise just needed rest. So of course the mess multiplied. And my parents couldn't miss how stressed I was all the way from America and talked to Ryan and began sending me money to hire a once a week maid. Which helped.

The second trimester came and I recovered and we had one good month when I had energy. But this was also when I really lost my blog. I was frustrated with being a slave to housework by both his mom and then Ryan and posted about Mary and Martha and how I was more of a Mary type and Jesus Himself said that was the better way so why do we, Christian women, still expect everyone to be Martha. And the comments were so unkind. Up until then I had relied on my blog as a safe zone to escape the stress of my new life and suddenly I was being attacked. It broke me. And I knew that the readers didn't know how much this messy/housework thing had been causing me suffering over the past year, but at that time I was too afraid to post about it, knowing his parents would hear from someone about it and then they'd yell at Ryan who would yell at me. And at that point I kept blogging but I never had the same relationship with the blog again... Though I'm trying to get something close back with this post.

It was also then that we picked out a new apartment because the little newlywed place we got was a third story (American fourth story) walk up that was 540 SQ feet. But as I said walking distance to coffee shops and shops and restaurants.

Our new place was 1000 sq ft and further out. And was where we lived until just a few months ago, we stayed there over four years.

But a few weeks before the move I began bleeding. An infection was attacking my placenta and I was put on immediate full can't even sit up bedrest. Needed to keep the pressure off of the placenta until it healed and even after that I was on modified bedrest until 37 weeks. I couldn't even blog because I couldn't sit up and my laptop had broken and the only place to blog was Ryan's desk top. This meant Ryan did the move without me and I couldn't really organize my new home or nest. I had one week of freedom of movement and then she came at 38 weeks.

During my bedrest the mess of not having me clean was driving Ryan crazy. He also didn't know how to cook at all. I had to walk him through making toast. He begged me many times to violate the bed rest and I felt so attacked and alone having to oppose him for the health and life of our child. I was so scared. The whole time I only violated the rules of bedrest once. A friend from the US was in India. I was so lonely. I felt so misunderstood. I ached and longer for that connection. She was touring India and briefly was in Delhi and they couldn't come all the way to us like to our house but suggested she could meet us at a mall so I went out and went to the mall and sat in the food court and waited and waited. And finally she sent a message saying things are crazy and she wasn't going to be able to make it and Ryan held me while I sobbed and lost it in the middle of the mall.

When Dreamer was born it was wonderful. But now I look back at realize I had post partum anxiety. I heard people say they'd wake up to see if their baby was breathing so I thought that was normal. But I'd do it four or five times a night. Every night. It wasn't until Rider was born years later and I wasn't nearly so anxious that I was able to see how anxious I really had been.

When Dreamer was two months old she got her vaccination and we went over to my in-laws for dinner afterwards. She developed a fever and was crying and my in-laws swooped her up and were trying to comfort her. And every cell in my body knew she needs her mother. But I also knew that just like any time I show any backbone, initiative or idea that they don't agree with if I had taken her out their arms they'd be furious and wrathful. So I sat on my hands in misery, my heart breaking listening to her wail. When we left I held her and she was happy. We went home and I nursed and snuggled her to sleep and realized that I had failed her. That I had known she needed me but hadn't advocated for her and had allowed his parents to once again diminish me but this time she was the victim. And I vowed not to allow that to happen again.

After that I got more assertive. When at three months my "slow to warm up" darling started tensing up in my arms whenever strangers tried to hold her I wore her in the baby carrier everywhere and refused to take her out to be passed around as many do with babies in India. The aunties were offended and I was told by probably a dozen women that I caused her shyness due to baby wearing but I knew actually I was just picking up on the body language she was already expressing that told me she was miserable with people she didn't know well long before she could talk. Let them blame me, I would take those social blows for her sake.

Once Ryan's dad drove us to the doctors appointment. He was outside the office while we were in the waiting room. But when the nurse called us in he saw us get up from through the window and suddenly he entered the exam room with us and I would have had to cause a scene to kick him out. Then he proceeded to ask the doctor questions-- every single one of them an attempt to assassinate my parenting style. Didn't baby wearing cause bow leggedness? Shouldn't breastfeeding be supplemented with formula? Etc. Thankfully our doctor, without knowing it, supported every one of my parenting decisions.


When we got to the car Ryan's dad said he thought the guy was a quack and we should get a new paediatrician.

When we got home I turned to Ryan, "Can you BELIEVE your dad?!" And he was like "what are you talking about?" He didn't understand and hadn't realized his dad had done anything "wrong".

Which was a lot of the trouble. Ryan would take any anxiety or frustration or fear on my part about being with his parents as a "lack of trust" in him. He'd say "just trust me and I will put my parents in their place if they cross a line, just let me do it because you don't know how to talk to them." But then something as insanely outrageous as probably the most blatantly aggregious thing his dad ever did to me with this doctor visit and he was totally oblivious. Truth is at least 50% of the time that his parents were being controlling, unreasonable, unkind, rude, or otherwise hurtful completely flies over Ryan's head. But he'd get mad if I tried to set boundaries or talk to them directly.

Finally it all came to a head. Ryan's mom always unkindly complained we didn't change our curtains enough each time she'd come over. In America you buy curtains and you keep those curtains for several years, maybe a decade. I told Ryan this and he was like "and you don't wash them?!" Well, no, you do. But you pull them down throw them in the washing machine, pop them in the drier then hang them back up two hours later. For that brief time yes, the windows are bare. No one cares.

But in India you change the curtains every few months, at least if you're Ryan's mom. So she was getting frustrated that each time she came over the curtains were the same. So one day she came over and gave us new (used) curtains. They were a muted dark pink and I did not like them at all. And I thought in my head that if I accept them I knew I would never hang them up. And she'd come over next time and when she saw the same curtains (that I liked) up she'd be upset and it would cause drama and in the end I'd either be forced to admit that I thought they were ugly or put them up (and I wasn't going to be usurped in my own house anymore.) So having played this out I smiled and thanked her for the curtains but gently said, "but they're not my style" and refused them. And she looked a little hurt but was accepting that and I figured being upset for five minutes was better than a fight down the line...

When my FIL exploded. It was like "pass the salt" all over again! My MIL kept trying to calm him down but he was like "NO! NO! Her rudeness won't be tolerated!" And he screamed at me for like ten minutes then stormed out. My MIL lingered for like 30 seconds to convey she wasn't actually upset and didn't know what his problem was, but after she went home with him he talked her into being angry too.

This was a few weeks before I was going to America to visit for the first time. Ryan had supposed to join us, to get to meet my parents for the first time and see my world. You have to remember and understand Ryan doesn't have context to understand how much I sacrificed and bent myself over backwards and that's part of why he was so unreasonable. He would see a situation and know what he expected of me and see me fail to meet it and get upset. Not understanding that if I was like a foot away from meeting his expectation I was 30 feet outside my comfort zone. But a trip to America, meeting my family and seeing my culture and most of all seeing how they talk to me and how they treat each other-- I bet it'd set light bulbs off many times a day as I began to make more sense to him. But I don't know for sure because the US denied his visa (and we haven't had the budget for another trip yet.) So we were upset about that already.

And now this ridiculous curtain fight was hanging over our head.

Finally I told Ryan I needed to stop this going through him thing. They may hate me being "direct" but holding back was damaging all of us. And so we called them over and I prepared a speech.

I talked to them about all the stuff I've been telling you and more. I talked about how they never tried to look at it from my point of view, that we are talking two different cultural languages and every time there's a misunderstanding they assumed the worst. I illustrated this with an incident from the first week I had arrived. I'd unpacked in their guest room and wanted to be neat and tidy. So I'd put all my shoes in the bottom of the wardrobe because clean Americans keep their shoes in closets. My MIL had been disgusted I'd keep my dirty shoes in the cabinet with my clean clothes and had asked Ryan to ask me to move them because that was just filthy. But I explained I'd actually gone out of my way to put my shoes in the wardrobe as an effort to be clean and she'd culturally misinterpreted it be messiness, the exact opposite of what I'd intended. And how that was a common pattern in our communications. I talked about the pass the salt incident and how I'd decided refusing the curtains would cause the least hurt feelings and drama. I talked about many hurtful things they'd said to me, including at least one I've not written about here because I am still struggling to forgive it and I am trying to only write about things I've already forgiven and moved on from. I talked about how in my culture you can "agree to disagree" and disagreement has no relationship to disrespect and indeed some of the people I have respected most in life are people I don't agree with, but adore anyway. And how what they call "directness" is just abhorring dishonesty. That if they ask me a question I give an honest answer and if they say are you going to hang up this curtain I'd say no because that's honest. How I had decided years ago to take the Bible seriously when it says Satan is the Father of all Lies and I will not do one thing and say another like they want and expect me.

My vulnerable sharing of my heart went completely over my MIL's head. She said how can we speak different cultural languages when we both speak English?

My FIL seemed receptive and he was upset but he listened and since then he's not had had a crazed outburst like the salt or the curtains that I can remember.

But afterwards he and my MIL didn't really say much at all. And they left. And a few days later I went to America with Dreamer for five months.

They didn't mention any of this during our few phone calls while I was there. And I really expected us to talk when I got back... But we didn't. It was just there in the air, unacknowledged. Which basically there's nothing more stressful than that. Our relationship began to improve though because I began to speak for myself a bit more and I began (indirectly through Ryan) laying down boundaries. Actually it's super sad because I wanted Ryan to be open about the boundaries and he refused. So I'd have to head my MIL get upset every time we'd say no to something.

For example, when Dreamer was a newborn baby my ILs mentioned having her over for sleep overs. That very first time they mentioned it I told Ryan I wouldn't be comfortable with that until she was like eight. I don't know why eight, but it seemed right. Ryan was shocked he thought that was crazy but I told him I didn't think it'd be right for either of us to be forced into allowing our daughter into a situation we're uncomfortable with and if we weren't in agreement the default should be not allowing that. He reluctantly agreed, but every weekend nearly the next three years or so he'd get asked by his mom about Dreamer sleeping over and say no. It's insane.

But when like a year ago I tried to show her some respect and told her outright that I wasn't comfortable with it and didn't see myself becoming comfortable with it for years... Well that was a mistake.

So I have learned and haven't pressed other boundaries which Ryan and I actually know the "rules" about but my in-laws exhaust us all by pushing against constantly testing our limits because apparently telling them "we don't allow X" so that they stop trying for X is somehow worse than this. Sigh.

But whenever I get twisted up about my MIL I remind myself of one particular incident. I was so used to her twisting my words and overanalyzing my tone and reading into it twenty or thirty nuances that don't actually exist that I decided I was way too anxious to call her to wish her a happy anniversary. But my MIL has this obsession with people "wishing" each other on holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. I don't really understand the rules, but basically while if on my birthday people wish me happy birthday I'm pleased but I don't notice or care who forgets to do so, she's all about that and notices and holds a grudge. So I decided I would text her. I thought about texting my FIL, but the truth was at that point I'd literally never sent him a text so I decided that'd seem weird and plus she could share the "wish" with him. So I typed "Happy Anniversary 😊". I figured the smiley face ensured it couldn't be misinterpreted as anything negative.

Hahahahaha.

So my MIL first contacted Ryan and tells him why is she texting not calling? And don't think we didn't notice she didn't wish FIL! We know that that means!

Ryan assured her it meant nothing. This made her angrier.

So a few hours later she's sent him an email basically disowning him as a son saying even if she was dying in the hospital she wouldn't tell him and Ryan is crying.

And I'm like... Wow.

The entire day my only interaction with her was "Happy Anniversary 😊" and this is what happens.

And suddenly in that moment it became clear. None of this has anything to do with me. All of it was and has always been about Ryan and his mom (and dad.)

If he had married an Indian, it all would have still happened. I mean she'd probably be neater, but no one could have been neat enough for his mom. Whomever he married would have "caused" her heart attack because the stress of him marrying anyone at all would have triggered it. Anyone who Ryan could have wanted to marry would have displeased his mom because a) she wasn't ready for him to marry and b) she'd probably only be okay with him marrying someone who shares her exact same values and priorities. But Ryan wouldn't have married that person.

That's what Ryan and I have in common. We share a heart for the same things, we share values, we both adore Christ. But sadly so much has held us back from pursuing him together. And there's a direct correlation between his parents and this because Ryan's a loving son who wants to "honor his mother and father" but what his parents want for us and those places and times we hear the Lord are just completely opposite. I have realized there is no way to please my ILs and please God at the same time, at least as things have been. But I am hopeful that if we pursue God then they'll see His light in us and be transformed at least in their expectations for us and be happy for us. But I'm okay if they're not.

But Ryan's still torn in two. And it's still hard.

He's told me many times to write something like this. He's told me to be open and "don't worry about what people think" a million times. I've talked about writing something like this and how it might upset his parents and he's told me not to worry about that. So when he called in the middle of me writing this and I told him what I was writing I fully expected him to be my cheerleader. Instead he freaked out on me. Said he's worried it'd upset his parents.

I am so upset because it feels like after six years of marriage we're still here. I was writing this as a way to say hey, this is behind us. We have worked through most of this. I see his parents and I try hard to be myself though it's certainly uncomfortable and unnatural after our history. And when they read into things stuff that doesn't exist, I tell myself as long as I wasn't trying to hurt them and I was honest then I can't do anything if they choose to manufacture complicated lies in their heads instead of just believing the simple truth. But Ryan still feels a burden to refute lies we didn't create, to take responsibility for stress we didn't instigate, to suppress the truth so it doesn't upset them.

Anyway this is why I stopped blogging. And I won't let it stop me anymore.

5 comments:

  1. "For this reason A MAN shall leave his father and mother..." There's a reason it says this in the Bible. Ryan, you need to take your young family and move away from your father and mother, to another city, or country. You are no longer under their rule. You are adults now, and a new family. You need to preserve your own new family. That is your responsibility now. I also moved away from my family and country when I was married, and very nearly if not actually had a nervous breakdown trying to fit in to the culture and to his expectations. And this was WITHOUT involved in-laws! And it was to a culture nowhere near as different as yours. After 7 years, we moved to my country of origin and he suddenly realized a little of what it had been like for me. It was easier for him because I had done it first and was not oblivious to the stresses as he had been. Pamela, I've read your blog for years, though I'm an introvert and I don't know whether I've ever commented. I'm sorry about that! I'm thrilled to read that you are able to now express yourself. Part of the pain of abuse is being alone in it. Please DO NOT delete this post!!! Even if the friends read it and add to the pressure. Delete their comments. You are standing up for yourself and you need to continue. May God bless you all and I will sincerely pray for you and your family. <3 <3 <3

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    1. Thanks so much for the words of support, they mean a ton. And I love your name! It was on our "girl" list. I've forgiven them for all this stuff, but I felt like I needed to be open and "call a spade a spade" because I feel like holding this experience back had made me lose the ability to blog from a vulnerable place. Hopefully that changes going forward.

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  2. Leave and cleave, or else! To be honest your husband sounds abusive. He has totally thrown you under the bus. What are you even getting out of being here? So sorry you had to go through all this.

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    1. This is all in the past. The trip to America mentioned at the end was over three years ago now and I've forgiven all that's mentioned. But I needed to get it out, for me, because I have to felt not being able to be honest about my experiences was inhibiting my ability to write well.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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Thanks so much for comments, they delight me! Please keep your comments civil and while I read every comment, I reserve the right to delete ones that are especially negative. Thanks!

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