Dear Carolyn: My husband of 16 years and I are in the process of getting divorced. For the sake of our kids, I remain cordial with him and his mother. She is, after all, their grandmother. She and I do not communicate often, and when we do it is via private message on social media.
The entire time we were together, my mother-in-law called me a nickname she made up, and it has always driven me crazy. During our years together, I had asked my husband several times to speak with her to express my preference for being called by my name. He refused, telling me he did not want to hurt her feelings. Keep in mind neither of them likes open communication when it comes to dealing with life’s much bigger problems.
I didn’t speak up because she would have taken it the wrong way, and gone straight to her son to complain and express her hurt feelings (same scenario has happened before). So, this nickname was never addressed during our time together.
Fast-forward to now, I have zero desire to have a relationship with her, and we rarely talk; if we do, it is about my children that I am now raising completely alone. My mother-in-law continues to call me this nickname, even sending packages addressed this way.
No Nickname Please
The history you’ve laid out here to explain why this nickname outlived your marriage also does a fine job of explaining why it’s so important that you speak up now.
Yes, you were outnumbered by non-communicators.
But now it’s fair to ask: How has that worked for you? You’re getting divorced and your mother-in-law still drives you nuts.
Again – your going silent on this was a coping strategy, I understand that. I’m just saying that, since the marriage you were trying to self-preserve your way through is now over, you have a natural opportunity to find a strategy that makes more sense.
Starting with: “Just so you know, Ex Husband, I’m going to talk to your mom about Nickname. I figure you’ll hear about it from her so I wanted to prepare you. I realize now that by not speaking up directly, years ago, I basically set her up to annoy me, and that wasn’t fair.
“Anyway, I’m going to right that wrong now and try to fix things with my kids’ grandma.”
And then you do just that – fix it now, in person or on the phone with your mother-in-law – NOT through social media.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.