Toxic In-law | Job Switching | Cutting People Some Slack

The Toxic In-Law

Dear Micah,

My family is at odds and I think my sister-in-law is to blame for most of our inner fighting.  Any time we have a rift somewhere in the family, you can bet it is traceable back to her.  Most recently she caused a big ruckus between my brother, my other sister, and my parents.  My sister,  I’ll call Jackie, mentioned to me that her son doesn’t like to spend the night with our parents because our father gets really cranky when he’s watching a ball game and her son interrupts or distracts him.  Not a big deal, lots of men get caught up in ball games.  We’ve always known that you don’t mess with dad when he’s watching a game.  My nephew must have bothered him one too many times and dad probably yelled at him.  Whatever happened, Jackie’s son doesn’t want to spend the night there anymore.

I casually mentioned to my sister-in-law, I’ll call her Lara, that Jackie’s son didn’t want to go back over there because of Dad’s temper with the games.  Lara must have told my brother a more exaggerated version of this tale because now he refuses to allow his kids to visit our parents and he told our mother it is because of Dad’s violent temper.  He went further and said all of the grandchildren are scared of him and unsafe in his company.  He also told Mom she was a terrible grandmother for allowing her grandchildren to be victimized by Dad.

Then when the s**t hit the fan, my name was tossed in as one of the ones making the allegations.  My only involvement was the off-hand comment to Lara about what Jackie said.  Lara took the comment and turned it into domestic violence making Dad out to be a monster.  She does this kind of stuff all the time.  In little ways she twists things around and causes friction.  I think she’s trying to separate my brother from his family so he will spend more time with hers.  Of course now my father is hurt.  Mother is mad at me.  Jackie is angry that I told Lara about the whole thing in the first place and my brother thinks WE are all toxic when it’s his wife that is the most toxic person we know.  Help me!  What do I do to expose this little witch for what she is?



Dear Fuming,

I believe you win the dramatic family award for the month.  That is some serious crap right there.  As I read your email I found myself getting angry because I have known some Laras in my time, and I know exactly how easily they can twist and morph true events into a whole new dramatic thing.  It is very possible that she is doing all of this purposefully in order to drive a wedge between your family and her husband.  It is also possible that she’s just a drama queen that inadvertently stirs up trouble without actually meaning to do harm.

Either way, that would make her a toxic person whether she means to be or not.  When in-laws enter the picture, you have to be sure what kind of person they are if you are going to forge a positive relationship with them.  Are they the type who works to unite a family or to separate one?  I  got very lucky in the sister-in-law department.  My brother’s wife is a family uniter, not a separator.  Unfortunately, you do not seem to have been so lucky.

The first thing you have to understand when dealing with a person like Lara is that you can no longer be yourself with her.  You have to remain guarded and careful at all times.  Anything you say can and will be used against you when she retells what you’ve told her.  We all like gossip.  Gossip is fun and gossip can unite people in the sharing of funny stories about other people.  However, there are some people you just cannot gossip with.  Lara is one of those.

When you shared the fact that your nephew doesn’t like to stay over at your father’s house anymore because your father hurt his feelings by yelling at him during a game—that was gossip.  Again, you cannot tell Lara gossip.  I don’t think you meant harm.  I don’t think you betrayed Jackie in any way by telling the story.  It was a true story.  You didn’t make it up.  You also weren’t telling it to the lady in the checkout line at Publix, you told your brother’s wife.  She is a member of the same family and it kind of concerned her, too, if she has kids that stay with grandpa.

You’ve heard the phrase “never tell tales out of school.” Well, I think in this situation you were perfectly fine to tell this tale.  This tale wasn’t out of school.  This tale remained in school.  It was told to a family member about a family member and I personally think it wasn’t that big of a deal IF you are dealing with rational people. Unfortunately, if Lara is a toxic person, then she  isn’t rational.  She is a dramatic person who tends to separate people, not unite them.  So your telling her that tale gave her a loaded gun to aim at her father-in-law.  She got your brother riled up, and perhaps she exaggerated some of what you told her.  Maybe she didn’t.  That’s a possibility that you are not considering.

Maybe your brother feels like he was damaged mentally from your father’s sports tirades as a kid and now he’s fearful of that happening to his own children.  Perhaps Lara didn’t exaggerate the story in any way. It’s possible the story all on its own was enough to cause his reaction.  Your father may be a wonderful man, and he just had one little moment of temper that embarrassed his grandson, making him feel weird about visiting.  Or, maybe your father isn’t very good around kids at any time, and his grandchildren don’t like him.  I don’t know which it is, only you guys can answer that one.

It kind of sounds like your brother has decided it’s the latter.  Something makes me want to say that a man wouldn’t make such declarations to his parents based solely on hearsay.  I want to think that he has his own point of view and it’s being considered in his reaction to this tale.  You need to talk to your brother and ask him yourself why he came to this conclusion.  Tell him exactly what you told Lara and see if it matches what she told him.  Do not try to tell him that she stirs things up or that she is a troublemaker.  He will always take her side and then the rift will grow larger.  If she is causing the trouble, he has to learn that for himself.  If this whole situation was caused by Lara’s exaggerations, then it should pass by within time.  If Lara is anything like the Laras that I have known, a new drama will pop up that overshadows this one, and all of the energy being put into this situation will be sucked out to fuel the new situation.

In the meantime, watch how you communicate with Lara.  Do not give her ammunition to blast the family anymore.  And if touchy situations occur, get a small concealable recorder and record your conversations with Lara just in case you need to prove something was exaggerated later.  And have a talk with Dad.  All of this actually began with him.  If he hadn’t acted like an idiot during a game, none of this would be happening.  Life is full of endless amounts of football games, baseball games, basketball, soccer, hockey, blah blah blah.  Games never end, there is always another coming on.  But children and grandchildren are only young once and only want to cling to you and be with you for a brief time in their lives.  A stupid game is not more important than spending time with children.  It’s certainly not worth scarring them over.  I bet when your father is lying on his deathbed thinking back on his life, he isn’t going to be thinking about that damn game.  But it’s quite possible now that your nephew will always think of that game whenever he remembers your father because of the horrible memories he has of being yelled at because of it.


Job Switching

Dear Micah,

I am thinking about switching jobs but don’t know if I should.  What do you think?



Dear VH,

Considering that you have given me absolutely no details about what you do, why you’re doing it, where you work, why you are thinking about leaving, where you’ll move to and why you’d consider moving there, I can honestly say I don’t care.  So email me back with details and maybe I will; maybe I can give some advice then.


This isn’t an “Ask Micah” question.  This is more of a here is Micah’s opinion.  Because you don’t get enough of that, right?  At the end of 2013 I was meeting with B-Metro’s wonderful editor, Joe O’Donnell, and we were discussing the column; he thought it might be a nice addition to add in little personal opinion/stories of mine to the column sometimes.  This sounded great to me because A)  I love to rant, B)  I love to tell a pointless story, and C)  Some months I come up a question or two short and have to send out Facebook requests for one!  LET THAT BE A NOTE readers, send me your questions!  I need four a month and sometimes I only get two or three!  It gets tiring asking the girl at the tanning bed if she has any problems I can write about.  Anyway, from now on I will share a little aside with you from time to time.  Here it goes…


Cutting People Some Slack

A few weeks ago I was shopping in the grocery store, and I saw a man accidentally tap a woman’s buggy.  The man immediately said, “Oh I’m sorry.” The woman replied, “Well, just be more careful.”  The man walked off and the woman continued shopping and I stood there thinking to myself how I wanted to ram that woman’s buggy with mine until I wedged her into the shelves. Her reaction to that man was so uncalled for.  He had apologized.  It was an accident.  There was no need to be rude after.  Her response should have been, “Oh that’s all right” or “Don’t worry about it.”

A week or so ago, I had an accident of my own when I hit another car.  I had been stopped in a median looking right to see when traffic was clear.  There was a car to my left also in the median waiting to turn the opposite direction behind me.  When my side was clear to go I took off, crashing right into the side of the car that was still beside me.  I failed to look back to see if he was gone yet or not.  The whole accident was totally my fault.  I immediately got out of the car, (which wasn’t easy because I had jammed my door shut and had to get out Dukes of Hazzard style–you must be a certain age to understand that reference).  I told the man I hit how sorry I was.  The man’s response to me? “Accidents happen.” I just hit this man with my car, took up an hour of his time filing a police report and talking on the phone with my insurance company, and he was gracious and polite the entire time.  Yet, a man taps a buggy accidentally and the person responds with rudeness.

It all just made me think of how nicer the world would be if we all cut each other some slack.  Most things aren’t a big deal, even a little fender bender.  So what if the waitress hasn’t refilled your tea fast enough?  You aren’t really going to die from that.  Does it matter that the dry cleaner lost your black pair of pants?  You can get another pair of black pants.  So what if your co-worker runs ten minutes late every day?  If it isn’t bothering her boss it shouldn’t bother you.  I think if we all just gave each other a break on the small stuff, we would be in much better spirits to handle the big stuff that comes our way.


If you have a question you’d like to ask Micah, please email it to [email protected].  Questions may appear online or in print in B-Metro Magazine.

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