Burning Fences

We've all heard the terms burning bridges and mending fences. Recently I did something and I'm still confused as to what I did. (Yes, I hear you, now you're confused as well.)

I've bitched and ranted spoken here often about my brother-in-law and his family. In all honesty, he's not that bad of a person, just one of those annoying whiney guys that you really want to bitch-slap except he's twice as big as I am and could probably do me a lot of damage if I pissed him off. He and I go back a long way. As a matter of fact, he and I go back to before I met my husband. I've told the story before, but my BIL (who was single at the time) was dating a girlfriend of mine. He's blonde-haired and blue-eyed and that combination really never did much for me (my apologies to all you blonde-blue people out there – I'm sure it's just 'cause I haven't met YOU yet.) He and my girlfriend would drop comments about his brother from time to time, but I really never paid attention because I really wasn't interested in one like him. Well, fast forward and the Hubs is dark haired, dark eyed, and all god's love shone down and all is right with the world.

As time progressed I realized my girlfriend really was a hard-nosed gold-digging bitch (no, she's no longer my girlfriend) and unfortunately, I was the one who stepped up and told BIL the truth. It hurt, but we became better friends over it. Also, I've told the story over on the Dark Madness about a friend of Hubs' who laid into me one night when we were dating and had reduced me to tears. That night BIL was there for me and made me realize the 'friend' was a jerk and BIL kept me from running off into the night never to see Hubs again.

So, we've got history.

Fast forward again and the years have spun by bringing bitter resentment over petty disagreements, kids doing stupid and criminal things (his, not ours), lack of respect (again, his not ours), and general unhappiness in the greater family unit. It is a strained relationship at best.

Having gone through a divorce myself and being the brunt of nasty and blantently unfair rumors, I have always believed that you will never hear the real truth from either party. You are always going to get the spin of whichever person you are talking to, 'cause, well, it's human nature! Everyone wants to look better than they probably are. I am known to say "you can't know the complete and honest truth unless you are one of the people involved in the situation"… and I stick by that. BIL hasn't always followed my creed and has rushed to judgement on some things – one of those being me. Several years ago some things were said, out loud, to my Hubs and they came back to me. (Silly BIL thinking Hubs wouldn't tell me? Pfft.) Since that time, the family tensions have gotten worse. Oh, we'll tolerate each other and can share space at family events, but there have been times when his pettiness has caused him to go a whole day without saying one word to me. Not one. Of course, me being the stubborn bitch person I can be, refused to say anything until he spoke first. I think the first words spoken that day were "goodbye"…

Over the most recent years I get twinges sometimes of guilt. Guilt that I have let this anger take over and color my husbands' relationship to his family. I don't have any siblings, so who is to say that this back-biting and lack of respect isn't normal for grown brothers? I certainly don't have any good examples. My father has siblings and he rarely speaks to them and my mothers' siblings are spoken to but are really odd people, so I'm not sure if they count. Even my MIL who has tons of siblings isn't really close to any of them and comes off as being 'better' than they are. So, maybe this is all normal and I'm just blowing it out of proportion. Nah. (See the way my mind works? I need to be an only child as the voices in my head couldn't stand to have outside opinions.)

It has recently come out that BIL is considering a divorce. Whoa! After 20-some odd years that one came out of the blue. According to him, it's her… and according to her? Well, we all just play nice and pretend no one knows. How silly is that? They just gave us new "happy family" pictures. Sheesh.

So the guilt, it's getting to me now. I think I should try to make an effort to mend the fences between us. We were friends before, and as Hubs says, I've been through all this divorce stuff and could maybe help him. I bite the bullet and tell Hubs to set it up, before I can change my mind.

A couple of weeks ago I took a long lunch and met him out at our house. I tried to clear the air and be honest about the feelings and the hurts and the things that pissed me off and the things he did right long ago (ironically, he can't even remember that night he says he was too drunk!). I tried carefully to explain our reasoning again for why we didn't want his children on the farm and why we got upset when his son vandalized our daughter's stuff. Why it was so upsetting to us that they didn't listen and nothing was done. I was diplomatic, baby, was I ever. You never saw anyone tap dance so well!

Still? I've come away with this feeling that nothing has changed. If anything, I almost feel like I bared my soul and laid it all out only to have given him more ammunition. To have opened up for more pain, not less. This has given me no sense of relief or closure or put to rest the feelings of irritation that still flow through me when I think of him. I was hoping this would make it all better. I was almost thinking of a Thanksgiving invite for dinner. Almost. I guess maybe I'm not as big of a person as I thought I was.

Have you ever burned fences?