BEL MOONEY: Why am I so envious of my rich and snooty in-laws?


BEL MOONEY: Why am I so envious of my rich and snooty in-laws?

Dear Bel

My husband’s immediate family is very poor but he was raised fairly well and got a top education and job. My background was similar but my parents, who were entrepreneurial, made some money by the time I was in my late teens.

My husband’s family are the opposite and have no money. So I don’t mind that my husband helps them out, as I think this generosity is one of the things I love about him.

But his extended family are very rich. His cousins (all still living at home with their parents in amazing houses) are married with children and high status jobs. They have had wonderful weddings, holidays and birthday parties.

At first, it was nice to be a part of those experiences but, now, it’s starting to wear me down.

My husband’s mum, dad and sister rave about these family members like they are celebrities.

It’s like it is their place to be well-off and our job to be their cheerleaders — but know our place is beneath them.

We are not poor; we just don’t have what they have.

I prefer the simple life anyway but feel sad that I can’t give my children those kinds of parties, experiences and material things.

I am usually happy with life’s small pleasures but, recently, I’ve been finding it hard to view the glass as half full because whenever I see them I am reminded it’s half empty.

It’s turning into a vicious cycle and affecting me mentally.

It doesn’t help that my husband’s mother criticises me in front of her extended family and they all talk about me negatively behind my back. This leaves me feeling rather humiliated whenever we go to these gatherings and makes me nervous.

When I mention this to my husband, he gets annoyed and tells me it’s all in my head.

I’m just feeling frustrated that they think I’m not worth knowing because I can’t do what they can. I also feel that this could be the case of the green-eyed monster and, if it is, how do I put these feelings back in their box? How do I stop feeling sorry for myself?

If you have any advice I would appreciate it. I just want to go back to being a glass half-full person. I like myself better that way.

NEETA

This week Bel speaks to a woman who admits she is envious of her husband's extended family

This week Bel speaks to a woman who admits she is envious of her husband’s extended family

You tell me in your longer letter that you’re aware your worries are ‘minor and stupid’ and apologise for writing.

Yet how many people reading this are ‘guilty’ of feeling envious of other people and perhaps even hating them for having better clothes / a flash car / posh homes and holidays, and so on?

Thought of the day 

I still hadn’t learned the power of words. How, once they have left your mouth, they have a breath and a life of their own. I had yet to realise that you no longer own them. I hadn’t learned that, once you have let them go, the words can then, in fact, become the owner of you.

From The Trouble With Goats And Sheep by Joanna Cannon

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Envy is behind much of the nastiness on social media. Being beautiful and daring to post your picture on Instagram or TikTok is enough to place yourself in the firing line, as many young women have discovered.

No wonder Envy was one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Envy is thus treated as a form of resentment, at its worst a wish to destroy those who are envied, so they can be stopped from possessing anything at all.

That’s what is happening when an actress (for example) receives abuse and death threats — her beauty and success bitterly resented by those who might even feel satisfied to read that she had a breakdown as a result of the persecution.

There’s nothing new in any of this. And now we meet you, Neeta — painfully aware that your family isn’t as rich as extended family members.

Since you judge yourself harshly for your ‘green-eyed monster’ (your email subject line) I certainly will not do so. Your real name indicates you are from a big Asian family, hence the detail about families sharing homes.

You mention ‘children’s birthday parties, our family home, my clothes, handbags and shoes’ as being a source of ‘embarrassment’ because ‘I can’t give my kids those material things’.

Oh Neeta, which do you think your children would prefer — a mum festooned with expensive accessories who just gives them ‘things’, or a loving mother who cuddles them, helps with homework, listens to their every word?

You know what the answer is. So please focus on what you have.

You also know, frankly, that you need to control this envy before it consumes you and turns you into a bitter person.

To know that the glass is always half-full is to acknowledge the love that exists beneath your own roof, to give thanks to all the gods that your husband is kind and your children are healthy, to rejoice in the abundance of the universe which has given you your own life and theirs.

Oh, lucky lady! Stuff ‘handbags’ and value happiness.

Now, how do you know your mother-in-law and all the others in the extended family criticise you behind your back? Could this be a form of projection, because it is you who is criticising them — specifically, their ‘flaunting’ of wealth? If you look glum during social occasions they might wonder what’s up with you, so why not make a vow to enjoy without counting any costs?

Please remember the wisdom of The Bhagavad Gita: ‘It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.’

My dread over dog-hating grandad

Dear Bel

I’ve been with my husband for 30 years and we’ve been blessed with three children. My husband has a good relationship with his father and our two girls love their grandfather, although he is much more judgmental and distant towards our son.

I have always tried hard to get along with him but I am starting to dread his visits. He can be very rude. He has always hated dogs and recently recounted an incident where he purposely hurt a dog which was barking at him.

I was appalled and, to be honest, I don’t want to spend any time in the same room as him. He passed his hatred of dogs on to my husband and this has caused friction within our marriage.

As a child, my dogs filled my life with the greatest joy and unconditional love. Not being able to have a dog has been a source of real sadness because I yearn for my children to experience that love, too.

Now my husband has realised how important this is to me and we are just about to get a puppy! There is mounting excitement and happy dog chatter in our household. But my father-in-law is about to visit and I know he will try to talk my husband out of it.

He has done this before. I resent this meddling in our family life and I am nervous that he may not even be kind to our little pet. How can I overcome my feelings of dread? How do I handle a new puppy and a grandfather who hates dogs?

ELSA

Whenever I write about dogs in this column I get an angry email from a man called G who is a real dog-hater, too. (Honestly, I wish he’d go and bury his bone…).

Obviously people are entitled to their feelings and opinions, and plenty of people hate those beautiful bird-killers, cats. But why not try to understand why so many people are devoted to their animal companions — who can, after all, save lives?

   

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

Since you admit your husband also hates dogs I must express concern about the decision to get a puppy. There are so many rescue dogs (often house-trained) needing homes that I really do wish people would think of this instead of buying a puppy. Wee (and worse) on carpets is not likely to encourage your husband to change his mind.

Also, make very sure you keep all shoes out of the way of those tiny teeth.

And I hope you are at home all day to train the pup or family harmony could be damaged and that would be unfair on the animal.

You ask ‘how do I handle a new puppy’ — and if by now the pup has arrived I urge you to take training seriously and devote as much time as possible to the important task. It will be down to you!

But I hope you make it clear to your husband that now you have decided as a family to get a dog, that animal requires his tolerance — and he must request the same quality from his father

It will be essential to keep distance between the new pet and the grandfather for now — and if that means being sure the little one is securely ‘caged’ during the visit (apart from walks and training times, of course), then so be it. You may not be fond of your father-in-law, yet he has his place within the family and that is something you must continue to live with, because there is no choice.

You need to be busy and efficient while he visits, keep the pup well away from him, and prime your daughters to let him know just how happy the new addition to the family has made them. You can’t soft-soap him but the girls can.

Plenty of people have in-laws who drive them mad, but that’s family life — so your only choice is to find your own strategies for dealing with your feelings about him and making sure your husband’s loyalty is, first and foremost, to you. And to your children. And to the latest family member, too.

And finally… It’s never too late to get moving

Halfway through the year, I’m looking back on resolutions. It’s called taking stock and worth doing, because I don’t believe in being ‘easy’ on myself. My NY resolutions are the same year on year — and we’ll come to them in a minute.

Contact Bel 

Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email [email protected]

Names are changed to protect identities. 

Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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But first to revisit my birthday vow last October, which reads like this: ‘I make few concessions to reaching 75, other than to tone down my home-applied hair colour — having decided I was starting to resemble a carrot past its sell-by date’.

Well, the auburn is back because I decided light brown was too dull, and I reckon you can do what you want at any age. I no longer wear teetering heels (such a shame) because of hip problems, but flats or block heels feel just as good.

Who cares what I’m wearing or my hair colour anyway? As you get older you want to please yourself but for me, making an effort should never stop.

Which brings me on to those New Year resolutions. Each year I vow to cut down on alcohol and take more exercise — and I’ve done it!

Believe me, I still like a drink (or three!) and regular readers might remember last week’s confession about sending an angry, opinionated text after ‘a few drinks’. No pedestal for me.

But in general I have cut down, and can achieve two (or even a miraculous three) nights without a vodka and tonic.

All the money saved on clothes and makeup this year (just one mascara and one simple summer dress bought since January) I spend on exercise. Each Tuesday I have a one-to-one session with a personal trainer called Jenny, and each Thursday it’s personal Pilates (at home) with Juliet. What would I do without them?

I love lifting weights and boxing in the gym, and the Pilates stretches are essential for flexibility. A couple of times a week I dance around at home with weights.

Why not go for it? It’s never too late to start moving.

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