There is a fine line that exists between being a family member and family member by marriage who is also a therapist. That line should NEVER be crossed. I have kids, they have issues, I sometimes talk to my family and friends about the situations. Most days the issues we face are not all that worrisome, some days they are enough to send me through the roof.
Facebook is no help! I have a kid who uses it and as she is now old enough to say what she wants, I cannot regulate her anymore. Using FB as a Bitchin' Spot is OK, if you are sure that what you are saying will be taken in stride by those you are "friends" with. Sometimes however, a single post here and a single post there over time can add up to misunderstanding by a person who isn't as connected to your daily life as your friends.
Generally my kids are good kids. Sometimes I want to hide behind an anonymous mask and pretend I don't know them! What parent doesn't feel this way on occasion? If you don't you seriously need to bottle, package, write a cookbook or sell some sort of friggin instruction manual to the rest of us mortals, because you are obviously a god! Good or bad, I know the general clockworks of my kids and I know when the things they say are SERIOUS or just a means of looking for love, attention (be it positive or negative), a pick-me-up etc... So, when I am concerned I try to talk to them, seek advice to help them, give advice to help them or just find an ear to bitch about them in order that we can all work through whatever it is. Maybe not the perfect system, but we get through the days.
Enter the relative, by marriage, who is not necessarily known for being well-loved by some in the clan. Said relative is a person who has made many of us feel unwelcome, unloved, unnecessary, and unappreciated many times and many ways over the years. They are not winning any favors for themselves this way. I generally find the best way to deal with this person is to ignore them unless absolutely necessary. Don't get me wrong, I do not go to any lengths to be hurtful or disrespectful to them, it is more a self-protection mechanism. Because I have developed this self-protection mechanism, I am often told by the spouse of said relative that this person has felt slighted or got their feelings hurt in some way or is feeling left out. To which I say genuinely, I am sorry no harm intended. HOWEVER, I do not feel it necessary to molly-coddle the person who has caused me enough anxiety to last a lifetime. For the most part, I no longer fall prey to the guilt-trip my Catholic when it suits them to be family is so adept at issuing.
So, back to FB! My kid writes this and that. We talk, IM, text whatever. She did something stupid, I talked to some family about it because I was upset about it. She writes more this and that on FB and sometimes uses quotes to say stuff... The relative, who is FB friends with my kid (NOT with me), who is far removed from our lives both emotionally and physically and has said they will NEVER come to visit us as long as we live in the Mid-West, decides to put all the various comments, statements, musings, the report of stupidity (heard about via the spouse NOT me), and more comments together and uses their powers as a therapist to deduce that my kid is in dire straits and opts to send her an unsolicited e-mail. While is was not an unkind e-mail, it had the exact opposite effect that therapist relative was looking for. After all, as my kid said to me, WTF? Where does this person get this stuff from and why does this person think it is appropriate to say stuff when they are not here and have NO CLUE what is really happening. Did this person think to contact me and ask what was going on? NO! Did this person consider that maybe it would not be appreciated when they wrote this message? NO!
I am of the opinion that therapist relative attaches more importance to their self than do the rest of us. I am also of the opinion that you do not just stick your nose into the middle of something and not check into it FIRST! Furthermore, I am of the opinion that you do not interfere and then insist your spouse call me to find out what is going on AFTER you have already sent your interfering message. So, when therapist's spouse called me, I was unaware that the e-mail had been sent, until I decided to read my e-mail while I was being lectured about what therapist had determined by reading FB status'. Then I suddenly got a better understanding, because -- lo and behold -- my daughter had forwarded me the message and asked me why therapist relative felt compelled to send it in the first place...
When kids say stuff on the FB, they are usually looking for some kind of back-up from their friends. Often they want them to give them a pat on the back and say I love you no matter what. Usually I am told not to read too much into the statements made, because they often reflect a mood that came and went as fast as the last breeze. Therapist has a college-age daughter as well. TOTALLY different personality and completely different home-life/background than my kid. Even so, one would think that therapist relative and spouse would recognize the difference between the kid who did something stupid, got in trouble with mommy and daddy, and is looking to be given a boost by pals, vs a kid who is ready to do something stupid or has lost their self-esteem. OH WAIT, you need to be actively in their life to be able to see, know and understand these things!
Needless to say, I had to spend about an hour on the phone pulling the therapist relative's spouse down off their high horse and explaining that my kid was not headed for a disaster, though sometimes she acts like a complete ding-dong -- and uhm who doesn't? I also had to explain that therapist relative's would most likely not receive a reply to their message, because 1) my kid had no idea what to say to it and 2) it was not something she really could respond to and be nice -- based on her feelings from receiving it.
So, once again the spouse was reminded that therapist relative needs to analyze the patients that they are paid to analyze and NOT to analyze family members, especially when you are too far removed to truly know what you are dealing with. Wait, back up... Did I say once again? I think I did... Hmmmm, why is that, you ask? Well, because this has happened several times over the years and frankly I am sick of it. If you want to be a family member with standing, you really need to be more like a family member and less like someone who dictates how the rest of us are supposed to conform.
I LOVE therapist relative's spouse. That is a hard won feeling over many years, because that relative and I have had a rocky time of it for many years -- beginning long before therapist relative was in our lives. I respect the fact that they are married, have to live with each other and that there is a certain dynamic to every marriage that no one else can truly understand. I also understand that if you say and do hurtful things behind your spouse's back to their blood relatives, no matter how long ago, they are not likely to be forgotten, and less likely to be forgiven.
After all this -- I had to have a chat with my daughter about the reality that the things you say on FB are too easily misconstrued. It may seem like no big deal to say this one day and that the next, BUT apparently it is. It is wise to be careful, and even more important, thoughtful about the things we say publicly. Even after this, I suspect it will still be years before the concept that what you say on the Internet can and quite likely will come back to you later. Be mindful of how you say what you say to protect both yourself and others. Don't worry though... I will still bitch right here when the need arises.
Gotta LOVE family... RIGHT???