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My in-laws are manipulating our children. How do I stop them? | Annalisa Barbieri | Life and style

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I am worried my in-laws are trying to turn my children against me. They are mainly civil on the surface, but they’ve never liked me and I have had years of passive-aggressive comments, in particular from my mother-in-law. My husband and I are often excluded from family gatherings, which are regularly organised when they know we can’t attend.

My husband is a lovely man who views asserting himself with his family as confrontation. It took a long time for us to find success but we are now quite well-off. We come from very humble beginnings and do not brag, but the jealousy from the family has been evident. Every single time we take a holiday, we have to listen to comments about how children don’t like holidays and want to spend time at home instead. It’s purely jealousy, and of course the children love our holidays. I frequently invite my in-laws over and have also invited them to join us on holiday.

Recently my children came home from a family gathering and announced that they no longer want to go on holidays with us, but instead want to stay at home. We asked where this had come from and they got very upset and wouldn’t discuss it.

I am sure the idea was planted by my in-laws. I am worried about what could come next. I don’t want to start interrogating my children, and I am worried that my in-laws will somehow turn them against us. Can you please advise on how to react when my in-laws’ meddling descends to manipulating children?

Years ago, my parents were working nights and left me with a family member who was highly competitive with my mother. When the time came for my parents to collect me, this family member asked me to say to my mother that I didn’t want to go home with her and wanted to stay where I was. It was done expressly to hurt her. I saw this immediately, and I said no. She bribed me with a hanging mobile of dolls she’d made that she knew I coveted. I really wanted it, but I said no. Getting desperate, she offered me the mobile and some money. I said yes. The moment my mother came to get me, I darted through the door to her and showed her my bounty. I was five. I knew I was being manipulated and decided to do it back. She never tried it with me again.

The point of this story is that your children are your children; have faith in them and your parenting. They won’t be turned against you so easily. You are right not to interrogate them, because you don’t want to use them as sounding boards or messengers. Do not criticise their grandparents to them (this is what friends are for) or you will be putting them in an impossible situation. Do not use them as weapons in a fight between grownups: this absolutely destroys children.

Next time they come home with an idea “planted”, respond with lighthearted curiosity and start a conversation. Don’t defend; discuss. For example: “Oh, really? That’s an idea, isn’t it? What would we do if we stayed at home?” I would imagine that, having been listened to, the idea will evaporate. I would also imagine that next time you’re planning a holiday they will be all for it. Remember: this isn’t the big deal for them that it is for you; it’s not imbued with resentment and anger. Next time your in-laws say, “Children prefer staying at home,” say, “Is that what it was like when you were children? Did you go on holiday?” Remember: don’t defend; discuss.

Keep up with organising your own family occasions to suit you, and invite your in-laws. Personally I would go into overdrive with this: it shows willing to the children, and it puts you in control of schedules and the onus on your in-laws to say no.

Remember that your children’s relationship with their grandparents is theirs – not yours. If your in-laws are as manipulative and passive-aggressive as you say, your children will see it eventually all on their own. But also, that’s sad, isn’t it? Because there will be disillusionment and disappointment for your children. I know it’s hard, but I would try to be authentic and protect them by emphasising the good things about their grandparents: how much they love their grandchildren, etc. This will pay dividends in the long run. In so doing you are not acquiescing to your in-laws but protecting your children. And that’s worth it, isn’t it?

Every week Annalisa Barbieri addresses a family-related problem sent in by a reader. If you would like advice from Annalisa on a family matter, please send your problem to [email protected]. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure the discussion remains on the topics raised by the article. Please be aware that there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.


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Cocktail of the week: Shop Cuvée’s clean margarita | The good mixer | Food

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Our margarita doesn’t feature triple sec or orange liqueur, which makes it a cleaner drink more like the ones they have in Mexico. Use a decent white tequila, rather than an aged one – something like Ocho or Tapatio will do the trick nicely – because it suits the drink’s profile much better.

Clean margarita

Serves 1

50ml white tequila
25ml freshly squeezed lime juice
, plus 1 lime wedge to garnish
10ml 2:1 sugar syrup
1 drop orange flower water
(or rose water; optional)

Put the liquids in a shaker with a decent fistful of ice, and shake hard. Pour the whole lot, including the ice, into a rocks glass (salt the rim first, if you like), garnish with the lime wedge and serve.

Max Venning, Shop Cuvée, London N5


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My soulmate married someone else. Am I wasting my life waiting for him? | Life and style

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I live with a man I don’t love. But I once loved a man I met at university. We had a few nice holidays together and cosy meals out. He always paid for everything, which made me feel special. I imagined that I was his soulmate, but he wasn’t one to express his feelings, and my countless cards declaring mine were seldom reciprocated.

We parted, and he married someone else, which hurt. But I was thrilled when he still wanted to meet occasionally. I convinced myself he had rushed into marriage, in need of children and stability. I had a couple of significant boyfriends, but neither asked me to marry him and children never happened for me.

At first, we continued to meet platonically every year. I sent cards via his work. Then, after 10 years of cards but no meet-ups, he wanted to see me again. We kissed and arranged to take things further. A few Travelodges later, and I knew we were meant to be together.

We hatched a plan where I would accompany him on a sporting trip for a week. I spent long days watching him do his sport or reading: I felt slightly used, but the bliss of having him to myself outweighed my misgivings. I allowed him to take naked photos of me, which his wife later found. I thought at that point he was surely mine. But when he called, it was to say it was over between us.

Since that day, two years ago, I have heard nothing. I can only think it is because of the photos and the embarrassment to him. My friends say I have been used, but I can’t accept it. If I could just turn this around, it could be the difference between a wasted life and a perfect one. What should I do?

Your letter – much edited here – both saddened and infuriated me with its millefeuille of excuses you’ve made for this man. There is a simple truth, which is that if someone really wants to be with you, they will be. No distance, or person, or circumstances will stop them. If you could have told yourself this, and believed it, some years ago, you would have spared yourself all this angst.

But we can’t go back, only forward. Please don’t send him any more cards, delete his details from your phone and all other records. Let him go. Look at his actions: they are entirely selfish. Paying for things is not caring deeply for someone; it is being able to afford something and, for a while, he could afford to have you there, as his ego boost. And then his wife found out.

The only real anger you showed in your letter – and yet you must have so much anger towards him – was directed at his wife, who, let’s be clear, has done absolutely nothing wrong. She hasn’t taken your life away; if anything, you have impinged upon hers.

I consulted psychotherapist Rebecca Harris (psychotherapy.org.uk), who said, “The first thing that struck me was that there was something very passive about [your attitude to] your own life.” She also wondered why you were so caught on this man. “Our choice of partner often tells us a lot about how we see ourselves. What did being in a relationship with him tell you about yourself? Deep down, do you believe you deserve to be treated with so little care? Or are you hooked on the idea of the person you could be, if only he would accept you as his partner. And who is that person?”

Harris said that if you could find the answer to this, “You may be able to understand what is missing from your own real life.” We all have better relationships if we go into them as whole people.

Harris advised you to“focus on what you can control, and change that – instead of focusing on what you can’t control. Could it be that the idea of leaving this man behind scares you because it makes you vulnerable to new hurt? There’s safety in what’s already known.” Would you consider therapy? It would really help you, but I understand it’s not always easy to access.

Talk to the man you live with; find out a bit more about yourself. If you’re frustrated at the lack of communication from your ex-married-lover imagine how your actual partner who you live with feels.

“You still have so much life to live,” said Harris. “And you do have the ability to take control of it and change your future, if you could only stop looking to [this man] for your happiness.” Write that on a card, and send it to yourself.

Every week Annalisa Barbieri addresses a family-related problem sent in by a reader. If you would like advice from Annalisa on a family matter, please send your problem to [email protected]. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure the discussion remains on the topics raised by the article. Please be aware that there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.


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Kajal Aggarwal stuns in first picture as a bride

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Telugu cinema’s much-loved actress Kajal Aggarwal tied the knot with beau, Gautam Kitchlu in an intimate wedding held at Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai today. The actress kept her look in wraps until the wedding but shared a glimpse of her bridal look in the form of a black and white image. We found the picture too pretty and thought of sharing the same with our readers, thanks to its sheer beauty.

The image has Kajal sitting calmly before donning her exquisite brocade lehenga that forms the background of the image.

Kajal can be seen looking like a million bucks in white bath robe, the one that is worn by most of the brides right before they get ready for the biggest day of their lives.

The actress is seen sporting the traditional chooda, along with a South Indian headgear and gajra adorning the puffy high bun.

Also, not to miss is the very dark mehendi on her beautiful hands. Well, if the first glimpse of the beautiful bride is so gorgeous we can’t wait to see the entire look of Kajal.

Another picture that is now doing the rounds on the internet has Kajal standing next to hubby, gleaming in a red and gold lehenga.

We loved Kajal’s bridal look for its beauty and simplicity, tell us how did you like it in the comment section below.

Photo: Twitter



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