Question

My in-laws have blocked me on social media. They blocked me over three years ago because of a misunderstanding. We have since cleared up the misunderstanding, but they still continue to block me on all social media. Even though it hurts my feelings, I respect that they have the right to block me. It has left me feeling unwelcome, unwanted, and mistreated by people who I believe should be the most welcoming, loving, and accepting. I ignored the blocking for three years, and never said a word about it. I wanted to keep the peace, but deep down it bothered me. It’s uncomfortable for me to be around them when they treat me this way, but I still tried to attend all family gatherings even though I felt excluded. An opportunity presented itself a few months ago for me to ask why they continue blocking me. They answered that I post too many pictures of my family (my husband and kids) spending time with other family members and they are sick of seeing that. I immediately apologized to them and told them that I never meant to hurt their feelings by posting pictures of us spending time with other family members. They still continue to block. I am at loss at how to respond to this behavior. Please help!

Answer

Being excluded in your own family is a deeply painful experience. While I don’t know the full backstory, it’s clear you’re seeking a connection with your in-laws and want there to be peace. As you can probably guess, this issue is less about social media and more about unresolved issues they’re not ready to address.

It is apparent that you are motivated to experience family closeness, but true unity won’t happen until they’re motivated too. This is a challenging reality to accept, but your mental health and personal peace depend on it. Their strong reaction to your social media posts and their choice to cut you out of their lives isn’t about you, it’s about them. You asked them about the blocking, they told you, and now it’s your job to accept their reality and carry on with your life.

If you spend the rest of your life trying to hustle for their love by filtering every photograph and family memory through the lens of their approval, you’ll run yourself ragged. Social media already invites enough unwanted insecurity and personal scrutiny. There’s no need to pile on additional misery by adding this additional layer of extended family pressure by obsessing about what to post.

If they blocked you to punish you, then that’s clearly an unhelpful way to communicate their disapproval. If, on the other hand, they were struggling with their own relationship insecurities and needed space to better cope with their strong feelings, then they’ve chosen the way that works best for them. Please remember that their way of coping doesn’t have to work for you. Likewise, your way of responding to their boundary may not work for them. These boundary collisions are important to close relationships and can create temporary impasses that can lead to deeper connections if they’re handled with mutual respect and a desire to find a way back to each other.

However, if they’re not ready for that opportunity to reconnect and choose to stay in an impasse, then you have to decide what personal response feels the healthiest to you. Since they’re not ready to talk about their personal struggles with you and how you spend your family time, you get to decide how you want to relate to them. Instead of trying to earn their love and affection by becoming a performance, find ways to relate to them in ways that preserve your peace.

This may change how you spend time with them, what you talk about with them, and how much you let them into your life. If this bothers them, they can continue to block you more out of their life, or they can move toward you and have a mature conversation about building a better connection. If you scramble to earn their love, you’ll never feel secure with them and true unity with them will be impossible. They have an equal responsibility to show up in this relationship by respectfully repairing damaged areas and collaborating to find better ways of connecting to each other.

If they choose not to have these conversations with you and insist on blocking and avoiding any type of relationship repair, then you still get to decide how you’ll respond. You can honor both their boundary and your own need for personal dignity. There is more work to be done on this relationship and pretending things are resolved by going along to get along isn’t going to leave either party feeling settled.

They clearly expected something different in your relationship with them, but protesting is only the first step in communicating that something isn’t working for them. If they aren’t ready to take it to the next level and communicate more clearly and ask for what they need, you’ll only be able to guess. And, by the way, I don’t recommend mind-reading to fix relationships!

In recognizing their struggle, you can invite them to join you in creating a better relationship. You don’t need to apologize for living your life the way you’re living it. It works for you and your family and they can learn to adjust. Likewise, they don’t need to apologize for deciding who they follow on social media. You can learn to adjust to their boundary as well.

If it’s important to include them in your life, then there are plenty of ways to do this that don’t require social media. Even if face-to-face gatherings are painful for you, you can still send occasional pictures and updates through the mail.

You and your family are important to them, otherwise they wouldn’t be in so much pain. They just don’t know how to work through difficult feelings and find healthy solutions. It’s not your job to teach them how to do this, but you can have compassion for their struggle and stop wearing yourself out to make this work.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]

Repairing broken trust is complicated. I’ve broken down the critical steps to rebuilding trust in my brand-new online course, “Trust Building Bootcamp.” This course is designed to help you create conditions where trust can be restored in your betrayed marriage. I’m also including ongoing live support from me through monthly webinars to help you apply the things you’re learning. Visit https://www.trustbuildingacademy.com/bootcamp to learn more and sign up for instant access. Meridian Magazine readers can receive 20% off of this course by entering the discount code MERIDIAN at checkout.

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples, pornography/sexual addiction, betrayal trauma, and infidelity. He is the founder of LifeStar of St. George, Utah (www.lifestarstgeorge.com) and Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com). Geoff is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, the host of the Illuminate podcast, and creates online relationship courses available on his website www.geoffsteurer.com. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCc05gV4t9A0B8-TDT1EfWhQ?view_as=subscriber
Website: www.geoffsteurer.com 
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT
Instagram: @geoffsteurer