a lot of us here struggle with dealing with the resentment and anger that accompanies our interaction with the ILs. even those of us who cut them off spend years obsessing, churning, dealing with our feelings - towards them, towards our spouse who tried to excuse, justify or ignore their abuse.

it's hard to stop thinking about the past which continues to influence and even define how we interact with out spouse and our ILs (if we continue to interact with them).

we know that we need to
1. forgive ourselves for letting them abuse us for so long.
2. forgive them - as in "let it go" and not dwell over it, for our own sakes.

easier said and done. though my ILs were cut off for years, i would continue to remember and resent - on a daily basis - how they treated me and my DH.

whenever he interacted with them, it would bring all those memories back. DH's defense mechanism was to simply forget all the obnoxious things they do and say. that's how he copes with it. for me, it was hard to forget or forgive.

on the odd occasion that i would interact with them when they visited us (every three years or so), they would do something nasty and i would simmer and stew about it for the next three years. why did MIL say 'x'? why did FIL do 'y'? how should i have responded? i knew what to expect from them so why am i surprised or angry? what did they mean? why didn't DH ask them to leave? bug-watching helps to some extent, but not entirely. in the end, you are still coming to terms with that unsettling feeling of being violated that is the norm around toxic people.

this time, though, it was different. i visited my country of birth for a month. i spent two hours around the ILs in a restaurant with ten other people. they were forced to watch what they said and did as "image" is paramount to them and the people i was with are those they would try to impress. DH and i did not discuss them at all - before, during or after the trip.

now, that i am back (and haven't interacted with them since or plan to), all the anger and resentment i harboured over 12 years has gone. just disappeared. when i think of them (only when i visit this site to see how some of the folks here are doing), i feel nothing. i feel liberated and as if i truly "let go".

so what changed this time?

a few things.

- i gave them no opportunity to be mean to me. i have no idea if they were mean to my DH in my absence 'cos i refuse to discuss them and he chooses to interact with them, so it's his problem. this was the first time i ever interacted with them that i came back without wondering why did s/he do /say this or that?

- i took my power back by refusing to explain why i wasn't visiting their house or staying with them. i spent two hours with them because i was meeting other relatives of my DH and they tagged along. i interacted with them on my own terms.

i had never planned to meet them at all, but i'm glad i did because this interaction gave me CLOSURE. i have been able to truly "let go". i try to respond to some posts here where someone talks about an experience with their ILs which is similar to mine, but i find that i cannot even muster the sense of indignation i used to have to talk about it. i honestly feel distanced from it - as if it happened to someone else.

so for those of my friends here who are where i was three months ago - trying to "let go" but not succeeding in the true sense of the word, the reason you can't do it is not because you "hold grudges" or are incapable of forgiveness (as my MIL told me when she "stooped to apologise".)

the reason you can't do it is because you haven't received CLOSURE.

according to wikipedia:
"Closure or need for closure are psychological terms that describe the desire or need individuals have for information that will allow them to conclude an issue that had previously been clouded in ambiguity and uncertainty. Upon reaching this conclusion, they are now able to attain a state of epistemic "closure"."

i received closure because
- i set my terms down to DH. i would 100% be in charge of deciding whether i would interact with them or not. (those with children may find this more difficult to do.)

- i had an interaction with them that did not allow them the opportunity to be nasty to me or my DH. if they had tried, i would have told them what i thought and left. this time when i spent two hours around the ILs (i spent most of the time talking to other people), i was absolutely calm 'cos if they started something, i was prepared to let them have it with both barrels and they probably knew it too. they were more nervous than i was.

- DH had no opportunity to downplay their behaviour. and i'm back to putting them on extinction mode. i don't discuss them with him ever and he is smart enough to realise and ACCEPT that i don't plan to interact with them, at least not for the next few years. we have nothing to argue about.

- hence, i have nothing to stew over for the next three or ten years.

- i realised that i could let go, not because of some problem with me, but because you can forgive yourself and others only when you remove yourself from the abuse and let them know that you are not going to put up with it.

"letting go" requires an end to the abuse, an end to the enabling of the abuse by FMs or your spouse and the ability to be around the abuser in a position of power, where you feel able to defend yourself if they start. as long as your last interaction with involved stress or discomfort, "letting go" is difficult.
at least from my experience,

- until the power switch happens and you take back control of who you are around and on what terms,
- unless the abuse stops or your spouse puts his/her foot down and takes your side
- or you divorce him/her,

it will not happen.