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Recon1342 Dork
11/22/20 11:13 p.m.

TL;DR- My wife's family are shiny happy people who refuse to believe that their daughter is Deaf and that ASL is a legitimate language. How do I foster understanding without a blunt object?



As many of you know, my wife is Deaf which started at age 4. . She was raised in the hearing world, but her hearing has been in continual decline since I've known her (nearly 25 years, but married for 19). She is relying more and more on ASL to communicate, which is easier for her than lip reading or trying to piece conversations together. She does retain some hearing, but it is, for all intents and purposes, gone. She'll hear you if you speak loudly in a quiet room with only you and her... in a loud environment? Forget it. 

Now that you know the background, let me introduce you to the problem- her family. To us, family is important. We are closely knit (her parents and 3 of her five siblings all live in the same town, along with us), and we help each other out with watching kids, or taking mom to appointments, or whatever. We also frequently spend Sunday afternoons together and have dinner as one big family.

Big family= loud environment... it's impossible for my wife to follow any conversations. To that end, we ( her and I) began to sign more so she could follow along. Nope, bad idea. If her family can't understand it, then we are "keeping them out of the loop" and "being disrespectful ", or  "talking about them". I finally blew up a few months ago when a deaf friend called her while we were at mom's house. Everybody else was surfing the web or whatever on their phones, so my wife answered (video calls are awesome if you are deaf) and began "speaking" with Keith. Apparently this was also a bad idea. Lots of angry looks and a comment from mom- "why don't you talk out loud so we can understand? It's rude to speak in a foreign language in front of other people!"

I blew a gasket. My wife went outside, and I proceeded to rip the whole family a new one. (That was in June; apparently they are still mad about it.)

Tonight was round two, when several members of the family were texting back and forth across the living room. My wife simply asked what was going on, only to have her sister gesture wildly and say texting is no different than signing.

My wife is a beautiful soul who doesn't want to make waves, but this denigrating behavior is ridiculous. She's not any less of a person simply because she cannot hear; yet that is exactly how she is treated if she tries to communicate her way. 

How do I go about fixing this? I'm at my wits' end and I'm ready to resort to a baseball bat. Nothing else has worked, and her parents act offended every time I try to reasonably discuss things. 

if you've read this far, thank you. I'm sorry for the rant, but I don't know what else to do.



Appleseed MegaDork
11/22/20 11:25 p.m.

I don't have a good answer. I'm hard of hearing. All my life. I can't imagine how frustrating is is for the both of you. To me, it smacks of a reluctance to learn a language. A fear of change. No one chooses to be deaf. But you can choose to ostracize your daughter . 

The spiteful me says to write down responses to things on a 3x5 card-as-small-as-humanly-possible. When the complaints start coming that they can't read it, casually remind them that that is what you are doing to me (her.)

Not a good solution.

The only other thing I can think of is to stop contact. It will be hell. But 4, 6, 12 of not seeing seeing or hearing from her might be enough time to let it sink in the this is not a choice, but something very, very real.

There has to be a better way.

Antihero (Forum Supporter)
Antihero (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
11/22/20 11:31 p.m.

For starters I would say that you don't really have a tight knit family, you have family that's close by. If they don't understand why she needs ASL, they don't like, love, or respect her.


It's an irrational argument and you can't use reason to solve something that lacks reason. IMO you have 3 options:


1. Do what you are doing and give zero berkeleys about their feelings. Why exactly is their opinion more important than your actual needs? Time to be a shiny happy person IMO


2. Cut then out totally. Seriously......I don't get "tight knit" family from this. I get " we would like to be a tight knit family" from this. Knowing what you actually have is usually much much better than knowing what you wish you have.


3. Continue on as it is now and try the get along. I don't recommend this because it's obvious that it's causing misery and that will probably continue.


I don't envy you and wish you the best of luck. I can say that every time I cut out people like this I am immensely happier, life is too short and this has been with family too.

Dieselboss15 Reader
11/22/20 11:50 p.m.

In reply to Recon1342 :

start being a shiny happy person and tell them to learn asl. it's a PITA but worth it. i have a deaf friend and we can mostly communicate by lipread but sometimes out of the way words need asl. second what antihero said

Dieselboss15 Reader
11/22/20 11:51 p.m.

and also, lip reading is a bigger pita than asl

Mr_Asa SuperDork
11/23/20 12:04 a.m.

Sometimes people don't respond except to a baseball bat.

Not sure what the solution is, but a friend once told me "you're supposed to love your family, no one ever said you had to like them" and that helps get me through when I cut someone off even temporarily

slowbird SuperDork
11/23/20 12:26 a.m.

Yeah, if they are going to continue being shiny happy people to their daughter/sister like that, I think it'd be best for both her and you to cut contact with them, at least long enough to let them know how big of shiny happy people they are.

John Welsh (Moderate Supporter)
John Welsh (Moderate Supporter) Mod Squad
11/23/20 5:20 a.m.

Maybe best for a day about your wife (like her birthday) and not Thanksgiving. 

Invite them all to your place and upon entry hand them all a set of shooting style ear muffs.  Allow them to stay as long as possible but they must keep on the muffs at all time. 

See how quickly they leave.

Try to incorporate these muffs into every gathering. 

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/23/20 5:46 a.m.

You don't. Sorry, I know that's not the answer you're looking for, but multiple experiences have taught me that blood doesn't equal family. 

As much as I know it hurts, these events paint a clear picture that they truly don't give a berkeley about her because they're too self-absorbed. 

matthewmcl (Forum Supporter)
matthewmcl (Forum Supporter) Reader
11/23/20 5:59 a.m.

I think you are doing the right thing with expecting them to learn ASL, even if they resent it.

1. Recognize (as you already have) that they are being shiny happy people and are valuing their own convenience over your wife.

2. Recognize that you are being accommodating to them not as a means of valuing them, but as a means of valuing your wife.

3. Keep up with the plan of signing to them.  Just because they balked the first time, doesn't mean they can't soften to it.  Repetition is the mental version of the baseball bat. Somewhere they need to understand that they need to leave their own comfort at your door. Follow the rule that if they are in your house, they will sign. If they need to text to ask you something, they can, but only if your wife is also included in the text.

You cannot convince a shiny happy person to stop being a shiny happy person with any civilized means. Even then, you just force them to hide it. God can change them, but that is about it. While in your house, treat them with all of the respect that they give your wife.

dropstep UberDork
11/23/20 6:37 a.m.

Quit going too family gatherings. My wife's stepdad is a bag of dicks who always has to be right and argues about everything. After my wife was diagnosed with chrones disease we had issues with him argueing that her diet was bullE36 M3 and she could eat what everyone else did. We didn't go over for 4 years. Now he makes her chicken and shuts the hell up about it 

ddavidv PowerDork
11/23/20 7:07 a.m.

If these people weren't blood relatives would you even waste time on them?

Family sometimes are just Shiny Happy People. The problem is theirs, not yours. Any time they start being disrespectful it's time to leave. Eventually they'll get the picture. Whether they care enough to change their behavior or not is another thing.

RossD MegaDork
11/23/20 7:14 a.m.

Get a doctors note. Literally. Sometimes people dont want to find out they were ignorant of something this big with out an outside authority telling them so. Get her hearing aids as a prompt to the family that things have changed and will never be the same. 

Get them an app or book to learn ASL.

dean1484 MegaDork
11/23/20 7:16 a.m.

Move on from them. They obviously are very narrow minded self absorbed bunch of people that you all would be better off putting some distance between your family and them. If your wife is looking for acceptance from them she is never going to get it. You said it your self she has always been treated poorly. It will never change.  

Your wife needs to move on and realize it is not her that is the problem it is them. It is tougher because it is family but it is what it is. Focus on other things. New activity's new groups and you will eventually make some new friends. 

pinchvalve (Forum Supporter)
pinchvalve (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/23/20 7:19 a.m.

Schedule a movie night together, watch Mr. Holland's Opus, then have a frank conversation about how their behavior makes you feel and how they are feeling about her need to sign. 

Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter)
Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
11/23/20 7:21 a.m.

This is a prime example of, because they are blood doesn't mean they are family. Time to cut them off. 

jharry3 HalfDork
11/23/20 7:23 a.m.

As Ann Landers used to say.  Tell them you'll miss them but won't welcome them back until they change.

classicJackets (FS)
classicJackets (FS) Dork
11/23/20 7:42 a.m.
slowbird said:

Yeah, if they are going to continue being shiny happy people to their daughter/sister like that, I think it'd be best for both her and you to cut contact with them, at least long enough to let them know how big of shiny happy people they are.

This is our plan for family with some, un-preferable behavior, when we have our kids around. The plan is to clearly lay out our expectations, and if they aren't met we'll pack up and go home. Learned behaviors are hard to unlearn.

In this case, I would be as frustrated as you are - they sound mad at the fact that you're using sign language, which is unreasonable. I, personally, would calmly lay out expectations (we're going to use sign language because it helps her communicate), and stay firm to packing up and leaving anytime they cast shade on it.

RevRico UltimaDork
11/23/20 7:46 a.m.

Just because they share blood doesn't mean they're family. I think it's time you and the wife spent 6 months or a year together, only concerning yourself with each other, and let the shiny happy people figure out what they really want/what's important to them.

lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter)
lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
11/23/20 7:52 a.m.

So her family has never taken the time to learn to sign?

wae UberDork
11/23/20 8:05 a.m.

Unpopular opinion time:  I may just have a naive Pollyanna view of the world, but I don't think that shiny happy person behaviour is generally rooted in people actually being shiny happy people.  Most of the time.  My guess is that the dickish things that they're doing is coming from a place of actual and reasonable concern about something.  It may be that they feel like they're disconnected from their daughter or sister, it may be because they feel like learning a new way of speaking isn't something they can do, it may come from a place of feeling some sort of survivor's guilt because they have an ability to hear that she doesn't have.

That doesn't excuse it or make it okay or even make it something that you should tolerate or try to work around.  But whatever you wind up doing, there's probably some room for compassion.  Even if it isn't shown to you.

chandler UltimaDork
11/23/20 8:20 a.m.
Dieselboss15 said:

and also, lip reading is a bigger pita than asl

I'm a 60/40 lip reader/hearer. This mask situation is driving me nuts! I wish I had advice for you but the best I have is to support your wife and not worry about all the rest.

mtn (Forum Supporter)
mtn (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/23/20 8:24 a.m.

It sounds like most of the reasonable ideas have already been attempted. My two contributions:

  1. Get a bunch of Harbor Freight ear muffs, and the next time you're over hand them out and turn the music on loud. Tell them they can communicate in any method they like that doesn't involve texting, turning down the music, or taking off the ear muffs. Pettiness meet pettiness.
  2. Contact a pro. There is something to wae's post that I believe is correct, but her family is being stubborn, probably because they see it as a reflection of their failure - either because they didn't get on board with this 30 years ago, or because they think it is a poor reflection of their perfect genetic makeup and they don't want ot admit it. I'd send an email to the contact at your local college and ask if they have any advice or resources for how to deal with this, if they have seen this before. I bet they have. 
Slippery (Forum Supporter)
Slippery (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
11/23/20 8:32 a.m.

I only read the first post so bear with me. Stupid question probably but cant you speak while you ASL?

Like the time she spoke to Keith. If ahe would have spoken the words out loud as she ASL it might have helped her family. 

I was raised with a def aunt and she would also "speak" out while communicating. It was not perfect but you grow used to it. She could read lips from the other end of the room though!

Recon1342 Dork
11/23/20 8:36 a.m.
lotusseven7 (Forum Supporter) said:

So her family has never taken the time to learn to sign?

Her hearing started to degrade around the age of four. Her parents actually toured the New Mexico School for the Deaf, and decided to raise her as a hearing child. She's had numerous types of hearing aids (They don't work well) and was put through a lot of speech therapy. If you listen to her speak, you will not know she is Deaf. By all rights, ASL should have been her first language, but it wasn't until about four years ago that it became a priority. She contracted Strep-A, and the resulting fever destroyed what was left of her hearing, along with nearly hospitalizing her. After learning ASL, we discovered just how much she was missing and how exhausting it was for her to lip-read. 

No, they've never taken the time.

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