AIBU to think MIL is toxic and treat her that way?

(33 Posts)
Overlookhotel Fri 04-Nov-16 07:11:29

MIL has a long history of behaviour that I'm only now realising as properly toxic, going right back to when her kids were tiny, she's said and done some awful things, not of a 'call the police' level but things you wouldn't expect to ever do or say to family. Without making the post huge the worst examples recently were she made SIL miserable on the run up to SIL's wedding by insisting on her own way, made me and DH very unhappy before our wedding by huge tantrums because she 'thought she was losing him' and had a tantrum going on for weeks when we moved area as she was 'so devastated'.

Now the latest row has come about because we arranged our Christmas leave and told MIL when this was, so were trying to arrange time to see them - we have to alternate who's parents we see each year because of the distances involved and this year is my parents year to 'have' Christmas Day so MIL has known for months that we won't be visiting on Christmas Day. MIL threw a fit that we weren't going to be there on the days she wanted (Boxing Day and just after) as the leave we could get is before and up to Christmas Day and she was 'gobsmacked' we were offering to come up just before Christmas.

This led to a huge tantrum where she accused me and DH of all sorts of stuff, including forgetting about his family, wanting to cut them out, lying about various things etc etc - really nasty bitter stuff. This is a regular pattern, whenever she gets upset she lashes out massively but FIL and SIL always defend her as 'that's just her'. Again, as the script normally goes after a few days of this she suddenly 'relents' and says she only said all those things because she was hurt/fluey/tired/upset/shocked (at our behaviour - with the not going to her when she wanted) and expects it to all get smoothed over.

DH desperately wants to smooth it over every time, despite this affecting his MH badly and him feeling very hurt, because MIL knows what buttons to press to get him feeling ridiculously guilty (things like telling him FIL will be ill from the stress). I know full well that means I have a DH problem firstly but we've been working on this but it's slow going when MIL keeps throwing fits like this, but I'm happy he's working on it. We have a DD as well so this affects her.

I know it's not the right thing but DH can't deal with her fully right now and the problem is right now so I'm resigned to 'stepping up' and being the one to challenge her. MIL and FIL (as he has to do what she wants to avoid his life being hell) have turned me into the scapegoat, making it all my fault that things can't be smoothed over because 'everyone else wants to, except Overlook', even lying about things I've said and twisting events to suit themselves. I'm not 'fine' with this but I can accept it because MIL will make someone the scapegoat so if it has to be me then I can cope with it.

If I 'put my foot down' as I'm intending things will carry on being nasty and MIL will blame me, eg we're not going to stay with them when we visit them now as we usually do because I don't want the same behaviour while I'm stuck in their house, frankly I'm not sure I ever want to stay with her again.

I just want to vent about it and ask if anyone else has been in a similar situation and had to be the only one standing up to a family member?

baconandeggies Fri 04-Nov-16 07:24:41

I know it's not the right thing but DH can't deal with her fully right now and the problem is right now so I'm resigned to 'stepping up' and being the one to challenge her

No, you don't have to do anything. Just ignore her if she's being spiteful and your DH can't cope.

OurBlanche Fri 04-Nov-16 07:48:17

Step away! Make a wider space for your DH. You can be his shield - I was for mine for a long time - but you don't have to challenge or engage with any behaviour at all.

How do you usually have contact? If it is by phone then you need to practice a cut of sentence like I won't allow you to speak to me like that and put the phone down... then ignore. You'll have to be much more blunt than you feel comfortable with as any slight pleasantry will be used to continue the harangue.

If I were you I would arrange to have the whole holiday with your family this year and tell your MIL that, if she can bring herself to be pleasant, you might arrange to spend next year with them.

I did something similar with my BIL - MIL wasn't overly fussed - he demanded that we spend every year with MIL, if I wanted to be considered part of his family. I told him to piss off! He cried.

It can be difficult, but you have to wonder: you feel like shit now... no matter how bad she gets is it possible to feel worse, get more grief?

PlumsGalore Fri 04-Nov-16 07:53:44

Ha ha OurBlanche, what a tosser you have for a BIL! I have one that's a tosser too, I have zero contact with him other than a hello if I see him. I haven't seen him in three years.

Overlookhotel Fri 04-Nov-16 07:59:11

bacon - I can ignore her when she's being spiteful but I mean more afterwards, when she tries to pretend everything's ok and get us to carry on as 'normal', I have to be the one to say 'no, I still don't think we should be staying with them' as it's all been so nasty, then I'm the one 'carrying it on' if that makes sense?

OurBlanche - I hadn't considered being DH's 'shield' before, suddenly makes sense - I've been feeling like if he won't step up to them then I have to take over but it would be much (MUCH) easier for both of us if I was his shield, in my mind then I wouldn't argue with them or engage with the abuse/arguing but just be there to say the phone call has to end for example? So he'd have to actual work out how to deal with the issues with them but I'd be a kind of buffer when needed. Thanks a lot, and no although she'll step up the nastiness and grief we are already feeling shitty so wouldn't change a lot!

OurBlanche Fri 04-Nov-16 08:01:58

smile

Had Successful no contact for about 18 years. Started before MILs death. We had to have contact during that but afterwards we moved and I went completely NC. DH made sporadic attempts but got fed up.

So he too stopped. We have seen BIL once, last year, in our 3rd new home within 10 miles of where BIL lives. Only because AussieAunty was visiting.

PoisonousSIL was coming but remembered she had to paint her nails at the last minute smile

Life is infinitely better without them in it!

OurBlanche Fri 04-Nov-16 08:04:37

If you need support, somewhere to wail, suggestions on how to cut off the calls, you know where to find us smile

Overlookhotel Fri 04-Nov-16 08:05:20

Did she really give painting her nails as the excuse????

Overlookhotel Fri 04-Nov-16 08:06:07

Thanks a lot grin

Blu Fri 04-Nov-16 08:08:07

You don't have to challenge her, just state your position calmly and firmly. Are you now saying that because of her tantrum you are not going to stay with them after all?

I think I would say 'look, as explained this is when we have leave from work. We've said we'd love to come on xx weekend , and do we would. If that doesn't suit you, let us know now and we will plan something else for that weekend". Say it in FIL's presence so he knows you are being reasonable , if she calms down and accepts say 'great, well let's all
Look forward to a happy weekend then '. If she kicks off say 'ok, well this isn't going to work, see you at Easter'. If you go, the first sign of tantrum say 'we're not happy with the children being party to this kind of atmosphere / rowing so we're off to Travelidge / home, see you when things are calmer'.

No being anything other than calm , firm and polite throughout.

OurBlanche Fri 04-Nov-16 08:14:38

Oh, no, it wasn't actually her nails. It was a suddenly remembered 'bridesmaids meeting' for a wedding planned for about 18 months later.

She doesn't like me, never has, but can't bring herself to admit that the iciness between us is because of her feelings rather than anything I have done . She dislikes me because I am who I am... I think I inadvertently liked things she considered to be her territory, like cooking.

Later she spent a lot of time and effort trying to dissuade us from going to University in our 30s. Apparently it would be a waste of time as we simply wouldn't fit, get any benefit and then were simply not university types and would be upset when we failed!

After trying to engage with her for about 10 years I gave up and now (20 years and counting) just assume she has ishoos and leave her to it smile

And all of that is before you look at my own family - parents are selfish loons, DSis is just recovering from being a self sacrificing doormat. I am the ungrateful, sulky one smile

2kids2dogsnosense Fri 04-Nov-16 08:27:29

FIL and SIL always defend her as 'that's just her'.

Aaaaaaaarrrggghhh!

I HATE this - "it's just her" (or by the perpetrator themselves "It's just my way")

CHANGE YOUR WAY IF YOU'RE LIKE THAT!

It's just an excuse for spite, bad manners and cruelty - and the culprits are the very ones who play the victim card if anyone challenges them (they are the only ones allowed to have a "way", you will find - everyone else has to cater to them).

If you possibly can - put your foot down - duck as low as you can, take he flak, and let them get on with it - but stick to your guns.

The more she insists your do X, Y and Z - the more you should just quietly continue doing A, B and C. If she gets really poisonous, teller "I'm sorry you feel that family time before Christmas is too difficult for you - we'll really miss seeing you." and then just cancel your pre-Christmas get together with them, and not see them at all.

You won't miss her if she cuts you out of her life, I promise you.

2kids2dogsnosense Fri 04-Nov-16 08:28:43

*too many typos to count - I hang my heading shame, but I'm sure you're bright enough to work out at least the least bizarre ones grin

2kids2dogsnosense Fri 04-Nov-16 08:29:24

*head in shame - not heading shame

(goes off swearing to self)

OurBlanche Fri 04-Nov-16 08:39:36

grin

PaulDacresConscience Fri 04-Nov-16 08:51:06

I have similar in my immediate family. My ILs must be saints to put up with it grin

Disengage. I know that every cell in your body is screaming for you to stand up and to tackle it head on but it really is counter-productive. She will thrive on the drama, paint you as a heartless bitch and then you'll have FIL etc drafted in as flying monkeys to tell you how ill/upset/devastated she is about your behaviour. All the while your DH will be getting it in the neck, feeling like shit and pleading with you to be the bigger person and not rock the boat.

Sound familiar?

Rule number one: step back - it's his family. You don't have to be the gatekeeper for his relationship with his Mother. He's an adult, it's up to him.
Rule number two: don't comment, don't get involved. So when she kicks off, be calm, disinterested and level headed. Listen and be a sounding board but don't make suggestions or get embroiled or upset. So if your H is sounding off, just listen. This is hard but it's also important.

The aim of this is that your H will gradually begin to realise that all of the drama and unreasonableness is coming from her. It's then up to him to decide how he wants to deal with this. If he chooses to live with it then that's up to him, but he'll also need to accept that you will probably want little or no contact with her. If he chooses to take her on and try and get her to compromise and be reasonable then you can support him in this. Or if he decides to cut his losses and walk away then he's done so through his own choice, which means that he can respond with his own feelings if you're accused of turning him against her.

ummizoomi Fri 04-Nov-16 09:05:56

I would say just ignore her. Don't waste your time getting involved in her little dramas. If you ignore her long enough, maybe she would get the message.

autumnintheair Fri 04-Nov-16 09:54:29

have turned me into the scapegoat, making it all my fault that things can't be smoothed over because 'everyone else wants to, except Overlook', even lying about things I've said and twisting events to suit themselves.

Op I really feel for you sad its a large burden to bear it really is and its one I also bear. Its not just their immediate family its the wider family and friends too.

paul great post but in my experience "The aim of this is that your H will gradually begin to realise that all of the drama and unreasonableness is coming from her. It's then up to him to decide how he wants to deal with this. If he chooses to live with it then that's up to him"

The man will just go along with it, and do anything to keep the boat steady, as the rest of the family are doing for mil.

autumnintheair Fri 04-Nov-16 10:01:19

It's just an excuse for spite, bad manners and cruelty - and the culprits are the very ones who play the victim card if anyone challenges them (they are the only ones allowed to have a "way", you will find - everyone else has to cater to them)

Aint it just so hmm

JellyBelli Fri 04-Nov-16 10:01:55

Do you know about the Karpman Drama Triangle? Its explained in Eric Berens book Games People Play and I'm OK, You;re OK. He esplains how to spot when people are playing the game, and how to make it stop.
Thres some info about it here
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karpman_drama_triangle

When she is in full flow MIL is playing the role of Victim, you are the Persecutor, and FIL and DH are rescuing MIL by placating her and smoothing it all over.
When she feels she has gone too far, she switches to the role of Persecutor which she isnt comfortable with, so rescues everyone by minimising her behaviour.
Then another trigger happens and she is back in the role of Victim again.

Pooky77 Fri 04-Nov-16 10:16:12

JellyBelli Great link makes for an interesting read, i can certainly see it applying to my inlaws!

BlackNo1 Fri 04-Nov-16 10:57:38

Step away.
By not engaging with her you will be letting her know which buttons she can't press.

FIL and SIL always defend her as 'that's just her'.
Let them think that.. let them deal with her. You don't have to.
She's carrying on with her performances because it works (for her) and she will continue with this pattern.
What you can change is how it affects you.
Enjoy your Christmas at your parents. Visit MIL on boxing day and if that doesn't suit, then don't go. It would be my final offer. And if she goes on blaming you after the fact then it would be my final Christmas visit, end of.
You need to show you have thicker skin. Take control.

Agree with the post saying she is playing the victim. I have a MIL who does the same. It's exasperating I know, I've been there. I've wizened up to her antics and have minimal nc now.
I took some advice from Maya Angelou ..if you can't change it, change the way you think about it.

Wrinklytights Fri 04-Nov-16 12:49:19

flowers Your MIL sounds so much like mine. I deal with it by seeing her as little as possible. Luckily she's not that bothered about seeing me or my DC.

Gottagetmoving Fri 04-Nov-16 13:31:36

It sounds like your MIL is highlighting, anxious and needy. You say she 'relents' This is because while she is playing up she can't control it. Afterwards she thinks and then tries to explain her behaviour away.
Your DH has had to grow up with this in his life and it has probably caused him a lot of confusion and anguish. Your FIL and SIL are used to the outbursts and the repenting.
It IS best to ignore. When she starts bring unreasonable just say 'i think you are being unreasonable so it's best we leave' and leave!
Don't confront or argue because she won't he receptive to anything you say.
You don't have to allow it or fight it, just don't engage or caught up in it.
She probably feels a lot worse inside herself than you can imagine. It's not a battle for you....it's one she is fighting all on her own so let her get on with it.

Gottagetmoving Fri 04-Nov-16 13:32:49

Not highlighting... it should say highly strung!

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