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Narcissist FIL - please help

(64 Posts)
XiaoxiongMerrilyOnHigh Wed 05-Dec-12 21:17:08

DH posted on this board about his FIL - you can read the back story here but in a tiny pistachio shell FIL exploded in a monstrous rage when DS was born this time last year - he objected to our giving DS both of our last names and sent a series of truly awful poisonous emails (eg: he told DH he was "thinking of ways to crush" him but could not because he "loved him too much"). DH got some great advice from you all then thanks The thread ends before DH finally told FIL not to contact us again after the difficulties continued. Lovely SIL also was cut off by FIL when she supposedly took our side by continuing to see us and DS.

No contact was great as far as I was concerned, though it seemed really tragic that FIL was not seeing his first and only grandchild as a result of his own idiotic actions. But it really destroyed DH, who naturally wants to see the best in his father especially now he is a father himself, and he made the first overtures because he wanted to be the bigger person, make the first move etc. He said he also wanted to be able to say to DS when he is older that he truly made every effort to keep in touch with FIL. They are now back in contact, but of course there has been no apology or even any acknowledgement of all the shit he spewed in our direction this time last year - as far as I can tell DH wants to let sleeping dogs lie and has never brought up what happened last year.

It's all massively against my better judgement because our lives were so much better when this man was not in our lives, but I will never stand in the way of DH having a relationship with FIL - but I'm just waiting for him to hurt DH again and the cycle will repeat.

Although I can't do anything about DH I'm still very wary about DS having anything to do with him. He's now met DS once with DH which apparently went fine. However he's supposed to come round again to give DS his first birthday present and I have absolutely no intention of seeing him given he has not apologized for the monstrous things he said to DH (let alone the stuff about me!) or acknowledged that he said any of those things let alone having done anything wrong. I told DH I will just go out while he is here, but he thinks that will just perpetuate the cycle and I should just grin and bear it and talk about the weather, or more likely, ignore him and talk entirely to 1 year old DS. There's also a chance that I won't be able to resist bringing it all up and then all hell really would break loose.

This issue has come up again and again and now its a week away DH is all but begging me to be here in the house when his FIL is here. He says he wants to present a united front and needs the support and it will just cause more drama if I absent myself that morning and any booking of pedicures or going into the office to catch up on work etc will be a transparent ruse not to see FIL.

As far as I'm concerned I owe this man nothing at all and have no interest in allowing him to swan in here as if nothing ever happened and tiptoeing around what happened. I actually think that as he has cut people off left right and centre, it's the only thing he'll understand - that actually I don't want to be around him as a result of his actions. Actions have consequences.

Oh wise women with more experience of dealing with narcissism than I - what do I do?

jingleallthespringy Fri 07-Dec-12 11:21:34

imo your DH is still in the web of his narcissistic father, trying to force his father to plumb some humanity by presenting exemplary 'goodness' to tempt him. It doesn't, and will never, work. There is only one thing that will 'work' and that is for your H to serve his father in entirety - no 'goodness' will prompt an awakening in his father.

Personally, I wouldn't want his father in the house. If DH wants to see his father then he can meet him somewhere else.

You end up bowing so low for a narcissist but it is never good enough, doesn't even begin to reach the mark. They are simply not interested in your humanity and never will be.

forgetmenots Fri 07-Dec-12 11:16:35

xiao I'm so pleased to hear that your DH responded well to your lovely email. The shock of seeing you standing up - not just to FIL, but on his behalf will be difficult - remember he will have watched others enable
FIL and tell him his feelings don't matter, so this is all new. You've done so well, and shown him the love and respect he deserves and needs. Be prepared to be there for him when FIL pulls his next stunt (and possibly blames it on you, btw, for punishment for not coming). Much non-MN love to you both for a happy Christmas.

Some0ne Fri 07-Dec-12 10:56:42

Sorry, I don't have time to read the whole thread, but for me I think the important point here is that your FIL hasn't apologised. You can't realistically be expected to forgive and forget something for which the man has shown no remorse whatsoever. That's just giving him permission to keep bullying your DH.

If he had apologised and was genuinely sorry then I'd say you were holding a grudge, but as things stand I think you're just protecting your family from further abuse.

amillionyears Fri 07-Dec-12 10:28:45

Glad your DH was happy about the email.

I think your real problem with your DH is that he doesnt see the difference between your mum and his dad.
That your dad is probably narcissistic, and your mum isnt!

Your DH on the other thread talks about his dads probable narcissism and something else, and seems to have read up a bit about it.
But then doesnt seem able, or want to realise the full implications of it.
Not sure that now, however, is the best time to remind him.

XiaoxiongMerrilyOnHigh Fri 07-Dec-12 09:58:27

Well I sent DH the email above - he was so lovely when I got home, said he really appreciated what I said and he was ok to see his father alone. He then said he would think about what to say to his father about where I was hmm I said there was no reason to lie and if he felt like lying he should think about why and what he's trying to avoid. He also thinks he doesn't need to go back to the counsellor...I'll keep working on that.

He did point out that my mother has said what in his opinion are unforgivable things to me but is still very much part of the family - I said the difference is that a) I stand up to her and call her on her bullshit (and it's not really quite so bad, mostly telling me I'm overweight when I'm really not), and b) she has always come through when it really matters and we really need her support.

I honestly think this is the first time anyone has stood up to FIL's shit. Every other person in and outside the family that he has cut off has tried to make the first move to reconcile and he has rebuffed them. I can't think of anyone else who he wanted to see (because apparently he does really want to see me confused) who refused to see him unless he apologised. Hopefully forgetmenots and poppy are right and this will show DH that his father is just a person - he may have ties of blood and feel a massive sense of obligation but that doesn't mean he has to be a doormat the rest of his life.

forgetmenots Fri 07-Dec-12 09:18:34

Completely agree with evenifyouseeapoppy again! - regardless of what happens next, the OP has shown her DH that there isn't just one way, and she hasn't made demands of him whilst doing so. I don't think it even occurred to my DH that he was able to refuse any of my MIL's requests and when I started saying 'I'll support your decision to go but I won't enable you and her by coming', it was a shock to him that I wouldn't do as she asked.

At first this terrified him (he was scared of the punishment wobbly mentioned) but he understood it and later on said it was a revelation that people could say 'no' to her and the world went on turning, her behaviour didn't change that much anyway and I felt better for it.

Even if OP and her DH decide he is not ready to face this on his own, it's important that she made her feelings clear and I think she should continue this in future (with love and respect for her DH,of course)

Abitwobblynow Fri 07-Dec-12 08:11:54

Yes. Agree a pre-set boundary with H, and then when if he crosses it, announce that it is disrespectful and if he continues you will leave, and then leave.

Do not that this would probably get you disinherited (it did me) so that is a choice too.
Narcissists savagely punish criticism of them. But the only thing they do respond to is consequences that hurt them.

It is a fine balancing line, to protect yourself without getting into power struggles with them, and I haven't quite got there myself yet confused

Brycie Fri 07-Dec-12 07:12:59

IN other words go, but do not bite your tongue. Not in a way that puts you in the wrong, but a way that makes it obvious that he is wrong.

Brycie Fri 07-Dec-12 07:11:48

I would support your husband. I would have a set phrase for when you crosses the line - that is not acceptable behaviour - and se it whenever he is horrible during his visit. But I would definitely support your husband definitely. You owe nothing to your father in law but you do love your husband.

EvenIfYouSeeAPoppy Fri 07-Dec-12 07:07:56

DistanceCall and Abitwobbly, I see what you are both saying. However, I think that Xiao's resistance to taking part in this is incredibly valuable, not least as an object lesson for her dh - in how it is possible to respond freely and (not quite the right word) naturally to this kind of terrible behaviour rather than rolling over and colluding in a parallel universe in which the parent can do what he likes and the 'child' has to be the bigger person, i.e. essentially take whatever is thrown at him.

Children of narcissists grow up under an extremely powerful imperative to fall into line, placate and pacify no matter what the cost to themselves. It can be really helpful - in the long term - to see someone not buying into that imperative.

DistanceCall Thu 06-Dec-12 23:17:47

If your husband has asked you to stand by his side when facing his father, I think you should do so. However, this does not mean that you will just play nice and let bygones be bygones. Just be polite (i.e. not rude). But no need to be warm or nice or pretend that nothing has happened.

The point here, I think, is that your husband needs your support. And if your father in law throws a fit because you don't roll over and pander to his whims as he thinks he deserves, then surely your husband will see that you have behaved reasonably, and that it's your father in law who cannot have a normal relationship.

Abitwobblynow Thu 06-Dec-12 22:06:08

I am a daughter of narcs - it is hard to explain how much hold they have (well, not really, they crushed any resistance around the ages of 2 - 5 so you become invisible). When they are around, you become sort of paralysed as you get back into their web. It is hard to explain, you wander into their sphere and it becomes 'normal'.

Please support your H as much as you can. Your FIL is HIS problem not yours and it is up to him to get himself free.

If you insist that he does things your way, well - you are being like his Dad, aren't you? You aren't listening, and you are imposing your truth.

I don't mean that horribly, but your H needs you right now...

amillionyears Thu 06-Dec-12 22:03:57

reconcile - restore friendly relations. Had to look up the definition of that.

Your DH has a blind spot about his dad. Maybe he always will.
It doesnt sound as if it is just hope on his part either. it sounds like he believes that a reconciliation between him and his dad will be possible at some point.

I would still advise you to go, and try and bite your tongue.

I cant see you meeting with fil over and over though. So even if not this time, then at some point your DH will have to accept that you and your fil are not going to get on.

Hope your email was read favourably.

XiaoxiongMerrilyOnHigh Thu 06-Dec-12 15:15:41

Thanks thekat. He is a pretty wonderful human being which is why this situation kills me. He deserves so much better.

Xiao I have nothing constructive to add about your situation (I'm incredibly lucky to have no experience in this area whatsoever), but that email is beautiful. I know it will upset you DH to read it, but I hope he is able to grasp the wonderful things you say about HIM and hold on to them.

XiaoxiongMerrilyOnHigh Thu 06-Dec-12 14:58:42

Yes good point - I can see how that might not go down too well.

I am even angrier at my FIL for even making it necessary for me to draft this email.

amillionyears I never responded to your point earlier. I think I could forgive but I'm not sure I could reconcile, if that makes sense, unless something changed. I would like to think I could forgive my FIL unilaterally without his apology, but it would take a lot of work. And if I'm truly honest I don't think I could reconcile or have any restoration of our relationship without an apology.

Aethelfleda Thu 06-Dec-12 14:32:59

...don't say you told him so!)

Aethelfleda Thu 06-Dec-12 14:32:35

Good luck xiao, I hope you guys can come to an amicable decision about how to handle this very difficult situation. No easy solutions I'm afraid, but stay constant about how your priority is what's best for your dS and be clear to DH that it's him you married, and that having your own opinions is allowed, even while you support him during this.
(FWIW I'd go quiet on the he'll-bite-you-in-the-bum bit: yes, he provably will, but pointing that out is not going to make DH feel any better. Just be calm and supportive when it happens and don't say y

XiaoxiongMerrilyOnHigh Thu 06-Dec-12 14:18:37

Ok I've drafted an email to DH. It's long but I've taken many of all of your comments on board.

Subject: Some Thoughts

I'm sure your heart sank as you read that subject line, but I just wanted to set out clearly what I'm thinking as I find it so hard to put how I'm feeling into words when I know you're feeling wounded. Please remember that it is your father that is hurting you and continues to hurt you as the weeks go by with no apology, no acknowledgement of what happened and no change in his attitude or behaviour. So although it may be very difficult and upsetting to read this email please don't attack me or my feelings as the source of that hurt, but place it squarely where it belongs - on his shoulders.

You are your father's son and you want to love him, to be the bigger person and to give him the example of the father he should be by showing him the father you have become. You are already a better father to DS than he is to you and I love you for it. If you don't believe me just imagine if you could do or say any of what he did and said to DS - of course you couldn't. And in the unlikely event that you ever did say something as a one-off in the heat of the moment, you would apologize and do everything you needed to do to make it right.

Although you feel you are able to have an arm's length relationship with your father without expecting an apology or acknowledgement of all the things he said and did last year, I don't feel the same way. I don't want to be around him if it involves pretending nothing ever happened and nothing changes.

I will support you to the hilt with what you choose to do with respect to your relationship to your father. You already know I have grave misgivings about any contact at all because I want to protect you and DS from future hurt. As far as I'm concerned we've already tried the "let sleeping dogs lie" approach and it failed - remember we met with him and [his wife] last year after all those toxic emails were sent, and somehow we both managed to pretend nothing ever happened. Two weeks later he threw it all back in your face and hurt you all over again. Telling him not to contact you was so hard but I am so proud of you for saying it - I thought at the time and still think it was incredibly brave and is the only healthy solution.

I wish you would consider going back to the counselor and talking about why you feel like you have to allow him to treat you like this with no consequences. You're the best man I know and worth so much more than this. No one should be able to treat you the way your father has and get away with it - he is taking advantage of your kindness, your generosity of spirit, your greatness of heart and your attempt to demonstrate to him how a father should act towards his son. I also wonder if the perfectionism stuff we were talking about a few weeks ago has its roots here - the self-criticism, the continuously impressive over-achievement, the high standards you set for yourself. Some (not all, obviously) of the stuff here resonated a lot with me: http://www.lightshouse.org/acon-page.html#axzz2EGHocoXI

Having read this email, please let me know if you still want me to be there next Friday when he comes. So much love.xxx

EldritchCleavage Thu 06-Dec-12 13:09:56

*He said it was not so much that he wants my support as the fact that he wants to show his FIL that we are both willing to let bygones be bygones. He thinks this will "draw the poison" and show that we're the ones being the bigger people here, trying to draw the family together, turning the other cheek etc etc.

I put my side to him - self-respect, boundaries, letting a bully walk all over us. He put that straight back to me as pride and self-importance, holding a grudge and perpetuating the drama*

Oh dear. In his own eyes, FIL is always the bigger, more important, moral person though surely, because he's a narcissist. A show of good values to a narcissist will have about as much effect as farting into a hurricane, I should imagine. It really isn't self-importance to have some minimum standards regarding how others should treat you. I don't see a bit of pride as a negative either, if it rescues one from doormat status. That your DH is thinking like this serves to demonstrate how far he is from being free or gaining perspective.

I think that in reality, your DH wants you to be quiet and compliant. That leaves FIL free to act as he likes without any boundaries being put in place. If FIL behaves abominably during the visits and you object, it seems probable your DH probably won't back you up. So please don't be present. It puts you in an impossible position and FIL can enjoy playing you against each other, driving a wedge between you or any other mischief he decides to inflict on you.

DontmindifIdo Thu 06-Dec-12 12:58:04

Perhaps you need to explain to your DH that while he can just forgive your FIL without needing an apology and is happy to let his father treat him like shit, you're not. I would be there, but say you will make no effort to show you believe bygones to be bygones, if he says anything to you, you will tell him you are still waiting for an apology and you have a very low opinion of him. There is no reason for you to suck up to his man. there is no reason for you to be the 'bigger person', there is no reason for you do this just because your DH wants to and your FIL wants to pretend he didn't behave badly.

Ask your DH why he thinks your FIL doesn't need to apologise to you. Ask him why he thinks that it's ok for you all to pretend it didn't happen so that FIL doesn't have to face up to his unacceptable behaviour. Ask your DH how many more times will he let his father treat him, you and your DS like shit because it's easier for your DH than to make your DH actually call his father on his bad behaviour.

Basically, your DH thinks his life being easier is all that matters, even if that means his wife and child have to be treated badly by his father in order to make that happen. Why should you put up with it?

But yes, be there, make it clear you will speak your mind to your FIL, it sounds like someone should.

Also would second what TheProvincialLady wrote too.

What both amillionyears and EvenIfYouSeeAPoppy wrote earlier.

Not a bit surprised to read that your FIL has an ex wife. Some manipulative people like your FIL do become counsellors as well and create damage that way too (he's the second one I know of who does such work).

re your comment:-
"I spoke to DH last night about why he wants me to be physically present. He said it was not so much that he wants my support as the fact that he wants to show his FIL that we are both willing to let bygones be bygones. He thinks this will "draw the poison" and show that we're the ones being the bigger people here, trying to draw the family together, turning the other cheek etc etc".

He's been certainly well trained by his father hasn't he?.

Unfortunately your DH does not or cannot even begin to comprehend that the above approach would only work if the other side i.e his dad could be at all reasoned with. As his Dad is a narcissist this is a complete impossibility.

I just wonder what it will take for your DH to actually see what is happening in front of him. It is also somewhat manipulative on your H's to assume that you also want bygones to be bygones; he cannot own your feelings like this. Like many people who have abusive parents as parents, he may still think that if he acts "nicer" towards his dad he (FIL) will somehow give him the approval and love that he craves. That will never happen by the way; it will truly be a painful realisation for your DH when that reality dawns. And it may not.

(BTW narcs are really crap gift givers and I doubt very much that if you did receive a present it would be anything that you would actually find at all useful. Any gifts if given should be put into the charity shop).

One generation i.e your H has been profoundly affected, do not let your child suffer the same fate.

amillionyears Thu 06-Dec-12 12:52:45

I dont mean that even if you were able to forgive him, that that should mean you are still not extremely wary of your fil.

amillionyears Thu 06-Dec-12 12:50:54

Do you think you will be able to forgive your fil?
To see him as an ill person.
You may never know if he is capable of totally controlling himself.

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