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MIL drama - was I being oversensitive?

(57 Posts)
tangerinefeathers Sat 27-Jul-13 06:27:43

Not sure where to start. My MIL is a difficult woman & out of her remaining family my DH is the only one still on speaking terms with her.

We haven't seen her for a year. She is very intense, requires constant attention, gets moody and sulky very quickly, picks fights, is incredibly stingy and generally the visits end in a fight and her leaving in a huff.

Invariably my DH and her make up after not talking for a few months and another visit is planned. So this time she wanted to come and we said OK, come for a week. So she booked for nine days (across two weekends), which was annoying as I am 7 months pregnant and really want that time to get things done before the baby comes.

I decided to try and get out a bit so we're not in each other's faces the whole time. I cleaned the house, made dinner, made up the guest room for her etc and then planned to escape, but she got back from the airport before I could leave as a friend rang and I got caught on the phone.

I know it's a bit rude to disappear but she honestly prefers having DH to herself anyway and I don't get much time to myself so thought it would be better for everyone, plus I was going to have a swim which puts me in a much better frame of mind mentally for dealing with her.

Anyway she comes in and I asked her a few questions about her flight, her house etc. She says nothing to me about my pregnancy which is fine. But then out of the blue she says 'You look tired!'. Which is not especially rude but not perhaps the first thing I'd ever say to someone I haven't seen in a year. Then my DH leaves the room and I say, i'm going to go out now, I was planning to go for a swim. And she says, Do you drive there? [this is typical of her, she asks hundreds of questions rather than making conversation] and I say yes, and then she says, So can you still get the seatbelt around you?

Which to me says, you are the size of a baby elephant.

She always, always comments on my weight and I am so sick of it. I just don't think it's something you need to mention. Like many women I am constantly struggling with my weight and feeling fat etc.

Anyway I left and told DH that I wasn't coming home until she'd gone. I know it's a bit unreasonable of me but I just can't do nine days of these comments. She has nothing nice to say, it's always something bitchy.

It's such a minor thing really but it's just coming at the end of about ten years of minor comments and it's as if she piled on that last straw. Anyway my DH said would you consider an apology and I said no, I can't do nine days of this. I just can't. So I've agreed to go to my parents and I'm not sure what's going to happen now. She will be happy as she'll have him to herself which is far preferable for her. He will have to bring DS to me at some point.

He says she didn't mean it, you are pregnant, she was just commenting on your belly, and clearly thinks I'm overreacting, as does she.

Sorry for the essay. Don't really know where to go from here. He is also in therapy at the moment and dealing with a lot of issues about his mother and his shrink basically told him that if she's rude to me he should stand up to her, because she's going to be a nightmare whatever happens, but he's clearly not doing that in this situation. So I suppose I am disappointed in him as well.

She sounds bloody awful, OP. Commiserations.flowers

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Sat 27-Jul-13 19:52:51

My guess is you were half expecting her to say or do something unpleasant and she obliged with an ambiguous remark almost before she'd got her coat off.

Poor DH having a mum like her. I feel sorry for you too but the timing and duration of her stay was iffy at the outset imo. Of course an apology is only worthwhile if it's sincere so I realise you are wishing her gone but if she stays while you go are you sure she won't fill DH's head with manipulative nonsense while you hide away? How is your DS going to feel? Will he connect your absence with his granny or with your bump?

I don't know what to suggest tbh but without tying yourself in knots can you maybe have a short break this weekend then think what to do?

Jux Sat 27-Jul-13 21:38:55

My ILs are like this. They want to visit, and give us dates. We tell them we're not free for all of them, but we're there for these dates. They come on their dates anyway. We have to run around re-organising everything to accommodate them. They're retired, they go nowhere and see no one except on Tuesday mornings (seriously). It's actually sFIL who likes to goad dh and they have this truly silly playground thing about who's the alpha male.

I think the most sensible thing you can do, op, is what you have done. Your MIL gets to spend time with her precious boys, you get looked after while pg by your parents. No rows. No more hard feelings between you and MIL. DH doesn't have to placate anyone.

tangerinefeathers Sun 28-Jul-13 04:37:41

Thanks comtesse. I would love to be able to set clear boundaries with her but it's not something she responds to well at all. If anything it's a red rag. She thrives on manipulation and mind games. I can't explain what it is like to talk to her except to say that it's very hard work.

Interestingly I was just talking to my dad about her and while he is normally very patient with most people, he reminded me of our wedding. We'd asked my dad to write a speech and MIL to read out a poem. However at the ceremony when she got up she announced that she was also going to be giving a short surprise speech, much to the celebrant's horror, as if it had any religious content she would be in trouble.

Anyway apparently that morning she'd realised my dad was giving a speech, booted him off the desk and began writing one herself (completely without our knowledge). He'd left the draft sitting there. A little later she walked in on him and began questioning him about the accuracy of what he'd written, making it clear that she'd also read his draft. She just has no boundaries and no concept of other's people's space or privacy.

Lady Clarice yep he does need to man up. 100%. I've told him that too. I tend to get trodden on a bit where his family is concerned and I'm not taking it anymore, his loyalty has to be with me. Whatever we do she is going to be impossible, at least if he sticks up for me he only has one problem (also what his therapist pointed out to him, I do love that man).

Donkey I've told DH I want DS to come here today or tonight. I don't know what she's going to say to DH. DS is only 2.5 so unless she offers him icecream or peppa pig he won't listen. If she does spout anything to him about me (and I'm sure she will) well I can't change that. He needs to talk to his therapist, I am really feeling as if he's so screwed up about women because of her that whatever I do I can't win. In terms of him finally talking to someone professionally about his childhood she has timed this visit very badly and while it was always going to end badly it's really come to a head about eight years of blow ups and simmering truces.

Thanks Jux. I share your pain grin

Vatta Sun 28-Jul-13 05:15:47

I noticed a few things in your posts that made me wonder if she has special needs of some kind?

Social awkwardness, lacking awareness of normal social boundaries, lacking sense of personal space, bumping into people/objects can all be indicators of problems along the lines of aspergers/dyspraxia/dyslexia.

If your dh is trying to understand her/maintain the relationship then it might help just to google the conditions a bit, see if it fits. It's unlikely she'll be able to significantly change her behaviour even with a formal diagnosis but it might make it easier to deal with her if you know more about where she's coming from.

Alternatively she may just be a difficult or unpleasant person (some people are!) but the comment about walking into you in particular made me wonder if there's something more going on here.

tangerinefeathers Sun 28-Jul-13 08:54:38

That is really interesting Vatta. I am going to do some googling now. The walking into me thing is also something my BIL (her other son) does at times. If she had some kind of a diagnosis it would make things easier. She honestly seems to lack awareness of her behaviour. DH was saying that this morning she only washed her own dishes, and only made coffee for herself - there is something almost toddler-like about her selfishness sometimes.

She's leaving tonight to go home. I think it's for the best, I do feel sorry for her but it's already been too much. She became verbally quite aggressive with DH when he talked to her this morning.

One positive is that my DS has had a good time with her, drawing etc, so I think at Christmas when we were due to visit her we will stay somewhere else. I'm not going to see her again but I don't want that to mean she can't see DH and DS, particularly if they stick to short visits eg 2 hrs as someone suggested here. We do have a personality clash and it's not much fun for anyone.

anyway some really helpful suggestions on here - thank you.

Partridge Sun 28-Jul-13 09:17:08

Very, very sad that you refuse to see her again without trying to resolve anything.

My dh doesn't get on brilliantly with my mum and it is excruciating for me being stuck in the middle. I feel very sorry for him. And her. And nothing I have read here is worthy of refusing to see her again (sorry if I have misunderstood and you are planning to sort things out). It is very easy to pathologies her as having a problem and being unable to change. Absolves you of any guilt when taking this extraordinary stance. Very sad.

Partridge Sun 28-Jul-13 09:19:02

I also hope you have another ds and then you may be forced to develop some empathy for the incredibly invidious position that is being the mil.

Partridge Sun 28-Jul-13 09:22:27

* pathologise * sorry - auto corrected.

curlew Sun 28-Jul-13 09:25:08

I often wonder what would happen if some of these MIL stories were posted as if it was a male DP refusing to be in the house at the same time as the OP's mother, or taking offence at perfectly innocent remarks made by her......

tangerinefeathers Sun 28-Jul-13 09:33:29

partridge As I said I have no intention of getting in the way of my DH's relationship with his mother. My DS likes her and will make his own relationship with her independently of me.

This has been eight years in the making - i have tried again and again to get along with her, to have a successful visit, and forgiven her for saying and doing some astonishingly rude and selfish things.

She is unable to change. I am in a far better position to judge that than you. Both her sons have had severe mental health issues as a result of her parenting, and she did some horrific things to my DH when he was a child. Sending his dog away, taking him to live on the other side of the world away from his father and siblings, deciding at the last minute when he was due to visit his father that he couldn't go. She drank, was violent and emotionally abusive. His childhood was hell at times, and he is only really acknowledging it now. This isn't just a tiff, she has some serious problems and while I do feel sorry for her there comes a point when you have to just give up.

As for your last comment, well, time will tell. I may be the MIL from hell, but I hope not to be. I'm sure it's difficult, but I have never had these problems with any of my other boyfriend's mothers so I don't think it's 100% my fault.

Roshbegosh Sun 28-Jul-13 09:34:07

Yes curlew me too. Being DM gives you all the power and oh boy do people use it. I was reading another thread where some posters think it reasonable to visit MIL's home and dictate who does the chores. Position reversed it would be "fuck off out of my house". Wait a few years and then see ...

Roshbegosh Sun 28-Jul-13 09:35:44

Sorry tangerine not having a go at you at all. Just saying it is tricky.

Finallygotaroundtoit Sun 28-Jul-13 09:37:23

Like Vatta I wondered about aspergers.

Turn this around a bit and you may see things differently. If she doesn't understand social rules she may have no idea how or why she keeps offending you sad

If she can only make conversation by asking you questions, every attempt to connect with you pushes you further away.

She perhaps responds with anger and frustration because she is incapable of seeing things from another perspective - and may not be doing it deliberately at all, which is what you (and the rest of her family and friends think)

She wants breakfast so makes it for herself.She is probably unaware that this is rude and selfish if she cannot think the way you do.

The wedding thing may have just been about trying to keep up with social norms that everyone but her understands and getting it wrong.

Finallygotaroundtoit Sun 28-Jul-13 09:41:18

Just read about DH's childhood. It sound terrible but I'm still wondering if the abuse could have been part of lacking empathy ?

Where was his Dad when this was going on?

Partridge Sun 28-Jul-13 09:41:57

Ok fair dos. That does sound a lot worse than you had previously implied. Going from her comments to you up thread your reaction was totally disproportionate.

MissMarplesBloomers Sun 28-Jul-13 09:43:35

Patridge & curlew have you actually read the whole thread & all of tangerinesposts? shock

She has tried and tried to resolve things it seems and taking herself away from the situation rather than end of up having an unholy row with MIL, not good for anyone,particularly herself and the baby!

Walk a mile in her shoes before you criticise!

tangerinefeathers Sun 28-Jul-13 09:48:42

finallygotaroundtoit you may be right, but she doesn't fit all the criteria (from my admittedly brief read). I think perhaps she is 'stuck' at about six years old. There is definitely an element of not getting it, but there is also some 'naughty' behaviour that reminds me of the way a child would behave - eg she might take one of my scarves but then wear it the next time I see her, or eat food off my plate before I've finished and pretend not to realise.

If the visits always turn sour when she comes to us but are OK without me there and limited to shorter visits in her own home then I don't see what the problem is. It's really not as if she likes me, that has always been clear. She treats DH like a child and resents my presence, so my stepping away a bit is not going to upset her at all, and will make my life a lot more pleasant.

JustinBsMum Sun 28-Jul-13 09:52:44

But do wonder why she ended up coming for 9 days, NINE, far too long. A couple of nights is more than enough for most. Then you could steel yourself, OP, just grit teeth and have a rant when she is gone.

You and DH need to man up a bit too and tell her two days is enough or whatever.

Do you believe that you can actually keep her out of your's and DCs lives for ever. If you can't would be better to make up a bit. But only have her visit for a day or two in the future.

tangerinefeathers Sun 28-Jul-13 09:53:48

Thanks Mrs Marples

Finally her father was in another country; he came to visit as often as he could but had other children, a wife and business in his own country (plus didn't speak english) so could not move near DH permanently. Her taking DH away broke his heart.

tangerinefeathers Sun 28-Jul-13 09:56:31

Justin of course I am not going to keep her out of our lives permanently. She has constant huge bust-ups with people, she is speaking to no one else in her family, including her other son.

But yes shorter visits are going to be the norm from now onwards, my DH has admitted he should have been firmer on that point and we won't let that happen again.

My DS can make up his own mind about having a relationship with her, that is not my business. She is his grandmother and that doesn't change.

tangerinefeathers Sun 28-Jul-13 09:57:56

sorry Missmarples that should be 'his father'

Partridge Sun 28-Jul-13 10:11:08

Miss marples I have a mil who regularly makes remarks such as, "have you always been a heavy girl?" and " I always knew you'd be an extravagant wife," plus telling me she hates all her gs names.

She didn't tell my dh when his father had died (despite him having a good relationship with his df). so i think i have walked a mile thank you very much. However she adores my kids and my husband wants to maintain a relationship with her. I love him and I wouldn't dream of making that awkward for him.

We don't see her much and I confront her when her behaviour is out of line. She ignores this but I feel better for standing up for myself. She doesn't mean to be evil and had a very cold, dysfunctional childhood herself. I am the lucky one with warm, loving relationships so can be the bigger person in this instance. Plus I have some empathy for her - life is tough when you find it so hard to communicate positively with people.

Isetan Sun 28-Jul-13 11:27:37

As with most MIL issues, the issues mainly stem from their children's inability to stand-up to them.

Your H needs to take more responsibility when she visits. Him not cleaning the bathroom, inviting his awkward mother when he had no leave left and not making alternative arrangements when she extended her stay is bang out of order. She does sound like she has some serious issues which she probably isn't that aware of rather than being a total cow (which explains why your H's childhood was so dysfunctional and abusive).

This has gone on long enough so your expectations of both your H and MIL should have been set by now, she's socially awkward and has no respect for boundaries and your H is weak. It didn't take hindsight to foresee what was going to happen. If you are going to invite her then you need to develop a much thicker skin and develop strategies for dealing with her (running away from your own house is avoiding, not handling). This isn't just about you OP, your children will learn a lot from how you conduct yourself.

Communicate what your boundaries are, communicate the consequences of overstepping those boundaries and most important, follow through.

Your H may never really stand up and defend you, deal with it, stand up for yourself. Do not let your children grow up in a house where respect and accountability are missing.

tangerinefeathers Sun 28-Jul-13 13:31:37

Totally agree Isetan. We are not used to having a small child being around to witness our adult dramas and need to take him into account in future. That's one of the things my DH said today - it's not just me anymore, I need to think of you and DS.

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