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BF's mother gives me heeby-jeebies - unsure what to do

(39 Posts)
sammyad Fri 02-Aug-13 21:16:37

This is probably going to be a fairly long post, as the situation's mostly in my head, and requires a fair amount of background info, so apologies!
Here goes:

BF and I in relatively new relationship (around a year), and recently moved in together. All going swimmingly, except, fairly early in the relationship, he told me that as a child he had been sexually abused by his mother. First of all he said 'a woman', but eventually it turned out he meant her (which I had guessed, anyway.) We talked about it a couple of times - he was never overly specific, except to say that as a teenager he questioned for ages whether it even happened, before deciding it had, and is now certain, but that 'whatever you're imagining, it probably isn't as bad as that.' He works in a job that requires a fair amount of awareness of these sort of situations, so is in a pretty good position to evaluate his own experience, though he does admit that saying it wasn't 'that bad' sounds like quite a typical victim statement.

As far as I can tell, he's come away from it about as well as can be expected - he's lovely, funny, kind and caring, as well as being about the most laid-back person I've ever encountered. He's very close to his father and older half-sister (father's) and her children, and seems to have no problem with healthy, loving relationships, though, perhaps tellingly, at 25, I'm his first girlfriend.

What I find incredibly hard to swallow though is that he still sees his mother on a regular basis. He says he loves her but doesn't like her (not just a result of the abuse - she behaved pretty sh*ttily in divorce with his father 9 years ago, he blames and resents her for keeping him on a high dose of ritalin as a child, which didn't agree with him particularly, and she prevented his father from telling him about older half sister (result of father's previous marriage) until he was 16).

She strikes me (if I try to view her fairly/objectively, as if I had no knowledge of all this) as basically well-meaning on a very superficial level, but insensitive and incredibly self-centred. The only times I have seen BF get remotely wound up during entire course of relationship are as a result of her actions (eg turning up at a work ceremony of his, getting tipsy, making a point of being rude to his father who was also there and doing the 'embarrassing mother taking photos at school assembly' routine - to a professional in his mid-twenties. I found the experience excruciating, and she's not my mother!)

During our conversation about 'it all' (before I actually met her) I asked how he could still see her. He just shrugged, said 'well, that's family, isn't it! Better not to rock the boat...' and seems to think that's all ok. He moved back in with her for some months a few years ago when he was unemployed, and I think feels beholden to her for helping him financially then. He did say that he feels bad, because he would tell anyone else in the same situation to report the abuse they'd suffered, and he hates 'asking people to be braver than I am myself', but then other times just shrugs it off. He says he hardly thinks of it most of the time, which I'm sure is true, and I'm glad about!

The point I'm working my way round to (eventually) is not so much that I want to stop him seeing her - the accommodation he's reached seems to work for him. He is, as I say, an incredibly balanced individual, and he's obviously reconciled it all in his own mind. I don't want to interfere, or do anything that might upset him and make things harder for him to deal with, HOWEVER, I'm finding it increasingly hard to see her.

I know it probably sounds incredibly selfish, but I just hate having anything to do with her. When she invites us round to hers, or even recently when she lent us a fan for the hot weather, I just hate her having any place in our lives, though I think she's largely trying to be nice! We're both in this for the long haul, and I hate the idea of one day her having anything to do with children of ours (incidentally - I hope it's ok to post on here as I'm not actually a 'mum' yet - I just use mumsnet all the time, mostly for household cleaning tips/babysitting ideas for various small people in the family, and it seemed natural to post as it's the forum I use most!) Anyway, yes - mostly, I want to kill her for the various things she's put him through over the years, and am finding myself getting increasingly wound up by both time spent in her company and the thought of it in advance. I don't want to bring it up with BF, as I feel like I'm being unreasonable, given he's come to terms with everything, and was going along perfectly fine with the dynamic he's worked out with her before I came along. Equally, I don't want to talk to my own family about it as we see them quite a lot too, and it's something completely personal to him that I don't suppose he'd like them to know. Ditto close friends.

To be honest, this is mostly a rant as I have to get it off my chest, even if only in anonymity, but would also appreciate any advice, as I need to somehow find a way to deal with her!

cantreachmytoes Fri 02-Aug-13 21:29:24

Saw this and didn't want to leave you hanging!

I'm not sure I have an answer for you, but posting in Stately Homes (sorry, you'll have to search for the thread) might get you some good advice. It's a long running thread primarily for people who suffered abusive childhoods and are coming to terms with it, but I think they'd be full of ideas on how to deal with this woman.

sammyad Fri 02-Aug-13 21:33:18

Thanks very much - I might repost in there!

I think you need to talk this through with him again.
If he wants to see her, that is his choice. But he also needs to understand that you do not want to see her and as a couple you're going to have to work through that. He needs to know that you're concerned about having children one day and them being in contact with her- that is a totally understandable and justified concern, I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be worried about that.

I guess what I am saying is that this isn't only "his" problem. He has dealt with it in his own way, which is ok, but that doesn't mean you have to do the same as him.

FrauMoose Fri 02-Aug-13 21:40:29

I think that it very common for people who experienced sexual abuse at the hands of their parent too remain in touch with those parents. Although some people talk gleefully about having cut off contact. it can be hard to do - and there may be a big emotional cost.

I think it can be quite difficult for people to hear about abuse and know who the abuser is and see the abuser in ordinary social situations. You want to express anger and/or to do something. But I think the most important thing you can do - if you're serious about your partner - is to try and understand why he's come to whatever accommodation he's reached with her.

You've been in this relationship for a while, but it doesn't sound as if you're actually at a point when you are planning a shared future, grandchildren etc. Even if you were having children, there would be all sorts of other reasons - e.g. alcohol dependency - why it would be prudent not to give unsupervised access.

So perhaps it's easier to focus on the most immediate, present issues about your relationship with your partner - and his mother.

There are phonelines which give support to the partners of survivors of sexual abuse. I know of one that's called RSVP. There's also an organisation called http://www.supportforpartners.org/

sammyad Fri 02-Aug-13 21:46:14

Thanks thisisyesterday and FrauMoose - I do understand why he's come to the accommodation, even if I'm not sure it's something I could do myself - I admire him a huge amount for how he manages to separate his feelings about it. I guess I just can't quite do the same myself. I want to be supportive (hence seeing her whenever he/she arrange it, and being as nice as I can manage), but am finding the strain just increases.

Vivacia Fri 02-Aug-13 21:57:59

I think he's done what he has had to do to survive. He's managed this way because it was the only way possible for him. Does that help you to understand in some way?
I disagree slightly with earlier advice on this thread in so much as I think you have to 100% respect his decision and back him up. Don't make this about you (which I know you know, 'cos you explained why you're talking about it here and not with family etc).

DfanjoUnchained Fri 02-Aug-13 21:59:43

Hi op, your post really resonated with me!

My P was badly abused and neglected by his mentally ill mother as a child (no sexual abuse I don't think) and they have the same relati

DfanjoUnchained Fri 02-Aug-13 21:59:58

Oops...

...relati

DfanjoUnchained Fri 02-Aug-13 22:00:05

Relati

DfanjoUnchained Fri 02-Aug-13 22:00:22

Sorry phone is broken!!

They have the same relati

DfanjoUnchained Fri 02-Aug-13 22:00:37

Ill pm you!! grin

sammyad Fri 02-Aug-13 22:38:07

Vivacia - I do understand, and can respect that, and certainly want to back him up. Obviously his reaction to this, and his peace of mind over it, is the important thing. I just want to be able to not constantly dread seeing her. The latest thing is she's invited me over on my own for lunch and to go through photos of him when he was a kid - while he's at work. I've said yes because I didn't want to be rude, but is honestly bugging me enormously, and it's two weeks away! He just says 'well if you don't want to go you don't have to,' (in response to a very slight moan from me that I thought it might be awkward, which I made sound mostly like normal awkwardness about time alone with OH's parents...) but the last thing I want to do is cause a massive fuss about this so that he has to confront things again, or even worse, have to explain to her why I won't see her/visit her.

Kaluki Fri 02-Aug-13 23:19:10

I think it's wierd for her to invite you over to look at his baby photos!!!
You don't have to have a relationship with her and you can keep any future children away from her but you have to respect that your DP for whatever reason still sees her.
You should politely decline her invitations and be civil when you have to see her and let your DP carry on as he is.

FrauMoose Sat 03-Aug-13 09:42:35

I think it would be possible to decline politely and say either

a) you'd rather go through the photos when your partner is around, as you'd be interested to hear his stories too

and/or

b) you're quite busy but meeting for a quick coffee in somewhere like your nearest Costa would be good.

It might feel more comfortable/normal meeting when other people were around. And you wouldn't get drawn into colluding with her version of the past.

goonyagoodthing Sat 03-Aug-13 09:58:01

I am sure you have thought of this already, but if eventually you do have children with your BF, will you both be on the same page with regards his mother and her grandchildren? Will he be happy to never allow her to be alone with them? Because thats the long and short of it - she can NEVER be alone with them. As long as you both feel the same its fine, but if he feels grateful to her for financial help etc, will he feel obliged to allow her time with her grandchildren?

I feel for you OP, a tough situation to be in.

violetshoes Sat 03-Aug-13 11:10:15

I totally get why you hate having anything to do with her. And once you have children, you may find that you feel (even more) protective of your DH and DCs.

He seems to have normalised to some extent what happened so he can cope, but there is no reason why you should. It might do him good to see that. As someone coming in with a fresh view, who is fully supportive of him, you can show how not ok this relationship with his M is.

And there is no good reason you need to pretend to be friendly to his M or that you want to see her.

Start as you mean to go on as it will be easier in the long run.

FrauMoose Sat 03-Aug-13 11:17:38

I think one of the hardest things to accept about abusers is that in many ways they are just people not that different from you and me. They have done something harmful and wrong. But they may also have better characteristics.

At the moment this is still relatively early days in a relationship - even if there is a high degree of commitment on both sides at present. I am really not sure how supportive it is to say to an abused and vulnerable person in their first serious relationship, 'You must cut off contact with a parent. You must do what I say. I know what's best.'

Arguably then it's just two women scrapping over who has power/control of some vulnerable bloke. When it should be a matter of enabling somebody to make their own choices - and doing ones best to respect and understand them.

sammyad Sat 03-Aug-13 20:04:13

Kaluki - I thought it was weird too! Glad I'm not the only one. Wondered if there's some MIL code I have yet to learn but apparently not... I like FrauMoose's idea of enlisting DP also.

Goony - he did say during original conversation that 'obviously we'd be extra careful' with any kids - he'd never want to chance anything similar happening - so I'm sure we would be on the same page. It's not that so much that bothers me as just having her about at all. And every time she does something controlling and weird that lovely, laid-back DP just shrugs off and gets on with I can practically feel steam coming out my ears.

Violet - I want to show him it's not ok, but equally as FrauMoose says I absolutely don't want to try to control him either, nor do I necessarily think it would be better for him to cut off contact, especially as we live in the same town and they actually may occasionally come across one another professionally. I suppose I would just like to be able to grow a pair, and quietly tell her one day that I think she is an evil woman (redeeming characteristics aside), that I will be watching her henceforth, and that over my dead body will she ever have anything to do with any children of ours (appearance on the scene of whom is actually a real possibility), before coming over all sweetness and light again upon re-entry of DP.

Unfortunately, she'd probably not have a clue what I was on about (self-knowledge nil) and anyway that's never going to happen, so for the good of DP and general harmony I shall probably just have to quietly steam. Forever. Ugh.

FamiliesShareGerms Sat 03-Aug-13 20:23:15

Slightly different situation, but it took me a very long time to be able to have a relationship with DH's father because of how he behaved to DH when he was a child. In the end I took the view that if DH was able to forgive and forget it wasn't my place to stand in the way and make him behave in a particular way. DH is also adamant that his father is not the same person now as he was back then. But although DH's father sees our children on a regular basis, they will never go for sleep overs with him as I can't wholly put what happened out of my mind.

Sorry, that doesn't sound very helpful. I'll have a think about what happened in the early days of our relationship when DH first told me about stuff, and see if I can be more helpful!

Nanny0gg England Sat 03-Aug-13 20:48:01

Does anyone else in his family know what his mother did?

Wellwobbly Sat 03-Aug-13 21:15:45

Sammyad - what is he like when you and he have a disagreement?

Its just that I have a wierd MIL and also got angry at the way she treated and hurt her son...

20 years later he behaves just like her (cold, withdrawing, selfish etc). Looking back we never did resolve conflicts well.

So please take care. The coping skills learned in the FOO come back into YOUR relationship.

FrauMoose Sat 03-Aug-13 21:24:08

I think the theory that victims/survivors of abuse are likely to become abusive in their turn is one of the things that makes it particularly hard for abuse survivors to disclose their experiences. It's as if they too will be judged and mistrusted.

When I was a child I was physically and emotionally abused. That experience did leave me with some realdifficulties in terms of getting close to adults and trusting them, as a young woman. However I have never ever treated my own child as I was treated. I think - if this makes sense - that I am better parent because I was badly treated as a child. Having my own needs neglected makes me more aware of what children do need. Also seeing my parents have a relationship that was based on non-communication and manipulative behaviour (sulking, withdrawal) has meant that I've made huge efforts to sort out any difficulties with my partner before things start to fester.

sammyad Sun 04-Aug-13 00:30:04

Nanny - nobody else knows. Except there is a possibility his much older half-brother on his mother's side experienced the same thing. He has withdrawn almost entirely from the family, lives about an hour away, doesn't contact DP or his mother except high days and holidays. He has a GF of 7 years standing who has never been introduced. Makes me wonder. DP says he has no idea, and no intention of enquiring, which is fair enough.

Wobbly - we rarely disagree tbh, but when we do he tends to be far more patient than I am. He's very unlike her in character (though obviously people do change and sometimes become more like their parents) but from his basic character I think his experience is more likely to have had the same effect as FrauMoose's - active attempts to avoid similar patterns, rather than inadvertent repetition.

I am contemplating tentatively raising the subject again, just in terms of I don't particularly want to see his Mum on my own - happy to back him up otherwise, but find it especially uncomfortable to hear her telling me all about his childhood. Is this selfish?

Don't assume that you're on the same page re: children, OP.

In fact, think very carefully about this before you have them.

This woman is a child abuser. Would you want her around your children at all?

Do you want to have children with someone who will expose them to her?

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