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MIL - please help me get some perspective.

(163 Posts)
Gobbolinothewitchscat Sun 27-Oct-13 14:30:15

Right - this will be long but dint want to drip feed

I get on relatively well with MIL and FIL. MIL is quite selfish and FiL is very passive so facilitates that. They don't have many friends so family is, ostensibly, everything to them. However, it looks to me as though its more about show in that they won't ever rush to help us out practically but it's very important that we turn up for family events so that MIL can a have 50,000 photos to put on facebook. MILs needs always come first and I find her attitude quite bizarre - an example being that once FIL popped into see us and said that he wouldn't tell MIL as she would be cross. What? Rather than pleased he had seen us?

MIL was very controlling when DH was growing up. She has tried to interfere a bit with us but DH has, to be fair, been good at putting his foot down re this.

MIL has a complicated family background where her father died when she was young and her mother remarried. She had another child who is clearly the favourite - albeit he lives in London and MIL provides much more practical support. FIL's parents are pretty much sidelined and not offered any assistance

Now, to get to the point. It was MIL's brother's favourite child birthday recently and it was decided that we would all go to a hotel to celebrate. We have one DC aged 10 months and I am 7 month's pregnant.

one thing that pisses me off massively is that there is no communication regarding these events. So we have often been left hanging about/wondering whether to have lunch etc. DH is good now at just ensuring we do our own thing and eat etc. So we arrive, check in, have lunch etc. PIL's don't arrive til 4 so don't see DS as he's gone for a sleep. Obviously, if they had wanted to see him, they coukd have arrived earlier.

We go for the meal in the hotel which is very expensive and terrible. dH's and my main courses were £35 each and are taken off the bill as they are inedible. Favoured son, his wife and their 4 children all have meals that are fine. Favoured son orders lots of expensive wine. To be fair, DH has a few glasses. I have quarter of a glass and then two lemonades.

MIL is at her bossy worst but I manage to politely ignore here. This morning we come down for breakfast. There are two seats left beside a high chair that is obviously for DS. DH and I go to the seats to have MIL start chuntering something about DS's sister and her boyfriend needing to sit there. I tell her not to worry, we can get seats for them but we need to sit beside DS as there is no other room at the table in the fucking special room organised for breakfast

MIL then starts organising fir the waitress to take group photos RIGHT NOW and pointedly telling me to sit down now as I'm trying to get DS into the high chair. As we are quite flustered, we don't do the high chair strap properly our fault, I know and DS slips nearly out of the high chair and gets caught under the tray cringe. He is crying and I'm trying to get him out and sort things out and comfort him when MIL comes and starts pestering me about holding him and taking him for a walk as they've not seen him yet er, turn up earlier yesterday?. I say OK as he's just stopped crying. MIL then takes him off to have 5,000 photos taken. She's so busy doing this that she doesn't bother moving anything from her place and, as a result, DS pulls a cup of coffee over himself. Thankfully it was luke warm but my nerves are totally jangled by this point. She ignores all of this and FIL keeps snapping whilst DS grabs a knife. By this stage I actually feel like bursting into tears but I don't want to cause a scene.

I then stand up to take him back and MIL very pointedly refuses to hand him over to anyone but DH so he can hold him for the "next photograph". So we all trot off to have another family photo with MIL making sure that DH and his sister and she and DS are front and centre. I'm shoved at the back like a gestational carrier.

I'm fuming at MIL's complete lack of insight into danger and the fact that she must have known I was worried about DS but has refused to hand him over. Accidents happen. I know that and I am definitely not paranoid or over protective. I was happy for the favourite son's wife to take DS into another room fr about half an hour whilst we finished our lunch and think its good for him to go to everyone and have a little cuddle. But I do expect people to show a bit if common sense and put his safety above their need to take to photos. If an accident happens, I expect them to acknowledge it and that I might be a bit a bit worried about him - reasonably.

The PILs want us to go back to their house - about 10 miles away but I point blank refuse to DH and insist we go home. DH packs the car and I go to check out. The restaurant bill is huge. Query this and find out that MIL has called reception and said we will divide bill per room. Favourite son and his wife and 4 children are staying in 2 rooms so have paid far less per person and enjoyed the discount of our main meals being take off the bill. Favourite son is a millionaire, BTW. But MIL, the big cheese, has decided without asking us that we will subsidise them. As well as paying £350 no, that's not a typo for our room.

I am now very cross but pay up to save embarrassment. We are certainly not poverty struck but I have given up my job to be a stay at home mum and DH is about to buy a dental practice so money is pretty tight as we're having to pay a deposit etc.

I get DS into the car. By this stage, I do not want to see MIL. FIL then appears and starts chuntering in about MIL's 60th birthday next year - which is approximately 3 weeks after our baby is due. Apparently they would like us to trek 60 miles away, go out for a meal and stay the night. FIL helpfully suggests that I could stay in the hotel room with 13 month old DS and a 3 week old if I didn't feel up to the meal.

I then get into the car. I know I was rude here as I didn't say bye to everyone and I know that was rude.

DH appears and we zoom off. I tell DH understatement of the century that I am rather pissed off with MIL and do bit want her to look after DS on his own as she seems to have no regard for his safety and no insight into how to avoid accidents. She and FIL are meant to be looking after him fir the day in 3 weeks.

DH thinks this is harsh, blah, blah blah. He's never been scalded bybMIL. More by luck than design, I think. He agrees that the coffee thing was dangerous though and he did say to her to be careful at the time.

I don't know if I am over reacting here. Also, I don't know whether I should actually, once calmer, speak to her about all of this. I am massively pissed off. Maybe I didn't handle things well though. I don't know.

Sorry this is so long but can I have some advice!

ilovemyelectricblanket Fri 01-Nov-13 18:06:25

chance not change.

ilovemyelectricblanket Fri 01-Nov-13 18:02:41

You only have this change to let this one go OP.

You have learned much and had your eyes opened.

You now know what you are up against and its not good.

Whatever she is - she a pain and she knows how to press your buttons.

If you keep this up then your relationship with your husband will seriously suffer and you don't want that.
You are now in a much better position to keep yourself and your family safe from this woman.


If you end up in another position where you are vulnerable (and I am really worried about the birth of your 2nd child) - then you have to re consider.

While you are regrouping and getting some better strategies in place - get some couples counselling with DP - because you both need to be on the same page.

He needs to understand that he has been conditioned/blackmailed to behave the way she wants and that means YOU and your DCs will suffer.

This isn't acceptable.


Let this one go on the basis you will never put yourself in a similar position again.

thepaintedladies Thu 31-Oct-13 23:56:18

After re-reading your thread, I have to say that I do not think your MIL is a narcissist. To me she sounds like most MIL's their generation (is she 60-70?) where they like to be the centre of attention, a right bossy boots, like to show off, don't have a lot to do with their own PIL, think they should be respected and cherished no matter what and have a bit of a face (expectation of attention, priority etc.) thing going on. They do think DIL's should tow the line, because they had to with their MIL's but as mentioned in my last post, we modern day British women are a totally different animal to them and our DIL's will put up with zero crap from us when we are older.

I also think that when you are 7 months pregnant, things get really tense and hormones exaggerate things. I remember having a massive go at someone in a queue at Tescos at 7 months. I thought I was going to punch the woman.

My son has gotten into a few tricky situations with my MIL, but generally she takes good care of her DGC. I avoid tricky situations so I know he is a bit safer. I think this situation has been blown out of proportion a bit TBH. I genuinely think Atilla has some good advice for people and some of the situations on this board are very very serious and living with a narc is a living nightmare. However, I think your MIL is a pain in the butt, nothing more really. She needs managing. One thing I would start and do is to not agree to anything without getting something out of it yourself. For example, if they want you to go to X hotel for the weekend and for a meal say well, its too much money, we will just come over on Sunday at 2pm for the meal. As I mentioned above, you own some of this problem. Half the issues I have had with my MIL were due to the fact that I couldn't say no and then seethed afterwards and in the end I ended up in a real state. You need to learn to compromise, say no politely and stick by your guns. A classic of my PIL is that they expect us to do what they want so e.g. if we go into town they expect us to follow them round the shops they want. I'll say at the beginning, so where do you want to go to? OK, well we are going here, we will meet you back here in 2 hours OK? My MIL did actually admit to me that I am the most assertive person she has ever met, which is a real compliment as I actually do think I am quite a pushover.

TheFabulousIdiot Thu 31-Oct-13 21:35:25

Why will she be looking after him in three weeks? Is it something you can get out of?

DistanceCall Thu 31-Oct-13 20:07:42

Look. You did the right thing in replying to that text - you were polite and answered her question in civilised terms. She could have apologised or at least asked you out for coffee so you could clear things up or something like that.

Instead, she hit back. And, as you said, gave you a reason to stay away from them.

This situation is hard for your husband (I know, because my father was/is in a similar situation with respect to his own mother). Avoid confronting him or putting him up against the wall. And please, don't be angry - it serves no purpose, and, as you did, you will deflect it onto your husband.

These people have nothing to do with you. Unfortunately, they are related to your husband. So I think you should support your husband from the rear, but refuse to engage with them directly.

As for the row, I'm sure it will blow over. If your husband insists on not seeing your family because you refuse to see his, remind him of the difference in the way in which they behave.

perfectstorm Thu 31-Oct-13 19:18:33

I think a lot of people do not really (and fortunately for them) understand what a narcissistic person can unleash in terms of damage within a family unit.

Do you have a close relative who has been clinically diagnosed with a personality disorder? I do. I therefore know how high the clinical threshold is (traits are not enough to count as having a disorder as most are at an adaptive level, ie just problematic personality traits) and I also know that most psychologists say that two practitioners often equals two different diagnoses, and that several interviews with the person themselves plus psychometric testing done via some reputable inventory (Million Multiaxial, etc) is required before any diagnosis can be made at all. You can't do it online, let alone from fragmentary third party info like this. So please don't say people who disagree with you just have no experience. In my case it's my very real experience that is leading me to the very definite conclusion that none of us are able to diagnose the MIL with anything whatsoever and that actually, her behaviour is firmly in the realms of PITA normality. She may behave far worse in the future, she may have done things in the past, she may be a flying teapot called Erica. None of us know. And I don't think it helps the OP to catastrophise a perfectly normal, perfectly problematic relationship when her children, her DH and her marriage may be very badly hurt as a result.

Yes, her MIL is over the line and I've said so. Yes, the OP needs to set boundaries once her baby is born and a bit older and she has the strength, and meanwhile it's her DH's job to face up to his mother's idiocy and protect her from it - she's his pregnant wife caring for his baby and that's his job. But you do not help her by projecting a vague reading on very serious psychological and psychiatric conditions when we none of us know they're present. These conditions are actually quite rare, whereas difficult people are common. Someone can be a drama queen without being histrionic, selfish without being narcissistic, and clingy and hostile by turns without being borderline. Scaring the OP by diagnosing her MIL without the least qualification or exposure doesn't help her, IMO, unless it gives her the strength to set boundaries and create a more positive relationship. On the evidence of her posts, it's actually upsetting her greatly and turning a family row into a huge schism. That isn't support as I recognise it.

OP I think Eldritch's advice is excellent and the suggestions on how to manage a very difficult relationship really good, but please remember that MIL isn't a demon, and she has from all you say shown good sides as well. She's also your DH's mother, whom he loves, and his hurt over all this will be real. If you don't believe the woman is mentally ill, then please think of ways you can minimise your own exposure while supporting her relationships with your DH and your babies. It works with my own difficult but non-toxic MIL. Good luck, and I'm sorry you are dealing with this mess when heavily pregnant and feeling so vulnerable. flowers

woollytights Thu 31-Oct-13 18:16:14

OK then, what specifically has the OP's MIL done in this instance to warrant being labelled a nasty toxic narcissist?

youretoastmildred Thu 31-Oct-13 13:54:20

I would also be interested to know if you have professional qualifications?
I think this is a very interesting area

youretoastmildred Thu 31-Oct-13 13:53:10

Sorry I know it is probably bad form to hijack, but after seeing many such posts from you over the years, Atilla, I would be really interested to know the answers to my questions in principle (as opposed to what this OP should do, which of course she is uniquely well placed to decide)

OP has also gone with the majority view and as an adult she is fully capable of making up her own mind. She can use or disregard information as she sees fit.

I think a lot of people do not really (and fortunately for them) understand what a narcissistic person can unleash in terms of damage within a family unit.

The only one here at fault is the OPs MIL. What could the OP have done differently initially (apart from herself raise boundaries but she had no idea or inclination that it was all going to go pear shaped in the ways that it did). It is usually after such family gatherings that problems that were always there but more hidden come to the forefront.

Holdthepage Thu 31-Oct-13 13:36:58

And how can you know that on the Internet?

Well clearly you can't but that doesn't stop the keyboard psychoanalysis along with links to dubious psychobabble websites. I find some of the posts egging on the break up of family relationships with no professional insight or any real knowledge of the people involved quite disturbing.

youretoastmildred Thu 31-Oct-13 12:14:53

AttilatheMeercat, I can see that the MIL in this OP was unreasonable and annoying. I am curious - having read many of your posts over the years - about exactly when an annoying person becomes a toxic person. And how one can be so sure.

I am also curious about when inconsiderate or thoughtless or selfish becomes EA.

Because - surely we are all in various relationships with people who are a bit of all of these. But they aren't all toxic.

One of the things I think is very dangerous (this is a totally non-expert opinion but my position from experience) is that for me, intention is not a necessary condition for a person to be intolerably abusive. But we often see this on here "Oh yes, he knows he is doing it, it is a deliberate modus operandi".

- but I have been in an EA relationship which destroyed my confidence and I am sure that the man did not remotely see things in those terms - was not doing it deliberately - was an extremely fucked up individual who is his own terms was fighting for a sort of survival, through control and domination and belittlement;

But if the person does not know they are doing it where do you draw the line, because we all behave badly sometimes?

And how can you know on the internet?

It is clear to me that this MIL has acted completely unreasonably from the very beginning. I can only go by what the OP has posted but don't have to actually see this MIL in action to work that out; MILs actions in her initial post are pushy and assertive at the very least.

You would not tolerate any of this from a friend, why should family members be treated any differently?.

Setting boundaries certainly needs to be done and these should be a lot higher than they are currently. I feel very sorry for the OP for being placed in such a position in the first place but her MIL put her there by her actions. OP needs to be with family members who benefit her family, not those who want to be front and centre all the time and who make it all about them.

thepaintedladies Thu 31-Oct-13 11:46:54

I could have written that Eldritch. You are spot on.

OP, you do actually own some of this problem. You have gotten all worked up about a situation that you walked into passively. I've done the same in the past so I am not blaming you. You need to not put yourself in the position in the first place. Don't go on holiday with them, don't go for expensive meals out and don't go away for the weekend. That way you are taking away 90% of the stress.

because generally younger women have the least status in extended families and are expected to toe any number of lines.
I don't really agree with that though TBH. This is modern day Britain, not some remote village in a 3rd world country. My MIL is my equal, not my superior. She needs to respect me to get some back.

EldritchCleavage Thu 31-Oct-13 10:48:17

I don't think you need to go completely no contact with your MIL. But I do think you need to give yourself permission to be assertive, and frank, in the moment, with her, FIL and anyone else. Not afterwards, with your DH.

I am not advocating rudeness, by any means. But once you have freed yourself to say 'No', firmly and politely, whether about your DS, photos, restaurant bills and anything else, I wonder if you would find that the MIL problem receded significantly. The key is not to allow yourself to be put upon and then brood, but to decide not to be put upon in the first place, with a shrug if MIL doesn't like it, picking your battles so the petty stuff goes by and the stuff you can't live with is dealt with immediately it arises (whatever the gathering).

Doing this would also mean you would have to put up with a certain amount of lip-pursing, because generally younger women have the least status in extended families and are expected to toe any number of lines. But as long as you are polite and reasonably friendly, the chances are people will adjust to the fact you can't be corralled into stuff you don't want to do.

My late MIL (who was, in a reversal of the usual situation, nice to me and mean to DH) had both silently summed each other up. We both knew we were capable of serious arseyness, and mutually decided not to let it come to that. If your MIL senses you won't take any shit but provided she doesn't give you any, relations will be civilised, she may just stop being so overbearing. No guarantees, but it must be worth a try.

perfectstorm Thu 31-Oct-13 10:35:04

I agree, thepaintedladies.

perfectstorm Thu 31-Oct-13 10:34:27

I do not have to actually see a person to work out whether they are behaving reasonably or not

Sorry, but no mental health professional of any real experience or training would dream of saying that. In fact in the absence of abuse no decent professional would be telling someone they treat what to do at all. What makes you better equipped to counsel than a chartered psychologist, for example?

This MIL sounds a complete pain, no question. But I hesitate to label an immature PITA as toxic. I do know rather too many toxic people, and being annoying is not their primary fault. I'm not opposed to going NC where justified, and have in fact implemented that with some of my own relatives, but IMO it should take a higher threshold than the situation described here. It should be a last resort, not a go-to solution, where close relatives are concerned.

In the OP's shoes I'd reduce contact between herself and MIL as the latter sounds self-absorbed and high-handed, and in late pregnancy and with a baby nobody needs the stress OP is describing. But let DH handle contact between the kids and gm for now. Longer-term, I think setting clear boundaries and keeping to them is a wiser route than creating a huge family rift, and I would suggest the OP talks all this through with her mum, who is loving and supportive and does actually know all the players personally.

I think the OP has grounds to be very upset, and her DH needs to step up more. But I also think suggesting this gc be removed from her gc's lives is drastic overkill on the evidence provided here. It's a hammer for a nut.

thepaintedladies Thu 31-Oct-13 10:32:56

I don't think that the OP should go no contact with her MIL. I still speak to mine and see her. However, if MIL causes the OP a lot of misery then she needs to do something about it. The only thing that I think that the OP should do is learn to say NO! without guilt.

woollytights Thu 31-Oct-13 10:02:26

Holdthepage you are absolutely spot on.

OP, if you decide to try and turn this around and have a go at getting it sorted out between you all, I'm certain that things will be much, much better for you going forward. You are surrounded by a loving family with good intentions, embrace it. Myself personally, and others I'm sure, will offer advice and support to do so if you want it.

OPs DM's advice would work if OP was actually dealing with someone who was emotionally reasonable to start with; MIL is clearly not and has also managed to isolate her own self from other family members.

This is at heart about power and control.

I do not have to actually see a person to work out whether they are behaving reasonably or not; if the initial post was read properly you would see that MIL has been front and centre throughout that gathering and made it all really about her. She created the drama and feeds off it.
It is very difficult for people who thankfully are not on the receiving end of such behaviour to perhaps dismiss it as a mere spat which will blow over in time. It will not, besides which MIL has not apologised for her actions nor taken any responsibility for same.

Holdthepage Thu 31-Oct-13 09:42:50

OP when you started this thread you asked for some perspective, you actually said you got on ok with your in laws. A disappointing weekend and some thoughtless behaviour on your MIL's part have now turned into WW3. You are openly trying to stop all contact with her over a spilt cup of lukewarm coffee that did not cause any harm to your child.

Your DH is now defending his parents and the whole thing is escalating beyond belief. The amateur psychologists are out in force applying labels to people they have never met. Before long your DH will be diagnosed as EA & you will be being urged to leave him. Listen to your own DM who has asked you to try and get along with your MIL.

If it had been your mother that had spilt the coffee would you have reacted in the same way?

woollytights Thu 31-Oct-13 09:39:40

The title of your thread asks for perspective, and although this isn't what you want to hear, I'm going to try and give you that.

I think you have had some pretty awful advice on this thread. A lot of presumptions have been made about your MIL and you've been pushed towards taking the most extreme possible action and cutting her out of your life, and encouraging your DH to do the same. I would fully support anyone cutting off a family member if it became impossible to sustain a healthy relationship with them. However, I think in this instance, you just find her very annoying.

I agree with the poster who you dismissed earlier on, who said that it's clear from the way you describe her that you just don't like her. In terms of things she has actually done wrong factually, these include not handing you your son back when you asked, however handing him to her son who presumably you were happy to have him. Taking responsibility for arranging the seating in a way you didn't like, which you objected to and did your own thing. Deciding the bill would be split without consulting you, a decision she seemed to be put on the spot to make and nobody else was around. She has since but this right by forwarding you a cheque I understand. And holding your son whilst he picked up the knife and spilt the cold tea, by anyone's admission, an accident.

I realise you feel inclined to go with the majority decision, however I strongly urge you to reconsider your approach and see the situation for what it is. I totally get that she's irritating and does your head in. But from what you've explained to us, which is pretty damning, I am still not somehow getting this same picture as everyone else of a nasty narc cow who needs to be centre of attention and loves playing mind games with her family.

My suggestion is to ask yourself what you think she should have legitimately done since the event to put this right. You have complained she texted you rather than your DH which actually strikes me as the fairer approach, yes the problem is with you, since you are the person who has become offended and upset. You have complained that when confronted about the money she sent your share back to you. You have complained that she didn't ask how your son was when you told her he had a cold - you'd already said, he had a cold...

By all means live your own life and make your own choices regarding babysitting, which birthday celebrations you attend etc. I am sorry to say though she sounds pretty harmless really and I think trying to encourage your DH to cut her off will be unsuccessful if not a really terrible mistake.

thepaintedladies Thu 31-Oct-13 08:45:23

The main difficulty that I had with my NIL was the total clash of family culture that I married into. My own family are a very positive bunch who all openly tell each other how bloody marvellous they are. When I met my in-laws I was pretty shocked to hear MIL telling DH and his DSis that they are stupid, can't do anything, will never get anywhere in life and they just took it with their heads bowed. FIL was crushed under heel years ago and is just a shell of a man. The only time he comes alive is if you stand up to MIL and then he gets threatening. For many years MIL tried to crush me under her heel with her regular criticisms, belittling and her party piece of kicking you when you are down. I took it very personally and overcompensated with extravagant gifts which she just threw back in my face and trying to make her like me.

I think it was this board that opened my eyes to the fact that she is a N. The other consolation I have is that I no longer take it personally. Whatever she has done to me is small change compared to the misery she has inflicted on her own immediate family. Interesting to note that her own family treat her like this and have massive N tendencies themselves. She has ravaged her own DD's self esteem and this poor woman has no ego, no self confidence at all and is truly miserable. She will openly tell her that the reason she is not married is because she is too fat, not pretty enough, stupid - who would have the esteem to have a boyfriend after that? NIL nearly drove me to this, but in the end I arose out of the ashes like a phoenix. NIL still tries to put me down but fails because I now give it back and despite being a narc, she's not quick witted. My own family and friends tell me I'm great so why should I believe criticism from someone who is uneducated, unattractive, uninteresting and lacks humour. In fact, if she liked me I'd be worried.

Here's a classic example that actually happened a while back. My DH made a fry up for breakfast at our house. MIL got out of bed the wrong side. When he put the food in the middle she said, I'm not eating that, the eggs are not cooked properly, the toast is burn't, it's pathetic. FIL, SIL you are not eating that, don't touch it and she leant over and pushed the plate away so hard the food came off it. FIL/SIL didn't move an inch. DH looked mortified, I thought he was going to cry. I got up and got a loaf of bread and some margarine and plonked it in front of her and said, help yourself to toast. I then dished out DH's cooking to me and our 2 kids. We all sat their and said, mmmm Daddy this is lovely, thanks for making it and wolfed it down. Afterwards DH came and told me he thought she was a nasty cow. That is classic of her. I won't apologise for calling my MIL a Narc because she is and I say this as an observer of her treatment of others, not myself.

tobiasfunke Thu 31-Oct-13 08:45:18

What thumbfucker witch said.
She won't apologise because she sees nothing to apologise for.
I do think you need to try and let this go because you are working yourself up into a state about it. I know I've done the same and usually because my DH just minimizes the problem. You need to forget about her for the moment if you can. Ignore the drama.

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