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MIL meltdown - please make me be sensible

(99 Posts)
minifingers Fri 13-Jun-14 14:49:50

Background: been with DH 20 years, married 15 years. MIL has always behaved in a 'correct' way with me, polite, kept her opinions to herself (mostly), but I have always felt a lack of genuine warmth and liking from her. Two days before we got married she told me she had a 'very bad feeling about this wedding', and she wasn't sure why. I never repeated it to DH, but I was devastated and it cast a cloud over the wedding for me. I have held it in my heart ever since. I have no idea why she felt she had to tell me that, other than to spoil my happiness and make me feel anxious.

Any way, roll on 15 years. DH and I have been fine, 3 children, a stable and happy marriage. The main difficulty in our life has been with our oldest, who is now nearly 15. We've had 2 years of absolute hell from her (violence, verbal aggression, school refusal), and earlier this year she went to stay with MIL as I had got to the point where I was on the verge of a breakdown with it. MIL lives just around the corner and we are back and forth from her house 3 or 4 times a week, as DH likes to visit a lot and helps her care for his dad, who is very disabled from a stroke. DD has been fine with MIL - compliant, helpful, polite, and very patient and good humoured with my FIL who is quite senile, incontinent, and who drives MIL mad. It's been good for dd being there and feeling useful and loved, and I'm very, very grateful to MIL.

To cut to the event which has upset me, yesterday dd was sick at school, and I picked her up half way through the day and bought her home. I had to be at work at 7.40 last night, and so drove dd over to MIL's on the way there. I was running late, so dropped her at the front door and started to drive off. As I did so I saw SIL walking down the road, and she flagged me down. I stopped and said hello, and we had a very brief discussion about why I was dropping dd back. I didn't get out the car.

I was just telling her I had to go as I was late for work when in my wing mirror I saw my elderly and not very fit MIL pelting down the road towards us in her dressing gown with a face like thunder, gesticulating angrily. It transpired she was furious that I hadn't come in and said hello when I'd dropped dd off. She told me she felt like I was treating her home as a travel lodge and that she was very angry with me. I just looked at her and said 'sorry, but I'm very late for work and couldn't stop', to which she answered 'well you could stop to talk to SIL'. SIL pointed out that she'd flagged me down and that I was just leaving. I said, 'I'm sorry that you feel like that, but I can't stop now', and drove off, shocked and shaken.

It sounds so trivial but I've been on the verge of tears all day today and feel like I don't want to see her again. All the feelings of not being liked that I've always had in her company, which I've pushed down for 2 decades, have come bubbling to the surface and I'm really distraught. Her fury was so out of proportion with my 'crime' - dropping dd off without coming in - I can only assume there's a whole heap of baggage there that is the real reason she's angry with me. I see her at least twice most weeks, DH talks to her every day and goes over at least 3 times a week. It's not like we've just dumped dd and left MIL to get on with raising her for us. Just to complicate things further, while dd is awful at school and sometimes with dh, I've been the main target of her teenage angst, and have been on the receiving end of some really horrible personal abuse from her. She tells me I'm the cause of all her problems and she behaves badly because of me. She can't explain why, but she's adamant it's all my fault. All of it. She has campaigned to try to get me to leave home so she can live with DH, and for me to just go away. I feel like a failure as a parent and suspect that my MIL compares me with my SIL's, whose teenage children are all polite, hard working, loving, well behaved. I feel judged and disliked.

I hate people being angry with me. Really, really hate it.

Is it crazy of me to be so upset about this? I'm beside myself about it. My current feeling is that a million wild horses couldn't drag me over to her house again. I hate confrontations and feel humiliated.

Quitelikely Fri 13-Jun-14 14:58:16

Have you asked DH if he can talk to her to see if she will give him some insight into her anger?

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 13-Jun-14 14:59:12

There are two elements to this. One is your dislike of confrontation, taking things very personally and to heart and worrying when others dislike you. That's something that it's worth addressing separately and individually because there will always be confrontations and so on in life and avoiding everything/everyone and spending time in tears is not the recipe for peace of mind.

The other element - and there is a link - is how you deal with difficult people effectively more generally. If they upset you with doomy messages at your wedding, you're entitled to tell them to piss off. If they are coldly polite to you, challenge it. If they are refusing to go to school and being verbally abusive, ditto. It's revealing that DD behaves herself for her gran but not for you. Maybe you can learn something from your MIL and adapt some of her furious techniques?

minifingers Fri 13-Jun-14 15:01:43

He spoke to her last night. She told him I have done it more than once and she feels like nobody's telling her what's going on with dd. We talk to her all the time about dd and tell her everything about our meetings with the school, which happen regularly (the school is being very supportive). I don't know what else to say to her. I see her a couple of times a week and DH talks to her every day and is round there 2 or 3 times a week, if not more.

CharmQuark Fri 13-Jun-14 15:05:11

minifingers - poor you.

That is all so much to cope with.

Of COURSE it isn't all dpwn to you, your dd's issues - she just says that because you are the person she uses as a kickboard - because she knows you love her. Presumably.

Have you ever asked for any intervention - family therapy?

It's so sad that you are everybody's scapegoat.

Look after yourself and talk it all thorugh with your DH.

You are not a failure! The fact that your dd knows how to behave and does behave at MILs demonstrates that she is not fundementally damaged, and has been well brought up!

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 13-Jun-14 15:05:34

You're still bothered about what she's feeling and trying to justify your actions. Flip it around, adopt the position that 'she is in the wrong', don't try to explain yourself and take it from there. Demand an apology.

Quitelikely Fri 13-Jun-14 15:09:57

If I was you I would try to be really brave and go round as soon as you can to try and clear the air. I don't think you have done much wrong but I can see why dropping off at the door can annoy people. Not me personally but I actually got a sarky text when I did that with one of my children to an aunt but like you I was in a rush that day.

What does your husband think? She's right/wrong. Is he supporting you with this

eddielizzard Fri 13-Jun-14 15:11:49

i totally agree with cogito. i do think you need to get to the bottom of your people-pleasing and fear of confrontation. sometimes you have to make a stand and force people to respect your wishes.

WaffleWiffle Fri 13-Jun-14 15:14:52

minifingers, is your daughter going to be staying with your MiL forever? For a few months? Years? Weeks?

Who is to be your daughters chief carer, since you MiL is the one caring for her day-to-day, yet you are going to school meetings?

Your MiL will need some long-term guidance and discussion on this.

Redorwhitejusthaveboth Fri 13-Jun-14 15:29:06

I think if I was your MIL and caring for your daughter I would be hoping you would touch base with me every day out of a desire to be co parenting ... I get why she might feel a bit put upon. If I were you id be apologising and taking flowers/choc/wine around to show your appreciation at what she is doing for you and your daughter... I'd also be asking her how you can all work together to move things forward.
Have you had any family counselling?

Jengnr Fri 13-Jun-14 15:33:41

Anybody else think MIL is at the root of the daughter's problem with the OP?

eddielizzard Fri 13-Jun-14 15:43:43

yes. it is possible the mil is shit-stirring. but i'd want more than just a suspicion.

minifingers Fri 13-Jun-14 15:50:12

Mil talks to DH about dd every day. I'm in the dark about what's going on with dd a lot of the time as she hates me and won't talk to me. DH is the conduit for information for both me and MIL.

Re: family therapy - yes, and it didn't help. However dd is having counselling and mentoring and we are having help from a mediation service with a view to dd coming home some time in the not too distant future.

I think the thing I'm struggling with is the sense that a well of poison has been tapped, that this is in part an expression of fundamental dislike towards me from MIL.

Yes, my people pleasing is probably a sign of a deep seated insecurity, but it's worked for me as a strategy so far - I generally am treated kindly and with respect by most people and don't feel taken advantage of.

Twitterqueen Fri 13-Jun-14 15:50:14

Jengnr I'm not sure why you think MIL is at at the root of the daughter's problem with the OP. MIL is caring for her and is apparently able to ensure DD behaves herself.

Reading hugely between the lines and no doubt generalising far too much and being too blunt.... OP you're coming across as a bit of a doormat here. As Cog says - flip it round, adopt some of MIL's techniques - or even HM The Queen "never explain, never complain"

I'm teaching myself a lesson here - my DCs tried to tell me off the other weekend because I was "cleaning the bathroom too early" and "could have improved the salad if I'd put XYZ into it instead."

FWIW you have my utmost sympathy and support. Stroppy / horrible teenagers are one things - yours sounds 10 times worse.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 13-Jun-14 15:53:32

"I generally am treated kindly and with respect by most people and don't feel taken advantage of."

You're not being treated kindly and with respect by your family. I would not personally accept my own DC being discussed by their father and grandmother and keeping me out of the loop... no matter how much the DC kicked off.. I suggest you call time on that straight away and demand the others back you up. She either talks to you or she talks to no-one.

Rideronthestorm Fri 13-Jun-14 15:57:25

I think your MiL is being amazing to take on your DD, what a wonderful thing for her to do.

Maybe she's feeling the strain a bit and hoped for a few words with you at DD handover. Frankly, it was a bit rude to just drop and run without a word.

Matildathecat Fri 13-Jun-14 15:59:27

Is it possible that after a honeymoon period your dd is starting to act up with the in laws, too? Mil might not actually want to admit she's finding it hard to cope because she wants to be better at parenting than you.

Actually, mad though that reaction was, I have some sympathy with her situation. She's elderly and unfit, has a severely disabled husband and a young tearaway( sorry if that's inappropriate) to care for and it's most likely all too much.

Time for a calm family meeting for a discussion. Maybe your dd could go part time to their house? As others have said, have you got professional help? Sounds like family therapy might be helpful.

And big sympathy to you because it sounds grim being on the receiving end of someone else's unhappiness and you're getting it from all angles.

KillmeNow Fri 13-Jun-14 16:07:08

It seems to me that MIL and DD are having a lovely time confirming to each other how horrible you really are.

I wonder what sort of conversations they have together when FIL is tucked up in bed? Of course they get along well -they are of like mind.

whitecloud Fri 13-Jun-14 16:07:18

minifingers - you have my sympathy - normal teenagers can be tough enough and your dd sounds as if she has worse problems than most. Are you a very different person to your m-in-law? I speak after twenty years experience too. I have always felt I am not quite good enough because I am very different to my m-in-law, but have learned to accept myself. All you can do is maintain a polite relationship. Some people can turn very nasty if you stand up to them. I have taken the line of maintaining family peace, but would stand up for myself if I ever felt I was being treated badly.

Must say I wonder whether she is doing a little shit-stirring. If your dd is there all the time and complaining about you and your m-in-law doesn't care for you, it might be a bit of a temptation. Some people have a problem when others are different from them - they seem to see family relationships as a kind of contest, or feel threatened when they aren't surrounded with people who are the same as them.

Maybe she is finding looking after your dd tougher than she is admitting and that is what is behind her anger. Some people will do anything rather than admit how they are really feeling about things. Does she really never get any flak from your dd? I find that a tiny bit hard to believe if dd is with her most of the time. It is really tough on you, because you must be feeling rough that your dd says everything is your fault. I doubt that, but there's no point in arguing with a difficult teenager.

Hope some of these thoughts help.

tobiasfunke Fri 13-Jun-14 16:08:19

I agree with rideronthestorm- your MIL was probably having a bad day. Perhaps her DH was being difficult and when you dropped your DD off it was the straw that broke the camels back -she felt like she was being taken advantage of. People overreact and lash out if they are having a shit time. You are over reacting because you're having a shit time too. Best thing to do is to go over there and talk to her.
I am a people pleaser but if my MIL was helping you as much as yours I would be falling over myself to make amends even if it was an imagined slight.

minifingers Fri 13-Jun-14 16:21:53

"You're not being treated kindly and with respect by your family. I would not personally accept my own DC being discussed by their father and grandmother and keeping me out of the loop... "

They don't keep me out the loop. DH tells me everything dd has said, it's just dd who doesn't want to talk to me or tell me anything. She doesn't tell MIL much either.

"Maybe she's feeling the strain a bit and hoped for a few words with you at DD handover. Frankly, it was a bit rude to just drop and run without a word."

Dd is fine with MIL as far as I'm aware - no rudeness, and she does as she's told.

Yes - I should have gone in, I do usually. And as I said, DH talks to MIL every day about dd. It was just that I was late for work, and I really can't be late.

Would also point out, it's not like handing over a small child. DD is nearly 15. I'm hardly going to discuss her with MIL in front of her during a 5 minute drop off.....

Really the more I think about it, the more I think that this wasn't about MIL feeling like she doesn't know what is going on with dd because she hasn't had time to talk to me, which is what she appeared to be complaining about - that I dump and run. This was about her being miffed at what she saw as me being rude by not coming in and saying hello.

I accept that this may have been rude. It wasn't intentionally rude. It also didn't warrant being harangued in the street for.

"Does she really never get any flak from your dd? I find that a tiny bit hard to believe if dd is with her most of the time."

No - dd gives her no flak at all as far as I'm aware. Nobody gives MIL flak. Ever. She is a proper matriarch and in her own way quite intimidating.

FunkyBoldRibena Fri 13-Jun-14 16:27:12

OP - you were late for work, just shrug your shoulders and forget it. Nothing much more you could have done.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 13-Jun-14 16:28:09

So take a leaf out of her book and work on developing your intimidating matriarch side. Seriously... it's one of the few advantages of getting older that you can be a battle-axe with impunity. That and not giving the furry crack of rat's behind what other people think.

Corygal Fri 13-Jun-14 16:28:49

Your MIL is an amazingly kind, helpful woman. Taking a disturbed teen as well as looking after a very sick man is an act of heroism. An act of heroism that she performed to help you.

Whingeing because she called you on taking her for granted is not an act of heroism. You're feeling vulnerable because of how DD is treating you but that isn't MIL's fault. MIL is doing a lot of very hard work for your family. Given you could lose your DD for good if MIL backs out of the care arrangement, tread carefully.

Cut MIL some slack. Apologise with flowers.

minifingers Fri 13-Jun-14 16:38:35

"Your MIL is an amazingly kind, helpful woman. Taking a disturbed teen as well as looking after a very sick man is an act of heroism. An act of heroism that she performed to help you."

Well, with respect, her having my dd there in many ways makes her life a bit easier. DD is nearly 15, we are doing all the stuff liaising with the school, dd is polite and helpful to MIL, runs errands for her, spends time with FIL to give MIL a break, and doesn't need a lot doing for her.

"Whingeing because she called you on taking her for granted is not an act of heroism. "

If she'd said to me that she felt taken for granted I would have taken it on board. My problem is her haranguing me in the street because I didn't come in when I dropped dd off. There is a time and a place for everything isn't there?

"You're feeling vulnerable because of how DD is treating you but that isn't MIL's fault. MIL is doing a lot of very hard work for your family. Given you could lose your DD for good if MIL backs out of the care arrangement"

I think that's the problem. I'm reliant and beholden to someone who basically fundamentally dislikes me and probably has long, long before any of the problems with dd happened. It's a very uncomfortable feeling.

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