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How to deal with FIL?

(28 Posts)
wishywashywoo Tue 28-Jun-16 15:42:23

I have NC for this...obvious reasons.

FIL retired last year. It is early retirement so he is only late 50's. He always said he was dreading retirement, hates the thought of getting older etc.
Since he retired things have just got worse and worse. He spends no time at all with MIL. He will message us late at night about something we told MIL three weeks ago, that he is only getting around to hearing, because he hardly speaks to her. If we try to contact him he is dismissive and cannot wait to get us off the phone.

So their relationship is their business, but as MIL was becoming so isolated we have stepped in a bit and started taking her out with us, regardless of his plans. Calling her more, involving her more etc. She is very grateful and eager to have places to go and things to do and to spend time with us.

So that is a bit of background. Now for the actual issue. FIL is so dismissive. When we are there he is shooing us out the door. Not in a "get out" way, but in a get up and walk to the car and put the kids in, while we are indoors talking to MIL way. It is incredibly rude, especially as MIL is always asking us to stay longer, chat longer, come for dinner, leave the kids. We end up standing there not wanting to say no to MIL but knowing that FIL doesn't agree. It isn't like we are there a lot either. We go weeks without seeing them, and they live walking distance from us.

I don't even think that he hates us or doesn't want us there, it is just that he is becoming more and more self absorbed. In his head he is thinking about his plans for the afternoon, which never involve MIL and he is going about his day without a thought for her.

I have just been round there and MIL was wanting me to stay, he just began the leaving process (ushered to the car, as above) and I was dismissed. He has probably gone out now, and MIL is still there alone, and would have loved me to stay for a coffee. I was there for 5 minutes. I got there on the hour and was home at 10 past. So not like I was outstaying my welcome either.

Having a conversation with him is equally frustrating. He will ask a question, I respond, and he doesn't acknowledge it at all. Sometimes he has already walked off. Or DH will tell him something and then a week later he will message us asking the question to which DH has already given the answer. So its clear he was never listening in the first place. That happens A LOT.

So what do we do? MIL won't stand up to him, and very rarely bad mouths him to us, but we know she is really unhappy. I am actually sick of being dismissed like a child and I am sick of getting late night messages about things he should already know about and then having to have the awkward conversation wondering if he will suddenly remember we already told him.

I don't think its Alzheimers, it just seems like he is not coping with being retired and is becoming very self absorbed. But what do I know? I won't rule anything out.

I don't even know if there are any answers above what we are already doing...including MIL as much as we can etc. But the face to face stuff with him is getting really hard to stomach. WWYD?

FrancisdeSales Tue 28-Jun-16 15:53:29

Does your MIL drive? This situation will only change if she changes it. I would encourage her to be more independent, why should she sit at home waiting for her life to start? Encourage her to work and drive. If she already does these things then she is passively allowing his behaviour to control her. Your DH may need to talk to her clearly and directly about how she is bing treated and encourage her to change things - if that's what she wants.

wishywashywoo Tue 28-Jun-16 16:04:24

She has several health issues which means she hasn't worked for over a decade. My heart breaks for her actually because I always got the impression that she thought when he retired they would have a great life together, holidays etc. They can certainly afford it.

She does drive, but less and less. She had some flare ups recently which meant she wasn't up to it, and then she had a minor bump which shook her.

I think she knows its not right, but she seems happy to accept that this is what marriage is. (!!) While also being incredibly hurt by his dismissiveness and absence. He is not nasty to her, she has her own money, own car, he doesn't stop her doing anything. If she announced tomorrow she was off on a cruise, he would drive her to the airport. But he wouldn't go with her unless it was his idea. She can be a martyr at times too.

MrsBertBibby Tue 28-Jun-16 16:11:03

What would happen if you refused to be ushered, and just told him no, you and mil are having coffee?

candybar007 Tue 28-Jun-16 16:12:59

I`m thinking there is something behind all this ushering you away but don`t know what it could be.

wishywashywoo Tue 28-Jun-16 16:14:34

I have been asking myself that since I got back.

I have no idea.

He is terribly "reasonable", so on the surface there would be a very reasonable face put on things, but there would be an undercurrent. He doesn't like being challenged.

Today, what would have happened is that DD would have been strapped in the car while I stayed in the house...I don't know if that would have resulted in stalemate or if he would have brought her back in.

PenelopePitstops Tue 28-Jun-16 16:15:49

Could you pick up MIL and keep her for the day?! Or just refuse to leave. I would go mad if someone put my (as of now hypothetical) kids in a car.

wishywashywoo Tue 28-Jun-16 16:16:05

Xposts candy.

I have been trying to work it out for months, but I don't think it is anything more than he just wants to get on with his day, and forgets that the show can go on (and often does) in his absence.

PenelopePitstops Tue 28-Jun-16 16:16:33

Why is he even taking your kids out of the house?! I'd say "no FIL we aren't leaving yet".

lydiarose Tue 28-Jun-16 16:20:25

Could you have said to her something like "if FIL is going out soon, why don't you pop back home with me and we can have a nice coffee"?

junebirthdaygirl Tue 28-Jun-16 16:32:43

If ye live within walking distance could you text her to stroll over to you. Or when leaving ask her to come over with you maybe to keep an eye on dc while you cook dinner. You sound like a nice dil. Some people find it difficult to adjust to change of retirement. Can your dh challenge him on chasing you out of the house. That's going too far.

wishywashywoo Tue 28-Jun-16 17:06:09

Its a fine line with MIL. She is very eager to be involved but is also very overly conscious of not overstepping the mark. So much so that she actually goes too far the other way. When shes here she is constantly thanking us for the meal, apologising for imposing etc. Its hard work tbh but I feel a bit like FIL is to blame for that. She is constantly apologising for her own existence.

We have to be careful what we say around her. She can take offence at the most random and innocent stuff.

Though the more time we spend with her the better it seems to get.

FIL does the same to DH re the ushering.

I don't know why he straps the kids in but he always has done that. Its just what he does so I have never considered it strange. Its the timing of it...before we are ready to leave, that is the issue.

Iwantagoonthetrampoline Tue 28-Jun-16 17:30:32

Sounds like he expects her entire existence to revolve around him and his routines. Was it like this when he was working? I can see how years of having the whole household revolve around your working day could make you very selfish. Very strange behaviour at pushing you out of the house though, and not making excuses for him, but the change / lack of routine can be really unsettling when first retired. My aunt and uncle are both nice people but have always had a very extreme traditional housewife dinner on the table at 5:30 type of relationship and I'm sure he has some kind of ocd as cannot cope with any variation plans or doing anything new. Has put a lot of mental strain on my aunt and on their relationships with my cousins, especially since he retired. Does your fil ever initiate seeing you and if so is he just as keen to push you out quickly? If you are just dropping in unexpected or at short notice maybe he has real problems dealing with this. Could you agree a fixed time that you visit once a week to see if this makes any difference and slowly build from there? Your DH should also have a word with him as either he needs some help to overcome this or just a kick up the bum for being a selfish idiot. Things can't carry on like this for your mil's sake.

FrancisdeSales Tue 28-Jun-16 17:32:17

Can you not openly say to him as soon as you see him "FIL we are visiting MIL please do not remove the children from the house"? He appears to be massively controlling. Your MIL appears totally co-dependent to a very unhealthy degree.

Tatiebee Tue 28-Jun-16 17:38:57

A simple solution would be to lock your car and keep the keys on you so he can't put your daughter in the car.

wishywashywoo Tue 28-Jun-16 17:54:21

I hadn't dropped in unexpectedly, it was to pick something up that they told me to come and get. We never call in unannounced, that just isn't us really. DH will sometimes, but he is their son and that is up to him, but as a whole family we don't.

At arranged things he is fine in terms of not ushering us out, but he is still dismissive and impossible to have a decent conversation with. He dominates the conversation too, so its not like we can just talk round him. When we have MIL on her own she chats away and we all have a great time. When FIL gets drunk he is better company. That is awful to say. grin

When he was working it was just the same, but not to the same extent because obviously he was tied to work. But he would still go do his hobby when he felt like it. They wouldn't really do much together. Now it is just more extreme, his hobby has him away for whole weekends, and hes out for lunch with this person and that person, and its at the point where people are even asking him if he has a home to go to and saying they feel sorry for his wife. (That all is on facebook btw, which is how I know.)

DH is used to his ways, but even lately he is getting annoyed and has started calling in on MIL when he knows FIL isn't there. He worries for her because he knows she can be a martyr. If she fell or she was unwell he is worried she wouldn't call us.

I keep coming back to the fact that FILs life is his business and their marriage is their business...which is why we don't want to have to step in, but instead we can take action in small ways without it being a huge deal. IYSWIM.

He has also totally backed away from wider family occasions, which means MIL has to go on her own. Most of the aunts and uncles have their partners there. I know that bothers her. And he is so vocal about it too. He can't just say he isn't going, he has to make it clear he thinks its ridiculous and nonsense and boring.

Its so hard to watch, but it just isn't our place to get involved. I think I will have to tackle his treatment of me head on though.

Iwantagoonthetrampoline Tue 28-Jun-16 19:19:01

Sounding more and more like pure selfishness on his part and it's hard to change the habits of a lifetime. Maybe focus on her gaining some independence instead. Does she have any hobbies or interests? Could you suggest to her to join some clubs, U3A, arrange to go out with friends for coffee?

RunRabbitRunRabbit Tue 28-Jun-16 19:55:35

Yes, all you can do is take his treatment of you and your children head on. How he treats MIL is for her to deal with.

If you think MIL wants you to stay why not ask her directly, "Do you want us to stay, even though FIL will be elsewhere?" Then respect her answer.

Joysmum Tue 28-Jun-16 23:22:35

How is he getting the car open to strap the kids in? Don't you lock it?

Lucked Tue 28-Jun-16 23:27:59

I would go out to the car retrieving dd saying breezily " change of plan I am staying for a cuppa, come on dd granny is getting you some juice" whilst lifting her from the car.

Lucked Tue 28-Jun-16 23:29:33

Also lock car and sit on dds coat!

wishywashywoo Tue 28-Jun-16 23:53:41

Once he has started heading out the door the offer of stauing just isn't there anymore. Its hard to explain. Today it happened before there was an offer of coffee made, but it was about to be. I know that sounds presumptuous but this happens so much now. There is just no getting around that situation a lot of the time.

No the car is rarely locked. We live in a very quiet area, no one is about. Very low crime rate.

I think I might just try to forge on with MIL at our house and out of the house. I really don't see the strapping the kids in the car changing. It would just be turned into something I am being picky about. You know? Out of context it really doesn't matter, and I can't give the whole context because who knows how that would go down.

Hillfarmer Wed 29-Jun-16 00:07:03

Lock the car everytime you go to their house and at least avoid him putting the kids in the car without your say-so. If he asks you to unlock it, then that is the opportunity to say 'We're not going yet'. End of.

Stand up to him. He needs to be challenged by you when he is taking the piss like this, otherwise it will only carry on. He sounds like a bully. If you stand up to a bully, it feels very scary when you start, but then they often back down straight away. Bullies are cowards at heart.

barabasiAlbert Wed 29-Jun-16 00:18:11

He sounds like my father. 10 years on from retirement he's the same or worse. The only difference is my mother is also erm... rather difficult... so I can see why they spend little time in each other's company.

I would probably call him on the behaviour and stand up to him. If anything's going to change it would be better to have the change sooner rather than looking inconsistent after 10 years of putting up with it.

So re the car - saying "oh I think I will stay for that coffee, come on DD, Granny's getting you some juice" is actually perfectly normal behaviour. If FIL stands there glowering at you smile sweetly and ask what his plans are - if he indicates you're keeping him from something make it clear that he's totally welcome to go and do whatever it is.

Re the conversational dominance, that's harder. I've always tended to zone out when my father starts mansplaining something to all the stupid little women in front of him - so I go too far the other way, contributing nothing at all to conversations. Perhaps steer the conversation to things he knows nothing about or finds boring?

re MIL, I'd give her small, concrete ways of taking her life back. Invite her over to your place for a coffee without him, regularly. Give her a defensive driving course as a present (or a series of lessons designed to get her confidence back - I think those exist?). Does she have interests? Can she do a U3A/Open Uni or local-uni continuing education course on something interesting, were you also encourage her to have a coffee with and chat to people after classes? Chat to her encouragingly about how much fun these independent activities are, and how nice the people are. She needs to get a grip on what fun looks like as an individual (i.e. having a life and interests and friends of her own), rather than in some fantasy version of their relationship. What may happen is that he starts to find her more interesting when she has less time for him.

DonnaMurray1 Wed 29-Jun-16 04:56:44

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