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DIL problems - or am I a terrible MIL?

(68 Posts)
DistraughtMIL Wed 02-Dec-09 01:02:16

Have name-changed for this, just in case... and it's going to be long.

I have two young adult sons. Neither are actually married so I suppose DIL/MIL is slightly misleading, and I apologise for that, but it's a form of shorthand for the relationships.

DS2 and his GF (GF2) made me a granny earlier this year, and they're wonderful parents. I adore their DD; they spend about half the week here and half the week at GF2's mum's house, and would love to get their own place but they can't afford to just yet. I get on very well with this GF, really like and admire her.

The problem is with the GF of DS1 (GF1). They also spend some time here and some at her house, but she has a difficult background which includes abandonment, and DV with a previous BF. This has led to chronic low self-esteem and associated self-harming behaviour, including bulimia. (I am not unsympathetic, and she has discussed these issues with me. I am willing, and have offered, to support her in whatever therapy she wishes to seek, but she hasn't/won't got/get help, and she hasn't opened up to me in over 18 months.)

DS1 and his GF would also like to have their own place and can't afford it, but rather than accepting it, DS1 constantly clashes with his dad (my DH, we are still together), in what looks to me like a territorial battle. I think of it as "antler-clashing;" his attitude towards me is quite different. DS1 and his GF have been together longer than DS2 and his GF, but we're talking years in both cases, not months or weeks. All parties were teenagers when they got together, DS2 still is.

DH and I recently went away for a few days, and to our disappointment came back to both DSs complaining about each other. DS1 seems to have wanted to be the "man of the house" and adopted a rather bossy attitude, which naturally raised the hackles of DS2. GF1 also seems to have assumed a "superior" role to which she isn't really entitled, and has pissed-off DS2 and his GF (mildly) in so doing.

Things have only got worse since we returned, and came to a head a few days ago when DS1 (very bravely) wanted to talk to us about our relationship with his GF. I will admit that I didn't handle it well, but I didn't actually say any of the less-than-charitable things I thought. I did, however, take an early bath and went to bed, because I was furious and wanted/needed the space to calm down, and think seriously about what was/is going on.

Apparently, GF1 feels that we're not giving her enough attention, when our DGD gets lots. She actually flounced out of the house a few days ago over the issue; apparently (oooh, can you tell how I feel about that behaviour? blush) we had failed to say "Hello" when she arrived because we were playing with DGD at the time. To put it in context, we do usually (and I did, on that occasion, though DH didn't) acknowledge her presence but it's difficult to have a conversation with her, so usually it's "Hi GF2!" to which she replies "Hi" and then goes upstairs to DS1's room.

I did calm down before I flounced off to bed the night of The Conversation, and said to DS1 that I'm willing to make compromises, but that GF1 needs to make them too; and if she wants to have a conversation it helps if she responds to conversational overtures. For example, I knew she'd had hospital (outpatient) treatment recently, and when she got back from it I asked her how it had gone. She said "Fine" and went upstairs.

hmm

So, darling MNers, if you've read this far - I do want to have a good relationship with GF1. She's likely to be the mother of my future DGC, and I'd like that relationship to go well. But, tbh, she's difficult, and while I'm willing to make compromises that doesn't mean that she/DS1 get to dictate how I live, or how I behave in my own home.

I'm not a naturally chatty, outgoing person anyway, and find it easier with GF2 because she is.

But both GF1 and I are awkward - obviously, it's my house and more to the point, I'm the older woman, so I should be more understanding/willing to compromise. How do I achieve this?

DistraughtMIL Wed 02-Dec-09 01:07:05

Sorry, that's obviously "Hi GF1!", not GF2. blush

colditz Wed 02-Dec-09 01:09:12

How very difficult!

it's your house, and I think being pleasant, welcoming, but firmly 'my house' about it all should be enough.

Hopefully she will grow up before having her own babies but look on the bright side, once she does have her own babies she most definately will!

cathcat Wed 02-Dec-09 01:14:57

Am I understanding this right that for some the week you have 2 sons and 2 girlfriends living with you? And 1 grandchild? That must be quite a busy household and I take my hat off to you that you have managed so far.

Can you talk face to face with GF1? Take her out for coffee or something? maybe she feels like she doesn't know where she fits in to the family. How do the 2 girlfriends get on?

However you should be living your life in your house as you want - it is great you want to be understanding and make compromises but on the other hand your sons/Gfs should understand that they are sharing a house with you on the understanding they act like grownups and pull their weight.

DistraughtMIL Wed 02-Dec-09 01:29:24

Oh, thank you, thank you for reading! And for not going all "all MILs are horrible" on me. grin

colditz, I'm just not sure how to do that. And I know it'll be different when she has her own baby - it's really what she wants most in the world - but I really, really don't want to be "that bitch, my MIL", and I can see that happening. I need to fix this,now.

Yes, cathcat, I have a very busy household; until today I also had a lodger and his GF, but they've moved on. (They were lovely, btw.)

The situation is further complicated by that, however, since DS2 had earmarked that room months ago to be the baby's room, (which we're happy with) and tonight DS1 said he's expecting it to go back to what it was before the lodger moved in! (A sort of communal room for the young ones.)

Aaargh!

Biobytes Wed 02-Dec-09 01:41:35

Well, I suppose that if GF1 is depressed she may need a lot of understanding from your part, in the way that she may be over sensitive and not very able to realise that she also carries responsibility for how the relationship goes.

With regards to DS1, I think that's where the problem lies. Your house, your rules, what is that of the Antler clash??? respect to his parents and their house. He will call the shots when he has his own place (Oh GOD!!!! I sound just like my mother!!! -weeps in dispair-)

DistraughtMIL Wed 02-Dec-09 01:43:39

Sorry, cathcat, just realised I didn't answer your questions.blush

I think I do have to have lunch/coffee/a woman-to-woman talk with her, and I'd love to, but that's complicated by her bulimia and her being uncomfortable eating in public. DH and I invited her along to several family dinners/meals out (that's our main treat thing) before DS1 told us about her eating problem - in hindsight, I should have spotted the symptoms and been more sensitive. At the time though, I was just cross when she cancelled dinner at the last minute. Repeatedly.

(I am a bitch, amn't I? )

The two GFs got on well to begin with, but over the past few weeks - since we went away - even GF2 is commenting that GF1 is being unpleasant. And GF2 is the most tolerant person I've ever met. Honestly, she astounds me with her emotional generosity - but no longer.

DistraughtMIL Wed 02-Dec-09 01:50:13

Thanks, Biobytes, you're right that I have to be the more responsible party here; but I need practical ideas on how to behave, how to deal with this, how to "rise above it". There's no point saying, "your house, your rules" when there is absolutely no way to enforce it, short of evicting my DS1. And I'm sooooo not going there.

He, poor sod, is caught in the middle.

CheerfulYank Wed 02-Dec-09 01:56:12

I think you are being remarkably understanding, really. I understand if she won't eat out but perhaps you could just go for a walk or something and discuss this?

I think it's only natural that you give DGD a lot of attention! My own mother barely notices me when DS is around

Biobytes Wed 02-Dec-09 01:56:33

oh yes... that worked for my parents, as for myself too, when you know you can't rely totally on your parents... you grow up and become more independant. Life long lesson, a very valuable one, if you want the things your way you better work for them.

DistraughtMIL Wed 02-Dec-09 02:08:41

Thanks, CheerfulYank , I'm trying. And MN has really helped me see other people's points of view over the last few years, and I think has increased my empathy.

I'm grateful, and wishing to exploit it now!

I do have to engineer a woman-to-woman thing soon, that is apparant. The actual nature of it remains to be seen. I'll (or you lot will) think of something - we live rurally and it's fecking cold round here so a walk just isn't on the agenda!

(If this posts twice, it's because MNHQ were doing their 2am maintenance when I pressed "post" the first time.)

DistraughtMIL Wed 02-Dec-09 02:10:06

Biobytes, are you saying I should evict him?

Is there anything that you and GF1 both enjoy like a craft or other activity. I have a very nice MIL but we used to be at a loss for things to talk about until I started asking her for gardening advice. Now we always have things to talk about. That leads to familiarity and greater comfort for talking about more serious issues.

You might have to ask GF1 more specific questions rather than 'Did you have a good day?' ask 'How was the drive home, were there any idiots on the road tonight?' sort of thing. The problem is you don't want to come across as nosy either.

Uriel Wed 02-Dec-09 02:14:24

Some thoughts about your situation.

GF1 sounds to me like quite a private person. So, for instance, your conversational overture about her outpatient treatment was perhaps seen by her as intrusive, none of your business etc.

You say she flounced out of the house - I would see it that she (private, awkward, maybe shy) came in to her boyfriend's parents' house (when she'd rather just be going to his flat) and having made that effort (for her), was ignored(she thinks), couldn't handle the embarrassment and left quickly.

It maybe too that she sees GF2 get on effortlessly with you all, wishes she could be her (and can't) and just feels pretty miserable.

Can't think of a solution though. But I know how it feels being the awkward one! smile

CheerfulYank Wed 02-Dec-09 02:16:10

I didn't always get along with my MIL either. She's very reserved and dry and I'm, well, cheerful. (Basically I'm a bubbly chatterbox!) We just sort of found common ground after awhile, especially after I had DS. It sounds like you really do care for this woman and I'm sure you can sort it all out.

DistraughtMIL Wed 02-Dec-09 02:28:35

Thanks again - I had no idea I'd get so many responses at this time of night!

MadamDeathstare, I can't think of anything that we have in common, other than we both love DS1, but, yes, I need to ask more open-ended questions. Give her more opportunities to talk. Thanks.

Uriel, thank you for your insight, I too am the awkward one, and have been told I scare people (still dunno the honest why ), so I know it's not all about her behaviour, it's also about mine. But in the particular case of her hospital treatment, if I hadn't asked, I'd have been excommunicated sooner! That particular issue, it's important (to her) that I ask, or I will seem uncaring.

differentnameforthis Wed 02-Dec-09 03:24:32

So she is showing jealously towards the baby?

"Apparently, GF1 feels that we're not giving her enough attention, when our DGD gets lots. She actually flounced out of the house...."

She is older, issues such as eating disorders can affect fertility....

Has she had some bad news news re her fertility recently?

The thing is, if she has such a bad history with her parents, and is still obviously suffering the after-effects of that (bulemia, etc), it will be v difficult for her to have a healthy relaxed relationship with you. (or, tbh, with your DS1 sad)

You will, no matter what you do, remind her of her past, of her mother, of what she has lost, what she has been through.

So I would strongly advise you to not take her behaviour personally. Recognise that her reactions are, by and large, about her past, and not about you.

skinsl Wed 02-Dec-09 08:54:52

of course you are not a terrible MIL!
she sounds very troubled.
I think you need to sit down with the boys together and tell them to sort their differences out and they are both equal in your eyes, but there is a baby to think of so obviously the baby will get a lot of attention.
Then tell DS1 that you will be chatting with GF1 and make it happen , even if you just get everyone else out of the house, tell her you are there for her, she is part of your family, but you find it a bit difficult to raise things with her, but for the sake of a happy family, we will both make a concerted effort! or something like that?

how old are your sons?

IsItMeOr Wed 02-Dec-09 09:02:07

I'm thinking a bit along the same lines as differentnameforthis. She (and DS1 btw) sounds as if they are jealous of the attention you are giving to DGD. DS1 doesn't want DGD to have the now spare room hmm. It is obvious from the way you describe the situation that you are totally besotted with DGD, DS2 and GF2. DS1 sounds as if his nose is severely out of joint on that, and possibly some other counts too.

I read somewhere (probably MN lol) that MILs/DILs both blame each other even when sometimes it is the DS/DP who they are really cross with. I think you are laying all of this problem on GF1 when frankly, by your description, DS1 is behaving like a spoilt brat.

You are going to find it hard to build a relationship with GF1 for all the reasons mentioned by others, but you and DH can discuss with DS1 his immature behaviour. That could make things feel a lot more comfortable for all of you at home.

For GF1, if she is, as you say, desperate to have a child, the arrival of DGD will have been difficult for her. Is it really that hard for you to make sure you always acknowledge her arrival as a minimum?

And do you like something like having a pedicure together? Taking her shopping for her Christmas present?

Another thought I had is that you are very generous in sharing your home in this way, but you are implicitly, if not explicitly, saying that the house is these other couples' homes too. How formal a footing is the arrangement on (e.g. do they pay you rent/contribute to bills)? Sorry this is a bit of a ramble, but I just keep coming back to the idea that my house/my rules feels a bit uncomfortable to me if you don't have it all explicitly sorted...

Bonsoir Wed 02-Dec-09 09:03:40

I think you are in a totally impossible situation. Six adults (3 couples) living in one house? That is not the way of the modern world, or of modern relationships. It will never work. This is not a MIL/DIL issue at all - it is an issue of how modern people live.

Tortington Wed 02-Dec-09 09:08:54

when she came in she should have said hello -

precious of her isn't it to assume that you should stop everything and say hello

she should have said hello - its a two ay street

Tortington Wed 02-Dec-09 09:11:55

the spare room needs to be the babies room if you are all living together.

i think you need to get the childless son in line,

there is a mum, dad and baby - a family. their needs come over his tv room.

diddl Wed 02-Dec-09 09:14:48

Can you have more of a routine that people are with you for specific nights and not all at the same time?

Could the "spare" room be used as an extra living room when baby not there?

In some ways I think it´s a little unfair that one room is becoming a nursery- is in effect pushing your eldest son out.

IsItMeOr Wed 02-Dec-09 09:19:45

diddl how do you figure that it's unfair to have a room becoming a nursery when it was previously the lodgers'?

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