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MIL hell - long but would really appreciate any thoughts

(32 Posts)
forgetmenots Tue 27-Sep-11 12:39:59

Where to start? DH and I have been married for 3 years and together for 6. We have a great marriage and there doesn't feel like anything we can't do or face together.

The one, huge, problem has always been his mother. When we first met he was cagey about introducing me to her, which I at first took personally. However, he was worried about how she would treat me. She only contacts him to tell him how terrible he is, believes she is always right, demands so much and behaves like a bully. She has repeatedly said she wishes she had drowned DH at birth/that he was dead, she has said that if we have children and they look like they will turn out like DH, we should 'slit their throats'. In my eyes this is horrible, abusive behaviour.

It has taken a long time for DH to come to terms with the fact that he cannot win his mother's approval. His 2 siblings (SIL and BIL) are younger and still trying to please her (by handing their lives over to her in entirety). I feel sorry for them but at times they have joined in the bullying and abuse of DH and me, and so I don't feel able to talk to them. SIL in particular seems to resemble MIL and is very self-absorbed.

When we got married, she stepped up a notch, saying she didn't want any of her children to get married, because she had put her children first it was time for them to put her first - that they owed her that and shouldn't be putting anyone above her. She spread lies about me round her family to the extent where they (including FIL who is nice, but a weak enabler) believe I have said and done terrible things to her, none of which are true. She is very good at playing the victim and has convinced others that DH and I are being horrible when she has been sweetness and light - to the extent that they have called our home, posted letters demanding that we are 'nicer' to MIL. DH caved on one of these occasions and was met with a torrent of vitriol about how she would kill herself and everyone would know it was his fault.

There have been so many other instances of unbelievable behaviour I would be here all day (not trying to drip feed, but want to give a picture of what life is like). I have gone NC with them and haven't seen them since our wedding day, which they barely spoke to me on (a stiff hello). DH is low contact with them as he is still dealing with FOG issues (I have been lurking here and that rang a lot of bells!) and because basically they would just turn up at our home and scream at us if he cut them off.

My huge worry is that we are TTC. In every other way we are excited and delighted, but my worry is the DC and their contact with PILs. AIBU to think NC is the best thing for them? My DM and DF are a huge support, so there would be that - and I can't see how the ILs would be a positive force in my child's life. DH shares this worry but doesn't know how we do it - NC for all of us would mean an onslaught of all of the above, and as I say he is still coming to terms with it all.

Thanks for taking the time to read. Any comments or thoughts will be appreciated, even if they're not predicting sunny skies!

ajandjjmum Tue 27-Sep-11 12:43:52

She has serious problems to speak like that of her DC. I would keep contact to a minimum and would have no contact between them and your future DC. It could really harm them - can't have done your DH much good!

Chrononaut Tue 27-Sep-11 12:47:28

ill be frank.

no child deserves that sort of people in their lives.
your mil said "i would slit their throats if they look like dh" Do you seriously want your child to be around people like that??

no contact!!!for your childs sake!

forgetmenots Tue 27-Sep-11 12:48:41

thanks ajandjjmum, it really hasn't done him much good, he still struggles with it (although my whole family are amazed at how well-adjusted he is, considering).

forgetmenots Tue 27-Sep-11 12:49:04

thanks chrononaut, that's what I think too

LesserOfTwoWeevils Tue 27-Sep-11 12:49:26

Don't have anything to do with these terrible people.
As for the onslaught of nastiness you fear if you go NC, tear up any mail they send, block their calls and e-mails, and call the police if they turn up on the doorstep.

mamalovebird Tue 27-Sep-11 12:50:16

My God she sounds horrendous. I'm not an expert on this type of behaviour at all but I'm surprised you even give her the time of day now, never mind when you have children.

Personally, if any of my family behaved like this they would have no place in my life or my children's. Your poor DH, what a disgusting way to be treated by your mother. My mother treated me similarly growing up and I had no contact with for years. Luckily, age seems to have mellowed her and although we never talk about it, she knows if she ever dipped her toes in those waters again, either towards me or my DS, she'd have no part of our lives.

Life is too short to be made to feel this way by other people, family or not.

Chrononaut Tue 27-Sep-11 12:51:11

it may be best to just go NC if you feel you and your DH can do it? Yes they may whine and come yelling at your door. but they cant do it forever, and then once they're gone you wont have to put up with that shit

im all for working out family differences, but sod that for a game of soldiers

WinduhPAYNE Tue 27-Sep-11 12:54:15

No contact, and an injuction or whatever it is called to legally keep her away from you and you Dh (plus LO's fingers crossed for you TTC)

forgetmenots Tue 27-Sep-11 12:54:55

thanks - I am currently NC with all of them but I want DH to have the time and space to decide that for himself (SIL asked in the past for him to choose between me and them, of course he chose me, but I wouldn't put him in that position). I think I will have to broach the idea with him though, as the idea of future DCs spending time with her and listening to her bile makes me feel ill. I'm very sorry to hear you've been through this mamalovebird, it is awful and something I didn't understand til i met DH

Chrononaut Tue 27-Sep-11 12:56:37

remind him that when he is a father, his duty above all else is to protect his dc! would he tolerate that sort of thing from a stranger?

Feel for you both in all this dysfunction. His birth family are indeed toxic to say the very least. All the roles played out in such families are there; the
(narcissisitic) matriarch, the bystander in her H who acts out of self preservation and want of a quiet life, the golden child siblings (itself a role not without price) and the scapegoat for all their ills i.e your H. The divide and conquer strategy often employed by such people is there too. This is patently not how normally healthy functioning families behave; there is much disorder, dysfunction and underlying strife going on within his birth family and such can and does spill over into the next generation.

I would give your DH "Toxic Parents" by Susan Forward to read.

You did not make MIL this way; her own family did that. What do you know if anything about her own childhood and background?.

I would go NC with these people; none of them will bring anything positive into a child's life and quite apart from anything else toxic people are more than happy to pass on all their crap to the next generation. These people cannot do reasonable.

mamalovebird Tue 27-Sep-11 13:03:58

Thanks forgetmenots, and I'm sure it'll make your DH the best father. If he's anything like me, he'll want to make sure his children don't have to go through what he has so he may surprise you and suggest the NC himself.

Has your DH had any counselling? I had years of it and it did me the world of good.

My DH struggles with how harsh I can be sometimes with my mother but the more he finds out the more he understands my reasons. You sound like you're being the perfect support for him.

ps. Atilla, you have just described my upbringing in a nutshell. I may copy that for future reference!

forgetmenots Tue 27-Sep-11 13:04:56

Attilla - she talks a lot about her upbringing and how hard it was for her, that she was 'never heard' and that's why she can only express herself by screaming etc. but if i'm completely honest she is such an accomplished liar I don't know what parts of her story I believe. She also puts the idea of family very strongly - her catchphrase is 'there are no individuals here, just the family'. I don't doubt there was dysfunction involved (and in FIL's family also).

'Cannot do reasonable' made me nod - I've watched DH try everything over the last six years, from calling every day (!) to periods of NC, from praising her when she doesn't scream to screaming back... nothing has worked and I realised quite early on nothing would. My heart breaks for him, though, because he is lovely and would be a loyal and devoted DS (in fact, I think he has shown that already by not getting rid...)

mamalovebird Tue 27-Sep-11 13:09:16

One thing a counseller said to me about my mother's behaviour towards me was that I have to make a decision. She is the only person who can change her behaviour so I either had to accept her how she is and in turn how what she does, makes me feel, or I just had to walk away and let her live her life her way, and live my own life my way.

It's hard because you have this pull because 'she's my mother' but sometimes you have to kind to yourself and a bit selfish to protect your own mental health.

forgetmenots

Thought she'd say something along those lines. Have a look at narcissistic personality disorder and see if that rings any bells with regards to MIL.

I have no doubt that your DH is a fine person unlike his birth family. They have and continue to let him down abjectly.

Your DH may need counselling to help him further with his fear, obligation and guilt issues. Is counselling something he would actively consider?. BACP are good.

Please tell him from me that it is not his fault they are like this; their own families did that to them.

ShoutyHamster Tue 27-Sep-11 13:12:36

Bottom line is that you cannot allow anyone that abusive into any sort of contact with your children and still say that you are a good parent.

She tells her son she wishes she'd drowned him at birth? What kind of terrifying, aggressive, nightmarish grandmother would she make?

So yes, make it clear to your DH that you and your children will be NC. It sounds as if he will be supportive on that and that he's halfway there himself. All good - a terrible shame, but all good.

You might find that having children yourself will be the thing that tips the balance with your DH. The residual 'but they're my family guilt that he is finding it a challenge to let go of will become completely revised once his own child is here. Then he will, genuinely, have a NEW family. Not that you and he aren't one... but when there are children in the mix that you are responsible for, that you are heading up a family for, things change drastically. She won't be the parent... HE and YOU will be the parents that matter, the parents with parenting decisions to make.

So keep talking and supporting your DH - I think your approach here is great, btw - decisive about your own boundaries but letting him have the space to develop his HIMSELF, with your support.

As far as how you actually handle things once you are expecting - well, it would all be a whole lot easier if by then your DH had decided to go no contact, because the thing which would sort it out once and for all is to make it clear to them that it's no contact and if they harrass you in any way you will go to the police and get a restraining order. With luck, even the threat of that will make them back off, because they'll see you mean it. Then they'll spend the rest of their days badmouthing you all to all and sundry, and it won't matter two hoots because you'll know nothing about it, and will have nothing to do with them. But they won't come near you, and if they do, you'll slam them with a police visit. Immediately. There really, really is no need for there to be any sort of 'onslaught' that lasts longer than one visit from the police that will tell them in no uncertain terms that if they come to your house and harrass you, they will be in trouble. You only need to take that treatment if you are scared of them, and it sounds like you at least are not.

But that just won't work if your DH is still in contact. That is the thing to be thrashed out, and I can see that it would be hard to do without feeling that you're pressuring him. Counselling? Showing him this thread? I only say this because it does sound like he's 99% there with this. I feel for you. Good luck x

forgetmenots Tue 27-Sep-11 13:20:18

mamalovebird - that is strong and good advice, thank you. I have really strong (but positive) family ties, so it's hard for me to understand not contacting your mother, but she is not a person who really wants other people in her life (unless they do what she says). DH is thinking about counselling but (through her conditioning I'm sure) thinks the therapist will blame him! (I know, I know...). He has talked a lot about the kind of father he wants to be and aside from all the other amazing things about it, I think it will be great for him.

attilla - thanks for the book recommendation (i read 'Toxic InLaws' and found it very helpful) - but NPD is ticking EVERY SINGLE box, down to specific detail (People passed her wedding presents to give to us, she kept them because she deserved them and we didn't; she lies about seeking help for her anger and then when she is congratulated on that retracts it and sees it as proof we don't care about her; she wants all family communication to run through her, and the other members of the family allow it.) Scary stuff. I feel sorry for the 'golden child' SIL as she has given up any hope of a life of her own, and will end up just like MIL - but her behaviour has been pretty odious too. I will pass that kind advice on, too, thanks.

forgetmenots Tue 27-Sep-11 13:27:17

thank you shoutyhamster. I think I will have a look at restraining orders in case - have the info to hand as it were. I'm not scared of them, but as you've guessed I don't want to pile any more on to DH (he is a very strong minded person in all other areas, except this, for obvious reasons). I feel that with me he gets to be himself and doesn't have constant demands and conditions on him, within reason!

Showing him the thread might well be a good idea. He's not against the idea of NC, it's more the logistics and the immediate impact which he fears will upset me/baby/him. Security at his workplace have been warned about her, as during a period of NC before she showed up at his work, screaming and bawling. Reception know not to give out his number, too, so steps are being taken to close off ways she can do this... it's just the final step over the cliff I think.

mamalovebird Tue 27-Sep-11 13:31:37

You're welcome. I really hope your DH gets through this. Counselling was the best thing I ever did. It's not about blame, it's about making sense of stuff you don't understand and getting your head and emotions straight to get on with life.

You sound like you're doing exactly the right thing. Like ShoutyHamster says, once you have your own children, the world looks a lot different and you just don't tolerate that kind of crap anymore.

Let me know how you get on.

forgetmenots Tue 27-Sep-11 14:04:55

I will - thanks - and have just discovered the 'Stately Homes' thread which is making me shock... Amazed there are still taboos around all this when you see how common it really is. Good not to feel alone and thank heavens for Mumsnet!

crazyhead Tue 27-Sep-11 20:09:05

My Dad's mum is exceptionally difficult in many of the ways you describe (although your situation sounds more vindicative, you poor things, and grandma does have some good sides) and my parents had virtually no contact with her for the first ten years of mine and my sister's lives, bar the odd phone call. She told all and sundry loads of lies about how awful her children were to her. Anyway, as far as my Dad was concerned, his wife and children were the priority at that time. These days she's still hard work, but it is easier now she is in her 90s...

Your MIL sounds pretty miserable, and you seeing her doesn't seem to make her happy - that's the worst thing about these situations, trying to be nice to this toxic person not only makes you feel s**t, it doesn't even cheer them up.

I would please yourselves - do you actually need to say you are breaking contact, or can you just quietly extract yourselves/not answer nasty phonecalls/refuse to respond where any unpleasantness is concerned?

kunahero Tue 27-Sep-11 20:27:06

Wow you poor thing and I thought I had a strange MIL. SHe has serious issues and in all seriousness you cannot let this 'woman' any where within a country mile of your dc.
NC is the only way to go.
I really hope you both find the strength to get through this together.
Good luck with ttc.

cecilyparsley Tue 27-Sep-11 20:49:05

The MIL sounds utterly vile and bizarre, I'd say you are completely justified in keeping her right out of your lives.

birdsofshoreandsea Tue 27-Sep-11 20:55:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MosEisley Tue 27-Sep-11 22:32:29

google 'Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers'. It might be helpful to you / DH.

Not half as fun as MN, but a good forum for this specific type of problem.

mynewpassion Wed 28-Sep-11 02:12:08

Now here is a toxic MIL/ILs.

I think you are right in not pushing your DH and letting him make his own decisions. You don't want him to later resent you for stopping all contact with his family.

You could always try in small doses after you hopefully have a child to see if she's changed her ways. If not, no great loss to you, your DH, or your children.

ToxicMoxie Wed 28-Sep-11 02:30:41

I'm sorry you and your DH are going through this! I have a difficult mother, and MIL, but nothing like this! I agree with the other posters that NC is the way forward. I would say that this needs to be a joint decision. It sounds like you're a fab wife, but you definitely want him to be behind this too. I also think that once he has his own child, especially since he is talking about what he won't do, he will make the same decision.

And kids grow up without grandparents all the time, and we're fine for it, believe me! I would rather miss out on grandparents than be terrorized by the horrible witch Daddy knows! Ugh, she sounds like a character straight out of a Roald Dahl book!

hmc Wed 28-Sep-11 10:29:00

No contact without a doubt.

forgetmenots Wed 28-Sep-11 12:27:32

Thanks for the support/advice... NC feels right and I will chat to DH. I still want him to decide for himself, but the DCs should they come are a different matter. Thanks xx

ischangepossible Wed 28-Sep-11 12:35:00

You could be describing our situation and mostly we are NC with MIL (especially as we have a child!). MIL has I'm sure a personality disorder and was for most of DH's childhood a violent and aggressive bully. FIL was a weak enabler but eventually DH stood up to MIL and he has been the scapegoat every since. BIL is the golden boy. When I met Dh he had attended counselling (as he had married very young to a woman who whilst not violent was very similar to MIL). Through counselling he recognised the patterns of behaviour and was advised by his counsellor that any child should only have, at best, supervised access to MIL.

I'm ashamed to say that when I came on the scene (and having no experience of such behaviours) I encouraged him to resume contact with MIL, surely she couldn't be that bad!! Very quickly I realised that she was and we now have very limited contact - physical distance helps with that however. She has proven herself to be a similar grandmother as she was a mother, some grandchild are wonderful but others she is awful towards. She ignores SIL's children and makes horrible comments about their appearances despite them only being babies/toddlers. She has also tried to develop a relationship with a grandchild but excludes the parents (easier these days with email).

Upshot - it is so very difficult - do consider putting as much physical distance as you can between you all as that does help. Go as NC as you can - treat it like an acquaintance rather than family member. We send cards, occasional photos and DH will never, ever allow her to be alone with the dcs.

The only benefit to having a MIL like mine is that I now value my family completely and I have come to realise that whilst my life wasn't easy I am so very fortunate to have been born into my family.

forgetmenots Wed 28-Sep-11 12:41:46

Ischangepossible, I could have written most of that. I too tried to encourage DH to build bridges, from my functional upbringing I didn't understand what he was telling me - surely it had to be a communication problem? But, of course, as we both seem to have discovered, it wasn't.

I have enjoyed having no contact with her and her enablers, but hate having to manage DH's reasonable expectation of a civil, functioning relationship that won't happen. I think counselling is a wise idea, every day he moves further away from it and it could really help. Thanks.

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