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MIL....and Christmas

(54 Posts)
superdoodle Wed 14-Nov-12 10:24:19


I would value your opinions as I don't really know whether I am being unreasonable.

Basically MIL is and always has been a nightmare. She's an alcoholic, rings up when drunk and leaves vile abusive messages throughout the year. MIL has made it quite clear in the past that she would be delighted if DH and I were to split so it could be "just them" again. She has a fantasy that the difficulties in her relationship with DH are caused by me, rather than her own actions when out of her head on alcohol.

We don't really have much contact with her at all, to try and minimise her negative impact on our lives. DH sees her once or twice a year, occasional contact (usually by phone) with our DC.

The difficulty is Xmas. MIL was on her own last year as we were away. MIL has asked whether she can see us this year. Frankly, I would rather be eaten alive by piranas, but DH feels under pressure.

I could probably bear seeing her for a meal on Xmas day, but absolutely can't stand the thought of her staying in our home. The atmosphere would be unpleasant and tense. I don't want that for me or my DC. MIL lives about 1.5 hours drive away.

What to do?

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 14-Nov-12 10:34:07

If she's on her own, she's only herself to blame. A meal out somewhere would probably be a good compromise. You don't want an abusive alcoholic anywhere near your home at Christmas or any other time. How about Boxing Day?

pictish Wed 14-Nov-12 10:36:14

If she is in the habit of leaving abusive messages then she has shot herself in the foot. Who the hell wants that as a Christmas house guest!

"Oh never mind all the abuse mil...of course you can come for Christmas!"

Not bloody likely!

AgathaF Wed 14-Nov-12 10:42:24

Is it possible to go away again this year?

Otherwise, meeting halfway for a restaurant/pub meal?

Or, just refusing (best option but difficult if your DH is struggling with it).

superdoodle Wed 14-Nov-12 10:42:26

I'm glad you don't think I'm being unreasonable.

The difficulty really is that DH will be stuck in the middle of me saying "no she can't come to stay" and MIL saying "poor me how can you leave me all on my're the worst son in the world".

Now I know and DH knows that she really doesn't "deserve" to come to ours for Xmas, but she seems to be able to send him on a complete guilt trip, even though her behaviour the rest of the year is appalling.

I'm basically at sea about how to avoid tension between me and DH over this. Don't want to make his life miserable, but also don't see why I should let vile MIL ruin my Xmas....

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 14-Nov-12 10:47:01

One of my best friends takes her DM out for lunch with the family at Christmas. The DM doesn't like travelling (lives about an hour away) likes to be in her own home but doesn't have room for people to stay. My friend isn't wild about cooking so a smart hotel does it for her as well. They all meet up, have a lovely time, take DM home afterwards... everyone happy.

olgaga Wed 14-Nov-12 10:49:56

Can't you go to her on Boxing day, go out to a pub or something for a meal, then go home when you're ready?

I certainly wouldn't have her to stay if she gets drunk and abusive.

superdoodle Wed 14-Nov-12 10:51:33

Cogito.......I can see the sense in your suggestion. But (and perhaps I am being unreasonable here) I don't really want to have Xmas lunch in a hotel - I want to have it at home with my family (just with no MIL!).

We can't meet up on Boxing day as already have other family commitments. But even if we could it still wouldn't satisfy her as she would be alone on Xmas day!

Sadly finances don't permit going away for Xmas this year, so not an option.

AgathaF Wed 14-Nov-12 11:00:54

Does she have any other family or friends who she could go to on Christmas day?

AgathaF Wed 14-Nov-12 11:02:24

How old are your children? Does your DH accept that it really isn't fair on them to expose them to a drunk and abusive grandmother, expecially at Xmas?

pictish Wed 14-Nov-12 11:02:43

If she phones up drunk and leaves abusive messages throughout the year, then she is going to be alone on Christmas day. What does she expect?

It's her own fault entirely. Tough shit.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 14-Nov-12 11:04:21

Christmas Eve then... be creative. I just think, if you don't want to get steamrollered or guilt-tripped into having her to stay, you have to come up with an alternative solution fairly quickly.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Wed 14-Nov-12 11:04:42

There really is no miracle solution: you're either going to have to say no, and deal with being the "bad guy" in both your DH's and your MIL's eyes, or say yes, and have an abusive drunk in your home for Christmas, moreover confirming in her mind that she can carry on being vile and abusive to you because there are no consequences: she even gets invited over for Christmas with you.

Have you read "Toxic In-laws" by Susan Forward? I would recommend it.

LemonBreeland Wed 14-Nov-12 11:05:33

I was just going to ask the same questions as Agatha. I think those questions have a large bearing on whether or not you should bend to your DHs wishes.

WaitingForMe Wed 14-Nov-12 11:13:26

I think she needs to earn her way into your life via good behaviour. If you can't do Boxing Day could you meet half way for lunch on Christmas eve or the 26th. If she is polite and respectful and this continues through 2013 then she can have an invite next Christmas.

I think that approach is far to your DH in that you are willing to try again but makes it clear that you will not stand to be treated badly. If you back down you are surely saying her behaviour is acceptable.

oldwomaninashoe Wed 14-Nov-12 11:23:25

In all honesty does your Dh really want her there or does he just feel obligated?. If it is the latter this should be pointed out to him and you should endeavour to make other arrangements like a meal out Xmas Eve

I would imagine her abuse is hurled at you when she is drunk and she has no recollection of her behaviour, can DH gently point out to her that there is probably a good reson why she is alone Xmas day!

Assuming she is at her worst when under the influence, could you let her come but ban alcohol on xmas day, harsh, and might involve you and DH going and "checking"the Turkey a lot wine.

superdoodle Wed 14-Nov-12 11:36:37

Wow thanks for all your replies!

In answer to the questions from AgathaF, my DC are 12 and 9. The one(and only!) good thing I have to say about MIL is that she doesn't drink around the children. So I can't in all honesty say that she has to stay away in order to protect them from her bad behaviour on Xmas day itself.

But I can't forget or forgive the torrent of abuse received during the last 20 years or so.

There is no-one else who will ask MIL - she has alienated everyone (her own brother changed his mobile number!). My DH has a sister but they are estranged, and will not even think about having her for Xmas.

I've talked to DH time and again about MIL having to "earn" the right to be part of our family, particularly at special times such as Xmas. He says that's of course correct, but she is so delusional that she won't understand or accept that bad behaviour throughout the year has consequences.

He's probably right. She is in my view suffering from some sort of personality disorder, as there seems to be no rational thought processes....

So DH doesn't want her, I don't want her, but he feels obliged to have her because no one else will, she's getting older etc...

I've talked to DH about possible alternatives, but Xmas eve impossible (he's working until late) and Boxing day is out.

It's pants really - I know that I'm going to be stuck with her coming to staysad

Your DH seems to have the FOG. (Fear Obligation Guilt).

How about inviting her round to watch the carols from kings and eat mince pies on Christmas Eve, and open your presents from each other.

Then your DH can drop her back home, Merry Christmas, the end.

Agree with everyone else that this is a situation of her own making.

olgaga Wed 14-Nov-12 12:10:32

How very sad. I do sympathise. Maybe a bit of straight talking will put her off wanting to repeat it? After 20 years I don't blame you for feeling you've had enough. How old is she?

Hopefully the weather won't be awful on Christmas day and you and the DC can go out for a walk or something to break it up a bit.

<Feebly tries to look on the bright side...>

AgathaF Wed 14-Nov-12 12:17:45

I can understand that your DH feels obliged, and that he will feel guilty through Christmas if she is on her own.

Could she stay at a hotel near you overnight, so that she comes for lunch and maybe part of the afternoon, but goes back to her hotel for the night before going home the next day?

Have you told her how you feel about her behaviour of the last 20 years? If she knew how you felt, she might not want to come to yours so much. Perhaps it is worth having a frank discussion with her, or writing her a letter.

Do you children want her there? Do they know about her behaviour?

Agatha - I was wondering that too - and wondering what, if anything, this woman says about her drunken behaviour, when she's sober.

My guess is nothing - no apology or explanation or whatever - because all the drunkenness does is let out her true feelings towards the OP - which are vile and unacceptable. If my guess is correct, then under no circumstances would I want to spend my christmas with such an unpleasant person - mainly because there are children involved. To some extent, the adults can, if they choose, suck it up and endure the nastiness for the sake of family, but it could spoil the children's christmas day, and that I would not allow.

And if I am being utterly frank, were I the OP, I wouldn't want my christmas spoiled either.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Wed 14-Nov-12 12:43:50

If you really can't stand the idea of having her to stay, a rendezvous on neutral territory is the only answer. Meet halfway and book a taxi for her each way so she doesn't need you for transport. As Christmas Day falls on a Tuesday this year I would organise a lunch out on neutral territory on either the preceding Saturday or Sunday. Somewhere like a smart hotel in a lovely setting where you and the children can stretch your legs while DH and MIL have leisurely coffee afterwards. Venues will be highly decorated and if not actually Christmas it will still have some atmosphere. It's not Christmas Day but it's better than avoiding her all festive season. Much as you dislike her she is still DH's mother and if he wants to see her, it's for him not her.

Poutintrout Wed 14-Nov-12 12:52:22

You have my sympathy OP. I am in the same situation except it's my mother. I really don't want her in my house again to ruin another Christmas but she will be all alone (because she has alienated everyone else through her drinking and selfishness). After last years carry on I swore that she would never set foot in my house again let alone spend another Christmas with us but of course I am waivering now and feeling horrid about it all.

It makes me feel like cancelling Christmas because it is all just too much hassle. The biggest joke is that I am worrying myself sick and actually all she will want to do Christmas Day is work her way through a box of wine. She doesn't want to interract with us, she is so drink addled that she can't eat the meal, we may as well not be there at all. She may as well stay home and drink herself into oblivion on her own and let us have a nice time.

If I was a braver person I would know that the best course of action would be not to invite her, tell her exactly why and like another poster said earlier, let her "earn" the right to spend Christmas with us in the future. It is so difficult though in reality to have that chat so I can see why your DH is dragging his feet. TBH if your MIL is as bad as my mum, there is a good chance that even if your DH has the chat she will have been so pissed that she won't remember anyway...or will pretend not to.

superdoodle Wed 14-Nov-12 12:57:07

Well, it's a bit of a long story (20 years!), but in summary my DH and his DSIS seem to just ignore MIL's behaviour....DH says it does no good to confront her - she just says she can't remember making the call etc.

After she has made the vile calls there is never an apology, no recognition that her behaviour is unacceptable. Nada.

To start with I found the situation unbelievable - why did DH and DSIS not DO something about it? Over the years I have seen that, in fact, they probably have little choice but to simply ignore it and have minimal contact. The only other alternative is to cut her off completely (which DH will not do).

I did raise it with MIL once. It nearly ended my marriage.

Yes perhaps a hotel on Xmas eve nearby would work, with MIL just coming to ours on Xmas day. Will give it some thought....

HotDAMNlifeisgood Wed 14-Nov-12 13:02:25

He says that's of course correct, but she is so delusional that she won't understand or accept that bad behaviour throughout the year has consequences.

Just because she's delusional and won't accept responsibility for the consequences of her behaviour, doesn't mean that you shouldn't enforce those consequences.

You're right: she will never see her own behaviour as wrong. But you do. And you are entitled to enforce the consequences that you deem are appropriate. Even if she learns no lessons from them.

As you say: DH doesn't want her. You don't want her. So don't have her.

pictish Wed 14-Nov-12 13:16:20

Why on earth did raising it with her nearly end your marriage?

superdoodle Wed 14-Nov-12 13:26:07

The fall out was immense. I decided to "have it out with her" about her behaviour without discussing it first with DH.

MIL just said "how can you keep raising things I've done in the past when all I want to do is look to the future" hmm

Obviously MIL told DH all about our discussion, DH was very unhappy - because I had confronted her without his agreement, but I think moreover because I had rocked the boat of their established family dynamic.

Basically the problems with MIL had loomed large in our marriage for a long time, but swept under the carpet. This blew things out into the open and the large elephant in the room had emerged from the shadows. It took 6 months of counselling to put some boundaries in place. This was a few years ago now.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Wed 14-Nov-12 13:35:11

The boat of the established family dynamic sucks and deserves to be rocked.

How far along is your DH in seeing this?

shesariver Wed 14-Nov-12 13:35:57

And that superdoodle is why awful people like your MIL get away with their behaviour - because others are too frightened/stuck etc to confront them, just like your DH and his sister. However I think although she is a problem it also seems as if there are issues between you and your DH - do you have any other problems in your marriage when your DH doesnt take into consideration your feelings or is is always about MIL?

superdoodle Wed 14-Nov-12 13:47:37

DH made a lot of progress in the counselling process, to the extent that he now has a lot more awareness of MIL's behaviour and it's impact on me/him/us.

As a result of the counselling we agreed that I now barely see her (once in the last 2 years) and he has limited contact (his choice).

I would say that DH is much better at taking into consideration my feelings, but I am super sensitive about this. So any time I feel he is taking MIL's feelings into account more than mine I tend to overreact.

Which is really why I posted here about Xmas. Taking everything into account, and DH's needs as well as my own, should I offer to have MIL for Xmas day (but not to stay)?

HotDAMNlifeisgood Wed 14-Nov-12 13:54:26

Only you can answer that.

But from the sound of it, I think you should look for a "neutral territory" option. Having her at yours will have you seething, most likely. If you can concede to seeing her for Christmas at all (frankly, I wouldn't, given the way she has behaved towards you!), perhaps do it somewhere other than in your home.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Wed 14-Nov-12 14:03:01

...or, given that your choice so far is that you basically don't see her, and that DH occasionally does, on his own, why not stick to that pattern and send him to have a restaurant meal with her on one of the days on or around Christmas?

Yeah, it will mean one less holiday meal with him, but this whole situation sucks: all you can do is work out the least worst option, one that assuages DH's continued feelings of FOG, but also one where you don't need to compromise on your own principles.

And "no vile drink who has repeatedly been abusive to me is allowed in my home" is a perfectly sound principle!

AgathaF Wed 14-Nov-12 14:03:53

Obviously MIL told DH all about our discussion, DH was very unhappy - because I had confronted her without his agreement, but I think moreover because I had rocked the boat of their established family dynamic.

This sentence resonates with me, mainly because of the issues I have with my own mother. The thing is, they might have an established family dynamic, but whether your DH likes it or not, that dynamic has and continues to alter as your children grow up. It's not just about him, his Dsis and his mother anymore. The next generation is just as entitled to an opinion on the situation.

However, it's easy to see that as an outsider, less easy to cope with it when it is so close.

You say that you having a discussion caused problems in the past. Would he be happy if you wrote to her, with him seeing the letter? At least that way things can't get twisted, and all parties have time to consider their responses.

Unfortunately, even if you find a solution for this Xmas, the problem will rear its head again next year, and the year after ....... Which is why it really needs properly addressing at some point.

ProcrastinatingPanda Wed 14-Nov-12 14:05:18

Do we have the same MIL...?

Kewcumber Wed 14-Nov-12 14:11:51

Meet half way for Xmas evening supper - most hotels will be open. You can tehn have your Xmas lunch in peace at your own place.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Wed 14-Nov-12 14:35:11

How did MIL spend Xmas the year before last? And the ones before that?

If she has truly managed to alienate everyone, be aware that whatever Xmas standard you set this year is likely to be the assumed default position for all years to come. So do choose carefully...

Do not have this woman in your home under any circs.

At the very least both you and your H need firm and consistent boundaries in place re this lady; what is and is not acceptable to you would be a good starting point in this regard. Both of you also need to present a united front with regards to her as she will exploit any weaknesses.

Certainly do not take her to a pub restaurant; its another place that alcoholics need to completely avoid. No facilitating her either by offering to meet her hlafway or apying for her transport.

Your DH needs to properly address his FOG (fear, obligation, guilt) through counselling re his mother because she has and is doing a right old number on him. This is because he is now the only one in her mind that actually bothers with her (his sister stopped bothering years earlier). This in turn has effects on you and your own family unit like the ones you describe.

fuzzpig Wed 14-Nov-12 14:56:21

I don't think you should see her TBH. I agree with Pictish - she has brought this on herself.

Being wildly optimistic here, but maybe this will make her see just how much alcohol is ruining her life. Maybe.

Kamer Wed 14-Nov-12 15:01:42

No don't have her on xmas day. Your DC are growing up and it is too precious a time to have a miserable day with MIL there. If your DH feels guilty he can visit her himself the weekend before xmas, take her out for lunch and exchange presents. He could take the DC if they are willing and she is likely to behave herself. He needs to explain that it isn't possible for her to come to your house because of the phonecalls. I know it is easier said then done though, I have just completed tense xmas arrangements with my own ILs and they are not abusive alcoholics just rather possessive about being the xmas hosts!

LemonBreeland Wed 14-Nov-12 16:14:32

OP you really shouldn't have her for Christmas. It is unfair to you and your DC. Can you make your DH see that it is not fair for the DC to have her there at Christmas.

Can you not explain to him that just because everyone else has cut her out i.e. SIL, it doesn't mean that he needs to be a martyr.

olgaga Wed 14-Nov-12 16:26:22

I think, on reflection, you'll be lumbered with her every year if you're not careful. Does your DH want to drive there and back on Christmas Day? I wouldn't have thought so.

Far better to visit and take her for a pub meal on another day.

She really can't expect people to make a fuss of her if she's telephoning and leaving abusive messages.

Perhaps you should record her messages and play them back to her when you see her!

IsItMeOr Wed 14-Nov-12 17:12:46

Honestly, I think you should stick to your guns and not see her at Christmas. If your DH wants to see her separately, I would support him in making that arrangement, but it's obviously not going to be on Christmas day itself.

I also thought you could record the messages.

I also don't think that her behaviour is ever likely to change, and certainly not if you have her over on Christmas day.

She has chosen to live her life like this, and she has no right to decide that you have to live life that way too.

HissyByName Wed 14-Nov-12 17:29:42

I agree, tape the messages, play them back and tell her that as a result, she's not welcome in your home.

Then leave it.

This is not for you, or your DH to accommodate, it's for her to behave like a decent person, or forfeit a right to be with decent people.

Stop worrying about HER fEelings, she doesn't give a toss about either of yours/anyone elses.

Hesterton Wed 14-Nov-12 17:39:26

I would ask my DH to go to her alone for Christmas morning and then have a family meal together late afternoon/evening when he returns (without her!)

That way you support his choices, but maintain your own decisions.

A LONG way from ideal for you, but you don't have to tolerate her, she isn't alone all day and you get your family meal without her. You can spend the day with your little ones enjoying the peace.

His mum, his guilt/obligation, his choice. You can but be understanding if you feel inclined but ultimately, you shouldn't have to put up with her toxic presence.

BerylStreep Wed 14-Nov-12 18:01:38

I agree with the others who have said not in your home, and not on Christmas day.

I prefer the suggestion of your DH seeing her the weekend before Christmas, bringing the kids too.

That means you don't need to be involved, and as a bonus you get to sit down, have a glass of wine and wrap pressies in peace with some Xmas music in the background.

superdoodle Wed 14-Nov-12 18:10:31

Thanks for all your replies.

I have spent all day thinking about this and really don't want her in my home on Xmas day. The difficulty is achieving that outcome.

I'm going out with DH for a drink tonight. I need help to change the likely script, which will be something like this....

<<cosy pub setting, double gin in hand>>

Me: Well DH, I know that your Mum is keen to come to ours for Christmas but I don't think that is appropriate. I would feel tense and miserable, and neither of us want her to stay. How about you visit her with the DC the weekend before Xmas?

DH (looks thoughtful): Yes superdoodle, I can absolutely see the sense in your suggestion. But that would still mean that MIL will be on her own on Xmas day. She will be unhappy and miserable, and as she was on her own last year it seems a bit sad for her to be on her own again.

Me (slightly irritated): I understand that it is sad for her, but she has to learn that she earns access to special family occasions through good behaviour.

DH (also slightly irritated): I agree Superdoodle, but we both know MIL is quite mad and does not act in a rational way. She wouldn't understand that her bad behaviour means that she can't visit at Xmas. We also shouldn't forget that she's getting older and the children would like to see her.

Me (really cross now): It's not fair! Why should MIL ruin my Xmas!

Stony silence.

Any tips for changing the script?

AgathaF Wed 14-Nov-12 18:19:37

Rather than suggesting an alternative, what about telling him that you will feel tense and unhappy on Xmas day if MIL is there which doesn't seem fair to you, so what alternative suggestions might he have. Put the ball in his court.

"I'm sorry DH, under no circumstances will I be entertaining your mother this Christmas."

The End.

BerylStreep Wed 14-Nov-12 18:23:27

'DH, give her a box set to watch on Xmas day, that'll keep her busy'.

Can you keep copies of the vile and abusive messages so that she can hear why, in her more rational moments why her behaviour is unacceptable.

Sorry you have to deal with this.

Opps sorry - must read to end of thread .....

olgaga Wed 14-Nov-12 18:30:45

When it gets to the bit about "We also shouldn't forget that she's getting older and the children would like to see her."

How about you say "Yes well you can take the children to see her the weekend before, while I get last minute stuff done. Take her out for a meal. Make a fuss of her. Then our Christmas Day won't be ruined and we will have set a useful precedent for future years".

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Wed 14-Nov-12 18:35:22

How about saying something along the lines of,

"Obviously Christmas is such a big thing, it's really not fair to put pressure on MIL to behave herself on the day itself, so I was thinking perhaps you and she could have a lovely meal out a couple of days before.." etc etc

Re your comment:-

(thoughtful): Yes superdoodle, I can absolutely see the sense in your suggestion. But that would still mean that MIL will be on her own on Xmas day. She will be unhappy and miserable, and as she was on her own last year it seems a bit sad for her to be on her own again

To which you reply, "But both you and we as a family are not responsible for her actions, nor her happiness. She is. She has caused much anguish to our family unit".

I would ask him to consider speaking to someone about the relationship he has with his alcoholic mother. At the very least he should talk to Al-anon as they could well be helpful to him.

There is no guarantee either that if he did take her out for a meal that she would behave properly and not get drunk. If she lives 1.5 hours away as well, how is she going to travel to you?. Or will DH be expected to go visit and or pick her up from her home instead?. He certainly cannot take her to a pub restaurant or infact any place that serves alcohol.

Presumably he feels responsible for her because he is basically the only one who still puts up her. Its hard to be the last one in such circs, his sister had enough years ago. He still is in FOG and is still codependent with regards to his mother. He still wants her approval. Codependent type relationships also happen where alcoholism is present. His mother is doing a fine line in guilt and manipulation and he needs to see her for what she truly is; something he cannot quite bear to bring himself to do. I think he knows that you are right but he cannot quite bring himself to completely stand up to his mother (due also to inbuilt conditioning and the damaging lessons he learnt when growing up as a child within an alcoholic household).

None of this is any justification for his ways of thinking but the above may well explain a little why he is acting as he is. He is torn really.

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