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How to deal with MIL? Depressing just thinking about it.

(37 Posts)
LittleMissMedium Mon 20-May-13 16:04:18

It's so stereotypical and I hate it, but I do not have a good relationship with MIL. There's never been an out-and-out confrontation between us (only her an DH), but it's just there, bubbling away under the surface.

I have finally reached my boiling point after 4 years of her bullshit (she's upset that me and DH are getting a mortgage, she doesn't talk to him much now we're married, she was FOUL on our wedding day - to mention a few recent issues) and there's literally nothing I can do to make this situation better.

I've tried with her, I really, really have. DH is her only child, so I completely get that it's difficult to let go. But it just feels like a constant unspoken battle between us as she tries to act like he's still a little boy whilst we're building our life together.

DH says he doesn't love her. This is v sad, but there relationship is strange. He doesn't want to cut her out of his life or anything, but she is very poisonous and it is exhausting going over there - she constantly refers to his old girlfriends, how she doesn't want to be a grandmother, and generally criticises our life.

The reason I'm asking for some advice is that we're TTC, but it's making me really upset to think of her around any DC we may have. I know that's unreasonable, but she's really so horrible to me and about my family that it just gets me down that this woman is in my life. I don't get how my DH came from her, because he is truly wonderful. He is v supportive and puts her in her place when she is rude to me, but it never changes anything in the long run.

So - do you have a relationship like this? How have you dealt with it and how do you manage it with your DCs around?

JamieandtheMagicTorch Mon 20-May-13 16:10:40

I know people will come along to help who have been in this situation.

I'd say the really good news here (for you) is that your DH sees her clearly and is prepared to stand up for you. - that you are strong unit.

There's no doubt things could get complicated when/if you have DCs, but with a strong relationship, you'll be good to weather it.

Many people will say you don't need to have any contact with her, if you feel it will damage you, and certainly your future DCs

Given his difficult relationship/upbringing your DH might possibly need support/counselling if you have children . It certainly brings to the fore lots of difficult memories and emotions

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 20-May-13 16:14:54

You've only got a few options with someone difficult like this. 1. Cut them out completely. 2. Suck it up and keep trying to make her like you and 3. Stand up to them but keep them at arms length.

IME 1. is easy but unsatisfactory as it doesn't actually resolve anything, 2. is horrible and should not be entertained and 3. is hard work but ultimately puts you in the driving seat

Your children will have their own relationship with your MIL and it may not be what you expect. In my own family I adored the grandmother that my DM found very irritating as a MIL and my DS can't stand his grandmother... my DM... who goes out of her way to do everything she can to be Granny of the Year.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Mon 20-May-13 16:19:09

DH seems a very nice guy, your MIL is hard work; you married him not his mum. You say, she doesn't talk to him much now you've tied the knot. She probably wouldn't miss you if you stayed home. So why go over there? If it is to support him, that's one thing, but don't feed her spite.

Put distance between you and MIL. Now, before you conceive. She's DH's mother not yours. No love lost. Some people like it that way, 'their way or the highway'. If DH is seeing her in the hope of building bridges, tell him as far as you are concerned, he needn't do so on your account. His relationship or lack of one is his business. You do know, there doesn't have to be a big dramatic door-slamming, yelling heads off type scenario? Just lengthen the gap between visits. Let things drop. Wait and see if she lifts a phone to call DH.

LittleMissMedium Mon 20-May-13 16:24:18

Thanks for the responses, really helpful. Sick of talking about this in RL.

Donkeys She will not call him - she didn't call him between Christmas and February. He deliberately left it to see if she would and she didn't and in the end, it was him who called his parents as he adores his Dad, but MIL will not allow FIL to talk to DH without her approval. It's v strange. FIL is nice enough to me when she is not around, but when she is around, he barely looks at me.

They are like Mr and Mrs Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances!

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 20-May-13 16:51:31

Something that works for me with my own version of your MIL is to adopt a semi-detached approach and regard them rather as 'the nutter on the bus'. You're stuck with them for the duration of the journey so, to get to your destination in reasonable shape, alternate between ignoring them, banalities/patronising smiles, firm requests to leave you alone and, if they become too offensive, get the driver to kick them off... smile

I take it you don't live close to each other? Broken down over a typical year, exactly how many hours do you think you'd be forced to spend time with her?

LittleMissMedium Mon 20-May-13 16:57:41

Ha, love that Cognito!

We live in the same town, a 5 min drive away. I would say so far this year I've seen her 4 times, each time DH has been there. DH hates it when she comes over (not often - he made it clear she was never to turn up randomly like she used to as he hates it) and when we go there, but if I don't go, she starts bitching about where I am. I didn't see her for about six months once because I couldn't face it after she made a comment about my Dad after he had passed away, but it didn't seem to change much. I have never told her myself to back off, but I feel like I'm getting to that point. I'm worried though, because I feel like me doing that will change everything - as in, I will be demonised even more and I don't want to be the reason DH and his Mom don't talk.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Mon 20-May-13 17:00:28

An enabling FIL, that doesn't help. Sorry OP I don't think I'd bank on any big change of heart and I foresee things worsening when your DC1 arrives. She will either try and dominate and freeze you out or she'll be in state of high dudgeon regarding name, birthplace, competition with your side of the family let alone tension and stress her DS has put her under, etc etc.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Mon 20-May-13 17:01:25

5 minutes' away! Oh dear.

LittleMissMedium Mon 20-May-13 17:07:41

See Donkey, that's what I'm thinking. And DH knows it too. It's a shitty situation because whilst I would obviously never ask or expect him to cut contact, life would be so much better. DH is so unhappy when he sees her or hears from her. FIL is such an enabler it is unbelievable!

Bottom line is, what has got me so low lately is the fact that she doesn't want him with me. I adore him, we have a great relationship and we have really supported each other through hard times and are so proud of where we both are now (job-wise, about to buy a house)... yet to her, I am shit.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 20-May-13 17:07:46

If you only live five minutes away you either need to start house-hunting or you need to develop some really sharp elbows. You have to tell a woman like this to back off because they don't do 'subtle'... they have to be told in words of one syllable. The offensive stuff can often be because they are a bit thick & thoughtless rather than deliberately malicious.

My own DM (my personal nutter on the bus) has a really killer habit of bringing up some cheery anecdote about my exH just as I'm least expecting it... pow! It's been 18 years since we split but it still catches me off-guard. I have no reason to suspect she's deliberately trying to upset me - she's just too stupid to shut up.

So don't fight shy. All the time you say nothing, she thinks what she says is OK. All the time you don't see her after some offensive remark she'll just think it's you being 'offhand' rather than anything she's done. So say it straight... she won't like it but it's important for your sanity.

LittleMissMedium Mon 20-May-13 17:15:33

I think I've got to say something, haven't I.


Thanks Cogito. It's probably going to be the bloody apocalypse/WW3!

Oh god, moving away? The woman almost had a FIT when DH mentioned looking elsewhere. However, I do like this area and my DM and DSis are here. We shall see!

Windingdown Mon 20-May-13 17:20:20

I truely doubt that you could be demonised even more than you already are by this poisonous woman - so don't let that hold you back from doing what is right for you, your DH and any soon to be Littler Miss or Master Mediums.

My father was like her and my mother played the role your FIL does.

40 odd years of having the "Depressing just thinking about it" cloud hanging over us. We wish we'd realised decades ago that there is a way to just switch that cloud off. My God the uplifting freedom when the sky cleared was breathtaking.

LittleMissMedium Mon 20-May-13 17:28:30

Thanks Windingdown. That last line made me tear up a bit. God doesn't it just feel that bleak. I can't imagine 40 odd years of it.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Mon 20-May-13 17:33:04


I think you need to try and change your mindset.

You are nice, she is not. Do not try to deal with her as you would someone who is nice/reasonable. You can't

Just try and minimise the hassle to yourself.

What you have here are what are termed toxic inlaws. You have fortunately come from a family where such a type of familial dysfunction is thankfully unknown so that makes it even harder to deal with. You need to realise that such people NEVER apologise nor take any responsibility for their actions.

MIL here wears the trousers and FIL acts as both her willing enabler and bystander (i.e acts out of self preservation and want of a quiet life) in all this so I would not let him off the hook either.

Your DH has had a lifetime of such conditioning and likely has FOG - fear, obligation and guilt with regards to both of them in spades. His primary loyalty however, is now to you. Both of you need to be on the same page with regards to his parents (and if you have children I would be very wary about letting them have any sort of relationship with them, some parents should not have access to their grandchildren).

Both of you need to agree firm boundaries and these too also need to be consistently applied to this pair. Also boundaries need to be raised a lot higher than they currently are. Physical as well as emotional distance needs to be made. The further you are away from these two the better.

He is torn as well because he cannot cut them off either, they are his parents and despite everything they have put him through he loves them and wants their approval still (that is also part of the problem). Cutting parents off is not at all easy as the people on the "Stately Homes" thread could attest to, it is not a decision done without much soul searching and a process akin to loss.

I would give him Toxic Parents written by Susan Forward to read, at least read Toxic Inlaws for your own self. Also you may want to post on the Stately Homes thread for more counsel.

These people do not and never will play by the "normal" rules governing familial relations so being nice and reasonable has no effect. Also such behaviours play into their hands.

Your MIL would have acted the same regardless of whom he married, it is not your fault she is like this. This all started with her in childhood and her own family did the damage, pound to a penny abuse of some sort featured in it.

LittleMissMedium Mon 20-May-13 17:47:17

Thanks Jamie, this is what DH says - "just let's get on with things and deal with her when we have to"

Attila you are right - DH says MIL had a terrible relationship with her alcoholic mother, some of which was physically abusive. It is just sad that minus the physical abuse, she is just as bitter and nasty. Both MIL and FIL drink every night at several different pubs and I think alcoholism is a real issue on his side of the family, which is why DH rarely drinks.

I think firm boundaries are the way forward - she complains that she doesn't know enough about his life but she knows everything she needs to... it is just sad when DH has achieved so many great things in the past few years, yet it's like they are disappointed he has achieved anything at all. If I am honest, I don't see him being able to have much of a relationship with them one day.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Mon 20-May-13 17:50:55

It needn't involve a big break, just let things dwindle. Anyone who can say something tactless and unkind (and probably untrue) about someone's late parent in their presence is obviously missing an empathy gene. It would probably be water off a duck's back if you challenged her once or twice on something. I don't think there's a way of handling someone like her without incurring damage to your self, unfortunately. FIL knows where you and DH are.

forgetmenots Mon 20-May-13 18:06:32

I want to show you a thread I started about 18 months or so ago:

I read it every so often to remind me. I had a terrible time with my DH's toxic mother - yours sounds awful and the pattern so familiar I had to post. Please: google narcissistic personality disorder, and check out the Stately Homes thread - great for support and clarifications.

I'm more than happy to chat on PM too if it would help - I'm afraid out story only got worse and we are now no contact with DH's family. It has been the best outcome if I'm honest but very difficult. Good luck! flowers

forgetmenots Mon 20-May-13 18:09:37

ps we did eventually conceive and dc1 is due any day. They don't know.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Mon 20-May-13 18:11:47

Congratulations forgetmenots as of now it's all about you and DH and your DC, take care.

forgetmenots Mon 20-May-13 18:16:06

Thanks donkeys smile it's been tough on DH but he is now much, much better for his decision - and as in the OP's case, FIL can make his own decisions... Time will tell but I won't hold my breath! smile

LittleMissMedium Mon 20-May-13 18:17:57

Oh god forgetmenots, that all sounds far too familiar. MIL acts the victim a lot and I dread to think what is said about me to their friends. Good for you with cutting contact, and congratulations on your pregnancy! I do not want this dark cloud hanging over this next chapter in our lives, but life is too short to put up with the bullshit. How did your DH cope with cutting contact? He says he can't honestly say that he loves his Mom, but he does love his Dad, although he feels let down by the fact that FIL seems to just let her carry on.

MillyMollyMandy78 Mon 20-May-13 18:23:45

Sadly she sounds like my mum. She made our lives hell and at the age of 35 I have recently cut all contact with her. I tried everything over the years, but people like this rarely change. Good luck in whatever you decide!

LittleMissMedium Mon 20-May-13 18:35:52

Thanks Milly smile

Fairylea Mon 20-May-13 18:37:35

Gosh this sounds so familiar!

I will reply in more detail later but I have a similar thread in relationships called "dh and I not really talking, probably my fault" or something along those lines.

I really feel for you.

forgetmenots Mon 20-May-13 18:59:49

DH really struggled littlemiss. He has been NC for about 18 months (only a few weeks after that thread actually), after a final incident where his mother threatened to kill herself (not for the first time) in a dramatic manner. He had spent years trying everything and everything failed.
She did turn up at our home announced, battering on windows, screaming through the letterbox, and DH would be visibly terrified, but we just ignored it. We've now moved and not shared the address, and his long term health issues have all but disappeared (funny, that!)

He is still hurt that his dad won't have anything to do with him unless it's sanctioned by MIL, but if anything he is now angrier with him than her as he sees that he has done as a cold and callous choice by a rational person while his mum is clearly not rational or thinking (I think this is probably overrating things, but it's how he feels).

Given though that his mother repeatedly has wished ill on any children we might have and has said she 'doesn't give a shit' about being a grandmother, we feel rather we are respecting her opinion grin - apologies for the gallows humour but it's got us through!

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries are all I can offer. Any kindhearted reduction in them is seen as weakness and opportunity. I feel so sorry for your DH. Good luck ttc, if he is anything like my DH this will be the trigger - realising you want the opposite for your children that you had can be pretty sobering.

LittleMissMedium Mon 20-May-13 19:18:05

Thanks Fairylea, will have a look. I'm finding it's making things clearer by reading other people's stories.

forgetmenots That sounds awful. Truly awful. So glad you and your DH are no longer exposed to that. I do think that FILs that allow the behaviour are letting their children down... My FIL is a nice man, soft, quiet... but even he seems to believe her bullshit now, which is equally as bad.

Boundaries it is. It's just such a head-fuck (excuse my language) because to other people, she's sweetness and light (initially). She will sometimes be lovely in front of DH and you can see on his face that he's like, wow, this is progress, then she'll be in a room alone with me (I've asked that this doesn't happen, but on a few occasions it's been unavoidable) and the spite starts. Or she just stares at me when I try and make conversation. It's truly unnerving sometimes.

Anything to do with us moving forward in our lives and everything changes. It's sad because my friends all have, for the most part, really good relationships with their MILs. DH has a great relationship with my DM (even better than mine!!) which is great but I know I will never have that with her. I started this thread with that in mind but I can just see that is not going to happen.

forgetmenots Mon 20-May-13 19:24:28

Just remember littlemiss that it isn't personal (Attila phrased this much better upthread) - she doesn't hate you or have a problem with you as a person. You're coming before her in the pecking order with her son and as such you're a barrier to her emotional vampirism where she wants to bleed everyone dry. Unfortunately DCs can often be seen in the same light.

You sound lovely and supportive, your DH is I'm sure a lovely person too (and the fact that he stands up for you is huge, not many children of toxic parents have that strength, certainly not without a long process). You can't change her, she will only change the day she wants to - but you and your DH can live well and be happy regardless smile

SoulTrain Mon 20-May-13 19:38:18

Honestly, if you can - try to care less. I know it's hard but if you continue to let her have such an affect on you it will only be you that suffers. As a previous poster said, she will go one way or another with DC involved and that's when you're really going to have learn to be clever. Distance yourself, don't ask opinions, don't seek validation from your MIL, just concentrate on you and your DH.

And if she fucks you off, tell her. Honestly, you'll feel massively high fivey with yourself and even if nothing changes you will feel better.

LittleMissMedium Mon 20-May-13 19:39:17

Thank you, I feel so much better for starting this thread. It's nice to know that other people understand how bloody stressful it can be thanks

LittleMissMedium Mon 20-May-13 19:40:15

SoulTrain that made me laugh! High fivey! Oh god I just see her face now! It would be totally worth it.

maillotjaune Mon 20-May-13 19:57:22

Gosh that story is familiar - my MIL has had long periods of time not talking to us, saying she hoped we didn't have children, didn't see DS1 until he was almost 1.... it's a long, boring list of problems.

20 years into marriage and with our oldest DS now 10 I think we have finally got to a situation I can tolerate. No better than that.

She lives overseas - but threatening to return to UK which would be hard!

She is more unpleasant to DH than me but we always call her on it after years of trying to ignore. She won't discuss anything but pointing out that she is being unreasonable generally stops it.

She spends time with her DGSs and they enjoy each other's company for a while. She has a history of letting them down in terms of not turning up when she said she would, and saying unkind things about DH to them, but again we don't just ignore it.

Most importantly - I accept (and DH is getting there) that she will never change. She's in her 70s and if she was ever going to become less difficult it would have happened ling ago.

Actually, maybe the most important thing is that I am saying "we" a lot - I think if it's really a MIL / DIL clash life can get very tricky, but if you and your partner are in agreement you just need to find a way to live with her (or not if that's what you decide) and you will cope.

Sorry for such a long reply - my MIL has arrived to visit this week so it has touched a nerve!

maillotjaune Mon 20-May-13 20:07:27

I posted before reading the whole thread but now I have it is spooky how many other things I could have said that have been mentioned already - it has been years since she was shouting through the letterbox, but playing the victim came to a head when DH was diagnosed with cancer last year but it was all about her.

The only relief we have is that she and FIL divorced when DH was young so there is noone else involved.

LittleMissMedium Mon 20-May-13 21:02:46

maillot thanks for sharing your story, it's so interesting to see how similar the behaviour is. You're right about us needing to be a united front, and thankfully my DH is wonderful and has never been anything other than supportive and apologetic (the latter I find very sad and wish he wouldn't apologise for her, because it's not his fault. He knows this really I think).

I read something on another thread just that was just so freaky - MIL puts on a baby voice sometimes when talking to DH... Not quite sure why, it annoys the hell out of him and he doesn't respond to it, but another poster mentioned it and it just makes me feel horrible. It's like the most childish form of an attempt at manipulation.

I spoke to my DM about it this evening and she is in agreement with quite a few of the posters here that she will not get better when there are DCs in the equation, only worse.

forgetmenots Mon 20-May-13 21:35:53

Bloody hell maillot you have the patience of a saint smile

Your DM will likely be worried for you both and for her future grandkids littlemiss. Mine only told me recently how upsetting and stressful she found watching what MIL did to us as a couple as she didn't want to interfere at the time. I totally understood it must have been difficult to see.

I'm glad posting has been a help. Good to vent, isn't it! smile

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