Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

MIL playing silly buggers

(30 Posts)
AdorableAardvark Tue 23-Jul-13 10:27:48

Last week end we spent the night with my DH's parents. MIL takes offence at the slightest blimp e.g. didn't answer the phone when called, didn't send a distant relative a Christmas card (who never sends us one), didn't give her enough compliments on her outfit etc. etc. It's all my fault of course. I work p/t, have young children to look after, do all the household chores and cooking but I should also be my DH's secretary and diplomat to his side of the family. He has diplomatic immunity for everything. Anyway my MIL has started to do this thing which is REALLY irritating. Whenever we talk on skype or meet and I say hello, she then drops her gaze to the floor, there is at least a 1,2,3,4,5 second delay, then she says in a low, pissed off voice "oh hello". It's as if she doesn't want to say hello, but is eventually forced into it so as not to look bad. She has done this over the past few months. This is the main thing irritating me and I need some witty retorts to show herI'm not fussy (to hide fact that I am). We are also moving house to a bigger one and she told me at the weekend "well I won't be staying there".

Is my MIL being passive aggressive or should I ignore ignore ignore or fight fire with fire.

cocolepew Tue 23-Jul-13 10:32:17

I wouldn't speakl to her at all let alone Skype.

Pink01 Tue 23-Jul-13 10:33:49

Well I would stop Skyping with her for a start.

It sounds like you can't do anything right so personally I would stop trying!

pictish Tue 23-Jul-13 10:34:12

God no - fight fire with fire and you'll get burned.

Ignore, Hand over negotiations to dh forthwith. You're only the secretary because you've accepted being so.
You don't have to. It's his mum, so his responsibility.

Always be pleasant and polite in situations where you are forced to interact, and extricate yourself as soon as.
Behave impeccably, and no one can accuse you of anything and say you're both as bad as each other. Let her showcase her problem centre stage, alone.
Don't join in.

Just wash your hands of it. Smile and nod. Smile and nod. Then away you waft.

Pink01 Tue 23-Jul-13 10:35:38

Or do the same to her. Once she has done the 5 second thing, leave it for 5 seconds yourself and then copy her greeting.

(Not really, I would personally not bother talking to her!)

WalkingRaces Tue 23-Jul-13 10:50:59

What pictish said.

What does dh think of his mother's treatment of you?

ParvatiTheWitch Tue 23-Jul-13 10:54:02

Why are you Skyping with her? I love my MIL, but I don't Skype.

ParvatiTheWitch Tue 23-Jul-13 10:55:24

Yeah, your DH needs to get behind you big time and disengage with your MIL as much as possible, while remaining polite.

BatwingsAndButterflies Tue 23-Jul-13 10:55:45

If she want to play silly buggars then fuck her, Don't contact her, let DH take over the relationship completely.

pictish Tue 23-Jul-13 11:01:15

Btw - this is how I deal with my fil and his wife, who look down their nose at me, and who on occasion have been astonishingly rude to me.
God knows the imaginary arguments I have had in my head where I get them told, and triumph with wit and inarguable logic...but in truth, the only way to deal with it was to detach, and not give them the opportunity to make me feel crap.
I've never been anything less than nice to them both, so it's easy for me to flick them the double vees from a safe distance and let dh get on with it.
Not my problem.

Apply this to your lot.

AdorableAardvark Tue 23-Jul-13 11:14:22

I have started to disengage from her in the past year after reading lots of threads and advice on here because I can do nothing right in her eyes, despite being very far from perfect herself. I read on here to be politely indifferent and I have been trying to do that, although not entirely sure what it entails? I've also stopped buying things for her. I used to do all the Christmas shopping and go round for ages picking out nice scarves, perfume, hand bags, nice M&S smellies but she has never ever picked out anything for me since I have known her (Xmas gift is usually some male orientated DVD's). I realised that I am a mug to be pitied so stopped. Last Christmas I sent them M&S vouchers and I think she was a bit surprised. I think that perhaps her time delay and recent behaviour is because I have backed off. I think she enjoys to'ing and fro'ing between love and hate, but indifference is insufferable.

AdorableAardvark Tue 23-Jul-13 11:21:09

pictish, thanks so much I AM listening. I am in a similar situation and I think that perhaps it is a common PIL thing. I am a damn good wife and mother to my DH (his words) and I am a good person. I wouldn't treat my worst enemy like that.
Re the imaginary arguments. I think that is called ruminating and I spend a good deal of my time doing this e.g. next time MIL takes 5 seconds to reply I'll say "Oh MIL, are you OK, there was a bit of a time lag there, gwaff gwaff..." and everyone will think, gosh better not get on the wrong side of Adorable, because she is so sharp and witty. But, I know that you are right pictish and that the only effective thing is to detach and be polite.

Incidentally, what do you think that the other person thinks once they realise that you no longer want to waste good air on them?

TheCrackFox Tue 23-Jul-13 11:30:32

Just treat her like an annoying toddler and ignore her when she is being insufferable.

The best thing (and it sounds like you are) is to detach. Don't Skype or phone her either - leave that up to your DH - she is his problem mother, after all.

scarletforya Tue 23-Jul-13 11:35:05

We are also moving house to a bigger one and she told me at the weekend "well I won't be staying there"

Result.

Don't bother your arse Skyping her. You can't please the silly auld wagon so don't try. That will annoy her even more. She wants you dancing around wondering what you have done wrong and hand-wringing over her every word and gesture. Don't play.

burberryqueen Tue 23-Jul-13 11:37:40

scarletfforya is right, just don't play her silly game, do NOT skype her under any circs, why should you?
and if she does that eye-dropping thing and pained 'hi' when she meets you, you do it first.
and if she is not coming to visit in your new house, be happy and do not question her decision, ever.

AdorableAardvark Tue 23-Jul-13 11:46:18

Can I please have some examples of detaching so I can get it right?

pictish Tue 23-Jul-13 11:49:18

Honestly? I don't know.
Have they thought it over? I couldn't say.
Part of detaching is not caring either way. It is difficult, but you just have to find the mindset that allows you to rise above it.

For example...none other than my fil and his wife, have ever made me feel so small. They make it quite clear in small ways, that I am of little interest or consideration to them, and that they find me slightly distasteful.
Now I am not without my flaws of course, but I know I am friendly and have good manners, so I am assured that I don't invite this by anything I'm doing.
I have left their house before, and sought a wall or a bench to sit on outside, so I could catch my breath and have a cry over their conduct towards me. They are very careful not to be blatant about it...they would never be so crass. They do it all with a polite smile, and an arrogant toss of the head. To react would be to play right into their hands and prove them right.
No fucking way.

All I can deduce is that no one else makes me feel quite so scorned, so the problem must lie with them.

They are of no matter to me...my dh may deal with them, and organise their relationship with the kids...such as it is. If they can't chum along, none of it is my responsibility to fix, or maintain.

PaulSmenis Tue 23-Jul-13 12:33:27

I've had to detach from MIL. We don't see her much, but when we do I just smile and nod. Always try to be polite, but apparently get that wrong. If you engage and play her game, you've lost and she knows she's got one over on you and that you're upset. She is trying to get a rise out of you so she can point the finger and say how horrible you are to her.

GlitzPig Tue 23-Jul-13 12:35:38

Detaching: it's hard to fake it, because the secret is genuinely not caring.

They won't come and stay at your new house? Smile, and say 'Mmm'. They criticize something about you/the DC/your housekeeping? 'Oh, it's a shame you feel that way' and move the conversation on. You need to be very clear in your own mind that nothing you have done has caused their bad behaviour, so getting upset by their poor behaviour and manners would be mad. They're just not worth it.

AdorableAardvark Tue 23-Jul-13 12:45:16

I don't understand why she is so blind TBH. Apparently family mean everything to her. We are the only ones with GC and we I have in the past, arranged a lot of social things including them e.g. weekends away, Christmas lunch and even invited them on holidays, yet during these times, as pictish hits the nail on the head "They make it quite clear in small ways, that I am of little interest or consideration to them, and that they find me slightly distasteful". Her other children, including a daughter don't include her in anything. I don't understand why she has to be like this. In the past I too have taken a breath on a wall, or on a bench. But I am now at a point where I 85% don't care, 15% still get irritated. Part of me would still like MIL to come to me and say, there has been some misunderstandings, I do think you are Adorable, Aardvark, lets be mates, but then that's just me ruminating again isn't it and I'm wasting my time waiting for those pigs to fly by.

Miggsie Tue 23-Jul-13 12:48:27

Not reacting is the key, don't chase them ever, don't give them a response.

So even the most blatant snubs and criticisms can be met with "oh" and "I see" and "REally?" or even "Um." Minimum respose for them. Practise saying "really?" in a variety of bored and disinterested voices. the odd "oh dear" in a variety of voices is also excellent. Try to deliver these lines with the thought of "F* you" inside - this will help.

You can also move on to being a bit rude, DH famously told my mother "we do things like this in this house,if you don't like it don't visit" when she criticised my cleaning regime.

It may also be very catharthic to say to your DH "It is clear your mum dislikes me and I'm never going to get her approval so I'm not trying any more."

You can then move on the casual rudeness such as "if you don't want to speak to me why don't you say so and we'll stop pretending right here" - for the Skype thing and not saying hello - this will probably drop your DH in it so you would need to warn him in advance.

I always loved the line from "dinnerladies": "were you always this stupid or did you take lessons?". I've used that one a few times. Life is too short to get bogged down by mean spirited time wasting idiots.

momnipotent Tue 23-Jul-13 13:02:01

I have detached from MIL. I used to try really hard, be friendly, have long phone chats that I really didn't have time for, go out of my way to do nice things for her - she didn't like me any more because of it so what's the point? Now I avoid, avoid, avoid. If she calls and DH isn't here, I don't answer. She likes to send emails to both DH and I so if it is a joint email I let DH answer, if (rarely) she sends just to me I answer whatever question she is asking but offer nothing more. I am sure DH is hearing about how rude and horrible I am, I truly don't care anymore. His mother, his problem!

AdorableAardvark Tue 23-Jul-13 13:13:51

One of the things that I am struggling with is that I really want to say to my MIL ''Why am I your scapegoat? I am not your daughter, why don't you pull your son up about stuff that you feel upset about or things that you feel our family should be doing. I have my own family and their idiosyncrasies to deal with. I am not, nor want to be the gatekeeper. If you have a problem please talk to him".

P.s. pictin, I sense a real hurt there and I am really sorry that they have made you feel like shite.

maja00 Tue 23-Jul-13 13:20:29

Stop skyping with her.
Don't answer the phone - of she calls hand it straight over to your DH to answer or let the answerphone get it
Stop inviting her to things
If your DH wants to see her, he can visit with the children
Stop buying her gifts - if your DH wants to buy her a gift, he can.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Tue 23-Jul-13 14:59:07

The thing you have to remember (if she's anything like most problem MILs) is that she is of a generation where most likely you are responsible for everything. Her son never will be. Everything domestic is the woman's responsibility.

Children not dressed to her taste? = your fault
Birthday card not sent = your fault
House messy when she visits = your fault
Visits not arranged = your fault.

I know full well that MIL judges me for a messy house in a way it would never occur to her to judge DH.

There is no point asking her the question, because to her it is like asking her why water is wet. It is an inevitable law of nature.

My MIL is difficult, though nowhere near this bad. My approach is to make it clear to him that all things related to his family are DH's responsibility - particularly scheduling and presents. This has also been made clear to MIL.

You also need your DH on side. My DH has had a couple of real set -tos with his mother about her behaviour and made it clear that, if push comes to shove, we come first. That keeps it in check too. He also shows utter disinterest when she does her 'silent treatment, something has annoyed me but I won't tell you what' act. Acting as if you haven't noticed that type of behaviour is always good.

Just stop bothering with her. Let dh organise any contact with her - I'll bet that'll cut the frequency right down. And you don't have to take part, either.

When you're with her, and she's moaning / ignoring you or whatever, you have to work on not caring. Start by pretending you're in a play, and you're acting the part of someone who couldn't care less. If you're being ignored, get your phone out and text a friend (or text dh, you could play MIL bingo). If she's moaning, look past her left ear and mumble "mmm, pity, mmm" in a vague not-listening way while composing your next shopping list in your head. Then interrupt and comment brightly on the weather.

Kundry Tue 23-Jul-13 17:45:47

My MIL is actually quite sweet but we suffer badly from what AmandaP describes. I'm the bigger wage earner, I bought the bloody house, I work more hours, I cook all the meals but god forbid we don't send a nephew a birthday present. Because it will all be my fault.

SO I don't phone her, if she does phone I pass it to DH or say he isn't in and close the conversation quickly, I don't suggest to DH we should visit or that he should phone. Funnily enough it almost never occurs to her precious son to phone her. Result - detachment!

After the birthday saga I made it clear that we had decided we would each do our own family's birthdays.

Taking my mum round to visit her also helped. After 45 minutes of how wonderful DH was, my mum was furious and remembered she was a mother too so gave a lengthy monologue back about how busy I was, how many qualifications I had, the fact that we were not going to run our marriage like PIL had run theirs and all the other topics MIL likes to drone on about. It was great to see my mum in action (I was like battle of the tiger mothers grin and MIL has been a bit more polite since.

If MIL does request something now, we make it instantly clear who is responsible (clue - it's always DH) so she can't get the wrong end of the stick.

EldritchCleavage Wed 24-Jul-13 17:26:33

Her other children, including a daughter don't include her in anything

I bet they don't! Learn from them. You've tried, she's been awful, let all efforts cease.

I suppose scapegoating is just her. She must have learned it from somewhere (dodgy parents?) and now it is ingrained.

I would tell your DH it's nothing doing, and simply drop calling, writing or inviting. He can do contact, if he wants any (all contact, including thank you cards from your DC, everything).

buildingmycorestrength Wed 24-Jul-13 20:02:56

Sometimes it can help to articulate what you want really clearly and formally, so that you can really clearly and formally recognise deep down that you won t get it. Then you can grieve and move on.

Sounds a bit woo, but my therapist recommended that I design a ritual for letting go of my hopes for my relationship with my own parents. It helped so much. I wrote down all sorts of hopes (like your 'let's be mates' wish), big and small, on slips of paper, and then fed them one by one to the fire. Wept buckets, obviously, but it was a total turning point. And it meant the fears went too. Recommend.

buildingmycorestrength Wed 24-Jul-13 20:04:18

Oh, and I have a perfectly civil relationship with my parents, have not gone no contact or anything. The emotional pressure is much lower and I can manage a relationship with them by detaching like this.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now