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.
Sorry, it's a MIL issue, but I don't know how to cope with my feelings...(82 Posts)
I have ruminated over this for months. I know some people on MN have terrible MILs and that's why I haven't felt able to post for advice, because I know I'm lucky really. But I could do with some advice.
I have known my MIL for over 20 years and we have always had an amicable relationship, even though we are completely different. To give you a taste of what she's like - she reads the Daily Mail and believes wives should give up work and look after their children. She thinks divorce is always traumatic for the children and pities me because I am a child of divorced parents. She talks inane nonsense and never listens to anyone else, including her DS. She is very judgemental about anyone who doesn't conform to her limited view of how people should be. She is very needy and tries to win her grandchildren's continued love with an excess of junk food. Anyhow, after a stint in hospital a couple of years ago, when she was 83, she came to us and I looked after her for 10 weeks whilst she convalesced. I may have had to sneak off to the kitchen for a slurp of wine to get me through this now and again, but we both stayed friendly, and the house benefited from the extra housework I did to get away from her.
After her illness and convalescence, she moved nearer to us and now lives five minutes away. This means we can look after her and she can see lots of the grandchildren. She is very generous with babysitting and money and I know we are lucky in that respect.
But now I find myself struggling. She is making me really, really angry and I don't know how to remain civil with her. DS1 has SNs and things have been difficult with him over the past few months. I know this has made me less patient with MIL than usual, as I can't listen to her wittering on about trivial things when I'm so worried about DS. She thrives on stories of death and illness, so she is always telling us about the latest death at her sheltered housing, or relishing the details of somebody's struggle with cancer. She does it under the guise of concern, but she loves it. It's like a hobby for her. If she goes to the GP, it is always a big event. I find this particularly difficult to cope with because several people in my family have had/are coping with cancer. In fact, I think I have just said goodbye to one for the last time .
I also don't like the way she criticises everyone. When she left her previous home, she was glad to get away from several so-called friends that she didn't like. Well, surprise! - now she has more friends that she doesn't like . She complains about them all the time - how they take money from her, ring her up too much, get her to care for them (which she does because she is just so caring ) and so on. I have introduced her to my friends and she usually has a few cutting things to say about them too, which hurts me. And now, after a couple of Christmases with my Mum here too, she has started on her. She doesn't approve of her, apparently. Well, I love my Mum, so I take exception to that in particular.
Oh, and we have recently asked her to stop bringing junk food for the DC. I knew this would be an issue for her, but I was fed up with it. She complains, now, that the DC can't have 'anything'.
And, I know this is irrational, but the gene that has caused my DS's SNs (he has TS/OCD) comes from her and I feel so angry with her for that. I can't justify it because I know that's mad of me, but it's just how I feel.
Unfortunately, my irritation must be showing because last week DH told me that she was in a terrible state after her last visit, saying that she couldn't bear it if I banned her from seeing her grandchildren. WTF? I have never, ever threatened such a thing and wouldn't dream of it. I'm not sure if she is showing early signs of dementia or is being manipulative.
I have to see her today. I now have so much pent-up anger towards her that I don't know how to be civil. How do I get over this?
Don't want to read and run.
We are having similar behaviour with my MIL but they don't live near. I think it is some form of dementia as its getting worse and my MIL wasn't like this years ago (known her since I was a teen).
I think you need to break it down into issues.
Then talk to your DH. Might be he takes the children to visit them more now to give you a break from the infuriating draining conversations.
The bit about your mother - you need to say to her "ground rules are that you do not ever criticise my mother to me,DH or the children."
Can you make her visits a little shorter? Can you plan things into them to give her less chance to grate on you -like trip to the shop, hairdressers, garden centre,library coffee shop. Anything so you don't feel guilty at avoiding her but its less painful for you.
It's emotionally horrible. You want to have a real good row but you'd only getting yourself further upset.
Don't want to read and run either although I can't answer properly for a few hours.
I think you're right and she's maybe reacting to the change in you, Toffee? (If you've always been real pleasant to her and are now being less conciliatory.) Why do you have to see her today?
How is DS1 doing?
this sounds tough! really tough. Can you avoid her for a bit just to give yourself some breathing space. Things can build up to become overwhelming and perhaps you literally just need a break from her in particular. Can you tell your dh that you need to save up some of your strength to deal with your ds, and at the moment cant cope with his mum?
Let it all out on here and get it all off your chest. It's ok to have irrational thoughts about people!!
Oh, thank you. I thought everyone would think I was being a real cow.
Pancake - yes, I do want a good row! You are right. But, of course, I can't do that. Maybe I do need to sit down with DH and plan how we can be fair to her, but also make things bearable for me. We do try to make her visits less irritating by, for example, watching an old b&w film with her so we don't have to listen to her. (I know that sounds awful, but she talks such nonsense that I sometimes have to leave the room and take deep breaths). Unfortunately, she insists on coming round regularly to have her hair done at the hairdresser opposite our house. She doesn't even like the hairdresser and always complains about her (of course <sigh>), but she likes coming here. Sometimes it is incredibly inconvenient for me. It's not as if she doesn't come round regularly anyway, but she likes having this regular appointment. And yes, it might be early dementia, because she is getting more forgetful. I need to be more patient, but my patience is all used up on DS1.
cozie - oh, lovely to see you on here ! Yes, she is probably reacting to a change in me. Also, she sees me more often these days, so she is seeing more of the real me and less of the polite, smiling and nodding me. I could get out of going today, but it would upset DH if I don't go, I think. And if I'm the only one who doesn't go, she will think something's up. Thanks for asking after DS1. He has been doing well for the past few weeks and has been getting out more and starting to overcome some of his fears. He even managed to eat something on the train going home from a visit to my Mum's yesterday - a major breakthrough for someone who couldn't eat out at all! I'm sure the CBT is helping him and am hopeful that he will manage to get through his next insight week at the new school. Unfortunately, he decided he was doing so well that he stopped taking his fluoxetine last week and threw it in the bin three days running, which could have had a disastrous effect. Luckily, he confessed all to me and I have explained why he can't just stop suddenly or he will get really ill again.
Billy - I think I need a permanent break from her! It would really help to get it all out here, but it makes me feel like a horrible person to have these thoughts. To be honest, I expected to be flamed for complaining.
It sounds like you've done really well with your MIL - been very patient with her.
Sorry that's not advice is it?
Ideally your DH would gently tell her not to say critical/unkind things when she does. Having said that, it sounds like it's become a habit of hers that is hard to break. If it's any consolation she probably doesn't feel good about making all her unwanted 'remarks'.
She sounds very difficult to deal with.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
Oh this is so difficult but one thing I can see is how good a person you are. I know how SN can challenge.. but you don't need this extra stress.
She is ill... I don't like people who talk about cancers etc. and other faimilies trauma's in a gossipy way and it can get you down.
You will have to find a way to reduce contact time. Is there anything, now with the new term, you can 'take up' to busy yourself with that means you are not as available.. I don't know what exactly.. but just don't always be there.
You are very kind hearted to have minded her for 10 weeks and have been good to all these years and DH should know you are loyal.. it is obvious. Maybe he is the key to sorting this out.
Anger at Mil gene causing your ds OCD is the issue that you are wrestling with I think. All the other annoyances you sound like you coped with up until now . Having to deal with these on top of the constant worry about your ds when she is "to blame" is the straw that's breaking your back.
I'm sure you know it's not her fault but emotionally it's harder to deal with. I think most of us instinctively look for someone to blame when we are facing difficulties. The gene thing is real but completely out of everyone's hands.
If you can get yourself into a more detached place then it would be worth trying to talk to her about the other annoyances. She might have no idea how worried you are about your son or how much energy it takes to cope with constant worry. At least give her the opportunity to show some empathy towards you.
I know that this is going to be a real difficult time coming up but I've been concerned for a few months that you just seem to be getting more and more tired - which I think is contributing.
Is there any way (given DS1's issues) that you could maybe get at least a few days off to yourself? Even to have a couple of night's real sleep.
You need to find topics of conversation that you can bitch about comfortably with her.
I often see on here young women being upset about this sort of thing and often think it's taken too personally. (However, gossiping about acquaintances with cancer when your family member is experiencing it, is just tactless).
cantankerous older people often relieve the stresses and worries in their lives by bitching remembering all those others less fortunate and make things up themselves feel needed and wanted by complaining about unwelcome attention of invisible others. It makes them feel more important.
More seriously, I think you need a break. Let your DH go alone to visit her today. You can have a cold, women's issues, whatever... Don't feel guilty, you sound like you have been very kind and caring hitherto. But also really try not to take her poison to heart. It doesn't sound like she means to get at you. And can you not ask her to cut down on the sweets/junk - say you're worried about DS's teeth.
No flaming here either
Your doing well, bloody well.
You sound like you've for your head screwed on and your just looking for a vent and some advice.
To me there are two separate issues here
Mil behaviour and your ongoing stresses.
Has your mils behaviour actually changed or just your frequency of exposure/ attitude?
I think you need to allow yourself fri distance. You don't need to be rude or cut her off, just let dh take this kids and cry off sick once in a while.
I know it's frustrating hearing her moaning all the time, no matter what you do, my great gran was the same when my mum was caring for her. To the extent my mum formulated the theory becoming so unbearably cantankerous was a way of helping you detach ready for when they die!
Also specifically in response to the gene thing, please don't beat yourself up for thinking that. Blame is part of the process of acceptance. You obviously know that is never ok to say it and in your heart of hearts know that without her genes (faulty or otherwise) you wouldn't have your dh or ds
No advice or suggestions, I'm afraid. I just wanted to say that you sound like a bloody saint, and should give yourself a lot of credit.
My 93 yr old MIL lives next door to us. Its lovely having her there as it makes life easier for us all. I have known her for over 30 years and we have never had a falling out.
However, she is the same in terms of grumpiness, criticising her friends, moaning about money and tv and is getting worse as time goes by! She often tells DH things that I have or haven't done some of which aren't even true!
I have learned to switch off. I breezily go in and out for 10-15 minutes once or twice a day, brightly ask her how she is, tell her about the GC and ignore any outrageous remarks by changing the subject.
You need to learn to do this for your sanity! If I am overly stressed about other things then I don't go in at all - I send DH or the boys (although DH goes in daily for an hour after work anyway) Deep breaths, Bright smiles, Deaf ears are things that will help you cope!
Feeling your pain and frustration as my own MIL and Grandma are similarly self obsessed types. Nokidshere gives wonderful advice above, deep breath, breezy manner and deaf ears are the only way to cope in these situations. I do realise that this approach isn't easy, it's taken me 20 years to arrive at this and sometimes it still goes awry. Perhaps we might all think of one another the next time we visit these awkward relatives and know that we are not alone.
I don't have time to reply properly right now (dinner, bedtimes, etc), but I am reading and taking it all in and will pop back later. Thank you so much for all your encouraging words - it is really cheering me up.
nokids - I think you need to set up a training course to help people like us learn how to do what you do .
Back again. Had a bit of a crisis because DS1 had a meltdown, but I've settled him to sleep now.
It is really heartening to know that people think I've been patient and kind to MIL. I have been confused and upset by my irritation with her because she has been very good to us in many ways. However, seeing her so frequently has led me to conclude that she is actually quite self centred and can be mean spirited. She is not at all interested in other people and she always picks fault. (Chocoluvva - I think she feels justified making the remarks she does and not guilty at all!).
I have given up trying to help her deal with her difficulties with people because she simply won't help herself and I can only conclude she is comfortable being in the role of a victim. For example, before she moved here, she always complained about her GP. We did everything we could to encourage her to change surgery, but she always had a reason why she couldn't. Now that she has moved, she has a new GP and she has started complaining about this one too. I go to a wonderful surgery just five minutes from where she lives and have offered to get her transferred, but she always has an excuse not to move. I give up. And, anyway, she would probably find something to complain about with my surgery too.
Viking - you are right, she won't change. I just need to find a way to cope. Changing the subject without feeling guilty about it would be a good start. I feel sorry for her living alone so I try to listen to her, but I think I have reached my limit.
mrspaddy - it is a horrible trait when people relish other people's misfortune, isn't it? Particularly when it's under the guise of concern. With regards to not always being available, MIL does know that I am busy home educating DS1 during term time and that I also have a generally busy life, so she doesn't expect to be able to pop in at any time.
Squarepeg - she does know how worried we both are about DS1 and was actually very sweet towards me when I broke down in front of her one day a few months ago (very embarrassing, but at least she stopped talking about herself for five minutes!). You are right that I am wrestling with the issue of 'blame' for the gene that is affecting my son's life so badly, which is frustrating and pointless because I know it's nobody's fault. I don't think that is the straw though. I think the real straw has been a succession of difficult things happening in the past few months that have made DH and I much more stressed than usual.
cozie - you are sweet to be so concerned. I didn't know I had been giving the impression of tiredness. It is an ongoing issue, but not something I can do a lot about. I think I'm coping ok. There is certainly no chance at all of me getting away on my own. I just need to make sure I get to bed at a decent time at night
and stop browsing on MN. Hopefully, when we get our next kitten - and if he/she is anything like the much-missed ToffeeKitten - I will also have an excuse to have regular cat naps .
bunch - yes, I agree that MIL is making herself feel better by bitching about other people's misfortunes and that being used by others makes her feel needed. I think it's sad.
Herrena - you are right about there being two separate issues: MIL's behaviour and my ongoing stresses. Her behaviour hasn't really changed (apart from her lunatic assertion that I was going to ban contact with her GC ), so it is definitely my tolerance that has altered, and that is obviously because of recent stresses. Is blame part of the process of acceptance? I didn't know that. I am obviously still struggling to accept the diagnosis then. Of course, you are right that MIL has also produced the man who is my DH, although I do wonder how she did it because he is so different from her. I always call him a cuckoo in the nest. I love your mum's theory, by the way. A bit like teenagers becoming so intolerable parents want them to leave.
perfectstorm - oh, I am far from saintly, but it's nice of you to say so .
nokids - your method of dealing with your MIL sounds spot on. I need to learn to do that and to recognise when I'm feeling too stressed to see my MIL and delegate that job to DH and DC.
Marylou - it had better take me faster than 20 years to learn nokids's method as MIL is not likely to be around that long! It is good to hear that I'm not alone.
Well, I did visit MIL this afternoon. I considered staying at home, but decided that it would actually be better for my mental health if I faced her, rather than continued to ruminate about her. The visit was fine. I was less stressed than last time I saw her (I have just come back from a week away with my boys, staying with my mum) and she was on her best behaviour. She told me that she is coming round on Thursday after her hair appointment. I will just have to deal with that as best I can. It will give me a chance to practise the nokids / marylou breezy manner and deaf ears .
She may be a lonely old lady who's a product of her era & upbringing, but please just read up on the symptons of NPD (narcissism) before you overdose on your patience pills!
Just mentioning because what you describe sent up a few flags. However, it still boils down to how to see her whilst retaining your sanity. So, unfortunately, either you find a way not to become wound up, or you accept that in the interests of YOUR health & your family's
health you need to see her a bit less. & maybe establish some boundaries so you feel more in control of her visits, rather than her announcing when she'll be arriving. & if you could talk to your DH about how you're feeling...
I feel for you here, have similar problems, & no, I'm not handling it at all well
Older people do tend to talk about illness, death, and the like because they are old and frail and this is what happens to them and their friends. As boring as we all think it might be, it is on a peer par with starting school (another boring topic done to death by 20 somethings). Plus of course at 83 shes knows shes coming to the end of her days, you might not like to acknowledge that and for sure her her son wont acknowledge it unless she gets something very debilitating or terminal but shes preparing you because all her friends are ill/dead.
I don't think you can really blame your MIL for your sons disabilities.
She reminds me v much of my late grandmother who had a maddening habit of prattling on and was often very tactless.
My Grannie lived near me during the last years of her life and was given to dropping in unannounced on a regular basis.
My sister had SN and Grannie was often v v insensitive.
All I can suggest is that you lay ground rules about when she can visit. I doubt there's much you can do about her lack of tact. She's an old woman and unlikely to change.
Your anger towards her re your son and the SN gene must be hard to deal with. I know my mum felt anger towards my Grannie in relation to dais's SN but for different reasons. I often think my mum would have benefitted from - counselling; maybe you might too!
waltzing - I don't think you can really blame your MIL for your son's disabilities - 'course I can't. I know that. My feelings of blame towards her are like an irritating fly that I keep swatting away. I know it's silly.
And she has always talked about illness, death etc. In her case, old age has little to do with it, although it does mean she is now surrounded by it and has more material to draw on. She is one of those people who just seem to enjoy the subject of illness, including their own, and yet never have anything much wrong with them. Meanwhile, my own family members rarely complain about being ill, yet have gradually dropped off their mortal coils one by one.
redqueen - hmm, my DF was fairly narcissistic, but I had never considered MIL in that light - although she does relate everything back to herself. Actually, she shows an incredible lack of interest in other people (apart from their ailments). I thought it resulted from her narrow interests and sheltered life, though, rather than narcissism. I really feel for DH, who has just accepted that she will never show any interest in those parts of his life that she doesn't approve of/can't relate to. For example, he has been asked to write a travel article for publication and is going away next week to do some research. When he reminded MIL about it, she just turned her head away and then commented on DS2 playing with Lego. It must hurt him very much.
I'm sorry that you are having similar problems. It is very difficult.
coping strategies is what you need my lovely! And lots of them.
You cant change how she is - you can only change how/when you react. That doesnt mean she 'gets away' with being nasty/manipulative.
So... when she bitches about people you say "Thats a shame you feel that way, I think he/she is a good friend to me/you" or "that is MY mother you have just criticised, dont do that again, I wouldnt allow DH to say that about you"
And if she brings junk food round and you dont want DC to have it - "lovely thanks, I will put it in the sweet/treat cupboard" or "they have had ......... today, will keep it for another day"
Pawprint - she won't change, I know. And she probably only has a few years left, so we just need to make sure that we all stay friendly in the meantime. It's really important to DH that she enjoys her final years without any unnecessary upsets. He is incredibly patient with her. To be fair, she's very good about not dropping in unannounced, so I can't complain about that.
How awful that your Grannie was so tactless about her granddaughter's SNs. MIL has struggled to understand what is wrong with DS1. We told her the diagnosis as soon as it was given, but she forgot it straight away. Last time she visited, she told us that she had had a word with DS1 about the importance of overcoming his fears. She was very pleased with herself about this. I felt like saying, "OK, then, I'll just cancel the CBT-ERP therapy with CAMHS then, because you've sorted it all out! Thanks!" Sometimes she says, with a puzzled look, "Well, he seems fine to me today". Er, yes, that's because he's at home in his safe place - now watch him whilst he tries to resist an OCD ritual or go somewhere 'unsafe'. But what's the point?
Jax - yes, yes, coping strategies! That is exactly what I need. With regards to my mum, she would never criticise her directly to my face (only to my DH), so I can't respond to that, which makes it even more annoying for me. She doesn't approve of my mum at all, but her feelings leak out in a passive-aggressive way in front of me, which make them hard for me to deal with.
For instance, she is able to give the boys more money as a gift than my mother can. She resents this because she thinks my mum wastes her money. I have explained to her that my mother does not have much money, but she won't listen. It has got to the point that her birthday card to my mother was signed 'from' instead of 'love' last week! It is so petty. I had to lie to my mother, who was perplexed, and say she always signed it 'from', but she didn't. I feel so protective towards my mum.
Actually, MIL would like me to call her 'mum' (which I won't do) and she doesn't understand why I get on so well with my own mother, who dared to work full time as a single mother when I was a child. She is a bit jealous of our relationship, I think.
I like the phrases you mentioned. I'm going to practise them!
Seriously, have you stolen my mother in law?
If you have you can keep her I feel your pain as my mil is exactly like this. Alongside the gleeful behaviour concerning illness she also really enjoys a good funeral and seems to have devised a rating system based on number of mourners / quality of the sandwiches.
I know my mil is a narcissist and has always been very abusive towards dh but out of guilt he looks after her.
Keep a bright breezy manner but it`s okay to stand up for yourself too.
Lumpy - You mean there are more of them like this? We need to form a support group! That's so funny about your MIL's rating system for funerals. My MIL now makes the sandwiches for funerals in her flats, so that she can clock exactly what each one is like and report back to us. She is positively gleeful if the funeral goes badly.
Do you manage to keep a bright, breezy manner?
I love funerals - I am so going to be an official mourner when I retire - I cant think of anything better than a bit of weeping, wailing, free bar and buffet
I actually think that they all turn bonkers as they approach old age. Obsessions with control, money and death seem to be a common theme amongst my own friends mothers....mine is threatening to sue me because she thinks I won't pay money owed to my dad (tied up in house, can't sell, tis a waiting game).
ok, well you just need to form some mantras and parrot them at mil. and learn not to rise to her 'bait' re your mother. "Everyone does things differently" is one of my sayings when people are judgy towards others. It isnt a put down as such, but it reminds
mil that its ok to be different.
Remember - change your reactions.
I've had many older relatives (all of whom seemed a bit preoccupied with death or the past - but that's maybe just my family) and most of whom were extremely self centred and judgmental.
I used/use 'Mmmmmm' a lot. And try to let things just wash over me or head off, like you, to do some extra cleaning. With the youngsters, I will/would just say 'So and So's brain is a bit old/poorly' and they seem to have accepted that pretty well without question. Not sure if that ease of acceptance means there's trouble stored up ahead but they do seem to distinguish without mental strife between elders who are 'young thinking' and those who are not - so maybe there's hope for me.
It does seem to matter how together I am myself, as with all things. If I'm on top of things then questionable behaviour can just wash over me. If I'm not, then I'm down the bottom of the garden with a gin and tonic. The one thing I would never do is give the impression to the youngsters that certain behaviour is acceptable but that all seems to have worked out so far.
Your poor Mum, though.
Ah - it's not just my family then.
Right, have just gone through the NPD list on Wikipedia. It certainly applies to my late father, but I don't think it applies to MIL.
Believing that you're better than others
Failing to recognize other people's emotions and feelings
Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior
Being jealous of others
Believing that others are jealous of you
Trouble keeping healthy relationships
Being easily hurt and rejected
Having a fragile self-esteem
And 'no' to:
Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
Exaggerating your achievements or talents
Expecting constant praise and admiration
Believing that you're special and acting accordingly
Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans
Taking advantage of others
Setting unrealistic goals
Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional
Unfortunately, MIL was bullied by her father and I think this set her up as a victim for the rest of her life. She was then bullied by work colleagues and married a man who was very controlling. She never argued with him and she put up with all sorts of nonsense, which she resents and complains about to this day. Instead of fighting back openly, she learnt to approach things in a passive-aggressive manner, which sometimes achieved her aims.
She is incredibly insecure, I think, so she thrives on people needing her, no matter how awful they are. I love my friends and avoid needy and difficult people these days (I learnt from experience), so I find it baffling when she complains about how awful her own friends are. They make her feel needed, that is the truth.
I have a "chipper" default setting.
We live in the same small town as mil and are caring for her as she gets older, this is dhs choice even though she was pretty abusive to him throughout his life.
If we could have emigrated we would have but I would miss my folk and dh loved his dad.
Mil was pretty vile to my father in law, who was lovely, all the way through his life but after he died she has completely re written their relationship. She has a little shrine to him with small candles and speaks about him in "hushed" tones.
Dh has reckoned that if he actually dies he will also be "promoted" to this specialness, it`s the only way he would ever get any respect from the woman even though he is the one that does all the caring.
My sil is a nightmare and enables mil from afar in her delusional behavior.
Chipper is the way forward with a good sense of humour.
You mean an actual shrine ?
waltzing - at becoming an official mourner. You could do this!
Pig - oh dear, that sounds awful for you.
Jax - good advice, thanks. I will learn some mantras. I'll have a chance to practise next Thursday when MIL calls round after her hair appointment <sobs quietly>.
cozie - it sounds like you have had lots of practise. I like the 'down the bottom of the garden with a gin and tonic' response. Will add 'mmmmm' to my mantras.
Lumpy - your poor DH (and you too, of course). My mind is boggling at the actual shrine!
<adds 'chipper default setting' and 'gin' to notes>
A small collection of photos of fil with a candle that is lit at all times, yep, it`s a shrine.
Fil would have hated it, he was the most real down to earth bloke you could have met and hated any fuss.
She actually compares her grief and style of mourning to other widows, apparently a shrine gives you extra points.
Personally I think treating people with kindness and respect when they are alive counts for more.
You can also tell how you are regarded by her at any given time by how your photos are displayed, it`s hilarious. Sil giant wedding picture complete with flowers and sometimes special candles of specialness. Dh and me small dusty photo of our wedding where the wind has caught my veil and is wrapped around our faces thus obscuring both our faces completely, no flowers.
Sorry for hi jacking thread. I think we may need a support group.
Lumpy - that is all hilarious! I love the meaningful display of photographs .
You are all really cheering me up!
'a shrine gives you extra points'
A 'shrine' wins you the game, I think!
I mean, I'm sure we've all had the cemetery routine. ('I have to go down to the cemetery today to lay flowers because it's the anniversary of the day his fourth dog was neutered - you'll want to come too of course') but actual candles and photos?
Apparently other widows are getting it all wrong. You know the lovely kind ladies that are genuinely upset there life partner is dead.
You have to develop a sense of humour, or move, there are no other options.
We were virtually no contact a couple of years ago, we used to meet lovely fil in secret and take him out. Then he became ill. He had a terminal cancer and wanted to die at home so we had to step in and get involved as she was being so abusive to him but he didn`t want to leave his home. In the end Dh did the night care and I did the day alongside our fabulous hospice at home girls, gps etc.
It was the only thing the poor bugger ever asked for. After he died mil was so vulnerable and fil did everything so we stepped in again, We do all the practical stuff but the highest praise is left for sil. She stayed away when we needed her but when the funeral came about she did a lovely reading which mil still bangs on about to this day.
Thanks for letting me rant!
off to mils to clean her carpets, chipper chipper chipper.
I reckon you should change your MN name, Lumpy.
Lumpy - your poor FIL . Not to mention you and DH.
Yes - people/families (especially elders) can be almost insupportable at times. Maybe the best that we can hope for is that we stay strong and true and try not to turn into the people we find difficult to bear. I don't know.
But unless most people have a personality shift they won`t Toffee.
Old people are just older versions of themselves. Mil is an elderly version of her 20 year old self, she didn`t just become this person. Fil was old and bloody lovely. Luffs old people me.
Right, must stop mning and crack on.
Meant cozie not toffee. Personally I'm planning on growing old disgracefully.
Funny though how the 'good' younger characteristics so often seem to slide away but the real grumpy ones remain.
I know what you men cozie, it`s does seem to get that way. I have found other people mellow, mil is pretty awful now but she was vile years ago.
My dad is a real sweetie now but was often pretty horrible when I was a kid.
I agree that older people are just older versions of themselves, but I also think sometimes their partner has managed to dilute the more difficult characteristics (obviously not in your PIL's case, Lumpy). Work also has an impact. Once work and the partner goes, difficult characteristics can become more extreme. And old age is really, really difficult, so it's not surprising that it's the grumpy characteristics that remain more than the nicer ones.
Your MIL sounds just like my late mother. I wish I could say her behaviour in old age was down to some sort of dementia, but she'd always been the same, ever since I could remember. It got so bad that I cut off all contact with her for a year, when she was 80, though I continued to pay her a generous allowance, bought her anything she needed (new tv, furniture, mobility scooter etc.) but I refused to see or speak to her. I did relent, though, and for two years I gritted my teeth and saw her, put up with her rubbish, until she eventually died. I think you have been very forebearing, actually, and your MIL is very very lucky to have you.
That must have been heartbreaking oldgrandma. That was very decent of you to continue to help her despite her behaviour.
oldgrandma - as Lumpy said, that was very decent of you and your mother was lucky to have you as a DD. Did you have siblings to help? DH and I are both only DC, so there is no one to share the duties with.
I have to say that MIL never expects money from us (just as well, as we don't have any) - on the contrary, she helps us. I really feel for the DC who have to support their PIL financially as well.
Dh wishes he was an only. Sil caused nothing but problems when fil was ill. She literally used to sit next him and read aloud all the possible side effects from his medication. Ffs he had a brain tumour, it really wasn't helpful.
It was just like having a mini mil adding to the pressure.
We. No. Longer. Speak.
I'm not surprised you no longer speak, Lumpy.
MIL phoned this morning to tell me the GP suspects she has diabetes - so she has a real illness to talk about now. However, she will have to lay off the white bread, cakes and biscuits, which she won't enjoy at all. She thinks junk food is essential and once told me that if I didn't eat enough white sugar I would end up in hospital. She is very overweight and blames it all on medications .
DH has been trying to get her to reduce her consumption of cakes and biscuits since she moved here because she has put on so much weight and he was worried about her heart and general health. It will be hard for him not to say, "Told you so!"
At least she may now reduce the junk food she brings for my DC <hopeful>.
I feel for you Toffee - you have such a lot on your plate - and clearly are a patient and good person. I'm so glad you're getting validation, for want of a better word, from many posters.
As usual I didn't express myself well - I think you are very perceptive about the reasons for your MILs horrid behaviour - and don't need my take on her, but FWIW, by way of consolation I was trying to be helpful by venturing the theory that your MIL is probably in such a deeply ingrained habit of spouting her
unkind, insensitive opinions that she probably doesn't realise she's doing it half the time. Although she does mean what she says on one level, if seriously challenged on her opinions by an extremely tactful and skilled outside party she probably would grudgingly admit that she is taking an extreme stand on lots of points and her failure to keep her thoughts to herself - a dreadful weakness which would be kept in check if she shared her home with a supportive partner - despite her lack of guilt, will nevertheless not be a source of happiness to her. I'm sure you and others are right about her not changing even if your DH calls her on her 'comments', but it might make you feel a little bit better and have a SLIGHT curb on her attempts to be a bully. (On the other hand, if your DH standing up to her inflames the situation it isn't worth the effort....)
My MIL also makes unkind and surprisingly ignorant comments frequently. (Fortunately, we live several hours away!) She also is never ever wrong. Last year after a particularly upsetting incident I decided to 'give up' with her. I think I finally accepted that she won't change and that I don't 'owe' her anything so I would pay no attention to her opinions - adopt the nod and smile approach as much as possible. I've achieved this to a much greater degree than I thought I would and it has definitely helped me not to be upset by her. Sometimes I actually don't even take in what she's saying at all!
May I offer for your use when with your MIL the phrase, "There's nowt as queer as folk."
Disclaimer - DH is one of a largish family, she is younger than your MIL and married and we only see her a few times a year so she her effect is much more diluted than your MIL's effect.
x-posted - slow typist, sorry.
at the 'importance' of white sugar - my MIL is exactly the same!
Apparently "children need sugar". It didn't harm her [sceptical]. And the decision to stop dentists administering general anaesthetics in their surgeries after occasional fatalities is ridiculous. After all MIL had a general anaesthetic at the dentist's when she was little and she was fine!!!!!
choc - nodding and smiling
and not listening is the way to go, I agree. I wonder if the sugar issue is something to do with wartime. MIL lived through rationing when sweets were in short supply and now she regards sweets and other sugary foods as an essential food stuff.
<adds "nowt as queer as folk" to notebook>
Maybe that - sugar was a highly prized commodity back then. Also maybe partly a folk memory of eg making cakes many years ago - the richest and most superior cakes had eggs and butter and white sugar and....... There wasn't the casual throwing in of sugar to enhance bought food flavour that we have today - because there wasn't much bought food.
Mil lived through the war and is also diabetic but still seems to consume vast quantities of sugar. I think you are spot on about it being a generational thing.
Am wondering now if her weird paranoid outburst about me was related to uncontrolled diabetes. My mum was just saying that her partner is very bad tempered when his diabetes is out of control.
cozie - MIL is very proud of her cake-making skills. It's the only thing she ever had any recognition for - she has even saved her Women's Institute certificates!
Lumpy - oh dear, your MIL won't be doing herself any good if she is still consuming a lot of sugar and is diabetic.
I think the fact that you haven't blown your top, run away or done something drastic makes you a saint. I know I would not be so kind, generous or understanding.
Something I read on here is to repeat what they say to them. So when she says, "X is a bitch." Repeat it to her, "You are saying X is a bitch". After a while, you can do it without actually listening. Bit like going la la la!
I know Toffee
She always claimed it was for fil but he didn't have a sweet tooth.
If I bump into her when she has been shopping she has baskets of crap, but always makes some excuse. But what can you do, you cannot live someone's life for them. It's impossible to help someone who is just so delusional. She has literally rewritten chunks of her life.
I tried to get her to write what she actually ate but she just won't do it.
Tinlegs - goodness, I really am not in any way saintly and my DH would back me up on that!
Lumpy - you're right - it is impossible to help people when they are so delusional. Sounds like you have done all you can and MIL doesn't want to listen.
Oh, and I like the repeating thing, Tinlegs.
Toffee - I misread your bit re cake-making skills as "she has even saved the WI" Single-handedly, eh? Now we really are in delusional territory!
There's a lot of good ideas on here, but know from experience that changing knee-jerk response to the unpleasant behaviour is soooo damn difficult. (*Jax*, you sound so calm & together re this!)
However, that's because it's not my MIL, but my own mother who behaves this way, & she knows just how to push my buttons cos she created them!
Where is your DH in all this? & does he think her behaviour is getting worse, or has she actually always behaved like this, just with different preoccupations? I can totally relate to the bit about her dismissing his achievements & interests, the trick is for him to detach sufficiently so as not to care (& don't tell her anything in the first place). He sounds like he may still be holding out hope/trying to get for signs of affection that are never going to arrive; I was a bit saddened to read of his determination to make her life as easy as possible, which really comes at the expense of your blood pressure, & your own family life.
There's a big difference between the occasional careless, accidentally bad-mannered remark we all come out with sometimes, & continual, deliberate unpleasantness. & whilst we can understand and sympathise with the fears & worries that come with aging, I don't think it should be held as a excuse (I still think your MIL sounds on the Narcissistic spectrum - one test is asking for an improvement - to 'have a heart'. If she's genuinely sorry & tries to change, that's fantastic. But if she gets worse... )
Try the gut reaction test; what do you feel at the prospect of -
1) Biting your tongue & carrying on as you are, with a new set of "mmmmnnn" responses (but still seething internally - & probably your frustration bursting out at home with your own family)
2) Not seeing her as often
3) Both you & your DH challenging her behaviour at every turn, in the hope she can learn what won't be tolerated by you.
Though it's going to be impossible to make any changes if your DH isn't on board. Those are prob the only options. Personally, I went for mainly (2), & moved 400 miles away to a different country. ((1) leaves me enraged, & (3) just causes escalating unpleasantness - how dare I set down boundaries!) But visits are horrible & stress-inducing, & now she's following
stalking me by moving here, 2 miles away. We may have to move house...
PS. Also only child. Which seems to make my parents think however badly they treat me, I am contractually obliged to care for them in their old age. I'm afraid I'm not as decent as oldgrandmama - I know I cannot do it. There's just been too much deliberate malicious behaviour for too many years. I recoil at the thought of having to physically touch my mother.
PPS re the photographs - on last visit counted over 30 pics of grandchildren, 4 pics of dogs past & present, & 1 of me & DH (wedding) tucked away at top of stairs. It's obviously very common!
Have just come off the phone with MIL. She didn't stop talking - all about herself and people I've never met. Funnily enough, she then complained about a woman she knew who never stopped talking! I managed to end the conversation by saying dinner was ready and I had to go. When DH rings her, he just sits there in silence whilst she talks. I don't know how he has the patience, honestly.
redqueen - that sounds so difficult with your mum. At least I have the detachment of it being my MIL.
In answer to your question, my DH seems to have long since accepted his DM's limitations. He says she has been a good mum to him and he loves her and wants the best for her and I respect him for that. He struggled with her character more when he was younger, but he seems to have accepted her for what she is. I try not to criticise her to him too much because I can see that this makes him uncomfortable.
If I try your gut reaction test, I hover between 1 and 2. I think I can manage 1 if I practise mmm-ing and stock phrases. Also, I think I need to keep visits short!
I'm so sorry that your mother is moving nearer to you when you had moved away for peace of mind. I know exactly what you mean about the physical revulsion. I feel that way about MIL - I hate the way she shows me her bad teeth and how I can feel the bristles on her chin when she kisses me hello. Then I feel like a bitch again, but I can't help my reaction and, of course, I don't show it. I know that I won't be able to do any intimate care for her if she ever becomes ill. That's horrible to admit, but it's true.
MIL is coming round tomorrow morning after she's had her hair done and I will have to make her a cup of tea and be a good DIL for an hour or two. I don't want to see her at all.
DH and I discussed Christmas the other day. The last couple of Christmases have been so difficult because we have to have both mothers and they are like chalk and cheese. And, of course, both of them want to see their grandchildren. However, now that MIL disapproves so strongly of my mother, it makes Christmas even more difficult. We were unable to come up with any solution, however, because we can't leave either mum alone on Christmas Day.
I remember before we went no contact with sil I used to feel physically sick if I had to be in the same room as her, your body reacts for a reason.
Christmas is going to be a hard one. Could you split the day, visit your mum for lunch and mil for tea.
The bottom line is its her behaviour that is causing all the problems and its up to you and Dh how much disruption she causes without being challenged.
That's interesting, Lumpy. I have had physical symptoms with other difficult family members, who basically made me feel ill, but this physical recoiling is a new one and I chastise myself for feeling like it, but can't stop it. Feel horrible about it.
DH and I discussed splitting Christmas Day, but it's not possible. My mother comes to stay with us for the holiday and MIL lives nearby, so we can't avoid having them both round for Christmas Dinner without upsetting one of them.
MIL is really not a bad person at all, which is why I feel guilty about my own feelings. I think she just lacks any self awareness or understanding of other people. DH believes she just can't help the way she is and I think he's right.
Gosh, your post reminded me of my late GM. She spent the last few years of her life - (she died at 85, which I assume is the age of your mil?) complaining bitterly about anyone and everything. She was slowly losing her mental ability.
The family ( I was under 10) dealt with it by being very open and honest with each other how difficult she was and arguing from jan 1 who was having her for Christmas. It became an in family joke in the end, and people put up with her because clearly she was at the end of the line, sometimes waking and thinking she was 12 and had to get milk from the cow, then being very lucid and downright nasty to anyone around.
My dm, who my GM treated appallingly and is a whole other thread, took her in when her own family wouldn't.
I think I am trying to say, I agree with the other poster who breezes in and out, listens, doesn't think about it too much, and tbh, my parents took the view that at least she seemed to be enjoying herself. Much wine was drunk
Toffee whirl, my dm used to give us 50p for holding the phone and going "mmm" whilst she talked and talked. She never realised. God, that woman could talk! But she lived alone, had a very hard life in the war, husband died etc, so she was cut some slack. Not that she ever cut anyone else any, of course.
A close friend of mine suggested that I feel the way I do about MIL because MIL isn't truthful and she had a point. For instance, when MIL talks about a case of child abuse under the guise of concern (she reads the DM, so has lots of nasty material), I know she's actually, bizarrely, enjoying the shock value. It's horrible. I have had to tell her to stop talking about certain things and leave the room. She can't have any real empathy for victims or she couldn't talk like that .
Lavenderhoney - your family sound wonderful . I love the 50p-to-hold-the-phone trick. Humour and wine is the way to cope, I think.
Humour is the best way to cope, I think. Or you will go mad.
Christmas, invite them, stick crap tv on they like, ensure the dc have their own telly, bribe dc to be nice ( after all, it might be you one day and think of it as a sitcom. My dm spent all morning locked in the kitchen " cooking" really drinking wine and smoking heavily, and the afternoon encouraging GM to call everyone else in the family who had mysteriously been unable at the last minute to come. She was busy all afternoon and evening, then a bit of crap tv, where she moaned about the crap telly - you couldn't watch for the moaning- and bed.
My dm, in a rare moment, said " I'm so glad I am an orphan"
Plus she also promised to go into a home should she need to. I would have her with us myself - whinging and complaining, reading the gospel daily mail, telling me dh is a wonderful husband and I am not grateful enough etc etc.
It won't be long now. And it's part of being a family and being there at the end , as well as the beginning. Try researching your family history with her. Bet she dishes dirt never before mentioned " more sherry, gran?"
Didn't want to read and run and haven't read the whole thread. This sounds similar to DH's grandmother in her final years. She got paranoid, pesimistic and really quite horrible to (and about) all sorts of people simply doing her a kindness. After a couple of years of this she was diagnosed with dementia. These kind of things are quite normal - even if annoying, frustrating and downright offensive at times. My dad displays similar symptoms (alcohol induced dementia...). My PILs handled it by taking it one incident at a time, telling her off for being rude and not accepting being treated like that. It didn't stop her but it meant they didn't constantly feel annoyed with her. Expect her to forget about the ban on junk food....
As to the obsession and relish with death - my observation is that this is quite normal in the elderly (does not afflict all!). Think about it - with the 30+ age group with children we're preoccupied with children and their illnesses (chicken pox parties anyone - ridiculous, but....). All their contemporaries are busy dying so there is a preoccupation with it, just as there is with whatever stage we're at and everything that's happening in our lives and the lives or our friends. It is macabre and I hope I never get like that.
Lavender - funnily enough, disappearing into the kitchen to cook Christmas lunch is the way I survive. I can't drink until the meal is on the table or it all goes horribly wrong .
Pilgit - MIL has been obsessed with death and illness since I first met her (in her 60s). It's like a hobby for her. However, I am on the lookout for dementia, especially as MIL does say some odd things sometimes. The funniest thing was when she suggested that I wouldn't ever be able to put my Balinese cat into a cattery because all the other cats would think it was a bit 'la-di-da' . Still, she's always been a bit daft, so it's difficult to tell.
Toffee, I can only sympathise; my MIL sounds very similar to yours. She has the capacity to talk endlessly about herself & people I've never met before, had a Daily Mail/1950's housewife mentality & is incredibly judgemental/critical of others (with rarely a kind word to say). I have never encountered anyone so lacking in empathy or compassion & with such little spirit of generosity. And she's only mid-60's.
Right, now I've got that off my chest, I can share some thoughts on dealing with her. For me, the only way to go was less contact, as I was feeling so resentful & angry. I decided to stop feeling that way. And realised I had a choice about that.
The final straw had been DS being practically ignored on Xmas morning - aged 4, he was bottom of the priority list & didn't get to open any presents till after midday. For me, that was a turning point.
Challenging her on some of the crap she comes out with, while making me feel a bit better, didn't really achieve anything as her mindset is too closed-down to be open to different perspectives.
Don't apologise for your feelings - you clearly have 20 years of built up frustration!!!
lotsofcheese - yes, your MIL does sound very similar. I'm sorry she is only in her mid-60s . That is so sad about your DS being ignored on Xmas morning. In that respect, my MIL is the opposite: she dotes on both her grandsons and it tends to be us who get ignored in favour of them, which I am perfectly happy with.
You are right that challenging the crap is pointless. In my MIL's case, it will only upset her and probably lead to more of the 'she's going to take my GC away from me' hysteria.
MIL is coming round today for her fortnightly post-haircut cup of tea. Last time, she arrived 20 minutes early and the hairdresser hadn't even opened, so she turned up at our door. We were still in our dressing gowns and half asleep, as it was the summer holidays! This morning, I am planning to take DS1 out for his CBT exposure practice session at a cafe, but, thanks to MIL's visit, I need to fit it in between the hairdresser opening (so that I know she is safely there) and her calling round afterwards (anytime after 10.30). So DS1 and I will have to rush back for her <grumble, grumble>. Then I will need to be a good DIL and listen to her until she goes home again <puts head in hands>.
Yes, you're right - it is 20 years+ frustration coming out here!
Re phone calls - I have gone twice through Plants v Zombies computer game while making listening noises. In my case an uncle. When my mother was in last stages I played computer battle ships for around 59 minutes steady (phone deal was free calls up to an hour) every day. I have also done an online grocery orders (tidied up afterwards), but I can't mumsnet as I 'mmm, really' inappropriately. hth
That's really funny, Lisa. So many useful coping strategies on this thread, and it makes me feel better knowing I'm not the only one coping with these feelings. Doing an online grocery shop whilst listening is skilled stuff - not sure I'm quite at that level yet .
MIL has just gone. Things feel a bit better between us. I made her a cup of tea, then sat and listened politely to her news. She went away happy.
And DS1 coped with his anxieties in the cafe and stayed for the full hour, so he did very well too.
Phrases for your notebook:
-And how do you feel about that? [for use only when you have perfected the art of not listening to the answer]
-Well, there we are
-Gosh, it's all so complicated/difficult these days, isn't it?
My English Grandmother adored my father (once she'd got over her disgraceful reluctance to have a black son-in-law that is, not that anyone was ever allowed to bring that up). She had no idea that the entire relationship was based on the fact he honestly never listened to a word she said. He had a special MIL auto-pilot mode that enabled him to read, watch telly and even to doze while saying 'Hmmn' and 'Oh' and 'Really' periodically. We used to snigger away watching him do it. But as far as GM was concerned, he was hanging on her every word, and was a God to her as a result.
Those are good phrases, Eldritch. Wish I could emulate your father. What a clever man.
Join the discussion
Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Register now
Already registered with Mumsnet? Log in to leave your comment or alternatively, sign in with Facebook or Google.
Please login first.