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To be at a loss how to deal with my in-laws?

(9 Posts)
CadburyTime Mon 17-Nov-14 08:12:08

My parents-in-law, predominantly MIL (FIL either stays quiet or backs her up), are so negative and confrontational in the way they interact with us (and everyone else as far as I've seen). DH tries to deal with it as best he can but is going through the FOG (fear, obligation, guilt) so it's hard for him and MIL is so thick skinned that if you challenge her/disagree with anything she says she'll just shrug it off with 'ok, if you think so' then carry on saying the same thing later. If you challenge her enough that it becomes a row she'll rage first then be apologetic later, but importantly in a 'I only said what I thought was best for you' way, that there's no way of dealing with it without letting it pass and leaving her to say the same again.

There's no way DH would want to go NC so that's not even on the table, which I think she knows, so she's got no fear of being as unreasonable as she likes because she can apologise for it later.

Without going into huge detail it's difficult to get across how unreasonable she can be, especially as she can be very kind at times too, I don't want it to sound as if I'm just irritated with her quirks and taking it too far - a few of the issues we've had are;

- MIL treats DH almost as a second husband, gets very put out when he doesn't run every decision by her and not only gives her opinion on everything but keeps arguing for her point of view on what he/we should do until we either do what she wants (usually co-incidentally) or the decision/issue passes. All this is constantly underlined by 'it's only because I care about you' even though this and many other things don't make DH feel very cared for at all, he feels like it's something to be endured.

- We moved away from where DH had grown up to go to a better (for us) area 18 months ago and she's never accepted it, we constantly get asked how/why things are better for us here, get told we're no better off and the place we live in criticized, and get told we're devastating the family by being so far away. MIL blatently says she wouldn't have been bothered if DH's sister had moved away, but it's him she misses.

- She frequently criticizes/insults us, especially when they visit/we visit them but knows how to keep it just 'within the line' so if you pulled her up on one comment you'd look unreasonable but it's the quantity of them that make it really nasty. She insults our dc and my family too, but again keeping it just on the verge of acceptable. She'll occasionally go to far, like last year she called my parents 'evil and manipulative' (and more) when they were doing something very innocent that we fully supported them on, just because it was something MIL couldn't afford to do. That blew up hugely of course but MIL apologised, but for 'losing control of her feelings' rather than for her actions, and since then she hasn't said anything so vile but her attitude shows she still thinks the same. That's how she works, blows up to show you what she thinks then 'apologises' but keeps the same attitude on a lower keel.

- MIL constantly tries to guilt trip DH into doing what she wants and complains bitterly about anything he doesn't do that she wanted him to.

All in all it makes dealing with the PIL's really unpleasant and grinds DH down but we're both at a loss what to actually do. DH is very good now at shutting down obvious negative comments, refusing to engage and telling her he's not going to discuss it with her but that can't be done with more subtle underhand comments and she's so thick skinned she'll just repeat the comment over and again anyway. How do we get through to her that what she's saying is totally unacceptable to us without making it a big issue every time or looking like the horrible ones, because she puts so much across as 'I care so much about you I have to interfere in this'?

Shelby2010 Mon 17-Nov-14 08:36:32

I guess it might be very hard to get her to change, but it might be worth trying the 'stuck record technique', so..

Personal comments like 'X needs to lose weight' are met with 'That's not a very kind thing to say' if she carries on with 'but I'm only saying because I care' just repeat 'but it's not a kind thing to say'.

Arguements about DH's choices can be replied to with 'but you must be proud to have raised a son who can make his own decisions' or similar.

To be honest you'll probably only be changing your own behaviour but it might be less exhausting if you work out a few stock phrases that will do for any negativity rather than having to weigh up each comment she makes to see if it's worth having a row about.

JustAShopGirl Mon 17-Nov-14 08:45:45

MIL and I have a couple of areas we disagree strongly on - so when she starts spouting I leave the room or pick up the newspaper. She is usually going on about how the same-sex couple next door are "Just like normal people" - like? really? Anything that starts "In my day..." gets my hackles rising..

The kids handle her better - talking abut her attitude being sooo old fashioned and "what was it like living in the Victorian times Gran?"

CadburyTime Mon 17-Nov-14 08:54:07

Sounds like a good approach Shelby - I think you're right that we'd only be altering our own behaviour but it would be much easier to be an auto-pilot than having to actually listen and try to respond when she says certain things, might make it less annoying too. I have to leave the room sometimes Just but MIL seems to delight in saying things behind my back, which DH shuts down quickly but she just carries on another time.

ROARmeow Mon 17-Nov-14 08:58:58

It's a positive thing that DH is on-board with you and can also see that they are badly behaved and rude.

But, they insult your DC?? Do your DC pick up on the fact that their grandparents are horrible?

Having an opinion on how you run your life and where you live is one thing (albeit, I understand it's very annoying) but to insult your DC? shock No way would I let that rest!!

LaurieFairyCake Mon 17-Nov-14 09:13:05

Have you tried sniffing, looking disdainful/incredulous and then looking away and crucially, saying nothing?

Works for me. It's fun actually because there is then no doubt that they think you think they're a twat badger.

Hoppinggreen Mon 17-Nov-14 09:37:09

How about treating her like the total idiot she obviously is?
I find the " ha ha ha mil, you are so funny" when she comes out with comments is quite effective. Treat her as if you think she can't possibly be serious because what she's saying is so ridiculous. If you can get DH onside as well you could look at each other with knowing smiles and roll your eyes in a " she's off again" kind of way. I also find the " ok, if you say so" in a condescending voice I would use to my 5 year old who insists dinosaurs are still around quite useful in these circumstances too.

shushpenfold Mon 17-Nov-14 09:40:48

I like hopping green's suggestion.....it just might work, especially if you follow it up with (after being asked why the 'eyes' or 'looks) 'well, it's so nasty/ridiculous/rude (pick word to suit) thing to say we assumed you were joking'.

cheesecakemom Mon 17-Nov-14 10:07:59

Sounds much like my inlaws - I keep the visits to a minimum. It's really hard to deal with people like that

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