Bust up with the inlaws :( help please(77 Posts)
PIL live over 200 miles away so they come and visit for a long weekend once every couple of months. We also go down to visit them too. We have two DS's who are 2 and 1.
We've just had a very tearful, emotional phone call from PIL who apparently are fed up that we don't talk to them enough, don't reply to texts/emails quickly enough and make them feel uncomfortable when they come to visit.
To be honest I completely see where they're coming from but I don't see how to fix it - we are total polar opposites. DH and I are very independent, quite private people who both suck at making small talk when the subject matter is inane (eg the weather, random neighbours we don't know etc). We have both always been like this and we would both much prefer to sit in a comfortable silence with each other than to talk for the sake of it. PIL are the opposite - talk constantly, want to know every aspect of our plans/lives, NEED to be helpful/useful and also can't sit still for more than 5 mins.
I don't know what to do I don't want them to feel uncomfortable and neglected but I'm also annoyed that they can't just take us as we are. We've tried to explain politely but just get countered with more tears and accusations from MIL. The kids adore them but their visits are becoming more and more hard work.
Anyone got any suggestions about how to deal with this?
Get your DH to speak to them, they're his parents right?
If you both work etc. you can use that as a reason for not making long phone calls and immediately answering texts, you also have two small children so you are busy, he can tell them they continue to be welcome in your home but he can explain that you are both relative quiet people.
Could PILS come for long weekend and you and DH go off and do something? Or you and DH stay in and PILS take DC out?
Or you all go out and do something?
I have to admit your OP does sound like their visits are dull dull dull
I would agree with staying out of it and letting dh deal with them
It sounds like you have done nothing wrong but they are a bit lonely, have little else to think or worry about.
This is probably going to be an unpopular opinion, but I think you should just grit your teeth and suck up to them for a few visits. I say this because it's much nicer when everybody gets on and they're obviously upset. I am naturally a shy person, but plaster on the smile for my in laws every week. It just makes life easier generally and I suppose I don't much care whether they accept the real me or not
I would call, explain that you don't find small etc easy, but you'll make more of an effort. It doesn't have to be a big deal IMO. Good luck!
Agree that your DH should be the one to address this. Presumably your DH has always been a reasonably quiet and reserved individual? If so, his personality can hardly be a surprise to them.
They sound needy but (hopefully) non-toxic!
You make them feel uncomfortable when they come to visit? Why do they feel like that? A guest who has been invited to stay should never feel uncomfortable...
If they only stay for a long weekend every couple of months I would work on making them feel welcome to be honest.
I think it's the long weekend thing. I see my inlaws once every two or three weeks. Different outlook on life and old fashioned but nice.
I go along with whatever they say (talk about local church roof etc) and am polite. However, a whole weekend would drive me mad.
I think I would get dh to ring at least twice a week and make sure he replies to emails. Then, when they visit get out and about as much as possible, but don't increase visits.
We do loads when they come to visit (and when they're not here) - we are quiet people not inactive people, we spend most of our time outdoors at parks/forests/national trust etc. Its the evenings when we struggle, when the kids are in bed and DH and I are normally winding down ready to start it all again tomorrow they want to have massive conversations etc.
DH is doing all the talking with them at the moment, but then we get "why isn't Snot talking to us, does she hate us?"
I don't work at the moment but I do have my own little craft business as well as having two very full on boys. Most of the time I open the text, read it, the boys will kick off about something and by the time I've sorted them out I've forgotten all about the text.
Could you try texting them/ringing them on your schedule? So maybe when you think about it send them a quick picture of your boys, by text or email, or give them a ring. It will make them feel wanted and included and I think you will feel less annoyed/resentful/put upon if you can do this things to your timetable rather than theirs.
And I do try I ask questions about her charity shop and his work, I just lack the ability to carry on the conversation much further. DH has always been like this and they've always given him a hard time over it. It makes me sad for him.
That's a good idea welshwabbit. I'll give that a go
If they talk a lot, is it possible to have a conversation with them whereby you just have to nod and make interested noises.
Can they come for a shorter visit so the effort is lessened and spread out across more weekends.
But DH should be taking the lead on sorting this out.
What do they actually say when you explain that
wittering on about nowt chatting all through an evening just isn't what you and DH are good at?
They're being invited into your home for overnight stays 6+ times a year. Why on earth are they making a fuss about daft things like texts?
Are they busy people in their own life?
Have they just gone back after a visit? Was there something particular that happened this time? Or has this been stewing for a while?
Do you like them and consider them bascially pleasant and decent people even if they aren't much like you and DH?
A long weekend every couple of months doesn't sound like a huge amount if you don't actually dislike them. Could you find something to do in the evenings? Board games, a game of cards, a jigsaw? Maybe the conversation wouldn't feel such a struggle if you were all involved in 'doing' something, even if it was pointless?
Just to add - i don;t do any of the communication between PIL and us. DH does the calls and the texting/sending pics and videos of the baby.
I cannot imagine in a million years MIL thinking this meant i hated her! Any more than my mum thinks DH hates her because he never ring her up!
Oh, you poor thing!
I think something people need to understand before they respond is that not everyone is the same. Something that is enjoyable for one party is absolute hell for another. It's not simply a question of 'sucking up' someone else's way of being, because to an introverted and quiet family, the behaviour of an extroverted couple on a long visit quickly becomes completely intolerable, unendurable and awful. The demand for constant noise and activity can feel like you are physically being bulldozed. No-one should be pushed beyond their psychological limits like that. It is an insensitivity that I have noticed in many extroverted people that they expect the entire world to behave exactly as they do, and will not tolerate difference. (I have the same issue with my in laws, OP!)
In some ways, though, I think it's a good thing that your inlaws have raised this, because it gives you a chance to come to some kind of accommodation. It's a matter of finding a compromise where both parties give a little to feel comfortable. It is of paramount importance that you and your DH speak to them and explain that you don't spend your time in the same way as they do, and that when they come they will find it quieter and more sedate than they are used to - that this is not a reflection on them, but simply your way of being in the world.
There are two aspects to tackling it. The first is emotional. Be sure to mention that difference is not rejection - it doesn't mean that you don't love them. You're just very private people, who live more quietly than they do. Then, suggest a practical compromise that will make the visits easier: 'You guys have boundless energy, but we get tired out quite quickly. We find you exhausting - you think that we are cold when we really don't intend to be! Perhaps what we can do is for you to take the kids to the park in the morning, and let us tidy up around the house, and then we'll meet as a family in the mid afternoon for some time together'.
I don't think you are doing anything wrong to be honest, and I'd be wary of setting a new precedent of jumping to it when they cry down the phone. I think it's quite manipulative to do that, because they could have phrased it differently or chatted up front about how you are not much of a texter and they sometimes worry you don't like them- instead you have tears and will feel even more self-conscious next time they come. In this situation, I would have said nothing or had a word with my child (your husband) just to check if everything was ok.
They come every couple of months, so 6 times a year for a long weekend, you also visit them, this is not an unusually low amount of contact and it sounds like you do lovely things with them. You are probably bloody knackered after entertaining them all day with two tiny kids as well!
The only thing I might change would be to answer texts- it is a bit rude to leave one hanging esp. if you then don't reply for ages. This is a very small thing but could make them feel rejected- so just reply 'putting kids to bed, hope all well with you' , it will take 5 seconds but stop this feeling rejected thing.
Having said that, my MIL used to go on about how we (I) don't contact them enough, but I just have ignored her over the years. I think we do just fine, we are both busy professionals and do what we can- plus I do think it is up to your husband to update your parents/send photos/look after his family, and you to do your own (or whatever the arrangement is). I don't buy presents, constantly send photos etc to my il's as I do think for my own parents- your husband may have to step up a bit here as often family communication is left to the woman of the family for sexist reasons. My MIL doesn't go on about it anymore, she has learned that we are busy but still love them and keep steady contact, even if it isn't as much as she would like (she is retired and bored), that's the situation and I don't think you need change too much to accommodate to this if you have had a good look at your interactions and think they are ok.
Your situation is very similar to ours. My DPs fly over to see us about every 6 weeks and stay 2 or 3 nights. My mum chortles on about nonsense as far as I'm concerned but it does me no harm to act interested and luckily DP is great at carrying a conversation she's finding dreadfully boring. We then laugh about it loads afterwards!
I'm the sort of person who would do pretty much anything to keep the peace, so in your shoes I would apologise and make a lot more effort next time. Have you thought about playing scrabble or something in the evenings so you don't have to make conversation as such but they feel engaged? I don't agree with everyone that your DH should just speak to them, it will only make it worse. Say you didn't mean to upset them, you didn't realise they didn't enjoy themselves and could they make any suggestions as to what might be fun for all of you to do as you and DH are just behaving the way you normally do.
As for the phone calls... If I wait for my mum to call she wanders off on some story about next door's cousin's kitten or talks about the weather. I 'hmmm' a lot. I've found if I actually call her when I have something to say i.e. One of the kids has done or said something funny, she's delighted and even if it's only a 5 min chat it's more enjoyable than 20 mins of dragging conversation from nowhere. Maybe worth a try.
They'll get over it. Parents who travel that far that often to see you do it because they love you and they'll suck up your differences for that reason.
I don't think you are doing anything wrong by being yourself. However, I wonder if what you think of as "comfortable silence" comes across to them as "why are you interrupting our peace with your inane babble"?
When my PILs stay, I tend to be more active in the evenings than I usually am, so will maybe do a pile of ironing (never iron usually) or maybe make a pie for the next day, purely because actions seem to take away the need for chatter if that makes sense?
Oh but I do think you should respond to emails & texts better. It only takes seconds to type - great thanks, Will be in touch - or similar. You can even set templates up...
I do agree an explanation would be good- sorry if you felt rejected, that wasn't our intention at all, we/the boys love having you here.
However, it is also up to the parents to show a little empathy to two parents with tiny children! Of course you might be tired/not want to put on a show/stay up late chatting in the evenings even if you were the most outgoing people in the world. You are not, but going to bed early and being boring is quite normal at this age I would think.
Plus they have always criticised your husband, and now by extension you. I would be wary of trying to change people who have always found fault. You won't win as they wished he was different before and now that you were different. Well, you are not and I would find it very rude to be told I am somehow defective. You and he are just fine!
One idea might be to give them lots of tasks to do- I get my MIL to prepare a salad and send my FIL to the shops with a list. They prefer this than sitting around and it might actually help you.
But when push comes to shove, I think it is ok to say, perhaps jokingly, yes we are a bit boring but we like it this way! No need to tie yourself in knots trying to apologise for your own personalities though.
My ILs are a bit this way, I don't really do small talk whereas it's MIL's raison d'être .
I deal with visits by thinking in advance of potential topics of conversation, and perfecting the zoned out smile and nod (Mil is a champion monologuer ). She also needs to be needed, so I've become more relaxed about asking her to do little jobs.
While I sympathise though as a fellow introvert, you say that you lack the ability to take the conversation further: this something you can work on, and which may benefit other areas of your life. In the past few years I've made a concerted effort to become better at small talk (mainly, asking about the other person; not worrying about being inane; having some stock conversation for use in emergencies; not worrying about being judged;not judging myself ) and it has made many interactions so much easier for me. I'm not saying you need to change your whole personality! But maybe you can meet your in laws half way.
Gosh OP I'm glad I'm not in your shoes with this one. The best advice has already been said and the only thing I could add (already mentioned) was board games in the evenings so as to have something to focus upon. They sound very lonely btw and have obviously fretted over this for a while. Maybe it's time for your DH to have n open and frank conversation with them about the fact you are just different types of people and whilst you may make some effort regarding chit chat and small talk they need to learn to not be offended if it runs out.
We have a whatsapp group and update photos from DD. We also FaceTime....usually when she's sleeping on me and I can't do anything else. It doesn't take any time. My older cousin's children FaceTime their GP independently now.
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