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To think parents marriage should not be for discussion with kids

(19 Posts)
Sandbrook Tue 15-Mar-16 11:40:47

My SIL (DBs wife, the lovely one) is staying with us while her extension is completed. She's been here since last Thursday and since then her mother has rang 4 times for long rants about her own marriage. Every little detail has been poured over. SILs parents seem to be going through a very rough patch at minute and while she understands her mother's need to talk, she ends up crying over it with me as she feels so emotionally stacked with the whole thing.
She told me as children and her and her sisters were used as referees for their parents arguing and forced to sit on the chair and listen in case one of them 'lied' the kids could back the other up.
I'm finding all this horrifying but even without the childhood trauma, aibu in thinking that the mother should piss off and find someone else to talk to?

AnneLovesGilbert Tue 15-Mar-16 11:54:19

Dear god, that's horrible. YANBU at all and she must be feeling shattered by the whole thing.

Has she ever tried telling her DM to piss off and find someone else to talk to? If it's a lifelong dynamic I wouldn't be surprised if she hasn't or wouldn't know how to, as her DM's effectively made her complicit and she'd probably have massive anxiety about leaving her mum unsupported.

If she's not able to make a break, because she doesn't want to or it would be too hard, could she take some control and say she'll call her DM once a week to see how she's getting on, and won't be taking calls in between? Then she can manage the onslaught a bit better and it might have less of a corrosive impact on her life.

Sandbrook Tue 15-Mar-16 12:17:08

Thanks Anne, never thought of advising her to control it her own way. I think that may be the only way to go as it does seem to be a lifelong situation which won't remedy itself anytime soon.
All this and she's living out of a suitcase, with 2 young children and a full time job.
I've asked why her mother can't talk to her friends or a councelor instead and it seems mother doesn't like to air her dirty laundry in public. But is fine emotionally abusing her daughter hmm

Gatehouse77 Tue 15-Mar-16 12:28:29

I agree. When DH and I separated (back together now) we made it clear to the kids that they were not the problem, however, we did not discuss with them the reasons for it or what had been resolved for us to get back together. It's not their business, it's private.

Duckdeamon Tue 15-Mar-16 12:39:19

It was v bad parenting to do this to a child and still isn't ideal with an adult DC! Your SiL might benefit from some professional help to discuss the impact it's all had on her, decide what her boundaries are and how to be more assertive and manage difficult interactions.

I sympathise as have been too much privy to my parents' relationship issues, suspect it's not uncommon! DH has helped me make some changes in how I handle this, as has SiL actually.

AnneLovesGilbert Tue 15-Mar-16 12:47:53

She might want to read up on toxic families, it's certainly a form of abuse and having started when she was so young will obviously have had a profound impact on her. She sounds very well adjusted and strong and she's lucky to have your friendship and support.

Overly involving your children in your messy adult relationships can be a form of control, roping the children in to the drama and making them feel responsible for the happiness and wellbeing of their Mum, Dad or both.

Completely different scenario, but my XHs DM was a great one for calling with incessant dramas and problems 4 or 5 times a day most of the time - not to say she didn't have them, she had loads of them - but refusing to listen to advice or make any changes leaving him desperate on and after every single call that she kept on and on in the same vicious cycle of awfulness (same response to each different drama) and he couldn't do anything about it.

He started by saying he wouldn't answer calls after a certain time (partly to give us both some time off from it), then that he'd only take a certain number of calls a day, and it did make a difference. His guilt about not being to help her, despite her not actually wanting any help, was the worst thing and when parents do a number on you like that you can end up feeling obliged to answer every call in case this time something really has gone wrong. But if you try a new way of managing contact you ave to stick to it to give it a chance.

Different tactics worked at different times but when things were relatively settled so he knew she just wanted to offload, again, him calling her at the same time each week gave her something to look forward to and she tried to save it all up and he got to prepare himself.

Sounds like it could be worth a go. "Mum, I know you're going through a hard time at the moment and I'm sorry. As you know, we're in the middle of loads of changes, living out of a suitcase, work very busy etc, and I want to be able to concentrate on our conversations which I can't do as things stand. I'll call you at 6pm on Tuesday and we'll catch up then. I won't be able to talk to you about this beforehand as I'm shattered and have too much on. Love SIL".

Sandbrook Tue 15-Mar-16 12:50:29

She's texted me to say she won't be home for dinner as her mother wants needs to talk to her.
She said something needs to give as she can't keep listening to her father being torn apart.
I might suggest a councelor, her company provide free councelling. If I'm right, I think all this is going to come to a head as she's very stressed at the moment.

Sandbrook Tue 15-Mar-16 12:53:26

Wise words Anne. She's feels guilty and responsible to help her mother.

AnneLovesGilbert Tue 15-Mar-16 13:13:28

She's also responsible for her own DCs who need their mum as happy and stable and supported as possible, not pulled in too many directions and traumatised by a toxic granny!

Keep your eye on her, maybe leave her something in the fridge tonight, and try to get her think about herself and her own family. The thing is, if she's never been able to fix her parents or their relationship in the past, what chance does she have now? It's not okay for parents to foist that sort of responsibility on to their children, it's selfish and mean.

Absolutely suggest a counsellor, if things are coming to a head she needs tools to help her look after herself.

You sound lovely Sandbrook and she's very lucky to have you.

Duckdeamon Tue 15-Mar-16 13:53:12

That's great if she has access to professional counselling free through work, would encourage her to arrange this, and to set some boundaries with her mother, for her and the DCs' sake.

Arneb Tue 15-Mar-16 13:57:11

She needs to learn to change the subject. It does take a bit of practise and to be able to ignore and guilting that goes along with it.

My mother went through a phase of this when I was a teenager - it wasn't a great experience for me and left me feeling very guilty as I loved my Dad but was also wanting to support my Mum. Plus nothing I said changed anything.

Sandbrook Tue 15-Mar-16 16:38:36

Thanks Anne, some great advice there.
She is a real pal to me so hate to see her upset. I had no idea about the history of her parents fights and the destruction it has caused until today. And I've known her 20 years. Hopefully she'll be open to councelling now she's been able to speak about it and realise how damaging it is.

I'm sorry you've experienced similar Arneb. I suppose it's a good lesson for everyone to see how it can still affect you as an adult never mind when you're a child.

kiwiquest Tue 15-Mar-16 16:51:15

Erggh, yes been there done this for years. Comes from DM not having any friends to vent to. Only thing solved it was when I met DH and realised I didn't run to DM with every problem, I actually talked to my husband and resolved the issue between normal people do...... She has to get tough I'm afraid "I'm sorry I'm not comfortable discussing this with you" and end conversation. Repeat, repeat repeat. Helps Dsis has taken the same approach.

LittleLionMansMummy Tue 15-Mar-16 17:00:58

Yanbu, that's just awful! This is what dh's ex used to do to dsd1 - told her everything that was ever discussed/ debated between them, with a heavy spin in her favour. As a result dsd1 unquestioningly absorbed everything her mother told her and went nc with dh at age 14. That's an extreme and very sad case of course. I cannot imagine putting ds through that, ever. In fact, we had a long running argument with dsis and bil a while back (all sorted now) and none of us exposed the children to our issues with each other - in fact still encouraged the children to continue speaking to/ visiting each other. Can't believe the way a lot of so called 'adults' behave, it's so damaging.

WellieWanger Tue 15-Mar-16 17:06:00

My parents do similar which is especially hard as until I was 20, I never even heard them argue and they never seemed unhappy. It just makes you lose respect for them as parent figures really. Bad form! So no, YANBU

WellieWanger Tue 15-Mar-16 17:10:15

I agree with kiwiquest that it stems from having no friends to vent to incase, heaven forbid, someone realises their marriage is far from perfect. But they must keep up the pretence so instead me and my siblings get it! It's just in one ear out the other now-I pay no attention to their bitching at me about each other.

Arneb Tue 15-Mar-16 17:14:02

Comes from DM not having any friends to vent to

Yep - my Mum was very isolated and TBH Dad wasn't in a great place and not very well and working massive overtime so perhaps she couldn't talk to him.

Her own family never wanted to know and I suspect her mother did similar to her.

My Mum is has a lot of controlling aspects - I think come from massive insecurity unaddressed anxiety and a learnt very bad pattern of behaviour from her own upbringing and extremely toxic IL, my GP, to cope with.

I can't fix it for her though - her venting to me just left me upset. I have no control trying to do anything backfires massively.

Worryingly I married a man who had trouble saying no to his parents and now have IL who behaviour has been very toxic at times. I had to get DH on side and put some boundaries in place as it's much better and at least I feel in control and not seething with resentment like my mother was - but I worry that I may well copy other patterns of behaviour unconsciously and I don't want to do this to my children.

So really worth trying to get your SIL to read the toxic parents book - not just for her sake but for her children's too.

VerySlovenly Tue 15-Mar-16 17:46:21

YANBU! Oh my word, this is exactly what my not so "D"M used to do to me. Made my life a misery. SIL needs to knock this one the head or it WILL get worse and she will be forever weighed down with her DM's problems (that she can't solve anyway). Her priority is her own kids, not being used by her mum as an ever-available emotional crutch / unpaid counsellor. With no thanks I bet.

I hope she manages to put a stop to this. There will be tears, threats and emotional blackmail but she is not responsible for her mum.

flowers to you and SIL.

Sandbrook Tue 15-Mar-16 21:35:00

Thanks all. Cripes, it seems quite common. And the damage quite upsetting.

Arneb I hope you're in a better place now. I might order that book for SIL and see how that goes.

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