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To want to reduce / cut off contact with inlaws?

(39 Posts)
joellevandyne Wed 22-Jun-16 05:25:10

Long post warning: I'm feeling seriously fed up with my inlaws but am wondering if they are simply garden-variety annoying family and IABU, or if they are toxic enough to go LC (are already circumstantially fairly LC) or NC.

OH is one of three children, and is not close to his parents (neither are his siblings). His father was the classic hands-off father and his mother was a high-stress, screamy mother who smacked regularly. From what OH has told me (he does not like to talk much about it) it sounds abusive, but he struggles to label it as such.

MIL was a teen mother, with children close together, and she lost a fourth child shortly after birth, so along with an uninvolved husband and tight finances, there are reasons that she struggled with parenting, but understanding those reasons as adults doesn't mean OH and his siblings were less scarred as children. All of them have suffered emotional problems; OH and one sibling have had counselling and have dealt with them quite well, the third, not so much.

OH left home early and went into a profession traditionally regarded as 'feminine'. His father made no bones about being embarrassed by this, and they were distant for a long time. Eventually, as OH rose to the very top of his industry, they took some pride in it.

Over the years there have been numerous family dramas, including PIL declaring one of their children 'disowned' for not inviting them to Christmas one year, then later acting like nothing had happened and being offended when said child did not want to do the same. In fact, in general, PIL have a habit of making snide or offensive remarks (see below), and then acting wounded (silent treatment often ensues) if you deflect or even ignore the remarks.

They are very part-time grandparents (to all their grandkids, not just our DCs). We see them perhaps 3-4 times a year (they live out of town, so usually stay a night with us... just one though), and although MIL makes a an exuberant fuss of the children for a couple of hours (and they love the attention), after a couple of hours the attention wanes and I have to actively encourage interaction.

FIL is barely interested in the children and mostly watches sports on TV. The one time I left MIL in charge of DS while I popped out to do a food shop, when I returned, DS had had a serious near-miss accident that by sheer luck only did not result in a hospital visit. Never again. They also swear frequently in front of the kids, and have said things to them that really irritate me, eg, "Look, you've got food all over your face, you stupid boy" (not said in a malicious tone, more 'jokey', but I still find it inappropriate).

I should add that they rarely come to visit just to see the GCs; they usually need to have something else to do in our town in order to justify a visit.

Maybe once or twice a year we visit them, but after a disastrous stay where FIL got roaringly drunk and crashed around for two hours at 2am, yelling "FUCK THE BABY" when asked to keep it down, we've been reluctant to make the effort.

The most recent incident that's aggrieved me probably sounds like small change, but I'm just so sick of it all that it might be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

After not attending DD's birthday last month due to FIL being sick, two days ago I had a phone call from PIL wanting to know where I was, because they were about to pass through town in the next hour and wanted to drop a present off (no advance notice of this). I was at work, so I gave MIL the nanny's number to meet up. PIL dropped in briefly to deliver a doll's pram, then left without spending any significant time with the kids (the nanny mentioned being surprised at how little time they stayed for).

Yesterday OH rang his mother to say thanks and mentioned that the kids had been giving each other rides (it is a very sturdy little pram and they are skinny, small toddlers (2 and 3)). An hour later I received a cross text message to say the pram was for dolls and she was "most upset" to hear that the children had been sitting in it themselves. When OH came home, I showed him the message, and he called his mother.

He asked why she texted me instead of saying something when he spoke to her. She said she was too upset, and felt that since they had gone to "so much trouble" to buy it (I know for a fact that they ordered it online, and not until after DD's actual birthday, which seems like the opposite of taking much trouble) that we were disrespecting them by allowing the children to play with it in such a way.

I accept that it's not the intended use, but OH and I are both very careful and would never let the kids do it if we though it would break (I have never had to throw out a toy because it was broken). OH explained this, and said he would prefer her to speak to him in future instead of sending me an "emotional text" about how upset she was. She protested that she was upset and made some implications about us not being firm enough on our (extremely well-behaved) children. OH calmly reiterated that she could have just said that she was concerned that using the pram in that way might damage it. She started crying and said she had to go because she had to cook dinner.

Based on past form, we will now get the silent treatment for weeks or months, and the rest of the family will get a story about how she can't say anything to us for being afraid of being told off.

I guess my questions are AIBU to see this as MIL causing unnecessary drama (she has huge form for this) or are we in the wrong? And overall, do these people sound 'cut-out-of-your-life' toxic, or just irritating but largely harmless, especially since we don't see them more than a few times a year anyway?

joellevandyne Wed 22-Jun-16 05:25:38

God, that really is an essay. Many TIA to anyone who can be bothered to respond!

ILoveAGoodBrusselSprout Wed 22-Jun-16 05:44:05


I didn't want to read and run, especially at this time in the morning when it might take a while to get a response. I feel for you.

A lot of time I try to understand PIL unreasonable behaviour - I have an often unreasonable MIL who I think I 'get' now - but I'm not sure about the type of behaviour you write about. I'm sure someone will be among soon who knows exactly what to say

And, for what it's worth, they sound vile and your family sounds lovely. Good luck

Canyouforgiveher Wed 22-Jun-16 05:48:10

I just wouldn't be arsed with them anymore. You don't need to have a big drama or anything just stop engaging or expecting anything from them.

So the next time they drop off a present say thanks and don't bother telling them the lovely story of the toddlers pushing each other in the pram. I can't tell you how much my lovely parents would have enjoyed hearing that. In fact I smiled thinking of the two of them pushing along.

If someone is so up their own ass that they actually can put the word "respect" into a sentence involving toddlers using a toy pram, then really there is no reasoning with them.

So from now on say hello/goodbye/thanks/yes/no and after that don't bother. Their loss. They won't notice it though. Certainly don't visit them in their home.

I am thinking of my parents putting my toddlers into cardboard boxes and pushing them down a slight grassy slope by their summer place over and over and over again. That is what grandparents can be like. Not worrying about disrespecting a pram (well only nutjobs worry about that). My kids are in their late teens and they still remember it. Your in laws a weird damaged people. Just minimise contact.

Pearlman Wed 22-Jun-16 06:16:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NavyAndWhite Wed 22-Jun-16 06:28:21

I agree with Pearlman.

Actually reading your OP I felt some empathy for your Mil. Sounds like she has had some tough times in her life. Losing a child changes you and it's looks like she had very little support in many ways from her husband.

Have you made any real effort with them?

CommonBurdock Wed 22-Jun-16 06:35:40

Can't quite believe some posts. Anyone who continues contact with a grandparent who gets roaring drunk and screams f words in the small hours isn't just making an effort they're going above and beyond.

The pram thing's just plain weird.

LC and stop worrying about it.

NavyAndWhite Wed 22-Jun-16 06:39:13

That's very dramatic Common.

You'd cut out someone from your life for swearing and getting drunk?

WasDat Wed 22-Jun-16 06:44:48

I agree. To the previous posters who think the pp is giving the in laws a hard time, I bet you'd hardly be singing their praises if your FIL had been roaring drunk shoring fuck the baby. I have had a similar incident with my FIL. Luckily my DH is minimal contact because of location but I'm nc with him.
If you're DH is on board and it is causing him distress to see his parents act, I see no harm in playing the silent treatment card back. Do not engage. That's what they want.

WasDat Wed 22-Jun-16 06:45:48

Sorry, that should start with 'I agree with common'

NavyAndWhite Wed 22-Jun-16 06:47:37

Don't assume anything WasDat.

Pearlman Wed 22-Jun-16 06:48:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ThumbWitchesAbroad Wed 22-Jun-16 06:48:52

joelle - bad place to ask about potential NC (AIBU, I mean).
Try getting it moved to Relationships and, while you're at it, have a look at the Stately Homes threads, and even this thread (one where people who have gone NC or are considering it)

I think that your DH needs to probably make the final decision on this, as it's his family - but it sounds like the LC you have could be made to dwindle further without too much effort.
The thing to ask yourself is "do they bring more pain than pleasure to your life?" if the answer is yes, then there isn't a whole lot of point keeping trying with them, unless your DH wants to. HAs to be his choice, really.

joellevandyne Wed 22-Jun-16 06:52:55

Thanks for the replies... I'm not on GMT so know this is a weird time of day for most.

It's good to hear a range of opinions. I do go back and forth wondering if - for the reasons stated (we don't see them much, there are definitely worse cases) - IABU for not wanting to bother at all.

But on the other hand, when every single visit / interaction with them comes with a side helping of stress, I ask myself why we are bothering. We've literally never spent time with them where OH and I could look at each other at the end and say, "Well, that was lovely!"

Pearlman I did put in some 'ancient history', but I wanted to establish that the problems with them aren't unique to my relationship with them. I could have put in dozens of other examples of difficult behaviour OH and I have dealt with, but I felt already written quite an essay.

NavyAndWhite I really think we have made an effort. Prior to having kids, OH had very infrequent contact with them, but he hoped that the relationship might be renewed through grandchildren, and we made a big effort at the start to involve them, which has dwindled over time. I supported OH to try to strengthen the relationship, as I'm close to my parents and they are very involved with the GCs, who are the lights of their lives.

I know OH has been through a slow process of having the hope that he had for a renewed relationship chipped away, and has often commented how embarrassed he is by how his parents treat the kids compared to how my parents do.

I do feel empathy for MIL's past too, and totally agree that FIL is not supportive. But to be honest, she behaves badly in ways that are not related (loves to stir up ill-feeling between family members) and it's hard work walking on eggshells around her feelings.

shovetheholly Wed 22-Jun-16 06:54:10

Gosh, they sound like really hard work.

I wouldn't go NC (I imagine it will just create more unnecessary drama), but I would reduce contact. I am in the process with my own difficult inlaws of shifting from long visits 3/4 times a year to much shorter, more manageable visits 6/7 times. As in your case, the first part of the visit works well, but it becomes more and more difficult as time goes on. I'm hoping that shorter stays (overnight, rather than 3/4 nights) mean we get more of the 'nice' time and less of the wearing behaviour. Perhaps something similar might work for you?

shovetheholly Wed 22-Jun-16 06:55:59

Oh, and I agree about getting this moved to 'Relationships' - there seems to be a bit of a backlash against posters with difficult in laws at the moment in AIBU, and you're likely to get loads of answers telling you to suck it up!

joellevandyne Wed 22-Jun-16 06:56:30

Witches thanks for that. I wondered about the Stately Homes thread but wasn't sure if I qualified as it's not my own parents, but inlaws.

joellevandyne Wed 22-Jun-16 07:03:19

shovetheholly Rookie mistake!

MissMargie Wed 22-Jun-16 07:07:36

I'm not sure why you are trying to keep a relationship going with them.

Who wants someone like that around over Xmas?

Is it because you want DCs to have GPs? This seems to be the usual reason, we had no near rellies when DCs were growing up, we never thought about it, the DCs didn't think about it. No one missed them (except me, I'd have liked some family childminders occasionally).

See them if you have to to avoid rows, otherwise ignore.

NavyAndWhite Wed 22-Jun-16 07:13:03

At the end of the day it's your DH's parents.

He has to decide whether he wants them out of his life.

shovetheholly Wed 22-Jun-16 07:17:33

There's a world - really, a world - of grey between the loveliest, most supportive in laws you could have and those who are so utterly poisonous that NC is the only option. Most of us inhabit some region of that grey, which means a constant process of negotiation has to happen. That's just normal. I get a bit impatient with the urge on Mumsnet either to whitewash everything or to paint it the darkest shade of black. The reality, 999 times out of 1000, is somewhere in the grey. While NC is always an option, I sometimes think it would be more helpful if we discussed the myriad of other coping techniques that people who successfully manage difficult relationships use.

NavyAndWhite Wed 22-Jun-16 07:32:36

Good post shovetheholly.

FlyingElbows Wed 22-Jun-16 07:35:17

Definitely have a look at the stately thread. For just now I'd day carry on your lc. I'm nc with my own mother but for way worse reasons than you've stated here. Nc is not an easy decision (pisses me right off how easily it's thrown about as an option on mn) and it's one which would really seriously affect your husband.

mummytime Wed 22-Jun-16 07:37:36

We used to see my ILs less than you see yours, and they weren't that bad. They just lived a long way away, and weren't terribly mobile themselves (if they had been we'd have probably seen them more).
If you go to see them, stay in a hotel.
When they come to see you are they really seeing you instead of using a hotel?

I'd go LC, and ignore their behaviour. Don't let them upset you. Ideally they contact DH not you (if you get a chance to change your mobile number don't give it to them). Choose not to react to what they say. It should be easier for you than your husband - but try to find the humour in the situation, and ignore, ignore ignore.

KC225 Wed 22-Jun-16 07:57:28

I think you have naturally stepped back. You refuse to stay after the FIL drunkenly woke the baby. You only see them 3 to 4 times a year. At worst they stay for one night.

I too have seen much worse, but when someone is irritating it's hard not to be irritated by everything. I think you should just suck it up for the few times a year you do see them. Don't rise to the FIL's comments and don't give them any ammunition. Thank them for pram and say the children love it. No details they can use against you. The comments about your children's behaviour were out of order but your DH only has to say we don't see a problem and we live with them. When they go all drama llama just let them get on with it. Roll your eyes and tutt, knowing they'll be back in a few months.

You have already said the children love the attention if only for a couple of hours. It is what it is I don't think you are going to change them, you are better off changing the way you deal with it. Good luck.

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