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AIBU to want my in-laws to stop their puppet-mastering?

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MrBuxx Mon 06-Nov-17 12:28:21

Hi all, first post here and I’m afraid it’s something of a long one...

(As I’m aware that for many this will probably be too much, the TL;DR version of the below is basically: My in-laws are very controlling and have very different views about the ‘proper’ and decent way that my children –daughter especially- should be raised. My wife usually sides with them as it’s “the way she’s been brought up”. I have been brought up differently and think some of the things they say are utter tripe, and feel that they gang up on me. Help!)

I married my wife five years ago and we now have two beautiful kids who are the centre of our world- a daughter , 4 and a son, 2.

My wife is (and always has been) far too dependant on her parents- she calls/ FaceTimes them at least 5 times every day- other members of my family (and my wife’s uncle) have commented on this. When married, her uncle (a retired vicar) told me “be careful- you know how she is with her parents”. I think this dependancy has got worse since parenthood.

I feel I should set the scene somewhat, so here goes:

My Wife’s parents are well-off. Her Mum used to work in the financial industry and made some “wise” investments I’m told. She helped us buy our house (my own parents were not in a position to help with this)- I pay mortgage, wife pays her mum back as-and-when she can afford it, as whislt I work full-time, she works two days per week (as well as some additional income from home). My FIL is insane. Neurotic does not even begin to describe him. Always worries about potential worst-case scenarios (as an example just yesterday he advised not to put a dishwasher-safe IKEA cup into the dishwasher, in case it overheated and melted the cup- I thought to myself “if the effing dishwasher overheated, we’d have bigger problems than a melted plastic cup”). He also has an extremely short temper and cannot take ANY stress. My MIL and wife usually tread on eggshells around him. As tempting as it is I won’t continue the character assassination here for fear of going off-track.

As well as the helping with our house purchase, my mother-in-law handles all my wife’s finances, completing tax returns on her behalf, and generally advises her on expenditure.

And then there are the annual all-inclusive holidays. We have had lovely times, but I feel indebted to them...

Anyway, the in-laws’ interfering with upbringing of my kids started 4 years ago, around a week after my daughter was born. When changing daughter’s nappy my MIL and FIL double-teamed me out of the blue with “Don’t say bum, it’s not very ladylike- you should say bottom” My wife then sided with them... I was speechless, went bright red, but managed to hold my ground and keep saying bum. Every time they are around (which can be as often as EVERY TWO WEEKS), they continue the “bottom” reinforcement with both my children.

For the last four years things have continued along these irksome, infuriating lines. Far too many instances and examples of their control over my wife, and attempted control of my children to list here, but some more recent examples are: (to my daughter)- “You shouldn’t say I need to go to the toilet, say please may I go to the bathroom”, (my Daughter says something mildy cheeky)- “Don’t say silly things like that (my Daughter’s name)”. Most times I would take my wife to one side and voice my concerns with her parents interfering, and she’d more-often than-not-take their side but we’d agree to disagree.

Last night things came to a head. After bathtime MIL and wife were in my son’s bedroom. I was drying off my daughter which ended up in a tickle, then a play chase with me blowing a raspberry and tickling her when I’d caught her. Giggling, she runs into my son’s room “Haha! Mummy, daddy caught me and prentended to poo on me!”. Her interpretation of these events struck me as hilarious, so I started laughing. At that point I heard a disapproving mutter from my mother-in-law, and my wife called my daughter in to my son’s room. “Here we bloody go then..” I thought.

My wife parroted something that my MIL had said along the lines of “You know, sometimes when people make jokes about poo it’s not funny, and you shouldn’t laugh...”

Flashpoint. I see red (the thought that my wife has assumed that I was miming defecating on my child, presuming the absolute worst of me was too much), and retaliate with how utterly ridiculous that sentence is, and how it’s okay for children to laugh at silly things and be cheeky occasionally. After all, I’m her dad and I was raised in a fun, relaxed way AND words like “poo” and “bum” are even in stories we read to them, and on kids TV sometimes. I’m hardly teaching her to “Eff and Blind” or anything.

More muttering and talking between my wife and MIL, and then something truly astonishing. “But it’s different for girls! Girls should be raised in a more ladylike way! (Daughter’s name) should be raised to be feminine- we want people to like her, and we want (the right) men to want to care for her eventually, don’t we?”

Utterly astonished at this but forcing calm at this point as I realise that our children are still in the vicinity, I say something along the lines of how our daughter is a child, and I cannot believe how archaic and backwards the statement that has just come out of my wife’s mouth is. Our daughter needs to be encouraged to be who she wants to be, to do what SHE wants to do, to LOOK AFTER HERSELF first and foremost. I tell her I cannot believe the utter tripe that I have just heard come out of her mouth.

“You just think we’re posh and are against our views”.

Utter, utter nonsense I say.

All of this has happened within earshot of my MIL, and at this point she either finally realises where I stand on these matters and that I’m not going to submit, or just wants to avoid a major row in front of my kids. We are urged to stop arguing and put the children to bed. I tell my wife that I don’t want to fight. We put our children to bed. MIL goes downstairs.

After kids are sleeping we meet on the landing. I say how we need to chat properly about this, how we never set boundaries before the kids were born and need to meet in the middle somehow.

“Not now” she says, gesturing downstairs (presumably meaning that we don’t want to get her dad involved).

I agree, but say we do need to address this. Also, I say, the way we bring up our kids is between US. The two of US. Not anyone else. She gives a kind of forlorn nod. We go downstairs, and weirdly it’s like nothing has happened. MIL is acting normally, and I’m not sure if FIL is even aware of the argument. I am so mentally tired by this point I just go along with things.

I’m sure that the in-laws will continue to try to manipulate my daughter and kids, maybe more out of my sight for a while.

I also intend to continue this discussion with my wife tonight now that things are more out in the open.

So, I guess my question is “how do I fix this?” I cannot see my wife breaking the dependency on her parents and thinking for herself...

Speaking to my folks on the phone this am my Mum suggested marriage counselling might make her realise the ridiculousness of the situation, but do I really want to go through that?
I will endure anything for my kids, but I really am fed up with the way things are with my in-laws.

mydogmymate Mon 06-Nov-17 13:49:08

Having read your post, I’m wondering how you kept so patient! I would’ve lost my shit with your wife and MIL.
However, was your wife like this with her parents when you met her, or has this been more apparent since you’ve had children? At the end of the day they’re YOUR children too and you should be respected as such ( your MIL sounds a nightmare!). Have you told your wife how bad you feel about the situation? I think your mum is right, marriage guidance would enable you to get your point across in a non confrontational way and hopefully your wife will start to understand your frustration.

Ausparent Mon 06-Nov-17 14:07:07

I think your bigger issue is not the in-laws but the fact that you and your wife are not on the same page.

You need to know where you stand as a couple on things and make the discussion about that and not about her parents. That will only put her on the defensive. They are your children and your parenting style and priorities should be the result of discussions and agreement between the two of you, not your wife adopting whatever he mum says on a particular day and not your reaction.
Maybe putting together some house rules for the children will also enable you to define what is important and where you stand on things.

PS IMHO it is definitely a bum. And saying bathroom instead of toilet is not posh.

Hissy Mon 06-Nov-17 14:11:18

Your inlaws are way too involved in your family, and the friend was wise to warn you.

YOU are the one who will be able to draw lines here, and you will probably benefit from therapy with your wife to address why she is allowing them to call the shots in your family home.

Is FIL genuinely likely to blow up in your home if you have a proper conversation about boundaries? if he does then tbh, I'd be cutting visits out for a start.

DunkMeInTomatoSoup Mon 06-Nov-17 14:11:46

They "own" you - and whilst you continue to be financially in their debt, this will continue.

Be a man in your own house. For everyones sake.

BenLui Mon 06-Nov-17 14:18:22

You don’t have an in laws problem, you have a wife problem.

You need to agree with her that her parents need to stop undermining your parenting.

How often do they visit your home? I’d start cutting that down.

You might not be able to change her basic nature but you can set down some clear guidelines.

RB68 Mon 06-Nov-17 14:41:13

As they say round here you have a wife problem - work on that

ohfourfoxache Mon 06-Nov-17 14:59:35

You don’t have an IL problem, you have a DW problem.

Honestly? If I were in your position I would be considering divorce. She doesn’t have your back, and if it was a woman seeking advice on the same I’d be saying the same thing.

At the very least I think you need couples counselling. Might also be worth considering a visit to a solicitor to find out where you stand.

MrBuxx Mon 06-Nov-17 15:06:44

Thanks folks, some good advice.

@mydogmymate She's always been really close to her parents- always confided in her mum, and is the type to always try and please everyone... She has got worse since becoming a parent though... We've breached the subject many times, and the reply is usually something along the lines of "You know that my parents views influence my own", and "I am trying, you know". Often things would get better for a short while before gradually slipping back to the way they were. Repeat ad infinitum...

@Hissy I'd put money on FIL blowing up- we're talking about a man who, a year or two ago blew his top when my wife (we were at their house for a weekend), after speaking to a relative passed the phone to her brother (also a grown adult, and probably the most level-headed member of the entire family, who distances himself from his parents) without asking him first... "You shouldn't pass the phone to people without asking them first- it's VERY RUDE!!!!!" Storms out, red-faced into the garden for a couple of hours or so.
I honestly think I should start a blog about them...

@BenLui They visit at least once a month on average, but this month we saw them 2 weeks in a row as my wife took the kids to theirs (3-4 hours drive away from our home) for half term week (I had to work and voiced my displeasure at this, but was made to feel like I was the control freak; and I say she 'took' them but the in-laws collected them as they don't like it when my wife drives to them under her own steam), then they came up the following weekend for DD's birthday party. They are both retired and it seems have nothing else to occupy their time... My parents probably see my kids once for every 4 or 5 times that my in-laws do (aside from the couple times a week I FaceTime them- They still work and don't have the finances that the in-laws do). They can't stand to be anywhere near them so much that they didn't come to DD's birthday party.

It's plainly obvious that the status quo has to change... Just need to pick my moment and be prepared... by no means am I expecting it to be easy though.

Aquamarine1029 Mon 06-Nov-17 15:08:54

Honestly, I think counseling may be the only chance you have to save your marriage. Unfortunately, you ignored your wife's insane dependency on her parents before you married her, and now you're left to deal with the consequences. Unless she realises that your marriage only consists of the two of you and not her, you, and her mother, things will never change.

bluebells1 Mon 06-Nov-17 15:14:06

Leave the bitch.

RavingRoo Mon 06-Nov-17 15:14:35

Stand up for yourself and argue against sexist bullshit in front of your kids, so they know their mum’s parents are wrong and not to listen. Also suggest standing your ground when your wife invites them round - if you want equal access for your family then say they can’t see the kids any more than your dp do.

whiskyowl Mon 06-Nov-17 15:17:28

Jesus, this is awful. As someone with very controlling in laws, I know how hurtful and damaging behaviour like this can be.

I don't know what to suggest, because you're not really married to your wife as a grown-up independent woman. You're married to her AND her parents. It sounds as though she is stuck in some kind of arrested state of development, who is far too reliant on her parents for either boundaries or comfort. Presumably this is a choice at some level on her part - perhaps conditioned by controlling behaviour in the past and/or magical thinking about her parents protecting her, but a choice nonetheless. To break out of this relationship, you are going to need her on side. I would maybe start by asking quite where this dependence comes from, and perhaps suggesting some counselling and support. If, however, she sees absolutely nothing wrong with acting this way, I think you're pretty stymied. To be honest, you probably should have considered this issue before having kids with someone who is still a grown-up child herself.

The financial structures of dependence are not helping. You cannot set boundaries properly if you are accepting someone's financial support. I suggest that you stop accepting hospitality on holidays and you figure out a way to repay the money they have invested in your house.

The80sweregreat Mon 06-Nov-17 15:28:26

whiskey has put this better than I could - you were warned though, but like most people that are young and in love etc etc you thought you could change her ways - or things wouldnt be as bad. Not a criticism, but now you have your own children, its apparent how much she is dependant on her parents and is not taking account of your feelings on how things should be done. I agree that talking it through with a third party might help, or even asking them to look after the children one night , take her out and tell her that she needs to consider your feelings and not always take their side in everything, despite the financial help and everything else that they have done for you.
Might be an idea to move this to the relationships board too - probably a lot more advice might be forthcoming from there. She needs to stand up to her parents - if she doesnt and is continuing to be so in awe of them , then you will always have this problem I'm afraid. I had a controlling MIL, took years for my own dh to see that the problem was her and not everyone else ( as she made him believe for years and years and he always took her side as well) so I can sympathise.

toomuchtooold Mon 06-Nov-17 15:31:35

If your DW was on mumsnet I'd recommend she read If You Had Controlling Parents but as she isn't, I'll recommend it to you. Also Toxic in-laws.
Also here's a link to the Just No FIL Reddit although it may just give you the rage.

I agree with the PPs that counselling is a good idea and that you need to have some concrete things that you want to change. A limit on the number and duration of visits from inlaws would be a good start, and an agreement from your DW that both of you respect one another's minute to minute parenting decisions and she doesn't argue with you about discipline in front of the kids or overrule you. And that discussions about parenting absolutely do not involve your inlaws. Your DW says that her childhood influences her parenting, fine, but she's an adult now, she can interpret her upbringing through her own parenting, she doesn't need to get her parents to parent your kids.

YouCantArgueWithStupid Mon 06-Nov-17 15:37:48

I’m really really close to my mum and dad. But I wouldn’t let them talk to DH like this about anything let alone how we raise our DC!

MistressDeeCee Mon 06-Nov-17 15:42:18

Your MIK is a pain in the arse and your wife is fast on her way to becoming the same. It's often the case with in-laws (& some parents) that once they help you make major life purchases/investments, the price to pay (in their mind) = they can intervene in your family life as and when they so please. & be as obnoxious and controlling as they like.

Your wife has been infantilised. Well you're raising a family together now. Put your foot down. Lessen the in-laws visits to your home. Speak with your wife re being on same team on raising your children

Unfortunately for you although I hope all goes well, don't be surprised if your wife ups and goes off with the children to live with her parents, eventually.

MistressDeeCee Mon 06-Nov-17 15:42:19

Your MIK is a pain in the arse and your wife is fast on her way to becoming the same. It's often the case with in-laws (& some parents) that once they help you make major life purchases/investments, the price to pay (in their mind) = they can intervene in your family life as and when they so please. & be as obnoxious and controlling as they like.

Your wife has been infantilised. Well you're raising a family together now. Put your foot down. Lessen the in-laws visits to your home. Speak with your wife re being on same team on raising your children

Unfortunately for you although I hope all goes well, don't be surprised if your wife ups and goes off with the children to live with her parents, eventually.

MistressDeeCee Mon 06-Nov-17 15:42:22

Your MIK is a pain in the arse and your wife is fast on her way to becoming the same. It's often the case with in-laws (& some parents) that once they help you make major life purchases/investments, the price to pay (in their mind) = they can intervene in your family life as and when they so please. & be as obnoxious and controlling as they like.

Your wife has been infantilised. Well you're raising a family together now. Put your foot down. Lessen the in-laws visits to your home. Speak with your wife re being on same team on raising your children

Unfortunately for you although I hope all goes well, don't be surprised if your wife ups and goes off with the children to live with her parents, eventually.

Fluffycloudland77 Mon 06-Nov-17 15:43:56

She sounds like she's stuck in child mode.

If it was a Dh I'd be saying ltb but then you risk not seeing the children.

Can you move further away?. Like Austrailia.

jay55 Mon 06-Nov-17 15:44:26

Do you have enough equity in the house to sell and pay them back?
I’d make being financially independent from them a priority and stop accepting holidays or anything else they can throw in your face.

I’d worry if you divorced that access would be very difficult and your in laws influence even greater.

MrsPepperpot79 Mon 06-Nov-17 15:46:13

I second what many above have said re this being a DW issue first and foremost. In addition I can recommend the "a mighty girl" website for both stories to empower your daughter and on parenting tips to help your DW learn how important it is to raise a daughter who can think for and look after herself.

Gilead Mon 06-Nov-17 15:46:21

Your wife needs to be supporting you.
If they were posh, they'd be using very different language, they'd swear properly and have more feminist ideals. As it is, they've got too much money, too much control and think they're posh. It's Hyacinth Bucket syndrome.

tinymeteor Mon 06-Nov-17 15:47:58

Sounds like you and your wife urgently need to talk parenting philosophy, to figure out what each of you actually gives a damn about and why. Agree what matters and what doesn't. Otherwise your kids become the battleground in which you act out the relationship with her parents - her trying to please them and you swinging between going with the flow and rebellion. Figure it out while the kids are still small, for their sake.

And get the little one this book for Xmas grinhttps://www.waterstones.com/book/poo-bum/stephanie-blake/9781877467974

Happinezz Mon 06-Nov-17 15:54:21

I don't have anything to add to this conversation, though I wanted to wish you 'Good Luck' flowers it's not going to be an easy conversation!

Also, pleasee do start a blog about your inlaws! - you write beautifully, and I'm sure many others have had similar issues (myself included)!

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