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Why are SOME mother-in-laws so determined to interfere when not wanted?

(30 Posts)
Wamster Thu 28-Apr-11 10:14:29

To avoid flaming and because I do realise some mils are OK-really I do- I have put the word: 'SOME' in my thread title. I have also deliberately chosen not to include this in AIBU for same reason. I can't help but notice that a lot of them are just not liked by the daughters-in-law (or perhaps by their sons-in-law, too, but, without wishing to be sexist as such, and although I appreciate the humour of the late, great Les Dawson smile it seems to be to be a daughter-in-law/ mother-in-law problem).

There are so many horror stories here about mils-my ex one was a bit of a monster, I know that, always interfering when not wanted.
I'm not sure if she actually meant harm as such, just could not accept that she was no longer numero uno in her son's life. (Yes, my marriage broke down but these were for different issues outside of her).

What is wrong with these women? Is it a gender thing? Because I rarely see threads started here by women along the lines of 'my FATHER-in-law' is a nightmare'. Are they less interfering if they've got OTHER sons to concern themselves with? Or a spouse/regular partner themselves?

DrunkenDaisy Thu 28-Apr-11 10:31:30

For me, it's more the generational gap that causes problems. She was a SAHM and I work full time in senior management, but she still gets pissed off if I, for example, choose to buy new socks rather than darn the holes in the old ones.

She also thinks she's very 'christian' but actutally she's a complete biggot and is always banging on about immigrants.

Other than that she's lovely and did a fine job in raising my DH, but I cannot tolerate more than 2 days in her company.

Wamster Thu 28-Apr-11 10:35:17

Two WHOLE days?! Wow, I am impressed!

Diggs Thu 28-Apr-11 10:40:02

I see things slightly differantly and wonder why there are so many men who allow their mothers to interfere . I had what i beleived to be mil problems , with her being intrusive , rude and abusive .

With hindsight i dont think i had a mil problem , i had a husband problem . He could have stopped it at anytime by calmly placing down some boundrys and insisting i was treated with respect . But he didnt .

Wamster Thu 28-Apr-11 13:19:45

Because they are wimps and they do not see which side their bread is buttered on. Without being crude here, their mother is not the one who will give them children or they have to live with on a regular basis.

Hassled Thu 28-Apr-11 13:24:21

Diggs is quite right that it's usually actually a husband problem.

I am a MIL - my (adult) PFB moved in with his GF last year. And it's a hard relationship - my DIL is great, but of course to me DS1 is still my baby boy. I want to protect him from all the bad in the world just as much as I did when he was a 2 year old - those feelings don't change. What I don't do is meddle, give my opinions unless asked or ever criticise anything grin. But sometimes I'm biting my tongue - because of course until they're adults, you do meddle in your kids' lives; that's just what parents do. And then suddenly that stops - it takes a bit of adjustment.

WinkyWinkola Thu 28-Apr-11 19:04:23

Nope. I disagree. Parents don't have to meddle in their adult kids lives at all. Some just choose to.

da55 Thu 28-Apr-11 21:40:04

mine is the opposite the mum is lovely but the fil is unbelievable,we are seperated at the moment but hes still interfering saying evil things abt me,mil is lovely,she left him for the same reasons as me and he doesnt like the fact that she speaks to me abt the way she was treated.he is a nightmare.

DuelingFanjo Thu 28-Apr-11 21:54:32

Why stop meddling when they form a significant relationship, isn't it possible to stop meddling when they become an adult? I have a young son, likely to be my only child, and I really hope I don't turn out to be like some of the mother in laws I read about here.

For the record I wish my MIL would stop calling my DS 'my baby' and suggesting that she 'take him back to Spain' with her.

Imnotaslimjim Thu 28-Apr-11 22:01:52

I must be one of the few that absolutely adores her MIL. Yes, I cut the apron strings when I moved in with DH, but she's never resented me for it and has always been very supportive. DH's MIL however is an interfering old bat that doesn't understand that her way isn't always right!

WriterofDreams Fri 29-Apr-11 00:11:08

To be fair to MILs I think the DIL/MIL is a really odd relationship, being the two most significant women in one man's life. They need to get on but it's not easy as there is inevitably a generation gap and they both know the same person very well but in very different ways. And, as Hassled said, the poor mother has the difficult adjustment to make from being the one woman her son turns to to being quite a distant second. I think sons tend to allow their mums to interfere in their lives more than daughters do and then it's difficult for the mums to step back and stop that once a gf/wife comes on the scene. I definitely have a bit more sympathy for my MIL since I had DS. I can see that she just wants to protect him and that her interfering, while annoying, is well meant. Equally I think she has developed a bit more respect for me and our relationship is improving, so I think even if things start badly it can get better smile

blackeyedsusan Fri 29-Apr-11 08:44:47

SOME mils interfere because SOME sons don't say back off.

h didn't give me suppot. we made decisions together about the wedding, then his mum would have a word and we were back to square one.

ShoutyHamster Fri 29-Apr-11 09:32:33

I think that in a the majority of cases (not all, depends on the family dynamic) that once the son grows up and especially when he has a partner and family of his own, there is nowhere for the mother-son, the caring parent-child relationship to 'go'.

Think about it - mother-daughter: daughter grows up, has family - if she and her mother are close (or even if they're not) a different but very familiar and 'stereotypical' (not quite right but can't think of better word) relationship tends to be built as a matter of course - two adult women, many shared interests in forms of family, children/grandchildren - they may share friendship or hobby interests, they gossip, they may shop together or enjoy the same tv programmes (!maybe steroetypical IS the right word after all!) - in short, the mother moves into a different but potentially still close relationship which still involves long chats, one-on-one time, being involved in the minutiae of life, etc. In short still having an 'entwined' life. This doesn't need physical closeness - I know many women who live far away from family but will spend regular time chatting in depth to their mums on the phone.

The typical mother-son relationship probably couldn't be more different in the way it changes. There are many exceptions to this, but in general - how many twenty/thirtysomething men share general interests (shopping, tv, food, chatting about family/kids, general gossip?) with a fifty/sixtysomething woman? How many men are eager (both before marriage/kids are on the scene and after) to pick up the phone and spend time chatting about their day, what the kids said, what happened with that rude guy at work? In the vast majority of mother-son relationships, it seems that part of the issue (and remember my stereotypes disclaimer guys) comes out of the typical differences in the ways men and women tend to communicate and the tendency for the mother to lose that everyday intimacy with a son rather than a daughter.

The mother knows that a fulll, intense everyday life is happening in the son's household, and her most effective way of being party to it (and her son's everyday life, like when he was her child rather than a man) is to communicate with the WOMAN there - her DIL. But perhaps quite naturally she resents that, and it's not what she's looking for. She wants everyday intimacy with HER child, and not one mediated and translated through someone else.

I understand that and can see how many women, when they are told to 'let go', 'cut the apron strings' probably think 'But it's not that!! I don't want to MOTHER him - I just want...' - and they cant really even articulate it, it's just that sense of being made part of the everyday stuff by^ ^their son. With this emotion, there's little even the most welcoming DIL can do to improve the sitution.

It would be my guess that the MILs who are genuinely enthusiastic, welcoming, and CRUCIALLY - not interfering in the early days of their son's relationship have a good chance of this sense of loss passing them by, because they end up getting the minutiae, the closeness, through the DIL from the start, and pretty soon it becomes plenty enough to plug the gap. They come to love the DIL quite naturally and see her as family, and without realising it, by osmosis, they get what they need in terms of the relationship with their adult son.

The ones who have problems are the ones who are determined to retain the feeling of what they once had through the son and he won't play ball. He's often oblivious (how many women come on here complaining that they have to remember his mum's birthday, they have to remind him to phone her or she'll be in a sulk not with him but with her, the DIL?) These MILs aren't getting what they need from the relationship but instead of realising that that's simply a function of their adult male son's personality, they interpret it as him withdrawing deliberately, being 'turned against them' or 'taken away' - they blame the DIL. They have to, because the distance being their SON'S default setting is too painful to accept.

Thousands of exceptions to this but I think it's a very common scenario. One poster has spoken of the 'girl preference' thing often talked of on MN - I think we would be naive to not recognise that this is part of where it stems from. I think many mothers look into the future and their relationship with their adult children and can see themselves chatting on the phone to a daughter for hours (because they do that with other women) but not their son (because they don't tend to do it with men). Or enjoying a day shopping or just hanging out (ditto).

prettyfly1 Fri 29-Apr-11 12:41:18

SOME mother in laws are just bloody horrid people frankly. But as the mother of sons, that old phrase "a daughter is a daughter for life, a son a son till he takes a wife" stands true and scares me witless. A mother of daughters may be there at the birth of the grandchildren, asked for advice, spoken to daily and close to the family. A mother of sons is a threat to the womans place as "Most important woman to her man" and is therefore cut out from minute one. Understandable in many circumstances but hard if you are the mother told you are no longer important enough to be listened to or thought of I would imagine.

RunnerHasbeen Fri 29-Apr-11 13:04:25

I think one of the reasons I get on so well with my MIL is that since I met DH he has called home more often than he did before (left up to him he only calls when there is a reason to or something important to tell them, so almost never). I think my mum might find it harder with my brother because he calls for a chat when he is bored and it tails off when he is seeing someone. I know my mum is glad he has a girlfriend and is happy, it is just a bit harder than it is for my MIL, if that makes sense.

tallulah Fri 29-Apr-11 13:20:37

I think shoutyhamster has this spot on. I have 3 sons- not looking forward to being a MIL.

Firawla Fri 29-Apr-11 13:26:39

there are fil who have the same kind of issues and behave in the 'typical mil' way of being jealous, wanting to be number one, controlling behaviour towards the couple, 'you are taking my son away' etc. i think it is rarer but when you come across them they may be worse than the mil because they have all that side of it but lacking the normal 'female compassion' type of thing?

Wamster Fri 29-Apr-11 13:32:21

But surely when a man marries (I'm not talking about passing girlfriends here) his wife takes precedence over his mother? Not saying mil should be ignored at all; but the wife must come first now. What is point of marriage otherwise if not to form a new, primary family whose needs come first? It's only natural.
A close friend of mine is now in a very, very delicate position with her mil. Her husband (also a friend) is recovering from an illness in hospital and their mil insists on visiting every time my mate does. My friend loves her mil, but her mil will not leave son's bedside to go 'for a cup of tea' (or any other excuse) to give my friend and her husband a 20-minute chance to have a one-to-one chat. What can a person do in these circumstances? Nobody is saying mil should be denied seeing son every day-far from it- but where is her common sense?

HecateQueenOfTheNight Fri 29-Apr-11 13:35:56

I think people are always more forgiving of their own mother. So your mother is giving adivce, his mother is interfering, your mother is helping, his mother is interfering, your mother is offering an opinion, his mother is critisising...

Wamster Fri 29-Apr-11 13:36:27

I think the father-in-law issue is rare myself. OK, some fil's may be awkward and unpleasant but that is just their personality and NOT a 'father-in-law/daughter-in-law' issue IYSWIM. Men simply do not feel the same need to control their sons lives as mils do.

HecateQueenOfTheNight Fri 29-Apr-11 13:37:24

oh, and how many women see their own mother weekly (or even daily!) but think they are seeing the mil too often if they see her weekly or even daily (or monthly)?

It's not always like that, of course, many mils are pains in the arse. But many suffer simply because they are the mil not the mother.

mybrainsthinkingfuckyou Fri 29-Apr-11 13:38:26

Agree with Tallulah - Shoutyhamster's post is one of the best/most incisive I have read in a while.

Patienceobtainsallthings Fri 29-Apr-11 13:51:44

Some mils have bad marriages.no emotional relationship with their husbands and try and fill that gap with their son.Son wouldn't be aware of this and is shocked when his loving mumsy suddenly morphs into this jealous bitch when he has a serious relationship.

Jilkh Fri 29-Apr-11 15:26:02

Well done to shoutyhamster - I found that really enlightening and am considering showing her post to my husband to get a male reaction to it.

She should write a book.

fruitshootsandheaves Fri 29-Apr-11 15:35:24

my MIL compares me to her daughters, I can never live up to them or be as alike as they are to her, she will also always, of course be closer to them. I am just too different, my family situation was about as different as is possible and although we do get on we wouldn't naturally mix if it wasn't because of marriage.

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