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MIL advice please?

(18 Posts)
LostInTranslati0n Wed 10-Aug-11 15:20:15

Am a regular but have namechanged as I have friends who have recently joined MN and there are several identifiable bits in my post. I also have had to remove specific instances as they are so outlandish we would be instantly recognised.

MIL lives a distance away and was widowed within the last two years. I knew DP didn't like her and had experienced her shouting down the phone at him but walked into our first meeting (been together a while, more than months, but he didn't want us to meet, she's that bad) with as open a mind as I could.

She is abominably rude and totally unaware of how she is perceived by others. She does sometimes take others' feelings into account (e.g. genuine charity donations), but never DP's or her close family's, and exhibits some frankly shocking behaviour. At one point I was sat with my mouth hanging open - the only time this has happened. What bothered me most was that apart from a hello and goodbye hug, she showed no affection or kind words for DP during the whole visit. She insulted him to his face and behind his back - when he left to do some errands for her she started telling me how awful he was. I understand more than I speak of his language so sat there mute but fuming. He told me, after I apologised for not doing more, that he would prefer me mute as I would just get bile shouted in my face and then the silent treatment for a few years (not an exaggeration, but specific instances would make her identifiable).

I think I know how to deal with her in the future (am a dab hand at winning over cantankerous people grin) but have two concerns. One is DP's mental well being.

The other, which worries me on and off - more since our meeting - is that some of his behaviour copies his mother's. Whilst he knows some things are unacceptable, he does others (unnecessary shouting, trying to 'train' me to good behaviour [don't worry, I stamp this out the second it appears and he generally understands]). Compared to his M he's the complete opposite, but him compared to someone who hasn't had his upbringing is, on occasion, overbearing. Is there a way of helping him understand that some things just aren't acceptable please? A example is him picking up my papers, which were all over the table, with dirty hands and throwing them to one side so violently they fell onto the floor. He didn't ask me to move them, just did it, and didn't understand why I was annoyed. I work from home and our table is my desk. I don't mind a row or him telling me that I'm messy but it was the overbearing physical attitude that was a problem and exactly like his mother. He lived at home for 3/4 of his life so hasn't had what I would consider a strong and consistent template for healthy close relationships, other than friendships (his friends at home, having encountered his mother growing up, are fantastic).

I can't tell anyone IRL just how shocked and appalled I was by her (he's a v private person). I have a feeling that his occasional misbehaviour isn't something I can sit down and go through in one - that it's something I need to flag up when it happens? The problem is when he acts like her he's usually tight with rage so can't see reason.

HansieMom Wed 10-Aug-11 16:23:26

First off, don't get pregnant. Think really seriously of why you want to be with someeone who is a tightly coiled spring of anger.

PussInConverse Wed 10-Aug-11 16:29:07

The problem is with dp, not the mil. You need to get that sorted, and then worry about whether or not you could have a relationship w her.

Italian? Or is that a poor guess?

Dignified Wed 10-Aug-11 16:32:25

Is there a way of helping him understand that some things just aren't acceptable please?

No , there isnt , because he knows full well whats acceptable and whats not . Presumably he treats his boss with respect , doesnt shout at him or her or throw their papers around . Theres no problem with understanding , theres a problem with boundries , and trying to train you rings alarm bells im afraid .

LostInTranslati0n Wed 10-Aug-11 17:05:30

He's not always a tightly coiled spring of anger, only when he acts like MIL. He's normally very laid back and hates arguments (legacy from her - she screams at people and throws full histrionics until they submit, not Italian) but when he does snap it's impossible to have a conversation with him. It's like talking to a brick wall. It has happened maybe half a dozen times since we moved in together and twice before that (total = a few years). It's just hard to understand because he'll put up with things like me being childish and tickling him and just ask me to stop nicely (and I do). What makes him snap is me being messy and I am, by nature, a messy person. But sometimes he snaps and sometimes he doesn't. He says he lets it build up until it's too much - I don't understand why he doesn't, like a normal person, just ask when it annoys him rather than waiting until he's furious.

That last is, I think, a coping technique from dealing with MIL - he can't say anything to her so he waits and then snaps, leaves her house and drinks/smokes/runs until the anger is gone, returning for round two. She is unbelievable. I am not a violent person and I was dreaming of reaching back and poking her in the eye when we were stuck in the car together.

He has only recently begun confiding in me about his deep personal feelings/aspirations because she didn't care and used anything he said to her as ammunition so he just stopped talking to anyone about himself in a personal way. It took an emotional conversation in which I spelled out that he was being a bit U and I was not his mother for this to happen - his reaction was almost like a shy child in trusting me with the first few things he wanted. It was really sad.

He is self-employed. When people who hire him annoy him he does the same thing as with MIL - takes it out in self-destructive behaviour/running.

empirestateofmind Wed 10-Aug-11 17:08:01

I would be very careful indeed if I were you. If you are not treated with the utmost respect and if you have to tread on eggshells with him it is not a mature relationship with a decent man.

empirestateofmind Wed 10-Aug-11 17:09:45

What is he getting out of seeing his mother? Why does he keep going back for more abuse? It sounds like keeping well away from her would help things greatly.

Dignified Wed 10-Aug-11 17:19:01

The thing is op , this isnt your problem to resolve , its your dps . What responsibility is HE taking for changing the way he behaves ? Youve said that what makes him snap is you being messy . You are wrong . Nothing MAKES him snap , he CHOOSES to do it . What steps has he taken to stop doing this or to deal with his issues with his mother ?

Im concerned you are taking responsibilty for these outbursts ie " how can i make him understand " ect , and that you are blaming his mum for his behaviour . Chuck in some confiding about sad stuff and feeling sorry for him and this could be a bad mix .

LostInTranslati0n Wed 10-Aug-11 17:22:39

He sees her for the absolute minimum: Christmas and anniversary of father's death (for which he would have wanted to go home anyway). He goes on holiday with school friends once a year and stays one night either side at her house as they all live in the same area. This time was the anniversary and we cut it to a minimum with the excuse that I wanted to visit a point of interest nearby (far enough that it required a hotel stay rather than an extra night at her's). He only goes back for his other family and friends. I suggested staying with them next time and he said MIL would either not talk to him for the next few years (has happened before) or call us up regularly to scream down the phone (ditto). Ultimately he'd rather take a short visit than a long punishment from her. I've had a lot of these incidents independently mentioned by family/friends so he's not exaggerating (I almost wish he was).

His copycat behaviour, on the few occasions it happens, does make me pause. The other 99.9% of the time he's fantastic, treats me with respect and acts in a very mature, caring way. Only yesterday he scoured the shelves of the local supermarket to find my favourite food in a fat free but tasty version (I'm on a diet and haven't eaten it for two months) and then lied about the price so I wouldn't worry about how much he was spending on me (his salary is plenty and, by agreement, separate so it's the principle rather than household outgoings).

I genuinely think this behaviour is out of character for him and learnt from his home environment. I don't want to throw away a good and happy relationship if I can explain to him that it's not normal. Thanks for your replies - it's helping me put my thoughts together.

Dignified Wed 10-Aug-11 17:28:42

But presumably you HAVE explained that its not normal and that you dont like it ? Unless hes got a learning disability hes fully capable of understanding how it makes you feel , he just doesnt care enough to stop and feels its his right . I would stop trying to change his behaviour and start focusing on what your going to do next time he dcides its ok to be abusive to you , which is exactly what it is .

LostInTranslati0n Wed 10-Aug-11 17:30:03

Thanks dignified. His way of dealing with her was to move far away.

I think it's his responsibility to manage his temper but my DM (who is lovely) is as tidy as DP and she is driven to distraction by my habits when I'm home, so I can see that I'm messy (not dirty, just leave things lying around and then forget that I've left them there) and it's worse because I work at home.

He has changed a lot since we started dating - behaves much more gently than he did to begin with. He doesn't have a lot of romantic experience (neither do I, but I come from a very loving family with strong and close relationships). I think both of us are learning to compromise and adapt to each other - it is just these rare outbursts that I cannot, and won't, abide.

LostInTranslati0n Wed 10-Aug-11 17:33:04

I've tried shouting back (not clever and it got me nowhere) and explaining how I felt (apparently I was being just as inconsiderate towards him by leaving the dining room table messy - but I was still working). I think the next step is to explain, now I've met her, that I can see the parallels but it would hurt him a lot. I must not lose my temper and I must try to be less stubborn, e.g. if I really should have moved the bag/clothes/whatever, I should tell him that it's a reasonable request made in an unacceptable way and not dig my heels in about tidying up.

DontGoCurly Wed 10-Aug-11 19:53:00

I can't tell anyone IRL just how shocked and appalled I was by her (he's a v private person)

This is the first step of enabling the dysfunction. Covering it up and hiding it because he's a 'private person' -so the consequences are all on you. No objective third party to give you a sanity check. So eventually you will lose the ability to differentiate between normal and abusive. Abuse thrives in secrecy. In fact it needs secrecy.

I have a feeling that his occasional misbehaviour isn't something I can sit down and go through in one

Why not?
That you can't talk to him about it is a bad sign in itself. You have right there the beginnings of an abusive dynamic. He is already modelling his Mother on a small scale. So it's just a question of degree, for now
That's worrying.

that it's something I need to flag up when it happens? The problem is when he acts like her he's usually tight with rage so can't see reason

Can't see reason eh? Can't see how his behaviours appear to others? Remind you of someone....OP there are plenty of red flags here if you choose to see them.

Dignified Thu 11-Aug-11 09:52:54

Your mum might well have got irritataed by your untidyness , but did she throw your things around and yell at you ?

This relly isnt about you being messy , or maybe it is , for now . Soon it will be about other things . As Curly says , the fact that you cannot speak to him about this is a very bad sign , as is making changes to yourself as to avoid upsetting him , youll soon be walking on eggshells permanently . I also wouldnt refer to these incidants as misbehaviour , hes not a small child , its abuse .

mummytime Thu 11-Aug-11 10:20:36

I'll just repeat what others have said. He needs to get himself sorted. He needs to go for counselling. He needs to break ties with her.
He may have had a hard background, lots of people do, but he now needs to deal with it. You cannot do this for him, and you may be enabling him. He may not be as bad as his mother but some behaviours are unacceptible, and he needs to deal with that.

People from difficult backgrounds can over come them; it is not an excuse for unacceptable behaviour.

LostInTranslati0n Thu 11-Aug-11 10:36:43

I think you've misinterpreted what I said. I was looking for advice on how best to broach the subject with him in a constructive manner - me plonking him down on the sofa and listing misdemeanours isn't going to get us anywhere. There has to be a good way of pointing out to a partner behaviour which isn't very pleasant. We have no real problems sitting down and talking about other aspects of the relationship, I just wondered whether this behaviour would be best pointed out at the time, or what would be a helpful way of talking to him about it. He hates his mother and will be very very upset (in a sad, not angry way) if I tell him he has picked up her behaviour.

He's not covering anything up about our relationship by being private, it is his relationship with his mother that he refuses to speak about to others, meaning I cannot tell our closest friends what happened and ask for their advice. I won't break his confidence on that one. Even if I don't have a problem with it, he does and I respect that.

The tight with rage thing is scary and it does make me pause. OTOH I have yet to meet anyone who, mid-flow, can stop being furious and start thinking rationally and calmly.

What may work is to sit down and talk to him about when we have arguments (rare) and how angry he gets (we both get angry) and explain that I don't like it and why. That could then lead into a discussion of the other occasions where he's displayed this behaviour. The problem is I can only remember two or three of the top of my head yet I remember him doing something like that half a dozen times but can't remember exactly what it was - it does make my case sound rather pathetic.

Thank you for your advice and I'll try and speak to him this evening.

LostInTranslati0n Thu 11-Aug-11 10:38:31

Sorry mummytime I posted before I read your reply. Thank you - it sums up how I was feeling but I couldn't articulate it. He does have a relative who is seeing a counsellor because of MIL's behaviour. I may also suggest he sees one. He may or may not... I had to see one last year (about something totally unrelated) and he didn't really like the concept.

Dignified Thu 11-Aug-11 11:03:03

There has to be a good way of pointing out to a partner behaviour which isn't very pleasant.

There is . You say " Look , i dont like a, b , or c , it upsets me and i want it to stop ". If it takes more than that youve got a serious problem

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