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Please help me to build a relationship with my MIL.

(48 Posts)
FriedaMer Mon 22-Aug-11 14:49:13

Sorry if this is long. Have never started my own thread but know enough about mumsnet to know I will get honest answers. smile

Have been with DH for 5 years and my relationship with MIL has always been strained and awkward esp since we had our two lovely boys, DS1 (2.5) & DS 2 (4 months). She is very interfering with the boys and never approves of my approach to bringing them up. Until recently I have put up with her coldness and domineering ways but things came to a head a month ago when my DH was abroad for a month working and I was alone with the boys.

MIL was coming round regularly to help with the DC's and her help was very much appreciated as my own family live 10 hours away. However she took over as usual and one day announced that she had arranged for BIL and his wife to take DS1 out for the day at the weekend. I was totally put on the spot and had to reply that I was not happy with that. BIL had been in 5 accidents in only 2 years at that point, (and has had another one since), and is quite honestly a danger on the roads. MIL was outraged about this critisicm of BIL and denied he had been in so many accidents and that the "2" that he had been in were just unlucky rear end shunts. (by the way I didn't actually say to MIL that he was a danger on the road, just that I wasn't happy about the accidents). At this point she did her usual quiet passive agressive number on me and didn't speak to me for the rest of the day, just giving huffy yes and no answers when i soke to her. As she was about to go home I decided to do something about the nasty atmosphere and told her i was aware she was annoyed at me but I really didn't want to fall out. She flew off the handle at this point asking me why I was verbally attacking her? shock I was not attacking her, just wanted to smooth out the situation and (despite wanting to scream at her) kept an even tone of speech the whole time. She flew out the door, slamming it in DS1's face and said she didn't have to take this from me and drove home.

Later she calls DH crying down the phone accusing me of being aggressive to her and demanding to know why we don't want BIL to be part of our family? shock. (A little background, BIL was sick as a child and she is fiercely protective of him despite the fact that he is a 6ft 30 year old hulk.) She also said I should have lied about the reason I didn't want BIL to have DS1 to spare her feelings!! (As mentioned before she totally put me on the spot and to be honest, whatever reason I would have given she would have had an answer to).

Anyway to cut a long story short it is DH's birthday coming up and we're all supposed to be going away for 3 days to celebrate. (Us with all the In-Laws, all booked and paid for alreadysad ). MIL has not spoken to me for 5 weeks now and I am dreading the horrible atmosphere that will inevitably ruin poor DH's time (and probably the rest of the family too). BIL knows nothing of the fall out as if MIL had told him she would have had to given him the reason for the fall out as well so he is calling DH all the time about what we're going to do while we're away. At this point tbh we don't think we're even going to go. sad

Poor DH is being so supportive of me as he know's exactly what his mum is like but it's very upsetting for him to be piggy in the middle. Also DS1 adores his Nan and is always asking for her. Please can I have some advice on how to patch up this relationship and actually build something nice with MIL. I really don't want this stupid arguement to carry on and ultimately ruin my relationship with DH's family.

Thanks and sorry for the long rant sad

FriedaMer Mon 22-Aug-11 14:54:41

Also sorry for terrible punctuation and spelling, (trying to post before DS2 wakes up for his feed!!) blush

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Mon 22-Aug-11 15:12:30

Sounds like building a relationship with your MIL is an unlikely dream, and that the best you can hope for is to find ways to manage her so that she's not set off, but also not walking all over you.

For example (you decide if this could work for the two of you), pick your battles and be assertive with her about what matters to you, using only "I" statements so that she can't claim she's being attacked, and the rest of the time butter her up and have her talk about herself, while you smile and nod and occasionally compliment her.

SenoritaViva Mon 22-Aug-11 15:23:24

I recommend writing her a letter asking for a truce. Perhaps you can suggest that you come from slightly different errr I want to say generations or backgrounds but that might not be quite right but basically to say that your intention was to smooth things out with her and talk it through. Explain that your nature is to sort out problems and you had no intention of attacking her and are sorry that she interpreted it that way (you are not apologising but rather apologising for her interpretation).

Mention the holiday coming and how much it will mean to you and DH for it to be a lovely family affair, that you don't want your differences to cause any problems within the family. Also note how much your DS is fond of her and that she is an important part of your family life.

If this is too much write her a brief letter saying that for DH's sake you would like to put everything aside...

Also, on another note, I know you need help and having her have a relationship with your DCs is important but I wouldn't have her helping you out in future (this puts you in a position where you are in her debt etc.)

FriedaMer Mon 22-Aug-11 15:26:29

Thanks so much for your reply ItsMe. I think you are completely right about it being an unlikely dream!! I expect I'll have to stop naively thinking we'll be friends and just be content if things are remotely friendly. Do you have any advice about how I can smooth things before DH's birthday? I have drafted several sms but none seem to be right and I know she won't answer a call from me.

FriedaMer Mon 22-Aug-11 15:37:24

Senorita a letter is a good idea. DH thinks I should just ignore the whole thing and go on the holiday pretending like nothing happened but I know there will just be this huge elephant in the room making things uncomfortable. My dread is I word a letter in a way that she misinterprets and make things worse!!

Regarding her helping me DH and I have agreed that being in her debt is not going to work so no babysitting for the time being. In the future when DH is working away I plan to stay with my family in Scotland.

SenoritaViva Mon 22-Aug-11 15:45:53

Get DH to read the letter too and maybe a couple of mates (or even some Mnetters). I'd simply go with the tact that you understand there've been differences and misunderstandings but you'd like to put it all behind you for the sake of DH and BiL (and DS) and hope that in the long run you'll be able to patch things up.

A letter is so much better than an SMS and I think might appeal to her more, I am totally generalising but for someone in their 50s or 60s this is what they were brought up doing rather than smsing.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 22-Aug-11 16:01:20

Sounds like your MIL is a difficult (dare I say toxic) woman who will never apologise for her actions not take responsibility for them. It also sounds to me like its her way or no way.

Your MIL is an adult; let her bloody sulk and be passive aggressive, silly toxic woman. It just shows you that she is really game playing. She ought to apologise to you for overreacting but she won't do that; she expects you to say sorry instead for a situation that you did not directly create.

You have been more than reasonable; she won't ever play ball (her crying down the phone to your H was just a way of manipulating him further) because she is at heart bloody difficult. I also take it as read you've come from a family yourself where this type of familial dysfunction is unknown so find it even more perplexing to see at first hand and try and work within or around.

I would also suggest you read "Toxic Inlaws" written by Susan Forward as this may well help you.

Your DH's policy of hoping that it will all go away is a complete non starter; he needs to talk to his mother. Whatever you decide, the two of you i.e your DH and you, need to present a united front to his mother. You need to realise that your MIL does not play by the rules governing normal familial relations because if she did, she would not have acted in the ways she has done.

You did not mention FIL; is he around?.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 22-Aug-11 16:03:39

Absolutely no text messaging her nor SMS.

It needs to be direct face to face and your H needs to talk to her now about what has happened. You need to be there too at this chinwag. He may then actually see how unreasonable his own mother is; some men do find it hard when the scales finally fall from their eyes and he may not be willing or able to accept what his mother truly is like.

Also your H needs to be reminded that his primary loyalty is to you so he should back you anyway.

FriedaMer Mon 22-Aug-11 16:13:12

How's this?

Dear Mil,

Just wanted to say thanks so much for all the help you've given DH and I since DS2 was born. I know we've had our problems lately and hugely regret our recent disagreement. I sincerely hope we can put this behind us especially for the sake of DH and the DC's. You are a huge part of our lives and DS1 is always asking for Nanny! We are very much looking foward to DH's birthday and spending quality time as a family.

Hoping you and FIL are both well

With Love and Best Wishes,


(will pad it out with extra but didn't want to put too much personal info online!!)

FriedaMer Mon 22-Aug-11 16:26:51

Lol, Atilla you have hit the nail on the head. My family are so totally different to DH's, Mil's behviour IS perplexing to me. My family are straight down the line and as long as we're happy my parents are happy.

DH is being supportive and has said to MIL that he is siding with me not just because I'm his wife but because he thinks I'm in the right.

Not sure face to face is a good idea. MIL is so manipulative that she'll do the waterworks thing and DH being a gent will automatically comfort the lady in distress.

Hate hate hate that I have to apologise for something that she created but think my pride might just take a hit this time for the bigger picture. Eewww, does that make me a massive doormat?

Believe it or not, outside of my husbands family I am an intelligent and well functioning member of society!!! (wink)

Bandwithering Mon 22-Aug-11 16:28:46

oooh. I wouldn't focus so much on building a relationship with her as watching your back. She sounds a devious martyr.

FriedaMer Mon 22-Aug-11 16:34:18

Lol, yeah, you're probably right. It's not going to happen is it? smile

I am soo not used to this kind of relationship. My last partners mum still sends me birthday cards and emails regularly saying how she misses me so I can't be that bad eh? wink

CailinDana Mon 22-Aug-11 16:34:48

To be honest I think you're being a bit of a mug. This woman undermines you, stresses you out, and tries to run your children's lives and you're trying to think of ways to make things better with her? I can understand your motivation but I think you're stressing yourself out for nothing. One of two things is happening here - she is either convinced you hate her and is looking for ways to be offended in which case the letter will be perfect ammunition, or she dislikes you and has no respect for you (which seems apparent from the way she tries to overrule you with your DCs) and so the letter will just fall on deaf ears.

She is getting away with far too much. You and your family should not be tip-toeing around her. She is a grown adult who should understand the boundaries that normally exist within families. Grannies do not decide what is right and wrong for a child, the parents do. A grown woman does not go crying to her son about his wife, thus putting him in an impossible position. She is behaving like a spoilt brat and everyone is enabling that by acting as though she has something to complain about. She doesn't. Just act as if nothing has happened and if she wants to make life difficult for herself then let her. Just don't play her games.

FriedaMer Mon 22-Aug-11 17:28:18

CailinDana thanks so much for your post. I am mortified that I do sound like a complete mug. The thing is I hate how unhappy this is making DH and for better or worse I am stuck with this woman. I'm just trying to find a way that I can co-exist with her that doesn't mean I am losing much needed sleep and making the people I love most unhappy.

Without a doubt she behaves like a child when things don't go her way. She loves the attention being huffy gets her. I've seen this several times - FIL, BIL and DH all buzzing round her when she decides she's going to huff about something, she's done it their whole lives. I said to DH a few years ago they should all ignore it because they were enabling her. The fact is they all know that but probably indulge her for a quiet life.

SenoritaViva Mon 22-Aug-11 17:34:38

Actually I wonder now whether a letter and not just ignoring the whole thing (like your DH suggest) might be better after all. That's in light of the whole she loves the attention her strops gives her.

If you ignore her and are incredibly bright and breezy and exceptionally lovely to everyone (including her) it will probably rile her more. At least on the holiday you will have everyone there! I'd just be sweetness and light, things like look DS there's nanny, run and give her a hug when you arrive etc.

Make sure you aren't alone with her, use your baby as an excuse (take for a walk, 'go back to the accommodation because baby needs x, y and z', 'baby took ages to go to sleep, just wanted mum...lucky I had my book to read at the same time').

FriedaMer Mon 22-Aug-11 17:51:44

DH just got home from work and his mum had called him today asking for us to meet her and FIL in a neutral place to discuss our differences!!! Had a think about it and no way is that ever going to happen!!

Apparently she wants to know why I have a problem with her and what can be done to repair our relationship!! I can just see me telling her that she's manipulative and domineering and her nodding and not reacting in any way.....NOT! smile Have told DH there is no point in discussing anything. I think I agree Senorita, ditch the letter and ignore the whole thing. I'll just be sweetness and light and spend as little time as possible with her. I believe sticking your fingernails into your palms helps!! smile

It's just so cr@p that we even have this situation. I just want to bring up my kids, have my opinions respected and get on with my husbands family. Really it's not too much to ask. I can at least learn a lesson and be different for my own DIL's in the future.

Thanks for all your help everyone. It's been great getting differnt perspectives.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 22-Aug-11 17:53:07

Was wondering about FIL (no surprises there). Many men in these situations act as bystanders out of both self preservation and want of a quiet life. That is their usual role in the overall dysfunction.

Do read the book I recommended.

I would not write a letter because it could be used against you (she could well do the, "look now she's ganging up on me!!!"). Your DH needs to be the one to now talk to his mother. I would agree that his mum has been enabled to act like she does by them although her own childhood also plays a role here too.

You need boundaries re this woman, set them in your mind re her asap. Do not be alone with her any longer. If she starts to take over again, pull her up on it. Its going to be hard for you as this whole concept is alien but you both cannot let her get away with her behaviours.

ChitChattingaway Mon 22-Aug-11 17:53:11

No, you're not just looking for a way to co-exist with her, you're trying to do it NOW. And it's not going to happen NOW, unless you give into her.

Do you really think she isn't aware that it's your DH's birthday? She's a very good manipulator, and you're very innocent when it comes to this behaviour because it is so far outside of what you are used to.

You need to hold firm. You can tell her you are sorry she's upset - but do NOT say you are sorry that you upset her. What you said should not have upset her at all, and if she wants to be upset then it is her problem, not yours.

Yes your DH is stuck in the middle, but that is probably because he has pandered to her - underestandable in a way, she is his mother and it's very hard to stand up to someone like that for your whole life. Think how difficult it would be to stand up to someone like this as a child - pretty much impossible. You learn management techniques, and you continue to use them as an adult until something happens which makes you wonder whether it's worth it. Well, who knows, maybe her behaviour to you will be that something.

It's also worth examining again her relationship with your DC. They might love their nanny, but do be careful that she doesn't manipulate them as well.

cornflowers Mon 22-Aug-11 17:55:58

Speaking as someone with a 'difficult' MIL myself, I think Señorita's suggestion is a good one. Being bright, breezy and unruffled is definitely the way to go. If she gets in a huff she will only make herself look foolish.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 22-Aug-11 17:59:12

"Apparently she wants to know why I have a problem with her and what can be done to repair our relationship!!"

That meeting won't go down or end well; it could well degernate into a "lets slag off FriedaMer" bunfight.

Again the above is typical of such toxic people. They never take responsibility nor apologise for their actions. They're quite happy to give you a laundry list of your supposed shortcomings.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 22-Aug-11 18:02:16

ChitChattingaway's post is a post I would agree with in its entireity (I also have dysfunctional inlaws). These toxic people are certainly not above passing on all their crap to the next generation i.e their grandchildren. They i.e the children can also be easily manipulated.

FriedaMer Mon 22-Aug-11 18:19:11

Yeah, i can see your point re the DC's. I was thinking a while ago if there is any hint of her trying to manipulate DS1 that would be the final straw. At present I haven't seen her sink that low but I wouldn't put it past her.

FWIW her whole family are the same. DH's Grandparents and Aunt's are all backstabbing, interfering and determined to find fault in everything anyone outside of their family does. Sadly BIL's wife doesn't see it, she's always saying how happy she is that she gets on so well with her inlaws. Don't have the heart to tell her how two faced they are and how it'll probably all change once they have children. That's when MIL showed her true colours with me.

Katisha Mon 22-Aug-11 18:32:03

DO you think you can get DH to talk to her?

FriedaMer Mon 22-Aug-11 18:59:46

DH is happy to talk to her and has spoken to her on the phone. Today she called him to ask for a meeting. Consequently now DH thinks I'm being unreasonable because I don't want to meet with her and she's made this BIG gesture.

I've asked him to call her back and say not to worry about a meeting, we'll put the whole thing behind us and try and be nice on this trip. If I meet with her before and tell her what MY problem is the only outcome will be that there will be no further contact with DH's family. She never admits fault in anything so as Atilla says it will only end in a bun fight.

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