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Awful in-laws - where do I go from here?(23 Posts)
OK, I have got myself into a deep hole with my horrible in-laws and really could do with some fresh perspective. If anyone can read this and get through it, I?d be grateful for an y advice but please go easy if you think I?ve been an idiot?
Background is I have a fairly polite, restrained relationship with my in-laws. We don?t see them too often but now we have a young son, they want to see us a lot more. They are quite stuffy, any ?issues? get swept under the carpet and conversation tends to be along the lines of what?s on tv, the weather, the best road to get from A to B etc etc.
So, anyway, back in June, DH and I had a nasty row and unfortunately we were supposed to go and see them the next day for lunch. I had asked DH to go and cool off for a couple of days, and stay somewhere else, so I asked him to rearrange our meet up. He then (stupidly) told them he might meet them anyway, bringing our son, but when he and I spoke, I said no, I wasn?t happy about it ? we should rearrange when things were calmer (I didn?t see why I had to be pushed, out, sneaking feeling this is what MIL would like etc).
Basically, to cut a long story short, MIL/SFIL were unhappy about us cancelling our meet up, and during the summer, things have become quite awkward. During a conversation with DH, they were (apparently) negative and unkind about me and DH ? stupidly? ? told me afterwards?.big mistake I guess. I was pretty hurt by some of the things (including that I was ?the type of person to withhold access to DS should DH and I separate?, and that grandparents had rights etc etc).
Anyway, during one call, DH happened to mention I was upset to his DM, and she, presumably, assumed he was taking sides and she put the phone down on him. He emailed her to basically say ?we?re having a tough time in our marriage, please just give us some support etc?, but she wrote a very cold email in response and then the awful husband sent his email, again being quite rude, sneeringly asking if we expected them to pay for counselling DH suggested they didn?t contact us for a bit as he was upset, and we?ve since had a summer of not seeing them at all . Then, a week ago, MIL rather slyly I think texted DH to say ?everything OK?? like nothing had happened?. and DH (relieved I suppose) agreed to meet up.
I had mixed feelings about it ? I don?t really like them very much but obviously we have to have a relationship with them, not least for DS?s sake.
But I feel that she has done the usual manipulative thing and tried to get away with weird, crappy behaviour?
So, (sorry, nearly finished, if anyone?s still reading) I think I?ve made things much worse. I sent her an email, quite polite and amicable in tone but basically saying that I was hurt by the things they said and thought it was unfair, inaccurate etc etc. I've reread it a hundred times, and it's quite a warm email actually, but just pointing out that I didn't think it was right.
Since then, I?ve had a really cold response from her, (it sounds like a lawyer?s letter) pointing out what she sees as factual inaccuracies in my argument (??) and now a thoroughly threatening and nasty one from him, threatening to terminate contact etc etc. ?I trust their won?t be any repetition of your wanting behaviour? ? relating to what he sees as me refusing contact.
I?m pretty upset about it all. I?m not a malicious person and really dislike rows - I probably am too open tho' (naive?) and think that everyone feels the same way about dealing with stuff. DH now appears to be taking their side, sadly, saying I?ve stirred things up, I shouldn?t have said anything etc.
But I just feel that I?ve stood up for myself, and made clear I thought their comments were unfair. Seems to me they just feel exposed, so are retaliating like bullies. I think I?m dealing with a pair of monsters but maybe I?m the one in the wrong here.
So sorry this is so long, and it probably seems trivial to many but it's causing a real rift between DH and I, it all feels v difficult, I'm not sure I ever want to see them again!
I'm afraid you're in for a rough ride if you can't get DH on side because they sound toxic enough to try to drive a wedge if they see an opportunity.
You did nothing wrong. Healthy loving parents would either be discreet and not interfere or they would be supportive. Personally DH and I would never discuss with anyone if we were having problems, certainly not ILs!! Your DH should not have discussed it with them if they are prone to sulk because of one cancelled visit and character assassinate you.
They can't threaten to cut contact with every disagreement. If they do you should always call their bluff otherwise you will always be living in fear and walking on eggshells.
They sound very similar to my ILs! And my DH also blames me and sides with them. One thing I have realised is never email your ILs. I have pretty much stopped answering their emails if they email me as they use my emails to their advantage later on. Plus you tend to say alot more on email than you normally would so you might go a bit too far. I can't really give you too much advice as I am going through the exact same thing as you. All I can say is that you have my sympathy and stay strong. You are the wife and mother and do not have to bend to what they want. You are every inch their equal.
It sounds awful, I don't think that you have done anything wrong. I think that the email was a mistake, things sound worse in print than when spoken. However, their response was out of order and designed to escalate the situation, by the sounds of it, however well it was worded they would have done that. (I've been in that position before, responded by email and made it worse, having said that, I still stand by what I said).
Your DH may be saying that that you have stirred things up, but is not taking their side, just wishing that you hadn't said it, not that he disagrees with you? Trying to see if there is another way of looking at it, but it depends on what he has said to you.
If he has been subject to this behaviour in the past and brought up with it, it may be difficult for him to have an objective view of it and resist it, they sound as though they are very good at manipulating people.
I think this is a case of 'least said soonest mended'. It was a mistake to involve them in the marital difficulties and what's been said can't be unsaid. I expect they are feeling as embarrassed and awkward as you are and, if you keep holding a grudge and raking everything up with more e-mails, it really isn't going to get any better. All you can do is draw a line under it, not mention the problems again, and go back to talking about the weather.
It's only rift if you make it one.
Thank you all for responding so quickly, I appreciate the insight. Sending them an honest email probably was a mistake as it has made things heated, but I still think they need to be told
they are awful.....
Must not let them get me down, but I am surprised people (your family?) can be so foul.
A bunch of flowers sent with a 'let's be friends' might bring down some barriers.
You have (potentially) to have these people in your life for a long, long time.
Dignity and kindness will help you, your DH and your relationships with him and with them. Can you have a go at being the bigger person?
Good luck OP
I really wouldn't be sending them flowers, it'll set off some power trip meaning she can pull these stunts on you again in the future.
It's done now, just wait and see what they come up with next.
Everyone's at fault here.
Why on earth did your dh tell you what MIL had said in anger and then tell MIL what you'd said about her? If he wasn't spreading the bad feeling back and forth half of this would have been avoided.
Your PILs - well from their POV you have cancelled visits with their dgc, temporarily chucked dh out, your marriage sounds tricky and you've been very unkeen on dh being in contact with his parents. No wonder they are worried that you will cut contact between them and dgc. Their behaviour is cold and horrible but I can see why they are not falling over themselves to be nice to you.
You - would you prefer them to disappear and leave you, dh and dc to live happily ever after. Not going to happen. Your dh obviously wants their love and affection (even if they aren't good at giving it). If you attempt to enforce cutting contact you will be the baddy from everyone else's viewpoint.
My suggestion - be the bigger party. For dh and dc's sakes offer an olive branch. Invite the PILs round and tell them you'd like to let bygones be bygones. You all got off on the wrong foot and as you are all part of the same family. Don't let them get away with sniping. Don't let dh get away with passing negative messages and don't forget you have to have a relationship with these people for the rest of your/their life as they are your dcs dgps. It might as well be as positive as you can make it.
Wasn't it in the news not so long ago about interfering grandparents being a big problem these days. My ex in laws are a bloody nuisance, you have my sympathy. Best thing you can do is to stand your ground in the most peaceful way possible and never let them get power over you. You are the mum and wife
Flowers = olive branch.
So do olive branches if inter flora sell them.
Forget power trips, precedents, 'rod for your own back' and teaching them a lesson.
Be kind, be gracious, smooth paths, put oil on troubled waters.
Totally agree with slambangs last paragraph. ALWAYS be the bigger person
Have some experience here OP. I too do not like my outlaws. We had a massive fall out once as they had my daughter 2 hours later than agreed and never called me. I had a stand up row with BIL and an argument with MIL on the phone. I still maintained I was in the right but sent flowers to the monster-in-law and made piece with the BIL. Following years of shit with people I have learned the following-
1) They are unlikely to ever like you
2) You will never win/feel as if you are treated fairly
3) You will never get the support from your DP that you think you should be getting
I agree with posters who say old out the olive branch. I nearly choked when someone suggested I send flowers. But it healed the rift, and removed the bad feeling. Plus, how hard is it to be nasty to someone who is genuinely being nice?
slambang, I think that's good advice.
Get them to come to you, OP, so you're on home turf. Give them a really nice meal. Make small talk. If they try to talk about your marriage just say "oh we've decided any problems we have are our problems to sort out". If they try to be snide just be nice and say "oh I hoped you might have put that behind you, we have".
Then talk about something else. Have a mental list ready:
Did you enjoy the Olympics? We did!
Aren't the roadworks on the (whatever road) awful? We were held up there the other day.
Got any nice trips planned? We're thinking about going to Cornwall (whatever) etc...
Do you have a nice friend who could "pop in on the off chance" for half an hour? Breaks it up a bit...someone who will enthusiastically say...
"Oh yes I remember now you said you had family round...(to them) so pleased to meet you! Aren't you lucky to have such a beautiful DGC?!
I'm sure you get my drift...!
Sensible words "how hard is it to be nasty to someone who is being nice"
Mistakes all round I think. DH has not been helpful in reporting back to all the parties. I don't understand why you stopped him seeing them. He's a grown man, he can visit when he likes and there was no reason to cancel them seeing your ds. I also think you read way too much into her "everything ok" text. She is missing you, and this was probably just an ice breaker, albeit clumsy. But she did make the first move towards building relationships. Then you e mail, which does make it seem like you were stirring things up.
Yes, they have been difficult, esp FiL by the sounds of things, but you all seem to over react tbh.
This is very much like my own situation and yes I tied to be the 'better' person for about 14 yrs , it never helped . Eventually my DH told them a few home truths and 15 yrs later they still won't speak to me - it's bliss! DH visits them regularly and my DCs go infrequently ,their own choice. We still maintain that they are welcome at our home , so it's their decision to continue with the pettiness , it's no loss to me or my DCs . Good luck but iMO unless you want yrs of arguments you need to sort out with your DH what you expect and will accept and he needs to back you.
if they're threatening to cut you off already it's unlikely they will change. Next time there is a disagreement you can be assured the same threats will reappear.
it would be really helpful to you to come to some understanding with your DH about what you will and won't tolerate from them. If you are on the same page then you have a better chance of navigating their tantrums.
" I am surprised people (your family?) can be so foul"
My little family (pre-teen DS and I) are 'foul' to each other occasionally. Voices get raised and doors slammed. But it's precisely because we love each other that this kind of drama can happen Day 1 and by Day 2 it has all blown over and never mentioned. A lot of families have a similar dynamic.
Sorry for what you are going through, few understand unless they have been through it. I have horrific in laws. It's a long story but they threatened to beat up DH, tried to make me abort DD1, tried to ruin wedding, invited people to my DD3's funeral when I asked them not to as couldn't face a crowd etc. She said she and DH as 'the family' and me and DC were DH's 'extended family'. Saying that, we have gone from hating each other and arguments to civil and quite friendly visits over the last 16 years. I honestly don't mind them coming now, well not much. I used to dread it...
What worked for us is..not letting DH take the DC there on his own. MIL HAS to accept that you are a family. She would probably prefer just DH and DC to visit as she will have control and can pretend you don't exist. She sees you altogether or not at all. At first have minimal contact (once every 1-2 months) and increase if they make an effort and decrease if they remain awful/rude. let the small stuff go though. Don't expect them to change overall, they won't. They will probably never like you but that is OK as long as they are civil etc. DH MUST be on board. If he isn't you are in for a long hard road. If he is scared of them then he needs to stand up to them-things will get better then. He must put you first of it won't work . If he won't stand up to them or blames you then only when he thinks he will lose you will he do anything. Counselling may help. Ours was shocked that our IL were so bad! Anyway good luck.
Thank you all so much for the replies. Some very good advice here. Clearly some common threads ie: DH must be on board for things to work ( thats currently a problem, as I feel unsupported by him. And yes, I think he is scared of them, they are so manipulative and he has a fear of being abandoned by his mother as she has not been there for him in the past) and perhaps reduced contact until/if we get things back on track. Also about being the bigger person - so hard to do this when feeling furious, but I suppose you retain control by being nauseatingly reasonable I must stop seeing that as giving in, or being too nice.
Thank you to those who reminded me i am the wife and mother - I feel the ILs reduce my role and try to sideline me so its nice to have some back-up.
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