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MIL....and Christmas(54 Posts)
I would value your opinions as I don't really know whether I am being unreasonable.
Basically MIL is and always has been a nightmare. She's an alcoholic, rings up when drunk and leaves vile abusive messages throughout the year. MIL has made it quite clear in the past that she would be delighted if DH and I were to split so it could be "just them" again. She has a fantasy that the difficulties in her relationship with DH are caused by me, rather than her own actions when out of her head on alcohol.
We don't really have much contact with her at all, to try and minimise her negative impact on our lives. DH sees her once or twice a year, occasional contact (usually by phone) with our DC.
The difficulty is Xmas. MIL was on her own last year as we were away. MIL has asked whether she can see us this year. Frankly, I would rather be eaten alive by piranas, but DH feels under pressure.
I could probably bear seeing her for a meal on Xmas day, but absolutely can't stand the thought of her staying in our home. The atmosphere would be unpleasant and tense. I don't want that for me or my DC. MIL lives about 1.5 hours drive away.
What to do?
Re your comment:-
(thoughtful): Yes superdoodle, I can absolutely see the sense in your suggestion. But that would still mean that MIL will be on her own on Xmas day. She will be unhappy and miserable, and as she was on her own last year it seems a bit sad for her to be on her own again
To which you reply, "But both you and we as a family are not responsible for her actions, nor her happiness. She is. She has caused much anguish to our family unit".
I would ask him to consider speaking to someone about the relationship he has with his alcoholic mother. At the very least he should talk to Al-anon as they could well be helpful to him.
There is no guarantee either that if he did take her out for a meal that she would behave properly and not get drunk. If she lives 1.5 hours away as well, how is she going to travel to you?. Or will DH be expected to go visit and or pick her up from her home instead?. He certainly cannot take her to a pub restaurant or infact any place that serves alcohol.
Presumably he feels responsible for her because he is basically the only one who still puts up her. Its hard to be the last one in such circs, his sister had enough years ago. He still is in FOG and is still codependent with regards to his mother. He still wants her approval. Codependent type relationships also happen where alcoholism is present. His mother is doing a fine line in guilt and manipulation and he needs to see her for what she truly is; something he cannot quite bear to bring himself to do. I think he knows that you are right but he cannot quite bring himself to completely stand up to his mother (due also to inbuilt conditioning and the damaging lessons he learnt when growing up as a child within an alcoholic household).
None of this is any justification for his ways of thinking but the above may well explain a little why he is acting as he is. He is torn really.
How about saying something along the lines of,
"Obviously Christmas is such a big thing, it's really not fair to put pressure on MIL to behave herself on the day itself, so I was thinking perhaps you and she could have a lovely meal out a couple of days before.." etc etc
When it gets to the bit about "We also shouldn't forget that she's getting older and the children would like to see her."
How about you say "Yes well you can take the children to see her the weekend before, while I get last minute stuff done. Take her out for a meal. Make a fuss of her. Then our Christmas Day won't be ruined and we will have set a useful precedent for future years".
Opps sorry - must read to end of thread .....
Can you keep copies of the vile and abusive messages so that she can hear why, in her more rational moments why her behaviour is unacceptable.
Sorry you have to deal with this.
'DH, give her a box set to watch on Xmas day, that'll keep her busy'.
"I'm sorry DH, under no circumstances will I be entertaining your mother this Christmas."
Rather than suggesting an alternative, what about telling him that you will feel tense and unhappy on Xmas day if MIL is there which doesn't seem fair to you, so what alternative suggestions might he have. Put the ball in his court.
Thanks for all your replies.
I have spent all day thinking about this and really don't want her in my home on Xmas day. The difficulty is achieving that outcome.
I'm going out with DH for a drink tonight. I need help to change the likely script, which will be something like this....
<<cosy pub setting, double gin in hand>>
Me: Well DH, I know that your Mum is keen to come to ours for Christmas but I don't think that is appropriate. I would feel tense and miserable, and neither of us want her to stay. How about you visit her with the DC the weekend before Xmas?
DH (looks thoughtful): Yes superdoodle, I can absolutely see the sense in your suggestion. But that would still mean that MIL will be on her own on Xmas day. She will be unhappy and miserable, and as she was on her own last year it seems a bit sad for her to be on her own again.
Me (slightly irritated): I understand that it is sad for her, but she has to learn that she earns access to special family occasions through good behaviour.
DH (also slightly irritated): I agree Superdoodle, but we both know MIL is quite mad and does not act in a rational way. She wouldn't understand that her bad behaviour means that she can't visit at Xmas. We also shouldn't forget that she's getting older and the children would like to see her.
Me (really cross now): It's not fair! Why should MIL ruin my Xmas!
Any tips for changing the script?
I agree with the others who have said not in your home, and not on Christmas day.
I prefer the suggestion of your DH seeing her the weekend before Christmas, bringing the kids too.
That means you don't need to be involved, and as a bonus you get to sit down, have a glass of wine and wrap pressies in peace with some Xmas music in the background.
I would ask my DH to go to her alone for Christmas morning and then have a family meal together late afternoon/evening when he returns (without her!)
That way you support his choices, but maintain your own decisions.
A LONG way from ideal for you, but you don't have to tolerate her, she isn't alone all day and you get your family meal without her. You can spend the day with your little ones enjoying the peace.
His mum, his guilt/obligation, his choice. You can but be understanding if you feel inclined but ultimately, you shouldn't have to put up with her toxic presence.
I agree, tape the messages, play them back and tell her that as a result, she's not welcome in your home.
Then leave it.
This is not for you, or your DH to accommodate, it's for her to behave like a decent person, or forfeit a right to be with decent people.
Stop worrying about HER fEelings, she doesn't give a toss about either of yours/anyone elses.
Honestly, I think you should stick to your guns and not see her at Christmas. If your DH wants to see her separately, I would support him in making that arrangement, but it's obviously not going to be on Christmas day itself.
I also thought you could record the messages.
I also don't think that her behaviour is ever likely to change, and certainly not if you have her over on Christmas day.
She has chosen to live her life like this, and she has no right to decide that you have to live life that way too.
I think, on reflection, you'll be lumbered with her every year if you're not careful. Does your DH want to drive there and back on Christmas Day? I wouldn't have thought so.
Far better to visit and take her for a pub meal on another day.
She really can't expect people to make a fuss of her if she's telephoning and leaving abusive messages.
Perhaps you should record her messages and play them back to her when you see her!
OP you really shouldn't have her for Christmas. It is unfair to you and your DC. Can you make your DH see that it is not fair for the DC to have her there at Christmas.
Can you not explain to him that just because everyone else has cut her out i.e. SIL, it doesn't mean that he needs to be a martyr.
No don't have her on xmas day. Your DC are growing up and it is too precious a time to have a miserable day with MIL there. If your DH feels guilty he can visit her himself the weekend before xmas, take her out for lunch and exchange presents. He could take the DC if they are willing and she is likely to behave herself. He needs to explain that it isn't possible for her to come to your house because of the phonecalls. I know it is easier said then done though, I have just completed tense xmas arrangements with my own ILs and they are not abusive alcoholics just rather possessive about being the xmas hosts!
I don't think you should see her TBH. I agree with Pictish - she has brought this on herself.
Being wildly optimistic here, but maybe this will make her see just how much alcohol is ruining her life. Maybe.
Do not have this woman in your home under any circs.
At the very least both you and your H need firm and consistent boundaries in place re this lady; what is and is not acceptable to you would be a good starting point in this regard. Both of you also need to present a united front with regards to her as she will exploit any weaknesses.
Certainly do not take her to a pub restaurant; its another place that alcoholics need to completely avoid. No facilitating her either by offering to meet her hlafway or apying for her transport.
Your DH needs to properly address his FOG (fear, obligation, guilt) through counselling re his mother because she has and is doing a right old number on him. This is because he is now the only one in her mind that actually bothers with her (his sister stopped bothering years earlier). This in turn has effects on you and your own family unit like the ones you describe.
How did MIL spend Xmas the year before last? And the ones before that?
If she has truly managed to alienate everyone, be aware that whatever Xmas standard you set this year is likely to be the assumed default position for all years to come. So do choose carefully...
Meet half way for Xmas evening supper - most hotels will be open. You can tehn have your Xmas lunch in peace at your own place.
Obviously MIL told DH all about our discussion, DH was very unhappy - because I had confronted her without his agreement, but I think moreover because I had rocked the boat of their established family dynamic.
This sentence resonates with me, mainly because of the issues I have with my own mother. The thing is, they might have an established family dynamic, but whether your DH likes it or not, that dynamic has and continues to alter as your children grow up. It's not just about him, his Dsis and his mother anymore. The next generation is just as entitled to an opinion on the situation.
However, it's easy to see that as an outsider, less easy to cope with it when it is so close.
You say that you having a discussion caused problems in the past. Would he be happy if you wrote to her, with him seeing the letter? At least that way things can't get twisted, and all parties have time to consider their responses.
Unfortunately, even if you find a solution for this Xmas, the problem will rear its head again next year, and the year after ....... Which is why it really needs properly addressing at some point.
...or, given that your choice so far is that you basically don't see her, and that DH occasionally does, on his own, why not stick to that pattern and send him to have a restaurant meal with her on one of the days on or around Christmas?
Yeah, it will mean one less holiday meal with him, but this whole situation sucks: all you can do is work out the least worst option, one that assuages DH's continued feelings of FOG, but also one where you don't need to compromise on your own principles.
And "no vile drink who has repeatedly been abusive to me is allowed in my home" is a perfectly sound principle!
Only you can answer that.
But from the sound of it, I think you should look for a "neutral territory" option. Having her at yours will have you seething, most likely. If you can concede to seeing her for Christmas at all (frankly, I wouldn't, given the way she has behaved towards you!), perhaps do it somewhere other than in your home.
DH made a lot of progress in the counselling process, to the extent that he now has a lot more awareness of MIL's behaviour and it's impact on me/him/us.
As a result of the counselling we agreed that I now barely see her (once in the last 2 years) and he has limited contact (his choice).
I would say that DH is much better at taking into consideration my feelings, but I am super sensitive about this. So any time I feel he is taking MIL's feelings into account more than mine I tend to overreact.
Which is really why I posted here about Xmas. Taking everything into account, and DH's needs as well as my own, should I offer to have MIL for Xmas day (but not to stay)?
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