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Stuck in the middle of a rude intolerant DH and an overbearing irritating DM with nobody to talk to :(

(25 Posts)
CambridgeBlue Fri 04-Jan-13 08:40:33

I'll try to keep this brief but I really need someone to talk to, none of my friends is interested sad and the 2 people I would usually talk to are those involved.

My DH and DM have never really got on. I can see it from both sides but feel as though I am constantly stuck in the middle trying to please both of them and failing. It's really starting to affect me and I don't know what to do.

DM means well but due to things that have happened in the past, is quite controlling, likes to have more involvement in our lives than we'd prefer and can generally be very irritating. I have supported her through A LOT in the past and DH has seen the effect of this on me. I resent how the choices she's made have affected my life an how she always has to be the victim without realising that others have been hurt too.

DH and I never had the big romance. I met him at a time when I was quite low and sometimes feel I 'settled' for someone who was kind, wouldn't mess me about, would look after me and who was there at the right time. That's not to say I didn't love him, I did (and do) but although we do have some great times and he is a good husband, the differences between us seem more obvious as the years go by, particularly his intolerance and lack of manners.

He is a very blunt person and if he doesn't want to do something he won't, or if he is forced (which I do rarely - DD and I do a lot without him but there are times like Xmas when that's just not possible) he'll make it very obvious to everyone that he doesn't want to be there, stay as little time as possible and generally make everyone uncomfortable. I am the type who never wants to hurt anyone's feelings so I find this excrutiating but to him it's perfectly reasonable because he's been 'made' to do something he doesn't want.

Often these situations involve my DM wanting us to do something (not always though, it also happens with friends or DH's own family - he's that anti-social sad). She is a great one for organising get-togethers, some of which I enjoy although like DH I am irritated by her constant flapping and expectation that everything will be done her way. As I said, as much as possible DD and I go by ourselves, but it is becoming obvious and DM is now putting me on the spot about it. I can hardly say 'it's because DH can't stand you', I have tried explaining a little how we feel but it just ends up with her treating me like a martyr who is putting up with an ogre of a husband which is not true. DH has his faults and they infuriate me (and he knows that because I can be honest with him) but I want our marriage to work for lots of reasons and don't appreciate outside interference even if it is well meant.

I just don't know who's being unreasonable here - DH with his rudeness, DM with her constant organising (which feels like demands but is actually just normal family stuff) or me for wishing everything could be pleasant and undramatic sad

The reason I am so fed up today is that I have a big birthday coming up and DM is pushing for a big celebration. I've told her we'll have a meal or something because I don't want a big fuss but I'm not sure if that's true. I think I am accustomed to saying no fuss because I know DH will want things low-key. But then he may have wanted to arrange something (he did hint) but feels his plans will be swept away by my DM and family. I just don't know what to do and am pissed off that even my birthday is overshadowed by all of this sad

If anyone has managed to read this far, thank you. I would really appreciate an outside opinion on this as I feel I've lost all perspective.

tribpot Fri 04-Jan-13 08:50:55

God it all sounds exhausting for you.

Let's look first of all at your birthday situation. What do you actually want to do? Not: what will placate DM, what will keep DH from getting ratty, what do you want to do on the day that is about celebrating you and what a great person you are? Frankly, even if you didn't deserve it by virtue of the fact everyone deserves to do what they want on their birthday, I can't see how you could make things worse by saying 'f**k the lot of yers, I'm going nudist ski-ing and then getting hammered on peach schnapps' (or whatever - this was not a real suggestion).

So point 1 - don't try and solve the problem, just be selfish for once. Why the fuck not?!

As you have quite an honest relationship with your DH, presumably you've spoken about his rudeness at gatherings and how mortifying it is for you. What is his solution to this? Just not invite him to anything - ever? Frankly, if that gives you an easier life I would just do it. Who cares what people think - of him. The only time I would worry is if he refused to go along to something your DD wanted him at, or he did go along and acted like a prize arse.

You do need to get your DM to back down, though. She may like organising get-togethers but that does not oblige you to go to them. I think DH might appreciate a bit of family time that isn't all revolving around your DM, have you spoken to him about this? If your DM is getting antsy about why your DH isn't attending her events, I think you just have to say he is anti-social and doesn't want to. So what? I don't see why you should take the flak off both of them rather than simply admit (to some extent) that they have incompatible wishes on how to spend spare time. You don't have to find a compromise to every situation - it's not your job.

First and foremost, though, be selfish and plan the birthday celebration you actually want. If DM and DH don't like it - they can lump it. God knows you have, often enough!

HotDAMNlifeisgood Fri 04-Jan-13 09:04:30

With a mother like that, I'm not surprised you also put up with a rude, intolerant, and selfish husband: you've been trained to put up with unacceptable and self-centred people. What's more, you work even harder to try and please them!

Some people are just unpleasable.

My advice would be to stop trying to please either of them, and put yourself and DD first. In everything you do.

For example: plan the birthday that you want. Hang what DM wants. Hang what DH wants. It's your birthday: what do you want? Do that.

PostBellumBugsy Fri 04-Jan-13 10:39:24

Bloody hell, what a nightmare. You sound like a people pleaser, so you want everyone around you to be happy. However, as a pleaser myself, I have learnt to recognise that sometimes you can keep trying to please some people and no matter what they will never be pleased!!!!!

Have you thought about setting some boundaries with these two dominant characters? Have you thought about saying, "DM, yes we can come to this event, but not that one, we have other plans." and to DH, "DH, I would like you to come to this family event with me, it means alot to me that you are there and you make an effort. However, I realise that this is a strain for you, so I have said that we can't make the following event."

And please think about a birthday celebration that you want - if you don't do it then you may find yourself with something you don't like. If your DM is going to try and hijack something you don't want her to, then do a separate event that she can organise, fuss at, get involved with.

Also, have a think about worse case scenarios. Have a think about what would happened if you told both of them what you really thought & what you want. Would they disown you or leave you? Very unlikely, as it sounds as though you have a key role in their lives. Think about how you can be more assertive (which doesn't mean aggressive) and how you can be less easily manipulated by both of them.

Anniegetyourgun Fri 04-Jan-13 10:47:10

What they said. Your birthday is supposed to be all about you. As it is you sound like a toy the pair of them are pulling between them - not a human being entitled to her own wants and opinions.

Serious or not, I rather like tribpot's suggestion!

lottiegarbanzo Fri 04-Jan-13 14:24:46

Do you feel you always have to explain DM and DH's behaviour to others, that you are to an extent responsible for it, at least in as much as it affects others and that it reflects on you? I think you have to step back, be more realistic (you don't have your ideal family, no-one thinks you do, so stop pretending) and let them stand up for themselves. If that means you have to admit to others that they are being rude, selfish or anti-social, so be it, it really is them, not you.

lottiegarbanzo Fri 04-Jan-13 14:32:51

Btw your DH's intolerance and lack of manners is not 'perfectly reasonable'. He knows it upsets you and puts you in an untenable position. The essence of being a grown up is sometimes doing things you don't like, ably and with good grace. To behave otherwise is to be a perpetual child. He is your H and should care about you feel, not just indulge himself all the time.

The two if you need to come to an agreement about which events he will attend, with charm, for you and which he will not - when you can say 'H just isn't all that social and preferred not to come today but is looking forward to our get together when x'.

Manners are not a trivial issue, they are about our values and who we understand ourselves to be in the world.

janelikesjam Fri 04-Jan-13 14:40:37

I only read a few lines OP, and I thought "boundaries" and "decide what you want to do (with your life)". It will make it all so much easier for you. There may be a little fall out as people are surprised to begin with, but they will soon adjust!

I did read the rest of your post, but it just confirmed what I originally thought.

I would not try to minimise the problem of dealing with difficult people around you.

But hey a few feisty "No"s or even "No thank you"s would not go amiss here.

lottiegarbanzo Fri 04-Jan-13 17:45:51

Btw, I think your options with the birthday are:

1) Decide what you want to do, declare this and do it.
2) Do separate things with H (and friends?) and with family.
3) Let them sort something out between them (but probably best plan your own spa / shopping / birdwatching / skiing day too, so you know you have something great to look forward to).

Absolutely do not act as intermediary between them.

Mollydoggerson Fri 04-Jan-13 17:52:29

Sounds to me like your overbearing dm is at fault. She needs boundaries.

I wonder do you confuse rudeness with honesty.

I thiink you are under your dm's thumb and when you try to tell her why she bothers you she takes none of the blame but instead points the finger to your dh, which totally defeats the purpose. No wonder your dh has lost tolerance, there seems to be no winning with your dm, maybe he feels he has to avoid her as there is only 2 choices, bend to her will or be responsible for her hysteria and martydom if everything does not go her way.

newyearletsgoforit Fri 04-Jan-13 17:53:58

God, exhausting!

TBH to avoid any church hall parties or anyone else sticking their nose in I make sure I am somewhere sunny with a cocktail in my hand for my birthdays.

I go to the sun with the people I want to be with on my birthday. So say, thanks but no thanks to your DM bless her and maybe DH will cheer up with a little break, just with your own family.

Good luck xx

PoppyWearer Fri 04-Jan-13 17:54:53

I've been wondering if you're my SIL, OP!

My MIL is very domineering, also likes the big family celebrations - so in your scenario I would be the equivalent of your DH. My MIL gets very upset if she does not see my DH on his birthday. He, on the other hand, is not bothered and has cut the apron strings long ago.

Yes, you do need to be selfish, but your DH needs to share you with your DM and rest of your family (within reason). I try to beat my MIL at her own game by planning even further ahead than she does. So, she is involved in our family celebrations, but her role is agreed in advance and defined - eg. Baking a cake or making a course for a meal. And yes, she gets to call the shots in some cases too.

But this is YOUR big birthday and it should be up to you, firstly, then your DH to decide how you celebrate. Can you compromise and go along with your DM's plans around the time of your birthday, but maybe not on the day itself?

annekins Fri 04-Jan-13 20:46:46

I'm afraid I don't have the answer, but I am in a similar position so I'm interested to see what others's getting to be unbearable!

HappyNewHissy Fri 04-Jan-13 20:54:34

I'd leave BOTH the bastards if I were you.

HotDAMN is riight, she raised you to expect no better than this horrid little man.

A decent H will WANT his DW to have the best time EVER on her birthday, even more so for a big birthday. Abusive little shits want ALL the attention to themselves (your DM in throwing a MASSIVE party and claiming the credit for doing it ALL for you darling hmm) and/or to deny YOU of any attention (Your H - Let's keep it low key, no fuss = you are not WORTH the fuss) Between them, they have it covered.

Stop thinking about what you think you are able to get away with, choose something YOU want for YOU and do it.

It won't be easy, dreadful little people like your toxic mother and toxic H will not make it smooth sailing; how dare you have an opinion, a choice, an idea.

HappyNewHissy Fri 04-Jan-13 20:57:55

Oh and they can't stand one another, cos they are in competition for control of you, and the eventual trampling and destruction of what little self confidence you have left.

Classic abuser stuff.

start to think properly about what is in this life for you, and why you are so low on your own priorities.

Any normal mother would ASK you what you wanted to do, and ask how she could help you achieve it.

You have neither normal mother OR H, they are both deeply toxic

CambridgeBlue Tue 08-Jan-13 09:10:54

Sorry not to have updated sooner, been a bit busy. Thank you so much for all the replies, it's really helped clear my head to see what other people think.

I have made the decision that I can't change either of them so I will just stop trying. I will be reasonable and pleasant and aim to please both (up to a point) but try not to lose any sleep when this inevitably doesn't work!

DD is my main priority, I am so determined that her upbringing should be happy and secure which mine wasn't always, but it came to me in a flash the other day that she may only be at home for another 10 years and that if things between DH and I really aren't working by then we will have to think again. It's not what I want coming from a history of failed marriages but if I've given it everything and done my best to create a decent environment for DD while she's young then I will have done all I can.

As far as the birthday goes, it's midweek which is handy so I've agreed to a meal or something with family the weekend before when DM can make her plans and do whatever it is she wants, then left the weekend after free as I think DH may be organising something. I've got separate plans with friends and I've saved up a little bit of money so that I can bugger off on my own for some pampering or shopping at some point so hopefully at least 2 out of the 4 things (and who knows, maybe even all 4 - I'm always the optimist!) will be a lovely and memorable way to celebrate.

Thanks again for helping me see a way forward that doesn't involve killing a close family member (but may involve a lot of the afore-mentioned peach schnapps or other alcohol smile )

HotDAMNlifeisgood Tue 08-Jan-13 09:22:49

I am so determined that her upbringing should be happy and secure

How do you think that your H and M's behaviour influence that happiness and security for your daughter?

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 08-Jan-13 10:07:02

I'd also be rid of the two of them; both of them equally conspire to make your life a misery and to give you the impression that your thoughts and words are of no consequence whatsoever. Your DD is learning all that from you as well.
They also hate each other because they are in competition with each other to seek control over you.

If you were to remain married to this man (and I do think that your toxic mother set you up to be the ideal person for such an abusive man to dig his claws into) then your DD will be profoundly affected by your actions.

What do you want her to learn about relationships?. Look at what you yourself learnt. A nice house on the outside is no substitute whatsoever if inside the house the emotional atmosphere is toxic to you as well as her.

Stop growing flowers in the hole you are digging for yourself by making the best of a bad job.

HappyNewHissy Tue 08-Jan-13 10:20:37

Spot on atilla!

OP, you have to get your DD out of that dreadful life. Why is she sentenced to at least ten more years of that? What on earth has she done to deserve that? Moreover what have YOU done.

You can't please either of them, because they don't want you to succeed, they want, individually, to break you.

Your DD will grow up thinking that's what life is all about and will escape this situation by running to the first place she feels at home in.

She will ONLY feel at home in an abusive, controlling, manipulative environment.

Until YOU get her out of there and show her that life's not like this.

Your mother has hobbled you, from the beginning, your marriages would all have failed due to her involvement, or you picking people that abuse/hate you. You didn't know any better, how could you?

Please forgive yourself? You've done nothing wrong. Please choose a better life for yourself, and your DD?

I promise you, you won't believe how wonderful life really is away from people like your H and M.

CambridgeBlue Wed 09-Jan-13 09:24:48

Oh God do you really think it's that bad sad The last thing I want is to set my DD up for future unhappiness by my actions but I really believe in not giving up on a relationship at the first hurdle. DH infuriates me at times but I've mostly learnt to work round it and the atmosphere in our house is not unpleasant - we row occasionally of course like most people but it's only when the DM issue comes up (or sometimes other social stuff) that we really don't see eye to eye. A lot of the time we're very affectionate and when it's just the 3 of us we have some great times in general.

Aside from whether I should break with DH, how the hell do you suggest I deal with 'D'M? I can't divorce her can I?! I had decided, as I posted before, to try and be a bit detached from her but I texted her this morning about something trivial and received a very terse response. She's clearly in a strop with me about something (and I think I know what) and try as I might I can't put it out of my mind now. My stomach turned when I read the text and I know it will hang over me until I next speak to her. It's all very well telling yourself how you will deal with someone buy much harder in practice <sigh>.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Wed 09-Jan-13 09:35:42

I do think it's that bad, yes.

Rude and intolerant men may be able to act like jolly fathers some of the time, but their self-absorbed and controlling nature will still leave its imprint on their children. As will overbearing grandmothers. Especially if your DD sees you as placating these types of behaviours.

Of course parents can be divorced, by the way. Not saying that that's what you should do, mind, but just realise that no relationship is sacrosanct or unbreakable.

I recommend you read 2 of the MN bibles: Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft, and Toxic Parents by Susan Forward.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Wed 09-Jan-13 09:42:12

Your instinct is right, by the way: emotional detachment from your mother is what you should be seeking. But it doesn't just happen in an instant: you will need to do an amount of exploring to understand what parts of her past and present behaviour are self-serving and harmful to you, and understand how these behaviours have shaped (warped) your beliefs about yourself and how you should behave. Then you will need to replace these with new (truer) beliefs, and learn new behaviours that protect your integrity.

This takes time and a lot of hard work. Along the way you'll learn about assertiveness and boundaries and dysfunctional family systems... all of which will serve you and DD well for a healthier future. But first you have decades of false beliefs and conditioning to undo.

CambridgeBlue Wed 09-Jan-13 09:58:40

Thanks for taking the trouble to reply again. TBH I struggle with the idea that either my DH or my DM are 'toxic' - their behaviour is certainly unreasonable but it's a world away from the sort of genuinely abusive parents some of the people on the Stately Homes thread speak of. Or am I kidding myself?

DM certainly is well-meaning and I think much of her behaviour is down to stuff that's happened to her in the past (lost a child, 2 failed marriages, abusive husband, possibly abusive father) - that doesn't excuse it of course (and my siblings and I also had to deal with much of this) but it does explain her behaviour. Not sure why DH is like he is!

PostBellumBugsy Wed 09-Jan-13 10:43:16

CambridgeBlue, we all make choices about how we behave and we are all in control of our own behaviour too. You have already acknowledged that you can't change your DH or your DM, you can only change how you respond to them.
So, it is ok to say "no" to your DM. It is ok not to agree to her every demand. It is also completely ok to expect your DH to man up and behave in a socially acceptable way at family events. I'm quite sure there are work things he doesn't always want to do, but he is able to control his behaviour appropriately.
You do not need to analyse either of them and make excuses for why they behave the way they do. You just need to set your own boundaries of what you will and will not accept. You don't have to be aggressive about any of it, but just decide in your own head what is ok with you. Your DM & DH seem to find it ok to be unreasonable in their behaviour - why is it ok for them to be like that? It isn't, but you tolerate it, so they know they can get away with it.
Hope that makes some kind of sense.
I've stood in your shoes & I still struggle sometimes with my DM, but I am so much better. My H is my ex-H, because he just wouldn't change and I knew I could live with him or subject the DCs to his behaviour.

EldritchCleavage Wed 09-Jan-13 13:54:41

If you come away with anything from this thread, let it be the acceptance that you are not responsible for your mother's happiness. Don't let her hold her unhappiness over you as a weapon to bring you to heel.

As for your husband, fine not to want to socialise, not fine to agree to do it then be an arse. I think you can agree to differ on what events to do together, but he really should act with a good grace when he does attend, and in your position I would really tackle that. I suppose the carrot could be telling him you are going to try and put stronger boundaries in place with your mother, could he in turn be more emollient.

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