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Met DP's mother...She's "difficult";. How do I play this?

(135 Posts)
kistanbul Wed 08-May-13 10:02:19

My DP, who is an only child, and I have been together for 6 months and I really want the relationship to work. The main potential problem is his mother.

I, like every women he's been with, am only after his inheritance (her semi in a not nice part of Surrey), but he's too stupid to see it. She threatens to kill herself because she's lonely and no one cares. She cried when she found out I'd stayed the night at his home - a neighbour saw me leave. She makes comments about my appearance (ugly), education (poor), family (common) and has started talking about writing him out of her will. He used to be so kind before he met me, but now she's ashamed of his (unspecified) cruelty to her.

She also has keys to his house, which he gave her when he was having work done, and lets herself in when he's at work; he has asked for them back, but the suicide threats start again, which distract him from the task at hand.

DP moved back to his home town when his father, who died two years ago, became very ill. He sees his mother twice a week and calls everyday.

She's an intelligent, capable women in excellent health, who appears to have lots of friends. I hate that this is relevant, so please don't hate me for saying it, but I own my own place and my family are "posher" and richer than hers.

She is very open about the fact that he ruined her life and career when he was born, so he owes her.

Does anyone have any advice on dealing with her? How should I expect him to behave if we're going to have a successful relationship? Is it even possible to have a successful relationship with someone like that in the background?

schobe Wed 08-May-13 10:22:38

yy - both cases I know are only children.

Badvoc Wed 08-May-13 10:22:39

She is a narc and that will not change

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Wed 08-May-13 10:23:32

She's not in excellent health though, is she? 'Healthy' people don't seek to manipulate through emotional blackmail or suicide threats.

Whether through grief over losing his father or a determination to hang onto him because he "owes" her, she exerts massive influence over him.

If he doesn't see this and move now, I mean physically relocate to at least put geographical distance between them, you have no chance. Even then I think she will pose a big problem.

kistanbul Wed 08-May-13 10:28:35

I have no experience of this. I come from a big family who shout rather than manipulate.
So, practically, what do I have the right to expect?
a) He gets the keys back.
b) He commits to, and mentions to his mother, moving away from the area.
c) He gets counselling to learn the appropriate response to her behaviour.

Can those things? Is that enough to be going on with?

wonderingagain Wed 08-May-13 10:30:23

She's obviously got him. I wonder if the only thing you could do is a trial separation - him and his mother. Tell him you want him to have no contact with her for 6 months to see how she reacts. Tell her what you are going to do, be upfront and see what happens. It's only 6 months. It's not like you are asking him never to see her again.

badtasteyoni Wed 08-May-13 10:31:06

So do you want to move away from the area then? It seems a bit drastic if that's the only reason for doing so....

Personally I think all your 'asks' are perfectly reasonable, but even if he does all of those things, she isn't going to disappear in a puff of smoke - she will fight back big time, and you will be the focus of her wrath, since in her eyes it will all be your fault.

badtasteyoni Wed 08-May-13 10:32:21

And there's also the issue of if he wants to distance himself from her.

piprabbit Wed 08-May-13 10:35:52

Why are you focusing on him getting the keys back? You don't live with him do you, or did I misunderstand? How is her having keys to his house affecting you?

Moving away seems a huge step - presumably you both have jobs in the area? And you have only been together for 6 months.

Are you actually engaged? I can see that you would want ground rules before moving in together and getting married, but if you aren't yet engaged you might be jumping the gun a little.

The counselling seems a reasonable request and should help with your first two issues too.

AKissIsNotAContract Wed 08-May-13 10:36:11

Holy fuck, I thought my MIL was bad. That is a whole lot of crazy you have to contend with.

Do what hully says.

kistanbul Wed 08-May-13 10:36:30

I live in the city. He lives in the suburbs near his mother just outside the city, so moving would be moving to where I live. We basically operate two homes together at the moment.

How much he wants to change things will be the issue. How will I know if he really does? He says he does, but he hasn't, so... The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, right

Are there any happy endings to this situation?!!!?

wonderingagain Wed 08-May-13 10:39:34

Your action points are bound to add a long-term feud to the situation. She will play the long game, so will he, you will never know if he means it.

My suggestion would give you the answer within 6 months.

If he actually says she is crazy and manipulative he actually wants to break free but you may have to be more forceful.

kistanbul Wed 08-May-13 10:39:56

Moving away would not be such a huge step. It would be him moving from Surrey, where he and his mother live, to London, where I live and we both work.

DumSpiroSpero Wed 08-May-13 10:40:13

Good luck with getting keys back - I had to do that with my MIL and got a stream of abuse that actually filled an entire answer phone tape back in the olden days

Ultimately it is his handling of his mother that will be the issue. I'd tell him your concerns and maybe give it six months to assess if he's up to dealing with her behaviour appropriately. If he's not, or you've still got doubts call it a day.

My DH and I have been together nearly 17 years but the amount of stress his mother has caused and the number of times I've nearly walked because of her behaviour and his inability to stand up to her is really not funny... and he's not even the only child - I am!

badtasteyoni Wed 08-May-13 10:43:54

I would be worried that he had been happy to put up with the situation until you came along. I would worry that could mean he is happy being her little boy unless he has another woman to look after him/run his life for him.

Why has he allowed the situation to get so bad in the first place? And how do you know that he's not been through the same conversations with every ex who's gone before you?

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Wed 08-May-13 10:47:28

at the point he's about to arrange an appointment, she calms down and he decides to wait and see

Step one, gently point out she won't sustain peace and calm, because she'll ramp things up with every new stage of your relationship - say, going on holiday together, moving in together, and so on.

Step two, assure him it isn't about separating them, it's about him managing their relationship, get it back to an even keel.

This has been going on a good while since before you came on the scene.

I think the danger is you start off being reasonable and he knows it, but there'll come a point at which he begins to question whether in fact he is swapping one controlling woman for another.

wonderingagain Wed 08-May-13 10:48:49

She will still have everyday contact on the phone - distance won't help. He needs to make the break himself so that she finds someone else to depend on or becomes more independent.

cjel Wed 08-May-13 10:56:16

I'd worry he has no intention of changing things. He has asked for keys but gives up, gives lip service to counselling then doesn't. Pacifies every time she threatens. He wanted you to meet to see how you would cope with what shes like not to change her. I think you need big heart to heart. give him a week to get keys, a month to book counselling and if he doesn't you have your answer.

kistanbul Wed 08-May-13 10:57:45

He says she's got a lot worse since his father died two years ago. Then her sister died the following year and her best friend died just before Christmas. BUT, he says she's always been crazy. He can't seem to decide whether the new level of crazy is a permanent or temporary state.

Thanks for the responses. I need to find a way to tell him that our future depends on him changing the dynamic between him and his mother. It's just finding a way to say it that will make him understand.

QuintessentialOHara Wed 08-May-13 10:59:35

"his instincts seem to be to pacify her, rather than stop the crazy"

This is why no matter how much you work on the relationship, it is not going to work, as he will never stand up to her, or find his back bone.

I also advice you to break it off with him.

Remember, when "evaluating" a new man, it is not just HIM, his family is part and parcel. This man, with this mother, is too much trouble.

wonderingagain Wed 08-May-13 11:08:21

That's why I suggest a 6 month total contact break. It's likely that after a few weeks she will start looking for another victim to manipulate. She may turn in on herself but perhaps that's exactly what she needs. She may find her own strength to survive. God my Mum's so the opposite. Never wants help, the occasional lift to the doctors, never demands attention, happy in her own company, happy in others. She lives alone, lots of bereavement of friends and family but she would never burden us with anything. She has friends who help her out because they want to, not because they have to.

NoHank Wed 08-May-13 11:09:42

Can I ask, how do you know she is saying and thinking these things about you? Who told you she thinks you are a "slutty monster"? Has she said these things to you or is your DP passing on every negative comment she has supposedly said about you and telling you all about it?

And if it is your DP passing on these conversations is he saying what he has said in response to them? Personally if someone was saying these things about me to my DH I would be expecting him to be setting them straight in no uncertain terms that is was unacceptable to talk about a person he loved in that way and if it carried on he would be ceasing contact with them until they learned to at least respect me.

CarpeVinum Wed 08-May-13 11:12:27

but his instincts seem to be to pacify her, rather than stop the crazy

You can't stop the crazy. I wasted five years trying to stop the crazy, but discovered the bipolar 1 diagnosis and came around to the idea that I was never going to be able to control her behavoir with the normal techniques.

What you can do is

a) ask yourself if the loving you are getting is worth the fucking over you are going to get, regular and often.

b) ask youself if you are willing to conceed lots. and lots, and lots rather than have the man ypu love spend the next twenty odd years feeling torn in two. If neither of those options sound doable. Leave now.

c) ask youself how many years you can manage slowly unteaching him all the Pavlov dog responses he has been taught since before he could walk. Now double that. Now double it again. Can you do it ? All the while knowing that at best it will be 2 steps forward and 1.97 back, perhaps forever.

I love my husband, I love our son, I don't want a do over if it means I wouldn't have them. So it's just as well I had no crystal ball back when we were pretty young things. Or I would have run <screaming> for the hills.

She might just be a pretty unpleasant person. But looking at the description I'd leave room for the possibility of a pretty severe and probably untreated (or untreatable) personality and/or mood disorder.

If so, that is going to make life with him something of an uphill battle compared to everybody else you know. And it can be tough. Really really tough. None of the normal "dealing with badly behaved people and their unwitting enablers" will work if she is unwell. Not much works really. Well apart from pulling the duvet over your head from time to time and having a good sob. grin

My mother in law died on the last day of 2012. After 18 years together, that was when my husband and I as a couple finally got to be anything like a priority.

He's worth it. But dear god the tears, crisis, drama and exhustion getting here has knocked quite a lot of stuffing out of the pair of us.

You can't turn off love like it was water out of a tap. So if you want to be with him, then be with him. But ...brace yourself love, cos from the sounds of it you are in for a bit of a rollar coaster with his mum.

oldwomaninashoe Wed 08-May-13 11:12:37

This is very difficult and you are never going to win in this situation. Your DP and his Mother have a much longer relationship than you and him the dynamic has developed over years and now she is on her own he is her primary focus and she is telling herself and him all these dreadful things about you in an effort to convince herself and hopefully him that you are indeed dreadful.

Can you cope with it? because you will never ever win. Are you able to bite your tongue and turn the other cheek until she she pops her clogs, or your DP finally has enough and is forced to "choose".

My Dsis had exactly this situation, she spent every weekend of her early married life with her DH at his Mothers 100 miles away (he was an only child she was a widow) because there was always a "problem".
Things stepped up a gear when the first DC was born as they did not have the time to continue with the visits. She demanded to move locally to them, it was arranged.
The "demands" grew more frequent as did the suicide threats. She attempted suicide (thinking my BIL would be round as per usual by a certain time and would find her) He was called into work urgently and didn't call round until much later by which time he found her in a coma from which she never recovered.

I cannot describe to you the effect it had on my BIL and my Dsis. I am not saying similar will happen to you.
But think very carefully about your feelings for him and whether you have the stomach for the possible outcomes of her behaviour, before you get deeper into this.
It is possible he will always ultimately defer to his Mother it is all he has ever known, can you cope with that longterm?

kistanbul Wed 08-May-13 11:21:37

The "slutty monster" thing is me paraphrasing.
I asked him to tell me exactly what she said about me because I though it was best to know exactly what I was dealing with.

They now have an agreement not to discuss me any more and all he's done in response is point out that she always says those things about his girlfriends.

The advice I've received in RL so far is to stay away and don't say anything that might even slightly imply that his mother is less than wonderful. Perhaps I shouldn't have followed that advice. I have pointed out that I think her behaviour is unacceptable, but haven't yet had a proper talk about her. That will happen now.

DumSpiroSpero Wed 08-May-13 11:23:15

Carpe has described living in this situation so well, her post is something to really think about when you decide where your relationship may be going.

<<Carpe I may hunt you down for advice next time my MIL has one of her narc fits wink >>

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