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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?

CarpeVinum Thu 09-May-13 11:14:49

Carpe I like you

Why thank you, we can form a DIL's surviving not all that well balanced MILs mutual admiration society grin I dibs being tea maker and cheif bottle washer.

If we are giving out book recommendations can I also chuck out Emotional Vampires

It is hardly a definitive academic text, but the oft aserbic tone does give some peace in reconciling understandable anger and the knowledge that somebody is not particularly well emotionally or mentally, and the guilty feeling that their ills should always come before one's own need to not be sent quietly (well, rather noisely in my case) into a tailspin of involantary misery and self sacrifice.

DHtotalnob Thu 09-May-13 14:07:10

Off track, but

LifeofPo - still laughing. Thank you smile

Hissy Thu 09-May-13 19:48:58

"Nobody here (I hope) would cast aspersions on a woman who had her reactions, thinking and self imaged altered by years of spousal emotional abuse."

I was abused for 10 years. Longer if you count my parents.

If we take responsibilty for the condition we find ourselves in, and deal with it, reading, talking, counselling, then we can reverse the damage.

No amount of abuse is a reason for this womand to slag off her DS girlfriend.

I don't go round being a total bitch to people around me (unless they attack ME, of course)

Upshot is, no woman, man or gold-plated alien is worth being belittled, humiliated or terrorised for.

Not after 6 days, 6 months, or 6 years.

OP is not responsible for her Boyf, he is responsible for his own journey in life. He'll find the path if he chooses to.

Hissy Thu 09-May-13 19:52:10

One thing's for sure. He won't find it by being supported in enabling his DM. He won't find it by some other poor deluded person thinking theyt can make a difference.

Methren Thu 09-May-13 21:28:04

OP, it is worth considering that this woman's behaviour may have an impact on your relationship with your DP that extends beyond your interactions with her or the extent of your DP's involvement in her life.

My MIL has long history of behaviour patterns that are similar to those of your DP's mother. This has left a lasting legacy on my DH's ability to form and manage healthy relationships - because the most important and formative relationship of his childhood, his relationship with his mother, was dysfunctional.

Some of his ongoing issues are:
1.He has low self-esteem - because he was constantly told that he wasn’t measuring up to his mother’s expectations of how a loving son should act. This is coupled with a need for external validation/approval in order to boost his self-esteem.

2.He is a people-pleaser, and finds it very difficult to say no to requests from others at work, but hugely resents any demands/requests that are made.

3.He has a well-developed sense of entitlement, learned from MIL’s fixed belief that the world should revolve around her.

4.Intellectually and in calm moments, he can see through MIL’s antics. However under pressure, he reverts to all of MIL’s nastiest behaviours – because this is what he learned and saw modelled as a child.

I’m not saying every child of a parent like this will be affected in this way, but it takes a very robust personality to grow up around this level of dysfunction and not be adversely affected by it. It has taken my DH over a decade to reach the point where he can start detaching from his mother’s behaviour and influence, and I think this has only been possible because we have lived abroad for many years. The psychological effects of my MIL’s behaviour have had a significant detrimental effect on our marriage which we have not yet fully overcome.

<And I like the sound of Carpe's DIL-survivor group - can I join?!>

CarpeVinum Thu 09-May-13 22:26:09

If we take responsibilty for the condition we find ourselves in

So it's ok to call an emotionally abused wife "gutless" and "stepford wife" if she hasn't taken responsibility, worked out that she is being abused and/or LTB ?

CarpeVinum Thu 09-May-13 22:37:14

Hands Methren nice shiney membership badge.

Mumsyblouse Thu 09-May-13 22:59:39

Methren your post really resonated with me, my husband is pretty much like this through growing up with exactly that type of emotional abuse.

The thing that has made it ok for me is that he will defend me to the hilt and makes sure our decisions are family decisions and no amount of histrionics from her will derail it. If he was trying to please her, it would be simply untenable (as never pleased!)

Snazzynewyear Thu 09-May-13 23:10:15

OP, the extent to which your DP is really on board with starting to work at changing this relationship, however hard it might be, is crucial here. So I think you will need to have the talk to decide what to do. Because you have to make that decision together for you to work as a couple, rather than you deciding what demands you can 'reasonably' present to him.

Carpevinum Haven't had to deal with this myself so not eligible to join the club but I've found your posts very eloquent and thought-provoking.

Hissy Fri 10-May-13 07:41:50

Carpe? Where did I say stepford? Or gutless? Hmm?

I know at first hand how terrifying abuse is, and emerging from it, but not once did I start attacking others. I fought for my son's confidence to retuern, for mine too. To live day in, day out with abuse going on means actually that you're strong to the point of herculean actually, just the mental crap confuses you so much, you can't see a way out. As for stepford? That's bollocks, Stepford wives want perfection. DV victims are afraid of the consequences if things aren't perfect (in the eyes of their abuser)

This old woman may have been a victim of abuse. She may ALSO be a complete cow. Being a victim of DV doesn't mean you're a good/nice person, although ALL the hundreds of women I've met haven't been. It's perfectly plausible that the DM isn't very nice.

Stop the DM's shitty behaviour, what it is and why is immaterial, The op doesn't have to put up with it.

NOBODY is worth THIS amount of crap.

Hissy Fri 10-May-13 07:44:27

Being a victim of DV doesn't mean you're a good/nice person, although ALL the hundreds of women I've met have been.

Sorry. Need more coffee!

CarpeVinum Fri 10-May-13 10:22:22

Carpe? Where did I say stepford? Or gutless? Hmm?

I didn't say you did.

You chose to respond to my post re "would you approve of the same victim shaming strategies and terminology for an emotionally abused spouse?". Only you know why it provoked a defensive response from you. I am many things, but mind reader is not one of them.

And I responded to that response.

Norman Bates/Stepford Wife.....are comparable and highly insensitive, ignorant, victim shaming, knee jerk, self satisfied put downs. IMO

The salient point being BOTH. Ditto gutless

But if you read the thread it is evident that some posters feel that if a person is the vicim of a lifetime of emotional abuse, has a penis and is old enough to grow facial hair ..."but, that's different" comes into play. And it is open season in characterising them as weak and pathetic. Likening them to a profoundly mentally ill, violent, irredeemable, monstrous, murderous fictional character being just fine and all that jazz.

My question is, how is it consistent/acceptable/appropriate for victim shaming the now grown children of emotionally abusive parents to go virtually unchallenged in this forum? A board where pejoratives in the context of wives of emotionally abusive men would justifiably provoke a Tsunami like challenge of unabated ignorance and Everest sized mountains of self satisfaction ?

In my view any attempt to victim shame anybody, whatever their gender, whatever the nature of their relationship with their abuser, is ... utterly ignorant of the reality the victims have been and are living in.

And I think too that people are glibly ignoring the societal context in which the former children of emotionally abusive parents live in. There is no NSPCC for adults, no version of women's aid for the grown children of EA parents.

Society has come a long way in changing its mind about divorce being deserving of social stigma, not so much on its stance of chanting "blood is thicker than water" and "the abandonment of poor little aged parents". If I had a euro for every person who discovered I am estranged from both my parents and one sibling who went on to intimate "but they will die and you will drown in a sea of regret forever more!!" I'd be spending a lot more time in IKEA than is probably good for me. Yet nobody has ever been anything other than cool with my taking a sledgehammer to my first marriage certificate. (bar my first husband)

This old woman may have been a victim of abuse. She may ALSO be a complete cow. Being a victim of DV doesn't mean you're a good/nice person, although ALL the hundreds of women I've met haven't been. It's perfectly plausible that the DM isn't very nice

In terms of where the OP is right now it is more useful IMO to point out that she should not go in to this on an assumption that the potential MIL is "just an old cow". That she may get a nasty shock by expecting that behaviours can be modified or managed. That her love interest may have been irrevocably conditioned to react in one fixed way. That it is equally as likely that he isn't "just being a bit too soft" on his mum and both can and will sort himself out just as soon as the errors of his ways are pointed out to him. That the issues may be a damn sight more complicated and cemented into place and solutions that she can live with could well turn out to be very thin on the ground.

I think it is essential that she is aware of just how profoundly fixed the dynamic can be, and how normal strategies of behaviour modification may be as useful as a chocolate teapot. I think it is helpful for her to know that she may be letting herself in for a very very very long time of head/wall/bang with little to show for her efforts other than a bloody forehead.

She is in the early heady throws of romantic love, that is a powerful state which rarely responds to orders from strangers to "just leave him".

Stop the DM's shitty behaviour, what it is and why is immaterial, The op doesn't have to put up with it.

Quite. But...where has anybody suggested she should ? How much clearer a picture of how hard, how complicated, how pervasive, how exhausting, how depressing, how unsolvable, how enduring, how infuriating, how draining, how distressing being a DIL to this kind of MIL could me and my ilk have painted ? How much clearer could we have been that had we had a crystal ball prior to a profound emotional connection to our husbands we would have looked at what our lives were to become and ...probably run like fuck.

NOBODY is worth THIS amount of crap

IYO. My husband, my son. They were worth it. And as much as it will potentially irritate you that I have grudging and unwelcome compassion for "a cow", MIL was worth it too. She wasn't a monster, she was an ill human being. One I once had to talk myself out of smothering with a pillow by rerunning episodes of CSI in my head, but all the same, a human being. Who like it or lump it needed being taken care of and the state made it very clear it wasn't going to do it for us. In retrospect, with the help of hindsight, I am not sorry I did it. Although I am still not sure how I got through it without throwing myself off the roof or being arrested for strangling a "defenceless little old lady". But, sorry, no.

Does that mean I think the OP should throw herself under a bus into this newish relationship regardless of the challenges she will most likely face in terms of his mother's manipulations and her love interest's lifetime of conditioning to submit to her demands ?


Not least because knowing a husband was worth it is only something you discover in hindsight several decades later. It's a massive massive gamble, that perhaps you can only throw the dice on if you have no idea that you are playing roulette until it's too late. For every person who found a man to be worth it there are probably hundreds still licking their wounds after Herculean efforts for somebody who simply wasn't worth the pain they went through trying to chip away at the chains of a highly disfunctional child/parent relationship.

But I think anybody who has read my posts and come away with the impression that I am recommending full steam ahead has a reading comprehension issue potentially caused by their one tool toolbox.

Not every problem is a nail.

Which is why it is worth trying tweezers, spanners and scalpels as well as a plethora of hammers.

MrsLion Fri 10-May-13 12:35:34

I have a mil a bit like yours op. Controlling, manipulative, needy and very fond of emotional blackmail to get her own way. This has been a truly enlightening thread. There is great advice here op. Take it.

I really wish someone had said these things to me 7 years ago when i met dh. Not necessarily to leave, but so that I was more prepared for what having a mil like this entails.

I have to go but I will be back with more of my thoughts to add- am currently engaged in a war of my own. And, without hijacking this thread I love the idea of a dil support group. grin

TalkUsernameYoudLike Fri 10-May-13 15:32:43

Personally I'd run.

UltimaThule Fri 10-May-13 15:34:42

Don't even bother trying to overthink this one, OP.
It should be your partner overthinking ways to make things ok for you - this is out of your hands. Take it from those of us who have no control over our mothers-in-law.
If your partner isn't seeing a problem AND doing something about it, you're onto a loser. Sorry.

WarmFuzzyFun Fri 10-May-13 16:09:26


LemonDrizzled Fri 10-May-13 17:31:15

Methren and Carpe you have described brilliantly the dynamic and the process that forms the DS into the man. It has opened my eyes to how my XH could have had such low self esteem as well as being so entitled. And why at some level he dislikes women.

I am a survivor of such a MIL and I think I coped with her okay (mainly by distancing and humouring and avoiding any trigger topics)
In the end it was XH passive aggressive and EA behaviour that killed our marriage.

OP you have had some brilliant advice here. I think I would just add to you go very slowly and be sure your needs are being met in the relationship before you commit long term. Do not become a self sacrificing martyr to make her and DP happy at your own expense. It won't work!

Hissy Fri 10-May-13 20:17:24

Please don't lump my comments in with those of others, it gives the wrong impression of what they and I have said. They can speak for themselves. I'm not having a pop at you, but I think you are being too defensive of someone who is being absolutely vile. there is never a need for that.

When you have a H and a son it can be different. Op doesn't. She barely knows the guy, and he's already failing her by not standing up for her.

Oh I get why, but does it matter?

Short answer? No. It really doesn't.

the DP's DM will never be happy with OP, or any P the DP has, she will change the boundaries when it suits. DP, if he plays into this will only fuel his DM's behaviour.

If her P is not strong enough to stand up for his GF, he won't for his DC either, and who wants their kids to grow up with nasty GPs?

I say again, given a choice (which the OP most definitely has), it's not worth it. It's only 6m, nothing mega.

If she splits with him and is kind but honest as to why, perhaps it will give him the impetus to actually do something about it. For himself. For his future family, to break the chain of abuse. A strong dose of reality is needed, where DP states that no-one has the right to be so rude to people he cares for and if she can't say anything nice.... you know that rest.

My mother is not very nice tbh, her choice of H is shit too. I distance myself from the lot of them. For my sake and that of my son. better no-one than poisonous people sapping my confidence, while he looks on and watches/learns how his mum is treated. over and over. Enough!

I choose who is in my life on merit, not on blood group.

Hissy Fri 10-May-13 20:22:12

Oh I am aware that I do take a perhaps over simplistic view on things sometimes, but that's due to decades of people treating me like crap and weaving elaborate reasons as to why I ought to STFU about it and carry on letting them.

I now adopt a fairly rigorous zero tolerance, and it sorts the chaff out nicely.

This is why I say that no-one is worth that. I have spent hundreds in therapy (money I haven't even really got) to recover from people pulling me to shreds for their own emotional hard-ons.

Everyone has a perspective, I get your's Carpe, but I would hope too that you would see merit in mine. Precisely BECAUSE I love my son, is one of the reasons NOT to tolerate any kind of unkindness/disrespect or bullying. Why should he get to see that? We've suffered enough already. smile

UltimaThule Fri 10-May-13 20:24:14

Hissy you are so right.
(Actually one of the reasons I haven't been in therapy - yet - is that I really, really resent paying the cash, I think my family should be donating to a fund grin)

buildingmycorestrength Fri 10-May-13 20:26:12

kistanbul how are things?

Hissy Fri 10-May-13 20:32:54

grin I went to heal from the DV. That was a doddle, the shit my family threw at me was WAY harder to deal with.

I used to get really cross having to pay out so much when they could have just NOT been total bastards, the lot of them! So I can't change them, that's OK, but I certainly don't have to put up with them!


Nasty people have NO place in our lives, or of those we care about.

deedotty Fri 10-May-13 21:55:32

Good post Methren smile

In my experience, it's charming at the start that the men are SO eager to please. It's flatters ones ego to have some guy who is all "WOMAN, OH MY GOD, I AM OVERWHELMED! when you get together, who projects that real need for you?

(and they're SO vulnerable AND my inner martyr and comforter is tempted....grinshock)

Now that I'm older, I can pinpoint a lack of "naturalness" in interactions with women - where even the "being nice" part is driven by fear not love - and a LOT of hidden anger and passive aggressiveness?

I'd go so far as to say that in their careers (high achieving in competitive fields which you need to commit to fairly young) there was a strong element of "well I only did this to please Mummy, so I have a strained relationship with it". Not the kind of men who can "sit and be comfortable with themselves and their own choices"?

Chap I've been dating - we've spent a "first weekend" together. First time we've had any "non drunken/sociable time". Working abroad commitments meant we had to make it a "long one at his".

He switched between running round and having me on a pedestal hmm, and then having a resentful vibe and "shutting down" and not really interacting.

(We've been dating in a low key way for a short while, hardly know each other, and I'm pretty sure I'm a good house guest so I'm fairly certain its not me. Don't want to play Sherlock Holmes, but for someone 40 and a high flyer, his mother seems to organise a hell of a LOT of his practical stuff hmm).

Don't get me wrong - I'm old enough to be flexible, it was fairly civilised and the weekend was salvageable - I went sightseeing and notched up some good winkwinkblush time. But I can see it'd be a right fucking project to take him on for anything more in depth.

He didn't seem to be able to enter the "assertive/reasonable deal with your girlfriend as a PERSON" social territory. Didn't "naturally" know how to have a laid back 1-1 relationship or "downtime" with a non crazy woman, so either I'd have to (1) get crazy and controlling myself or (2) get all Project Mother Teresa on him.

deedotty Fri 10-May-13 22:04:45

Oh just forgot I found THIS article when looking for something else today. Seemed relevant to this thread!

wonderingagain Sat 11-May-13 08:42:15

My dp has a narc.mother. He detatched from her before I met him. I used to wonder why she spoke to him like a dog. We have 2 dcs and and no family connections on his side. They are all under her spell. It could be so much better. As a consequence he is quite detached and our relationship is not easy.

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