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Sorry, it's a MIL issue, but I don't know how to cope with my feelings...

(82 Posts)
ToffeeWhirl Sun 01-Sep-13 11:05:23

I have ruminated over this for months. I know some people on MN have terrible MILs and that's why I haven't felt able to post for advice, because I know I'm lucky really. But I could do with some advice.

I have known my MIL for over 20 years and we have always had an amicable relationship, even though we are completely different. To give you a taste of what she's like - she reads the Daily Mail and believes wives should give up work and look after their children. She thinks divorce is always traumatic for the children and pities me because I am a child of divorced parents. She talks inane nonsense and never listens to anyone else, including her DS. She is very judgemental about anyone who doesn't conform to her limited view of how people should be. She is very needy and tries to win her grandchildren's continued love with an excess of junk food. Anyhow, after a stint in hospital a couple of years ago, when she was 83, she came to us and I looked after her for 10 weeks whilst she convalesced. I may have had to sneak off to the kitchen for a slurp of wine to get me through this now and again, but we both stayed friendly, and the house benefited from the extra housework I did to get away from her.

After her illness and convalescence, she moved nearer to us and now lives five minutes away. This means we can look after her and she can see lots of the grandchildren. She is very generous with babysitting and money and I know we are lucky in that respect.

But now I find myself struggling. She is making me really, really angry and I don't know how to remain civil with her. DS1 has SNs and things have been difficult with him over the past few months. I know this has made me less patient with MIL than usual, as I can't listen to her wittering on about trivial things when I'm so worried about DS. She thrives on stories of death and illness, so she is always telling us about the latest death at her sheltered housing, or relishing the details of somebody's struggle with cancer. She does it under the guise of concern, but she loves it. It's like a hobby for her. If she goes to the GP, it is always a big event. I find this particularly difficult to cope with because several people in my family have had/are coping with cancer. In fact, I think I have just said goodbye to one for the last time sad.

I also don't like the way she criticises everyone. When she left her previous home, she was glad to get away from several so-called friends that she didn't like. Well, surprise! - now she has more friends that she doesn't like confused. She complains about them all the time - how they take money from her, ring her up too much, get her to care for them (which she does because she is just so caring hmm) and so on. I have introduced her to my friends and she usually has a few cutting things to say about them too, which hurts me. And now, after a couple of Christmases with my Mum here too, she has started on her. She doesn't approve of her, apparently. Well, I love my Mum, so I take exception to that in particular.

Oh, and we have recently asked her to stop bringing junk food for the DC. I knew this would be an issue for her, but I was fed up with it. She complains, now, that the DC can't have 'anything'.

And, I know this is irrational, but the gene that has caused my DS's SNs (he has TS/OCD) comes from her and I feel so angry with her for that. I can't justify it because I know that's mad of me, but it's just how I feel.

Unfortunately, my irritation must be showing because last week DH told me that she was in a terrible state after her last visit, saying that she couldn't bear it if I banned her from seeing her grandchildren. WTF? I have never, ever threatened such a thing and wouldn't dream of it. I'm not sure if she is showing early signs of dementia or is being manipulative.

I have to see her today. I now have so much pent-up anger towards her that I don't know how to be civil. How do I get over this?

waltzingmathilda Mon 02-Sep-13 09:03:10

I love funerals - I am so going to be an official mourner when I retire - I cant think of anything better than a bit of weeping, wailing, free bar and buffet grin

PigOnStilts Mon 02-Sep-13 09:06:13

I actually think that they all turn bonkers as they approach old age. Obsessions with control, money and death seem to be a common theme amongst my own friends mothers....mine is threatening to sue me because she thinks I won't pay money owed to my dad (tied up in house, can't sell, tis a waiting game).

JaxTellerIsAllMine Mon 02-Sep-13 09:09:44

ok, well you just need to form some mantras and parrot them at mil. and learn not to rise to her 'bait' re your mother. "Everyone does things differently" is one of my sayings when people are judgy towards others. It isnt a put down as such, but it reminds mil that its ok to be different.

Remember - change your reactions. grin

cozietoesie Mon 02-Sep-13 09:10:15

I've had many older relatives (all of whom seemed a bit preoccupied with death or the past - but that's maybe just my family) and most of whom were extremely self centred and judgmental.

I used/use 'Mmmmmm' a lot. And try to let things just wash over me or head off, like you, to do some extra cleaning. With the youngsters, I will/would just say 'So and So's brain is a bit old/poorly' and they seem to have accepted that pretty well without question. Not sure if that ease of acceptance means there's trouble stored up ahead but they do seem to distinguish without mental strife between elders who are 'young thinking' and those who are not - so maybe there's hope for me.

It does seem to matter how together I am myself, as with all things. If I'm on top of things then questionable behaviour can just wash over me. If I'm not, then I'm down the bottom of the garden with a gin and tonic. The one thing I would never do is give the impression to the youngsters that certain behaviour is acceptable but that all seems to have worked out so far.

Your poor Mum, though.

cozietoesie Mon 02-Sep-13 09:11:39

Ah - it's not just my family then.


ToffeeWhirl Mon 02-Sep-13 09:13:34

Right, have just gone through the NPD list on Wikipedia. It certainly applies to my late father, but I don't think it applies to MIL.

'Yes' to:

Believing that you're better than others
Failing to recognize other people's emotions and feelings
Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior
Being jealous of others
Believing that others are jealous of you
Trouble keeping healthy relationships
Being easily hurt and rejected
Having a fragile self-esteem

And 'no' to:

Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
Exaggerating your achievements or talents
Expecting constant praise and admiration
Believing that you're special and acting accordingly
Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans
Taking advantage of others
Setting unrealistic goals
Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional

Unfortunately, MIL was bullied by her father and I think this set her up as a victim for the rest of her life. She was then bullied by work colleagues and married a man who was very controlling. She never argued with him and she put up with all sorts of nonsense, which she resents and complains about to this day. Instead of fighting back openly, she learnt to approach things in a passive-aggressive manner, which sometimes achieved her aims.

She is incredibly insecure, I think, so she thrives on people needing her, no matter how awful they are. I love my friends and avoid needy and difficult people these days (I learnt from experience), so I find it baffling when she complains about how awful her own friends are. They make her feel needed, that is the truth.

LumpySpacePrincessOhMyGlob Mon 02-Sep-13 09:14:35

I have a "chipper" default setting. grin

We live in the same small town as mil and are caring for her as she gets older, this is dhs choice even though she was pretty abusive to him throughout his life.

If we could have emigrated we would have but I would miss my folk and dh loved his dad.

Mil was pretty vile to my father in law, who was lovely, all the way through his life but after he died she has completely re written their relationship. She has a little shrine to him with small candles and speaks about him in "hushed" tones.

Dh has reckoned that if he actually dies he will also be "promoted" to this specialness, it`s the only way he would ever get any respect from the woman even though he is the one that does all the caring.

My sil is a nightmare and enables mil from afar in her delusional behavior.

Chipper is the way forward with a good sense of humour.

cozietoesie Mon 02-Sep-13 09:16:31

You mean an actual shrine ?

ToffeeWhirl Mon 02-Sep-13 09:21:26

waltzing - grin at becoming an official mourner. You could do this!

Pig - oh dear, that sounds awful for you.

Jax - good advice, thanks. I will learn some mantras. I'll have a chance to practise next Thursday when MIL calls round after her hair appointment <sobs quietly>.

cozie - it sounds like you have had lots of practise. I like the 'down the bottom of the garden with a gin and tonic' response. Will add 'mmmmm' to my mantras.

<scribbles notes>

ToffeeWhirl Mon 02-Sep-13 09:23:55

Lumpy - your poor DH (and you too, of course). My mind is boggling at the actual shrine!

<adds 'chipper default setting' and 'gin' to notes>

LumpySpacePrincessOhMyGlob Mon 02-Sep-13 09:25:42

A small collection of photos of fil with a candle that is lit at all times, yep, it`s a shrine.

Fil would have hated it, he was the most real down to earth bloke you could have met and hated any fuss.

She actually compares her grief and style of mourning to other widows, apparently a shrine gives you extra points.

Personally I think treating people with kindness and respect when they are alive counts for more.

You can also tell how you are regarded by her at any given time by how your photos are displayed, it`s hilarious. Sil giant wedding picture complete with flowers and sometimes special candles of specialness. Dh and me small dusty photo of our wedding where the wind has caught my veil and is wrapped around our faces thus obscuring both our faces completely, no flowers.

Sorry for hi jacking thread. grin I think we may need a support group.

ToffeeWhirl Mon 02-Sep-13 09:27:11

Lumpy - that is all hilarious! I love the meaningful display of photographs grin.

You are all really cheering me up!

ToffeeWhirl Mon 02-Sep-13 09:27:55

'a shrine gives you extra points' grin grin

cozietoesie Mon 02-Sep-13 09:31:01

A 'shrine' wins you the game, I think!

I mean, I'm sure we've all had the cemetery routine. ('I have to go down to the cemetery today to lay flowers because it's the anniversary of the day his fourth dog was neutered - you'll want to come too of course') but actual candles and photos?

LumpySpacePrincessOhMyGlob Mon 02-Sep-13 09:42:43

Apparently other widows are getting it all wrong. You know the lovely kind ladies that are genuinely upset there life partner is dead.

You have to develop a sense of humour, or move, there are no other options.

We were virtually no contact a couple of years ago, we used to meet lovely fil in secret and take him out. Then he became ill. He had a terminal cancer and wanted to die at home so we had to step in and get involved as she was being so abusive to him but he didn`t want to leave his home. In the end Dh did the night care and I did the day alongside our fabulous hospice at home girls, gps etc.

It was the only thing the poor bugger ever asked for. After he died mil was so vulnerable and fil did everything so we stepped in again, We do all the practical stuff but the highest praise is left for sil. She stayed away when we needed her but when the funeral came about she did a lovely reading which mil still bangs on about to this day.

Thanks for letting me rant! smile

off to mils to clean her carpets, chipper chipper chipper.

cozietoesie Mon 02-Sep-13 09:46:09

I reckon you should change your MN name, Lumpy.


LumpySpacePrincessOhMyGlob Mon 02-Sep-13 09:46:50


ToffeeWhirl Mon 02-Sep-13 09:50:01

Lumpy - your poor FIL sad. Not to mention you and DH.

cozietoesie Mon 02-Sep-13 09:54:46

Yes - people/families (especially elders) can be almost insupportable at times. Maybe the best that we can hope for is that we stay strong and true and try not to turn into the people we find difficult to bear. I don't know.

LumpySpacePrincessOhMyGlob Mon 02-Sep-13 10:08:02

But unless most people have a personality shift they won`t Toffee.

Old people are just older versions of themselves. Mil is an elderly version of her 20 year old self, she didn`t just become this person. Fil was old and bloody lovely. Luffs old people me. grin

Right, must stop mning and crack on.

LumpySpacePrincessOhMyGlob Mon 02-Sep-13 10:14:39

Meant cozie not toffee. Personally I'm planning on growing old disgracefully. grin

cozietoesie Mon 02-Sep-13 10:18:36

Funny though how the 'good' younger characteristics so often seem to slide away but the real grumpy ones remain.

LumpySpacePrincessOhMyGlob Mon 02-Sep-13 10:25:06

I know what you men cozie, it`s does seem to get that way. I have found other people mellow, mil is pretty awful now but she was vile years ago.

My dad is a real sweetie now but was often pretty horrible when I was a kid.

ToffeeWhirl Mon 02-Sep-13 10:31:19

I agree that older people are just older versions of themselves, but I also think sometimes their partner has managed to dilute the more difficult characteristics (obviously not in your PIL's case, Lumpy). Work also has an impact. Once work and the partner goes, difficult characteristics can become more extreme. And old age is really, really difficult, so it's not surprising that it's the grumpy characteristics that remain more than the nicer ones.

oldgrandmama Mon 02-Sep-13 11:03:25

Your MIL sounds just like my late mother. I wish I could say her behaviour in old age was down to some sort of dementia, but she'd always been the same, ever since I could remember. It got so bad that I cut off all contact with her for a year, when she was 80, though I continued to pay her a generous allowance, bought her anything she needed (new tv, furniture, mobility scooter etc.) but I refused to see or speak to her. I did relent, though, and for two years I gritted my teeth and saw her, put up with her rubbish, until she eventually died. I think you have been very forebearing, actually, and your MIL is very very lucky to have you.

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