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if my dh cannot even be civil to my dm i don't think i can move forward

(64 Posts)
Fairylea Sat 28-Sep-13 19:57:56

There is so much backstory to this but essentially my mother is a functional alcoholic. She is not elderly, she is young 60s and works part time. We do not allow her to look after the dc on her own at all, although she is welcome to visit. We do not visit at hers because she has dangerous dogs.

My dm lived with me (I owned the house and paid bills) until 4 years ago (we had separate areas in the house) when I met dh and she basically went off the wall for a number of reasons... she disliked dh with a passion and didn't want him to move in, even though it was my house. So after a lot of painful arguments dh and I remortgaged my house (it had no mortgage) and we paid my mum off to move to another house 10 mins away.

So that is a short version of the history.

Because of things that have happened between usall my dh hates my dm with a passion and cannot understand why I don't just cut her out. I do understand why he is angry and yes I don't deny she was awful to him. However, a lot of what she said was in anger and fear at the time (fear of her living alone, she is divorced). She has since tried to make amends.

One of the reasons I cannot simply cut her out is because my eldest child is from a previous relationship and the grandparents are still reasonably close friends with my mum. So if I did stop contact then mum would just go through them and I'd be the evil one to everyone Iincluding my dd. Everyone thinks the sun shines out of my mums backside, no one has any idea whatsoever what she is like when she is drunk, not even dd as mum always drinks alone and in the evening.

Anyway. I try to keep contact short and away from dh, usually timing it when he is at work. We had a situation this week when he happened to come home earlier than planned and she was here. He literally went straight upstairs and hid the whole time. I was furious. My mum asked what was wrong and I made up some bullshit about him having to prepare for a meeting.

I'm not expecting him to gush over her but just being civil is not too much to ask, mainly so I don't look like I am married to a complete arsehole and so the dc do not have to suffer a bad atmosphere.

Neither of us are talking to each other now really as I am so angry with him. We have a discussion and he agrees we can't cut contact and then it goes round in circles when he does happen to see her and we argue about it all over again. I'm sick of it.

It's also awkward with things like Christmas because obviously mum wants to bring the dc stuff on Christmas day and see them open presents and dh will sit there with a face like thunder the whole time rather than just getting on with it. I am an only child and mum does not have a partner so if I do not invite her she will be home alone. She will only stay a max of an hour or so because of her dogs anyway.

I'm not expectinghim to put up with lots of contact either.. she never rings, only emails, comes round maybe once a week, usually when he's at work and for Christmas. That's it!

I really don't see how we can go forward.

We're just constantly arguing about this. Going round in circles.

I know some will say I should side with dh but I've known my mum inside out all my life and I understand why she does the things she does. We have always been there for each other. I've only been with dh 4 years. I can't just cut my mum out, I don't want to.

Please be kind. I'm very upset and know I'm perhaps wrong. I'm frustrated.

Zoe6789 Sat 28-Sep-13 20:03:02

Wow, you poor thing.

Obviously you can't cut your mum out. She has her faults and they're big ones, but she's not toxic. I think he should respect that you love her, respect that it's a nightmare situation for you to be so torn like that, and 3, show her a little forgiveness and compassion.

And, four (!) when you say that your eldest child's gps are friends with your mum, it makes it sound like you've actually considered cutting your mum out to please him but knowing that objective bystanders would witness it and have an opinion has prevented you from doing so, that shows that you need to quickly stand up for your absolute prerogative to forgive your mother and allow her to be a part of your life.

Zoe6789 Sat 28-Sep-13 20:04:29

ps, regular name-changer here but I read your posts and know that you are a very reasonable person.


RandomMess Sat 28-Sep-13 20:06:05

I remember your previous threads.

Do you like his parents/family/friends - if there are some that you don't can you ask him how he would feel if you were so rude to them?

Explain to him that if he really loves you then he does need to move on accept your Mum's apologies and be polite and civil to her?

RandomMess Sat 28-Sep-13 20:07:21

Hmm also if your Mum had mental health reasons and that had been the cause of her outbursts would it be different? Can he not accept that your Mum is ill, an alcoholic and this did fuel her unacceptable attitude.

Hassled Sat 28-Sep-13 20:09:27

There's no reason on earth why you should reduce contact with your mother, and your DH needs to grow up fast. You clearly love her, and despite the problems have a good relationship with her. Treasure that.

Is he usually this insensitive? Does he really not have the empathy to see things from your point of view?

Fairylea Sat 28-Sep-13 20:15:35

Thank you for your thoughts. I feel bad posting again because I feel like I'm often posting about it but I feel so torn between the two of them it helps to get outside perspectives.

Well dh would say she is toxic. I'm not sure really.

She's always been quite controlling, but then a lot of mums are... we've both been through a lot together. Looked after my gran at home together who died of cancer, coped through my own divorce (dh is not my first husband) and also several bad patches of illness from both me and my mum (we both have chronic health conditions, hers not related at all to alcoholism). I really don't know what to think anymore.

She was incredibly rude to dh. She called him a fucking bastard lots of times when she was drunk, went out walking at 3am drunk and dh and I had to go and find her (dd at other grandparents). She's sworn at me to fuck off and so on. All when she's drunk. And then she can't remember she's done it. Or she says she can't.

Then she is nice as pie, sweet old lady card and doting grandma. Hmm. So dh thinks she knows what she's doing and he doesn't like her.

He won't accept she is sorry or that she was angry or upset at the time. He won't even let me mention her without making lots of negative comments.

I've asked him to be polite for me and the dc, youngest of whom is 15 months, and he says he will but then it all goes up in smoke again.

He has no contact with his family.

tribpot Sat 28-Sep-13 20:15:38

My first thought is that you need to go to Al-Anon. A lot of the shame and guilt you feel, and the need to maintain this front to everyone she knows, is what you've been trained to feel to protect her drinking. Effectively you're still enabling her addiction. You're convinced no-one will believe you if you tell the simple, unvarnished truth. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. But I can assure you, addiction fears truth more than anything and if you ever want to be free of the merry-go-round you will need to tell the truth.

Whether this will enable you to understand your DH's point of view more, who can say. I think it might. I think if nothing else, he might find the fact you are willing to address your own feelings with Al Anon a sign that you know what she has done, what she does, is not right.

You've had a lifetime of pacifying, and 'understanding' why she does what she does. He hasn't. And I suspect to him, it feels like you're asking him to enable her too. He doesn't want to.

To be honest, it sounds like just keeping them apart is the easiest way. Tell her quite matter-of-factly that your DH does not wish to see her because of previous occasions and that as such, he will absent himself when she visits the house. If she doesn't like it - well, that's the deal.

You don't understand her, by the way. Non-addicts just can't. She's made her choices, but you can still make yours.

Fairylea Sat 28-Sep-13 20:18:04

Meant to add one of the main problems is my dh is completely teetotal (not a health nut, just doesnt drink) and doesn't like alcohol at all, so this is one of the reasons he really struggles with my mums drinking and her general attitude to drink. She doesn't think she has a problem and is of the very middle class old school where having a few whiskies before bed is the norm, as was my dad.

CreatureRetorts Sat 28-Sep-13 20:22:18

Honestly, if someone called me a fucking bastard, I'd struggle to be civil. My mum is a recovering alcoholic so can understand where you're coming from but I think you're asking too much of your DH. I suspect objectively that your mum probably is toxic.

Fairylea Sat 28-Sep-13 20:27:04

Thanks. Cross posted. Oops.

I hadn't really thought about contacting al anon. Maybe that's a good place to start. And it's very interesting what you say about being used to her behaviour and even enabling it. Hmm. Much food for thought.

Yes. I totally understand why my dh would struggle to forgive my mum. Or not even be able to. I get it. I just don't know how to move forward given that I cannot just cut her out, so dh is going to have to find some way to cope with it because otherwise it's not fair on me or the dc. It's just making me a nervous wreck and ill with the constant stress and bad atmosphere.

I am totally prepared to say she is toxic if that's the case. But it doesn't change that I cannot remove her from my life. So I need to find a way to move forward.

Xales Sat 28-Sep-13 20:35:01

I think him coming in and staying upstairs away from her is a perfect way to cope with someone who has Called him a fucking bastard lots of times when she was drunk, went out walking at 3am drunk and dh and I had to go and find her (dd at other grandparents). She's sworn at me to fuck off and so on.

If it was anyone unrelated to you neither of you would have them in the house and put up with someone who treated you this way.

Let him keep his distance, respect his right to do so with someone he doesn't like and ensure he respects your right to carry on seeing your mother without him. If you both do this and accept each others position you can not discuss/argue about it.

tribpot Sat 28-Sep-13 20:35:27

Your DH could give a little, but I think he deserves some give in the other direction too. Him just saying 'oh it's alright she called me a fucking bastard' is not reasonable. Equally him putting pressure on you isn't either - he could merely have no relationship with her, he doesn't have to do her down to you.

Mintyy Sat 28-Sep-13 20:36:26

Is there a way you can separate your relationship with your mother from your relationship with your dh?

I agree that it would probably be helpful for you to go to some Al-Anon meetings.

What is your mother's current position with her alcoholism? Is she trying to give up? does she admit anything? is there anyone else apart from you and dh who knows the whole truth?

perfectstorm Sat 28-Sep-13 20:40:10

Can I just point out that if someone posted about their MIL on here, with these facts, they would be told their DH needed to grow a pair and decide where his loyalties lay?

I absolutely understand your hurt and confusion, OP. But your MIL meant you and your DH took on an extra mortgage to pay to rehouse her, after she pulled every trick in the book to sabotage your relationship. Honestly, why should he have to have any contact with her? You don't have to cut her out, no... but why should he have to have anything to do with her?

You don't want everyone to think you're an evil bastard, and you don't want her to think he's an arse. But what about what he wants - not to have an abusive alcoholic who almost cost him his DW, and is costing him a lot of money, in his own home?

I honestly cannot imagine a thread about a MIL which would advise a woman to accept her husband's desire to entertain his mother in their home/placate and fake warmness to her in these circumstances. I really can't. I think you are asking too much of him.

I also second the belief that you would benefit from Al-Anon. Your mother's financial reliance and emotional abuse of you sounds fairly toxic to me, especially as she pretends it doesn't happen to others, making you seem the "bad guy". You are not the bad guy... and nor is your DH.

Fairylea Sat 28-Sep-13 20:44:55

I do try to keep them apart. She usually only comes round when he is working or I meet her outside the house in town somewhere. It's only very occasionally that she will happen to come round and him be home unexpectedly as he works literally five minutes down the road and will sometimes pop home when I'm not expecting him. I totally understand him not wanting to be there. I just don't want an atmosphere in front of the dc and causing total stress if it does happen unexpectedly.

And also the Christmas thing is a big deal.

I suppose the thing I am struggling with is other people put their dh or dw before their toxic parents so easily, but I don't seem to be able to. Why is this? Should I? Is that the right thing to do? sad

Mum doesn't accept she has a problem drinking. She acknowledges she drank too much at that particular time, puts it down to being stressed over finances and disagreements between her and I and says she knows her behaviour was unacceptable. But she had always been what she refers to as a "heavy drinker" and she thinks because she can manage without a drink if she has to and doesn't drink during the day that she is fine. My gran was alcoholic too, used to hide vodka bottles in the toilet cistern when mum was a little girl. My gran went to al anon and stopped drinking when she met my step grandad when she was in her 40s. I do not drink at all.

Thanks for all the replies, very helpful and so good to be able to talk about it all.

MayTheOddsBeEverInYourFavour Sat 28-Sep-13 20:46:48

I think you're being really unfair to your DH. It sounds like you're in a really difficult position and of course it's your choice if you have your mum in your life or not, but really him ignoring her seems like a reasonable response to me

Surely your mum must realise why your DH would be less than happy to see her? I wouldn't want someone who treated me like that in my home so I think it's unfair to say your husband will just have to find a way to cope with it, them having nothing to do with each other seems like the most sensible option to me

Tinlegs Sat 28-Sep-13 20:50:10

You have all my sympathies. I too grew up with an alcoholic mother. I think his reaction is a normal one. The usual response to being treated badly is to snap back. He has swallowed his anger and tries to hide it.

However, as the child of an alcoholic you do everything to keep the peace, to make sure that you don't rock the boat. This means, essentially, pretending bad behaviour didn't happen because to do so means you have to confront your own cowardice at dealing with it, head on.

I think you have to have clear boundaries. We leave as soon as she drinks, at all. She is not allowed to see the children without one of us there, in the room. We never, ever allow bad behaviour (swearing, abusive, aggressive ) to have any other result than of us withdrawing.

One thing, however, your husband needs to know is that she can't be cured. Statistically, almost no alcoholics give up after 60 and none at all after 65. He can't make her better, either by disapproval, anger or anything.

What he can do is manage his contact with her which, it seems to me, he is doing. I think you have to be honest with her. Tell her he found her behaviour difficult to forgive. She needs to see there are consequences.

See her for an hour on Christmas Day. Send him out for a walk. Let home know you understand, that you will still see her but that you understand his anger. However, make sure he knows that however he treats her, whatever he does, she will not stop drinking.

And get help from Al Anon, or read up on the subject. Those with alcoholic parents have a lot in common. My daughter (11) had a close friend with an alcoholic mother. It was like seeing myself. Always trying extra hard. Always forgiving, even when behaviour was unforgivable. Slightly brittle and a bit paranoid....I could go on.

Mollydoggerson Sat 28-Sep-13 20:51:41

I agree it sounds like you are enabling your mother's bad behaviour and expect your dh and children to also take on the burden of this charade. I'm sorry if I was your dh I would not want her in the house nor would I forgive the verbal abuse.

We all have to set boundaries regarding what behaviour we accept and what we will not tolerate.

I imagine most people have a fairly good grasp of what she is really like. People are not stupid, they will also have a good measure of who you are. Respect your choices, do not worry about how it appears to other people.

Mollydoggerson Sat 28-Sep-13 20:56:57

By the way, on Christmas Day, can she not lock the dogs in the garden for an hour and have you over to visit with the children?

tribpot Sat 28-Sep-13 21:02:30

is other people put their dh or dw before their toxic parents so easily, but I don't seem to be able to. Why is this?

I think you're not very close to understanding the 3 C's of addiction:
- you didn't cause this
- you can't control this
- you can't cure this

Al Anon will help you understand co-dependency, and break you free. It can't do anything for your mum. (AA and Al-Anon are not the same thing, btw).

He needs to bite his tongue better but to be honest you need to give him a reason to want to. Start to try to change your relationship with your mother, and perhaps you will be able to agree that he has to move beyond anger as you move beyond enabling.

CreatureRetorts Sat 28-Sep-13 21:06:10

A lot of the things in the last few posts resonated with me. I definitely did the whole "not rock the boat thing" and bent my life around keeping the peace with mum.

Now, I only speak to her on the phone and visit her for an afternoon at Christmas and that's it. She's manipulative and lies but pretends it's all ok - I think it's a protection mechanism for her.

I'm not sure what to advise op but I wouldn't expect your DH to be civil.

Fairylea Sat 28-Sep-13 21:07:59

I can see that maybe I am being unfair towards dh. sad

Tinlegs, touching post. I can see so much of myself in what you have written. It is so emotionally difficult living with an alcoholic mother. Always trying to keep the peace, it is exhausting.

I am unsure as to whether people know what she's really like. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia whenI was 4 and was in and out of mental hospital untilI was 9. Despite being "recovered" and now not on any related medications I still see elements of her dual personality that was present at that time. At work she comes across as a sweet, caring older woman, always willing to help others and everyone wonders why her horrid daughter has banished her to living all alone and never being able to look after her grandchildren. Well that is what I feel everyone is thinking about me (we live in a small village).

Part of my issue with my mum is because I understand and know her history (abusive childhood, mental health problems, health problems including 3 major surgeries on her stomach near death situations, 2 divorces etc etc) I feel sorry for her. I feel like I can forgive some of her behaviour because I can see the child inside her, even though she is a grown woman.

Sounds ridiculous. And yes I am a mug.

I expect too much from dh. Talking on here has made me realise that I think.

Mum does acknowledge she was rude to dh but she's a very forgiving person generally and just thinks people say and do the wrong thing sometimes and should be just forgiven and move on etc.

I'm not expecting mum to change. That is part of the reason I think dh being like this is pointless. It's just stress for the sake of stress and I've already had enough stress for ten lifetimes.

Mollydoggerson Sat 28-Sep-13 21:13:36

Why should your dh change, when you don't expect your mum to change? Genuine question, why should he sway to suit her needs? Why does her outlook on life be the dominant one?

You are living under a veil of fear, obligation and guilt. You are living in a FOG dominated by your mother.

Portofino Sat 28-Sep-13 21:20:56

I would say that your Dh has done nothing. If your mother wants to improve things then that is down to her, not you. The issues lay with her, not with you and not with your Dh. If she is prepared to address them with you jointly, then maybe something can be done

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