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Difficult In-Laws visiting - help me not self destruct!

(40 Posts)
YesAnastasia Thu 30-Jan-14 10:29:37

I think I have the most irritating, exhausting and passive aggressive PIL ever.

Everything has to revolve around them, they can't do this, they won't do that, they are sarcastic & mean to me & DC but if it's said with a laugh then it's fine right? NO, it is not. You still said it. They tell us what we ought to be doing, what's wrong with our lives & basically make me feel like we're not good enough.

I get so worked up I get stomach ache, drink to much, headaches, neck aches & can't sleep.

How can I not let them bother me? Drink is not the answer.

CuntyBunty Thu 30-Jan-14 12:03:01

Good stuff, Attila.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 30-Jan-14 12:08:52

Thanks CB for your nice comment.

I do feel for you greatly YA.

I have dysfunctional toxic inlaws myself and the only way I have found to go forward is to completely disengage with them and not rise to any bait. Detach and disengage. You need to accept they will not change and you did not make them this way. Their own families did that to them. Toxic crap like this can and does go down the generations, your DH is profoundly affected by them but it does not follow that your children need to be. You can protect them and yourself.

If your H still chooses to see them that is up to him but it does not follow that you and the children have to accept any of their barbed offerings. You do realise of course that the gifts they receive are not without condition or obligation attached to them.

(Also narcissists make for being crap gift givers).

struggling100 Thu 30-Jan-14 12:14:01

I find my in-laws incredibly difficult. They don't mean to be hard work, but they are basically in their own little world and everything revolves around them. My FIL in particular is very passive-aggressive. They are very noisy and fussy, and they raise anxiety levels in everyone around them to such an extent that on three separate occasions my DH has actually been physically sick as a direct result of a visit!

You need to talk to your DH and establish some ground rules to ensure that you have regular breaks from them during such visits. Leave the kids with them, and pop out for a couple of hours to a friend/relation nearby, or that you run some errands, or treat yourself to some pampering, or just go upstairs and have a lie down! If they are rude enough to question this, then you can say (in a pleasant way) that you just need some alone time but that you'll rejoin them at a later point.

Lindt70Percent Thu 30-Jan-14 12:25:56

I used to feel like this about my ILs. Fortunately, H felt the same way about them. In the end it all came to a head when I told his mother that she never had anything nice to say. She took this as her opportunity to go absolutely mad and called me loads of names etc. We had to leave her house and go home (4 hour drive).

After this she fully expected H to take her side and when he said he was with me she wrote him a vile letter saying how awful he'd been to her since he was 17 (he was about 34 at the time!). She said that all his bad traits were a clear case of nature over nurture (H is adopted) and anything that was good about him was due to her excellent parenting. This upset H a lot. She also said she never wanted to hear from us again unless we apologised.

We didn't apologise and had 4 blissful years of nc. Then there was a death in the family and we had to have contact with them again. She seems to have mellowed over time. These days we can actually enjoy visits from them. She still occasionally oversteps the mark but we don't let her get away with it and she backs down now as she knows we're serious.

Last time she visited she told DS (aged 13) that he wouldn't be able to be a doctor when he's grown up because he hasn't got a caring, nurturing nature! It was said in a nice, jokey way but I said, "That's a nasty thing to say" and she had to shut up then. It feels important to stamp on the crap she comes out with, particularly when it's directed at one of our children. The kids sort of like her but they know what she's like and we always compare notes after a visit! They really like husband (H's stepdad) though; he is nice but very passive.

Oh, and she brings shit gifts too. Last visit we were presented with a box of multi-coloured key rings with mini torches on. We had to choose the colour we liked and then she took the rest away. This was all presented with a big flourish as if it was the most marvellous idea ever! Just makes us laugh these days.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 30-Jan-14 12:27:07


You should not be excusing them and yes they do mean to be hard work.
Excusing them lets them off.

Would you put up with this from a friend?. No?. Family are truly no different and this pair are taking the real Michael here. They made their son ill last time!!.

You must both raise your bar with regards to them, they do not have to be invited into your home. If they cannot or will not behave you do not have to see them at all and certainly not out of or because of some misguided sense of societal convention.

struggling100 Thu 30-Jan-14 12:37:47

Attila - you are so sweet to care about me!

They really aren't horrible people - and my DH loves them very much, even though they do make him anxious. They haven't worked for decades, and I think they have created a little bubble of their own rules for life, from which they are completely unable to depart. So, for example, the news HAS to be watched at a set time every night (and if not, it has to be recorded and watched as close to that time as possible), a paper HAS to be bought every Saturday by noon, otherwise the shops might run out, the fuel consumption of the car HAS to be recorded in a log book, the amount of rainfall HAS to be recorded in another book... every little thing is completely hidebound like this: it has to be done their way. It is an unintentional selfishness, because they just really cannot imagine any other way of being than their own. While I find them exhausting, I do also feel sorry for them. They are both only children and neither has any friends, because they simply cannot relate to other people on an emotional level at all.

Fortunately, my BIL and his partner are wonderful. We try to see the PILs with them so that we can tag team and give each other a break!

whitecloud Thu 30-Jan-14 13:03:34

To Yes Anastasia and anyone else coping with difficult in-laws. Mine were difficult in some ways, partly because of a complicated situation in the family. In answer to why women put up with this, I think that in a lot of families there is a kind of pecking order. In-laws prioritise their own children and grandchildren and there d-in-laws, especially, and possibly s-in-laws come way down the list. So the blood relations don't see a problem. And a lot of women, for the sake of their children's welfare, put up with it because the children love their grandparents and want to see them.

To say sane you have to think that they are not your blood family. I put up with a fair bit when my dd was young, but now she has left home I am more prepared to stand up for myself. I wouldn't put up with abuse and I wouldn't put up with being insulted in my own house. Also, when your dds are old enough, they appreciate your side of the situation more when it comes up. If you haven't been treated well, you speak up and say so. But you will always be up against the fact that you aren't a blood relation and your children are.

If I am ever a m-in-law I intend to be very nice to my s-in-l and try and treat him as I would a son. I think a lot of people are quite oblivious to the effect they have on their in laws!

Regarding presents, I always feel that controlling people buy presents that they think you should have and that they like, regardless of whether you want them or not!

HotDAMNlifeisgood Thu 30-Jan-14 13:36:51

Anastasia you say your husband is a "bully to others"

Tell us more about this?

YesAnastasia Thu 30-Jan-14 13:49:39

You have given some excellent advice in the past Atilla as you are spot on again. H tries to avoid talking to mil as much as possible but he has to (most days) so he tells her nothing because she will judge him against his siblings (another hideous thing about them).

These people as well I daresay have never apologised nor have accepted any responsibility for their actions.

Haha - they think they're nice, reasonable & generous people (and they tell you so). They would be shocked to hear any of this and of course I would be the rude, horrid one. Whatever.

They live far away so luckily this only happens twice a year. We try to get out of going to theirs as much as possible.

They want us to go to theirs for Easter but when I said I didn't want to because they like the idea of an egg hunt & presenting the DC with chocolate, they will suck all the fun & joy out of it when they leave wrappers, have chocolatey fingers or get mud in the kitchen from the garden hunt etc... DH said 'welcome to my childhood' and I felt sorry for him (and a bit of solidarity)

Urgh Lindt How horrid.

YesAnastasia Thu 30-Jan-14 14:01:24

Thanks everyone for replying. I wish you were all here in my (immaculately clean) front room with wine & nibbles - you're all cool.

Me too white cloud I will always try to be conscious of my dils (or sil wink) and I will watch them for clenched teeth & neck rubbing...

HotDAMN It's actually just me he bullies & he knows he does it (doesn't always admit it). We're going through a reeeeeeally bad patch at the moment. He says he has been treated badly and he asserts himself over me to make himself feel better. Because he knows I love him. He doesn't think I'm important and because I don't have much self esteem, I often believe it. I'm 'difficult' if I speak my mind, voice my opinion, want something or say I'm unhappy. I have no idea what to do about it. Like his parents, he is very controlling.

I think alcohol will have to be the answer. Unless I can get some valium from somewhere.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Thu 30-Jan-14 14:23:44

It's actually just me he bullies & he knows he does it (doesn't always admit it). We're going through a reeeeeeally bad patch at the moment. He says he has been treated badly and he asserts himself over me to make himself feel better. Because he knows I love him. He doesn't think I'm important and because I don't have much self esteem, I often believe it. I'm 'difficult' if I speak my mind, voice my opinion, want something or say I'm unhappy. I have no idea what to do about it. Like his parents, he is very controlling.

Oh dear.

I'm glad you are accurately able to pinpoint his behaviour as bullying. But sad that you seem to accept it.

There is nothing that you can do about his behaviour, you know. Nothing. You either choose to accept it, or you decide that it is better to live a life free from a bully who enjoys putting you down for his own gratification.

I think alcohol will have to be the answer. Unless I can get some valium from somewhere.

That's not the solution, and your joke (I think) loses its humour when you know just how many women in terrible marriages do go on anti-depressants just to cope. Drugging themselves to continue to endure something they really shouldn't have to endure.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 30-Jan-14 14:32:11


Neither valium nor alcohol will help in the long run and you know this really. You're really far, far better than using alcohol and pills for a crutch or to numb the pain.

Its not you YA; its him and his parents and what he's been brought up to believe. They trained him well. It was always thus; he would likely have acted the same regardless of whom he married.

You love him but does he feel the same about you?. Is this really the model of a relationship you want to emulate to your children?. What do you think they are learning about relationships here?. After all, look at what your DH learnt from his toxic parents.

You do realise that controlling behaviour is abusive behaviour. Abuse is all about power and control. You state you love him, he has no idea what love is. What does he get out of this relationship, he gets you to use. His parents remain abusive to him and by turn you all and he in turn is abusive to you. If it is only you he bullies then his behaviour towards you is abusive; he cannot continue to use his toxic parents conditioning of him either as an excuse or justification to abuse you his wife because he knows no different. He chooses to act like this and he does not act like this in the outside world.

You have a choice re this man - your children do not. He will not change.

What do you get out of this relationship now?

BrunoBrookesDinedAlone Thu 30-Jan-14 15:59:14

Ooh not good.

Where do you think you will go with this?

Because if you just want to vent when it comes to the inlaws absolutely fine... But if you think you might just try a little bit of rebellion for size...well you will find much support here.

What do you think would happen if you said something along the lines of THIS to your H?

-'I'm sick of you bullying me. I'm getting sicker and sicker of it, and am getting to the point at which I will leave you for it. I'm also beginning not to give a shiny shit about upsetting your rude and obnoxious parents, because quite frankly they can't do a single thing to hurt me, I'm not afraid of them either and would be happy to see the back of them. If you're not careful to make sure that you back me up and see me treated with respect this visit, then I'm going to speak my mind with your parents. If you're lucky, I might do it with a smile and say I'm only joking and they need to not be sooo sensitive! Don't think I won't - I don't give a fuck what they think of me. I DO give a fuck about our children seeing me put down, however. This is just to warn you that if you don't start taking care of what's closest to home, you're going to burn your bridges. I don't think you want that. So shape up and start being a better partner and father. Or I'm off. Let's start with this weekend, and if it goes well I'll even go so far as to cancel next week's appointment with several solicitors. What's that love? Awww I was ONLY JOKING! See, isn't it fun getting ripped to shreds??'

Lindt70Percent Thu 30-Jan-14 16:09:02

YA, the only reason my situation with the ILs has improved is because H and I were totally in agreement. H was 100% supportive and still is. We manage their visits with lots of knowing looks to each other. The kids are now old enough to be 'in on the joke' so they know not to take it seriously when MIL says something off the wall or unpleasant.

It's sad to read your H takes out his frustrations on you, that's totally unfair and it's not surprising you say you have low self esteem.

Hope your H starts to support you very soon as this is miserable for you.

hamptoncourt Thu 30-Jan-14 16:17:40

Anastasia why do you think you have to see them? What could happen if you refuse that would be worse than actually enduring the visit?

Also, you say your DH avoids speaking to MIL as much as possible but then say he has to speak to her pretty much every day. Can you see how incongruent that is and how you too are starting to be conditioned and think this level of toxic interaction is normal?

I am not knocking anyone who speaks to a relative every day because they love them and enjoy the interaction, but in this case, why? Just why?

Your in laws are bullies and so, as you say, is your DH. I would start to rethink how you are going to make this cycle stop as you do need to think about how your DC will be affected long term. And what about your quality of life and your mental health?

My DM is a narc and I am NC with her which is a wonderful relief. My DB has limited contact as he is not strong enough to stay away, although he sees her for what she is. He is on anti depressants long term to survive the contact with her. I think this is a dreadful way to live.

I hope this thread has been useful to you and you find the strength to stay away from the PILS this visit and let the chips fall where they may.

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