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Ils and their influence on our marriage

(18 Posts)
Loveineveryspoonful Thu 06-Mar-14 14:17:48

Hi, looking for some insight into ils.
I was immediately welcomed into dhs family, mainly because they all hated exw and I, apparently, am complete opposite. Ils live on another continent and we see them perhaps once a year for a few weeks. Dh scypes with them every week, however, and it seems fine... BUT:
Growing up, dh was a bit of a partner surrogate for his mum, his dad always at work making a fortune (something dh can't really live up to).
After 5 years together I feel I was accepted by his mum because I'm the quiet type, I.e. A suitable doormat for son to walk on. And after over a year in couple counseling (and my threatening divorce) dh finally appears to be getting the message that a marriage is a partnership of 2 equals and his dd is not a third party. It used to kill me how their relationship was more boyfriend/girlfriend than father/daughter. Trouble is, mil still treats dh as her golden boy, and he laps it up. He has no other parenting model than golden child and scapegoat (first his brother, now his ds).
Everybody was angry with me for not wanting to share holidays with ils (too complicated to explain here), so now they are coming in spring and I was dared to complain!
I don't actively dislike them, they are fine with me, but their (mils) clinging on to dh and him asking them for advice at every turn (instead of manning up) is getting very off putting. I look at dh now and see a spoilt man child. Someone who gets defensive and angry at the hint of a slight... So much like dsd that I've learned to detach from her (all fine with dss, btw, lovely boy).
I'm wondering aloud if it would be a good idea to mention my misgivings at our next counseling session. I'm all for close family ties. But not when the adult child isn't allowed to move on and grow up. My parents are both dead, but I feel I emancipated myself from their "care" a long time ago (dh and I are both late 40s).
My idea would be a gradual weaning off, perhaps only scyping when dcs are here, eow; not planning any holidays/ get togethers without my being comfortable with arrangements (I.e. In our house), etc.
I know these things sound inconsequential, but its dh low level aggression when I question his/ ils plans that convinces me I'm "on to something" here... I'm just coming to terms, and consequences, re dsd, may as well take on mil, too!
Thanks for any advice, rumination, all appreciated.

HelenHen Thu 06-Mar-14 14:26:00

I think you're gonna have to explain the complicated bit cos otherwise I think you might be a bit unreasonable re holidays and skyping! Why would you suggest he only speak to his mother every other week? It's not like you have to see her! Yep, it's a pain when holidays have to involve families but I live in as different country and, if husband ever suggested that I couldn't use at least one holiday to see my family, I'd be calling him controlling and abusive.

As for the relationship between him and mil, I can't see much in your post to suggest anything unhealthy. By allmeans mention it at counselling though... TThat's what it's there for... But maybe word it differently?

struggling100 Thu 06-Mar-14 14:30:08

I think it's absolutely normal for you to feel uncomfortable about this, and absolutely healthy for you to set clear and practical boundaries to what you're comfortable with. I would definitely bring this up in counselling so that you can discuss it without him becoming defensive. It's not about how much either of you love his parents - it's about developing a future strategy for coping as a family that won't cut out the inlaws, or lead to you having a nervous breakdown because you can't cope with constant contact!

However, I think there's an irrational element to this as well. I say this as someone who gets insanely annoyed when grown men turn into infantile 'mummy's boys' around parents. It triggers such a strong disgust in me that I feel that it's beyond reason, and I have to keep it in check and remind myself to breathe slowly and deeply and deal with it calmly! My DH is a strong, capable, loving partner - but he does allow his parents to treat him as a child sometimes, and I find myself looking at him in a completely different (and very unforgiving) way when this happens. It's absolutely not that I always expect him to be the strong, independent leader - I've seen him in a right state and felt only care, love and a desire to help. It's something about that dynamic that just GETS me. I'd be really interested if anyone else can shed some light.

JeanSeberg Thu 06-Mar-14 14:36:11

As a mother of 3 sons, I hope to God I don't end up with a daughter-in-law who tries to dictate to them how often they can contact their own mother, either by phone or in person...

Morgause Thu 06-Mar-14 14:42:42

Why should your DH detach from his parents? They're his family.

It's not up to you to dictate when he sees them or dictate the terms.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Thu 06-Mar-14 14:49:43

The golden child role is a tough one to shake off even well into adulthood. It's not even clear who gets more out of it, the parent(s) or DC. If you lived on the same continent and a matter of a few miles up the road you'd probably see them in the flesh on a very regular basis so trying to ration Skype may be shooting for the moon. Equally one big trip a year to visit family far away doesn't seem unreasonable unless it uses up all available leave and the family holiday budget.

I see you have also experienced problems with your step-DCs or at least one of them. It seems like you have conflict in more than one area but try not to conflate the two issues. Fight one battle at a time.

LapsedPacifist Thu 06-Mar-14 15:13:59

What sort of response would a female poster get if she posted that her husband was insisting she must detatch from her family and not skype her own mother except under his terms? Everyone would be screaming 'Red Flag!!' - saying he was controlling and trying to isolate her from her family - LTB ASAP etc ad infinitum. Why is it only women who mustn't be be cut off from their family support networks? Aren't adult men allowed to love their mothers and miss them if they live abroad?

OP - I also think it's deeply manipulative to attempt to validate your dislike of your husband's mother through the medium of your counselling sessions.

Morgause Thu 06-Mar-14 15:17:47

OP - I also think it's deeply manipulative to attempt to validate your dislike of your husband's mother through the medium of your counselling sessions.

Very much so. Are you sure you are right for each other?

struggling100 Thu 06-Mar-14 15:24:29

The OP has made it clear that she is 'all for close family ties'.

What she is complaining about is what she perceives to be an unhealthily close, stifling relationship between her DH and MIL, which infantilises the former.

She's not suggesting not seeing her inlaws, just that she should have some say over when and where, and for how long.

Isetan Thu 06-Mar-14 15:39:50

struggling100 She's not suggesting not seeing her inlaws, just that she should have some say over when and where, and for how long.

Thats controlling, he Skypes once a week and sees them in person a couple of weeks of the year, hardly excessive. It doesn't sound like the inlaws are the problem here.

struggling100 Thu 06-Mar-14 15:52:22

Two issues here. Firstly, about visiting. I disagree that it's controlling to consult your partner over this. I want to have some say over when we invite my in laws over to our house, and for how long. Even though they are nice people, I have to admit that spending 'several weeks' with them on the trot (not just a couple of weeks!) would be too much for me. My DH understands this, and knows that I give him exactly the same consideration back (if not more so, as my Mum can be really difficult sometimes).

Secondly, the OP is suggesting that there is something weird about the dynamic between her DH and her MIL - if I've understood her correctly, she's saying that MIL is being included in decisions that she perhaps shouldn't be as DH goes to her for advice, and that this is affecting their marriage. I absolutely think she has a right to raise this in counselling. A good counsellor should be able to help her to see what's rational and reasonable, and what's irrational and unreasonable in this.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 06-Mar-14 15:52:29

OP I think you're in grave danger of trying to rationalise and control this relationship by pinning all the blame on Mommie Dearest and trying to keep her in a box, when the truth is that it's your DH that's choosing to behave the way he does. Once a relationship can only be conducted via counselling sessions, I think it's dead in the water.

Loveineveryspoonful Thu 06-Mar-14 16:09:01

Struggling and donkeys, thanks for your input. And for not seeing me as some kind of deranged control freak!
To everybody who thinks I am: I'm a mum to a son too, and I blanch at the thought of ruining his future relationships by being a clingy, entitled mum who needs constant updates etc.
Helen, yes, I will frame my thoughts very delicately at our next session, as I have no radical wish to cut off contact with ils, let's just say its all a matter of perspective.
Re the holidays, dh and ils had decided between themselves that we were all, including 3 dc, to stay in my old home, the house my parents left me. Sounds wonderful, except when you know the details, that yes, most of dh holidays would be used up, yes, the flights would have eaten up a huge chunk of our spending money, but I could have lived with this all EXCEPT it was expected that I'd arrange the perfect stay for ils, persnickety dsd and let them generally bulldoze me. After I declined dh at least had the good grace to admit that yes, he had overstepped the mark, and yes, his family are rather demanding... I'm much happier entertaining them here at home, on my turf so to speak, where dh has no excuse to leave everything to me.
Thanks also struggling for phrasing it so well, infantilism is right on the mark. Right next to tantrums, pouting and sulking. It always takes a while to get him back on track again, hence the wish for either less contact OR, preferably, contact based on regarding dh as an adult who needs to make own mistakes. I'd love if we'd reach the latter!

Loveineveryspoonful Thu 06-Mar-14 16:13:25

Cogito, I have already broached the idea of divorce and dh knows that his attitude is miserable. My fear re ils is that he is being cosseted and comforted and told its all me (or the she devil exw...) never possibly him. I'd love for him to just look at himself without mommy clouding the picture, iyswim.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 06-Mar-14 16:19:50

The way I see it is that, if you've laid down various threats and ultimatums, gone through counselling and various other hoops to explain and someone still isn't prepared to come to the party the only logical conclusion is that..... they're quite happy as they are thank you very much.

I'd stop wasting your money and your breath. He's made his choice and it doesn't look like you're it.

struggling100 Thu 06-Mar-14 16:32:06

Loveineveryspoonful - Gosh, that is a lot of pressure for a visit. My in laws are also demanding: when they visit they expect a full programme of activities from morning to night (trips out, visits, lunches, trips to pubs) then a home-cooked three course meal in the evening with matching wine, followed by coffee and liqueurs! They are extroverts, but are socially tone deaf. I am an introvert (I love nothing better than sitting and reading a book), and am quite socially oversensitive. It's a difficult combination and it means I get tired hours before they do.

DH grew up in a household where 'mum did everything'. He, his brother and his father will literally sit around while she does all the cooking and cleaning: and she loves things this way! The first time they came, they all expected me to take over that role, and DH literally sat on his ass with them and chatted while I ran around in a stressed-out state organising, making beds, cleaning, cooking, washing up, serving drinks etc. etc. etc. I was on my feet for about 16 hours every day.

When they left, we had a chat about this, and I made it clear (through sobs) that I was exhausted and never wanted to do that again. smile Fortunately, BIL is absolutely lovely and he and his partner also find them difficult, which has really helped DH to see a different perspective.

We now have a system for handling visits. We make a plan and a list of jobs that we each are responsible for during the visit, and if DH forgets what he's supposed to do (which is quite often), I'll simply say 'Hey, have you offered your parents a drink?' etc. etc. etc. He jumps to it pretty readily (and apologetically) when reminded. It's not that he means to be selfish - he is just rubbish at doing more than one thing at once, and really bad at remembering the duties of a host. His parents also tend to infantilise both him and me (his mum asked me whether Father Christmas was coming for me this year!) which makes it all the more difficult: they will sometimes take over and try to 'help' by doing things like throwing things away from the fridge, which I find intrusive. (I am quite clean and have a system for things, so when the lettuce goes missing and I find it in the bin, I am liable to find this irritating!)

I do think women do men a disservice raising them to be like this. If I have a son, you betcha I am going to raise him to be the best husband EVER. He'll be able to iron and cook like nobody's business.

LoonvanBoon Thu 06-Mar-14 19:50:32

Oh struggling, I can really relate to so much of the situation you're describing. I've had many of the same issues with PIL - "extroverts but socially tone deaf" is a brilliant description.

But I can also now recognize an element of probably irrational anger / disgust on my part when DH reverts to childhood in their company. He's actually much more assertive with them than he was, & absolutely loads better when they visit us - but that doesn't happen often.

The real problems are when we're visiting them & as they're some distance away we do have to stay several days. I don't know what to do about it but it's not good for our relationship - I almost feel that I don't recognize DH when we're there or at least I don't like the person he becomes. It's not all him, of course, it's the whole dynamic.

It's all kind of "on ice" at the moment - I've got a good excuse for not visiting (back problems / sciatica mean I can't sit that long in the car), but I'm not sure how to handle it all in a positive way in the future.

Loveineveryspoonful Thu 06-Mar-14 20:04:31

Hi struggling,
Sounds like we live in parallel universes. And the planning idea, that's me all over. Everybody should have a part to play, that's the idea of community, right?
My mil and I actually have a lot in common and always loads to talk about, except the parenting issue. She just feels entitled to continue treating dh like she did when he was growing up and I get sidelined as the little wifey, same as fil treated her... I do understand where she is coming from, but I also use it as a negative model and have sworn never to suck ds into the quagmire of adult relationships.
I see how the dsc are suffering by having both parents reared in dysfunctional families, yet oblivious to the obvious results. My parents were difficult too, but I understood that at a v young age and am really conscious of giving ds a "normal" childhood. I gauge my success at this by how kind and loving he is towards family and friends.
Dh and dsc have real issues and our counselor is my only support.
Yes, cogito, I realize that needing constant therapy in a marriage is indeed pathetic, and I'm probably sad for thinking a bit of positive input from the ils would help no end. Atm my ploy is simply to limit destructive time and encourage constructive time, I,e, planning family life around a setting that works for everybody.
Thanks again for replying struggling, I feel so much better for your take on things. Makes me feel less alone thanks

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