Advanced search

Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

Help me to stand up for myself (PIL and PND)

(25 Posts)
mermaid101 Fri 07-Nov-14 11:55:55

I do not have a very good relationship with my PIL. They think I am posh, spoiled and a bit stuck up. They are generally a bit hostile towards me.

I recently had a baby, so now have a 3 year old and a 3 month old. I had a CS birth and had a few complications. The baby was not a good sleeper and I have found adjusting to having two DC quite difficult. During this time, my GP and hv thought I might have post natal depression. However, as the bsby has started to sleep more, I am feeling much, much better.
A few weeks ago my DH told his parents that I had PND.

I wish he hadn't. They generally appear to think I am pretty lazy and spoiled and are the sort of people who think that depression doesn't exist in any form and only people who have plenty of spare time can have the "luxury" of being depressed.

I'm seeing them at a family occasion this weekend and am anticipating a few passive aggressive digs. I want to stand up for myself rather than just laughing lamely along like I usually do. Can people help me?

The sort if comments I am expecting if they remain true to form are along these lines:

Oh hello mermaid you look great. (Pause) mr mermaid you look exhausted. And very thin. You must be doing too much (hard look at me)

How are you mermaid? We heard you weren't coping very well. It's hard isn't it. Mrs x/ my neighbour/ friend had five sets of twins and had to go back to work two minutes later. She just had to get on with it. No choice

Oh look at so and so over there. She has 4 children. Manages so well. Never hear her complaining. (Smirk at me).

There is a bit of back story here so happy to elaborate but don't want to make this overly long.

SusanIvanova Fri 07-Nov-14 12:09:55

Keep it breezy.

He looks thin? You just love how he keeps in shape for you.

Finding things difficult? How could I with such a wonderful family around me.

5 sets of twins and back to work? How lucky you feel to have such great support in caring for their grandchildren.

Keep it polite, laugh a little as if you find it all a little silly. Disengage.

MrsHathaway Fri 07-Nov-14 12:13:37

"Ah yes, well they get lots of support from their in-laws, don't they?" <smile and head tilt>

Or, more likely "Thanks, I'm doing much better now." <big smile, end of conversation>

I would be angry with DH if he disclosed any of my medical history to his family without my explicit consent. Why did he do that?

Castlemilk Fri 07-Nov-14 12:14:42

'Hmmmm? Oh, I'm good thanks, we're doing fine... Sorry if you've been worrying! - DH should probably keep you in the loop more, seems sometimes it's only our closest friends who get the proper story! - Personally I think I've adjusted more quickly as I'm not used to the support, you know? DH is so busy and sometimes not involved enough to know the routines, so one just gets on with it! I had X asking me this week how things were going and I think she was surprised I'd bounced back this quickly - but of course she has the grandparents around a lot, so isn't used to having to get it all done herself like I am. Mind you, I know that's not the story most people in the family like to tell so I'd better stop talking if I'm going to keep up my Lazy Lola image! Hahahaha! Anyway - how are you? DH never mentions you at all, I'm always asking him how you are. You'd think he never even remembers he has parents, mind you he says he's always been self-sufficient like that. Guess that's why we get on...'

Seriously though, your DH is key here. Does he stick up for you? Does he let them know that dissing his wife is crass, rude and unsupportive... as well as disrespectful to him?

VodkaJelly Fri 07-Nov-14 12:19:51

"Good job I dont give a shit what you think then isnt it"

Probably too brutal

But I have a low tolerance to PA shit. I fight back and dirty. Probably why my PIL and SIL doesnt like me, because I fight back.

Say if you really dont give a shit. The silence is fantastic!

mermaid101 Fri 07-Nov-14 12:26:54

He told them because he said he was really worried and needed someone to talk to. I think it was probably to "explain" why I hadn't been to visit them and he was bringing the DCs himself.

There is a bit of an issue here. He says that his parents are not hostile etc and I'm imaging it. I don't feel this way. If he hears the passive aggressive comments he says they are simply making conversation and there is no hidden meaning.

He said when he told his parents they were very sympathetic. This does not fit with my perception but he insists.

They were not very kind when they came to visit the new baby. His brother was openly incredulous that I had not " been out to see people" four days after my CS. When I pointed out I had just had a major operation and had an infection in my wound, my fil snapped " well you look alright to me"

When I mentioned this to my DH he said my fil was trying to compliment me and when I was out of the room, was telling everyone else how it was terrible I was out of hospial so soon and should be resting. I'm not sure why he didn't say this to me?

Thrholidaysarecoming Fri 07-Nov-14 12:31:55

Yes I'd be very fuckng annoyed that dh had given them this ammunition AND he should be bloody defending their PA comments.

You can think of lots of come backs (I do this a lot with mil - she always looks really shocked when I do ha!)

"Your not coping well" = " oh no were doing great ! Really looking forward to Xmas can't wait!"

OR you can avoid like the plague (which I do too) do you really have to go? Can dh not just take the kids and you put your feet up? And laugh at the though of their faux concern.

What ever you do, don't take it on the chin and let them be vile. They are bullies and do you really want bullies in your dc life? I'd be having a word with dh stating if he doesn't get them to back the fuck off, they can wave bye bye to their dgc. They don't have an automatic right to them.

cheerupandhaveaglassofwine Fri 07-Nov-14 12:33:23

I would be tempted with vodkajellys suggestion

Hope they get the right antibiotics to clear the infection up quickly for you

Thrholidaysarecoming Fri 07-Nov-14 12:35:14

FIL sounds like my FIL! Very clever in undermining people and making it out it's because cares!

You really need to find your voice. Is dc1 their dgc too?

Thrholidaysarecoming Fri 07-Nov-14 12:36:01

Love vodka response grin

BaffledSomeMore Fri 07-Nov-14 12:39:37

Can you fall back on the old "Sorry I don't understand that. What do you mean?" routine when they make comments?

mermaid101 Fri 07-Nov-14 12:40:56

Yes, both DC are their gchildren.

You're right, they are so "clever" it's hard to pin anything on them. And it means my DH either genuinely doesn't see anything wrong with their comments, or can pretend not to quite easily.

The occasion is a funeral so can't really not go and probably isn't the right time to insist on complete vigilance from DH. So I want to be ready armed to parry the comments myself. I am determined, no matter what the circumstances, that I will stand up for myself.

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 07-Nov-14 12:44:27

It is NOT your fault mermaid that his parents are the ways they are; they are very much a product of their own upbringing as is your DH at their hands. Such inbuilt conditioning takes an awful long time to undo as well and in your DHs case it may be too ingrained in him for him to ever back you up.

Many people use "tried and tested" methods when it comes to dealing with family members but when family members are difficult or unyielding, those methods do not work out. Its very difficult to actually stand up to such people thereafter because the rule book here re familial relations actually goes out the window when it comes to emotionally unhealthy and dysfunctional families. They simply do not operate in the same ways as normally healthy functioning families do, you can see that by the nature of the digs they get in. Its all very subtle and underhand and your DH either cannot or will not see it. Its not an apparent lack of assertiveness on your part that is the problem either, you likely get on very well with all other people in your social circle; its the ILs that are the problem.

You can change how you respond to them, there is no law to say that you must see such people anyway even if there are grandchildren. If you find them too difficult to deal with they could all too easily start on your children as well. They are not good grandparent models because of the ways in which they treat you.

Your DH I think would like all this to go away and for you all to get along and yes he is turning a blind eye to it. This is because he then would never have to say anything at all to his parents, I feel that he is acting in the ways he is as well because he is still seeking their approval even now and he does not want to "upset" them. He is far more afraid of them than he is of you. They have been "smart" here; they have not approached you directly but have used him which is also another tactic used by such people. Your DHs actions however are simply hurting his own family. The problem lies also very much with him; his primary loyalty should be to you now and not they.

From what you write of them I doubt very much if they have been at all "good" parents to your DH; they use their son for their own ends and are critical and nasty towards you. There is no law to say that you must get on with the relatives, you would not have put up with any of this from a friend and family are no different. I would suggest you read "Toxic Inlaws" by Susan Forward to further understand the dynamics.

You need to think in the short term about your own boundaries with regards to these people, you do not have to see them very much if at all. I do not think this can be repaired; these people do not want to be a part of that process of repair and their attitudes are too deeply ingrained.

BTW was your own mother highly critical as well?.

DinnaeKnowShitFromClay Fri 07-Nov-14 12:47:56

Could you not use the greatest standby ever...'Did you mean to be so rude?' There is no answer to it that someone can make and look good see? Brilliant that you are determined to stand up to these muttonheads. Your DH could do with getting his arse off the fence too!

mermaid101 Fri 07-Nov-14 12:49:03

Attila my mother is highly critical! She is a real expert in that regard!

captainmummy Fri 07-Nov-14 12:51:02

Mermaid - I think you've posted before? i have seen that comment before (FIL - 'well you look ok to me') and I would have instantly said something like 'but you can't see the wound! Would you like to have a look, to get a proper opinion? I'd pay money to see his face.

The best form of defence is attack (which I'd do) but at a funeral, maybe a PA smile, little laugh, ignore may be more appropriate.

captainmummy Fri 07-Nov-14 12:54:22

The great thing is that you are prewarned. It is the worst thing when you expect people to be nice, polite, well-mannered, to you and they actually aren't! If you know that everything they say will be PA shit, you can be on your guard, and waiting for it, rather than surprised into silence.

AvonCallingBarksdale Fri 07-Nov-14 12:56:30

OP, I really feel for you thanks I've found with my MiL that I just pick her up on it every single time she has a go at me in her "roundabout" way. I have friends who think I should just suck it up to keep the peace, but that doesn't make me feel very good and then I stew. It's quite fun really, just clocking her face as yet again she hasn't got away with belittling/undermining/criticising/comparing me.

mermaid101 Fri 07-Nov-14 13:07:57

Avon, could you tell me how you pick her up? It's doing this when the comments are subtle which I'm struggling with.

Thrholidaysarecoming Fri 07-Nov-14 13:10:12

The great thing is you are pre warned

captain it took me the best part of four years to get this in to my head. Stunned silence was often me.

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 07-Nov-14 13:13:11

This excerpt may prove helpful:-

"From your description your mother-in-law doesn’t sound like she knows or cares that she has this impact on you. You will need several tools to unhook from her cattiness and sly remarks. The main feature is to not let her activate your defensiveness. In other words, the work here is to ‘detach with love’ as the Al-Anon programs might say, and don’t take any of her bait.

There are three strategies that tend to work in these situations, and they come in varying degrees of leverage. All three have one thing in common, and that is to leave the discomfort with her rather than with you. This is not antagonistic, but rather leaving the problem at its origin, with her.

In his classic book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, Robert M. Pirsig referred to the fact that the Japanese have a notice at the beginning of their instructions on how to assemble a new purchase. The notice says (I am paraphrasing): “To begin, the assembler must be in the right frame of mind.” This is where you begin with your encounter with her. Begin in the right frame of mind, which is: This is her issue — do not let it become yours.

When she says an unkind comment or criticism offer back a simple descriptive statement of what she said: “It sounds like you’re unhappy with how I keep my home.” Or: “You seem disappointed in what was served for dinner.” In other words, let her criticisms and persecutions be hers. Again, don’t take the bait and feel the need to defend yourself. A descriptive statement allows you to stay present but not become overwhelmed by her taunts.

The second coping method is to respond with a statement that directly identifies the fact that the issue is hers. “It must be hard for you to feel so disappointed so often.” Or: “It seems like you are unhappy when you are here.”

The third encounter has a uniqueness to it because it is twofold. It uses a question as a way of undoing the hurtfulness behind her condescending or persecuting manner. After she has said something hurtful, ask a question: “When you say things like that, do you ever wonder what it might be like for me to hear?” “Or: “Are you aware how often you say things like that?” Or: “Are you this unhappy when you are at home?”

The second part of this depends on you, and what you feel is appropriate. The stance is the same: This is her issue; do not let it become yours. After she answers the question you may use the other strategies to stay engaged without becoming defensive.

Typically someone like your mother-in-law is skilled in not taking responsibility for his or her passive-aggressive hurtfulness, so a direct confrontation is usually unproductive. But offering some feedback in this second part might be helpful, as long as you keep your expectations low. After asking one of the questions in the previous paragraph, you might try adding something like: “…because when you say things like that it makes it hard for me to be around you.”

Don’t feel the need to explain or defend yourself. Doing so will get you nowhere but more frustrated. Just say what you feel is factual, then go back to the other strategies without trying to defend or criticize. Your job here is to protect yourself from feeling overwhelmed. With some practice your mother-in-law will learn that she isn’t upsetting you, but that her insults land back on her doorstep".

Thrholidaysarecoming Fri 07-Nov-14 13:23:22

mermaid just answer her back on everything.

My mil would often exclaim surprised that I'd eaten all my meal such as " WOW! holidays have you eaten all that, it would take me days!!!!

I'd reply "yes. But to be fair mil you only eat a roast potato all day so it would seem strange...(insert fake titter) = uncomfortable/surprised look off mil.

The other day here, she sat and slagged off one of her 'very good friends' by saying " I don't like sitting next to her as she looks like a lesbien and I don't want people to think I'm her girlfriend" shock

I responded with " what does a lesbian look like? I thought she was your friend?... Poor Julie " = uncomfortable mil.

It's really hard at first. I admit I was scared, she can be hostile and aggressive. Having dd and reclaiming my boundaries with her really helped. Once you take your first step it does get easier.

BUT. Your dh is key here. I went MAD at dp when mil used to comment on my eating because he though it was "a joke" and used to laugh and I really tore a strip off him on the last occasion. The next time she said something he pulled her on it.

The funny thing is dp is overweight, she is underweight and I'm a healthy size 10. Go figure.

rookiemater Fri 07-Nov-14 13:45:37

I would call them up on every single remark. You don't need to be rude or flippant or confrontational. When they say a weird passive aggressive thing, cock your head at them quizzically and say "Why do you ask/mention that ?". Or alternatively pretend that their comments are sincere "Why thank you FIL how nice of you to say that I look well?"
"Oh DH come over here, FIL is just saying how trim you look. What a compliment particularly with all those home cooked dinners that I make, that you so enjoy."

They sound really tricky to be around, sympathies.

AvonCallingBarksdale Fri 07-Nov-14 14:43:35

mermaid101, my MiL tends to criticise me in a voice that she thinks I can't hear, so will trail off at the end of a sentence. So, for example, she'll want to take the dog out for a walk and on one occasion, just one in the past, I opted to stay at home. So she'll say, "come on, then, let's take the dog out. <then mutters> Except for you, Avon, I don't suppose you'll want to do anything active" So, I say, for example, "Pardon, MiL, I didn't quite catch that bit at the end smile." That's my stock phrase for the mumbling. She thinks I'm a very fussy eater and "precious" about what the DCs eat. Often there are many dog hairs in the food she serves. I have slight food ishoos and once I've spied a stray hair, I can't, physically, then continue to eat that bit. It's my issue, not harming anyone. But she throws her hands up and shouts "Oh, for God's sake, you'll teach teh mini Avons to be as bad as you!". So, I respond with a smile adn a measured voice, with something like, "I find it hard to carry on eating with dog hairs in my mouth. I can't help it. I don't mind if the mini Avons pick up on that - I don't want them to eat dog hairs either smile." These are just a couple of examples, but the point is that I don't want her to think that it is OK to always be picking at people. She's done that with her own DC, and it shows. Fine. But I'm not playing that game, and won't be sucked in to it, nor allow the DC to be affected by the constant chipping away. I've found our relationship has improved since I've started picking her up on things - either that or she just ignores me more, which is fine too!

mermaid101 Fri 07-Nov-14 19:31:02

Captain, yes I have posted about them before and have mentioned the "well, you look fine to me" comment. Thanks for remembering!

It was just after the birth of my second DC. They had been monumentally unhelpful after my first and I was trying to be more assertive for the second. That maybe didn't go particularly well, but I am determined to keep working on this.

Attila, thank you so much for your detailed and very helpful responses. Interestingly many of theses responses will be fitting for dealings with my own mother. I will also be able to use them with my in laws.

My concern is that they may accuse me of being over sensitive or argumentative or pretend innocence, but I will try to think quickly and speak carefully.

Your posts make a lot of sense to me and I'm very greatful.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: