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Should dh try to build a relationship with his mother or steer clear?

(12 Posts)
uptheroad Fri 14-Nov-14 12:12:02

I have always had a very strained relationship with MIL who I find very cold, rude and unfriendly. She is very unloving towards DH and totally disinterested in his life, work etc. This extends to our own dc who she has never shown any attention since they were born (eldest dc now 11). She is very good and keeping up appearances though so we always get asked what they/we want for christmas/birthdays. She agrees, we buy the pressies and she sends us a cheque.

We went to stay last christmas and she made us feel so unwelcome - shouting at dh for eating the childrens' cereal, shouting at me because i didn't want cake in the afternoon, huffing and puffing, ignored the dc. It was so bad that as we were leaving she did apologise for being 'stressed', but it upset dh for days after and even made him physically sick with the worry.

We decided to give her a wide berth for a while and this year have only seen her once at a public park. During the day she wandered off, told dh off, didn't speak to the dh then cheered up as we all left and gave the dc books too young for them.

Dh phones her regularly through guilt, but after the last time he thought he would see how long it took her to phone him. It took 4 and a half weeks then he got a text message saying she hopes he is ok. He then starts to feel guilty that it is somehow his fault. This isn't helped by the fact she seems to have a good relationship with his eldest sister who she sees often and phones most days. However, she has a similarly bad relationship with his other sister who he is close to. She has no contact with the sister who gets on with MIL.

I struggle with all this and hate my MIL, but then worry that i should support him to improve his relationship with his mother. I just wanted some unbiased views. Thanks.

tribpot Fri 14-Nov-14 12:28:09

Steer clear. How can he possibly improve this relationship?

If he wanted to be entirely open and honest with her about her behaviour and its effects on the family, he could potentially rebuild things with her in a constructive way. But I'm quite sure he doesn't want to do that. So how on earth can he influence a change in her behaviour? He can't.

What he needs to do is learn not to feel guilty. All the text said was she hopes he's okay - he only has to reply 'yes fine thanks, hope you are too', job done.

Sounds very much like one sister is the golden child and the other sister and your DH are the scapegoat children. Your DH would be better off learning about toxic families and how to deal with them - and how it genuinely isn't his fault that he's not in favour.

uptheroad Fri 14-Nov-14 12:39:18

Thanks. It is really reassuring to hear you opinion. I just cannot understand how a mother can be so uncaring to her children. I really want to help dh come to terms with the way she is and stop feeling it is his fault.

TheLittleOneSaidRollOver Fri 14-Nov-14 12:53:52

I recommend the book "The Emotionally Absent Mother". Also "Toxic Parents".

worry that i should support him to improve his relationship with his mother

Some people aren't cut out to be parents. Doesn't always stop them from having children though.

If you have a normal family on your own side then you might find it hard to accept that some people just can't be good mothers.

There's no point trying to make a person into something you want them to be but that they are not. He has to both accept and mourn that his DM is not what he would like her to be.

support him to improve his relationship with his mother is a bit victim blaming too. Those of us with toxic parents often find that others assume that it must be the child who is difficult because of course everyone loves their children and although all parents make mistakes ultimately everyone is doing the best they can for their children, ergo the child is not trying hard enough. Maybe you could support him in accepting that his relationship with his mother will never be like your relationship with your mother or your relationship with your DC.

TheLittleOneSaidRollOver Fri 14-Nov-14 12:55:03

Sorry x-post. Glad you want to help him come to terms with the way she is and stop feeling it is his fault. A supportive partner is a wonderful thing in these situations. My DH is my rock.

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 14-Nov-14 12:56:56

You all need to steer well clear of his mother. You would not have put up with any of that from a friend, family are no different. Your DH and his mother have no relationship to speak of here; she likely regards him as the scapegoat for all her inherent ills with his sister being the favoured golden child (itself a role not without price but she does not realise that). His mother was not a good parent to him and unsurprisingly she is a rubbish grandparent model to your children as well. Some people really should not be allowed any access to their grandchildren, your DHs mother is a case in point.

It is not your fault or his that his mother is the way she is; her own family of origin did that lot of damage to her.

"Normal" ways of interacting and dealing with such people does not work when it comes to dysfunctional family members.

You likely come from a family of origin which is emotionally healthy and nice. Not all families as you have all too clearly seen are emotionally healthy and your DHs mother is very dysfunctional.

Many now adult children of such people are mired in FOG with regards to their parents; FOG is an acronym for fear, obligation and guilt.

I would suggest you read "Toxic Inlaws" by Susan Forward to further understand the dynamics because this is really about power and control. I would give your DH a copy of Toxic Parents written by the same author and encourage him to speak to a counsellor.

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 14-Nov-14 12:58:04

Do take heed of the other respondents words as well, they are on the money here.

uptheroad Fri 14-Nov-14 13:18:45

Thanks so much. I am relieved that I have not been misreading this situation, although deep down I knew I wasn't. It is just the fact that I thought all mothers would only want a close loving relationship with their dc. It is so sad. Dh is such a kind, loving man any normal mother would be proud of him, but he is far closer to my parents (who love him) than he has ever been with his mum.

pippinleaf Fri 14-Nov-14 13:22:53

My mum is the same with me and my husband has been wonderfully supportive by reassuring me that she's the one who is behaving badly and that he fully supports my decision to have nothing further to do with her. I feel horribly guilty but he's sticking by me, he listens and marvels at some of the stories I tell about her and this helps reaffirm my decision. This might be more supportive than trying to fix something that is broken.

Meerka Fri 14-Nov-14 14:14:36

Reading that your post I thought exactly the same as littleone then realised she'd said everyting I wanted to smile

Some people aren't cut out to be parents.

It really takes two to make a relationship and it seems like at least 80% of the running comes from your husband.

I think rather than helping him build a relationship, it will help him most if you step back and unobtrusively support him in not building a relationship as such, but letting her do it. Then as and when your husband has decent, none-critical and constructive contact with her, support him in ringing her now and then. But it can't be done until she improves her approach towards him and actually makes an effort.

Hissy Fri 14-Nov-14 14:19:01


don't, Whatever you do force him to have contact with her. he'll not have taken any decision about his 'D'M lightly.

support him, she sounds awful and you all sound well rid of her.

Joysmum Fri 14-Nov-14 14:27:12

You can only build a relationship when both are doing the building. You can't if one person is doing all the work and putting in twice as much effort can't make up for the other persons lack of effort.

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