Asking for feedback in understanding my MIL and hopefully be civil and caring(27 Posts)
I know, another MIL thread!
My MIL is not a full on Narcisscist but she does have certain tendencies, in fact maybe I need to do a bit more research. I have been married 18 years and my MIL is in another nation, and I am not in the UK. She is traveling to stay with us for 6 weeks (I know) which I agreed to.
She can be good company, fun and with a GSOH. She raised a great son and we are happily married. However she has tendencies like wanting us to sort of parent her and take responsibility for her (in fact she regularly tries to persuade my DH to buy her a house, although we do not own a house at the moment) and at certain times she has exploded at me, one time on the phone when I was in the hospital alone with a seriously ill baby. I am good at maintaining boundaries so she knows she cannot push me or manipulate me although she guilt trips DH on a regular basis.
She is not arriving for a couple more weeks, I am not sure what I am asking here maybe just steeling myself? After reading another thread on here I thought I would start my own as I think she is trying to persuade DH to let her sleep in our living room rather than the guest apt 5 min drive away. I will talk to DH about it and that will get sorted but I am getting hints of what to expect on the horizon.
I suppose I am looking for some emotional support? Or opening a thread that could run for the next 2 months??!
I can't really comment on the manipulation side of things, but all I know is that 6 weeks is a very long time to spend in someone else's house, let alone the front room! I wouldn't even have my own mother for 6 weeks (unless it's an emergency of course).
What is the problem with the flat? Any guest would be so happy to have that level of independence whilst still being close to the loved ones they're visiting! Especially for 6 weeks!
I read your post as I am a MiL (!)
The local guest house is a very good idea for your MiL to stay in. 6 weeks in someone else's house is a very long time. What are your plans for when she is staying?
Well there will be plenty to do in the run up to Christmas and she absolutely loves to shop so I will take her shopping and we have a ton of Christmas activities locally. Her youngest 19 yr dd (who was adopted after we married) is flying in for two weeks at Christmas and DH has at least a week if not 10 days off at that time. I think we may all travel as a family somewhere at that time.
I cannot quite remember but I think she originally wanted to come for a lot longer. I do remember that she, DH and SIL were arranging the dates she was coming and even flight details without checking with me. I told them all that was not ok especially as I would be the one most affected by her visit. So I picked the dates which had to include Christmas. I thought it was better she be here a month in Jan rather than Nov as I would have more free time.
I may also travel with her for about 4 days in late Jan.
Yes, most people (in fact everyone else) is delighted to have their own space but I think MIL sees it as a rejection. It was fine when the apt was next door to our last home. We always make an effort to make it comfortable and have food in the fridge and flowers etc.
Will she able to get herself from the apartment to your home? Or have to rely on you and dh getting her? Maybe she's thinking she will be sort of left out if she's not able to come over under her own stream.
My mum comes for seven weeks when she comes but she does some things on her own.
Well the set-up sounds like a very good compromise for a long stay guest.
As posted up thread; Will she be able to get a taxi easily from apartment to you, or can she hire a car for part of her stay?
Well I am perfectly happy to pick her up and take her back any time, its more like two minutes away very close. I want to make sure we give her a phone so she can contact us easily.
It would be an option to hire a car but Im not sure if DH would want to spring for it. (Please excuse my lack of punctuation my keyboard is on the fritz).
She would always be welcome to come over whenever she wants. She often likes to take a nap and so having her own space would seem like a good compromise. MIL doesn't really have good boundaries so if Im honest for my sanity this would help me be the DIL I want to be while she is our guest.
My DH naturally loves his mum very much and at the same time I think he forgets how he can also get quite stressed when they are together a lot.
I don't think MIL sees us as having a natural right to privacy, for example when we were engaged she opened letters I sent DH and read them out loud to other people. It was a good heads up and I have been careful in what she gets access to ever since.
SavoyCabbage my MIL will not do anything on her own, she will want to be with us all the time. I have been working on contract up until recently when I decided to get a further post grad qualification, so I do have an excuse each day to be alone and study which could well be my sanity saver.
I can take her with me to meet friends and I have various groups Im part of she would be welcome to come along to, although we are going to our big Christmas parties before she comes.
I think you are really sensible and in control. You have manged this really well so far. Just watch her nibbling away at boundaries and nip each one in the bud. Post here for a sense check. How well does she get on with the 19 yr old? Could you hire a car just for this period in the hope that they would clear off and do stuff together.....but it worries me that with a car she will be screeching up to yours at the crack of dawn. When you dh is around ie after work you need to use this time as respite find a new hobbie, join a gym , have loads of meet ups with friends planned.
Are there very different cultural expectations? From the sound of it maybe she is extremely family orientated and expects to be able to stay a looooong time because it's normal for the people she knows? Is there a touch of the cultural Matriarch about her, because that's what grandmothers are? (just asking).
You don't mention her husband, is he deceased? If so she's probably feeling pretty lonely and wanting reassurance that she is loved and needed ... and perhaps she's being a bit lazy in not handling her financial affairs herself if she wanted your husband to buy her a house. Hinting at the front room to stay in could be a touch of the same thing, wanting to feel she's central because she's no longer essential to her family's survival now her youngest daughter is a full adult and can look after herself.
I'm extrapolating a lot here mind you =) If any of it clicks though, then maybe making a touch of extra fuss might make her feel good. Is her culture demonstrative? English reserve can be quite unnerving if you come from a different background. If you do make a bit of a fuss about her though, you might still need to be very firm about the boundaries.
Gotta say though that it sounds like you're handling it really well overall.
She is from an English speaking nation, so some cultural differences but not radical ones.
She is divorced. When DH and I were getting together we were again thousands of miles away from his family so I didn't realize their divorce had just happened so everything was still very fresh (of course this is two decades ago). To begin with I was looking forward to a close relationship with her but over the years I have realized this is just not on the cards because I have to protect myself from her.
She has a huge problem with money. She spends every penny she has and anyone else's she has access to. For example her 19 yr old DD who lives at home had her first job and was saving money. MIL went out and bought her dd a car with all her dds money without discussing it with her and the car had a lot of problems. No apologies.
She is always in a state of financial crisis although she had a good job before she retired and made lots of money on homes she owned that gained lots of equity during the increase in house prices in the last 15 years. She spent it all and is always in debt. My DH gives her money but she always needs more.
When we were first married she called DH hysterical that she had no money to eat and he was so stoic on the phone, the more hysterical she got the more cold he seemed to become. I thought he was being a heartless bastard but after all these years I realize it is how he copes. He says giving money to his mum is like flushing it down the loo. I helped her a lot initially until I got burned a few times.
Maybe I am being unkind saying all this.
I wouldn't but I am so far removed from the UK these days noone will know anyone involved.
I do feel for her because I know we all have weaknesses and screw up and she is still my DHs mum and our kids grandma.
Can you, before she arrives, plan what you're going to do each day when she is here and leave a calendar of events already arranged in the guest apartment where she will be staying? Leave a few days as quiet days and mark them down as things you need to do by yourself (be that study or shopping or whatever) as you will need to get away and have time apart from each other during the 6 week visit.
Does she have a key to your house that she might let herself in using? Hopefully she doesn't and that you wont wake up to find her making tea/coffee in your kitchen.
By the way, have a budget that you stick to for each day if she isn't able to control her spending habits, you might have to.
Best of luck to you and come back and let us know how you're getting on.
Sounds like your DH at least understands a bit.
This is good. Because what you need to do is sit him down and spell it out, absolutely clearly, that she will be staying in the guest apartment. That there will be no compromise on this from you, and this is because you know, and so does he, that she will have a better time if she does.
She wants constant company. If she's in the apt, you will be able to cope with this. You will be able to recharge batteries and therefore be willing to spend more time and be great with her. If she's in your home, you'll go insane. You will need to get away. There is a good chance you will blow your top. Six weeks. Too long. Too risky. Let's not look back at a screaming row in week 5, or even a clearly strained atmosphere from week 4 on, and say 'She should have stayed in the apt'.
Tell him you don't want to dump more responsibility on him, but if she ends up in the house, he is going to have to spend significantly more time alone with her, because to get your downtime you are going to have to go away. Probably for a weekend or something in the middle of her trip...
Bottom line, six weeks is a LONG time. Plenty of people simply wouldn't do it. You are. He needs to appreciate that, and respect your boundaries.
We had boundary issues with my MIL, and after DH and I had a huge row about something she had pushed him into, we decided that the correct response from DH was always "I will discuss it with my wife and let you know".
We presented a united front and all decisions were them made jointly. Also, it allowed her to believe I was the bad guy influencing her son, whereas really it gave my DH an out for a lot of the requests.
"I do feel for her because I know we all have weaknesses and screw up and she is still my DHs mum and our kids grandma".
And that precisely is your problem because you being a genuinely nice person wants to see the good in everybody no matter how crap MIL has treated other people as well as you over many years. You've already been subjected to her rage and she's going to come to yours now for six weeks. I think you need to carefully examine your own reasons as to why you agreed that at all.
(I was not at all surprised to read that such a woman is divorced. Narcissistic women cannot do relationships at all well so many men who marry such types either find themselves gone or are actually narcissistic themselves).
Your boundaries are not bad but they need to be improved further and raised even higher now. She was not a good parent to your H and neither is she a good grandparent figure to your children. Infact narcissists make for being deplorably bad grandparents.
Yes we all have weaknesses and mess up but you are not a narcissist unlike his mother. This woman is in an entirely different league to you in that she messes up and continuously to boot. I sincerely hope that your H does not hand over cash to her any longer because such people do spend like there's no tomorrow.
She certainly needs to stay in separate accommodation to you people. If she does not like it tough. That's a boundary you can and must employ here. Having her at all in your home will drive you all to complete distraction.
Thank you so much everyone! It really helps to share this with others, even in cyber space.
Thanks for your thoughts Atilla but she is really not a full blown Narc. She can emphasize with others and put others before herself. As I said originally she just has some "tendencies", also with Borderline. She really doesn't fit either of those categories, it's more that reading about PDs does help to see that certain behaviors are not normal. I would say what she is mostly is emotionally quite immature, it's more like dealing with a teenager. She can definitely be genuinely kind and considerate but volatile like teens can be.
She is a one of 5 sisters and their dad died when she was a young child, she has told me she was sexually abused which makes sense as her views of sex and sexuality are very weird and confused. Their stepdad was a tyrant by all accounts. So I think it all stems from her childhood. She can be quite paranoid and come up with the most bizarre explanations for people's behaviour - they are not lies as she genuinely believes them!
She also wasn't a terrible mum to DH. He is very intelligent and successful, happily married and a great dad. He is balanced and we have a very mellow home life as neither of us are interested in drama. They are very close and love each other very much. I didn't know him obviously when he was young but my guess is MIL was quite engulfing and had seriously high expectations of him which he has fulfilled. (She told me she always told him he was going to be a lawyer, doctor or priest and he is a very successful one of these but not a priest!). But he is also very creative and artistic. He recently bought himself a pottery wheel and is making loads of stuff.
But I do think I have helped him put some boundaries up - not because I have got between them but DH and I are not controlling of each other - I would say we give each other lots of emotional space and freedom to be ourselves because I think we both had people trying to control us before. I think that has enabled him to see clearly when his mum is stepping over the line.
He told me yesterday she told him she needs root canal work done and wants him to put her on his insurance when she's here but he said no.
You have to do what you need to not to go crazy but...
If I was travelling from another country, I'd want to be part if family life in the family home, not off in an apartment somewhere.
I get that you need space, but can you compromise and have her at yours on the weekends, or for 2 Xmas weeks of the 6 weeks?
If you can't cope with that, you can't - but I think you should appreciate that whilst the independence and privacy sound great to ME, it isn't that great for everyone.
Also, tbh, I'd rethink your activities. You say about her issues with spending - but want to spend lots of time shopping because she likes that so much.
I just thought, isn't that like saying "my MIL is a functioning alcohol. She's coming for 6 weeks. Think I'll take her to the pub a lot - she'll like some drinking sessions". Maybe it isn't as extreme... But I felt a bit uncomfortable reading it.
Personally, I think that he needs to take time off when his family are visiting, and not delegate this to you - if he has a week off, what about the other 5?
And yes, I'd also avoid taking her shopping bearing in mind her money issues.
I'd say in future - that you won't be there to facilitate all she wants to do so she needs to be aware of that. I'd also put up a schedule/timetable somewhere in the house so that you have allocated time for study/essays/research outside of the home [library etc] so that she doesn't just expect to be at your house mithering you all the time.
And as mentioned beware all the small steps over boundaries. Set a time for taking her back at night, every night.
I am not suggesting giving her a credit card and letting rip, I just mean I will still need to pick up a few gifts and I know she will love coming out and helping to choose them she enjoys helping to spend money too. Her spending is like alcoholism but she will have no money of her own (because she is always skint due to overspending) so just like a teen we will give her a bit of money to play with.
At Christmas her dd will be here for two weeks so she will not be alone in the apt. I am not suggesting leaving her in the apt for days alone she will still be with us most of the time. We also have 3 kids who are very busy as we all get up around 6am (dh leaves for work at 6.15 and we leave at 7.20 am) so being in the living room would be hard for her and all the family. We have no spare room in this house. She has been here before and stayed in the same apt we just lived closer.
My DH cannot take any more time off. Impossible. It will be OK, I am quite a tough bird. Maybe that is why he chose me!
My DH cannot take any more time off. Impossible.
My point wasn't to encourage him to take more time off, but to encourage you to tell her that she needs to come over for less time...because he can't take more time off.
We are all OK with the time frame which was discussed and decided months ago.
I have been thinking today and I called DH at lunch to suggest that after Christmas just he and his mum travel somewhere and not all of us. He wasn't enthusiastic and said he will probably stay home but I explained it would be a good break for his mum and I and they could splurge more if we were not paying for 7 people as they cold share 1 room. Even it was only 4 or 5 days. I know he really likes to be with me and the kids but he may go for it.
I really think that you are doing as well as is possible here.
Your MIL has features of a personality disorder even though you feel she does not meet full criteria. You are aware of this and put boundaries in place. Be strong and keep to your boundaries.
She may respond to a form of communication known as SET (support, empathy, truth).
Eg "We want you to be with us at Christmas and we are looking forward to seeing you
I understand that you may feel a little isolated staying in the annexe
However at such a busy time it will not be possible for you to sleep in the main house and the annexe is really very comfortable"
Her behaviour is not reasonable-don't expect yourself to be a saint and like it.
You are coping very well with this and time to yourself will be crucially important.
I'm not going to start trying to do an internet diagnosis here. She sounds slightly hard work and you sound extremely sensible. I would perhaps allow her to stay at yours once or twice so she feels included but be pretty ruthless about staying at the apartment otherwise. As you say it's much more comfortable all round.
I would try very hard to divvy her up so you take a turn, DH does a shift and then both of you together with some very regular slots where she has to entertain herself. She speaks the language and there a millions of amazing things to do in this country. Perhaps leave her some leaflets or a visitor guide to your area.
Can you also find her simple tasks to 'help' you such as shopping for small items, helping wrap gifts , making mince pies? So nothing that's a true chore but will keep her occupied and feel valued.
I couldn't do it so hats off to you but management is totally the way to go. Do update.
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