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Struggling with in-law relationship, help please(94 Posts)
I'm new here so hope I'm posting in the right place! I've written about the struggle I am having with maintaining any kind of healthy relationship with my mother in law, have not included everything but think the info below will give you a good picture of the situation
My mother in law has been trying to manipulate and guilt-trip us since I became pregnant last year (our baby is nearly a year old now). One of the first things she said was "I'll try not to interfere but you know I will". She assumed she would be in the labour room with us, and when we explained that it was a very private moment and it would just be the two of us she began getting watery-eyed and said she thought "we'd all be there". My pregnancy was incredibly difficult, my baby was small (always measuring 6 weeks behind), I had SPD and was on crutches, and I had to take my maternity leave at around 28 weeks. Even knowing this, my mother in law proceeded to shout over me to my consultant and tried to dictate the date on which I'd be induced despite it being against my wishes. I was getting a tough time at work because of my boss (he was found guilty of sexually harassing me), and when I got upset she called me weak, saying "well fiance wouldn't know what to do with you when you're like that because he's never seen me be weak".
When we found out we were having a girl (she had three boys), she became even worse. Since our baby has arrived she puts pressure on us for babysitting duties, gets jealous and makes us feel guilty if anybody else visits - including my family (Mum is 3 hours away, Dad lives abroad so visits are once every three months or so) and even her own sons. She visits more than anybody to try and appease her, but it doesn't work.
We have tried speaking with her about the way she is making us feel, but upon talking to her she went and told the family a manipulated version of the conversation and played the victim. It was incredibly stressful for us when we were just trying to put in place some healthy boundaries, and were very kind when we spoke to her. We had not mentioned the issues we were having with either of our families out of respect to her. She even spread lies during my fiancés brothers wedding reception, and said I was out of order for not letting her have our baby overnight. She had been drinking steadily throughout the day, our baby wasn't sleeping well and she has said before that she'd leave my fiance to cry when he was a small baby just because she was tired - I feel this is irresponsible as as parents we don't believe in leaving our child to cry. If she is crying there is a reason, even if it's just needing a cuddle which we always have time for because we want her to grow up feeling secure and knowing we care about her.
My fiancé and I have been having a very difficult time lately, mainly due to her behaviour. We missed a call from her, as we were out at the time and called her back later just to give her an update and we were going to arrange another visit with her. She used this conversation to cut off my fiancé from speaking, and chose to guilt-trip him on us wanting to spend our first Christmas with our daughter at home (we didn't say no visitors, we just want to relax as it's been such a busy year). She said "well it would have been nice if you wanted to spend Christmas with me", then told my fiance that we're shutting her out of our lives and we make her feel very unwelcome when she visits. This particularly hurt me as I've always made a lot of effort with her despite how she has treated me over these past 18 months or so. If I have the time, I even bake her a cake I know she likes ready for when she gets to our home. I've always considered these visits to be fine, we'd talk and share stories of what we'd been up to, we'd ask her if she wanted to feed our daughter her dinner (she always declined) and she has actually seen us more than anybody on either side of the family since our daughter arrived. Finally, she ended the conversation by telling my fiance she looks forward to getting an update, "whenever that might be", and slammed the phone down on him. Again I was hurt by this as I always make sure to send her photos each week and let her know what we're up to and if our daughter is doing anything new e.g. Crawling, standing up, etc.
It has got to a point now where we have tried to communicate our feelings to MIL, however she seems to have disregarded the whole conversation and has carried on as she was before. Despite all of this I have always encouraged my fiancé to make an effort with her, but she has really gone too far this time and my fiancé's health is starting to suffer - he has been diagnosed with depression which he mainly attributes to how his mother has treated him.
It feels as if nothing we ever do is good enough, we give her a lot of our time, at the expense of seeing other members of our family in an attempt to keep her happy, but this has clearly failed.
I don't know where this leaves us with regards to having any kind of a healthy relationship with her, she has continued to ignore our feelings and we are worried that she will behave in this way around our daughter as she grows older, and my daughter won't be aware that this is not the way we treat people.
Any help or suggestions about this situation would be very helpful. Thank you
You are right. Nothing you ever do is good enough, and nothing you can ever do will ever be good enough.
You and your fiancé need to internalise this, or you will never be able to deal with her.
Then decide what level of contact works for you as a family, impose it and stick to it. If she complains, reduce contact to the point where you are comfortable with it. I assume the more she complains the less you will want to see her.
People like that can't be pleased, they can only be managed. The sooner you both accept that, the better for all concerned.
Stop making an effort.
Stop encouraging him to see her. It's not your responsibility.
My mil assumed she would be present at the birth too and what an almighty shit storm she threw when we told her she wouldn't.
She will behave like this around your dd. Arse hole people turn in to arsehole GP.
I keep my mil at arms length. I've done all the bending over backwards shit. It doesn't matter a jot. I realised I'm a grown woman and not gong to be bullied by another adult. You can't stop dp from seeing her but you can manage your own life.
Be firm and don't fall for the crocodile tears. Prepare yourself for her behaviour when she is around so it doesn't shock you when she plays up. It's all just fakery to get what she wants so ignore and don't feed the 'monster'
Do what you want. Do what is best for you and your dd and maybe your dp if he is on your side.
Do what you want because you will never ever please this woman.
And why should you spend your life trying to please her anyway?
Let her guilt trip you. Let her cry. It's tough. She cannot control you. You have to let her know none of her crap works.
If she is still making trouble when
you are behaving reasonably then it will be time to not bother with her at all anymore.
People like this are toxic. And they tend to make the lives of those around them toxic too.
Thank you for your comments It's really helpful!
We have tried and tried to fix this with her, but she's always the victim. And I think you're all right by saying how whatever we do it'll never be ok/enough, and we need to stop trying to please her, etc.
After everything that has happened I feel like she doesn't bring anything positive into our lives, it's always drama and negativity and we're a very happy family when she goes quiet. The thing that worries me the most is any of her behaviour rubbing off on my daughter as she gets older.
Thanks again x
You will not be able to have any sort of healthy relationship with his mother because she is herself emotionally unhealthy and dysfunctional in nature. You would not put up with this from a friend, his mother is no different.
Nothing you do or say will ever be good enough and trying to establish any sort of relationship with her is and will be a mistake. Please do not encourage your fiancé to maintain a relationship with her.
Your mistake here has been to try and apply the "normal" rules of familial interaction to someone like his mother who is inherently unreasonable. The rule book actually goes out the window when it comes to such toxic relatives like his mother. They do not ever apologise nor accept any responsibility for their actions. His mother would have acted in the same ways regardless of whom he married; it is not his fault or yours that she is as dysfunctional as she is.
I would keep your child well away from her; if she cannot or will not behave decently she gets to see none of you. You need firm and consistently applied boundaries with regards to his mother; your boundaries are set far too low currently and she is walking all over them at your expense.
I would also suggest you now read "Toxic Inlaws" by Susan Forward to further understand the dynamics here (this is really all about power and control).
I would speak to your fiancé and ask him if he wanted to cut all contact with her. This has to be a decision led by him though, although of course you need to give your opinion.
If she always plays the victim, then let her. Give her something to genuinely complain about for once. Face it, if she is always doing this, then everyone around her is going to eventually know that she's always just crying wolf for attention.
She won't accept any of your boundaries. It sounds like you have tried talking to her to no avail. The next step really is to get angry (but not shoutey), tell her that you are both DONE appeasing her, putting up with her moods, her criticism, her nit picking and her victim complex. She isn't welcome in your home until she can stop fucking around. Then hang up on her.
Block her number. Get your keys back. Ignore her if she turns up at the house. If she gets persistent, call the police.
You both sound like very lovely, but quite passive people. I think you might need to actually put your foot down here.
Agreed with everyone else
this is just too stressful for you and you can't her her ruling your lives and your daughter's lives through not-very-subtle railroading and manipulation (the victimization thing).
So I'd say stop making an effort. You can be there for if she starts to act reasonably but stop reaching out and stop accommodating her. Say No if you need to "that doesn't work for us".
She will not take it well. People hate changes to the status quo and self-willed people hate it when they don't get their own way. But again, you are doing the right thing in curbing this excess. Stand strong together!
How to handle the strops she'll throw? Togther. Handle them together. Talk to each other about what she is likely to do in order to plan how to handle it. It prepares you mentally and planning how to handle it gives you some strategies that can come to your aid at the time.
Plan also to handle the winged monkeys, the people she'll arrange who'll say "oh but she only wants to see her grandchild" ("she's welcome to, when it suits us as well as her"; "I'm sorry that she's lonely but she can come and see us, but she needs to develop interests outside only the grandchild as well; everyone has their own busy lives and so do we").
I do think that it's reasonable to give her some time with the baby, but I would make sure it's when one of you is with her. The drinking all day - was that a one-off for the party, or is it regular? Drinking aside, the manipulative stuff around the victimization is pretty unhealthy.
She will hate these changes but they are healthy and necessary. Your fianee's health is more important than anything else except the baby's and your own!
And don't get your keys back. Change the locks. Probably unnecessary but just in case - and it will give you peace of mind.
Ditto what has been said above. Whatever you give, you may find that she will always immediately change her focus on the next thing or concession she hasn't got, she is acting out her internal script whatever that might be.
If it helps to see this through a different lense, I'm getting the Christmas version of this with SF right now: his internal script is all about he's ugly and unwanted and will be abandoned (courtesy of his bloody mother) and it comes out in an issued list of things via the flying monkeys that he Must Not be given for Christmas (any item of clothing or toiletries is interpreted as a malicious insult, he may never speak to you again), a casual social chat becomes WW3, he will not be in the same house as me currently because saying he looked cold, did he want a hot drink after a long journey was apparently a declaration of war. You're on eggshells constantly because what is happening in reality and what is happening in his head through the filters of his eyes are two completely different things. Kindness and patience and reassuring gestures never help because in his eyes they're loaded with all kinds of connotations and malicious intents and triple think.
It's hard but I've had to realise there is no way to have a good relationship with him, it will not be possible to please him, I don't have a copy of the rules he's playing life by. And while I have the deepest sympathy for the damage done to him, I understand it and I do actually like him... he is a yawning black hole of Need, and there will be no such thing as 'enough', because the only person that can fill it is himself. If and when he ever becomes able to do that, he may be able to stop desperately trying to use and manipulate everyone around him to meet his need, and being permanently angry and upset that they don't do it right and it doesn't work.
You will never satisfy someone like this. Have limited contact and focus on the good things in you own little family. Good luck
What every single other person has said.
She is a toxic loon - she will get worse.
Dont try to be polite or be worried what others think - they all know she is a toxic loon even if they have not voiced it.
You will never ever please her - she will destroy your family.
You are lucky that you df is on your side and can see her for what she is.
My MIL is a toxic loon too (add alcoholic as well) - I spent far too long tolerating and accommodating her bad/mad behavior and trying to please her.
She absorbed all of our energy and time -- I was distracted by this as I tried to please her - in the mean time my own gorgeous mother died suddenly.
I really regret the emotion and time I gave to my toxic loony MIL who is still here instead of spending my time with my dc with my own lovely mother.
Life is short - spend time with positive people - cut out toxic people even if they are blood.
Your df needs professional support. He has endured this abuse all his life.
She will never be satisfied; nothing will ever be enough; she will always make things up to make you the bad guy(s) no matter how much you bend over and lick her boots.
STOP. There's no point on carrying on like this.
Concentrate on what works for you, your dp and your child.
Be very very firm. You have to make time for yourselves, as well as for other relatives - especially your mum too. My MIl was like this too, and in an effort to stop her whinging (how long has your mum been here this week, Jux? for instance) I made sure that it was strictly equal. So my mum missed out because MIL was jealous and difficult - not fair at all, and meant I didn't get as much help as I needed either.
MIL also demanded a whole day every week with dd when she was a toddler, so I found a whole day which suited her though it didn't suit me, and then she wouldn't turn up. In fact it she had dd twice. I stopped trying to get her to do it - she obviously didn't really want to - and then at Xmas that year, she said very loudly in front of her whole family "Oh Jux, I do so hope you'll let me see dd more next year." I don't know how I kept silent.
So don't do it to yourselves. Be firm and take no shit.
Thank you so much for all your replies I feel a lot stronger knowing that I'm doing the right thing by my family in sorting this once and for all. It's not fair to keep living by someone else's (impossible!) standards.
I had been worrying about a possible fallout with the rest of my in-laws as they're all lovely people, but they do know what she's like and have had run-ins with her in the past. What I've realised is that I just need to do what's right for me and my family, and accept that if somebody did decide to take sides then that's ok, I'm still going to do what I need to do.
My parents (who are divorced) have both said that they don't dare ask to see us because they know how much hassle we get when we've spent time with other people, this upset me so much as my fiancé and I are really close with them both and they're lovely grandparents. Fiance has said from now on we work on our time, nobody else has kicked off because of what we do so that should be telling us that it's MIL's problem, not ours.
I'm unsure how to go about telling MIL that I am not interested in trying to keep her happy anymore. My fiancé wants me to cease contact with her, as he knows how much stress and pain shes caused me. He is unsure about whether he is going no contact or having very limited contact, he's going to decide what he's doing if/when she calls, as if it turns into another guilt-trip with no apology he is done with her.
Thanks all for your help! means a lot xx
Also sorry I forgot to mention, after not speaking to either of us for a week she emailed me last night as if nothing had happened! "Hi, how is dd, etc". Makes me think theres something not right about her xx
"My fiancé wants me to cease contact with her, as he knows how much stress and pain shes caused me".
Do this, also he has had a lifetime of her toxic behaviours unlike yourself. Such people like his mother simply cannot be at all reasoned with and do not respond to reasoned argument. The "rule book" of dealing with familial relations really does go out the window when it comes to such dysfunctional and disordered people like his mother.
As mentioned by PPs, do try the book Toxic Parents by Susan Lawson, about £5 on Kindle. It's like an overview of all MN threads about MiLs ever mentioned, plus scripts and descriptions of how to go about laying down boundaries and dealing with the tantrums.
Make sure that you communicate your intentions as being from BOTH of you together, so that she does not attempt to blame you and drive a wedge between you.
Keep it v simple, be crystal clear what the boundaries are, keep to the simple script, repeat and ignore, repeat and ignore - until she goes away.
Your df by maintaining reduced contact is operating out of FOG (fear, obligation and guilt) just because she is a blood relative. He does not owe her this - she is a toxic loon who will continue to be destructive. Really this will be the chink in the armor where she will continue to seep in and pollute your family with her toxicity. You and your df will need to be clear with each other what these specific boundaries are (ie he sees or talks to her x times a month for x amount of time, he does this without your daughter, he provides zero info about you, your daughter or your family in these conversations, it is just formal, short and polite). It is his mother and his call - but you both need to be informed of the risks you take when you make this choice.
Expect her to go ballistic and do mad things like approach and then try to manipulate your friends & family with ridiculous stories of victimization. She will try every avenue to try to break back into your life.
Remain dignified, you do not have to give a blow by blow account to F&F - but have a standard response eg "She is difficult, we need our space" and firm on your decision.
Do not accept any promises to be good from her (although this is unlikely with these types of loons).
Look forward to spending your new found freedom (emotional and physical) with the lovely people in your life - who will nourish your family.
Your parents reaction says it all -- do not let MIL steal or pollute another minute of your precious time and emotions with you family.
My fiancé wants me to cease contact with her, as he knows how much stress and pain shes caused me. He is unsure about whether he is going no contact or having very limited contact, he's going to decide what he's doing if/when she calls, as if it turns into another guilt-trip with no apology he is done with her.
Yes, cease contact. Just let it die. If she contacts either of you again, discuss between you how you will respond and what you want best for your family before either of you do anything.
You are the parents now, it is your decision as to who sees your kids and when.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
I would block her texts, emails, phone number - she will still wound you even if you read but choose not to respond. Do not read her texts - do not expose yourself to her toxicity. If you df chooses to remain in contact with her - he must not tell you anything about their conversations - this is another way the toxicity can seep in and burn you.
Your fiance has given you a chance to keep right out of it, so take it, you have no idea how many women would give their eye teeth to have a dp or dh saying "you go nc, I'll deal with it"!
Yes, talk about it with him, and do what you can to help and support him, and be aware that she will plumb the very depths and then a
lot bit lower still, but take your get out of jail free card and use it.
Thanks everyone for your input
She has emailed me again just now, very breezy email about nothing in particular. She hasn't attempted to contact fiancé since she hung up on him a week ago.
We've spoken more today and fiancé has said MIL's on her last chance with him. She has to make contact (he won't call her), has to apologise for the stunts she's pulled and listen to exactly how we both feel about her. If she tries to guilt-trip/manipulate/play the victim then he's done. Also he's said that MIL will have incredibly limited contact with dd, e.g. She is not to come to our home, he will go over there when it suits him and us as a family, and she will never be left alone with dd - any shit and he packs up and leaves and that's it.
It's not always been this way, because fiancé grew up with all of this it took until the end of my pregnancy (still trying to get in the room up until I was being induced, claiming to have made our baby, she was going to babysit as soon as we were discharged!) for him to see her for who she really is. She's completely ruined our first year with our baby and she's not getting any more of my time. There are 4 sets of grandparents (both sets of parents are divorced), lots of uncles and aunts and friends, and she's never felt that they deserved to have time with us and to bond with dd too. It's really sad because she could have had it all - she lives locally and if she was balanced, trustworthy and decent yes we would have let her babysit regularly. But her actions have dictated all of this so I don't feel guilty at all for the decision we've made.
I realise not everybody is as lucky so I really feel for those out there if they're in an even worse situation, sending big hugs! Thank you all again for your advice Xx
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