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Is this Triangulation?

(8 Posts)
OverwhelmingEvidence Tue 21-Jul-15 12:54:04

or am I reading far too much into it? I just don't get what is going on here. Well I think I do and then...doubt myself.

DH and I live in the same village as PIL. SIL (DH's sister) lives a 2 hour drive away. PIL seem to want to be at the centre of ALL meetings and communication between DH (and his family) and SIL (and her family) and will lie and shit-stir to keep DH and SIL slagging each other off to them - but then claim to me that they want to see them getting on better...they seem to thrive on the drama.

I've got a decade of anecdotes and wouldn't know where to start sharing those so I'll keep it to the latest one. It was been a couple of years since DH and I started dealing with it by contacting SIL directly (and slowly mending the broken relationship) and refusing to be drawn into slagging her off.

PIL were round yesterday and we were chatting. I shared what we had planned for the summer and that we (me and the DC) had arranged to meet up with SIL and her DC for some camping half-way between our homes for a couple of nights. They looked really put out and kept going on about how they didn't know about it (SIL and I had only arranged it 24 hours previously). They didn't look pleased at all. This is not the first time I have seen this reaction. I've mentioned in the past that the DC and I are going to visit them for the day and we get the same response. The very first time it happened the immediate response from MIL was to point out that SIL et al had been down last week (i.e. they didn't bother coming to see you, just us, so you should be annoyed now and not bother going to see them).

I should add here that the ILs definitely wouldn't camp and see a LOT of SIL and her family (for years they would have them down but not tell us they were coming or invite us round to see them. We both got wise to it and now SIL emails when she is coming and we invite them all round to our house) so it wouldn't be that they feel excluded. They also go and visit them a lot.

I could go on and on. They have done many many other, what I consider, odd and manipulative things in the past that don't include SIL at all.

All the other families I know are pleased when their adult siblings have a good relationship and meet up! Why are they doing this?!

pocketsaviour Tue 21-Jul-15 15:39:00


a read of "Toxic In Laws" by Susan Forward might be a good idea for you!

Anniegetyourgun Tue 21-Jul-15 15:43:31

They seem to have some difficulty seeing their offspring as human beings in their own right who can interact independently, to be honest. It's like you shouldn't be doing anything unless they take you out of your respective boxes and authorise you to play together.

Lottapianos Tue 21-Jul-15 15:49:31

Yes, I would say its triangulation and a very toxic dynamic. My parents are similar to your ILs and are word for word exactly the same as*Annie*'s description. My sister and I have a much better relationship now that we're adults and don't live at home so communicate when we want to and on our terms, rather than having everything mediated by our parents.

My parents also love shit shirring and bad mouthing people behind their backs. When I was a teenager, my mother was never happier than when I had fallen out with a friend - it was almost like she couldn't handle 'sharing' me with anyone. Very weird and suffocating.

Its really good news that you're aware of this weird dynamic. Often people get caught up in it, knowing that something is 'off' but not being able to put their finger on what it is exactly. I cope with my situation by telling my parents as little as possible - given them any info is like handing them a loaded gun

shovetheholly Tue 21-Jul-15 16:57:53

I think so too! I definitely recommend bypassing the PIL at every opportunity and trying to build bridges with the SIL. Oh, and when you see them, don't be drawn into slagging off or discussing PIL. Keep it as YOUR time that's just between the four of you. You'll bond much better that way, and it'll be a relationship between you as people and not just as relatives.

The relationship may well feel remarkably different when they are out of the picture. DH and I try to meet up with BIL and his partner a couple of times a year when PIL are out of the way because it allows us all to interact as adults in a way that just isn't possible with PIL around.

I think it's also important to take a robust and adult attitude to visits. Just because someone doesn't drop in on you when in town doesn't mean that they don't love or care - it might just be that they are on a flying visit, or need time out. Don't be drawn into some kind of visit competition! (You sound as though you're very wise to this already, but I just wanted to reinforce it).

OverwhelmingEvidence Tue 21-Jul-15 17:02:42

Thank you flowers

I feel quite emotional seeing your responses. I'm not sure I can fully explain why...I guess I don't feel I can use these words about them in RL.

I've witnessed them quietly do quite a lot of damage over the last ten years of our marriage - I'm can be quite bitter about the number of sleepless nights and negative energy they have caused. I wish I could have seen the pattern way back at the start and act accordingly. DH went over to their house specifically to call them out on it a couple of times over the last ten years and they completely denied it.

When DH has had a drink he will admit that they have always been like this - his sister the golden child that they would do anything for (but bitch about her manipulating them into doing it and act all helpless) and him the one they go to when they need help.

A while back I decided to keep conversation neutral with them and not give them that much information about our life and that has definitely helped.

One little anecdote about that - DH told them what his bonus was one year (he was very proud of it after a few hard years/unemployment). FIL immediately responded that BIL's (SIL's husband) got a lot more. I thought that was beyond odd but neither of us said anything. I asked DH about it later and he just said 'yeah, I know...'.

I made the mistake of bringing this whole triangulation thing up with SIL years ago (didn't know they name for it then though, and this was in response to SIL confiding in me how upset she was about the state of her relationship with DH) and used this as an example (most of the other examples are to do with the grandchildren). She said this was utter rubbish - he didn't get anything like the figure that FIL mentioned and they have never, ever discussed money with them. Then she got nasty about it all with me (drunk)...where it became obvious that PIL had been lying to her.

Yesterday was a bit of a test - telling them about the camping, as part of fairly neutral related information. If they had responded positively then my previous conclusions would have been wrong. In some ways I am pleased by their response because it confirms what we are doing now, and what has really helped us move on from the hurt is the right thing to do and we aren't the ones with the issue.

On the surface they are so 'nice'...

Its just really great to say these things 'out loud'. To know that I am right in keeping a mental distance from them, making more of an effort with SIL, stopping the whole bitching thing (that includes about them!) and refusing to listen to them do it...moving on from it all.

suchafuss Tue 21-Jul-15 18:30:57

Some families are just fucked up. Last year i had what i thought was a confidential chat with dad about the affair my sister was having. I knew that he was aware of the affair but i was worried as the guy was controlling and in my view abusive. He immediately called my sister and told her what i had said and she then called ne to say never to discuss this with father again. Two days later sister and I had an argument and she physically attacked me and hit ne around the head. This is dangerous for me as i have a problem with my eyes and it could have caused a bleed in my eyes and blindness. I knew she was under a lot if stress and had acted out of character so texted her to try and arrange to meet and sort it out. Anyway next thing i get ab email from father which was a draft he had put together for her and sent to me in error saying she did not want to see me. My father knew of my medical issues and never called to see if i was ok and instead encouraged a problem he had in part caused to continue. I too think that he triangulates.

OverwhelmingEvidence Tue 21-Jul-15 19:31:02

That's horrible suchafuss - utterly bizarre that adults behave that way, never mind adults who would normally love and have the best interests of those a priority they are hurting so much.

I'm not sure my ILs even consciously know they are doing this - MIL in particular can be quite immature/needy but it was the fact that they both act in the same way regarding the whole triangulation thing made identifying it take even longer. They told me a story that was supposed to illustrate how difficult BIL's parents are (their daughters' PIL) but there was NOTHING in the story that made PIL sound good and I from what they said I would have totally taken BIL's parents 'side' - they just couldn't see it. That was another lightbulb moment for me. It's almost like they need parenting!

My big priority now though is getting over the past hurts and wasted time and effort, and not letting this affect the grand-children or our marriage. We have other nice extended family member that have been kept at arm's length from us too...time to put that right as well I think!

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