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mil and dh

(29 Posts)
turnaroundbrighteyes Tue 11-Aug-15 16:47:56

I know this is really trivial, but cant get it out of my head and don't know what to do.

Visited MIL last Sunday with DH and dc and had a lovely time. Getting ready to go and I popped to the loo, came out and dc are in the livingroom and dh and mil alone in the kitchen.

Overheard the end of their conversation - mil in full on hand wringing wavery voice worry mode telling dh that he absolutely must no matter what answer the phone every time she rings. DH said yes, they saw me and the conversation ended. Didnt say anything at the time, was too shocked really, but wish I had thought quickly enough to step in to diffuse it with something like a really light "really Mil, even on the loo, dont be silly, if theres a problem we'll let you know" type chat.

Background - in my family the phone rings, you answer it, unless in the bath or on the loo or similar. If it's important my Mum would ring back or if not she'd leave a message saying just ringing for a chat, no need to call back, speak in a few days. DH always use to just answer if he fancied a chat. I, stupidly, a few years into our relationship said something along the lines of you really should answer when your Mum rings if you can, what if somethings wrong and she needs you? So he started answering all the time until it got to the point where we were out for Valentines, mid meal and the phone rings, it's his Mum, he's going to ignore it, I say you may as well answer now shes disturbed us or she'll just ring again later. He answers, she says "oh sorry, didnt realise you were still out I'll ring back in an hour", I'm gesticulating, Nooooooo, he agrees then says to me it's ok I can just not answer if we're busy. He wont just say actually please dont ring back later / or please dont ring tomorrow as he thinks it will upset her. Que conversation with me realising that our sex life is pretty much non-existant partly because knowing your mil is going to ring every single evening / night and it's a bit of a mood killer. I appologised for asking him to always answer / not understanding their family dynamic.

He also has self esteem issues, struggles to say no to anyone in authority and doesnt want to hurt his mums feelings so saying no to her in that state would be pretty much impossible for him and he'd feel to blame for her state - never gets in those states with me, very messed up but she seems to see us as co-parents and him as the child, which I hate as hes an adult, an equal. Also very good at "oh no," the world has ended type responses to any even mild problems which doesnt help his esteem.

SIL similarly seems to answer once a week "at our allotted time" (MIL's lament), but only at other times if she fancies a chat. MIL's often complained to me that she's not spoken to SIL "for a long time" and is "worried about her". Only very recently have I realised that "a long time" is a week. Surely it's not unreasonable for an adult child to only want a phone catch up with their parent once a week?

We've had a rough patch, he's not behaved well but is now working on our relationship. Recently he's been making an effort to make sure we have quality time in an evening and family day on a Sunday, it was lovely. Until the conversation that neither of them know I heard the end of I didnt even know she was ringing at those times as he was with us and not paying attention to his phone. Now we're back to her ringing every single bloody day during meal time / the little bit of quality time we have in the evenings and on Sunday and him answering (assume she was ringing before, but I didnt know because he was choosing not to let her calls interupt quality time with us - whilst still chatting to her at least a couple of times per week).

Dont know what to do, if I talk to him he'll feel bad because he agreed and trapped in the middle between upsetting us (me?) and his mum. If I speak to her it will mean going behind his back and be a bigger deal than if I'd just said something at the time...

Sorry for the essay

pocketsaviour Tue 11-Aug-15 20:06:51

I would recommend taking a look at Toxic IN-Laws. Think it's available on Kindle.

Sorry to give a short reply but didn't want to read and run.

IthoughtATMwasacashpoint Tue 11-Aug-15 20:22:58

If nothing else, can he not ask her not to phone between x and x as it's your time to eat?

winkywinkola Tue 11-Aug-15 20:52:12

Why isn't 2 x per week enough? Does she not have a life of her own?

Calling as often as that and insisting the telephone be picked up is ott, ooo, intrusive, demanding, childish........ Need I go on?

Why is your h subscribing to this shit?

ArmfulOfRoses Tue 11-Aug-15 21:22:32

I ring my mum daily.
I used to ring once a week or so, but got in to the habit of ringing daily once her dh died.
Her house is very isolated, she doesn't drive. I know that she really looks forward to my call, and it's ten minutes out of my day.

Can your dh not ring her when it's convenient?
If you're going out to dinner or similar why on earth doesn't he call before you go if he knows she will call?

Cabrinha Tue 11-Aug-15 21:39:38

Hmmmmm.
My eye is caught more by "we had a rough patch, he's not behaved well".
Just slipped in. That could be the bigger issue.

Re his mum, you tell him - tell her, he won't always have his phone on as you've both found calls / texts from lots of people are getting in the way of time together. So they're going off in the evenings. And mean it.

If he "hasn't behaved well" you can always leverage that in getting him to comply.

Fluffyears Wed 12-Aug-15 12:15:25

My MIL calls constantly DP will ignore if he's eating and then callback afterwards but she is on for an hour just babbling shite. I've seen him set phone down go and get a drink then go back to pick it up and she's still in full flow. I never pick up phone because I know it's her and I don't have anything to say but if she calls she lets it ring and ring and ring and ring....then she calls back three minutes later and let's it ring and ring and ring...again! It's really intrusive. Can he not just arrange set times to speak to her like Tuesday and Thursday nights at 8pm and once at weekend?

Janethegirl Wed 12-Aug-15 14:21:05

if my dsis or dm calls and it's not convenient I tend to say so, and offer to either call back later or the next evening depending on what I'm doing.

They will do the same if I call them when they're busy.

I don't tend to like prearranged calls as I never know what I'm doing.

Sapat Wed 12-Aug-15 14:32:21

I don't really see the problem, I think you are all making a mountain out of a molehill and worrying about control.

Answer the phone if it rings. If convenient chat, if not just say we are in middle of dinner/playing/having guests/about to go out and we will call you back later. If possible just call beforehand and have a wee chat, say only have 5 minutes, how are you etc. keep things light and pleasant and talk when you want/can talk.

turnaroundbrighteyes Wed 12-Aug-15 15:30:13

Thanks for all the perspectives - really helps that not one of you have said "but why wasn't he answering all his Mums calls, she has a right to be upset".

PocketSaviour thanks, will give it a read. Always thought their relationship was a bit messed up because of his past behaviour (she has a tendency to baby/enable him and he over eager to please / never say no / "upset her"), but she's always been lovely to me and only recently starting to see things that don't sit well with me in their current and past interaction.

Ithought did try that last time around, she's great at smile and nod, but nothing really changes or after a few asks for a while she did call during the day instead, but reverted to evenings as "he doesn't always answer during the day".

Armfullofroses but why should he speak to her every day if he doesnt want to? Not suggesting he neglects her, but isnt 2-3 times a week enough? Tbh it's not something I'd suggest he do either. He's got a lot on his plate at the moment is coping well, just bumps in the road stuff that neednt take up a lot of head space, but I have noticed its hard for him to stay positive when talking daily to someone who acts like the world has ended ("Oh, no", "well that's awful, they really shouldnt do that", "well if you're struggling to get into the drs you should go to a&e", sad voice, etc) even over non-issues.

All of you saying well just tell her / tell him to tell her to not ring as often, etc yes, it really should be that simple shouldnt it? Always thought I had a DH issue, because I've never had a problem when I've said oh sorry MIL can't talk now will catch up later, what you'll ring tomorrow, is anything wrong, no, okay well actually please don't we're having a quiet evening / going out / ??? catch up next week or ??? and she's been fine. Never understood him being worried about upsetting her either because well, it's not something to get upset about, and she's lovely, but then there's been the odd conversation he's shared that's I've thought she's been out of order / overdramatic / hurtful, but again just thought it was out of character and a one off. But then overhearing them last Sunday really shook me, felt so wrong and took me a while to figure out why and then it hit me from the bit I heard, she was bullying him plain and simple. Maybe she didnt mean to, maybe (probably) she has anxiety that she needs support with, but that doesnt change the fact that she was bullying him and it's made me wonder what else has been said when I'm not in earshot....

I don't think it is as simple as him just saying no, she'll just ring anyway and like Fluffyears says it's intrusive, or he switches his phone on silent and misses all his calls. I could be more assertive like Cabrinha says and I'm sure she'd take it just fine, but I'm worried that then there will be another convo like the kitchen one with loads of pressure on him and he'll be pulled in half / feel like shit for upsetting her.

I could woman up and tell her what I overheard and take it from there, maybe she didn't mean to come accross like that, maybe if I'd heard the entire convo it wouldnt have seemed so bad, maybe she does need help with anxiety or maybe it would all blow up in my face. Wish she lived closer / we saw her in person more often and it would be easy to do it subtely, but cant would have to be a phone call or long journey.

turnaroundbrighteyes Wed 12-Aug-15 15:36:37

But Sapat surely that is similar to what he was doing, answering when he could / it was convenient, chatting 2-3 times a week, yet her response was to get him on his own and tell him that he absolutely must answer every time she called. To which he agreed.... Is that really a normal response from either of them? Answering every time she rings is inconvenient, we dont get much quality time together....

pocketsaviour Wed 12-Aug-15 15:37:38

She sounds like an engulfing (smothering) narcissist and you're absolutely right, she's bullying him and using emotional blackmail to keep control over him. This has undoubtedly been going on since he was a child.

You can't fix this for him - you have to support him to see for himself what's going on, and to decide what he wants to do.

Don't ever leave your DC with her unattended. She's of the type of narc who will attempt to "steal" grandchildren. Lucky she lives a good distance away.

schlong Wed 12-Aug-15 15:53:10

When I asked my toxic mil I'm now happily NC with what exactly her major beef with me was the only reply she could splutter was that I wouldn't/couldn't pick up the phone every night to speak to her. Using phone calls as a way to control and lay guilt trips on family members is a classic toxic tactic. I think you really don't want her living closer. Count yourself lucky on that score.

turnaroundbrighteyes Wed 12-Aug-15 15:53:36

Wow pocketsaviour hard to see her like that!

Hadnt really thought of it, but yes, she is smoothering, that does sound spot on, but only as far as DH is concerned. Taken me a long time to see it, but yes, his childhood was disfunctional, but there's no doubt she loves him and always did her best for him often at great cost to herself. But as we all know doing our best for our kids isnt always whats best for them and he "never had any confidence even as a small child" was never able to talk about problems, often seemed disbelieved and she seems to even now be trying to maintain a Mother to small child relationship with him to the point where she has confided that she worries constantly about him - have suggested its unhealthy, unproductive, wont change anything and perhaps she should consider counselling.

tbh she loves her grandchildren and they enjoy each others company usually only once or twice a month with all of us together, but focus still seems to be more dh than them.

Maybe I need to try and talk to her, dont even know how or even if it's possible for her to change...

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 12-Aug-15 16:00:14

Talking to her will be a waste of time; she will not listen because the only point of view that matters is hers. Such people like his mother also use the grandchildren as narcissistic supply.

Her love for her son is not emotionally healthy because it is smother love. She has not let him become his own person. Fortunately for you she does live some distance away. Now you both have to put mental distance between she and you as well.

I would also suggest you read up on narcissistic personality disorder and see how much of that fits in with her. Even if counselling is considered by her (highly unlikely) narcissists do very poorly in therapy sessions.

turnaroundbrighteyes Wed 12-Aug-15 16:45:51

Struggling with the whole narcissist angle. Have been talking to DH recently about some aspects of their relationship being unhealthy and he said he could kind of see what I was saying a little bit and trusts my judgement, but found it hard to take as she's lovely and she is! Just she is also smoothering towards him and sometimes hmmmmm. Have started with boundaries for myself as sometimes I felt I just drifted into situations where I was being taken for granted and shes always been fine with that, but not if he does the same, not that he often tries.

Will read the book!

Any tips for the immediate situation, other than nicking his phone and answering for him, LOL

pocketsaviour Wed 12-Aug-15 16:52:57

Narcs are very good at coming across as lovely and caring. Unfortunately they do not love; they only seek to control.

I know it seems pretty hard to swallow - my mum is an engulfing narc and I've recently gone no contact with her to protect myself and my DS. these people don't present as evil cackling witches, which is why they have such a hold over the people they abuse.

PuellaEstCornelia Wed 12-Aug-15 17:15:31

Could you answer the phone and say it's not convenient to talk?

ArmfulOfRoses Wed 12-Aug-15 17:21:08

I didn't say he had to call her every day, I said that I call my mum every day because she is lonely (has no life as one pp so charmingly put it, due to her location) and it means a lot to her.

Has anything happened to her? A bereavement? Illness? Loss of a friendship?
If so I think a call every day/every other day/2x a week is really nothing if your dh does it at a time of his choosing.

If he really can't bring himself to tell her to ring back later/tomorrow if you're out to dinner, then calling her before you go is surely a good compromise?!

turnaroundbrighteyes Thu 13-Aug-15 18:02:20

Thing is armful to me he was already compromising, she'd like to talk every night, he's previously said he'd be happy with once a week. They were talking 2-3 times a week.

It's not even her calling so often that's bothering me, although I do find it intrusive, it's overhearing that part of the convo that's rocked me. Telling him he MUST answer. If she has anxiety and needs help with that and thats the reason for all pressure she was putting on him then thats one thing and I'd like to support her in getting that help, but otherwise, it was bullying and, I hate to say it, but makes sense of his previous comments of "not wanting to upset her" when talking about stuff that I wouldnt have expected to upset her.

Nothing recent happened to her to explain the convo, but all of the above in the past....

ArmfulOfRoses Thu 13-Aug-15 19:42:11

Anxiety was the first thing that occurred to me.
My dad would have convinced himself that I'd crashed in to a ditch if I didn't answer my phone.

I don't have any experience of anxiety so I can't offer you any advice, I was just hoping to give you a way of giving dh a little power back.
So if you want the evening together on the sofa, could he make a cuppa and ring her when he gets in from work so she gets her chat but he's in charge of when iyswim?

EponasWildDaughter Thu 13-Aug-15 20:20:02

Sorry if i've missed it, but have you told your DH that you heard what she said to him about 'must answer'?

It's not normal and it's not healthy to be telling your adult married child they 'must answer' the phone to you (unless it's a life or death thing about to go on of course).

If you could broach this with him and talk with him about why he felt he had to agree to it; this might begin to throw up some new thoughts and a pathway to renew the compromise you had going on. Of only speaking a couple of times per week i mean.

On a more general note - i found with my mother (who also went through a phase of wanting a specific amount of phone contact time) it's helpful NOT to get into a strict routine of length of call/when to call/be called. A routine will become set in stone, never to waver, and becomes a stick to beat you with IME!

Smilingforth Thu 13-Aug-15 21:28:20

I think you need to have a frank open conversation with DH. This isn't go to get any better without his but in.

winkywinkola Thu 13-Aug-15 23:39:15

Anyone telling an adult they "must" do something like answer a telephone is a major red flag.

BoneyBackJefferson Fri 14-Aug-15 10:47:09

So he has a narc mother, low self esteem. FOG (fear, obligation, guilt) issues and at some point you told him that he should always answer the phone when his mother calls.

Sounds like he is going to problems doing anything right.

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