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Giving DH ultimatum - NC with alcoholic NPD MIL or our marriage is over.(45 Posts)
Sick of the drama. I have been NC with her for a year. I have not felt the right to ask him to do the same until now. But he is there every single night sorting out her manufactured alcoholic dramas and crises, micro managing her life and leaving me with 4 kids to manage. AIBU?
Nope, not in the slightest.
But he may not see it that way. He will have been trained to respond to her for the whole of his life. That and he will fear what will happen to her if he abandons her to her fate... and he will be abandoning her, no matter how you see it.
Have you got it in you to have one last stab at a conversation and getting him to realise he must make changes or lose you? Or are you way past that now?
Are you ready to follow through?
Does he recognise that he has his own MH problem here? He's making some awfully bad choices.
an ultimatum is ... difficult. He will never forget that you made him choose between his mother and you. He -may- understand it, he might even agree with you but it will leave a mark.
But you are being absolutely reasonable. At this point, I think you have to look at all possible outcomes for the future. 1) things carrying on as they are 2) him backing off from his mother 3) him choosing his mother over you and the children and you gong separate ways.
Then have the conversation laying out the three options with him ... calmly as you can.
In your (very tricky) situation I think you have to hope for the best, but pragmatically prepare for the worst. I think it would be best to mentally prepare for separate lives. If he chooses to try to change his behaviour, give it a certain amount of time; he may say each night that he just has to be there for his mother, and you'll find that he's promised to change but doesn't. His mother will go absolutely apeshit crazy if she feels him pulling away and it might not be possible for him to resist that. You may need to be prepared to give him a great deal of emotional support ... If you're willing/able to. If his foolish behaviour has already drained your reserves dry, then it'll be too late (and fwiw I think any adult man who's a father of 4 bloody well knows that his priority should be his kids not his parents, if pushed to make the final decision).
If you do prepare for the worst, you're holding this conversation from a position of strength, knowing you and the children can survive. That will be very, very helpful.
If -if- at that point he decides to change his behaviour, that is his decision and presumably one you'd welcome. But it does avoid the outright black/white ultimatum. You've clearly been pushed to the absolute limit and I don't think it's any bad thing for you to face full-on the idea of living without him.
Much sympathy for you both. A highly engulfing mother is a blight on his life and has been for many years; and you married a man expecting a marriage, not to be the house care-taker while he tends to his highly selfish mother.
I wouldn't bother with the ultimatum to him. You are already practically a single parent.
Tell him it is over and you would like a divorce.
Actually presenting it as a done deal rather than you will if he doesn't may shock him into sorting it out rather than dragging it out.
He is also at the end of his tether and is now exhausted and overwhelmed by having sole responsibility for her (as he sees it) as her health has deteriorated due to the alcohol.
I pointed out that spending 2hrs with her every evening after returning from work at 7.30pm when we have 4 young children is inappropriate.
He then tried to wash his hands of her and handed over responsibility to his sister but he is still clearly enmeshed. He says he hates her but feels compelled to respond and go to her whenever she whistles.
I suggested that he try to keep out of contact for a week or so....he did but at the end of the 6th day he decided that he wanted to take the children over to see her. I said "No" - they dont need to be in that alcoholic squalor or be exposed to her toxic nonsense anymore and he understood and agreed and did not go over.
I think that I am conflicted by my own FOG by putting down these boundaries but the situation is escalating and intensifying and causing severe issues between us as I try bury the resentment and frustration. I wish I could be confident that asking him to go NC will not back fire on us as her health deteriorates. I feel put in a position that I need to demand this of him for our family unit and marriage - I wish I did not have to do that and he could see what needed to be done or could manage it appropriately. Although I am aware that it is not managable and NC is the only way - how do I support him in this without feeling I am forcing a situation on him?
Sounds really difficult for you. Has he (or you!) had any help, eg counselling or Al-Anon?
Yes he has just started seeing a counsellor last week to deal with the issue. Maybe we should go to al=anon together?
Yes, I think the al-anon idea is good.
While you need to support him, he has to make the changes to his behaviour himself.
My DH and I support each other best when we simply remind each other of the thing we said we would do / would not do. Usually one of us will decide what to do in the cold light of day in a place of strength but might start to weaken in the dark dark night. A reminder of what we wanted to do is usually enough to get over the temptation to cave in a moment of weakness.
As well as getting him support why don't you start with asking him to limit his visiting her to two specified fixed evenings per week?
Al Anon sounds like a good idea for both of you. We didn't get that far, but intended to go together so we could support each other, as RunRabbit outlined.
The thing is with ultimatums, you HAVE to see them through.
If there is even the slightest risk that you wont leave him if he doesnt cut her off, and tbh I dont think you will, then dont give him an ultimatum as it will simply cause more friction in your marriage and nothing will have changed.
I agree that Al Anon would be a good idea, with some rules in place about how often he visits and how often, until he has come to a better understanding of how his enabling her isnt helping her.
I know in my heart that I will not follow through - but I also know that this ongoing nonsense will tear us apart. Even if he limits contact - it still pollutes our lives. I know that NC is the only way to cope with these people. She has no one else in the world apart from the recently re-engaged daughter as everyone has left due to her behaviour and toxicity.
Rather than ultimatum, is there not a way you can talk together about how to start tightening up his boundaries with her. You'll need to both come up with tactics on how to deal with her and his guilt.
I think you're going to have to face the possibility that you may HAVE to leave in order to save your own sanity and that of your children.
Even if it doesn't come to that, maybe plan out a theoretical plan of IF it came to that, how would you do it. It will give you a measure of mental control, which right now is very important.
Then yes, you really really need to try to get your husband to step back. He's a grown father of 4 and his marriage is being destroyed because he's putting his mother above you. This is a very bad envirnment for your children.
Wishing you strength and luck. None of this is your fault but my god, you have it rough atm.
Joy - I have supported him in putting up boundaries. But he tries and then caves when the demands escalates....usually it is "a fall" - there have been 8 in the last 3 months which involves high drama, ambulance, A&E, hospital stay for a few days - but never ever any injury - not even a bruise...
I believe she is highly manipulative and the more he lays down boundaries the more she ups the ante/drama/crisis and he goes running....
thats why I think he needs to go NC - his other siblings and relatives (she has never had any friends) did so 20 years ago.
mulranna she is really really going to ramp it up if she feels him withdrawing, yes. that's why it's so very hard.
Have you read toxic parents / toxic in laws?
it's really sad but sometimes toxic people behave so extremely that the people around them are forced into a stark choice: knuckle down to them completely and become virtually their slaves in a very, very miserable life or else to walk away completely. Either way, the toxic person spreads pain and misery around. But NC is, in the end, usually the less unhealthy path
(fwiw I've seen a highly toxic woman at unpleasantly close quarters over some years so I do sympathise with your husband. But he is making a decision that is very damaging for you and the children).
Al anon is a good idea.
I read the book Codependent No More by melody beattie which I found very useful.
She has since written more but seemed to go back on what was written in the above book. The above is the best imo.
It let's you see the pattern most alcoholics follow, and thus that your input won't help.
mulranna - You seem to be blaming your husband for your MIL's behaviour. That could well destroy your marriage.
Understanding that your husband is not to blame here would be a start. Then help him to understand and accept he is not to blame and carries no responsibility for his mother when she is drunk.
You can't just strop off with talk of 'do this or I'll leave you' and expect that will teach him to drop his perceived responsibilities towards his Mum.
Once yes - that is exactly where it has got to ...
knuckle down to them completely and become virtually their slaves in a very, very miserable life or else to walk away completely.
SSargas - yes I have read Codep no more and it is brilliant - it enabled me to walk away and go NC a year ago. I doubt he would read it though. I doubt he will even go to al anon if I am honest. Although I know doing both of these things would free him from the FOG. He thinks she is at the end of her life - there is no medical evidence to suggest this - I believe that he is being even more emotionally brainwashed by her to set this scene as he has tried to withdraw.
So to date our attempts to put up boundaries have made it worse - her demands are intensified and the stakes are higher (ie her health/impending death) ... and he feels that he has no other choice but to jump to her tune.
Thats why I believe NC is the only way.
I dont blame my husband for MIL behaviour - but I do call him on the choices he makes and the balance of his reactions to respond to his real responsibilities for his 4 children and marriage vs the hystrionic, manufactured chaos of the NPD/alcholic mother.
Maybe my strength and stoicism is enabling him to enable her?
But we are all exhausted by it all.
I don't think it is reasonable to demand he never sees his mother.
I do think it would be reasonable to agree a certain number of hours he will spend seeing/helping her eg Tuesday night, or 2 hours on Saturday, or whatever works for you. After all, if she was a nice person he'd devote some part of his life to being with her.
That said, if she has NPD and he has been 'trained' to respond to her, he might find it easier to go NC than stick to a 'time budget'. She also won't respect it, so he'd constantly have to be enforcing those boundaries which will itself be exhausting.
So, in one way you're right - NC is probably for the best but I think it has to be his decision. However, not unreasonable to demand he spends the majority of his time with you and the kids. This will definitely involve not responding to crisies.
What does he say to your reasoning that she ups the stakes with more boundaries in place. Can he see this for himself?
Yes he can see that she is upping the stakes - but he only verbalises it when I point it out....he is still trapped by FOG though and even though furious with her still goes running.
Do you think it might help to agree on a boundary of (for example) nc tomorrow and then both of you try to predict what she'll do?
I say this because discussing possible actions of hers will have him forewarned and beginning to think ahead and being proactive rather than on the back foot and reactive.
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