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MILs and how to live with them (or not)

(21 Posts)
FredaMayor Wed 25-Nov-15 17:04:49

Don't want to hijack someone else's thread so starting another one. Recent discussions on here about the DIL-MIL relationship, sometimes with reference to a DH's role, have fascinated me in a horrible way.

My own history with ex-MIL was lousy right from the beginning, she was nice to my face but behind the scenes tirelessly manipulative, disrespectful and deceitful, dominating exH (with his agreement) and bankrolling him through our eventual divorce. I, on the other hand, was naive and too trusting in human goodness as it turned out. Whilst I lost a lot in the process, MIL did give me something - a snapshot into how people like that can act if they think their actions will not backfire and nobody is going to call them to account.

I despair when women in families let each other down or try to destroy each other, perhaps because in my own family we have always been there for each other when it matters. I still struggle to understand why good faith and loyalty seem to fall by the wayside so easily, and why some older (although not exclusively) women can be so brazen and full of hate.

I have one theory, and tell me what you think of it, and it is that is was not so long ago when many women did not earn or work outside the home, and some therefore felt powerless financially so one of the only ways to exert influence and 'protect' themselves was to connive and plot within the family and social sphere, becoming skilled and rather ruthless in their dealings. Mother then taught daughter, and so on down the generations.

I happen to think that many women are inclined to be outwardly more emotionally intelligent and empathic than men (although not born that way) so I really do wonder why the savagery that we are reading about happens in the MIL-DIL relationship. Does the fact that a DH is under his mother's thumb spell the inevitable end of a marriage?

mintoil Wed 25-Nov-15 17:12:59

My first MIL was lovely - we got on really well. There were issues,like she never came to us, we always had to go to hers, and she insisted in doing all the cooking and would get dreadfully upset if anyone tried to help her. However, I accepted that it was her house, her rules and she was a lovely kind woman.

Second MIL was a manipulative bitch but I cannot agree it was anything to do with her work situation, she worked full time from a young age. She had a dreadful relationship with her own MIL and was horrid to me.

I would never get in a serious relationship with another man who had a mother like this, and will encourage DD not to get lumbered with a mummys boy.

Lostin3dspace Wed 25-Nov-15 17:18:32

Problem with posting here is that most responders will have had a negative experience. In my case my soon to be ex mil had a full time career all her working life, so was far from powerless, and definitely wore the trousers in her immediate family - but still acted like a matriarch and ruined my marriage, as you may surmise, because my stbxh always put her needs first and preferred to believe that if there was a problem, it was only in my head, and didn't really exist, so, nothing for him to deal with.
I met her mother, she was divorced, and of course a pensioner when I knew her. In her lifetime she had run a successful business, but again, acted like a matriarch and was overtly rude, controlling and bigoted when she felt like it.

frillybiscuits Wed 25-Nov-15 17:23:44

In my experience relationships with partners that aren't close with their mothers are often more enjoyable and have less arguments/tension. My exOH was such a mummy's boy it made me feel sick. She was an awful woman, put me through so much and made sick jokes about my illnesses and miscarriages. I think it was all down to jealousy as he hadn't had many relationships and she couldn't bare her baby boy creating a life with another woman. He even prioritised her over me during my pregnancy when I was very ill. He is now back with her. I could definitely not be with someone like that again. I think it's a very large factor in the end of most relationships, especially when there are children involved. It's very difficult to have a relationship with someone when there is an older woman trying to be dominant in your spouses life.

frillybiscuits Wed 25-Nov-15 17:26:12

Having a dominant and controlling MIL is like your OH has two girlfriends/wives. It's horrendous

FredaMayor Wed 25-Nov-15 17:52:15

frillybiscuits - an awful woman indeed, how horrible for you. flowers

mintoil - good point about DDs, and wish I had told exH he was a mummy's boy (too polite, you see, even when dumped <looks away, embarassed>)

mintoil Wed 25-Nov-15 18:12:47

You could always send him a text freda, it's never too late grin

Kacie123 Wed 25-Nov-15 18:22:58

Hmm ... My mil is absolutely lovely and a total star. DH calls her for a long chat for at least an hour every week and we see her at least once or twice a month.

Some might call him a "mummy's boy" for that kind of relationship but it's never caused a moments issue for us. Probably because she's a nice person and so is he. Unlike my mum who has issues and is a bit of a nightmare...

frillybiscuits Wed 25-Nov-15 18:52:04

Kacie, when I say my ex was a mummy's boy I mean he went to see her every day (missing valuable time with me between working full time), did chores for her because she was too busy with friends (walking her dogs, mowing her lawn, doing her dishes) and also had multiple phone calls a day with her and we would often get woken up by her ringing early in the morning asking him to do something. Even when I was pregnant, sick and in hospital he took her out shopping. She is 48 and is perfectly able to do all those things herself. I eventually had enough of him coming home tired and not doing any of his own 'chores', leaving me to do everything whilst I was ill. One thing that pushed me over the edge with it all was that he's driving his mum down to London (we live in the East Midlands) for New Years and not going to back before my due date.

Sorry for the rant but your DH's relationship with his mother sounds perfectly normal compared to how mine's was sad

FredaMayor Wed 25-Nov-15 19:19:11

mintiol - I fancy sending him a howler like Mrs. Weasley' letters in the Harry Potter stories, and then get the owl to poo on him. Childish? Certainly not, owls will be owls, and it was a long flight. wink

Kacie123 Wed 25-Nov-15 19:23:41

Ah I see, so creepy substitute husband to mum, rather than "loves his mum"? Yes that must have been horrid frilly.

Sorry, I didn't mean to rile you up or boast or anything. I just wanted to point out that men can be "close" to their mums and still be perfectly decent husbands/blokes! But there's close and overly close.

It has brought a memory shudderingly back to me. One of my friend had a fiancé who was like that - he actually broke up with her a week before their wedding because his mum asked him to.

He was a bit of a creepy person anyway but was very very very close to his mum - three or four phone calls a day, every photo on Facebook of the two of them, she came on some of their early dates, they went ballroom dancing every week, and he wanted to move next door to her.

We couldn't see what she saw in him and she was heartbroken when he ended it - we were all just so fucking relieved. She's now married to a very normal bloke and can see she dodged a total bullet. I'm sorry you didn't have that luck thanks

Meanwhile my mum is a very troubled and difficult person, so my DH might have similar MIL rants to some of you!

holeinmyheart Wed 25-Nov-15 21:21:15

I am both a MIL and I have a MIL. When you are a MIL yourself it does give you a certain perspective about the complex MIL/DIL situation.
My MIL said almost immediately that she didn't want me to marry her son. I was jealous of her and she was jealous of me. She was critical, but I was super sensitive to slights. We were both far from happy go lucky individuals.
So looking back ( I have been married to her son for over 40 years now) I think I sweated the small stuff and so did she.

If only I had not been young and inexperienced and a bit frightened of her. In fact if only I had been somebody else. I wish that I had been able to be honest and congruent every time she had a go at me, instead of sitting in silence. I disliked her even more because I could not stick up for myself.

However, because she was a difficult woman it enabled her son to marry me as I admit i am a difficult woman. ( every cloud has a silver lining) I know I am not happy go lucky and easy going.
My DH never supported me and got upset if I criticised his Mother. He concurs now though. I suppose he had the over view, that we were both as bad as one other.

So I think the problem can lie with both the MIL and the DIL. The more personal issues you have the more difficult the relationship is going to be.
Bloody sad really.

targaryen Wed 25-Nov-15 21:49:15

Holeinmyheart this sounds exactly like me and my MIL.
I have been with her son for 15 years and know she finds me irritating. I also can't speak my mind around her so sit seething at the little comments and digs. I'm sure she would respect me more if i spoke my mind but I hate confrontation of any kind.
We are quite different People but in many ways very alike. We are both hyper sensitive and sweat the small stuff way too much.
Sorry you've had years of this.
I have two girls and a son and the love my son has for me as a little boy is Intense so maybe when it's time for me to be the mil it will be hard. I don't know though I really, really hope not to make my dil feel as uncomfortable and not welcome as my mil makes me feel.

LuluJakey1 Wed 25-Nov-15 23:18:22

My MIL is lovely but she lives 130 miles away grin
She is very organised and efficient and had a career where she was in charge. She is like that at home and FIL goes along. But they brought DH and SIL up in a house that was full of love and affection and had good values.
However, he is goldenballs at home which drives me mad. Mind you she knows him inside out as well and supports me when he is a pain.
I could not live with her- she is probably too like me- but I can live happily 2 hours away from her and see her for high days and holidays, when she us great company.
She never prys or interferes or makes nasty sly comments.

holeinmyheart Thu 26-Nov-15 05:09:59

taryaryen well at least you are honest about there being fault on both sides. Try and stick up for yourself and speak to her before it is to late. I tried with mine but she was getting too demented by the time I had the courage and maturity to talk to her. She couldn't remember saying that she didn't want me to marry her son. She flatly denied it. She said that she was jealous of me though, which was gratifying to hear. Then she came out with all sorts of nonsense. She had a lot against me but really it all boiled down to my marrying her beloved, sun shines through his bum, son. Although I love him dearly as well. I never went NC with her. I suffered in silence.

A lot of the vitreol on Mumsnet about MILs comes from young married women, who are not MILs themselves. I think you can only understand what it is like to be a MIL when you are one.
This will be DISPUTED on here, no doubt, but it is like having children. No one can tell you what having a child in your life is going to be like. Yes, experts might give you the facts and the theory, but until you have one, you really haven't got much of a clue.

When you have boy children they grow up and naturally meet partners. This is normal and what we want for our children. However, you then become the dreaded MIL. Your DIL already has a mother and doesn't need another one.

All the friends I have, who are all like me, mothers, DILs, Grandparents and MILs to DILs, say it is the same. Although not one of my friends has fallen out with their DILs ( a situation we all dread by the way) the relationship is not the same as with your DDs.

My own Mother doted on my brother as he was born after two girls. He grew up and married a strong character and moved 100s of miles away. My Mother never liked my SIL and probably mourned for her son. She never showed her feelings and I only found out how she felt at the end of her life, when she got a bit demented. She was very loyal. I am sure my SIL still doesn't know.

I have sons with wives and I get on with them fine as I am very very careful.
My advice to a MIL is, keep your nose out of your sons marriage. Don't offer advice. Always call and ask if you can call. Don't buy anything for your DILs house without checking with her first and keep your mouth tight shut, regarding your feelings about current affairs, TV programmes etc you are watching etc. Don't expect to be thanked for anything and then you will be surprised when you do get thanked.

I am so glad that I have daughters.

Perhaps there should be a compulsory joint counselling course for all MILS and DILS. It is such a shame not to get on as I love women, myself.

Shiraznowplease Thu 26-Nov-15 06:33:07

My mil used to be a real pain. She asked by dh if he had to marry me as I was pregnant (I wasn't !). She made wedding planning difficult. We had a big argument and Dh sided with me. Since then we tolerate each other to make things easier for dh. I have to give her credit for being a wonderful grandma and I have relaxed my initial 'firm grip' on my dc. I think as I have had children of my own, I can see how difficult being a mil must be and try to ignore her comments.

insertimaginativeusername Thu 26-Nov-15 10:24:37

My MIL was lovely until we got engaged and then cried about losing her son and mourned the "loss" of her relationship with her son. We had been together 10 years by the time of our engagement and had a house, pets etc.

She has never been the same towards me since and behaves quite...odd.

I have never understood her reaction but it only deteriorated further when we had a baby.

April2013 Thu 26-Nov-15 10:33:45

I think what you say OP must have a lot of truth in it. My opinion is that another big cause is them not wanting to let go of their sons, not wanting them to be independent and happy without them, so when a dil comes along that threatens their idea that they are the number one woman in their sons' life they turn playground bully and get competitive with the dil. If the mil wants the son to be happy and independent within his own new family and only wants to support this then I think problems are less likely. My mil seems to think if she had daughters instead of sons she would still have the loyalty of her daughter as the number one woman in her life, so she could get a male partner and this wouldn't threaten her status, wrong on so many levels! I should have asked her, what if her daughter was a lesbian, to shock her homophobic mind!

FredaMayor Thu 26-Nov-15 11:36:12

The idea that a new DIL is felt to be usurping the relationship MIL has with her son made me remember what someone told me when I had my first DC, 'As soon as they're born they start leaving you'.

That's stayed with me through the years although I didn't pass it on to my DC when they had their own children, because it somehow seemed callous to do so, maybe times have changed and people were more forthright then.

My own attitude to DC's spouses it that if my DC love them then I will too.

holeinmyheart Thu 26-Nov-15 12:46:50

Of course you should try and love your DILs but it should also apply the other way around. Unless they are mentally ill, then I think you should give loving your MIL , a good stab.
Despite my MILs outrageous behaviour I did try and love her. She had so many issues that she just couldn't communicate with me. She had no friends and couldn't get on with anyone, so thankfully, it wasn't just me. She is in a nursing home now and is a poor thing.

We appeared to be like chalk and cheese as she was a introvert and controlling. I am a extrovert but before I had counselling I was also a very controlling person.

I think sons and DDs choose people ( albeit unconsciously) who are like their parents. It may not appear evident immediately, but me and my sibling have.
My DF was a very controlling Selfish emotionally abusive person. He would shout and sneer. My DM was very mild and let him do as he liked.

My sister and I ( both opiniated, difficult people ) chose very easy going laid back people as husbands, who we could dominate and bully ( I try not to bully my Dh now as I recognise my behaviour is not right and I did a counselling course, that was very revelatory ) both our DHs are so easy going.

My DB who is very mild and laid back, chose a controlling difficult prickly person with quite a lot of issues.

So my case rests! Probably a load of bollocks but that is my theory.

robinofsherwood Thu 26-Nov-15 15:04:03

My MIL is extremely difficult and (tries to be) controlling. At one point I considered leaving my husband to get away from her. Yet now we get on well and I genuinely love her. The difference is that my husband is totally on board. If she pulls a stunt, he calls her on it. If she makes ridiculous demands, phones up crying and tells everyone how mean we are, he stands firm. If I set limits, he's on my side. So I have plenty of space to be ok with her.

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