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MIL Advice Needed!(9 Posts)
Hi all, new to MN but I've been reading a few threads and am hoping for some advice on how to manage my MIL from you fab lot. Apologies, it's a bit of a long ramble!
My MIL is not an evil or deliberately nasty lady, she's just a bit strange at times
mental and while usually harmless, she does have a few behaviours which give me cause for concern for the future and as my DD gets older (currently 8mo) and I need some advice on how to manage her.
She's the kind of lady who always knows best, is always right and can't take any amount of criticism. Since DH and I got together I've been subjected to a fair amount of being told what to think, what to do etc. with the odd criticism (e.g. when DD was 6mo, I was very low and self esteem was rock bottom which she knew. We'd explained this to her during a visit as we'd not been brilliant at visiting etc. for a while. When we were leaving she patted my belly and told me I need to 'watch that' as people probably think I'm pregnant again before turning to DH and saying 'she needs to exercise'). My feelings quite often get hurt and I'd love to be able to express my own opinions and feelings but bite my tongue for the sake of DH and to keep the peace.
The problem I have is that although up til now I've tolerated being belittled etc. I'm not happy for my daughter to be treated the way I or DH's niece (13yo) are treated (like we're very young children) and I feel I need to be able to stand up to her when DD needs to be protected. My DSis also pointed out that it won't be healthy for DD to see her treating me like that either.
DH won't stand up to her (yet - I'm working on it). She seems to have trained him very well and over the years we've been together he will lie without even knowing it to protect her - he repeatedly told me over years that his parents have the strongest relationship he's ever seen but then a couple of months ago admitted that FIL finds MIL very difficult and pushes him so far that he's come close to leaving a good few times. He can't tell me why he lied about this...
The problem I have is that as I said earlier, she can't ever be wrong and cuts off contact with family members after rows.
Without going into the whole story, the day after my wedding she told my nephew that my DSis was 'silly' in front of her when she was trying to manage a tired, slightly difficult 3yo. DSis called her out on it and told her that she'd undermined her parenting. MIL cried, cried to all the other guests who were still there, guilted DSis into apologising and started avoiding her from then on. For the next year she couldn't be in the same house as DSis (even when both families helped up move house, wanting to announce our pregnancy to both families together etc.) and then sent DH texts saying that she was depressed and on medication because of the incident. DSis felt that the situation had been resolved on the day but MIL wouldn't go anywhere near her or even bear to hear her or nephew's name until DD's christening a year later.
I feel it's important for DD to have a good relationship with PIL and don't want to do anything to jeopardise that. How do I manage her without causing a family breakdown when she treats/says something to DD or myself that I find unacceptable?
I thought I'd ask while DD is small and can't understand to give time to maybe lay some groundwork?
Any advice would be amazing, I don't want to be a doormat anymore!
Actually your MIL sound very deliberately nasty and manipulative. And as hard as it is you need to start standing up for yourself now in the way that your DSis has.
In an ideal world it you be lovely for your DD to have a good relationship with your MIL, but if she's going to treat your DD in the way that she seems to treat everyone else I can't see that she's going to bring many positive benefits to your DD's life.
If you stand up to her and her reaction is that you never see her again that might actually be a good thing, she sound awful.
It's better to be without a grandparent than to put up with a manipulative cunt - your dd deserves better.
You will never ever be able to make this woman 'happy'. She lives to control and controls through manipulation.
Honestly, the best thing that could happen would be for her to get angry at you and refuse to be around you, just like she did with DSis. It'll probably happen at some point if you assert yourself.
Your husband needs to grow some and stand up for his wife too.
Stand up for yourself in a nice way. Be the adult. So if she mentions your stomach and needing to exercise, just say 'that's not very kind' and change the subject. If she has a meltdown, you can always give her a non apology 'I'm sorry you felt upset when I asked you to be kind'
IME, people like this had very critical parents themselves, were desperate for love and attention from them, but never got it.
So they are caught in a horrible trap. They can only criticise others, as this is all they learned to do. They don't know how to express love and affection/behave properly. They also cannot bear to be criticised because it reminds them of all the hurt they felt when their parent(s) did it to them when they were little. Sometimes they just learned never to criticise or object to the parent, so are gobsmacked if anyone younger stands up to them.
Sometimes people like that in their teens/20s/30s/even 40s or later realise this about themselves and put in a lot of work and effort to change. And they might not manage it perfectly but they do make progress.
But if they don't have that "ahah" moment themselves they will never change. So it's not worth battling them. So gently and firly refuse to tolerate the behaviour, create some distance, and feel sorry from them from afar, but don't get sucked in.
Your MIL is dysfunctional. It is not your fault or your DHs that she is the way she is; her own family of origin did that to her. Her own childhood will give you reasons as to why she is the ways she is. Its a reason, not an excuse. She never sought the necessary help.
You likely come from an emotionally healthy family yourself but unfortunately you cannot simply "manage" someone like your MIL. You have also not seen thankfully this type of familial dysfunction before (unlike your DH who has had a lifetime of her conditioning and control) and it is very difficult thus for you to actually deal with, you've never thankfully had to deal with this before and think that you can apply the "normal" types of solutions re relationships to his family of origin - no.
The rules of familial relations when it comes to dysfunctional families like your DHs family of origin actually go out the window. MIL and FIL will not play and will never play by the rules. As for FIL in all this, he is likely to be a bystander who is simply acting out of self preservation and want of a quiet life. He basically does not want to know, he cannot be relied upon.
What does your DH think of his mother now, what sort of relationship do they have?. You state he is well trained; that can be that he is in a fear, obligation and guilt state with regards to his mother. You certainly seem to be in the FOG re her. Your DHs inertia re his mother is simply hurting him as well as his own family unit now.
Your sister is right; it will not do your own child any favours at all to see both her parents be so undermined as you are being now.
MIL also still hates your sister; that situation has not resolved itself either.
Why do you think it is important for your DD to have a good relationship with your ILs; the fact is not all grandparents are nice and that some of them are emotionally abusive and or too bloody difficult for any of the wider family to have any sort of relationship with. Relationships are also two way; your MIL wants her own way all the time. She also cries at the drop of a hat and tears can be manipulative. She also falls out with people constantly; what does that tell you really about her?
If she is too difficult/toxic for you to deal with, its the same deal for your both vulnerable and defenceless child. Protect your DD from such malign influences; that is one of your many tasks here. Do not reward bad behaviour from either of them; if they cannot behave decently towards you as a family unit then they are not visited. That's a boundary that you can maintain.
You need higher, firm and consistent boundaries with people like his mother and father; such people really cannot be managed. Your boundaries are way too low and you have tolerated being belittled and other stuff for the sake of your DH and or the peace (a mistake which further weakens your own weak position). You would not have tolerated any of this from a friend either, family are no different.
Pepole like your ILs are not toddlers but their emotional age is around the age of 6.
Read "Toxic Inlaws" by Susan Forward so that you can further understand the very real power and control dynamics that are being played out here.
Your DH reading "Toxic Parents" by the same author would also be a good idea.
Thank you all for your replies, I really appreciate you taking the time to read and respond. Some of the points you've raised hit my straight away - she has six siblings so the not getting enough attention when younger makes a lot of sense.
I've made the decision that if DH won't deal with it the next time something unacceptable is said then contact will be minimised and if needed, cut off. Like you all say, my DD is worth more.
I'll definitely be buying Toxic Inlaws, I looked it up and it sounds like something I definitely need to read!
Thanks again, hope you're all having a wonderful xmas and new year!
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