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What now?(7 Posts)
I don't know what else to do.
DH and I have been together for 14 years, married nearly 9. I'm still very happy. DH is very close to his brother, although he's always found SIL to be a little difficult, as have I. SIL and I have never naturally 'gelled'. We're quite different in temperament, likes/ dislikes etc. However, DH and I feel like we've bent over backwards to be welcoming and friendly towards her.
The problem is she is sulky, moody, angry a lot and often hostile. I (gently) confronted her over this behaviour 6 years ago, and all hell broke loose. I asked why she was so hostile towards us and if we had done something to upset her as she hadn't seemed to want us there one afternoon when BIL had invited us over. She was furious and sent me a lengthy email with a list of justifications about why she'd been so rude and basically left it with 'it's up to you now what happens from here.' At the time I felt it best to create some distance, I didn't feel it was healthy for the children to witness these incidents and so didn't respond as I didn't want to further antagonise her. Every time DH saw BIL for the next few weeks it was brought up over and over, and BIL felt that I should apologise so it would blow over. I declined. He gave DH a headache about it for ages, saying I was unreasonable. We didn't see them together for a number of months and then one day a letter came through my door from her saying basically, us keeping our distance was unfair to our nephew.
I then asked her if we could meet and have a chat about things, which she accepted. So the 4 of us got together for a conversation. It went well, she was remarkably pleasant and appeared to regret her previous words and actions. So we started to get together more regularly again. Over time, the old behaviours gradually crept back, but DH would ask me to say nothing as he didn't want to risk another falling out and was worried it would come between him and BIL again. I regret it now, but I kept ignoring her rude or unkind comments about my lifestyle choices and would just change the subject. BIL eventually told DH that she felt lonely and friendless (no big surprise to us that she didn't have any). DH suggested maybe I could invite her out sometime, so I did. I introduced her to a few friends and she began to attend some regular things. She seemed quite uplifted and even once text me and said 'thanks'. A few months on, she started to get really off with me again. I figured I'd done what I could to help and I was no longer the only person she had and withdrew from her a little (didn't suggest meeting up outside the regular stuff or organise playdates).
Her hostility grew and it's become obvious to a number of my friends. They've asked what her problem is, but I honestly don't know. She seems so bitter. She recently offered to host a regular event at her house, and BIL asked DH to go out for a pint. DH said I'd be going to the event as usual with all the other ladies. Turned out BIL hadn't realised it was this particular event, and had been told by her that she was having a few people over and could he maybe go out with DH or something? I went along and she dictated a very unpleasant atmosphere with her mood. A couple of friends commented to me as they can see what she's doing, and suggested it's time to confront her again. I actually agree as I don't think it's fair for me to have to walk on eggshells all the time. I text her and asked if she was okay the other evening and commented that she seemed angry. She has ignored it, it's been 4 days.
I could just do with an impartial point of view.
Many thanks for any thoughts. Sorry it's an essay!
I don't think your husband has helped by making this whole thing more complicated than it has to be. She's unpleasant to you (and now your friends) a lot of the time, you've previously addressed those issues (above and beyond, in my view), she doesn't seem to take any sort of responsibility for any of it.
The good news is she isn't your responsibility, so really, don't let yourself be railroaded into thinking that she is. If anyone suggests that YOU should do something (including your husband), just reach for your armoury of smile and nod, while carrying on avoiding her as much as possible.
Thanks Pippistrelle, I've had difficulty with recognising when I need to implement boundaries during my adult life due to physical and emotional abuse during my childhood. I've done a lot of work the past couple of years but still fail to figure out what is appropriate in terms of how people treat me. I think a big part of this issue is that I'm angry with myself for not being more firm (with all of them). Told DH today that I won't necessarily be spending time in her company in future and he'll have to accept that's my prerogative. He didn't argue.
And you have one more message/text to write, maybe in advance for when she says/sends/does something else. Something along the lines of:
Sorry SIL. I have no idea why us having a cordial relationship is so difficult for you but as it is, and I find it so very trying to deal with all the angst, I am out. Ta ra!
Told DH today that I won't necessarily be spending time in her company in future and he'll have to accept that's my prerogative. He didn't argue.
Good stuff, Cherry. And unless she learns how to behave like a decent human being, make sure you stick to it. (Sorry to come over all bossy: I'm just a big fan of clear boundaries. It makes things so much more straightforward.) And you're absolutely right when you said that it wasn't healthy for your children to be around such things, but here you are now modelling clear, assertive behaviour for them. It's the right thing for you and for them. I'm cheering you on.
Had to pop back to update. Yesterday, I took the children to a local community Easter event and SIL showed up with DN. She sat in a corner with a frown on her face not speaking to anyone. I had arrived before her and was already sat with a group of people chatting. She took out her phone and ended up staring at it for the rest of the afternoon, still frowning. She is used to me going over and asking how she is etc. I didn't. I mixed with other people and stayed busy with DC's. We had a great time! Then we left before her. Feels amazing to have not allowed her to affect how I feel!
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