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What causes so many DMs and DMILs to behave so badly?(142 Posts)
The older I get
the more years I spend on MN the more baffled I get about whether something just happens to some women that they all start to display these weird behaviours.
So here are my musings - I'd be really interested if anyone has professional, academic, or anecdotal info to share.
1 - This is entirely a product of older generations being abandoned in prams to scream and scream so they got fresh air. This leaves a gaping hole in their development that leaves them feeling constantly unloved and a bottomless well neediness . (This is my favourite theory and entirely made up and without scientific basis).
2 - Narcissism - are the parents who we now perceive as having narcissistic tendencies the ones who then become unbearable mothers of the bride? And then difficult gms? Have there always been this many Narcissistic people or is it on the increase? Because of a change in parenting practices? Because of the abandonment above?
3 - Have women been raised, until relatively recently, to be pliant and put their needs after everyone else in the family and at some point the resentment builds to a point of no return? Does something happen when kids have gone. .there's room for the mother to start, I don't know, change?
4 - the menopause/importance of looks/getting old. Don't have a whole sentence for this, but something about losing relevance? Looks? Being invisible?
So I realise that this may sound ridiculous, as it is only based on my own experience, and a long interest in mothers/in laws of my friends, but it seems rampant, and makes so many people unhappy.
Ignore me if I'm being bonkers?!
Surely the MIL problem has been around since the beginning of time?
I can look at my mothers childhood and see some reasons why she is the way she is.
But, instead of swearing that she would never treat her children badly, she has probably done worse. It is our generation that are vowing to do better.
Every reason is different. You can't explain crazy. It's the script that is similar.
Surely it's because you only hear about interesting behaviour?
So you will hear more about eccentric behaviour, and a lot more about really really mad behaviour.
For instance I'd be very unlikely to post about my (now deceased) MIL, even though she had genuine mental health issues; as they didn't really cause me problems, and weren't that interesting.
My SIL had far more issues with her as her step-mum, but that is partly her baggage from childhood, and not being the favoured child. I could ignore/neutralise behaviour much more easily.
But I still think at the worst it wasn't very interesting, and cutting visits short helped.
Although tuberculosis patients were at one time exposed to the elements year round when sleeping at night in open air pavilions, as far I'm aware no medical or childcare specialist advocated leaving infants outdoors during London's infamous smogs or foggy/icy weather in other parts of the UK.
Therefore, imo, the first of your "musings' falls flat on it's face as babies/infants were not left outooors to "scream and scream" so that they got fresh air into their lungs, but because it was thought to be healthful for them to be left in prams/cots outside the home during daylight hours when they were napping during the warmer months.
Furthermore, many dms/mils of today were Dr Spock babies who were raised in a far more child centred manner than previous generations.
The remainder of your OP consists of a series of questions which make it look as if you are garnering opinion for an article or somesuch, but they boil down to the nature v nurture debate in that, with certain exceptions, there is as yet no definitive answer as to whether personality traits are inherited or acquired during childhood/adolescence, or adulthood for that matter and it's also necessary to factor in cultural traditions when giving consideration as to how members of one generation treat, or relate to, another.
You should also bear in mind that while this board/site contains many posts from those who have experienced 'difficulties', for what of a better term, with their dms/mils there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of others in real life who have no cause for complaint.
Thanks for your replies.
mummytime by definition there will be those in the family dynamic who are the target of such behaviour (your SIL), and I would surmise that this is why she reacted differently to you. Either way, I'm not sure why you site her "genuine" illness, was it just a phrase or would you say that other ils etc are something different?
aussiebean my friend and I were wondering recently, why some children follow their parents example, and what makes others try do hard to be the opposite! Even if both had horrible experiences.
goddess, I'm definitely not trawling, if I were I'd be very worried about my lack of structure and hope I'd be better at being a little covert. I know musings sounds. ..pompous? I was trying to convey how messy this all is in my mind.
My relatives grew up in the country, so no worries about smog and such, and I'm not sure if you're ascertain "as far as I'm aware", I can't tell, are you saying that you haven't heard of this practice and therefore it didn't happen, or that you know this within the context of prior interest/knowledge? I have not looked to see if it was advice given out, only that it did happen. Whether it was just (coincidentally ) some of the mums/grandparents I know, or whether it was prevalent. I'm a Spock baby so I'm talking before then I suppose.
I'm not trying to be right, and I'm confused as to why it seems that way. I accept that the MIL how has been around forever, and presumably comes from social requirements - if widowed a mother would have to be looked after by one of her children's families. .but I'm not sure that'd quite the same. Our maybe it's connected? I'm truly surprised that there is no definitive answer on personality traits, I've certainly been told over the years that, for example, some traits are the result of getting stuck at a certain age and not developing smoothly from there. I will go and do some reading.
I'm sorry, maybe it's something and nothing but, as I've now seen yet again in another new thread, the whole concept of boundaries and finding an appropriate role in your child's life, seems a pervasive problem.
I do know lots of happy and kind relatives. I completely acknowledge that anything on here is a skewed sample. I still thought it seemed there may be a reason for this behaviour, even if it's rare.
I think MILs in particular get a very hard time on MN but I'm sure it is often with plenty of justification.
It comes down to the DIL not being 'good enough' for the son I'm most cases I imagine which causes resentment to go the other way.
In my case, my MIL said,"You're taking my son away from me." And that was it, as simple as that. She even wrote it in one of her
poison pen letters, about me to my DH, "she's taken you away from me." Erm, no, we got married & your son moved us away to get away from you to further his career.
Nothing I say or do can ever be right or compensate for me taking her son. She didn't even get in touch for her gch's 18th birthday.
Oh dear, how sad, never mind.
I love the inventiveness of number 1 but definitely number 2 for my MIL - by many accounts she's always been very self-centred, strong willed and narcissistic even with her own children when they were small, but it wasn't so obvious when they were a self contained family and she could tell the children (and her DH) exactly what to do. The cracks start showing when the family widens with new IL's coming into the mix and even the original 'blood' family expanding with cousins growing up. When MIL's children all got married and started having DC's her control was nowhere near absolute so she started
losing her shit acting up but she was definitely just as unreasonable before, the things she did to guilt trip her kids when they were barely teenagers were awful for starters, but no-one else was noticing, or on MN complaining, at that point.
My MIL was in a whole class of her own. When I was newly married (in the first couple of years) she regularly used to ask me was I keeping her son sexually satisfied in the bedroom? I was She also actually weighed my
enormous breasts IN HER HANDS like melons when I was pregnant! Nothing was off-limits. There were no boundaries for her, my life was her life, her and my now exdh were severely enmeshed/co-dependent. They were the dh/dw team & I was the addition! She was diagnosed schizophrenic and he had a personality disorder. We're now divorced.
OP - I don't think you should form your opinions solely on MN responses. A lot of people post on MN because they have a problem and seek other's views and advice.
Lots of DD / DiL / MiL and DMs do not need to post on MN for advice.
I once frankly asked my PIL why they were so vile to me.
They looked blank as if it was obvious, then FIL said -
'This is how it is. YOU MUST RESPECT US. You MIL had problems with my mother, but now it's HER turn to be the boss. That's how it is in every family. YOU MUST RESPECT US.'
So from that I gleaned that some people are just cunts who like being horrible.
From the way they said it ^^ it was obvious that they really did mean it - MIL was being a twat because her MIL had been awful to her, and now it was her turn, and she was entitled to enjoy it.
Needless to say I don't subscribe to this shite which results in me being labelled A Very Bad Wife and A Very Disrespectful Girl
This is my favourite theory and entirely made up and without scientific basis
I like your style, OP. But I think your theory falls down as you seem to be suggesting that it would only have a negative impact on female babies. Or maybe you think that fathers and fathers in law can be just as difficult (i would agree with that) but just want to focus on mothers and mothers in law in this thread?
Lovely replies :-) chottie, I hope I clarified, I'm not saying every mil and not just on mn. We just have the most difficult ones on here .
five i think you have really hit on something there. .Whilst safe in the family they've constructed it all works (more or less). It's when others get involved. ..
The horror stories are oddly satisfying. Or, at least, provide constant reassurance that it's not just like this in my twisted little world.
My mother tells me stories of her childhood that sound exactly the same as mine but always with the ending line but I didn't let it affect me....so I think perhaps it's a case of having issues to deal with but choosing to ignore them......
Either that or she didn't go through the same as me and it's just another way of invalidating me lol x
I have no problem with my inlaws, however the fact that they live on a different continent to me probably helps , and my parents are pleasant if extremely self absorbed people.
My personal observation is that for many of us our parents and inlaws fall into the baby boomer generation, and that generation is categorised by being entitled and absolutely sure that they are right, all the time. Although it'd be deeply wrong to say everyone between 55 and 75 has narc tendencies, I think narcissism is the overriding theme of that generation.
Oh yes, i have an interesting FIL so am entirely equal ops about this, but don't forget that men by definition are more allowed/able to distance themselves from this stuff because they're more likely to be out of the house 30-50 hours a week, and generally less expected to provide gracious hosting of parents and in-laws. Off the top of my head. . Also, again MOE, the fathers Gfs and fils tend to be colluding with the behaviour of the mothers, a supporting role.
Or maybe when it's a man it just appears as dv? Grumpy old man? Woman flit around making space for their unreasonable behaviour? Their supremacy is expected and allowed more readily?
Cracking headache, must be all this thinking. Tricky fir a piglet brain.
To be honest, I know as many people of my generation who must be unbearable daughters/ daughters in law as people who are awful mothers/ mothers in law so it cuts both ways (and both genders for sure).
Also, some of this stuff is just normal inter-generational conflict and a lot of people just need to say "mmm" a lot more when parents start off on DM politics etc. We may not find ourselves so liberal in our sixties either, is all I'm saying, at least by the standards of future times.
In my earlier post, "as far as I'm aware" means that to the best of my knowledge and that of several generations of my family in the UK and the USA, it was never advocated that babies should be left to cry outdoors in order to get fresh air into their lungs, but it was believed that infants benefited from a daily outing or from being left to sleep in daylight.
One of my older relatives recalls regularly walking past a day nursery shortly after lunchtime in the early 1950's and seeing infants having their afternoon naps on little camp beds which were placed outdoors under the shade of the building's eaves during the spring/summer and on fine and warm autumn days, but never when it was raining or cold enough for an adult to need a coat.
I would imagine that some babies were effectively left to "scream and scream" if they were placed in a garden out of earshot of their dms/carers, and no doubt some were deliberately subjected to neglect of this nature.
This article may be of interest to you, lborgia, and may also be of interest to those who have newborns www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1477238/A-daily-dose-of-fresh-air-helps-babies-to-sleep-longer-at-night.html
The nature/nurture debate is one I've engaged in many times, but it is far too complex and far-ranging to do justice to it here. Fwiw, I have encountered obnoxious and uncaring individuals who were raised by loving dps, and well-adjusted and caring individuals who have had less than auspicous childhoods. On balance, I think that 'there's nowt so queer as folk' can be said to apply to the title of your OP.
Nobody on MN is going to admit they are an awful DIL, so reading MN is not going to give a balanced view, although reading between the lines you can see its is not just the MIL fault.
My MIL was lovely and my DM was also a lovely MIL to the men we married, despite having an awful MIL herself(horrible gm as well)
To my mind "musing" doesn't sound at all pompous, lborgia, but that may be because I do a lot of it in rl and some of it ends up on this site.
I think there are several reasons, but the main two are thus:
2. Women generally have had little power or influence. The only way they get to exert any power or control is domestically. This is rarely out and out violence (unlike male control). Because women are socialised to be 'nice' so it takes a different form.
When a woman like this has a son she gains importance via the son. When the son marries she loses that importance and power and this is unbearable. Hence the dil is punished.
2. Some people are just utter shits.
Hth. For what it's worth, my own mum is great, my mil is absolutely fine and I still miss my ex mil - one of the loveliest people I've ever met.
Is this not a simple before you have your own family, you have lots of time to spend seeing your parents. Once you get married and then have your own children, naturally you spend more time with them and less with your parents so they get niggly. I know that before I started seriously dating my now dh I would see mum at least once a week, If not more, then as dh and I got more serious weekends were spent with him, so saw mum less, and that was an adjustment for her as she got a bit lonely.
Add to that, the fact that generally you will parent/run your house differently to you parents and your inlaws so they then start to offer "helpful advice"
It seems to me that most of the time these posts about dm's and dmil's seem to stem from either unreasonable requests on posters times, or overstepping boundaries and interfering.
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