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MIL's subtle invasive behaviour

(93 Posts)
dollytrix Wed 13-Apr-16 13:48:10

I have posted previously about MIL around 2 years ago. She was being overtly intrusive and critical about my parenting choices and DD was born, to the point I felt completely claustrophobic and burating with fury.
DH took the brunt, but has slowly come to terms with putting MIL in her place when required. She has improved and has been helpful lately, but I can see discreet behaviours beginning to creep in again.
Firstly, whenever I speak to, play with, sing to or chastise DD infront of her, she will speak or sing over me loudly to divert her attention back to her. I feel very conscious when she's around as she adds her opinion constantly at my choices of food to give her, the temp of her bedroom etc. But all very subtle comments like "I'm so cold in this room that I think I will have to go home."
DH had nipped to take the rubbish out and she waited until he had gone until she said anything, I told DH when he left and we both agreed the room wasn't cold at all.

A couple of weeks ago, I told MIL what I planned on buying DD for her 3rd birthday and low and behold, a week later she had the same thing sitting in her front room waiting for her arrival. Her defence was that it was second hand and a 'bargain' so surely she could have one at their house too.

Although she hasn't yet undermined my parenting when I chastise DD, I'm waiting for it. And to be honest I think I'll blow my top. She's currently having tantrums and we are having to regularly chastise her. I refrain from telling her off infront of MIL as I expect a comeback, but why shouldn't I? I'm on pins in her company. If we go on a family day trip and I make a decision she never disagrees but will push and push an opposite decision until DH tells her to back off. By that point I'm usually furious and snap at her too.

I am finding it increasingly difficult in her company, but her behaviours are very subtle so there's not a lot I can do. She also gets very giggly and smug like when she winds people up, so speaking seriously to her would not work in my favour.

DH and DBL are planning a surprise family outing for her birthday and I really don't want to go. Stuck with her for an entire day. I'll be on pins and it's exhausting. DH says that MILS behaviour is completely unintended "she's just a bit self centred not malicious, never call her malicious" He says.

I think she is malicious, in a smug-like, childish sort of way.

Thoughts? And ways to cope? DH and I don't have the best relationship at present so we could really do without the pressure from MIL right now.

dollytrix Wed 13-Apr-16 13:57:40

*meant critical about my parenting choices when DD was born to the point I was bursting with fury

frazmum Wed 13-Apr-16 14:17:23

Sounds like she is trying to compete for attention and she knows full well what she's doing. The present is a good example.

I'd suggest sharing less with her. What would happen if you said to her when she interrupts you talking to DD to please wait a sec and you'll reply to her when you've finished with DD?

LineyReborn Wed 13-Apr-16 14:24:43

That's not 'subtle'. It sounds like a sledgehammer. But then I'm very observant and intolerant of crass, manipulative behaviour, from many years of unhappy practice.

Joysmum Wed 13-Apr-16 15:18:56

Firstly, whenever I speak to, play with, sing to or chastise DD infront of her, she will speak or sing over me loudly to divert her attention back to her

I would tell her that you are trying to teach DD that's it's rude to interrupt people and you'd rather that DD didn't start to see her as being rude but then I'm a bitch that won't put up with any shit

Hissy Wed 13-Apr-16 16:36:34

Oh yeah, and the little comments about shit when h is out of the room?

Don't respond until he's back, not even a flicker. Then when dh is in the room say "mil was saying the room is cold, is t that right mil?" And leave it to h to take up with her. She'll back down.

dollytrix Wed 13-Apr-16 20:21:55

I've learned not to react to her now and when she does say something I casually start messing with my phone rudely as if I've more important things to do. I've repeatedly asked DH not to leave me alone with her, but he forgets and does.
I mentioned the present that she copied when he was out of the room too, so he never heard me tell her what we were buying. He believes me, but if he hadn't hAve done so, it wouldn't have been the first time.

I hate long periods in her company, she will ensure that I can't just speak civilly to her as she endeavors to dominate everything we do or say. She rudely talks at me and never stops to listen to me or even let me contribute, she's awful. I can't even immerse myself in DD so as to ignore her as she sabotages all communication I have with her too.

GooodMythicalMorning Wed 13-Apr-16 20:26:04

yeah I second trying to lessen the time spent with her.

shiteattheseaside Wed 13-Apr-16 21:07:48

I posted just xmas about my lovley inlaws. (Name changed) my mil was exactly the same. Constant subtlety constant comments and buying things etc. (Search aibu spillyobeans 'mil strikes again' sure you will enjoy the read)

In the end i actualy had to sit my mil and fil down and tell then their behaviour was unacceptable. The things that work for me now at keeping them 'in check' are

1. Dont share anything. My mil would invite herself along everywhere so i dont mention any plan to her. It can be hard as she will keep asking what we are up to etc but i just keep changing subject or just stay very vague (another good tip). E.g: "what are your plans today?" "A few errands" "like what? Are you going shopping?" "Not sure yet" " can i come along?" "Well i dont know if im going, and if i do i will probably only go to the corner shop next to my house and not asda so i wont be much use sorry".

2. Keep your ground. If she says its cold just say "sorry but i dont agree". Try not to get i to arguments of your wrong im right, but dont accept her behaviour either. If you cant agree just reply with something like "well im sorry you feel that way".

3. This is a biggy - dont spend any ANY time with her without your partner being there. She will use any oportunity alone to try and control you, like the 'its cold' comment. Plus all the subtlety is lost on men it seems , so anything said should be infront of your partner so he can see it. Otherwise she will deny it and he will make excuses for her.

4. Any purchases are to either be kept at hers or sent back or gave to charity. My mil favourite phrase when she bought something that we were going to get was 'well its done now' - reply with 'well undo it then.'

If you want to speak more about it then please pm me, honestly i know what your going still bloody living with nightmare inlaws!!!

DoreenLethal Wed 13-Apr-16 21:17:55

I agree apart from the 'its cold' type thing.

If she says 'it is cold' or 'whatever' when your husband is out of the room. Just say when he gets back 'mil was saying she thinks it is cold. Would you like to get her coat for her or perhaps a blanket over her legs might help'. If she denys it you can say 'oh, i misunderstood when you said you were cold, what did you mean then?'. Never apologise for hearing things wrong becayse as we know, you heard it right. And you can say when she says these things 'oh, sorry to hear you are cold, i will let DH know when he comes back in' as if she is trying to get a dig in, you can just offload it onto him to deal with.

MrsLupo Thu 14-Apr-16 00:46:45

In what parallel universe is singing loudly over the top of you subtle? grin

Just call her out on her behaviour, every time. People like this rely on the fact that people like you and me are too pleasant and civilised to say anything that could make things uncomfortable. You don't have to be rude or argumentative, just be politely straight-talking, and a little baffled on occasion. When she says it's so cold she'll have to go home, say cheerily, 'Well, it's been lovely to see you...' as you hold her coat out and open the door. If she buys duplicate presents, frown and say, 'But... why would DD want two...?' If she talks across you, laugh gaily and say, 'Gosh, I can't hear myself think! Would you mind if I just finish talking to DD, and then I can give my full attention to what you're saying MIL!' Have fun. She will get tired of it long before you do.

Zaurak Thu 14-Apr-16 07:54:12

Repeat her comments back to her, in the presence of others. Add Masses of faux concern.

"Mil was just saying it's cold in here. Darling could you get her a blanket or something? That does happen I'm afraid, all part of getting older, you feel the cold more! Maybe we can buy you one of those lovely ( hideous granny lap rug/electric blanket) "

dollytrix Thu 14-Apr-16 11:20:16

Thankyou for the tips! Im going to try them but it sounds like I need to get involved in a game of psychological warfare with her... it dosent suit me much but I will try!

I think control is the things here. As soon as she comes to our house it's the temperature, the lighting (she will actually request lights to be switched on and off when she arrives), the organisation of the kitchen etc...
Her opinions are always facts in her head. We always take DD to her house now, but tbh we go out of our way to do so. I don't see why she can't just behave in OUR house so we don't have to go out of our way everytime. Plus, she loves it that we go there because she gets to be in control!

NNalreadyinuse Thu 14-Apr-16 11:29:24

Your h knows that your mil is a pita, so why don't you just tell him that you and dd will not be going on a day trip?
You are not obligated to spend time with people who undermine your parenting or expose your dd to it either. Your mil and your dh will soon get the message that if they want cosy family days out then she needs to behave herself and he needs to not 'forget' about leaving you alone with her. If how you feel is important to him, he will make the effort to remember.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 14-Apr-16 12:18:28

The tips suggested by shiteattheseaside are along the lines of those you are going to have to adopt. You need to raise and reaffirm your own boundaries constantly with regards to her. You should be under no obligation to go and visit her in her house either.

I would also suggest you read "Toxic Inlaws" written by Susan Forward to further understand the power and control dynamics that are going on here.
A good rule of thumb here is that if the relative is too difficult for you to deal with, its the same deal for your child as well so I would keep your DD well away from her anyway.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 14-Apr-16 12:19:29

Never reward their bad behaviour by visiting or spending any time in their "company". You would not have tolerated any of this from a friend, family are no different.

AmyAmoeba Thu 14-Apr-16 19:01:50

Are you me?
I've never posted about my ILs because in comparison to other stories on here it's really hard to put my finger on anything concrete but it's all so exhausting. At the heart of the matter is the fact that there is a fundamental lack of respect for me and our family unit.

DH is so deeply mired in FOG that he doesn't even understand that there is a problem and I just don't know how to begin to discuss it with him (beyond the basic level of your mum or dads being a PITA again) because I'm not qualified to put him back together if he actually lifted the lid on the weirdness. I'm not being facetious either; of the women/girls in the family, I'm the only one not on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications and DH is the only "child" in the family who isn't in long term therapy.

The speaking over you thing is so familiar. I eventually started holding up a finger to her (not that finger though it's tempting) and saying "just a moment", but it feels very rude to me and I don't like letting someone impact my personal behaviour iyswim

And the not listening thing? If I start to speak she interrupts with an irrelevant question or looks so bored that I find myself faltering so now I just bite my tongue when I feel a temptation to speak. What would be the point? Though I have done it once in front of DH and looked over at him in confusion so that he would actually see it happening. The infuriating thing is that she tells me long involved stories about other people so she clearly does have an attention span of longer than the four and a half seconds that I am granted.

If I complain I sound unreasonable or ungrateful, because don't you know she only means well. Like when she buys the kids toys she knows I don't allow ( guns, barbies), or takes them out in the midday Mediterranean sun without hats and glasses because she raised 4 kids and there was no sunblock then (SIL was getting moles investigated at the time) or lavishes 30 Easter eggs on them because I'm only fussing about the diabetes risk in my family, etc.

I don't have advice to offer at all. I've more or less resigned myself to it, and am working on being a bit more "myself" around them and not letting them drain me as much. I don't complain to DH but I don't cover up for them either. I know the MN line would be that I have a DH problem and I suppose I do but MIL has done a number on all her kids. It's a massive wedge in an otherwise good marriage, and knowing (and watching) the devastating effect she has on her kids marriages and relationships, makes me want to dig my heels in and survive her. In a way I should be grateful because DH might have been happily married long before we met and making some other woman happy instead of me.

Sorry if that's a bit of a detail about me me me! Just letting you know you're not alone.

Another thing - don't tell her your ideas for special presents - if she doesn't know you are planning to buy something, she can't pre-empt you.

AmyAmoeba Thu 14-Apr-16 20:09:43

I should add that one thing I am vigorous about is making sure I don't gaslight the kids about MIL or any of the other manycrazy relatives in their lives. Mine are a bit older than yours so it's probably not as important yet but something to bear in mind.
I'm not disrespectful about our relatives when I talk through any difficult incidents afterwards but I am as straight as I can be with them. Even to the point of explaining that maybe I should have said something but wasn't sure what to say. I may not be able to give them a lot of "normal" but I can help them to look critically at what happens around them and be aware that there are other possibilities, not just absorb all the craziness as normal.

dollytrix Thu 14-Apr-16 20:12:02

Your story resonates a LOT Amy! The long involved stories about OTHER people I have to tolerate too! She clearly makes time for conversations with others but never me. She often asks me a polite, friendly question, I begin to answer, then wham, she's on to something else.
She also appears to want to give my DD the most attention when I'm giving it to her which really pisses me off.... otherwise she's bust gossiping about the neighbours when DD is there. As soon as I begin singing to or playing with DD, she begins to divert DD'S attention to other games and songs: I've pictured myself swinging for her on a number of occasions!
It's as if I need to treat her as a child to get her to act, communicate and respond in a normal, respectful manner. So I understand why you feel rubbish about the finger thing.

My DH has become more understanding over time, but like it explains in Toxic Inlaws, he's grown accustomed to her behaviour so sees it as the norm. That book helped me forgive DH for not understanding so much if anything at all.

Going NC I feel is a bit drastic as I do want my DD to have a relationship with them as she has her good points. So I think working on my own self esteem, being myself around her and saying what I think each time she acts like a madam is the way forward!

FrancesHaHa Thu 14-Apr-16 20:20:13

I'd be inclined not to go to the surprise birthday if I were you.

I often don't go to events with the in laws, and I generally quite like them, I'm just quite busy, and life is too short. I'm sure MIL isn't that happy, but never says anything to me about it.

I'd think of something you really need to do on that day and send your DD with DH.

AmyAmoeba Thu 14-Apr-16 22:10:47

Heading off to find a copy of toxic Inlaws in the library!

dollytrix Thu 14-Apr-16 22:52:49

I downloaded it onto my phone so that DH didn't even know I was reading it! ;)

dollytrix Tue 26-Apr-16 10:38:01

An update:
It's all come a head with MIL.
I went on the family outing organised by DH and DBIL. Within minutes of meeting up, she had updated her FB status to say what a great day she was having with everyone who was there... minus myself! I just didn't get mentioned! Followed shortly afterwards by a comment about DC looking cold and needing something around her neck. I politely asked that she not make indirect criticisms all day as I wasn't in the mood for it. With that came tears, storming off with FIL in tow.
We met back up for lunch a couple of hours later- she had puffy red eyes, felt very sorry for herself and despite my dignified efforts to be civil with her, she completely blanked my presence.
I refuse to believe that her behaviour isn't intentional anymore and DH is starting to see this too.
DH wants a 'family meeting' I want to never be in her company again to be honest. I made a simple request and yet she reacted so unreasonably? As if I'm supposed to accept her behaviour? I have told DH that I will leave him this time should he disregard the way she's made me feel yet again. She has taken the role of victim and isn't responding to DH'S simple messages about something completely different that he's needed to contact her about. I can see his support for me starting to falter a little through MIL's quiet manipulation, victimisation tactics.
Am I justified to refuse settling the issue? I don't see a lot of point, she will always take the role of the victim and tbh I no longer want to be in her company for the foreseeable future. Is it OK for me to say enough is enough and I am cutting ties for the time being?
If my DM treated DH like this I would support his decision for ties to be cut for a while I think.

lamiashiro Tue 26-Apr-16 10:45:49

A family meeting sounds more like an opportunity for them to gang up on you, IMHO. I wouldn't do it.

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