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Help me help my husband - MIL related

(10 Posts)
puglife15 Tue 14-Jun-16 22:47:48

Every time DH speaks to MIL on the phone he comes off tense, angry and depressed. She does a very morose / despondent voice, doesn't really ask about him or his life (and he doesn't offer), asks about the kids but in a way that is about her agenda (is he still not sleeping through / potty trained etc) and allows her to make little digs about our life choices. She also makes complaints about not seeing us (but is hugely busy herself and we are an afterthought to her active social life).

It doesn't sound like much but it is years of this type of behaviour that cumulatively has got him down. He just wants her to be kind and accepting and not miserable.

It then has an impact on me and the rest of the family as he is stressed and angry and depressed afterwards.

At the moment I am listening, and telling him he can't change her, he can only change his reaction to her and that most GPs have annoying views on how we should bring up kids. But he says he doesn't know how. He has low self esteem and just wants to please everyone.

Any advice welcome. After 10 years of this I've kind of had enough.

RiceCrispieTreats Tue 14-Jun-16 23:08:30

Empathise with him. A lot. Show your support and validate his own feelings.

Don't criticize her -- that will only make him panic as I'll bet he doesn't like the feeling of divided loyalties -- but do show that you feel bad for him and how she makes him feel.

"That sounds tough."
"How did that make you feel?"
"Oh poor you."
"I'm so sorry you feel down."

Resist the temptation to want to solve their relationship. Just focus on your own relationship with your husband, and show him that it's ok for him to voice how his mother makes him feel, and that you will support those feelings.

allibaba Tue 14-Jun-16 23:19:18

Buy "Toxic Parents" by Susan Forward. It has some great strategies for how to deal with situations like this. Also has patterns of behaviour explained so your DH can recognise what his mum is doing now.

RiceCrispieTreats Tue 14-Jun-16 23:48:04

"Toxic Parents" would be for your husband, not you, and it has to be his own journey that determines whether he's prepared to think of his mother as "toxic" and start seeking books, etc. It's a big step and a very personal one. Don't foist any books or any choices on him, as it will backfire.

Susan Forward has also written "Toxic In-Laws", though, which is for you, though. I'd recommend that.

HeartsofOak Tue 14-Jun-16 23:54:23

Excellent advice from RiceCrispie

whattodowiththepoo Wed 15-Jun-16 00:01:38

Does she scream at him between therapy sessions because she doesn't like his mum and blames him?

Atenco Wed 15-Jun-16 04:17:24

Oh RiceCrispie, such good advice.

puglife15 Wed 15-Jun-16 04:48:09

Thanks RiceCrispie

I do empathise but am guilty of not leaving it there and trying to help solve it, analyse her behaviour, offer him advice, criticise her or even play her behaviour down as she recently seemed to be getting better. I just feel responsible as he sometimes feels caught between us (eg most recently they wanted to come and stay and I raised a question about sleeping arrangements).

I will apologise to him for the in hindsight crap way I handled it last night where I tried to offer loads of practical solutions and asked him loads of questions. I know most of the time a hug and empathy is all I want when I'm having a vent.

I'd be worried about forgetting to hide Toxic In-laws if they came over! wink I think I'm in quite a good place with them, I can let it wash over me mostly these days and stand my ground if need to, but if the book might help me support my husband or DC better in the face of their comments it could be worth getting?

RiceCrispieTreats Wed 15-Jun-16 12:57:59

It's not just about him having a vent, though. I think your empathy can encourage him to think things that are probably too scary for him to face on his own: that his parents are bad to him, a lot of the times, that this isn't right, and that he is allowed to feel bad (rather than suck it up), and that he is allowed -- when he's eventually able to face that thought -- to stand up to them.

But that has to come from him. And the best way to get him to that point is to bolster him and his repressed feelings.

RiceCrispieTreats Wed 15-Jun-16 12:59:04

And you are always allowed to set your own limits: if it doesn't suit you to have them stay over, for example, you are perfectly entitled to say so.

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