Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
we're always getting it wrong(35 Posts)
Since day 1 me and my now husband have found our relationship with his parents challenging. They come across as a pretty standard middle aged couple and at first I tried so hard to keep them happy. It was really something we had to try and do and nothing was ever enough. We had always found some way to offend or upset, not seeing them enough (had to be once a week), then when we saw them once a week it was we aren't happy enough when we see them, we don't make them feel loved, we hate them and it just got worse and worse. Then inevitably we'd fall out, it caused huge amounts of pressure in our relationship (mine and dh's) as everytime they'd message he'd ask me what to say, not wanting to see them but needing and excuse to say no etc.
They aren't perfect and neither are we, however we recognise and admit it whilst they seem to think everything that they feel is down to us, rather than their insecurities.
Most of these insecurities seem to stem from mil, not feeling loved, her son doesn't "hug her properly", she never gets gifts etc and I think she struggled with her son not being there for her 24/7.
Since having a dd they've stepped it up a notch, and they are now upset on a weekly/at least monthly basis that although we see them once a week they want dd alone, to themselves.
We have let them take dd, on several occasions and they'd almost always do something I deem a little strange. Like feed her lots of lemon and take photos, show us and then wonder why she had a huge nappy rash (she was 6 months at the time), teach her that it's a great game to wrap rope around someone's neck and pull them around the room like a dog (aware this is just a bit of fun but it wasn't fun for dd when she got told off at play school for doing this to a younger child) these were typical things that they thought was suitable and when we mentioned that perhaps not such a great idea it was dismissed and told they're her grandparents they know how to look after her.
I don't think they are a danger to dd, they do love her, they also love dh and have caused a lot of damage and insecurity within him as a fully grown adult. I have real concerns that if I allow them to take my daughter as much as they wish, they will make her feel the same as he does and actually as I do around them.
I don't want to cut contact (ideally I'd see them far less) but I'm not sure how we establish a relationship when we all get together when it suits us all rather than feeling nervous everytime they message asking to take dd after seeing us at the weekend.
I'm aware I must sound petty but things have been strained and tough, they really have been such a huge amount of hard work and if I'm honest we as a family are so Much happier when they are on holiday or busy for a weekend. It's exhausting and the only way I can see it getting better is by moving away.
Any suggestions on how to set normal healthy boundaries?
Sorry for the rant. I don't want to drip feed!
Your concerns are well-founded.
The good news is that you get to choose how much time you spend with them, and how much time DD spends with them. So, decide whether you want to see them once a week or once a month or once a year or never. And stick to it. It really is your own free choice.
No, they won't like it. They will complain. They will blame you.
And so what? They're unpleasable anyway. So you might as well do what works for you.
Thanks for the reply.
It's good to hear that I'm not going mad. I'm starting to feel very unreasonable, like my family get it wrong and I should have my mum begging to take dd every week.
We try very hard to just politely say "sorry, it's just not convenient but look forward to seeing you on x day"
But it doesn't take long for the lengthy confrontational answer phone messages to come leaking in.
Example, saw them last weekend for a whole day and evening with dd, then they were invited over on father day (they cancelled last minute) then asked to take dd this week, we've said sorry, no she's not available (she's at her cousins birthday party) and we get a bombarded with emails and calls telling us we are pushing them out of dd's life.
I just don't see how that's the case and how they have the balls to say that. It makes me feel very uncomfortable, I just don't see it as a normal reaction.
They have picked her up for play school 3 times this month at their request. How is any of this pushing them out? How long will we have to just say "no, sorry" and "there's no issue its just not convenient" before they understand we are a busy family who barely have time together. 2 days every other weekend due to working patters.
They're unpleasable anyway. So you might as well do what works for you.
^ This. ^
You can not please them, this is who they are. Either accept it and limit your exposure to them, or suck it up and let them drive you crazy. There's not a third option, where you can provoke an epiphany where they suddenly stop being entitled and self absorbed.
I'd have gone batshit at the rope thing alone. And that would have been reason enough never to let them have a child of mine unsupervised. Wtf were they thinking?
I'd offer to visit and invite them to my home, but visiting them is better as you can leave when you please.
And the reply to offers of having her:
"No, than you"
If pushed for an answer I'd probably end up telling them that they've done shocking things in the past and I don't trust them. And if they try and justify them, you're the parents and you say what is and isn't reasonable to your children.
They won't understand. They don't want to understand. They want their way, or they kick off.
Write it down here: how much contact with them are you actually comfortable with?
That's your plan.
You enforce it by stating what works or doesn't work for you, as and when, and then ignore their tantrums. You don't need to read e-mails or listen to phone messages, even - there's a delete button.
Is your DH on side? It's likely that their manipulation tactics are more effective on him, since they got him used to it from babyhood. Clearly he feels they are unreasonable, but doesn't yet feel entitled to say "no" to them, if as you say he keeps handing the decision over to you.
So once you know in your heart of hearts how much contact you can bear, then discuss it with him, so that when you need to enforce those limits he knows that it is something he took part in deciding.
I'm clearly too tolerant and I think I've made it worse by desperately trying to keep mil happy. I just thought it'd get easier but the harder we try, the more we give the worse it seems to get.
I'd really love to just have a normal, laid back, equal relationship with them but we are children in their eyes I think.
The rope around the neck thing was very weird and I even said at the time "it's all fun and games until she does it to another child" to which mil replied " I'm sure the other children would probably enjoy it too hahaha" and carried on. I should've at that point said no, it's inappropriate but I was a bit shocked.
It's that sort of undermining behaviour that's happened since day dot that worries me. They'll always question why they don't see dd alone though. That'll be a lifetime of battles.
As for the how often we can see them thing, considering I work both days every other weekend, and dh leaves at 4:30am and returns home at 8pm (doesn't see me or dd 5 days a week pretty much) if say we could meet up every month, giving us at least 1 weekend a month with dd. They'd not stand for this easily though.
Of course dh can see them at the weekend when I'm at work, but that'll never bloody happen!
Who had the rope around their neck?
It's not inappropriate. It's demeaning and bloody dangerous. Particularly teaching it to a child. Not only they can do it to another child but to themselves.
I know a family struck by tragedy when their young boy tried his dad's blood pressure equipment around his neck. And enough children die from rope around neck accidents.
I hope they have stopped doing it, but I'd seriously question their judgement in general, not to mention the emotional blackmail attached.
I'd just keep ignoring the messages and cut them short when they start change the conversation abruptly.
You know, distraction techniques...
This sounds like me and my in laws. Except I'm a lot less nice than you! The real issue is the impact it has on my bloke who says he feels like piggy in the middle. All I want is him to be on MY side. sigh
I remember you well and unsurprisingly these people are still the same.
This is part of my reply I wrote to you before now:-
"These people are not rational and never will be as long as they are alive, you are still thinking like a person from a normal emotionally healthy family would behave and that is your mistake here. They are not and have never been emotionally healthy, the rule book gets well and truly
thrown out when it comes to such dysfunctional families".
Why do you not want to cut contact, is it really easier for you to see these people at all?. They were not good parents to your DH and are harming your DD in not too dissimilar ways either.
You will not be able to set any sort of healthy boundary when it comes to them because they will ignore it. You need to walk away; when is enough really enough?.
His parents are out and out dysfunctional, emotionally healthy people do not act like this. MIL likely has some sort of untreated and untreatable personality disorder. Their goal here is power and control over you all. They do not know the meaning of the word love; they associate love with control.
Their rope game is tantamount to abuse.
And this in spades:-
"They're unpleasable anyway. So you might as well do what works for you"
Your DHs inertia when it comes to his parents is hurting him as well as his own family unit now.
When my son was about 7 he called me and I found he'd got his head stuck in the cord of the blinds. I had to lift him up so he didn't hang himself while at the same time struggling to unwind it from round his neck. Fortunately I managed to stop him from suffocating but in that moment I knew he could die. I do have a different idea of what it is to tell a child that ropes go around necks now.
I also used to try to keep my PILs happy and would get a load of crap if I tried to do things my way. After my husband cheated on me I just said what I thought as I couldn't care less, and the in-laws really backed off. They are far more civil to me now. If they had just got really pissed off by my comments and stayed away from me that too would have been an OK solution.
You need to set your own standards and stick to them because theirs are off.
Work out what works for you in terms of time with them. "No sorry that doesn't work" no more than that no argument. Ignore emails and telephone calls that are unpleasent. Big grin and talk politely as though they never happened. I've also found steadfastly refusing to argue can be quite useful "you're too important to us to argue with you". Learning to be silent and not apologise, to listen to what they are saying without acceptance of responsibility or criticism of their feelings. Not allowing them time on their own with children until you find them trustworthy, not seeing either you or them until they behave in a way that works for you.
Of course this a assumming you want to hammer the relationship into a shape you are happy with. Sometimes I think no contact is easier. But personally I find the rewards well worth it
It's not about them not understanding what you want. It's about them not caring about what you say and them thinking they are in charge.
I don't want to cut contact because last time we did that dh was devastated. He still feels "but they are my parents" and his mother was spreading things around the family about me tearing her son away. Ironically he has left it to me to acknowledge every single one of her birthdays and Mother's Days, Christmas' etc since we met. Bleugh.
(He would do this eventually if he had to but he really can't be bothered)
Basically it was hellish and dh was doubting his decision.
They had it wrapped around fil neck, and then were wrapping it around 1 of dd's shoulder and under the other arm. Pulling each other around, playing "Cowboys". I knew dd wouldn't know not to do this elsewhere and she didn't. We have issues trying to tame her in and have banned rough play.
"I don't want to cut contact because last time we did that dh was devastated"
The above is simply not a good enough reason for you and your child not to see them.
He felt "devastated" like that because he is still very much in a FOG state when it comes to his mum and dad. He probably knows deep down that they are not good parents but his own fears and inertia when it comes to them stops him from doing anything. He cannot stand up for his own family here, they won't let him do that and they've always encouraged him to be enmeshed with them. My guess is as well is that he wants the whole thing to go away and for you all to get along because he cannot and equally will not deal with his parents. It shows weakness on his part and he is being a bystander in his own life here. Guilt also makes people overcompensate.
He may want to continue to have a "relationship" with his parents due to his own conditioning at their hands and FOG (fear, obligation, guilt) but it does not follow that you and your child have to be subjected to them.
You have a choice re these people and they are not suitable role models to be at all around you or your child. It is also not down to you to acknowledge her birthday and other such occasions; its his mother so its his responsibility. They are both toxic and untrustworthy.
You cannot change him or his dysfunctional parents but you can change the way you react to the bully your m-i-l is. And how you react to your husband's lack of backing you up. It will create schisms within your own relationship.
You also would not have tolerated any of this from a friend, I put it to you that family are no different.
Nothing ever goes around a child's neck. This is one of our big rules, like not crossing the road without an adult, not running off in car parks, and saying no to strangers. You need to sit your dd and make a big deal of this rule so that she remembers. Just can't believe your pil did this.
I'd get tough with them. I'd have played the games, like you have, hoping for a better relationship, but they put your child at risk and don't respect your rules, and this proves they're unbalanced. I've no right to say this, and stand to be corrected, but I reckon your mil is jealous of you taking her son away. Contact on your terms.
Do not leave your dd alone with them again.
The lemon thing was harmful in its way too imo. Doubt they'd have done it in front of you or other company, so may be big reason they want her 'alone' so strongly i.e without witnesses.
Never forget DS's face when he tried a lemon segment from someone else's plate, aged 3. We were around, but clearing the table and he was still sitting at the table. It was funny at the time, but we didn't set it up to happen to him. They seem to have - for their entertainment?
In your OP, PIL orchestrated this with 'lots' of lemon and also took photos of the no doubt 'hilarious' results - with a 6 month old baby
Taken together with the rope antics, I wouldn't be giving any more unsupervised contact no matter how much they make you think you are obliged to. Don't think I'd trust them not to have done other questionable things you wouldn't like, that are not in your DC's best interests
Good luck OP
They are narcissistic and you have unwittingly played into their hands. Your DH needs to recognise and take responsibility for how you choose to deal with them, not just you. There is loads of stuff on the internet about dealing with narcissists and books too. For your dd's sake of not your own, please read up and work out a strategy with your DH. He really needs to own how much they have controlled and manipulated him.
Also, let's be absolutely clear - what they did to your DD was abuse. However they pretend at 'love' it isn't love - it's about them, not her.
Of course No contact is an option and it might be the right one.
But personally I think the value of intergenerational relationships is often undervalued on Mumsnet. And I would be very swiftly ending any relationship with a partner that insisted I didn't see my family if I wasn't in whole hearted agreement. No contact only works if both partners are in agreement.
Your mum and dad don't stop being your family just because you get married and have a family of your own
Join the discussion
Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Register now
Already registered with Mumsnet? Log in to leave your comment or alternatively, sign in with Facebook or Google.
Please login first.