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How to improve relationship with ILs?(26 Posts)
DH and I have been together for 13 years and have two DCs under six. He's from the UK, I'm Australian. We live abroad in a third country, equidistant from UK and Australia.
PILs and I used to be on very friendly terms - emails, the odd chat if I picked up DH's phone etc. Since DCs were born relations have gradually gone downhill and now we barely speak.
Living abroad hasn't helped, although we see them a lot. One year we spent 10 weeks with them altogether (we're teachers, so long holidays + an extended visit here). I don't see my family a fraction of this.
The last time we saw them (a few weeks in the summer) they spent the whole time looking stoney faced, and I noticed they would avoid me wherever possible. DH was also included in the snubbing but it wasn't as bad. I asked DH to speak to them but he said he took the "let's ignore their bad behaviour" approach. It was bloody miserable.
Outside of holidays I never hear from them and they only really email DH to ask about Skyping the children. When I email I get a sentence-long reply.
I suspect all this is down to the fact we moved abroad, and probably also because we're moving to Australia in a few months. I think they're upset and blaming me for taking their only grandchildren even further away.
They've overstepped boundaries in the past which has deepened the divide - once I went to Australia to see my family for the first time in two years, and they said (in a one-sentence email) they'd come too. I was very upset and we asked them not to come, but they did anyway. That didn't go down well on either side and the holiday was very intense and pressured.
They're not the best at communicating which is half the problem, and we often hear things through other relatives that I think are meant to be a way of testing the waters. For instance, I heard (through my endlessly sympathetic SIL) that they are planning to spend six months of the year with us every year when we move to Australia... at least we know and are forewarned I suppose! (don't worry - over my dead body etc).
I know this makes them sound dreadful but they're actually really nice, just desperate to see their grandchildren. I feel really sorry for them and hate the ill-feeling. I encourage Skypes and remind DH to email them pics and updates on a weekly basis. I'm wondering if I should do anything else, or if I should just leave it to DH?
Sorry this is so long. It's really hard to convey all the nuances of a complicated relationship in a few paragraphs!
So are you trying to mend your relationship with them or not? You seem conflicted.
Have you had a frank discussion with your DH?
What are his feelings on this issue?
If you don't want to spend 6 months a year with your in laws in your home then you just speak to him
I really can't imagine anyone saying their in laws with them for 6 months every year
Sulking and ignoring boundaries isn't 'nice' behaviour. It's selfish and cruel ruining everyone else's time and holidays. Frankly, I'd be telling them to fuck off. And then telling your DH that they won't be staying in your house at all. Never mind 6 months.
None of this is normal behaviour or considerate. Really, I'd be looking to go very low contact with them rather than trying to improve the relationship.
They sound cruel, selfish and manipulative. They would have to do a fuckload of apologising before they'd be welcome in my home again.
Potato you're right, I'm very conflicted. I don't actually like them very much at the moment, yet I remember the times we all got on well and time spent together was much easier. I would like to get to that point again, but I don't want to deal with them right now. Catch-22.
DH and I have spoken about them at length, and we're in agreement. Although he can be a pushover, he will never agree to host them for six months of the year. I would walk away if that happened, and he knows it.
We are already low contact, really, due to geography. We have cut down the holidays in the last two years (after a disastrous month-long visit when DC2 was three weeks old). That's probably another reason they're annoyed with me/us.
I guess I'd just like someone to say that I can leave this all to DH and stop worrying about it, because I just feel so guilty that things are the way they are. But even that doesn't really work because it's so fecking complicated: if we lived closer DH could go round with the kids and I could maintain polite, pleasant distance. But as it stands we are kind of all thrown together for longer periods than we (DH and I) would like.
It's not your fault. Even if there was no distance their treatment of you all indicates that they would have turned nasty about something at some time or other
We have similar behaviour from my IL's and some visits I'm sure she just wants to punish us for moving away. I'm dreading the next visit as I put my foot down and limited it to to 2 weeks following the sulks and comments of the last visit and also so that DH is home so she doesn't get the opportunity to get her sly digs in. I also refused to have them visit for Christmas Day as I didn't need the added pressure and atmosphere. I'm the scapegoat as DH probably would never had actually made the move if I hadn't pushed it.
She came to stay for a few days before we moved and spent the 3 days she was with us reading in another room, ignoring us. I had so many people I didn't get to say goodbye to properly as I wasted those days putting up with her sulk.
Protect yourself, I find a lot of the behaviours unforgivable so am very LC with them these days, DH skypes with them weekly but I just stay out of the way for my own good.
I have English parents and a DH from another country. IME my English parents are much less flexible about time spent abroad with the DC and not in the U.K and also employ the moodiness tactics.
It has helped to invite them out to see us frequently, to make then the "guests of honour," but specifically guest status, not people who can just turn up st your house and live there for six months.
Do your parents have a better relationship with the DGC?
Thank you for the replies - and for saying it's not my fault ohfour! Certainly feels like it.
stolemy we had a similar scenario in the summer. After saying how excited they were about seeing the GC, MIL and FIL both sulked constantly. On our last day together, they decided it would be a good idea to go shopping and spend time with friends. They left after breakfast and got back when the kids were asleep! I couldn't believe it. DH was furious! I think they did it to make a point, but not sure what the point was.
How often do you see your ILs, just out of curiosity?
Slowmow my parents have a good relationship with the DC, but we see them less as they still work and travel between our countries is very expensive. They're very understanding about us living abroad - but we are moving back so they can afford to be, if that makes sense.
We have invited them out but they say they have already "been there, done that" in terms of the country where we live.
I really think it's time to stop trying. Trust me when I say that you get to the point where invites continually fall on deaf ears, they go ahead and do what they want to anyway, and it just becomes easier to live your lives without dealing with the inevitable fall out. They're going to be shit no matter what you do so you may as well enjoy yourselves and ignore the idiots.
Fwiw we got it in the necks from ILs for moving away. We moved 10 miles
We moved 10 miles ... well that neatly illustrates your earlier point then: if it wasn't the move it would be something else!
You're right. I need to stop worrying about it and try to let it go.
You do, love. It's not worth the angst and heartache. You're allowed to concentrate on your happiness and your family, you know
I agree with PP - take a huge step back from them emotionally as well as geographically. Let DH take the strain of it.
Re the long visits, you do need to have DH on side with this. It doesn't sound like you/he are very good at boundary enforcing with them. How did they end up going on holiday with you when you had already said no? I can't imagine how that happened.
You just need to step back. And leave the ball well and truly in their court.
It sounds like you are chasing a relationship with them out of guilt. You are trying too hard and this enables them to ignore you but still reap the rewards of a relationship with your DH & children.
Don't remind or push your DH to send photos and updates regularly. Leave his relationship with his parents to continue normally without you driving it.
Don't email or contact them (as you don't get much in return from them anyway) wait for them to make an effort and contact you.
It is unfortunate that they don't have much of a relationship with you, but to be brutally honest, it sounds like they don't really like you very much.
I would refrain from drawing SIL this, keep your conversations with her about other topics, don't use her as a messenger (or more accurately don't let THEM use her as a messenger)
If they want to discuss visits to your home, then they need to maintain a decent relationship with you. They cannot freeze you out and then expect you to welcome them into your home for visits.
Just politely back away (without any drama or a big family fall out) and wait to see how they react.
You need to let go of the guilt, and rather invest your energy in family relationships that pay dividends.
I am amazed at the holiday thing also. How the hell did they even think it was at all appropriate for them to hijack and sabotage the only opportunity that you had in 2 years to see your family? And why did you agree?
"For instance, I heard (through my endlessly sympathetic SIL) that they are planning to spend six months of the year with us every year when we move to Australia... "
Really? They just intend to move in with you for half of the year without even asking you?
They are not nice people. Nowhere near nice people. Leave it all to you DH to sort out; it is not your guilt to carry.
So go via the lovely SIL and let it be known that they will NOT be staying for six months, not even six weeks! My parents visit my sibling twice a year in a far flung country, not on their doorstep, and they rent a holiday let. No way would they stay with her, it would end in murder. They do a lot of looking after children and ferrying round, but spend evenings at their holiday let.
I think you need to be very clear, via lovely SIL, or this could be a very poor situation.
Thanks for the insights. JustSpeak especially. You're right, I am chasing a relationship out of guilt and it's wasted energy. And sadly no, I don't think they like me very much.
The holiday thing happened like this: we decided to go to Australia to visit my parents, after a two-year gap. ILs love Australia and said they'd come too. I emailed them (I know it's DH's job but I was so annoyed I wanted to get in first!) saying it's not a good time, and explaining why. No reply. Then DH emails them saying the same thing and they replied saying they were so upset, how could you do this to us ... then they said they were going anyway independently, they were about to book tickets and it "wasn't their problem" I hadn't seen my parents/they hadn't met DC2. They ended by saying they were SO disappointed that we "couldn't even meet them for a coffee".
DH felt he had no choice but to agree. And of course a coffee turned into a week - actually remembering it now when they arrived they were unable to tell us how long they would be staying with us! That was nice.
SIL and BIL (DH's brother) try to keep out of it but they do get a lot of unwanted info. I have a feeling quite a bit is filtered. But I appreciate the heads up on the "they want to live with you" thing, forewarned being forearmed and all that. SIL and BIL live nearer ILs and are also the recipients of unwanted/unscheduled visits, but they don't have kids and aren't planning any so it's not as bad as it could be.
For quite a while I thought this situation was down to family dynamics: DH's family is big, they pop in and out of each other's homes, invite themselves to stay etc. My family is small and is definitely not like that. Visitors in small doses, exit times firmly in place. But I think now that you're all right and they haven't respected the boundaries we've put in place in our own family.
And by the way, there is no way on earth they will be staying with us for six months each year. That will never EVER happen, in case I wasn't clear!
You have to learn from this. Both of you.
No more telling them dates of holidays. Keep everything very vague "Yes, we were thinking of maybe going camping (or anything else they'd hate) for a week in September or October or possibly November". And then tell them the night before you leave that you've had a great offer to go to the Maldives for 2 weeks.
And then go to Bali.
Sounds harsh but they have caused this by their actions.
Isn't it a shame you can only afford to buy a tiny, 2-bed apartment in Australia? ;-)
One thing duggested I could do to battle my feelings of overcompensating for guilt was something called mirroring. It allows to to reset your 'normal' based on what the other person sets as their normal.
So, if PIL are sending one line emails, you mirror that and the frequency.
If PIL want to be in touch with your DH then you mirror that and let them get on with it.
If you feel PIL would allow you to gatecrash their only time in 2 years with their close family and be rude about then you go ahead and don't do it because you have your standards!
In short, hold a mirror up and judge all contact through what they deem acceptable behaviour for them in their eyes but have your standards and step back from anything that's not in line with your own standards.
It helps you to realise you're wanting something that they don't and yo reset your boundaries rather than giving all the time.
Yes we certainly learned our lesson from that, Kidnapped! When we saw them in the summer we kept our dates vague, just told them when we'd meet them. They didn't like this and they emailed relatives to see if they knew - they even emailed my mum! Who is not their biggest fan and said she had no idea.
Time you read my mind! Actually we might end up having a spare room - but we have been talking about getting a lodger to "pay the mortgage off faster"...
Yes, a lodger sounds great.
Or buy a real fixer-upper and render the spare room uninhabitable with all your junk while you do the renovation. Which might take decades as you are both so busy.
Buffalo we tend to see MIL every other year, SFIL hasn't been to visit and has cancelled his plans to visit with MIL on her next visit as I put my foot down and said 2 weeks max.
Her behaviour has really annoyed/upset me so I limit my contact with her, DH Skypes weekly and emails photos, I stay out of the way, listening to her opinions from the other room can raise my blood pressure!
I'm often staggered at how badly families can behave when their kids move overseas. It's almost like a control thing. They think that they have the right be behave badly, and be mean to their kids partners and they just have to suck it up cos they are family.
When really they are pushing them away and cutting off their noses to spite their faces. I hear so many stories where I just feel like shaking the PIL's and telling them to get a grip.
I'm glad the six months won't happen OP. But also think about what you feel is acceptable (two weeks is my limit). And perhaps get your DH to tell them that they are welcome, as long as they behave decently towards you. If they can't accept that then fine. With any luck they will have a tantrum and not come for a while.
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