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Is my MIL toxic?

(21 Posts)
Heirhelp Sun 26-Mar-17 08:56:35

I am not sure as sometimes she is nice but she can be controlling and demanding and is not beyond tantruming, crying, giving ultimatems and cutting her nose off to spite her face.

I will try not to drip feed but will try to be brief. Below are a few of her more extreme examples.

- my engagement ring was made up one gifted to DH and his DB which was their paternital great grandmother. The original ring has two diamonds and a sapphire. MIL had a crying fit and try to insist that DH, DB and her own DH pay for the sapphire to be made into a ring for her. She has two engagements rings of her own and another ring of her choosing from the great grandmother's collection.

- There is an annually trip to see DH paternal grandmother and her family. Approx 6 hour drive. The first time I went MIL cried and huffed and was not going to go until the last minute for no particular reason. I believe it was because she was upset that I was being introduced to the family.

- this year she is crying as refusing to go because BIL is going to drive separately with his new girlfriend. They are visiting friends along the way so it make sense not to go with the man and it give them more freedom. DBIL is 29.

- she has cried and refused to do anything for mother Day as DH and DBIL have left until too late in the week to arrange and suggested all meetings on Saturday. She has now refused to do anything but will blame them for not being good enough. They tried to arrange it on Thursday and she never organised anything until the very last minute.

Heatherjayne1972 Sun 26-Mar-17 09:14:01

Boundaries are your friend here
You dh should be dealing with her and the two of you need to promote a united front (as do the rest of the family )
Let her get on with the tears and tantrums-
Make a plan and do it. And that's that she either goes along with it or not it's her choice
It's a tough one for your husband because he's probably been 'trained' to react the way she wants but he needs to be putting you first

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 26-Mar-17 09:16:06


re your comment:-
"I am not sure as sometimes she is nice but she can be controlling and demanding and is not beyond tantruming, crying, giving ultimatems and cutting her nose off to spite her face".

This is a good description of an abusive person. They are not horrible all the time but the nice act is simply that; an act designed to draw you back in. The nice/nasty cycle is also a continuous one. People like this also use tears to simply manipulate others; do not fall for it.

What does your H think of his mother and her associated behaviours?
You would not have tolerated any of this nonsense from a friend; his mother is no different.

I would back off completely from his mother and actually have nothing to do with her. You do not need such toxic people in your life Its also not your fault that she is like this; neither her son or you made her this way. Her own family of origin did that.

Would also suggest you read "Toxic Inlaws" by Susan Forward to further understand the power and control dynamics.

Heirhelp Sun 26-Mar-17 09:25:00


DH has is starting to realise what is going on but only for the more extreme behaviours as described above. He stood his ground this weekend and said himself that he thinks his mother was looking for a reason to be pissed off. She always does something like this on mother Day but as it is also my first mother Day it was more spectacular. He is putter DD and myself first but it is difficult for him. He wants a good relationship with his Mum.

DBIL is also realising that this is not normal but it seems to be getting worse for him as she can't control him as she has before.

DFIL enables it he tried to turn up on our door stop yesterday to tell DH off but we were out. I heard some of the phone conversations and DH did stand his ground.

Heirhelp Sun 26-Mar-17 10:40:22

Can I really have nothing to do with her? I would love it. All my attempts to try and include her have failed.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 26-Mar-17 10:55:12

You would not have tolerated this from a friend, his mother is no different. You really do not have to have anything to do with his mother if you don't want to.

Your H still seems trapped in his own FOG (fear, obligation, guilt) with regards to his mother although it is now beginning to dawn on him what she is really like. He is trying to put down boundaries here with regards to his mum and dad (who unsurprisingly has acted as a bystander, enabler and hatchet man here). He wants a good relationship with his mother but that ultimately will not happen because she is not built that way. Its not his fault she is the ways she is.

You likely come from a nice emotionally healthy family but the "normal" rules of familial relations do not and never apply to dysfunctional families, infact the whole book gets thrown out the window. Your DH and his brother are certainly from an emotionally unhealthy and dysfunctional family of origin. People from those families end up playing roles; what roles were assigned to them?.

Would your DH be at all willing to talk to a therapist?. At the very least he should read Toxic Parents written by Susan Forward.

Heirhelp Sun 26-Mar-17 11:11:16


I just came back as there was a knock on the door and FIL was standing there and MIL was in the car. FIL asked for DH but he is out walking with the baby. FIL handed over a Card for me and I just said thank you. It was very awkward.

I don't feel I can suggest a book that calls his Mum toxic yet.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 26-Mar-17 11:24:15

He gave you a card? I'd shred it if you have not already done that; do not give it any more power. FIL is still very much playing out his enabler role here. He is truly a weak bystander of a man who has basically put his own wellbeing before that of his now adult sons. he probably idolises her as well.

Fair comment re the book suggestion for him. He will ultimately have to realise that neither of his parents are emotionally healthy and that it is not his fault they are like this.

Heirhelp Sun 26-Mar-17 12:12:52

FIL Rang DH and said that MIL had told FIL to text BIL and DH to say he they will he in the house that they are doing up this afternoon. The subtext being come round.

DH Says he is sick of their games and plans to put a card for MIL through the letter box on our way out. I have suggested that he text BIL suggesting that he does not pander to her MIL as well.

Heirhelp Sun 26-Mar-17 12:13:16

The card was clearly from MIL

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 26-Mar-17 12:19:57

She could not even be asked to hand it over to you in person; she sat in the car whilst her dogsbody enabler of a husband handed it over to you.

I would not bother with either of them; she does not deserve a card and engaging with them in any way will only cause
you both yet more emotional pain. Even something as seemingly innocuous as putting a card through their letterbox is still engaging with her and will really do your H no favours at all.

Re your comment:-
"FIL Rang DH and said that MIL had told FIL to text BIL and DH to say he they will he in the house that they are doing up this afternoon".

Can you see how dysfunctional all that really is, its all mad and really part and parcel of such a dysfunctional family.

I would also consider blocking their means of contacting you directly. That is one boundary you can and should set for your own self.

Hulder Sun 26-Mar-17 12:21:54

Ignore her. She's upping the ante as now both her sons have partners and she (with the aid of FIL) are trying to claw them back to her.

There is faint hope that they will realise the best way to have a relationship with their sons is to let them grow up and behave like normal people.

Unfortunately what they are more likely to do is sulk about how the evil DILs have driven their sons away and how awful the sons are after all they did for them.

Heirhelp Sun 26-Mar-17 12:23:02

I can see how mad it all is and DH sees how mad this is but not there's mad things.

If it was my choice I would give the card and chocolates. I would have eaten the chocolate by now but it is not my decision.

AmserGwin Sun 26-Mar-17 13:09:14

I'm confused as to why she gave you a card?

BG2015 Sun 26-Mar-17 13:45:50

Is it because OP is a new mum. First Mothers Day?

Heirhelp Sun 26-Mar-17 14:11:09

Me too really AmserGwin it said happy first Mother's Day. They sent one to DH for his first father day and I thought that was weird too.

Thesofaisnotatrampoline Sun 26-Mar-17 17:54:35

I feel like I get dragged into similar situations with my in laws so can sympathise!

The key thing I would say is don't play the game.

Your MIL is used to being able to manipulate the family into doing what she wants by behaving this way so just don't play along. Take what she says at face value eg. If she has a paddy about Mother's Day then fine, she's chosen not to do something.

I don't think it's realistic or always helpful to sever ties with family in these situations - it may take effort and time but you will most likely to be able to get to a point where you can include her in your lives more easily.

Key thing is deciding what acceptable behaviour from her looks like with your hubby, and then work towards that as much as you are able.

Especially don't get dragged into things by FIL. Just roll your eyes and let the in laws get on with their amateur dramatics! We've found keeping a sense of humour really helps in those rough moments!!

Hulder Sun 26-Mar-17 18:13:29

Thesofa is right. In transactional analysis your MIL would be viewed as game playing - a game where you are wrong whatever you do and she is always the winner.

The only way for you and your DH to win this game is not to play.

MIL has a paddy about visiting Grandmother - 'Oh well, if you don't want to go', leave her alone and plan without her. Or go without her as you are grown adults and FIL is perfectly able of taking her. Ignore any whinging.

She refuses to do anything for Mothers Day 'Oh, I'm sorry you feel that way, have a nice day' and be unobtainable until after the day.

And no participating in any triangulating - MIL asks FIL to tell you to tell DH to tell BIL kind of thing. 'Oh have you lost his phone number - here it is'.

Eventually, after a lot of toys are thrown out of the pram, she will learn.

Bluetrews25 Sun 26-Mar-17 19:42:08

Yes, she is toxic.
Slightly off topic, but I don't get why mothers of adult children (who have DCs of their own) still insist on being 'the mother' on Mothers' day. When did she last do any mothering? Did she read your DH a bedtime story, make his packed lunch, help with his homework, do his laundry, drive him to an activity or put a plaster on his knee recently? Somehow I doubt it! OP is the Mother now! MIL should move along to grandparents day. (Ugh)
I'm more than prepared to let it be a day for my future DILs and their DCs, and it not be about me any more. I will hand the baton over!
Very aware that others may disagree - yes, you never stop being the mother, but sometimes the 'mothering' does stop. (And may be replaced by 'grandmothering')

Thesofaisnotatrampoline Sun 26-Mar-17 19:47:17

Hulder- yes! Totally agree with everything you've said. Especially not joining in with the triangles - that is literally how my in laws operate and it's just ridiculous.

We had it this week - MIL left a homemade gift on the table when she knew I was out, explaining to DH it was for me, then when no torrent of praise was forthcoming FIL took me to one side to urge me to make a big thing of saying thank you as MIL would be very upset I hadn't said anything.

So give me the gift yourself then and stop getting the men to act as intermediaries?!

But I knew she did it wanting heaps of praise so I just said a simple and understated thank you because I'M NOT PLAYING THE GAME.

Ugh, it's been a helluva week! LOL

Heirhelp Mon 27-Mar-17 16:17:40

Thanks again. My family is normal well as normal as families are but I need to check that this is odd.

Bluetresw25 if she was allowed to do all those things I am sure she still would be. DH infomed we this weekend that she has alway made unreasonable demands on mother Day but she does not think father day should be special.

I will be trying to spend as little time as possible with her in the future.

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