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Question for PiLs(6 Posts)
Not a TAAT but inspired by the current MiL thread, I've been thinking about my own tricky relationship with PiLs - this is long, sorry!
Met now DH at uni, fell in love and got engaged quite quickly - though planned a long engagement. PiLs were always polite though distant with me, but their relationship with DH also wasn't great. FiL particularly was quite rigid and there were high academic expectations that led to some fairly significant mental health problems. PiLs paid for therapy etc (they're quite wealthy) but were never really able to talk to DH. As a result, he kept them at arms length and, I suspect, they thought it was me that was encouraging him not to text, call them back etc. Actually, I thought initially it would be great to be part of what appeared to be a large, close knit family and I encouraged him to keep the door open.
When we got married, all photos of PiLs were of stony faces and it was hard not to take it personally. Over the years, I've come to realise that a lot of what they do seems to be for show e.g. there are big family get togethers at least monthly, that DH has been almost obliged to attend (otherwise the emotional blackmail is immense), but nobody really talks to anyone else in between these gatherings and certainly not about feelings, or issues, or anything real. I've always gone with DH (when invited) as I suppose I've always hoped that, by making the effort, one day I'll feel more part of the family.
Last year DH and I went through a really difficult patch due to his MH problems and we separated. Initially MiL texted every day, asked how they could help and was generally supportive - I thought at first this was perhaps a positive sign that she really did view me as family. Then she went on holiday for 6 weeks and I heard nothing from her. When she came back, she texted me to find out how DH was (not me or DC), and I realised that most times she contacts me, it's for a reason of her own i.e. see DC, get an update on DH. I responded politely but not fulsomely. The next I heard from her was 3 weeks later, asking me to take DC to hers on Christmas Eve. I didn't feel comfortable being at one of these awkward big family gatherings while separated, so declined but said she could visit my house on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day. I had 3 separate text conversations with her, all of which were trying to get me to go to hers over the Xmas period, and each time I said (politely) we had plans with friends (we did) but she was welcome to join us. She never did and I have since heard she has been telling people how hurt she is that she's tried so hard with me, and just wants to see her grandchildren, but I won't let her. I should say that DH has taken DC to see her at least monthly and they've had a sleepover too.
I know that part of the problem here is DH and his dynamic with them; we're trying to work things out at the moment and this is something he's very aware he needs to address. That aside, if you were my PiLs, do you think you would view me as one of those DiLs who has tried to isolate him from his family? What more could I do that doesn't make me feel like the concessions always have to come from me? I've felt much happier since I've slightly stepped away from them and not had to go to these forced, Instagram worthy family bashes, but I don't want to cause hurt at the same time.
I don't think you have any reason to reproach yourself. The PIL want access to your DC on their terms and see your reasonable compromise over Christmas as unreasonable because they're selfish. You're doing the best you can in trying circumstances.
I think that's partly what I was questioning - was it a reasonable compromise? I feel like my boundaries have been so skewed after 10 years of pretty much doing whatever they asked, that any form of saying 'no' feels unreasonable!
Are you now reconciled with DH?
It may actually be healing if he were to be honest with his own parents about his feelings for them, sooner rather than later - not at some uncommitted point in the future. The problem is essentially his to resolve. Step back from any action, but offer consistent support.
What you can have legitimate control of is whether your children are put at emotional risk from your PILs in the same way DH was.
Of course it was reasonable. They do not get to dictate how you spend Christmas Eve with your kids. You had other plans and still made it possible for them to see their GC if they wanted. They wanted you to fit in with their plans and appeared to have considered you to be unreasonable for not letting them have 100 percent their own way. You behaved very well, especially considering your personal situation with their son. They seem quite entitled.
I would say we're reconciling, but not there yet. One of my challenges to him is whether he can articulate to his parents that their behaviour is unreasonable and that he doesn't want to go along with it any more. He feels it's pointless as they're not going to change - so he withdraws further emotionally, but continues to be at these gatherings etc physically.
I suppose I feel we're tacitly accepting their behaviour if neither one of us says anything, and instead continue passively with them.
High, you raise a good point about the emotional risk, and it's one I'm constantly turning over. I actually think my MiL so far is a really good grandmother, much better than as a mum in some ways. And my FiL is distant and not tactile, but I think the GC are surrounded by enough loving and demonstrative people that it doesn't yet have an impact. It's under constant review.
Your responses have been really helpful, thank you. I had a horrible lurch reading about DiLs not engaging with kind parents and wondered if it was me that was being unreasonable!
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