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Need some outside views - sharing private information when one part of a couple would rather not

(24 Posts)
GoodLuckTime Tue 17-Oct-17 14:59:36

Sorry, this is a long one....

1.We’ve had a hard time TTC DC no 2 (whereas DC1 straight forward). Two and half year of no success / then some treatment / more treatment / IVF / three miscarriages. Now early in my second trimester of what so far seem a good strong pregnancy.

I (with DH’s full agreement and support) have chosen to keep the details of all this private from all but one or two carefully chosen people. This includes not discussing any of this with my parents, or his. On my parent’s side, this is because my mum, in particular has a tendency to get over involved, then over dramatise, make it all about her, and also broadcast it all around the wider family. None of which I would have found helpful. I wrestled with it for a long time, but in the end realised that she would not in any way be able to give me the support I sometimes could have done with, while on the other hand pretty often making an already difficult time harder. (Reading about another MN poster finding herself supporting her own mother through her disappointment at a failed IVF round at the expense of herself really nailed it for me).

2.In general, since having DC1, our relationship with DH’s parents has deteriorated. Prior to DC it was warm and friendly, though not close. DH is French and his parents and extended family are all there. Having DC has revealed large cultural differences in approaches to parenting, combined with a massive generational gap, combined with a fundamental different of opinion: DH’s parents do not consider that DH and I are / should be the primary force in DC’s lives, or that they should respect our parenting choices even when they disagree with them.

On the contrary, they think we are doing many things wrong and that it is their role to intervene and ‘fix’ things whenever they can. They have no concept that there is more than one 'good' way to parent / that advice might have moved on / that different cultural norms are OK too.

On a practical level, their ability to interfere is massively limited by distance. But visits are hard work, and my view of them has taken a beating in the face of what I consider to be their fundamental disrespect, and, and hearing more detailed stories about DH’s childhood many of which I consider to be abusive. I am angry with them for the way they have treated him (example: his mum had a whip to manage her children’s behaviour), and consider they failed him many times. There has been conflict, although (probably helped by a language barrier) we’ve muddled through.

DH is supportive of our family, and me, as issues arise, but hasn’t challenged his parents on their fundamental views / approach / disrespect of our right as parents to make the final call. I’ve been through a phase of wishing / thinking he should, but have now realised he’s probably right that management when necessary is a better way to go. Realistically they are not going to change. Also relevant, DH’s parents are both medical in background. They are very hungry for all info about DC and us, but especially medical info. When they have info they seek to tell us what to do / overrule / interfere. They are also (I think) hugely indiscreet, telling DH lots of details of his cousin’s long journey with IVF, for example. She has never chosen to discuss this with us herself, and I feel we know many things we should not.

The issue:

DH is due to go and visit PIL shortly, without me. He’ll tell them our pregnancy news while he’s there. He’s said he would also like to tell them about the difficulties and treatment we’ve had.

I feel, very strongly, that I do not want my private medical and sensitive personal information shared with them. I know they will broadcast it around the wider family, even if DH asks them not to (they’ll just front it with ‘ I’m not supposed to tell you this, and don’t mention to her, but…’).

I also feel that I do not want something private and sensitive to me known to them – they have previously sought to undermine / interfere in fundamental, private issues like breastfeeding, potty training and regularly tell DH we should use physical discipline with DC1.

I’ve had to build up a strong and confident exterior to deal with them firmly and to navigate visits and defend DC and our choices while keeping things mostly cordial. I feel them knowing this would be undermining and that they may use it against me (although I don’t know how. But then, I never thought they’d get involved and shout at my DC over my head if they were having a behavioural issue which I was already dealing with – it floored me the first time they did it).

On the other hand, I can understand DH’s wish to share this with his parents (although I also think that, like many highly controlled children he still has a deep desire to please them / to have their approval. While he’s essentially gone LC by living permanently in another country, he doesn’t have much of a ‘critique’ of their parenting – much less than I do of my parents, for comparison). I don’t, personally, see the upside in telling them. He’s described it as being the explainer for a big gap, and making clear the news is ‘even happier’.

I’ve asked him to let me reflect, and feel I need some outside views.

Can I ask him not to do this? Is it fair of me to ask him to keep private from his parents something personal to me, yes, but also to him, that he wants to share?

Angelf1sh Tue 17-Oct-17 15:04:03

It’s your medical history, not his, of course you can ask him not to tell his parents. Why on earth does he feel the need to anyway? It’s all in the past now.

newtlover Tue 17-Oct-17 15:04:26

I think it is very reasonable in these circs to ask him not to share.
I don't think you or he need to 'explain' the long gap. Is it 2 1/2 years? that's not a long gap anyway. I am a very nosy person and would not be wondering why did they leave it that long. And even if I was wondering I would not presume to expect an explanation.

fuzzyfozzy Tue 17-Oct-17 15:08:27

If the circumstances were reversed and the lack of conception lay with him, would he be happy with your sharing those details. Doubt it!

AdalindSchade Tue 17-Oct-17 15:10:22

There is absolutely no good reason to tell them. They need no explanation for the gap. I suppose if he really wants to give one he could just say it took a while to happen but no need to offer any more detail!

OlennasWimple Tue 17-Oct-17 15:11:58

Can't he tell them about the pregnancy (I can see that it would be hard not to, while he is there) but keep completely schtum about the medical stuff? That's not his information to share.

If anyone does ask "why the big gap" all he needs to say is something vague like "this is just the way it happened"

GeorgeTheHamster Tue 17-Oct-17 15:12:13

His reasons don't answer the question "why do they need to know". Because they don't.

GoodLuckTime Tue 17-Oct-17 15:25:28

The gap will be five years.

I have considered how I will answer if people ask me why so big, or if we had treatment (because god knows, people do ask intrusive questions about TTC) and my answer could be 'it was a long hard road'. Or the AA Gill line ' I'm not going to answer that. But it all worked out in the end.'

But any further questions would be met with 'wow, personal question' or ' are you really asking me about TTC, because you're either asking about our sex life or our medical circs and either are private'.

AndTheBandPlayedOn Tue 17-Oct-17 15:38:35

No, he should respect your privacy. The gap can be a spacing for financial reasons of university fees. There is a 13 year gap between my last two and I just say she was a late arrival.

Overall, your lives as independent adults is quite matter of factly none of their business. Do not volunteer any information. If asked, superficial and brief is the way to go. The baby will be fed. (No other explanation, justification, or discussion is needed.) Be dull. Be boring. They may be winding you up for entertainment. Don't take the bait.

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 17-Oct-17 15:39:45

Hi GoodLuckTime

They should be told what they deserve to know; nothing of note and certainly nothing medical. His parents were and remain abusive and they continue to fail him.

re your comment:-

"DH is supportive of our family, and me, as issues arise, but hasn’t challenged his parents on their fundamental views / approach / disrespect of our right as parents to make the final call. I’ve been through a phase of wishing / thinking he should, but have now realised he’s probably right that management when necessary is a better way to go"

He is not managing them at all really. He probably would never be able to challenge them anyway because he himself is mired in his own FOG (fear, obligation and guilt) re his parents. His lack of boundaries re them too is telling; he still very much wants their approval like many adult children of such toxic parents. His own inertia when it comes to them hurts him as well as you.

You could read "Toxic Inlaws" written by Susan Forward, he should read her book on toxic parents.

On a much wider level I would stay well away from his parents altogether; he may want to continue to have a relationship of sorts with them but it does not follow at all that you or any children you have should. Not all relatives are nice and kind and some of them are actively abusive.

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 17-Oct-17 15:42:47

Do not JADE with disordered people like his parents; do not justify, argue, defend or explain.

GoodLuckTime Tue 17-Oct-17 15:55:17

Attila I think there is a lot of truth in what you say.

I will suggest to him he reflects a bit more deeply on their behaviour.

When I asked him what the upside of telling them was, he said ' they won't live much longer (mid 70s, his mother in particular is nursing a fairly serious heart condition), they want to know us, they'll understand us better.'

But given I feel deeply disrespected by them, I feel they have forfeited any right / opportunity to know ME closely or better. I will always keep them at arms length. DH needs to make his own choices.

I feel the (maybe subconscious) truth is much more that he wants their approval for overcoming something difficult. And also, likely, they have grilled him many times on whether we'll have another and now a desire to fulfil their wish for info - along the lines you say, Attilla. He can drawn boundaries with them, but he also has a lot of FOG around them.

We discussed his cousin and he said he feels he understands her better knowing her TTC journey. This is true, but I also think we could have filled in the gaps without being told the details. his cousin had been married for 15 years before any children, eventually having one at 43. Easy to guess there may have been difficulties. She was very generous and gracious to us around DC1's arrival (before she had her own), and I appreciate that, but think I would have anyway under the circumstances. I feel bad for her that private medical issues have been blabbed to us via her mother and aunt.

MissTMornings Tue 17-Oct-17 15:56:00

Just wanted to say not to worry too much about what people think of the gap. There is 8 years between my DC and no one has ever asked why. There just is!

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 17-Oct-17 16:08:53


I think your DH could well do with seeing a therapist about his dysfunctional parents. Its not his fault or yours that they are like this; you did not make them this way. Their own families of origin did that.

I do wonder if he is worried about either of them dying before there ever is any kind of reconciliation or resolution in their relationship(that will never happen by the way). Poor soul, he has tried his whole life. Also what has her health got to do with any of this is a question I would ask him. That question is a rabbit trail leading nowhere.

This is also what I would ask him to further think about:-
"If my parents are getting old or if either of them is sick, that doesn’t change the fact that I have rights and it doesn’t change the facts about the way that I was treated by them in the past. They are not sorry. They don’t acknowledge the abuse. They never wanted to change or tried to change. So why is it up to me to be there for them when they were never there for me?"

His comment re they want to know us, they want to understand us better seems more about him and his wishes re his parents more than them. Their views are very different; they seek knowledge (knowledge as well is power) to pass around whilst never giving anything away themselves (my MIL is like this so I tell her what she deserves to know about my personal life; nothing).

His boundaries are still far too low and need further raising.

cakecakecheese Tue 17-Oct-17 16:21:55

Congratulations. He can tell them about the pregnancy but everything else is none of their damn business.

quirkychick Tue 17-Oct-17 16:45:29

I love that JADE, I will remember that.

They have no right to any medical information about you. My sympathies to you, dp's family are also toxic, my pils were medical too (fil, no longer with us). We had a similar issue with my sil, who had ivf and felt she should tell mil as she had told her own parents, but asked mil not to tell anyone else. She did. Sil was furious. Mil kept saying "but they're family" and couldn't see why sil was so upset. So, no I wouldn't in your shoes.

YokoReturns Tue 17-Oct-17 16:46:37

OP myPILs are somewhat similar to yours, albeit English grin

DH gives me exactly the same reasons for not challenging them: (a) they’ll never change and (b) they won’t be alive many more years. His counsellor asked him who he sided with, of course he said me and the DCs, but I feel a bit like you in that in not challenging them, he’s complicit in their behaviour.

We are essentially low contact with them but I feel betrayed by DH anytime we visit, because I don’t feel safe at their house and feel like he should be protecting me and the DCs. flowers

GoodLuckTime Tue 17-Oct-17 17:29:41

OK thank you all.

I'm a bit surprised how clearly you're all coming down on the side of saying I'm well within my rights to insist he does not divulge. He will respect this.

I've been thinking for a while it's worth encouraging DH to have more of a critique on his parents.

I have a clear eyed one of mine, and actually it's helped me forgive them their faults, have a decent relationship based on the bits that do work well, and side step the things that don't.

We can't really go much lower contact without going no contact, and DH is not in that place at the moment. But I can and will make it clearer to them how much my view of them is one of tolerance for his sake these days, and nothing more. Unless he addresses their disrespect for our primary as parents, that will not change, for me.

We see them once or twice a year. I now have a five night limit on visits (would make it less, but tricky due to distance though the first and last days are taken up with travel so it's essentially three days).

It is weirdly better when they come here, I guess because they are on my turf.

They are also conflict avoiders. So to get them to back off at any given moment, all I have to do is firmly and vocally tell them so (often in English, but they get the gist from my body language where I'm going with it). Oddly, it cows them for a while afterwards too. They last time DC had a tantrum and they tried to get involved I vocally ordered them out of the room and had a much more peaceful few days as a result.

They seem to realise that if they push me too hard they would get even less / no access to DC. Now I've understood this, I'm confident I can manage them. I have no qualms about telling them to back off very clearly, when needed.

GoodLuckTime Tue 17-Oct-17 17:30:28

clearer to him, that should be

GoodLuckTime Tue 17-Oct-17 17:42:32

Yoko - there is the aspect of complicity sometimes, yes, in our situation.

But I also think DH is right, they're not going to change. It is almost certainly too late for them now, changing would require them to turn their whole world view upside down.

On a personal level I actually feel quite sorry for them. Underneath their negative behaviours the driver is fear. They genuinely believe that if not managed and controlled most of the time, children will turn into savages. It is a sad, limiting way of seeing the world, but there it is.

I'm interested in what would improve things, and I don't think DH challenging them would. I've never challenged my mum on her issues for a similar fundamental reason.

My worry about this is them knowing opens up a vulnerability (for me) which might one day make things worse. So I'll shut that down.

Otherwise it's about having clear boundaries and managing contact firmly so that our parenting is respected, whether they like it or not.

I'm clear on this and DH does support me, but he would benefit from strengthening his own take on it all, for his own sake.

quirkychick Tue 17-Oct-17 18:29:01

No, they will not change, but you need to have very clear boundaries with people like this. It is not about changing them, but about managing their toxicity and influence over you. It sounds as if you have been reasserting your boundaries with them, but your dh needs to a bit more.

Haffiana Tue 17-Oct-17 22:57:41

I think you need to be a bit clearer about what you have a say in and can 'manage' and what you don't. You can tell them how you feel and you can limit contact, but you cannot tell them how they should feel or what they should respect or what they should think (about either you or your parenting). This is the boundary that you are having issues with - you are really trying to draw it in a place that can only fail.

You have every right to be as rigid as you wish of course, but you appear to believe that it is only they who are stuck in a fixed attitude? I don't see a way forward except eventual upset and NC if you draw your line where you are trying to...

Santawontbelong Tue 17-Oct-17 23:04:10

Simply remind you dh his loyalties are to you and he needs to keep his mouth shut about your private business. .

LML83 Tue 17-Oct-17 23:19:31

YANBU to ask dh not to tell them. But with their judgement and commenting on the gap and his strict childhood I would prepare yourself that he may end up telling it anyway rather than be critised about the age gap (I have similar age gap and there are many benefits).

In that situation would you not wish you had let him give the information rather than blurt it out then face telling you his mistake?

Rubbish you and dh have to deal with this. Hope it goes ok.

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