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Is this subtle controlling behaviour?

(24 Posts)
begoniapot Sun 17-May-20 10:09:30

My DD has been married for 14 years. She loves her DH and he loves her. I've no doubt about this. However my SIL has been consistently rude to me, constantly criticising what I'm doing, nasty sarcastic remarks, saying the opposite to what I say and contradicting just about everything I say. Consequently I say very little to him, and avoid him wherever possible. He is the same with my DH. He is not the same with anyone else, inc DD and his own mother, friends etc.

My DGD is severely disabled and needs constant care, and because of this I am far more involved than I would have been, sourcing equipment, therapies, transporting to school, etc etc. No one else is available to give care apart them them and me.

SIL works full time, DD is part time. SIL does a huge amount in the home on a daily basis, cooking, shopping, washing and care of DGD. DD does the general cleaning. Because of school closures, work patterns and so on, I was in lockdown with them while SIL worked and stayed in a hotel. During this time DD was brilliant, very focused on home schooling both DGDs, keeping up with the household tasks (she's furloughed) and together it was a positive experience initially, but because disabled DGD wakes at 6 am and is heavy to lift, it was not sustainable. Then SIL was told he could WFM so it seemed ideal. He would help with lifting and leave us to do the rest. However he had literally an hours work to do per day so he was washing, shopping, cooking, and decorating. He began criticising me again behind DDs back, DD seemed to shrink into a depressed state and sat with her phone most of the day plus a little bit of school work.

This is the first time I have seen their household in operation and I'm very concerned he is controlling.
My reasons are: his hostility to me, this taking over many of the household tasks (he insists on doing them) DDs retreat into constant screen time and her whole demeanour is so withdrawn, he constantly buys her chocolate and cake despite her asking not to as she's overweight and trying to diet, he won't let her do the shopping. If she does, he will go out and buy more. He puts on a big martyr act when DGD is doing nothing more than being disabled. Eg he criticised her for wetting through her pad even though she is immobile and the nappy changing is down to the adults! When he cooks he leaves his dinner to go cold and insists DD stays seated while he cleans up the kitchen. If she (or I) load the dishwasher he will rearrange it, despite it being perfectly fine. He seems to be in every corner of the house organising things, and everything has to be done his way. He doesn't criticise what DD does but he will do it for her.

I honestly don't know if this is controlling, but by taking over so many tasks, then acting like a martyr (to make her feel guilty and more obliged to him?), driving a wedge between me and DD (I walked out and came home yesterday), I think it may be. The most compelling thing is seeing my real DD in the time he wasn't there for 3 weeks, and seeing this withdrawn shell with her head in her phone all the time.

On the surface it's brilliant to have a DH doing so many boring household tasks, so why is DD so withdrawn when he's there? He doesn't restrict her seeing friends, having hobbies etc though does make the odd sarcastic remark about costs etc.

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LouiseTrees Sun 17-May-20 10:18:04

You shouldn’t have left. You should have gone a walk with her and talked to her about this. She may have opened up to you.

AllInTentsWithPorpoises Sun 17-May-20 10:34:28

Yikes. Your poor dd. Yes I'd say this is very controlling. The retreat into herself is probably because she feels she is walking on eggshells with him. Nothing is good enough and the constant chipping away will make her self esteem disappear. And then she will be completely mouldable into what he wants. I imagine he snipes at you tiger you out of the way.
Be your daughters champion but do it carefully as I imagine he'll ramp up what is going on if he feels he needs to

begoniapot Sun 17-May-20 10:50:10

On the surface, it sounds like a wonderful set up. DH doing so much work around the house, but being there I just felt suffocated. Making up DGDs food, he would come in and close cupboard doors behind me, even though I was still getting ingredients out. I felt that I should just leave it all to him. I was certainly walking on eggshells the whole time. I'm sure he thinks he is showing her love, but they weren't a team. She would have happily cleared up the kitchen after he'd cooked, but wasn't allowed to. I think she has just checked out and can't see the wood for the trees.

I couldn't stay there any longer after seeing him picking up DGD and shouting at her for being stiff, even though she can't help it. I suggested an easier way of moving her that had worked for us and he glared and snapped at me. I just could bear to be in the same house as him any longer as the atmosphere was toxic to everyone, especially the kids.

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Opentooffers Sun 17-May-20 11:07:45

You haven't seen him criticize your DD because he does it all now, but I'll bet my last penny that he was as critical of her as he is you at the beginning, so she's understandably given up and just lets him get on with it.
It's not suble by your description, it's blatant, he's also verbally abusive to his DD, totally out of order and just shows that he's not a nice person.
Keep connected with your DD, help her to open up to you. I don't know if you can make your home a safe haven for her, but if you are able to offer or support her to see alternative options, that could be a way forwards.

Opentooffers Sun 17-May-20 11:18:47

Also, I'm wondering how sure you are that they love each other? Are they openly affectionate? I'd personally find it hard to love or respect any man that could treat his child the way has. Did either of you challenge him when said such awful things about her? Or is everyone too afraid to challenge? Sounds like your DD is doing the same as you, walking on eggshells and now you've walked away rather than challenge. If she is her mother's daughter, and does not answer back but avoids, hopefully as you have, she may find the strength to walk away herself one day, I don't see her as being the type to stand up to him - likely why he chose her in life.

Whathewhatnow Sun 17-May-20 11:37:16

Some of this sounds familiar to me and my situation with my ex.

He was .slightly controlling - the shopping, the reloading the dishwasher, the martyrdom, the shutting cupboards and tidying behind me, etc etc etc. It took 8 years for me to get online access to the bank account because "he could do it for me". It drove me insane. Wven without a severely disabled child in the mix. The way he treats her in particular sounds awful OP.

Can you move back in to give her some moral support?

begoniapot Sun 17-May-20 11:51:19

@Opentooffers In the past I have said DGD can't help it, it's her condition, and been ignored. DD says she has often said something to him, and just given up because it makes no difference, so let's him get on with it. She's also spoken to him about how he talks to me, but it's ignored. She excuses it by saying he is often rude to people, but I said, why not his mum, or siblings, colleagues or friends?

With DGD he can be very nice and affectionate, and he makes sure that they all do lovely things together, takes them swimming and days out, so he is very complex. It just feels as though he doesn't actually get DGD is disabled. I don't think he has the empathy at times. He and DD are not massively affectionate, although he buys her flowers regularly and very thoughtful presents. He even buys me Mother's Day cards and presents. He can be incredibly kind and thoughtful and I'm sure he is a decent person but somehow they've both got themselves into a toxic way of behaving and DD has checked out emotionally a lot of the time.

DD has messaged and said they talked about divorce, but will get marriage counselling when this lockdown has ended. It looks to me they both don't have insight into their behaviour with each other. Maybe SIL thinks by controlling everything that goes on at home he is doing what he should to make DD happy?

Years ago I posted on here how I bought them a Christmas present of a soda stream as they drink lots of fizzy drinks, and he opened it and said, that's going straight into the top cupboard. Aka the cupboard of junk!

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begoniapot Sun 17-May-20 11:55:24

@Whathewhatnow DD has only just recently got online with the bank account, so that's familiar. He does criticise her spending too. I can't go back because of the lockdown thing and anyway I'm just making matters worse with DD stuck in the middle. Honestly I have no intention of ever speaking to him again.

I've seen for years DD get less and less like herself, and I think it's is this controlling behaviour (which dressed up looks like a lovely DH doing lots of housework), which has crept under the radar because it looks so innocuous. Who wouldn't like so much help in the house?

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Vretz Sun 17-May-20 12:05:50

With respect, you sound like one of those overbearing in laws. I dealt with the same, where I was judged, graded and never considered 'good enough' for their princess. My ex had the same issue with my mother.

It was a constant battle of making the other look good, under intense pressure and anxiety of being judged. He probably views DGD as like any other non-disabled child, and he's going to get things wrong. Nobody gives you a manual.

Back off him. Endorse him and ask HIM how he FEELS. I speak first hand, but in our situation, the moment I said to my mum to actually be positive to my ex, she lightened up. They are still on good terms to this day. The same is true of me and her family. We split for unconnected reasons (grief)

pallasathena Sun 17-May-20 12:11:10

Sounds like classic divide and conquer tactics with your SIL. I'd just step back and accept the fact that you can't change anything at the moment except how you react to events.
Don't be a doormat but do let your daughter know that you're finding it difficult to cope with his attitude. There are so many women like your daughter who find themselves with men who have difficult personalities. If your daughter could find the courage to confront him over his behaviour it might begin a process of change. flowers

begoniapot Sun 17-May-20 13:19:13

@pallasathena Yes, I am stepping back for a while and frankly it is lovely to be able to concentrate on what I want rather than having to do 5 days a week, taking DGD 30 miles to school, cooking her special diet collecting DGD2, looking after her, taking her swimming, and so on. Sometimes I feel I have no life of my own. I know the DGs will miss me and I will miss them but either way I can't go back in that house with SIL. I'm afraid that relationship is ruined forever. Thinking about it I realise he is rude to me, DH and my DS and always has been. I just though it's him, but now I see it's resentment against DDs family.

I just hope DD will see the controlling behaviour and that he will too, and change.

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TheStoic Sun 17-May-20 13:27:54

With respect, you sound like one of those overbearing in laws. I dealt with the same, where I was judged, graded and never considered 'good enough' for their princess. My ex had the same issue with my mother.

No, you really don’t. He sounds absolutely awful. I would call him on it each and EVERY time he was rude to me. Like I would do with anyone else.

It’s a sensitive time. Just let your daughter know you can see exactly what is happening, and that you will support her with whatever she feels she needs to do.

TitianaTitsling Sun 17-May-20 13:38:56

I don't get how he's being controlling? Doing all the housework while your DD sits on her phone? I'd feel suffocated if my in-laws or any other adult was in my house that much. Did they agree for you to be as involved or was it a decision between you and dd?

TitianaTitsling Sun 17-May-20 13:42:07

this taking over many of the household tasks (he insists on doing them) it's his family home! You are writing like he has come into your home and behaving likehe is the overbearing relative!

sunflowersandtulips50 Sun 17-May-20 15:30:21

Not sure how anyone could suggest he isnt controlling?
1.Hostile and rude to OP
2. When he is at home the OP DD retreats and becomes withdrawn
3. OP DD is on a diet but her DH insists in buying her cake when she asks him not to- so ignores her requests
4. Wont allow OP DD to buy the shopping and if she does he goes out and buys more
5. Critices his own disabled child for wetting through her pad and leaves OP and his wife to clean the DC up- bullies his own disabled DC
6. When he cooks he insists his wife stays seated while he cleans up despite his own food going cold
7. If the dishwasher isnt filled to his liking he re arranges it
8. He spends his time undoing what the OP DD does to ensure its how he likes it..

I had an ex like that, nothing I did was quite right, nothing was clean enough, he would come in and deep clean specific rooms and explain how it should be done properly, I couldnt make a choice on a carpet without him getting angry that I didnt like what he chose so I would step back and tell him to get on with it, then he had a go at me for not getting involved. It led me to stepping back and buying nothing for our whatever i did wasnt right. The SIL here has got what he wanted and isolated his wife from her mother.....I feel sorry for her

JudyGemstone Sun 17-May-20 16:10:08

He sounds rude and a pain in the arse, but from what you've written here I wouldn't say it's controlling in an abusive sense, not if he doesn't stop/guilt her about going out with friends/doing whatever she wants.

She doesn't have to eat the cake/chocolate just because he's bought it.

My partner can be a bit annoyingly anal about how the dishwasher is loaded etc, I just roll my eyes and let him carry on. Or take the piss and say he's this guy (for those of us old enough to remember the Harry Enfield show!)

Perfectstorm12 Sun 17-May-20 17:25:15

You need to allow your daughter to make her own choices. He does sound controlling, but neither do you want to control her into ending her marriage...Let her sort through this in her own time and space. You have said that you are available, but let her sift through it on her own.
My husband rearranges the dishwasher and I couldn't give a crap. It's his problem, and he can rearrange to his heart's content because I don't give any weight to what he thinks about how I load the dishwasher...that's just not an issue for me.

begoniapot Sun 17-May-20 17:50:46

I don't want my DD to end her marriage, but neither do i want to see her self esteem plummet even further. I don't want to see her become so withdrawn she can't see that by controlling all areas of their life, her husband can start to increase that and maybe stop her seeing friends? Is that his next step? I don't know. Reorganising the dishwasher is nothing in itself, but as part of a whole it is saying to her (and me) you are so incompetent I need to do this properly. You're skills are worthless, and you are worthless. That's how control works. It's a massive undermining of someone's self confidence if it's repeated on every level of home life.

I won't interfere, I'll be here if she needs me, but I hate to think of him being nasty to my DGD who is utterly helpless in this situation, and I'm so sad to see my DD not protecting her child.

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AllInTentsWithPorpoises Mon 18-May-20 09:57:33

Can you talk to her about how she's feeling? Maybe mention you noticed a change in her when he reappeared and you would be happy to be her sounding board if she wants to talk about anything? It leaves the ball in her court but let's her know you noticed what is going on.
If she's retreating into her shell she might really appreciate knowing someone is looking out for her. Don't go in all hung ho and full of opinions though, and let her know if she wants to talk you'll keep it private.
Having someone chip away at your self esteem is a very difficult thing to break out of as it's often difficult to pinpoint single behaviours and very easy to justify them instead. I think you need to be gentle and keep your opinions to yourself unless she asks. Listen first.

Gamble66 Mon 18-May-20 10:03:26

How anyone can see anything apart from an abusive controlling man is beyond me !
Shouting at a disabled child repeatedly for things they cannot help is very abusive not just a bit stressed !

Troels Mon 18-May-20 10:38:51

He sounds horrible. He tell off a disabled child for wetting through her pad. That is down right abusive, not her fault at all.
I bet he as awful in his comments to your Dd as he is to you, he only does this when the other isn't about to hear it. As he does with you.
It's all well and good doing work about the house, but the walking on eggshells and retreating into her phone and her becoming a different person when he is about shouts controlling and emotionally abusive man to me. the 90% nice guy who wants the world to see the supportive loving man is a sham. He may say he loves your Dd but he has no respect for her or you.

ElectricTonight Mon 18-May-20 10:57:56

Dear god if you was walking on egg shells imagine how your DD feels. He's controlling and abusive to his child. If that was my SIL I'd have spoke up not let things continue. Hate to imagine how your DD is living without you there.

begoniapot Mon 18-May-20 12:42:30

All good advice, and I will take it. I won't go in criticising SIL and pushing my opinion on to DD, but I do want her to open her eyes and see what is happening. I don't honestly think SIL is a typical abusive controlling man, I think he believes he has to fix and control everything around him because that is how he sees his role. His father was very similar. Trying to control every aspect of his life may just be a low esteem thing, but he looks constantly stressed and exhausted with frequent migraines. Of course he may just be a covert narcissist.

I feel guilty myself because my first H was really abusive, and would scream abuse at me for hours on end, and I stayed longer than I should because I had no job, family support or (I believed) a way out. Maybe she learned from me that you have to keep quiet and not challenge someone bigger and stronger than you? Maybe she's afraid of being left to care for 2 very dependent DCs? I do know though that I did everything I could to protect my children from my ex and if he had treated my DCs the way SIL sometimes treats DGD, I would have ripped his head off, not stood by and said, I've told him but it makes no difference. ☹️. In fairness, sometimes he is lovely to both kids. It's such a complicated picture. I'll be there to listen as well as try to show her the bigger picture. I'll show her this thread because different views may paint a clearer picture.

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