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Did your in-law relationship get better or worse after setting boundaries?

(27 Posts)
Isthisoveryet Mon 22-Jun-20 20:58:57

Inspired by another in-law thread going on at the moment. It seems a lot of in-law conflict arises with marriage or grandchildren. If you had conflict were you able to heal the wounds and have a positive relationship? Or was it downhill from there?

I have a very strained relationship with in-laws and am sitting on the fence about whether to stay distanced and low contact, or whether to give them the benefit of the doubt and see if we can have a more meaningful relationship (with firm boundaries). As it stands, they see little of their GC because of issues we’ve had and they’re very unhappy about the situation. Do you think that means it’s more likely that a second chance would be successful?

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Winter2019 Mon 22-Jun-20 21:02:15

I mean it's worth trying. In our situation, after yet another 'talk' things change for a short period of time and then go back to how it was.. It's about GC. So I don't bother much anymore.

heatherj96 Mon 22-Jun-20 21:02:47

The way I look at it is that if they really cared for DC then they would put the effort in to make amends! And stop being such pricks...

My MIL had 2 rules, ring before coming round and don't cause trouble over nothing! She could not stick to either. Not seen her for 2 years after she shouted abuse down the phone because we would not drive 10 hour round trip to collect her with an 18 month old at 11 pm 🤦🏻‍♀️

Meandyou02 Mon 22-Jun-20 21:04:07

If they are anything like my in laws they really dont give a damn unless everything is on their terms.they seem to be quite happy being very minimal grandparents and I feel get annoyed by the mess which comes with young children. Also infuriates me that they never once helped in the early exhausted newborn days when I had three one disabled ,but are completely falling over themselves with their own daughters new child.some actions are unforgivable, especially when it involves your kids and your sanity.

WatchoutfortheROUS Mon 22-Jun-20 21:09:41

I'll give you hope OP! I got on with ils pre DC but after DC1 onwards things were really really awful for a few years. Eventually we put clear boundaries in place and they got better when they accepted that it wasn't going to be all their way and they could either respect our boundaries or have very low contact.

Fast forward a few years and I'd say we have a great relationship now. Still minor annoyances every now and then but very minor and easily sorted.

WatchoutfortheROUS Mon 22-Jun-20 21:11:46

The key thing is whether they are good people at the end of the day. My ILs had some major control and boundary issues but they were never nasty. Hence we were able to eventually find a way to have a good relationship. If your ILs are downright unpleasant people though it might not be possible

Socialdistancegintonic Mon 22-Jun-20 21:20:05

It’s difficult as you haven’t specified what it is about.

I have put down boundaries with my in-laws, but that was about how they were around my SN child, and they became very nasty. However it is still important to me that there were boundaries, in order to protect my son. So if they don’t respect your boundaries? And become nasty? Then it’s even more important that you do put up lines. As people’s nasty motives can become clear if they push back.

JustC Mon 22-Jun-20 21:20:41

I would say my im laws, including his brother, have no idea that people have boundaries, or grasp the concept that other people can have other ideas about life than them. I've learned to be civil and most times manage to not give a rott what they they think. They are bloody weird, the BIL is antivaxer, covid conspiracy, 5g conspiracy, two sparks short of a tin hat foil, just to give you an idea. Won't even get into MIL or BIL 😁

JustC Mon 22-Jun-20 21:22:20

Only positive in that family is that MIL is amazing with Dc, even though she doesn't always go by our 'rules'.

Isthisoveryet Mon 22-Jun-20 21:23:36

@WatchoutfortheROUS that’s a really hopeful experience. I wouldn’t say they’re downright unpleasant, but they’re very self-involved and unable to see past their victim complex and figure out how to help themselves or what would be best for others in a situation. They’re very childlike in that sense. It means they resort to manipulative behaviour and tantrums, rather than actually being nasty, if that makes sense.

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Carlottacoffee Mon 22-Jun-20 21:33:26

Worse. Because in reality they knew I’d accepted their shitty behaviour as I kept giving them chances. When I look back now over the past ten years I could kick myself for not standing up for myself properly.

I’ve separated from my dh now and it still bothers me!

Carlottacoffee Mon 22-Jun-20 21:35:38

They’re very childlike in that sense. It means they resort to manipulative behaviour and tantrums, rather than actually being nasty, if that makes sense

This is my ex mil and bil. Although my ex fil really shocked me towards the end but I guess it’s because he knew that that kind of behaviour was apparently acceptable to me

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 22-Jun-20 21:42:34

Isthisoveryet

What does your man think of his parents behaviours?. He is key here. Is he the sort who says something along the lines of, "well you know what they are like".

You describe them anyway as, "self involved (you perhaps mean self absorbed instead) and unable to see past their victim complex".

It's not your fault they are like this and you (and for that matter their son too) did not make them that way.

Where are your boundaries at here with regards to them?. Would you tolerate this from a friend, no you would not. They are no different. I would want to keep away from them. Not all relatives are nice and some of them are actively abusive and they would have acted the same regardless of whom their son partnered up with.

bedroomcushions Mon 22-Jun-20 21:43:16

We really had to put firm boundaries in place as MIL and SIL had zero concept of what is not their business. Control freak types. Unfortunately they could not cope with the boundaries and became increasingly pushy and aggressive. I haven't seen them in 5 years which if anyone had told me that at the beginning I would have been devastated, but now I just see it as a positive thing as there is no drama.

I don't give them head space anymore.

Gutterton Tue 23-Jun-20 00:59:33

Agree what is your OH take on this all? IME some of these sons are happy to slip away from their controlling DMs and it’s often us who try to engineer a happy family when they were possibly quite detached and indifferent to their family.

Also be careful to understand what you might assume is best for the DCs - often that toxic GP/GC dynamic can be toxic but hard to see - so engulfing, overbearing and/or controlling of the DC which is nit healthy even if it looks like OTT GP behaviour. It depends what they get up to and how they make you feel - because if they leave you depleted, exhausted, resentful, hurt, conflicted, tied up in knots - then this is precious emotional focus and energy that they are draining from you which could be used to remain calm, peaceful and present for your DCs - just be v careful know what the real sacrifices are.

IfOnlyOurEyesSawSouls Tue 23-Jun-20 01:11:55

Worse ... the fallout was monumental and had lasting repercussions for us and our family .

AllNewThings Tue 23-Jun-20 01:21:39

My MIL has repeatedly ignored my boundaries for the last 20 years. Something has recently 'clicked' in me and I've realised how completely unacceptable this is and I can't actually believe I've let it go on all this time. I decided to go NC a few weeks ago and the relief is wonderful.

Socialdistancegintonic Tue 23-Jun-20 02:40:50

Gutterton

Agree what is your OH take on this all? IME some of these sons are happy to slip away from their controlling DMs and it’s often us who try to engineer a happy family when they were possibly quite detached and indifferent to their family.

Also be careful to understand what you might assume is best for the DCs - often that toxic GP/GC dynamic can be toxic but hard to see - so engulfing, overbearing and/or controlling of the DC which is nit healthy even if it looks like OTT GP behaviour. It depends what they get up to and how they make you feel - because if they leave you depleted, exhausted, resentful, hurt, conflicted, tied up in knots - then this is precious emotional focus and energy that they are draining from you which could be used to remain calm, peaceful and present for your DCs - just be v careful know what the real sacrifices are.

Very very good post.

It is my DS who has severe SN, and very vulnerable, that really showed me how toxic my ILs were. They offered zero support but were overbearing and controlling - eventually trying to fully divide me from DS by literally excluding me from family gatherings but insisting DS was there. Awful, awful people. And make no mistake, they will visit their same toxic crap on our kids if we are not careful. Protect them, if nothing else.

RantyAnty Tue 23-Jun-20 04:24:11

My Mil was lovely
It was other relatives who thought I was going to be their whipping girl.
Guess they thought I was an easy target because I'm an immigrant and quiet.
Little insults started and decided there was no way I was going to put up with their crap for years.
I went off on the ring leader.
They've been super polite since.

Nitpickpicnic Tue 23-Jun-20 05:23:11

Sometimes a long period of low/no contact can cause them to re-think their behaviour, and re-calibrate what they see as ‘their own interests’.

Sometimes they just don the ‘woe is me’ mantle and descend into victim hood and martyrdom. Some people would rather complain they are being excluded, than actually be included. Guess which takes more maturity and effort?

In our case, we found it was a predictable cycle of us setting (clear, basic) boundaries, them adhering to the boundaries for a few months, then the slide into ignoring the boundaries in more and more blatant ways. Cue a period of no contact from us. And repeat.

After several years of this, they got permanently relegated to ‘birthday & Christmas’ visits, and a fortnightly phone call from the kids, which they are often ‘too busy’ to take for more than 3 minutes. Effectively, this works better for everyone.

The day you can just shrug and let go of all the fairytale of how it ‘could’ve been, should’ve been’, it’s a very liberating day.

You can start to find people to fill the roles of caring older adults in your kids’ lives, there’s plenty of full-hearted people around who ‘get’ the give and take of caring for others.

blackcat86 Tue 23-Jun-20 05:35:23

It hasnt necessarily got better or worse, just less because we see them much less. Pil are enmeshed, controlling, inappropriate and emotional vampires. I think MIL is narc with FIL as enabler. I had a lot of therapy after a traumatic birth and they were just so inappropriate and unsupportive. MIL had conditioned everyone to put her feelings first and be afraid of her tantrums but I took a step back and observed that she doesn't even really like GPs, just fawning over babies and then dumps them. I took DH to couples counselling regarding boundaries and doing things as a unit of 3 without everything (including my traumatic birth) being hjacked by MIL. He tried hard and they weren't happy- it was around DDs 1st birthday and they sat outside sulking an hour early because we had invited them as guests,my Dps and DDs friends rather than lots of extended family that never visit and MILs friends. She wanted to be the star as always and plan a day for herself not a 1yr old. Since then we see them a lot less but they are still quite inappropriate so it's hard work. I think they lack so much insight that they dont even realise TBH

Isthisoveryet Tue 23-Jun-20 09:29:43

Really interesting replies and sorry to hear of so many difficult relationships. I wouldn’t be surprised if we experience similar to you @Nitpickpicnic. It seems like they can do best behaviour but very quickly slip into old patterns, and that’s with us really seeing little of them.

@Gutterton My DH is aware of how they’ve been and is harbouring a lot of anger towards them right now. When he’s with them he feels very tense and they imply that this is because of my presence and control of him, rather than their behaviour. He also is still hopeful and he can come off a phone call with them which was positive and act like it’s a normal relationship and they’re so great. He’s basically confused right now about where this is headed and that’s hard to see or help.

DC are very young and I do think in-laws will lose interest as they get older. Their gifts tend to be ones that ensure contact with them (eg. Money that is to be used for holidays with them, things that conform to their idea of how they want children to be raised). They don’t particularly like to see the individual and so I think they’ll be less interested when their GC develop their own voices. Perhaps things will naturally become easier then. As it is, it’s a constant battle trying to delay seeing them and when we do see them it’s a battle trying to advocate for DC for them to be given space and respect. It all comes under the overbearing GP umbrella but combined with big upset when they’re asked to back off and lots of negativity that they bring to us (why aren’t you parenting this way? We were hurt that you didn’t choose this name etc). It is just exhausting.

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Isthisoveryet Tue 23-Jun-20 09:30:38

Sorry for the above essay. Also sorry not replying to each of your messages, but I have read all of them and taken things on board

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Gutterton Tue 23-Jun-20 12:01:07

Yes it is totally exhausting because these types push, push, push at boundaries. They will erode and deplete you and come to dominate and colour your marriage, motherhood and family life.

You need to decide as a DIL, a wife, a couple, a family how much of your finite headspace, time, emotional energy family events/memories are going to be negatively drained, consumed and coloured by these people.

An alternative is to fill your children’s lives with your radiant family and friends who will behave and model kindness and respectful behaviours, so that you have a calm and peaceful life with joy and happiness. This will also allow you to be better more present parents for your DCs because you are not preoccupied or dealing with this week’s antics from the bitter, controlling parents.

”My DH is aware of how they’ve been and is harbouring a lot of anger towards them right now. When he’s with them he feels very tense and they imply that this is because of my presence and control of him, rather than their behaviour. He also is still hopeful and he can come off a phone call with them which was positive and act like it’s a normal relationship and they’re so great. He’s basically confused right now about where this is headed and that’s hard to see or help.”

The first half of this statement are his true adult, appropriate reactions and feelings to difficult people. Anger and tension are important energies to pay attention to - it’s his body screaming at him. This is the real, here and now stuff. Ask him
what actions does he normally take with difficult people and difficult situations that trigger anger and tension.

The second paragraph is the conflicted part and is where the unhealthy drivers of FOG (fear, obligation, guilty) take over and the confusion sets in.

“Hope” with dysfunctional parents is a totally appropriate survival driver when we are a child - we needed the adult to shelter, feed and clothe us - so we tolerated bad behaviour and “hope” drove us to keep engaging with difficult people and situations just to get fed etc even though subconsciously or even consciously we knew they didn’t make us happy and we were hurt emotionally.

As adults we still go back in the hope that they will change, they will be better, they will be different. But they aren’t and we don’t need them for food, shelter etc. So it’s a remnant driver that is irrelevant in adulthood and keeps us stuck in unhealthy dynamics and behaviours.

Isthisoveryet Tue 23-Jun-20 16:17:14

That all makes a lot of sense. Are you of the view that people don’t change their ways then @Gutterton?

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