LC parent having cancer

(25 Posts)
DILevil Thu 14-Oct-21 12:21:08

NC, as I’ll be easily recognisable with some of the details.

This is regarding my in-laws. They have always put my DH down, who is amazing, they seem to be only interested if they think he is failing. They only wanted to see us if they thought they could help, like around the house, so we used to keep DIY for them to come and see us which fed into the we are useless so we stopped and asked to meet them socially for lunch etc, this stopped happening.

They are angry at me for having a career and not being a housewife, that it is unfair for DH to have to housework. They don’t realise or ignore that I am the higher earner. Pre kids they actually sat me down to say I couldn’t expect DH to change nappies/get up in the night for feeds etc and we shouldn’t have kids if I expected that. They never apologised for that. They also wanted me to give up my career. So many other things which will out me if I list them all.

So FIL has cancer. Treated with surgery, not needing chemotherapy etc but some ongoing treatment. This is genuine and not a fake thing to get us back. We are now going to see them, but I don’t know how to keep ot together and not explode when MIL keeps prodding and poking me. I want to be grey rock and smile but I also want to tell them how amazing their son is, how happy we are and they are wrong about them wanting him to leave me.

We are genuinely happy and they can’t see that. My DH asked me if I wanted to go NC after some surgery I had and they were inexcusable. I said no thinking it would be better for him to keep some contact and encouraged it but I now regret not supporting him in that.

Every sentence from them is negative, about his job/health/us etc.

What stock phrases do I need to get through seeing them? I want to make it clear I am not a pushover and I am happy and they are horrible, but then DH is conflicted. He has started getting angry at his childhood and past treatment and current, by them. But obviously they now have a free pass to not having anything negative said to them. Having cancer and going through treatment is shit, so I am sensitive to that. I thought maybe this was a fresh start. In-laws have always considered my career a bit of a joke, and thought I was basically a student/apprentice and never asked me for advice about anything related to it and FIL would actually mansplain things to me. So recently I’ve had messages via DH that they would like advice, which I’ve friendly written out and sent and responded to questions, but I can read and hear the vitriol in their responses as being annoyed they’ve had to ask this of me and that I know more than them about this subject.

We are spending the afternoon with them and I don’t know if I can keep my cool. I want to ignore them, but I also want them to know how well we are doing and pull them up every time they say something negative to my DH. I have spent years having to build him back up after every single contact. Watched him visibly shrink when on the phone to him and his voice change. They think they are fantastic parents. Previously when DH has gone to the bathroom MIL has just stared at me like she wants to kill me, or sat in silence. She wanted DH to live at home forever, sees me as stealing him away and isn’t happy he is happy. She didn’t want him to be happy/married/successful at his career and hoped he would fail and move home and I think when they thought I was going to die or end up severely needing long term care that they were happy at the thought that he would be moving home. They didn’t think it was fair he had to care for me and though I should be removed from the house.

DH said he has never had a big or hugged his father, through his whole life. His father has never told him he loved him. DH wanted to tell him that on the phone, but said he had never said that to him and his DF would find that strange.

MIL clearly has some undiagnosed mental health issues/personality traits, which she has tried to put her behaviour onto DH.

I don’t know what I’m asking really, just writing it down so I can get some sleep. Anything I say will be taken as wrong. If I say we’re great then I’m lying, if we say anything is wrong, then MIL knew it, I was oh all along and they need to help us out. DH could never tell them he had a shit day, as that was taken as proof that it was all terrible, not just that people have a bad day and vent and then the next day is sunshine again.

I am truly amazed at the kind and genuinely awesome DH I have considering how he was raised, and how much they have affected his confidence, and I wish they saw how amazing he was not just wishing he was a failure to bring home. I just don’t get it.

I could spend all day writing down examples of their behaviour.

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DILevil Thu 14-Oct-21 12:29:03

My other failing is, is that my DH cooks. And does other female things. MIL practically explodes if DH were to be the one to make them tea when they visit, it’s just not fair for a man to do that. She brings Manky dish cloths and food to visit in case the poor man is expected to do anything. That would be a whole another thread about gender equality and things being better in their day, they act at least a generation older than they are.

I tried so hard to be great, organising them parties and being the only DIL who actually encouraged visits etc, then I got sick and saw them for the true people they are and then everything that had ever happened I re evaluated and they saw that I had realised and they were going to “lose” their son as he was trying to process the lack of emotional support growing up and how they had beaten him down and given him the mental health problems he struggled with.

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Chamomileteaplease Thu 14-Oct-21 12:29:34

He has started getting angry at his childhood and past treatment and current, by them. But obviously they now have a free pass to not having anything negative said to them

I can understand that your husband may want to see his father after his cancer diagnosis, however, please don't let this be an excuse for them to continue to behave badly.

They will, without doubt, threaten your dh's confidence and be rude to you on this visit, as they always have done in the past. Personally I think an afternoon is too long. This is a duty visit. Make it an hour tops, with a readymade reason for leaving.

I am sure other posters will be along to advise further but I think LC is the absolute right thing to do. Keep it up, cancer treatment or not. Cancer does not magically make a bad parent a good parent sad.

DILevil Thu 14-Oct-21 12:37:13

Huge thank you for the reply, everything you have said makes sense. Yes DH feels we should be seeing them more now out of duty. Luckily they don’t live nearby so it’s a day trip.

Stopped staying with them years ago, they used to leave us visibly dirty sheets to stay in, so we had to change them or take our own. They also used to control all contact with DH’s siblings, telling us they didn’t want to see us and would only see us if the PIL took us/facilitated it. I have been in contact with my SIL and we are sharing how we have both been treated in the same way and both sharing how things are and it is such a relief to have another person to talk to. DH knows I bent to her but doesn’t want to know the details.

We had stopped visiting at their house and started to say we would only meet them out for lunch, so neutral territory in public. But covid put paid to that obviously. We said this meeting we would like to go for lunch outside whilst the weather is till ok, they said they thought it would be too cold so we should come to their house, but we said we’d still go for lunch and pop in and see them afterwards!

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DILevil Thu 14-Oct-21 12:38:28

The thing is, if asked, they would think their style of parenting was the worlds best parents and they are never going to see the effect they’ve had on my DH through his life. I’m sure they tell their friends about their evil DIL who forces their DH to do the cooking.

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DaisyNGO Thu 14-Oct-21 12:45:29


The thing is, if asked, they would think their style of parenting was the worlds best parents and they are never going to see the effect they’ve had on my DH through his life. I’m sure they tell their friends about their evil DIL who forces their DH to do the cooking.

If they do, then their friends will think they are quite mad.

Unless they live in Stepford!

Do you have to go at all? There will be talk but hey, it can't hurt you. I know a couple of people who don't see their ILs.

DILevil Thu 14-Oct-21 13:54:29

Well I’ve had a reprieve. DH has suggested that we don’t go tomorrow and is currently on the phone to MIL saying we’re not going down as I’m unwell. So they can blame me for deciding not to go down. I’m happy that DH can use me as a scape goat to not have to see them if he wants, and actually him saying he’d rather go out for lunch with me than see them is huge. I didn’t do my old behaviour of telling him I was fine to go down physically and we should still go. They suggested coming up to see us but he batted that off as well.

They’ll direct their anger at me and feel that he wanted to see them and I stopped him.

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CaramelWaferAndTea Thu 14-Oct-21 14:07:00

This is hard but I think ultimately it doesn’t change anything.

I am NC with my father. I saw him once after his diagnosis with terminal cancer last year but I don’t expect to see him again. The parameters are his choice not mine. The bit you’re at - low contact - is actually the hardest, I found NC much easier to manage as more straightforward.

DILevil Thu 14-Oct-21 14:10:17

Ye is think you’re right going NC would be so much easier, but I don’t think that’s going to happen now, and I stupidly thought maybe we could start again and things would get better /they might want to see us again. So strange flip flopping from refusing to see us when we don’t want their help, to actions like I’m withholding my DH also.

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DILevil Thu 14-Oct-21 14:12:24

I’m actually really proud of telling them we aren’t going. Old me would have not understood what he was asking and not wanted to them to see it was me refusing, but I’m happy for him to use that reason not to go.

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Notaroadrunner Thu 14-Oct-21 14:42:22

Why do you have to visit at all? Why not let Dh have whatever relationship he chooses with them? If he wants to go NC then happy days for you both. But in the meantime you can be NC with them while he still sees them if he wishes. And stop telling them anything about your lives. The less they know, the less they can criticise.

IAmTheLovechildOfYvesAndIsabel Thu 14-Oct-21 15:10:11

When most people get a cancer diagnosis it forces them to really stop and take stock of their lives and want to put things 'right' if that's possible.
But clearly that hasn't happened with your fil.
Therefore I don't think it has to change the LC situation unless your DH (who sounds just as lovely as you by the way) wants to air any of the pain they've caused him. Sadly, it sounds like they have zero insight into their behaviour and even if he did open up to them I think you would be blamed for "putting ideas into his head" and "turning their son against them!"
I don't know what the answers are, I only know you both have all my empathy and support. Definitely focus on all the Mnetters on here that are with you in spirit if and when you do have to see them. Infact maybe you could imagine all of squeezing into their living room and chanting "that's what you say" in a childish voice after everything mil says! The more you can build a shield around you - sadly metaphorically not literally the better you'll fair. Obviously your love for each other is the very best protection from their poisonous words.
So, yes I can totally understand that your DH wants to see his Dad but neither of you have to keep giving them chances to hurt you, maybe just this next time and then re-evaluate.
It's truly awful to need to hear I love you from a parent and not get it.

LimitIsUp Thu 14-Oct-21 17:05:16


Why do you have to visit at all? Why not let Dh have whatever relationship he chooses with them? If he wants to go NC then happy days for you both. But in the meantime you can be NC with them while he still sees them if he wishes. And stop telling them anything about your lives. The less they know, the less they can criticise.

I am guessing that OP wants to support her dh in any interactions he has with them since they systematically and relentlessly undermine him

DILevil Thu 14-Oct-21 17:51:57

@LimitIsUp you really have hit the nail on the head there.

I would never want him to go on his own, as I’d want know how they’ve beaten him down to build him back up, and also I have a feeling they don’t lay it on as thick when I’m not there.

Him saying we weren’t going down was huge, and thinking about it he could have easily said I wasn’t feeling up to going down so he could go on his own, but he didn’t. He clearly didn’t want to get bashed today.

I find it so depressing being around them, and I know what’s coming.

If we say we’re getting a new square table, she’ll say “why aren’t you getting a round one”, and anything I say we’re doing to the house or garden, it’s always “Fred (DH) doesn’t want that, do you Fred?” Even when it’s DH’s idea. He used to not say anything so it was just me saying “yes Fred does” and looking in their mind that I am overstepping my female role and not subservant to my DH.

I wish I could say something to everything, like did you mean to be so negative/rude to everything. Or “of course DH can’t make the tea, he doesn’t have the required vagina to operate the kettle”.

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DILevil Thu 21-Oct-21 12:36:53

Thanks to everyone who’s listened so far, visit has been rearranged and they are coming to us.
I’m torn between trying to be all grey rock, and then wanting to respond to all the evil comments and put downs that I know are coming. Especially in my own home.

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Ijsbear Thu 21-Oct-21 20:45:32

Go grey rock. Imagine them as unpleasant customers that you need to deal with. It means you detach, and it also helps you keep calm.

Reading your posts I can't help noticing that you still kinda want a close in-law relationship, or find it hard to accept that you don't have one. It will help if you can cut that loose.

DILevil Thu 21-Oct-21 21:06:20

Thanks, I know grey rock is the way to go and I’m worried I’ll ruin it and bite from all the prodding with a stick. I’d happily go NC, but I don’t think DH will now. I’m angry at the way they’ve treated him and we’ll never get to tell them that or work it out, but I don’t think they’d ever listen or understand.
I don’t think apart from the one I talk to, other family member are aware we’re LC. They don’t have much contact with most of the family and it’s all show.

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DILevil Sun 24-Oct-21 12:58:51

Any quick phrases I need to remember to shut things down when they start making out my DH is incapable? Or that life is my fault?

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Ijsbear Sun 24-Oct-21 13:17:07

the awful ones that sometimes you just have to resort to:

"i'm sorry you think that". "If that's what you think".

or a Neutral detached smile. Or no answer and long silence. Eventually they trail off. It takes a very conscious decision to detach and stay uninvolved though. It can help to concentrate on the sensation of your feet on the floor or on your shoulders. Good luck; it really is hard.

Ijsbear Sun 24-Oct-21 13:17:59

Or if you reallky want to put the cat among the pigeons "you must be so disappointed you've turned out such incapable parents" (no no not really)

Ijsbear Sun 24-Oct-21 13:19:18

... "A child reflects on its parents' childrearing skills so much, doesn't it". (I may be thinking of what I'd like to say to my contemptuous father here, ahem).

DILevil Sun 24-Oct-21 13:26:49

Thanks, I really appreciate it. I can do this.
They were late as got lost as didn’t want to use the directions I provided as thought they knew better so DH had to go out and find them

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DILevil Tue 26-Oct-21 09:47:43

Thankyou for letting me have a place to vent. It went as well as it can do. It’s so strange, on some levels they act like they are desperate to see DH but then ignore him completely. They want him to be a needy child, and when he demonstrates he’s a competent adult, have no interest. This time they bought him an album of photos from his childhood and tried to give him photos from his old room. Except his room had none of his personality these were pictures chosen by them, no music posters etc, and he said they could get rid of them. They have previously posted him family pictures, except it was of a family gathering without him and everyone having fun. The issue we’ve always had is they want to do things when we need help, not socially.
I think we’ll be seeing them again and keep the minimal contact, but I’m angry for him how we’ll never get to bash it out they way they keep treating him and see him as in incompetent child. It’s like they think he had to choose them or me, I took him away and he would have lived dependant under them in their house until retirement if he hadn’t have married me. I’m pretty sure that would have never happened but that’s how they act. They’ve never wanted to get to know the adult him, just try and shoehorn him back into being a child whenever we see them.

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HeyNowHey Tue 26-Oct-21 10:49:35

Some ideas/observations.

Tricky with the cancer. It’s being treated so things could get back to how things were.

There is no need IMO to change LC dramatically because of illness though. Your fil has a wife to support him.

It’s a shame you didn’t go VLC really if they are as obnoxious and depressing as they sound. But good that you have slowly dialled it down.

It’s great you want to support your DH but he also has to take the bull by the horn and stand up for himself too (just say ‘no’). Not be guilt tripped into seeing his parents. Otherwise you will both be dragged down.

Agree with others keep visits v short, make the focus your fil health, and avoid any personal discussions about you, and then leave. Maybe visit when mil not there too. Dial it back to VLC as soon as poss. afterwards, and stop with the socialising.

The problem is that these things never seem to go away as long as there is some contact. So any contact is not going to be easy. If you see her as a customer in a shop with mental disorder and treat her matter of factly and briefly on those occasions, as someone suggested. Or as a difficult and rude receptionist. Big big boundaries up. Be brief, polite, a hello and ‘social’ smile even - but not friendly. Start planning and putting in place your new VLC to VVLC route.

altmember Tue 26-Oct-21 11:02:22

Sounds like it might be a case of emotional incest.

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