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Are my in-laws being fair? HELP!

(23 Posts)
scarymamma Tue 04-Aug-09 07:51:40

DH is the eldest of 3 sons. B-i-L#2 is just 1 year younger and lives with DW and 3 DC in US. BiL#3 was 7 years younger and had terminal illness and died 2 years ago. 'Cos of his illness all of I-L attention was completely focused on youngest son - he literally was their universe and could do no wrong. (They even moved whilst DH was at Uni and didn't tell him their new address!!!) When BiL#3's health deteriorated over a 12 month period before his death I-L's behaviour changed. They tried to reestablish their nuclear family, expecting DH to spend all his free time with them and his brother. Myself and DC were pretty much excluded. Although this was really hard (DH was working away at the time so we didn't get to see much of him) we understood because they were under so much strain, but the situation gave me a nervous breakdown and left me with depression which I thought I'd dealt with. 2 years after his death B-i-L#2 + family is over from U.S. I-L have organised a Golf day in BiL#3 memory. OH went as a non golfer which is fine. A sit down dinner was organised at his Aunts house after the golf (1 mile away from ours) with all the family invited except the two DiL! We thought this was a bit odd and DH said he couldn't go using a 6am start at work as the reason to avoid confrontation. MiL used emotional blackmail to get him to go. He went and now I am furious. It's as if the two DiL don't count - we're not part of their family. I've been with their son longer than he lived at home. They are happy to eat my food and have me cook for them, but I'm not fit to sit at their table. I cannot think of one situation where my family would not invite OH to a family gathering to which I was invited. I feel like OH is condoning their behaviour by going alongwith them. Please someone tell me their behaviour is unacceptable and that I'm not being oversensitive - am I?

stuffitlllama Tue 04-Aug-09 07:58:00

They are being unreasonable and what they did is unkind, very unkind. But your OH is caught, I'm sure he feels it, but he's caught up by the terrible circumstances.

I think his parents could realise how much you have sacrificed but they obviously don't.

I think you are right, but you should just draw a line under it. You can make yourself very unhappy being bitter about this sort of thing.

If your daily life is unaffected then I would just go about my business and not start a row about it.

ssd Tue 04-Aug-09 08:00:45

they ABU

grief does strange things, but they are taking the piss

they have to face they won't get their family back same as when all the boys were young, times have changed and they'll have to move on

Tortington Tue 04-Aug-09 08:04:08

yeah it is being unaceptable

they are re-establishing alpha status - and your dh is letting them

LoveBeingAMummy Tue 04-Aug-09 08:05:00

Yes they are wrong, very wrong, but their sons are the only ones who can make it clear that if their wifes are not invited they will not be attending, and not making another excuse instead.

msrisotto Tue 04-Aug-09 08:09:52

Hi, has your dh asked why you weren't invited? He should go while insisting that his significant others go too after all, they are his nuclear family.

scarymamma Tue 04-Aug-09 08:10:38

I was so angry last night I couldn't go to bed when DH got back from 'the dinner' - I cleaned the kitchen until 2am. Llama - you are right, I am making myself unhappy about it and I need to 'move on'. But I don't see why they should be allowed to behave in this way if their behaviour is unreasonable and that it's wrong for DH to condone it. It will carry on happening time after time. But he's between a rock and a hard place. If he supports me then he risks damaging his relationship with his parents. Or I just accept it and don't make a fuss (and get 'wipe feet here' tattooed on my forehead) They'll never accept that they ABU. Whatever the outcome I'm in a lose-lose situation. We need to do what his brother did and emigrate!

scarymamma Tue 04-Aug-09 08:12:01

He did ask and was given the answer that it was a 'late do' - the inference being that someone needed to stop at home to do the childcare. What are babysitters for!!!!

Tortington Tue 04-Aug-09 08:12:27

you and the kids come first - not mum and dad

you and kids are first family

mum and dad second.

scarymamma Tue 04-Aug-09 08:13:43

Yep Custard, my sentiments exactly.

MrsTittleMouse Tue 04-Aug-09 08:39:03

Your ILs are being very unreasonable. Your DH is in a very difficult position though, and will need very careful handling.

I am in your DH's position - my brother died as an adult. Naturally, we were all distraught, and one of the reactions from my parents (my Mum especially) was to invade my life and have a lot of trouble with boundaries. DH (who was DBF at the time) was very understanding, but they did drive him crazy for a while. I realised that I needed help, and had bereavement counselling, partly to help me move forward in the grieving process, but mostly (on the insistance of the counsellor) to re-establish my boundaries and my own life.

It's such a difficult line to tread, as it's automatic to treat someone who's been through such a dreadful experience with kid gloves, especially as two years is still pretty recent. But being bereaved does not give you a free pass to be selfish for the rest of your life.

Unfortunately, I think that only your DH can really handle this. It sounds from your OP that he realises that his loyalty is due to you, but that his parents are emotionally blackmailing him. Is he the kind that would accept bereavement counselling so that he can realise that he doesn't owe his whole life to his parents to "make up" for their loss?

stuffitlllama Tue 04-Aug-09 08:41:04

I would let this go. But never again.

Your situation is tough because you will easily be accused of being insensitive if you stand your ground.

But you will not be damaging their relationship if you say "thus far and no further". It is THEM who will be doing the damage.

I don't understand why people behave this way and seek to alienate the people who can be so dear to them.

scarymamma Tue 04-Aug-09 09:11:48

Thanks everyone - I'm beginning to feel normal and rational again. Unfortunately I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and I'm hopeless at hiding my feelings. MrsTittlemouse, thank you so much for sharing your experience with me - there are several parallels and some very good advice. If you don't mind I will share your post with OH. I think it will help him too. When this all happened 2 years ago I very nearly asked him to move back in with his parents as this seemed to be what they were aiming for. I want to support him but he has to be the one to deal with his parents in some way. How is another matter! Thanks again so much everyone. This site is a godsend.

scarymamma Tue 04-Aug-09 09:16:26

Oo, just remembered a really creepy story which illustrates how strange their behaviour was/is. Mother's Day was a couple of months after the funeral and FiL asked DH and his bro to send MiL flowers from the dead BiL, as he used to send a big bouquet every year to her! They did say no, but sent a big bouquet from themselves.

cocolepew Tue 04-Aug-09 09:21:37

They moved and didn't give their own son their new address? shock. TBH some people aren't worth wasting your time and emotions on.

scarymamma Tue 04-Aug-09 09:28:44

Yep, he had to ring his Uncle and ask where they lived so he could go home at the end of the academic year! This is just one of the small things they have done. If the things they did were in a soap you'd say it was totally unbelievable.

MrsTittleMouse Tue 04-Aug-09 09:47:29

Actually, maybe your ILs are arses, but I think that it's difficult to tell as when people are in such a stressful situation, even nice people can act in very strange ways. I was told by my parents that they "alway knew that I'd be OK". I think that they didn't have the resources to deal with my brother and with me, and so they convinced themselves that I was alright just to cope. My parents are both fantastic people, but the situation was causing them to behave in that way. My Mum would threaten suicide because she felt that my brother needed her and it was the only way to be with him. She would visit the cemetary obsessively every day and called it "visiting DB" as though he was still alive (actually, she still does). My job was to support them, but to make sure that I didn't let that take over my life. And it's even more important for your DH as he has you and your children.

Your DH definitely sounds as though he has his head screwed on right. Sending the bouquet from him and his surviving brother was exactly the right thing to do. I think that I was programmed to do what my parents wanted because I wanted to make up to them for what had happened. But I could never make things right, no matter what I did. It was futile, as only magically bringing my brother back to life would have been enough.

By the way, has your DH ever discussed this with his brother? How do your BIL and DIL cope with it all?

scarymamma Tue 04-Aug-09 10:58:10

Things have always been a bit 'odd'. I can understand and rationalise some of their behaviour as my DSis was brain damaged at birth and had very serious cerebral palsy so my family too has experience of looking after a seriously ill child.
BiL had 'guilt' issues as he was in the US and so not 'here'. Both healthy brothers had a pact to keep each other informed of any health developments with BiL3 as they tended to get left out by their DP's. Again a similar situation, all their DP's energy and effort went into keeping BiL3 going - they had nothing 'extra' to spare for the other 2. I can understand their behaviour even if I don't agree with it. It has made the other sons the resourceful and independant people they are today but did put some remoteness and distance in their relationship with their DPs.
Things were also made a bit worse as BiL2 in the US would come across for 1 week at a time about 6 times a year (luckily he could get the flights paid for as he combined it with a business trip)and stay with DP and BiL3 and devote the entire week to them, reforming the nuclear family - which he could do as his DW and DC were back in the US. After his weeks duty he would return back to the US & normality. I-L expected DH to do something similar but every w/e - we didn't have the luxury of distance.
My SiL copes really well - she can detach herself and not let herself get upset. But she is several 1000 miles away and is only here for a couple of weeks every few years. She just lets them get on with it.
BiL is still a bit messed up about the whole thing and has a ton of guilt about being absent. We haven't really had much chance to talk to them on this visit as emotions are running so high.

MrsTittleMouse Tue 04-Aug-09 11:46:50

I agree completely with the luxury of distance. I moved away after my brother died (not through choice, it was just how things worked out) and my Mum would tell people that we had both "abandoned her", i.e. she equated it with his death. You can imagine how that made me feel. But it was actually a good thing as it forced me to make my own life for myself away from them. Even so, DH would dread the weekly phone call as he knew that I would be in a complete state all day afterwards.

Your PILs sounds as though they are trying to do a combination of making up for the time they lost with their other two sons, and using them to fill the void left your youngest BIL's death. But that time has gone, and their other two sons have other responsibilities now. You know it, and your DH and BIL know it, but they are in denial.

In the end, I realised that I couldn't force my Mum to get help, and I couldn't force her to grieve in any other way. She is an adult and she makes her own decisions. I can only be my own person and make my own decisions too. I always mark the anniversary's of my brother's birth and death, but I won't subscribe any more to the cult of grief. I won't allow my DDs to go to the cemetary, for example.

scarymamma Tue 04-Aug-09 16:45:41

You seem to have really gone through the mill - but you've come through to the otherside really well Mrs Tittlemouse. I agree with your assessments of the situation. We used to get weekly phone calls too which I dreaded. We have calling line identity so know who's calling before we answer. If it was PIL I knew they were just calling to rip a strip off DH for some perceived misdemenour or neglect of duty and I'd feel physically sick (there would be a lot of 'They said WHAT!' after these calls). Even two years later I still get slightly nauseas when they call.
But you're right - I can't change the way they behave, if I talked to them they wouldn't see our point of view. As far as they're concerned they've done nothing wrong. The only thing I can do is change the way I respond to them. I do think that DH needs to stop letting them manipulate and bully him (and me!). FiL likes to have everything his way. Thanks again for your counsel.

MummyDragon Wed 05-Aug-09 12:11:06

Just a thought. Yes, they are being unreasonable and YANBU at all .... BUT they are grieving for a dead child. Two years (have I got that right?) really isn't that long in the grieving process when you've lost a child, regardless of the age of the child when he died.

Grief can do terrible, awful, horrendous things to a person, and can change them totally.

Might be worth having a look at the bereavement section on MN ... it must be terribly hard for your DH and for you too, and I totally understand why you feel the way you do. Also, Cruse are very helpful - www.cruse.org.uk (I bang on about them A LOT on here, but that's because I have found them incredibly helpful - lifesaving, actually - on more than one occasion).

Hugs to you x

scarymamma Wed 05-Aug-09 14:21:44

Thanks MummyDragon - I'll have a look at Cruse. BiL death came at the end of what was an extremely stressful couple of years (I had ovaraian cancer & OH was made redundant - twice!) The issues related to PIL behaviour were the straws that broke the camels back for me and I ended up with 6 months of therapy which just help me to get things back in perspective and return to some degree of rationality. DH never has had any help - but I think he should look into it. I also think it would help PIL but they're from a generation that don't do that sort of thing. Also they don't think they have a problem (they think I'm a total fruit case tho'). I do empathise with what they have gone through but it still doesn't give them the right to try to push me out. BIL and SIL came round last night for 30 mins before they flew back to the US. We had a very heartfelt talk. It was good for BIL and DH to realise that both SIL and I had similar experiences and felt the same way. We wouldn't let our children behave badly so why make excuses for adults? Yes - we should cut them some slack but we should also challenge unacceptable behaviour. To ignore it is to condone it.

MummyDragon Wed 05-Aug-09 16:51:58

Hi scarymamma - I'm glad that you have had a chat with BIL and SIl and that you seem to be on the same wavelength ... and, given what you'vejust said about the last couple of years and what you and your OH have been through, I think your original post about your in-laws was remarkably restrained! And you are right; ignoring the bad behaviour is enabling it. I hope you are better now after the ovarian cancer, and that your DH decides to have some counselling/therapy/whatever he's comfortable with.

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