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Mother in law - I have tried to sort things out and it got worse.... Any suggestions?

(47 Posts)
SoonToBeAMum Mon 07-Sep-09 12:59:42

Hi All,

This is my first post so forgive me if it's too long, too short or too something else!

I was wondering if anyone else had actually taken their MIL issues one step further by trying to talk them out with her and get her to change some of her behaviour?

Let me give you a bit of background info here: my husband (married 1 and a bit year, although we've been together 7) moved out of his parents into my home about 4 years ago. He still had lots of ties to his parents who live close to us - mainly, they still walked our dog with theirs every week day (meaning they expected us to walk theirs every weekend day - at their given time though!) and his business is based in the (big) familyhouse. I should mention that they live in the grand parents' house, although grand father passed away a little while ago...

I've always found it hard to deal with all these strong ties, especially as I'm rather independent myself and his mother has never been used to anybody questionning her ways or her rulles. It gives his mother many excuses to interfere with our life, whether in words or in actions, but until I got pregnant 6 months ago I just bit the bullet and had a good moan to hubby every now and again (not the most clever thing to do I know, but I had to let it out somehow!) about how this or that was really none of his mother's business. He always stopped me from talking to her as he thought it would make things worth.

Recently we had to live with them for a few weeks as we had some work done in our house. Hubby insisted we stayed there for a little while to keep them happy before moving in with a friend as I didn't think I could last, but surely enough after about 2 weeks it all came out in the open and we moved out of their house (she actually read an email I'd sent about it - not even that bad but it made it clear that I was struggling).

I thought this might have been an opportunity to clarify everybody's place and role and tried to have a conversation about it (it took two weeks to arrange!). In said conversation, I tried to explain to her that I couldn't have someone else making decisions on my behalf and that we needed our own space, especially now that a baby is under way. Hubby's dad was very good about it, and we agreed that we'd all walk our own dogs from now on (a much bigger step than it sounds!) and that we'd be frank to each other about anything that bothered us. She on the other hand got upset, cried and went to the doc the next day where she was diagnosed with depression! Most people including hubby instantly made it clear that it wasn't my fault and had been boiling under for a while anyway.

2 weeks on she is still grim whenever I see her (which I now try to limit). Depending on who is around she might make the odd bitter comment to nobody in particular but clearly addressed to me, which is a rather unproductive way to communicate so I just ignore these. Husband tried to suggest meeting now and then for a walk or a cuppa but she finds excuses not to. He still sees her most days though as his office is there!

Hubby's been generally supportive of me on the whole thing - albeit a little late - and we get on with our lives all right. I just feel a bit guilty I've forced him into this tight corner and I'm also worried about what's going to happen next. I get on well with the rest of his family, it's mainly her overpowering behaviour I couldn't accept. She also drinks a lot and doesn't mind driving after 2 or 3 drinks, so comments such as 'We'll need a car seat so we can drive our GC around' really made me worried. I can't imagine leaving my baby alone with somebody who is likely to be drunker as the evening goes on, be it his grand mother!

I'm nost sure at which stage I should just accept that I've fallen out with my mother in law for good or try other ways to fix this. I don't want to go back to the old ways, so I won't back off what I said to her, I just wished she understood my position and got over it!

Anybody been there and has any advice?

BroodyChook Mon 07-Sep-09 13:04:52

I would hold your ground. You have made your position clear, and she is sulking. If you try to pander to her now, you will be back where you started. Carry on as you are, be friendly when you see her and do your best to ignore the sniping. However, do not go back on what you have agreed, or your life will be hell. I speak from experience wink

Flyonthewindscreen Mon 07-Sep-09 13:17:38

Another vote for standing your ground. I would carry on being civil and polite and then however she reacts, you are in the right....

Tortington Mon 07-Sep-09 13:21:44

hold firm.

in this modern age of t'internet and wireless and that new invention of the mobile phone ...can i ask why he has to have his ofice at their house?

HolyGuacamole Mon 07-Sep-09 13:23:58

Yep, totally agree with Kam and Broody. Have been there and (so far) it is worked for me to hold my ground.

You've said your piece, act normal, treat her with respect, in the way that you want to be treated and ignore negativity.

I'm getting on LOADS better with MIL and that is something a year ago, I never thought would be possible so it is really great.....but it has been hard to get to this point, very stressful but worth it so stick in there and best of luck.

HumphreyCobbler Mon 07-Sep-09 13:26:05

I think you have dealt with it all well. Stick to it.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 07-Sep-09 13:26:14


Re your comment:-

"I was wondering if anyone else had actually taken their MIL issues one step further by trying to talk them out with her and get her to change some of her behaviour?"

Oh dear. Unfortunately this sort of tactic never works with people like your MIL who are difficult (dare I say toxic) to start with. What you say and do will ultimately make no difference whatsoever. These people will not apologise, accept any responsibility for their behaviours and are quite happy to blame others for their ills.
Quite apart from all that it is hard enough to change your own behaviours let alone someone else's so do not try. Your MIL is totally resistant to change and won't listen to any reasoned arguement you put forward.

This comment of yours too is instructive:-

"She on the other hand got upset, cried and went to the doc the next day where she was diagnosed with depression"

Again a usual sort of tactic employed by such toxic people to gain both sympathy and the upper hand. Its all manipulative, particularly the crying.

I guess as well you've likely come from a family where all this sort of toxic crap and dysfunction has not gone on so this is all alien to you. Therefore you have found her behaviours very difficult to deal with.

Am not making any excuses for your H at all but he will find it very difficult to stand up to his Mother after being conditioned by her to accept all this as normal. This is all about power and control. This does not relieve your H of all responsibility in this situation; he needs to speak to both of his parents and back you up.

Make firm boundaries now re your son (you have done well so far and do not go back on anything that has been agreed to date) and do not let these people undermine you further than they have done already.

You may want to read "Toxic Inlaws" written by Susan Forward as it may be helpful too.
Your H will without question need to continue to be supportive and you will need to put on a united front with regards to her. Your H's number one priority should be you and your child.

cherryblossoms Mon 07-Sep-09 13:27:35

OK - re. Car seat:

You sit your dh down and say: "Your family has a big issue about denial. Your mother drinks. She probably drinks because she is very depressed. The fact she is on ADs confirms this AND it's not a good combination. Perhaps she is depressed because she is a fucked up person. Perhaps she drinks because your parents' relationship is all fucked up.

Whatever. I'm not going to allow our dc to be put at risk just to keep you all in your denial-bubble. No car-seat for your mum. End of. How you deal with this is your problem. Might I suggest family therapy?"



And that, really, is opens a window onto your situation.

You seem to have moved into a house with a badly depressed woman, the family of which are in some sense in denial over the extent of her problems.

You may well just want to set boundaries re. living together and how to handle the relationship with the new arrival BUT

Are you absolutely sure that directing your attention at her you are not just reinforcing some weird denial/bullying thing that is going on? (She's the one with the problem ... .)

Seriously, if you had moved in with a friend in such a state (would you have moved in with them?), how would you be behaving?

I don't know. I think your situation may be way more complex than you seem to realise.

But maybe I am way off.

SoonToBeAMum Mon 07-Sep-09 13:37:04

Thanks all for your support!

Cherryblossoms - totally agree with you on most things. The one question I'd have is, assuming they all accept the fact that she drinks (some of them are closer to acceptance than others - I have seen her daughter slip her a tonic instead of gin because she knew she'd be drinving later....) what do they do next? Therapy would imply that she accepts the problem herself, wouldn't it? At the moment she won't even take the antidepressants or whatever it was the doctor suggested... (Makes you wonder why she went there in the first place - sympathy seeking down to a fine art!)

cherryblossoms Mon 07-Sep-09 13:41:53

Thing is, Soontobeamum, there is something about groups which makes people take on roles. So, although the drinking really may be all down to her ... it's possible that her drinking is has a more structural role and cause than that.

I wasn't joking about the family therapy.

Basically, I think you should not be at all surprised that you can't sort it out, and that, in fact, you seem (and I think that is only seem) to have made things worse.

As others have said, just set your own boundaries, don't be lured across them, accept that there are just limits to what you can do. And be a little cynical about how the rest of the family functions, too ... maybe just a bit cautious.

How does your dh deal with all of this?

diddl Mon 07-Sep-09 13:59:35

It seems to me, though,that everyone has been happy touse each other when they see fit.

They walked your dog every week day.
Your hubby´s business is in their property.

You stayed in their house when it suited you.

SoonToBeAMum Mon 07-Sep-09 14:00:48

Well he worries a lot less than I do about things in general... As far as I can see he agrees with what I've done, goes to his office everyday, says 'good morning' on the way in and probably throws himself into work until comes the time to come home.

By the way, his office is there for historical reasons mainly. When he set up his business it was handy (and cheaper) to have his parents to pick up the phone if he was out and about with customers + his dad helps a lot with the accounts side of things. I can see how it made sense from a fincancial point of view, but it also meant she buts in a lot in the general decision making of the business.

Unfortunately, they also have lent (with interest I believe) him some money to get started. He tells me he could afford to buy them out now - just, but I'm not sure it would be wise to add any more financial strain to our current budget at a time when I'm about to go on maternity leave... And that would be the final blow to the falling out, too. They probably would take it rather badly. I'm not ruling it out though - I think it will be considered if things don't improve in the next year or so.

A colleague told me having the baby will make everything wonderful again for everyone. At the moment I'm just worried it will just be another reason for her to moan about me!

HolyGuacamole - at which stage did things actually start to get better for you?

cherryblossoms Mon 07-Sep-09 14:17:01

Soontobe - I asked you how he deals with his mum's drink problem because it may well be that you may have an indication, there, as to how he will deal with any future problems you have.

You've replied with how he deals with you (he agrees with stuff you do; by implication he leaves emotional/domestic decisions to you) and his financial situation with his parents (intertwined/dependent) and only in passing with how he deals with his mum (ignores it).

I wonder if part of your problem with you mil is actually deflection: What you may need to focus on is how your dh deals with those around him/his relationship with his birth family/your in-laws. Which should be his problem - but you've married it.

Don't let him leave the sorting out to you.

Btw, I think diddl has a point. I do wonder why your dh thought it was a good idea moving himself and his pregnant wife back home with his depressed mother and intensified an already very intertwined family relationship. If it's complex now, it's only going to get more complex when the baby arrives.

diddl Mon 07-Sep-09 14:22:43

Sorry to say this,but the baby won´t necessarily make things better-if you genuinely don´t get on/like each other.

Is your hubby an only one?

DutchGirly Mon 07-Sep-09 14:46:58

The baby will certainly not make things better, IMO it will make it worse.

Set very firm boundaries and start training your HB now to stand up to his mum. Car seat is not to be negotiated.

It may be an idea to read Toxic Inlaws and develop strategies to deal with them when the baby arrives.

I am speaking from my own experience where my first few weeks with my baby were a living nightmare due to my FIL outrageous behaviour and DP not standing up to them

SoonToBeAMum Mon 07-Sep-09 15:12:58

Must precise that the moving in with the in-laws was only temporary. Our house is now sorted and we're back home (with a big builder's bill!).

And he has one younger sister, whose boyfriend is also struggling with their mum.

Once thing hubby has started to do is try to prove to his mum that the way we do things is fine by anticipating what she'll suggest, so when she comes up with unsollicited advice he can turn round and say 'already done'. I'd rather he turned round and clearly explained it's none of her business, but it's still a step forward I suppose... I guess we all have our own ways of dealing with things.

Will try and get hold of 'Toxic inlaws'! It clearly comes highly recommended!

Is there anyone out there who might want to give us the mother-in-law's point of view?

SoonToBeAMum Mon 07-Sep-09 15:21:37

Diddl - just re-read your post (it's hard to keep up!).

Good points - these are the reasons I always kept quiet. However, we could have dealt with most of these things completely differently but Mother-in-law takes it very badly when we ask for somebody else's help.

ex: when we realised we couldn't stay in our house whilst the work was being done, I tried to say that we could go to a friend's place (we have loads of offers) and she took that sad look which she masters so well and replied something like 'if you must...', then totally ignored that particular conversation and continued to plan our arrival as if I'd never mentioned any other options.

diddl Mon 07-Sep-09 15:49:06

If she offers help, it should be unconditionally, IMO.
You shouldn´t feel guilty about accepting or doing nothing in return-ther will be a time you can return the favour!

My MIL dislikes me.
Makes no effort to get on. Competes for hubbys affections. hmm
Then I fell pregnant.
Hubby only one, therefore I´m the only "source" of grandchildren.
Suddenly, it´s important we get on.
Too little too late!

SoonToBeAMum Mon 07-Sep-09 15:53:52

I'd be quite happy to take this approach - but my gd mother was very important to me and my mum is a long way away, so MIL will be the only grand mother nearby.

Do I have the right to stand between my child and his gd parents? Or do I accept the fact that he'll be seeing them without me? Thinking of it, they won't be very useful when it comes to babysitting with the amount she drinks anyway

It's my first so no idea what to expect when it comes to babies...! How are they supposed to interact with gd parents?

randomtask Mon 07-Sep-09 16:14:40

I have problems with my MIL due to her being depressive/domineering/interfering/unhinged etc and I'm sorry to say that not asking for help and showing you can 'do things yourself' doesn't work. My MIL in the past year has gone into a depression when I have done things well (and possibly better than she would have done) including making DSS a birthday cake he loved. She didn't comment on it (when normally she'd be over enthusiastic as that's her way of dealing with things) but spent the rest of DSS's birthday 'party' being miserable in the corner to the point my Mum got worried about her and it made an atmosphere.

As MIL helped bring up DSS after his mother died (and still picks him up from school) we have to be very understanding and not rock the boat too much but, DH talks to his Mum about our problems, not me. She'd see it as a threat if it was me and when she feels threatened she doesn't listen. DH understands what his Mum is like and as a result I feel supported. I've already told him our DC (when we have them) will not have the same relationship with MIL as DSS does but, DSS seems to be thinking his GM is nuts now which is a shame.

Good luck, stick to your guns but more importantly, your DH should support you and talk to his Mum about problems-it's his family. Saying that, you and your baby are top of his priority list so if it means having less money and not owing an irrational woman any money, it's the lesser evil!!

tryingherbest Mon 07-Sep-09 18:12:36

Kind of with Atilla on this one - I have problems with mil - not at first but it's increased and reached a cresndo since birth of ds.

I've been with dh for 16 years and I finally tackled her at her last visit (6 weeks in our small flat - that's a short stay for her). The upshot is that her controlling has gone underground. She never phones here but dh calls her when I'm not here and puts ds on phone and lobbys ds about her 24/7 when I'm not there). Her controlling has actually got worse but in the background. However, you've done well so far so stand your ground. My issue is that dh is mummy's boy and backs her even though he knows she's manipulative.

Don't feel guilty - what's happened has happened - just carry on as you are and she tries it on again, regardless of her ads, you're going to stand firm again.

mamas12 Mon 07-Sep-09 19:23:42

Agree with everyone who has said stand your ground.
Don't pander to any of that kind of manipulating behaviour. Don't le t it enter your head, really.
I was like you, I never came across that kind of behaviour before meeting mil and found it quite bizare. I took the stance that I wouldn't be treated like a child and spoke to her as an adult and she couldn#t deal with it.
She tried to undermine me with my then H but it didn't work.
I am now in an even more bizare situation where after divorcing her son she complains to me that he doesn't take dcs round to see her often enough!! She complains to me about his attitude to her etc. but I know the moment I agree with her it will go straight back to him so I'm f*d really.

NanaNina Tue 08-Sep-09 21:00:03

Soontobeamum - firstly congratulations for having a balanced view about your dilemma AND for asking if there are any MILS with a view. I am a MIL of 3 dils (get on brilliantly with 2 of them and 3rd one is fine but I have to tread a little carefully with her) and also a grandparent.

I have noticed on threads about MILS that there is a marked tendency for dils experiencing dificulties with mils to "egg others on" to "stand firm" and there is talk of "toxic mils." This seems to me unfair as it is as though these posters are assuming that a mil being complained about is as bad as their mil. This may well be the case, but on the other hand it may not, and assumptions are made and misl are stereotyped.

MILS are human too and have their own frustrations and anxieties just like everyone else. As the mother of 3 sons, it IS sometimes difficult to feel that you have "lost" your sons to another woman. I feel this occasionally even though I have no real reason to think it. I think this is at the root of a lot of mil/dil trouble. Another thing I notice is that dils often complain about mils as in "she does this/she does that" but rerely do I read anything about the dynamic of the relationship between the dil and the mil if you see what I mean.

I believe that mils should NOT interfere with their son's lives and should "off load" to their friends/relatives if necessary. As for your MIl - if she is depressed then I feel for her as I have suffered in the past, but then that may be a ploy to get sympathy it isn't easy to know from just reading a few lines. However there are reasons behind her behaviour and you sound like the kind of person who is at least willing to try to mend the relationship orlat least get it on a better footing, rather than writing it off.

Re the coming baby. I can only speak from experience. The birth of a g/child (especially the first) is so very exciting and for me brought back all the feeling of having my own children. I wanted to see as much of my g/c as possible and was fortunate enough to have a lovely dil who was fine with this. However I think some mILs feel somehow displaced and obviously know that the child is not theirs but long to be involved like they were with their g/c like they were with their own and I suspect this gives rise to being "overbearing" which is the subject of a lot of posts about mils who are g/parents.

I think children have a right to a r/ship with their g/parents (not the other way round) and I am glad that you are considering this. As for the drinking I agree that your baby should not be left with you mil or driven by her if she is abusing alcohol. Incidentally I wonder why she is doing this - points to general unhappiness in her life. Someone on MN posted that she thought it "wierd" that her MIL wanted a r/ship with her g/c when it had come out of her body (the dils of course!) and as a g/m who would die for her g/c this sort of upset me and I got into quite a fierce debate and was accused of all sorts of things, including defending mILS at all costs etc etc. Have to admit though I didn't altogether stay on the right side of courtesy and politness myself!

Anyway please do try to keep on an even keel with your MIL - it sounds like she is an unhappy and unfulfilled woman and needs a friend. Maybe that can't be you, but I'm sure in the long run, you, your H and baby will be happier if realtionships with your MIl are on a better footing than at present. You are happier than her, could you make a move towards some sort of reconciliation?

NB I am NOT defending MILS at any cost!!

tryingherbest Tue 08-Sep-09 22:08:44

I would agree with NanaNina on the child having a right to a relationship with their grandparents and not vice versa.

I got alot out the relationships I had with my gps and my ds gets alot out of the relationship with his gps so I don't discourage his feelings as it's not my place to do so (although my mil discourages my ds loving me!).

blahdiblahblah Wed 09-Sep-09 06:32:49

MILS often notch it up a bit when a baby is on the way - loads of threads about that kind of behaviour.
Going to the doctor with "depression" is typical attension seeking behaviour - she wants you to all feel bad for "what you did".
My advice is to keep her at arm's length

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