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So, for those of you whose dh has a tenuous relationship with his parents, do you take responsibility for maintaining the dc's contact with them?

(17 Posts)
MoreCrackThanHarlem Sun 13-Sep-09 22:43:37

Ok, so for various and complicated reasons, dh has a volatile relationship with his Mother. He rarely visits her, and she has never been to our house, although they regularly speak on the phone.
Dd sees her at Christmas, and receives a Birthday card in the post. I, on the other hand, have never received a card from MIL, although I take responsibility for sending her a Mother's Day card, buying Birthday gifts etc.
So during one of their frequent telephone rows, MIL has said she is upset she has no relationship with her Grandchild, and blames me for this. She thinks I should make more effort to take dd to see her.
I would, I suppose, if she ever invited us over, or suggested going out for dinner, but as she has made no effort I have just got on with it and put her to the back of my mind.
Dd is close to her maternal GPs, and they spend lots of time with her her and regularly babysit.

Should I make more of an effort?

groundhogs Sun 13-Sep-09 22:49:42

It WOULD be a good idea to try to have MIL have a relationship with DD, as long as MIL doesn't cause you any strife at all.

Do you get on OK with her, is it only DH that is distant/volatile with her..

If you think you could bear to go over there, perhaps write her a card and explain that it's not you that is stopping contact, but that she is not inviting, and you don't feel you can invite yourself.... If you go over there and things get tricky, you can always leave after an hour or 2.

Worth a try...

choosyfloosy Sun 13-Sep-09 22:54:35

Hope you don't mind me butting in, it is me who has a tenuous relationship with my father - he appears not to be talking to me at the moment. I do feel guilty for not making more effort to build a relationship between him and ds. It has become a vicious circle - dad has forgotten ds's two last birthdays which i hate him doing - partly because i have in the past listened to him boasting away about how amazing he is at buying presents for ds's cousins hmm - so i have got less and less interested in bothering. he hasn't written to ds or showed much interest in general. Dad lives 2 hours' drive away and doesn't like having people to his flat so the logistics are tricky too - we always have to meet on commercial premises, which is not IMO easy with small children.

But still I do feel that this is my fault. I certainly could have made more effort to bulid the relationship, and would have done so if ds didn't have 3 other exemplary, interested and welcoming grandparents.

What I am sure about is that it is not my HUSBAND'S fault. I'm sure your dh has good reasons for having a poor relationship with his mum; of course this is upsetting for her; and of course she is trying to put the pain somewhere else - onto you. I wouldn't worry too much. Is your dd sending your MIL birthday cards under her own name yet? Perhaps it's worth starting this (maybe even fading out the one from you/dh?)

MoreCrackThanHarlem Sun 13-Sep-09 22:57:17

We get on Ok when I see her, although she made it quite clear to Dh that she thinks I am a stuck up cow hmm

I am struggling to see the benefits of her having a closer relationship with dd, who is 8 now. I feel we have missed the boat a little with it really, as dd is slightly uncomfortable around her.

Aaagh, tis bloody dh's job to be making the effort, but I know he won't, so it falls to me.

TigerDrivesAgain Sun 13-Sep-09 23:00:30

We see a lot of my parents ( I am only child) but not much of DH's parents (he is one of 5 and they weren't the greatest parents to him, even though it's donkey's years since he was chucked out left home).

I do what's right for my side and let him get on with his. DS (7) is fine - I don't sweat it.

MoreCrackThanHarlem Sun 13-Sep-09 23:00:46

Yes choosyfloosy, dd sends cards and her annual school photo with a small note. And I identify with what you sat about the other gps being so attentive.
In a way MIL is surplus to requirements blush

MoreCrackThanHarlem Sun 13-Sep-09 23:03:48

Tiger that's exactly how I have played it- dd seems unbothered by it and I have maintained her relationship with her maternal gps and great gps. It is only this latest row that has made me feel I am denying dd a valuable relationship in some way.

TigerDrivesAgain Sun 13-Sep-09 23:08:48

Ignore her. She's creating loads of stress in your life and adds nothing to you or your family. IMHO. Let your DD spend time with people who enjoy her for who she is, not some game playing.

MoreCrackThanHarlem Sun 13-Sep-09 23:11:36

Tiger I love it when I get the response I was hoping for grin

TigerDrivesAgain Sun 13-Sep-09 23:20:25

grin always ready to help, maam.

but I do mean it - too many of us spend too much time worrying about people who really aren't worth it. and saying "no I won't" is sooo hard. Easy for me to say that now though, sitting here.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 14-Sep-09 07:48:53


re your comments:-

"I am struggling to see the benefits of her having a closer relationship with dd, who is 8 now. I feel we have missed the boat a little with it really, as dd is slightly uncomfortable around her".

Am I really surprised, well no. There is no value at all to your DD having a relationship with this horrid woman. You did not miss the boat here, she would never have met you half way regardless. This woman sounds ghastly, wants it all her own way and dare I say toxic as well (with regards to complicated relationship with her son). You know why he never visits his Mother and they have frequent arguemnts yet for societal convention's sake you seem to expect your DD to have some sort of relationship with her!.

"Aaagh, tis bloody dh's job to be making the effort, but I know he won't, so it falls to me"

Well no it does not actually. You made it your job, I would also say a rod for your own back by doing so. Why are you sending her a Mothers Day card - she is not your Mother. Also this woman has never sent you anything like a card for your own birthday and regards you as a "stuck up cow".

You perhaps think like this because you (like many people) have come from a family background where this sort of deeply rooted family dysfunction and strife did not occur. You want to "fix" it. Short answer here is you cannot. I would actually argue that your MIL brings nothing positive to your life whatsoever. You're making all the running here and she's still blaming you for having no relationship with her grandchild. I would argue that with her inherant difficult attitude your DD does not want to know either.

Concentrate instead on your own family unit and ensure that DD gets to spend time with people who are actually interested in both her and yourselves as people.

Woudl suggest you read "Toxic Inlaws" written by Susan Forward as well.

MoreCrackThanHarlem Mon 14-Sep-09 08:59:25

Attila, your post is very perceptive.
My family are very close - we go out for meals to celebrate Birthdays, visit regularly, and the rest of my family are as interested in, and as proud of dd as dh and I are. So I find Mil's behaviour alien, and feel unsure of how to respond to her.
Dh often tells me I have no real concept of how some families (dis)function, having been brought up in 'Mary Poppins world'.

Am grateful for the reassurances that I cannot fix this situation, nor indeed should I try.

Portofino Mon 14-Sep-09 09:04:51

I've only met my MIL once! DH and her seem to have become estranged, though not for any obvious reason that I can see. She seemed pleasant enough, though maybe a little taken aback to be presented with new wife and grandchild. She asked for some pictures to with the gc collection on the sideboard.

We tend to see his family about once a year. There are lots of them, but dd is certainly closer to her 3 cousins on my side, than the multitudes on the other. We're abroad and it's hard to keep up with the people you really WANT to spend time with. I feel a bit sad for dd though.

APoisonTree Mon 14-Sep-09 09:05:37

Neither set of GPs made much of an effort. In the first instance i did try. In hindsight and if i had it to do over again, i wouldn't bother. If they are interested, they will make the effort.

Portofino Mon 14-Sep-09 09:05:49

PS and I take NO responsibilty for maintaining a relationship with his family. Sometimes I think I should make an effort...

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 14-Sep-09 09:23:36


Unfortunately I am all too aware of this sort of crap within families; both my ILs and my parents are, to put it kindly, disinterested.

I don't think you were actually brought up in "Mary Poppins World" as your DH puts it, you were fortunately brought up in a world where such toxic dysfunction within families did not and does not occur. Such problems can also cut across generations.

On a wider level your H may want to read "Toxic Parents" written by Susan Forward. There are excepts online and it may be a good starting point for him.

MoreCrackThanHarlem Mon 14-Sep-09 17:39:51

Dh is v old fashioned Yorkshire man, Attila, cannot imagine him entertaining the idea of a self help book. He seems to have no desire to deal with the issues with his mother or understand what happened to him as a child. <sigh>
Thanks for your advice though, feel I can move forward without feeling any guilt wrt my lack of effort with MIL.

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