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to be at my wits' end with MIL

37 replies

cornflowers · 06/04/2011 13:23

MIL is brilliant with children, and is very attached to my 3 dc, as well as her 5 other dgc, although the other dgc are now older than our 3 and so not as keen to spend time with their dgps as prev. She often has our older 2 dc to stay overnight on weekends, and has a very close relationship with them. She does everything possible to make them happy and nothing is too much trouble. Most of the time, the dcs visits to her are made at her instigation, but (very) occasionally I will also ask her to babysit (usually just dd2) during the day for an hour or two whilst I attend appointments etc. I am very pleased that the dc have such a loving dgm and have always let them visit/stay with the dgp's whenever they have wanted to go.
That said, MIL has (imho) never liked me, for whatever reason, and treats me in a very rude, snide and dismissive manner. She has a rather loud and overbearing manner, and enjoys nothing more than making 'jokes' at my expense (these are usually just rude/insulting comments, delivered in a 'joking' tone as a thin disguise for the malice, IYSWIM).
How do I deal with this? I have tried, in the past, to take issue with her comments, eg "Sorry, that was rather rude, why did you say that?" which just results in a nasty atmosphere & MIL badmouthing me to the extended family. Other times, when taken to task about her behaviour, she has burst into tears and left the house in a sulk. These sorts of consequences mean that I generally just ignore her comments, but end up seething privately/complaining to friends/dh about it. DH agrees that MIL is a difficult personality, and often unpleasant, but thinks I should just ignore/not let her get to me. Is he right?

OP posts:

Ditablue · 06/04/2011 13:31

Oh cornflowers, watching this thread with interest as I am in the same position. MIL makes snide side comments
at my expense and if I retaliate then I am being reactive and often ends up with her running upstairs and crying!!! Just spent a weekend with her for mothers day (!) where she claimed my 18month old was a drama queen just like her mother, had no food in the house even though she had invited us around for the weekend - and finaly made blue cheese chicken for dinner even tho I'm 24 weeks pregnant. Take heart that she is at least decent to your DC's - she can barely stand being in the same room as mine and demands we pay less attention to her and 'train' her to play by herself!!! Sympathy hug.


nectarina · 06/04/2011 13:32

Maybe you could try smirking when she makes those sorts of comments. That might weird her out. If you could ignore it that would be saintly of you - i wouldn't be capable. I wouldn't worry about her bad mouthing you, i'm sure everybody knows what she's like.


paddypoopants · 06/04/2011 13:32

Your dh needs to sort it out- not you. She won't listen to you and she sounds like a bully. My dh deals with his family by just ignoring them - however this is rubbish when they are being rude to me and I feel annoyed at them and annoyed at him for not backing me up.
Next time MIL is rude your dh needs to have a word and tell her that it's not acceptable to speak to his wife that way and that he is annoyed with her. He should also make it clear he himself is insulted and that he has had enough. If he doesn't stand up to her this will go on for years.
There will probably be tears and tantrums but just ignore them she will be back because she wants to see her grandchildren.


LaurieFairyCake · 06/04/2011 13:38

You could try 'overacting':

"OH MY GOD, you're hilarious" - guffaw, guffaw, clutch sides etc


she may get bored first

and if she doesn't at least it will entertain you


cornflowers · 06/04/2011 13:46

Funnily enough, paddypoopants, DH did actually confront her about her behaviour last year, and it ended very badly. She told everyone that he had "never, ever treated her like that before" and that he had "changed", the implication seemingly being that I had changed dh - for the worse. She had a virtual nervous breakdown, tears, calls to dh from her GP etc. For a couple of months afterwards she was very quiet, polite, distantly sad...Then the higher dose AD's she was prescribed seemed to work, and within weeks she was as outspoken as ever. I do feel she is a bully. I know she has fallen out with many, many people in the past(work colleagues, siblings) and for a woman her age who has lived in the same town her whole life she seems to have very few friends. She makes demeaning comments about other people, usually behind their backs, but I do feel singled out, in some way, for her particular dislike. It's just hard, because I've come to dislike her in turn (quite intensely at times) and I worry about the effect this might have upon the dcs and on my relationship with dh.

OP posts:

femalevictormeldrew · 06/04/2011 13:48

My MIL is the best granny in the world, I am the first to admit it. But she is a shit mother in law. She makes "jokes" about my weight, about my hair, about every fucking thing she can think of. Every comment is passed off with a big laugh at the end (to turn it into a big of harmless fun, you see). So I have started to turn the tables a bit. I now get the joke in at her first just to give her a taste of her own medicine. Last year she went to the doctor and he told her she was getting shorter (all an attention seeking lie) so I said "Oh so you are getting closer to the clay everyday hahahaha". Last week she came and we were short of seats and I ran upstairs for a stool. When I came down she said "You could have sat beside me" (its a two seater). I simply said "Oh there wouldn't be much room for me there". She is quite large herself, so didn't think it was funny.

I may sound like a spoiled brat giving her cheek, but I have listened to almost 9 years of her insults and nasty comments and this is about the only tact I have tried that seems to be having any effect.


Rhinestone · 06/04/2011 13:50

Love Laurie's idea!!

I have a similar situation with my parents - they're like owls, they just 'swoop' out of the blue and bam, nasty comment! My mother said something nasty recently basically questioning why I married my DH which totally threw me - wish I'd had an answer all prepared but seeing as she acts like she thinks he's wonderful it rather took me by surprise.

My father is the king of bitchy comments whether it's about a new car that I loved and was proud of or our wedding venue or our holiday choices.


femalevictormeldrew · 06/04/2011 13:51

Rhinestone I bet you came up with a corker of an answer about an hour later (like what usually happens me")


Rhinestone · 06/04/2011 13:56

In an ideal world my answer would be,

"I married DH because I love him, he's wonderful, we are best friends and adore spending time together and he's not an alcoholic bully like my father who you married because you wanted to be a rich man's wife".

But that would open a whole can of worms now wouldn't it!

I've decided that in future that I'm going to say something along the lines of, "Well that's a very rude question and a very strange thing to ask out of the blue. Why do you feel the need to ask something like that?"


Al1son · 06/04/2011 14:01

You could try keeping verbal score to highlight her rudeness while still 'joking' alongside her.

So each time she snipes say "One nil to DGM" then "Two nil to DGM". if you get a dig back say "Hey! Six one!" with a big smile on your face.

Alternatively try openly writing it down and refuse to tell anyone why you're doing it. Hopefully she'll start imagining you broadcasting her misdemeanours or even using them as evidence in a divorce court. That should help her to think twice before she opens her mouth.


FetchezLaVache · 06/04/2011 14:02

I love Laurie and Nectarina's ideas! Clearly tackling it head-on in an adult way, as you have, isn't getting through, so try being a little weird. If that fails, be rude back like victor meldrew!


cruelladepoppins · 06/04/2011 14:09

Saying "Ooh. Ouch," in a quiet, surprised way, then reverting straight back to normal ("Another cup of tea, MIL?") would get your point across without turning anyone into a martyr or a victim. Subtext: "That's a hurtful thing to say but luckily I am a grownup and needn't let it affect me for long."

Or how about: "Don't hold back, MIL, just tell us what you think!" in an amused, matey tone ...

If you can just remember her comments say more about her than they do about you, you won't go far wrong.


cornflowers · 06/04/2011 14:14

Several ingenious strategies to try here, thanks everyone! I will update & let you know if/when they work...
It just confounds me though, that a person can be so loving, kind and considerate to dgc (and to her own two dd's) and yet so spiteful and mean-spirited to her dgc's mother. DH & I have a happy household, our children are friendly and happy, surely I ought to deserve some respect from her?

OP posts:

grovel · 06/04/2011 14:16

God, how lucky was I with my MiL? She was perfect. 100% supportive at all times. Kept telling me what a brilliant Mum I was (when I manifestly wasn't).
When DH and I got engaged she took me out to lunch and told me that my marriage was my marriage, that my home was my home, that my children would be my children (well DH's and mine, obviously) and that if she ever crossed any invisible boundaries I was to say "toes" (as in treading on) and that she would shut up immediately. I only had to say it once and she was as good as her word.
I can't claim any credit for MiL's brilliance so I hope this post doesn't sound smug. I've only been on MN for 10 days or so but haven't seen much in praise of MiLs. This (for me) is a rather nice way of remembering her.


saffy85 · 06/04/2011 14:19

Aww bless her, your MIL can dish it out but she can't take it. My MIL makes "helpful" comments about my parenting all the time. I treat her stupid comments with the contempt the deserve by either laughing at her loudly or giving her an appropriate look of disdain.

I'm sure most people in your family know that your MIL chats bollocks. I'd laugh it off myself but I do think your DP should say something if he hasn't already. You're not asking for her to worship at your feet after all, just some respect which you obviously deserve.


StewieGriffinsMom · 06/04/2011 14:25

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Flyonthewindscreen · 06/04/2011 14:31

StewiesGriffinsMom has a good point. I would also be worried that MIL was making comments about me to the DC behind my back. And as they keep older, surely they will notice the nasty comments to your face as well? Would your DH be prepared to cut down contact a bit? Maybe stick to the bigger family occasions where there are more people around to dilute MIL's company and more witnesses to her behaviour?


Flyonthewindscreen · 06/04/2011 14:32

get not keep


2old4thislark · 06/04/2011 14:33

This all sounds like my own (notsodarling) mother. Thanks to this website I discovered she almost certainly has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It doesn't change anything but it does help me to understand her behaviour. It also taught me that no matter what I say or do , will she ever believe she has ever done anything wrong.

Check out


Journey · 06/04/2011 14:33

I wouldn't be sarcastic or try and be funny. It can backfire or just end up making the situation worse. Instead I would use statements not questions. (You're not going to get the reply you want from asking her a question so why bother. In fact you're just adding to it in many ways by giving her an opportunity to reply back to you).

Don't use the word "sorry" when you're replying to her. Like "sorry that was rude". Why don't you just say "that was rude". It's more direct and less self-conscious.

Say things like "x that is just rude and you know it"; "Here we go again with your silly comments"; "It's sad that you feel the need to insult me"; "talking to me like that is inappropriate" You need to say the comments very firmly and confidently.

Your DH should also be having a word to his Mum about it.

I think you also need to accept that your MIL can be nasty and think of the best way of dealing with it. If it makes you feel better by saying something at the time then say something. If you think there is no point in saying anything then don't. You need to find the best solution so your not seething afterwards. Take control of your own emotions, so your MIl doesn't have the upper hand.


2old4thislark · 06/04/2011 14:35

The stomping off and crying when challenged is a particularly charming trait!


TooManyPufflesInMyIgloo · 06/04/2011 14:40

I would talk to your dcs about how GM makes lots of nasty comments and it is not a good thing to do. Because they will have noticed, and they do need to know that it is wrong, and why you put up with it.

Me, I'd have the conversation in front of MIL, and I'd mention that we put up with her bad behaviour because she is old and probably doesn't realise what she is saying, poor old granny. (but I suspect that would be childish of me).

I think the notebook is a great idea - take one along, and every time she says something snide, get the notebook out, and write the date, and the comment in full. Then put it away again. Don't say anything to anyone. If she asks, blank her and then talk about the weather.

It'll get her attention, and might work like click-training with dogs. Or you can wait till it's pretty full and then accidentally leave it at her house one day. Seeing it all written down might shock her out of it.


cornflowers · 06/04/2011 14:41

Grovel, I'm Envy your MIL sounds delightful. I guess we'd all like to hope that we can be nice MILs in that mold too, when our time comes.
MIL is definitely not adept at respecting the 'invisible' boundaries you mentioned. She's capable of transgressing even the most overt ones! When dcs were babies, she would frequently wrest them off me for a cuddle/nappy change etc. Last week, ds1 (8) came home from MILs and told me that his DGPs are taking him & dd1 (4) to France in the Summer holidays! PIL have taken all the other dgc abroad without their parents in the past, and I'm not necessarily entirely opposed to the idea, but the idea of proposing this sort of trip to dgc without discussing with dh & I first was pretty Hmm
StewieGriffinI do take your point. I'm reluctant obviously to quiz the dc's about what MIL says when they stay overnight (!?) but it is a concern, as they are definitely old enough to pick up on these things.

OP posts:

2old4thislark · 06/04/2011 14:48

The trouble is that , even when confronted with the facts , some people are still incapable of understanding how badly they behave. My DM made a particularly nasty remark about one of her dgcs, which was overheard by my niece. When I later told her that my niece, her Dgd, had overheard and was very upset, all she could do was try and justify her comment by critisising my niece for how she behaved one time as a child.......


grovel · 06/04/2011 16:02

cornflowers, thanks. I was dead lucky. I think there's a business opportunity here. I might run some PiL courses ("How to avoid being the PiL from Hell without realising it"). Problem is that I suspect only nice prospective PiLs would come (being sensitive enough to see the potential issues). That would be lovely for me but wouldn't help the bigger picture because scummy prospective PiLs would assume they know everything already and not welcome advice.

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