Hi! I have been reading for a few weeks and read the ‘open me first.’ I am hoping this is a good place for me to get advice and maybe offer some DIL insight.
I want to give an idea of how I ended up where I am.
DH and I met about 10 years ago in our late 20’s, early 30’s. I want to be clear there were no issues with drama, fighting, drinking, anything like that which could make a MIL weary of a new DIL. Everyone but MIL thought we were a great match and was thrilled.
MIL and FIL divorced when DH was in high school. FIL remarried years later so I get a bonus MIL (SMIL) with the package
Anyhow, DH has an older sister who lives locally and a younger brother who lives overseas. His siblings are the crown jewels and DH is more or less an afterthought.
When we started dating MIL resisted meeting me. Meanwhile FIL and SMIL had us over a few times for dinner. FIL is intimidating, but SMIL was easy going so we hit it off right away. I met SIL at these gatherings and we are very different people but were always cordial. I have met DH’s brother only a handful of times in 10 years.
I was thrilled to finally meet MIL after a few months of dating. MIL is a very smart woman with a lot of interests. I respect that about her and was glad to start a relationship.
She was less enthused. I think there were two issues. I think there was some fear of change, although from my POV I assumed she would be glad he was finally happy. The other issue is that SIL was single at the time and MIL was fixated on her getting married. She seemed to resent that DH and I were forming a serious relationship while SIL was still looking. When DH would talk to MIL about what we/he had been up to she would change the subject back to her golden child, SIL. DH confronted her about but it never changed.
For what it is worth, SIL can be flat out rude to MIL and BIL left the country and has nearly cut off his FOO. DH is the respectful one and gets the shaft.
When DH and I moved in together, MIL flipped. Not due to religious obligations (she is an atheist) but rather a panic that we were getting more serious. Flash forward 2 years when SIL moves in with her future DH-she made a big fuss and bought them a big housewarming present.
When DH told MIL that he was going to propose he took her out for a nice lunch. While everyone else was thrilled for us (SMIL started bawling she was so happy), MIL told DH that she ‘no longer believed in marriage’ and he should think long and hard before making this step. Poor DH came home depressed because he thought it would be a touching moment to share and she rained on his parade.
Flash forward. BIL is going to propose to SIL. Keep in mind that SIL *hates* her ILs and refuses to ever visit them because they are “rural.” She insists all holidays are with her family. BIL’s mother has the exact reaction to the announcement that MIL did. When MIL tells me about it she says “can you imagine the NERVE??? Who does that when their son makes such a special announcement?” My eyes bugged out and I quickly shoveled food in my mouth. She either thinks I don’t know, forgot or is in another planet.
We get married and I involve MIL as much as I can. I wanted it to be special for her. We paid for the wedding and told IL’s to invite who they wanted. There were no photographer issues or other imbalances at the wedding. There was boundary stomping, etc on MIL and SIL’s part, which made me start to fear the future.
This is where I started to reach a breaking point with MIL. I am shy, so I am sure I did not bounce into her life and light up the room. However, she had made me really uncomfortable. She made rude comments about my family (my family does have its share of issues and is not at the same social level as the ILs). She was fully aware that I am a Christian but made derogatory comments about my religion at nearly every dinner. When I would say something she would say “oh, I know, but you don’t really believe XYZ. No intelligent person believe XYZ.”
In the early years I made a real effort to include her. If I saw a movie that I knew would interest her I made plans with DH to take her. On weekends I would say “honey, let’s call your mom and see if she is free for lunch.” I gave SIL and DH gift ideas for her bday and had them take credit. I reminded him to call her and made sure he spent time alone with her as well. DH actually prefers that I am with him when he sees his family (he sees me as a buffer) but I always say that I imagine a parent would like to sometimes have their kids to themselves. He would always return from these mother/son lunches and tell me how happy his mom was and that I was right. We split holidays so no issues there. My mom was a big help to me and gave me great ideas on being a good DIL. Nice, considering MIL thinks my mom is low rent.
In return for this MIL starts in with the “son is a son till he takes a wife” line. I was shocked. She was blaming me for taking her son away from her, when in fact 99% of the time he spent with her was because *I* had arranged it and sometimes downright nagged him. He was perfectly happy to be at home with me but I wanted him to maintain a relationship with his FOO. I was willing to overlook her slights against me because I felt it was best for my husband.
So I stepped back. I was happy to make the effort but I was not willing to make the effort AND accept blame. We still saw her when she made plans, still did holidays together, etc. But emotionally I was done. During this time I was pretty bitter and complained to my friends quite a bit. I think this only fueled the fire.
When we had our first child I knew I needed to make a change. I wanted to foster a good relationship between my IL’s and my children. I stopped complaining to friends and thought of ways to include the ILs. At the same time, now I had worth to MIL and FIL. I was the vessel carrying their grandchild (hooray for me, haha). Honestly, it was fun watching them become grandparents and I am happy my kids have them in their lives. That is my overall feeling, but I there are problems at times.
Basically some old issues are still around. SIL is not having kids (does not want the stretch marks, late nights, etc. more power to her). SIL has said “I’ll just help raise my nieces and nephews.” Well, thanks, but we are not looking for a third parent. I swear, MIL and SIL think I had my kids for THEM. It drives me up a wall.
That is not the big thing now, though...
Deep breath...This is a really sensitive thing to put out there, but 2 years ago our middle child became suddenly ill during her infancy, spent months in and out of the hospital and passed away. I am still reeling from this loss. I don’t want to go into much detail, but the experience created distance in our relationship with the ILs again. MIL has a hard time keeping thoughts to herself-her classic line is “I know I shouldn’t say anything...” then she goes ahead with whatever is on her mind. I CAN NOT have certain conversations about my daughter. I can not. I CAN NOT hear anymore how it was even harder for her because she lost a granddaughter and had to watch her son suffer. I made impossible medical decisions for my child, held her in my arms while she died and live with the aftermath everyday.
Now I am in survival mode, and need to protect myself so I can heal and be a good mother to my surviving children. I know my IL’s have their own grief, but I am in no position to be their source of support. Also, for the record, we have since had another child and the ILs basically feel that we should be over it by now and will barely mention younger daughter. They are NOT in the same place as we are emotionally.
All of this leads me to now. I see MIL on a regular basis (at least once a month). The main change is that I no longer talk to her on the phone or spend time alone with her. She resents this, but I feel I am doing what I can.
I am fine where things are-the kids see the ILs and love them. I do not go overboard with them having time alone with the kids because they have different values than we do and I am not interested in them trying to turn my kids into mini-SILs.
The thing is, MIL is retiring soon and expects her access to the kids to change. She can no longer handle watching them alone physically, so I would have to be there (I stay at home). I have NO interest in this. Being around her without DH present makes me anxious. I never know what she is going to say. I am not willing to worry for days about getting the house perfect and worrying about conversation so she can have more time with the kids. I am not willing to spend my precious time with my children filled with another source of anxiety. THe other option is MIL taking the kids when SIL has a day off, but them alone together on a regular basis is not my favorite idea (once every few months is fine, not weekly). Like I said, the ILs have different values than we do and I do not want them talking poorly about my FOO to my kids, etc. This is starting to create tension the closer we get to her retiring.
How do I go about maintaining the status quo? DH and I are working hard on our marriage and dealing with grief. I do not have it in me to expend energy on my relationship with MIL. At the same time, I do not want to cause drama. I do not want to hurt my husband’s feeling and tell him why I do not want to be alone with her.
I feel for her-it would be great if we had a comfortable relationship where she could stop in and it would be great to have coffee together. I am sure that is how she envisioned having grandkids-easy access, lots of overnights and pouring her values into them. That is not the relationship she has nutured over the years with our family, though. In my opinion I am not going to sit around crying that she is not reaping what she did not sow in the first place. I know she wished it was SIL that had the grandkids and not me, but I can not help what SIL wants. That has nothing to do with me and I am not going to hand over my kids to them so they can make believe.
OK....That was MUCH longer than I intended, lol. Bless you if you made it through the whole thing.