Author Topic: Need help getting along with MIL who doesn't respect my boundaries or feelings  (Read 1614 times)

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Offline proverbsgirl

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Hello everyone, I’m back and wanted to give an update in addition to just getting a little support. Everyone here gave me such great input the last time I was here so I hope it’s okay that I’m seeking you all out again.

I ended up getting into an argument with my MIL about boundary issues and it did not go well. I will say that I did not approach it well, as I had a long, terrible day and was feeling very upset about something that happened while I was at school, so when I got home that night I was already in a bad mood. Anyway, MIL was talking with my husband about money. She wanted him to take some money (like $150 or something) and he kept telling her that we don’t need it and she just kept pushing the issue. I was listening and waiting for her to leave but when she wouldn’t stop I came into the room and told her that we didn’t like it when she tried to push help on us like that (I know, shame on me for jumping into a conversation that I wasn't a part of  :-[). It turned into a big argument with me trying to explain how it makes me really uncomfortable that she constantly tries to push money on us like that, even when we tell her no and that I felt like she was overstepping boundaries. Anyway, she did exactly what my husband and I thought she would do (and what she told me she would never do) if I ever tried to address anything with her: She said I was wrong and she was right, that she wasn’t overstepping any boundaries, and that I had sin/heart issues and I needed to reexamine myself. She also went on to say that she is who she is and that I shouldn’t be trying to change her and basically that she wasn’t going to stop because she was right, that I needed to be kinder, and some other stuff.

Anyway, the next day my husband and I had a really long talk about what happened and what had been said. He thinks we are both being unreasonable to each other. I’m unreasonable because my MIL really does have good intentions and really is just trying to help us through a difficult time. She’s unreasonable because she does have boundary issues, is pushy, controlling, thinks she’s always right, is unable to see anyone else’s side, etc. I see this and see the part I play in the bad relationship we have. However, my husband told me that I am the one who has to change and do what I can to make things better b/c MIL will never change. He says he does try to talk to her when he can but I need to make a better effort. Essentially, he says I can only be in control of myself and do my part to make things better, I cannot control MIL: Exactly what you all have said time and time again!

I understand but I feel resentful that I have to still be nice to her and try to make things work when she has made it clear that she doesn’t respect my feelings, opinions, or boundaries (the ones she doesn’t agree with anyway). It hurts b/c anytime she has come to me and told me that she felt I overstepped a boundary and did something that made her uncomfortable, even if my husband and I didn’t agree with her and thought she was wrong, I did adjust my behavior and respected her feelings about the issue. I expected the same in return but she has made it clear from this past interaction (and others) that she is unwilling to do the same for me.

At this point, I want nothing to do with her but I love my husband dearly and know this is putting a lot of stress on him. We will not be in a position to move for another few years, so I want to try and do what he’s asked and make more of an effort. Thing is I have a really hard time faking feelings. I tolerate her when she is around but mostly try to avoid her and I thought this was fine but, according to my husband, it isn’t. I really don’t want to have a relationship with someone who can’t respect my feelings about things that are important to me but I want to try something for my husband. Is there a way I can make an effort in regards to my MIL while also keeping my distance? She likes to do family activities (board games, outings, family dinners) and while I can make more of an effort during holiday gatherings I can’t see myself happily playing a 3 hr. board game or having long chats (she loves to talk) with someone I don’t like.

Am I just stuck? Has anyone successfully dealt with a MIL that they feel doesn’t really respect them? As a side note, I know she loves me but I don’t feel respected at all and that is very important to me as I’m one of those people who would rather be respected than loved (but of course having both is ideal).  I’m sorry this is so long I just needed to vent again/get some input and was curious to know if anyone has had a similar experience. Thank you.

Offline Bamboo2

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Wow, Proverbs girl, this is a quandary.  I'm sorry for your dilemma.  I have not been through this kind of experience. The only thing I would do is intentionally limit my time with MIL and suggest that DH spend more time with her but without you.  Short, infrequent visits talking only about mundane things. Change the topic if she brings up something you don't wish to talk about.  Make an agreement with DH that you will accept no further money from her and that HE will communicate that to her. 

I remember reading something by Green Thumb about not justifying, arguing, defending or explaining (JADE) your behavior/decisions/opinions with her.  It sounds like she just may be looking for an argument and trying to bait you. The choice to take or not take the bait is yours.  If you see it for what it probably is, manipulation and control, maybe it will be easier to sidestep or ignore it.  Let her comments fall on deaf ears or change the subject, leave the room, do nothing to exacerbate the drama she is provoking.   Bland and boring responses are best.  Again, I'd limit my time with her to the extent possible.

Offline Green Thumb

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I am begging you to read Dr Phils Life Code before you make any decisions what to do.

Your MIL jade'ed you in that conversation for sure. Telling you you had sin, that's a BAITER thing (dr Phil) or narcissistic tactic for sure. Notice how she turned this all on you? It's all your fault, not hers-- she's trying to be nice by not accepting your boundaries! (Sarcasm) But you fell for it and it became an argument. Now hubby wants you to change.

We can only change our thinking and our attitudes, not any other adults. Doing so will change the dynamics. MIL is not going to change and having a battle for control, well we don't ever win with these people. Cause all they want is to win and they will do anything to win or control us.

Like AlAnon says, first you gotta detach with love. Don't tell yourself MIL loves you, she means well. Etc. cause she loves herself first. You don't get it cause you are a nice person. You are trying to reason or be rational with a person who will not or can not be rational or reasonable in return. Do not be her enemy but do get smarter and control your reactions. Accept her as she is and for what she is and stop beating your head against the wall to change her. Don't give your power away!

Do what you want around her and don't bend yourself into a pretzel trying to please her. Stop thinking of the future and the what ifs. If you don't want to play a board game say No! These people do what they want, and so should you!! And guess what -- she doesn't really care what you do as long as she gets the attention she wants.

I have several in laws who are narcissists and my hubby and I are lately coming to grips with just doing our own thing and holding strong to boundaries. It ain't easy but first thing we had to let go of was trying to please people who are not please-able. Or who run over us with a Mack truck doing their thing. Thanks to Life Code and counseling. And sorry if I sound not so nice, doing this on my phone.

Offline proverbsgirl

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Thanks so much ladies for taking the time to respond and lend me your support. Green Thumb, I definitely do feel jaded after this most recent argument with her. However, while she does exhibit some narcissistic tendencies, I'd be really hesitant to label her as such considering that most people probably have a few of those tendencies (I know I do). In all honesty, I probably have more of those tendencies than she does  :-[ I will definitely check out that book though, so thank you for the recommendation! Bamboo2 my husband really does believe we need her help and I've tried talking to him about this. He doesn't really believe that confronting her will do any good and after what has just happened, I think he is probably right. I am trying to work hard on controlling my own emotions though and I'm hopeful that doing that will be a big help for me, even if nothing in my situation changes. Anyway, I do think you both are right about just limiting my interactions with her. I think it's just going to be a struggle for me to find some middle ground of showing some kind of consideration for her while keeping a distance.

Offline Green Thumb

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Just happened to be watching Joel Osteen on TV today and wanted to pass on his sermon message. Because I think it applies to all of us, including me, and here's a paraphrase. Basically, it boils down to choosing not to be in conflict with people. Choosing to be the peacemaker and not give back what we are getting via escalating conflict. When you say you see narcissistic tendencies in yourself, then this is where you can improve the situation. While many of us do want things our way especially if we had no control in childhood or in our marriage, most of us are not narcissists or narcissistic. A narc wants what they want and do not mind hurting another person to get what they want - actually they are usually incapable of understanding or caring how their actions and words affect others. If we find a trait annoying in other people, it is also annoying to them when we do the same thing, act the same, show the same trait.

JO talked about how we hurt our relationships by allowing strife and conflict or creating them or escalating them. By returning strife or argument with more strife or argument, we create more of it -- we usually don't solve it or stop it this way. Choose to turn your head away from our own feelings, emotions, etc. and let it go. Return MIL's anger, control, manipulation with ways to encourage peace and avoid strife. I would add, have boundaries and don't let people poop on you BUT... most things we gotta let go. Don't keep adding to the chaos and strife. We can hold to our boundaries without creating chaos or strife and argument. Its about holding our anger down and peacefully stating our boundaries. Not being drawn into the strife just to win. We win by holding to our boundaries and not reacting the same as the other person. We are not less than if we are not in total control, especially if we choose to allow someone else to "take charge" and we allow them to do it their way. Its weakness to continually fight or argue or cause strife, its is strength to choose to avoid an argument because we value our relationship over our own need to control. We do this for ourselves, for our own emotional growth, to be the better or "bigger" person. We hold to our boundaries as a way of honoring ourselves especially when doing so honors other people's humanity and value. Its hard work to make ourselves better emotionally but it is worth it in the long run. The same problems keep occurring in our lives until we conquer what is inside ourselves that brings the conflict situations to us. This sermon struck me as something I need to work on!

Offline proverbsgirl

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Thank you so much for sharing that with me. It's something that I've been trying to work on lately, so it helps to just be reminded of these things. Please wish me luck  as I work on tackling this issue!  :)