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How to get MIL and FIL to see their actions through our eyes?

Started by Maniac, January 25, 2011, 10:59:52 am

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Hi Everyone,
I am just wondering if anyone has some thoughts about getting stubborn people to stand back and see their actions as being hurtful to others.  I have an MIL and a FIL who have never given me a chance since the beginning. They didn't want their son to grow up, marry and move away from home, and I'll explain why below.

They babied their adult children and (I believe) stunted their emotional growth by enabling their children to completely rely upon them and making it hard for them to become independent. An example of this was that my DH was denied use of the family car to practice driving, because his parents wanted him to rely upon them for his transportation needs (or to walk or use public transportation, which would help keep him close to home, in my opinion).  They used all kinds of different excuses. DH's 2 siblings (1 older, 1 younger) were more outgoing than DH, and so they didn't take 'no' for an answer. They'd illegally use friends' cars or whatever they had to do to practice driving, and then they got their licence and eventually their own car. My DH, however, is a very gentle and kind man, and didn't want to take an illegal route, so he didn't get his licence until he met me and I convinced him to pay for the use of the driving instruction school's car for extra practice.

The IL's made decisions for their adult children, and were super critical of all their friends and dates. They made their children feel that they were not ready and/or capable of picking a mate on their own, and that they wouldn't approve of anything less than their idea of 'perfection'. When DH and I started a relationship, the IL's made it clear from the beginning that they didn't feel he was ready/able to embark upon a relationship without consulting them first on his choice. So I reached out to try to get to know the IL's and they pushed me away each time.  That was 6 years ago.  Dh and I continued a relationship even though his parents would not give him their approval....but neither were they willing to get to know me to see if they might possibly be a bit hasty to decide that DH and I should not embark upon a life together.

They couldn't come up with concrete reasons for their behavior, and just expected DH to 'respect' them...and yet they were not willing to give him the respect of trying to allow him to make his own choices for his own life.

When we announced we were getting married, they literally yelled at us, saying we couldn't possibly know, after a year, that we wanted to get married. We explained we were going to have a long engagement, but that still did not make them happy. They were very cold and distant to me. Any time something happened that they didn't like, I'd get attitude from them because we didn't consult with them on it first.  We were in our 20's and 30's (they didn't approve of our age gap, naturally). We dated for 4  years before we finally wed, and still they could not admit that perhaps DH and I knew we wanted to spend a life together.

So here we are, 6 years later and 2 children later.  I have a child from a previous marriage whom my IL's treat as a 2nd class citizen. They 'forget' her birthday, or send her some small token and then include hundreds of dollars in a card for their 'real' grandchildren in the same box of stuff!  Any time I reach out to them to try to make peace and see if we can't get together or something, I either get told 'no', or they ignore me and pretend I didn't even ask, or they attend and spend the time shooting me little jabs and critiques instead of just trying to enjoy our time together.

They've said and emailed to me some pretty scathing things, and they know these things have hurt my feelings because DH has said as much to them.  They always say that hurting my feelings is 'unintentional' and refuse to appologize (and most times they are not even able to see that their words and actions are such that anyone could even have hurt feelings from them!)
I'm somewhat at my wits end with these people. I've cut off email contact with them, and I have cut back significantly my appearance on the phone and/or webcam.  They're expecting to visit us this summer, and I have NO idea how to act around these people. I am barely able to hold it together with a polite smile for webcam, so how on earth can I face them this summer knowing they still clearly do not approve of me and have no intentions of giving me a chance?  Why can't they see how their actions affect others?


Here is my favorite quote:
'Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be,
since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.'
                                     --Thomas a Kempis  c.1420

What often works is to get they are like that and do what protects you. Talk with your hubby about distancing yourself even further. The abuse is guaranteed...the whys and wherefores are not going to alter that. Set boundaries and stick by them. Sending love...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Thank you :)  Despite what they may like to tell themselves (and others), I am not a bad person and I have always been interested in a working relationship with them.  As you said, I have been trying to protect myself from their abusive ways. I guess I just wish they wouldn't act that way, because I sincerely do care about them.


Yes, the wish remains.

I saw that quote that I gave you on a post here recently. I can't remember where. I just put it as my signature to remind myself more than anyone else.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Welcome Maniac and so sorry you are having such a hard time with the ILs.  It is a shame that you are trying so hard and getting rejected at every turn.  Like Luise said, you need to protect your own dignity and self-worth.  It always angers me to hear that anyone treats a child differently that resides in the same household and just that to me, shows some true colors.  Like Luise said, you need to set some boundaries, and make sure DH agrees with them, so you can present a united front. 

As far as the visit this summer, I have much respect for you to still be agreeable to having them come, even though they have been so disrespectful to you.  Kudos to you for seeing them as DH's parents and trying so hard.  Any possibility you can get them to stay at a hotel?  It seems to work out better around here (DILs and ILs) if it can be arranged for them to stay somewhere else.  Gives you a break and keeps them out of your face constantly.

Best of Luck!
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


Hi Poo! Thanks for your thoughts! We have mentioned to them we'd like them to stay in a hotel. We're in the process of buying a home, which I think gives them the impression that they can stay there (my original 'excuse' for asking for them to stay in a hotel was the lack of room...but w/ a bigger house, they probably assume the suggestion is now moot).

I try hard to see them as DH's parents, but these people are simple horrid. They are miserable people through and through. I will do my best, however, to be polite for their visit....and try to remember that my DH will be happy to see them.


We have a saying around here that we use...Lol.  When someone says something rude, you say..."Yes, I would love some tea."   ;D
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


Maniac, if I haven't welcomed you yet I'll do so now: welcome! It's great to have DILs here who are trying, like us MILs, to get a grip on our wacky situations. I'm sorry your ILs are so difficult. Most of us MILs here haven't pulled the shenanigans yours has yet we're treated far worse. You are to be commended for at least giving it a go.

When my SM (very critical & manipulative) is around I simply do not engage with her. I keep it very light and do not let her get to me. When she starts in, I think of some reason to flit to another part of the house. "I'll get back to you on that." "Hmmm..." "Good to know." "I'd love some tea." And off I go. She can't complain that I'm being rude, but she doesn't get a chance to dig into me.
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb



Sorry you're going through this; you're unbelievable for being so welcoming after all that. I can't really imagine what that must be like. You must have great strength of character.

I don't think you can get MIL and FIL to see their actions through your eyes. :( I hear constantly that "I don't know what it is like to be a MIL." Which, I don't. But, I do know what it is like to be a human being with some consideration for others, and I think I have an ability to suppress my opinion about what is going on in other's lives.

Stick around here, though. I'm learning something new everyday...like quick, polite responses to fend off criticism and unwanted advice. I'm also learning to just be. I can't change my ILs; they are who they are...if anything, it'll be me changing. But, accepting that fact and letting it go has been incredibly powerful to me. Oddly enough, I had to figure out that I'm powerless over them to learn that they are powerless over me.

We've tried to talk to my MIL; she cries and makes my DH and I feel just awful, and then we backpedal. So, my attempt to put her in my shoes for a moment didn't work; she didn't want it to. It took me awhile to figure out that I shouldn't even be letting her tears get the best of me; those are her reactions. I can only control my actions. At the end of the day, if she's upset about something we can't or won't do, those are her issues, not mine. Even after all that, when we opted not to take DD out (7 month old) on New Year's Even until 4 a.m., and she cried...I wound up staying up all night feeling bad for hurting her feelings...again. But, those instances are less frequent, in large part to this site.

Since you're already many steps ahead of me in this journey (mindset and behaviorwise), I think you'll be able to put it to even further good use. : )

forever spring

Hi Maniac and Holliberri, your contributions are so useful to me because I'm a MIL and for the first time in my life I have relationship problems which leave me feeling quite helpless.
Sometimes I think I have spent my life in 'cloud cuckoo land' and everybody around me did what I wanted them to do but wasn't that happy. Not sure any more. Maybe there was some denial in my life which I now have to face. But again not sure.
I do have a lot of friends and people on the whole seem to like me. (I don't come from a large family so no living relatives any more) Only with DS and DIL I do make a lot of mistakes and I'm really not myself. I wonder on the strength of what you are saying, maybe I need to think carefully about everything I do, constantly. Unlike all my other relationships this one lacks spontaneity. I'm always on my guard.
Having said that, there is a good side to the whole thing. I am allowed to see the GK's and the time spent with them is great.
I would love for my relationship with DS and DIL to be more relaxed. I think we give them space, don't appear on doorstep, leave them to chose their own way of bringing up their kids, most of the time invisible tape on mouths also. Not sure what more I can do. I do know that it is no body's fault but it is nevertheless painful. I think I did make one mistake early on in that I said that maybe DS chose domesticity because we didn't care too much about him and left him to make his own choices when he turned 20. I thought he might have needed more parental support at that time. However, he assured us that we did the right thing. This may have translated wrongly to DIL who may think I'm don't agree with their marriage which is completely wrong. I do think he has chosen well and I do like my DIL and we DH and me THINK we make her feel that, but obviously not otherwise we wouldn't have these issues. I can only hope for time being a healer.

lancaster lady

Hi Maniac
Not easy is it ?
I think perhaps you have a right to know exactly why your IL's don't like you .
If I were in your shoes I would be asking them. We always put off things we would like to know for fear of hurting peoples feelings .They don't seem to be aware you have feelings .
The stage I am at now with my DIL is to say what we both feel without offence . .
I don't mean to be downright nasty with them , but  put your feelings into words . We all tiptoe on eggshells for fear of offending  each other .I find this builds resentment ,in my case  anyway . Before you know it all escalates into a full scale row .
If I had expressed my feelings of rejection earlier perhaps my situation with my DIL wouldn't have arisen . We live and learn sometimes it takes a bit longer than we would like . :(


Quote from: holliberri on January 26, 2011, 05:31:57 pm

I don't think you can get MIL and FIL to see their actions through your eyes. :( I hear constantly that "I don't know what it is like to be a MIL." Which, I don't. But, I do know what it is like to be a human being with some consideration for others, and I think I have an ability to suppress my opinion about what is going on in other's lives.

Holli, it's funny because I was just about to say that exact same thing.  The same old adage that I have heard (coincidentally only from DH's family) time and time again to excuse behavior.  I simply just cannot know what it's like to be a mother, or mother in law (they usually just say mother).  To me, that's such a cop out- for the same reason you just said.  I know what the dynamics of a good relationship are, and I know the right and wrong way of treating people, at the end of the day does it really matter that I'm not a mother?  It's like my position is inferior because I don't have "status" yet.  I hate hate hearing that.  It's so irrelevant to me when the problem at hand is respecting other people, period.

Anyway, Maniac, I understand your frustration because I'm there right now.  My DH tried to no avail to get his family to see the damage they were doing so that they could rectify the situation and they refuse.  He has flat out told them- you hurt me and I won't tolerate that kind of negativity in my life anymore.  I hope that once you have time to think about this- we can talk about it and about how we can move forward in our relationship.  Months later, he gets a phone call wanting to have friendly, small talk and wanting to get together like nothing happened.  DH says, "well, I did take the time to send you a letter, do you have anything else to say?"  The response he gets is, 'As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing to discuss.'  Just complete dismissal of any feelings that don't coincide with their wanting to sweep everything under the rug.  I just kept thinking about how awful that must have been for my DH to hear.  Basically having a family member tell you, "your feelings just don't matter enough to me." 

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that we have also had to learn that you can't MAKE them understand what they're doing.  We tried for about a year to show them and explain to them that they were being unfair.  Now we've been cut off from them for over a year.  They'll either come to understand in time when they see that there's a pattern of their relationships being damaged, or they won't.  But you have to keep living your life and thinking- if these people have such little respect for me, do I really need them in my life?  What kind of value do they add?  As long as you can lay your head down on your pillow at night and know without a doubt that you are a good person deserving of good treatment, you're going to be okay.  Sorry you're going through this- I know it's tough.



At least in my experience, I hear it and then I immediately hear that she never EVER had a problem with her MIL. (Which, for the record, I NEVER had a problem with HER MIL either).

I have it on good authority (my DH) that this isn't true. She felt that her MIL was too cruel and would often cry at something she said if it was interpreted as abrasive. In my experience, my MIL completely forgets what it was like to be a DIL who didn't get along at first with her MIL, or she's just in denial.

I think it truly boils down to personality. My MIL also cries at the things I say, her DH says, my DH says, political/religous arguments...

I'm NOT as tough as DH's grandmother was...but I think I have a thicker skin than MIL. Because of that, I expect people to have a thicker skin when I talk to them, or when their DS talks to them. I'm trying to remember that everyone is different.

(...and I read your post...my problems aren't on that level at all and we haven't been cutoff, so I realize it's not the same circumstances). Welcome! We love to have good conversation and debate around here!  :D


How funny, my MIL said the same things.  She LOVED her MIL, they had a great relationship.  She saw and brought her kids over to her all the time.  Interesting b/c DH doesn't remember it that way at all.  And doubly interesting that my MIL chose to tell me about her wonderful MIL relationship when DH wasn't around lol.  According to DH and BIL, FIL's family was apparently barely tolerated and relationships were not maintained.  DH barely knew his grandmother.
People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift


...the best thing about MIL not remembering her bad relationship with her MIL is that I might also forget mine with her as time goes on...and we'll become good friends someday. That wouldn't be a bad thing. Maybe it takes time.