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Independence Day

Started by Belle, August 23, 2011, 09:32:28 am

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I hadn't felt compelled to share a whole lot of my story until now.  I've hung around here for a while, and I've gained so much strength from the ladies (and gentlemen) here.  Today I had an epiphany, near the end of our counseling session.  I realized that the stress of my MIL isn't really the big deal anymore.  The real stress is the "chess game" we're playing in order to keep from giving her ammunition and keep her from making a scene. 

What I mean by that is that we are planning every itsy-bitsy-teenie-tiny move, and weighing the consequences of every possibility.  Each time we invite some of his family down to visit us, each time we plan a visit to his hometown to visit other family, each time we pick up the phone, each time we receive a nasty email from MIL, each time....it goes on and on and on, to cover every single aspect of our lives.  We weigh the pros and cons of every move, alternate moves, and the reciprocation.  She's the kind of person who "martyrs" herself.  She provokes us through passive aggressive comments and actions.  We finally learned to identify that and not play along.  She dissects our communications with her to pull words out of context that victimize her, and she finds some way to "skew" everything we do or don't to that does or doesn't include or involve her.  Her fits of rage include cursing, throwing things, name-calling, and really one-sided awful public facebook posts, followed-up with really hateful and blaming emails to the entire family.  She wants them all to oust us, and some of them even have based on her lies and manipulations of the truth.  We have children and have only granted her access for very short, supervised periods at family gatherings.  In doing that, now she tells everyone that we "use the children as pawns." 

Her most common complaint: disrespect.  In the years that DH and I have been together, I have never once heard him curse his mother or father, call them names, etc.  He has raised his voice, after being screamed at and berated for long periods of time by both his mom and dad.  He has raised his voice to say "enough, I am not listening to this anymore.  Goodbye."  DH is a calm, even-tempered soul.  He's always helped them whenever they needed it, as long as I've known him.  He doesn't depend on them financially.  But the very FIRST issue his mother ever had with me she launched a campaign to get rid of me, and she was NOT pleased when DH didn't climb aboard.

DH and I agree that we don't want to expose our children to that kind of behavior, and therefore DH and I haven't had much of a relationship with her in a very long time.  Every now and then she raises a ruckus...something like posting something on facebook or getting another family member all upset by telling her story of how we've discarded her or sending an email laying 100% of the blame on me....I guess just for being here, because I can't think of a thing I have done to her.  When DH asks her what I've done, all she can muster up is a tearful "she tore my family apart!!!"  She can never seem to come up with anything specific.

So now DH can't make a trip north to see the rest of his family or his friends without being concerned over how she will react or what rumour she'll spread.  He's terrified that he will give her fuel to say "See!  he didn't bring my grandchildren to see me, he's using them as pawns!"  Its to the point that we can't invite family down, and we can't go there, without weighting all the options and consequences.  Its exhausting.  It isn't supposed to be like this, calculating your every breath in order to please someone else.

I have come to the realization that ANYTHING we do, she will find some way to skew it.  She will find some way to martyr herself and use it to her advantage.  I've just stopped caring.  I want to live happy, and free from worrying about this all. the. time.  Nothing I do will ever be good enough, and I believe that she enjoys "martyrdom" so much that nothing DH does will ever be good enough either. 

Yet DH is still there, calculating every move, every possibility, and the outcome, the reactions, and the repercussions.  THAT's what keeps him away from his family and friends back home, not so much his mother anymore.  Its worrying about the consequences.  Its like he's always saying "well if we do this, then she will say ____, and I don't want her to be able to say _____."  Its exhausting, and I am past the point of caring what she says or how she skews it.  Its keeping us from those of his family and friends we love and want to hold onto and we are missing out on so much because we are putting too much thought into HER reactions/response, when it doesn't matter which option we choose, it will be wrong in her eyes.  And in the process, she is accomplishing exactly what she set out to do...exile us from the rest of the family.  How on earth can I make him see that?  Is it even possible?   


Maybe just smile and shrug more?  And make sure he spends more time with the happy family/friends?   It's taken decades for this tension to build up inside and will likely take some time for it to go away.   It's wonderful that you've had the realizations that will help you with your MIL and you're in the lucky position of being his safe haven.   When he gets worked up, just give him a big hug (at least 30 seconds).   And change the subject to something happier.


It is exhausting, and I feel for you and your DH. I only know how tiring this can be from the eggshell dance I do with DIL, always second guessing my words, my gifts, my actions & knowing that much of what I say & do is twisted to validate her agenda. Unfortunately I can't stop or I'll lose DS. I'm glad you don't have to deal with a loss like that should you decide to quit. Best wishes, Belle.
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb


Oh Belle many (((hugs))) You've just beautifully articulated what DH and I've been going through.  I don't think there is an answer beyond what are you willing to live with?  Being happy is a choice, being upset is a choice.  You know what you're working with now and you know the choices.

For my DH there was no magic words or actions I could do to make him see, other than real life.  I worked on my part and really looked at myself and my actions.  When DH and I married it was obvious there were issues between DH and MIL.  I foolishly thought I could fix those issues and we'd have a lovely family and live happily ever after.  Boy, my ego was the size of the grand canyon!  I should have never got involved.

So, mostly I've withdrawn.  I'm not playing the game.  And DH has had to figure out ways to repair (or not) his own relationships.  Just like it should be. 
People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift


Thank you ladies with the responses.  I'm finding comfort knowing that I have encountered an encouraging community where lots of folks share the same issues. 

Its downright painful to go through this, but even moreso to watch DH have to give his parents the shaft because they can't behave themselves.  Even worse than that, is missing out on all the other family and friends we love because of all this worrying about dodging all the bullets and grenades.  In the past, it was only MIL.  DH kept a decent relationship with FIL, but now that has vanished as well.  FIL blames DH solely for "letting it go this far."  Its not so much that he believes MIL is completely innocent, but rather he thinks we should just sweep it all under the rug and let her do whatever she wants in order to keep the peace in the family.  That would be ok, if it didn't involve her wreaking havoc on our marriage and trying relentlessly to divide us.  I can let anything slide, but this is absolutely personal and her goal is to destroy our marriage, just like I somehow "destroyed her family."

I've tried everything I know how to.  I've always encouraged him to visit his family, namely his parents.  I thought if he could mend his relationship with them and prove to them that I'm not a threat to that, then they might would back off.  That didn't work.  Its more than his family and friends that we're missing...I consider them my family and friends too.  I love them.  I want to visit them.  I want to do things with them.  I want to invite them to visit us.  I want his FOO and his friends, and the whole shebang.  I love them all, and they have accepted me, most of them, and have been very encouraging through all of this.  I don't want to lose them too.


Belle, you still can see them.  Does your DHs family do everything together?  My in laws are like that, my MIL is the gatekeeper.  I think DH didn't know of any other way until he met me.  I call up my grandparents and aunts/uncles on my own, make plans to see them and not always with my parents.  Honestly, I do see my aunts/uncles more than anyone in my FOO.  Mostly b/c  all of them are childfree and my father/stepmom still have little ones at home, so our schedules do not always mesh.  My aunts/uncles have a bit more of free time lol. 

Until me, DH had never gone by himself to visit his grandmother.  I still can't get over that he thought he could only see her with his mother.  Bananas!  Is your DH similar?
People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift


We are all on our own learning paths. And "Ah, Ha!" for one person can be  a "Ho, Hum" to someone else. We can share what we got and if the other person gets it, it a win/win. Otherwise they will when they do, if they do. You know now that she is always going to be doing what she's doing...what others do doesn't factor into it. Great! Now you at least can get some rest and when your husband agonizes, you can just tell him you have been there and done that...have the T-shirt to prove it and have moved on. Sending love...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


QuoteI realized that the stress of my MIL isn't really the big deal anymore.  The real stress is the "chess game" we're playing in order to keep from giving her ammunition and keep her from making a scene. 

So now DH can't make a trip north to see the rest of his family or his friends without being concerned over how she will react or what rumour she'll spread.  He's terrified that he will give her fuel to say "See!  he didn't bring my grandchildren to see me, he's using them as pawns!"

Very wise observation.  The challenge is no longer MIL.  The challenge for DH is DH's fear of MIL. Facing a fear for what it is out loud and saying - "So..... She will get mad and she will makes up lies about me and she will tell other people about it... and um, SO WHAT?" can be most liberating.

My DH found great comfort in talking to our fairly modern minister about setting boundaries and adjusting expectations.  No matter what DH does MIL will be upset, and MIL will blame me.  Done and done.  We finally were able to get to a point (it took me longer than it took him, he was probably halfway there when I met him) where we accepted that. Then we no longer had to fear it.  We identified it and though I can't say we "welcome" her reactions in the least, knowing and expecting they'll be coming helps.  Tremendously.  Cause when they do (and they always do) it's just: yep, the lies about DH's abandonment and stories about Sassy as evil manipulator and gold digger, that's them right there.  Like passing a familiar billboard on the highway.  Now on to where we were going.... 

(And yes, most of the people she's told are now officially tired of her tales of woe about us already, see through them, judge us for us, and not by what other people with clearly other motivations say. And it's only been a few short years).

We do not try to sidestep it or prevent her dispropotionate reactions.  It would be as exhausting and fruitless as trying to prevent the sunrise. We accept it's not possible, it's not in our control, it's not caused by us, and it's not our fault. 

Counseling may come to help your DH realize he is simply not responsible for his mother's hysterics, manipulations, blameshifting, and abuse.  He isn't and he never was.  He is free to go on where he was going...


I love Pam's suggestion.  What about scheduling visits that don't include MIL right now?  Other family members, a few at a time maybe to get DH back into a more comfortable relationship with some of his family?  Two things could happen.  The other family members will realize how wonderful you are and that MIL is full of it, and maybe...maybe...MIL will get feedback on how nice you are?
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


Thanks again everyone.

Pooh - you hit the nail on the head there.  What you're suggesting is exactly what I would like to do.  I want to visit those other family members.  I want to remain close to them.  The problem is that DH can't plan that trip without worrying about what MIL will think/say if we don't come visit her while we are there.  They're nearly 1000 miles away and we don't make the trip that often. 

A few months ago, we did make the trip up there for a wedding.  We stayed in town at a hotel and stopped in to visit some of his other family while we were there.  We attended the wedding and reception, and so did MIL & FIL.  DH sat down with MIL & FIL for a few minutes, until her mouth started gushing the same old crap.  DH removed himself from the table, along with our children, and immediately she started in with "See!  You just come over to dangle those children in front of me.  You use them as pawns in your sick little game!" right there in the reception hall in front of God & everybody.  She set the stage with her rude and nasty comments, then when DH wouldn't play along and removed himself, she made a public shame of him...martyring herself once again.  DH was humiliated and angered by what she was doing and so we just left the party.  Thankfully I was 2 glasses of wine in by that point, and somewhat mellowed out...because Sweet Southern Belle had thoughts about dragging her tail outside.

This is what makes DH so afraid of making the trip again.  This same type of behavior has happened several times in the past.  DH thinks he can figure out a way to get around it....I've realized that there isn't any getting around it, she will find some way to martyr herself no matter what, and now I just want to do our own thing and do what makes us happy without even giving thought to her circus.  I hope DH will get there too, because it is absolutely enlightening to remove that fear. 

I like Louise's idea of just "setting the example."  When DH starts to worry about it and calculating his moves...just don't play along and be like "go ahead honey, I'm over doing that.  MIL isn't going to stop me from living."     


That's too bad.  What about inviting a couple of them to come visit you?  She may find out but she will not be in his face? 
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


Same consequences unfortunately.  MIL is no longer welcome to stay in our home because of her behavior, she hasn't been in a very long time.  She's been invited to the children's birthday parties and stuff like that in the past, but every time she makes a scene and shows her tail.  Now, we do not invite her to visit and we don't invite her to events anymore, simply because she cannot behave herself.  DH was a real coward for a long time, and wouldn't tell her the real reason she couldn't stay.  He'd tell her something along the lines of "we're doing renovations in the guest room" or "we already have plans for other company to stay with us during one of the weekends you will be here."  Now, sometimes those excuses really were true, but the real reason we didn't want her in our home was because of the tense situation she brings with her, for long periods of time.  But he always cop'd out of telling her the real reasons why she wasn't allowed to stay, and therefore she was led to believe that it was because we didn't have room.  When we started to invite other members of the family and friends down to stay with us, she took it very personal because we allowed some to stay and not her.  But that's what DH LED her to believe, because he was such a coward and wouldn't just come out and tell her "Mom, you aren't allowed to stay at our home until you can learn to control your mouth."  I do pin her hurt feelings for that on him, but that's the way he chose to handle it (or not handle it).

Now, if we invite other family/friends to stay with us, she ALWAYS finds out (small town, big family), and ALWAYS makes the same comment: you've got room for them, but you don't have room for your own mother?"  And then begins another tantrum, more drama for us to deal with.....which, again, leaves DH in a tizzy over what to do, what not to do, what consequences, over and over again.

I feel like an awful DIL, that I just want her completely out of my life.  I have encouraged DH for years to try to mend that relationship with her and visit her, but he has stopped.  I am tired of looking over my shoulder and worrying about things I can't control. 


I don't blame you one bit.  It's just sad that one person can really ruin an entire family.  I know we are guilty of allowing it, but the frustrations that come with trying to deal with that one person's antics takes its toll until you are left with no choice but to exclude an entire group sometimes.  Sad...just sad.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


Belle, I feel for you and DH.  It's a choice he has to make and hopefully he will.  It has been quite liberating for my husband to realize he can't control MIL and at the same time, he can enjoy others in his family.  It's sad, it's also scary but it can happen.
People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift