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What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.

Started by phillek, December 05, 2011, 10:55:27 am

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Phillek, welcome. Your MIL sounds like my GM. She had some major issues and made life miserable for her son (my dad) and his wife (my mom.) My DM tried everything, but GM never accepted her. I found a box of letters my DM had written to her MIL (GM saved every one) and it was heartbreaking to read my DM's kind words to this unhappy, angry, whiney, miserable woman who was probably bi-polar but undiagnosed. I vowed never to be a MIL like that! Funny, I think I assumed I'd end up with a DIL like my mom (or even me, for that matter.) Oh well, you know what they say....
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb


I'm sure you'll get helpful and insightful replies by other members today. I hope to come back on soon, but I wanted to pop on and quickly share my initial thoughts.  I'm thinking of you and glad you joined us.

Quoteshe started sobbing and saying things like "Please don't be mad at me!  Please don't tell me I can't come visit you!  I'm getting so old!  I love DS!  I love DS!  I want to come for Christmas!  Please!  Please!"  Meanwhile, DS is just waking from nap, needing a diaper change and a snack.  I say "ok, ok, just relax" ask her if she needs water, and grab my phone and dial DH.  MIL shuts off the waterworks before I can even hit "send" on my phone, and just says something like "I wonder who won the game?"  It's like none of it ever happened.  Then, when we say goodbye to them for the end of their visit, she says "see you at Christmas"

Take this two cents for what it's worth:  that is not an invitation.      I hope you, and your DH, understand that.  I keep thinking of what your mom could be in for, if you don't understand that.

Shutting off the waterworks in a flash is the telltale sign of crocodile tears.  That's not genuine emotion.

Have you read the book "Emotional Blackmail" by Susan Forward?  Blackmail is a "do this - or else" threat.   The book is helpful for learning ways to not to be held hostage by someone's emotional threat of "or else."  (I'm pretty sure deciding to give up the need for approval from the blackmailing person, is on the list....) 


I have a feeling my response will not be a popular one.

I am a MIL and all I see is another MIL that wants to be with her family on Christmas.
Maybe she feels Christmas is as important a holiday as Thanksgiving.  It is not her fault that you did not have your family for Thanksgiving also.

I need to say something about tears and emotions....I am this person. I cry very easily and it is NEVER because my tears make me get my way.  I would be very emotional in this situation also.


Aww RedRose, you know we love you!

Sure, I see her MIL wants to be with her family for Christmas but it was her way of doing it that I find very wrong.  Combined with how she has been acting in totality with phillek and her other AC, this seems to be a pattern with her.   I'm sure your tears are legit, because you have described yourself as an emotional person and I believe you.  I think this MIL has learned that if she has a meltdown, she gets her way. 
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


What?  She's coming for Christmas?  After trash-talking your family and saying she wished she could cut your breast off?  What the what?

You know what you're teaching her?  If she has a tantrum, you will cave.  When your kids have tantrums, will you cave?  I hope not, or else you will be raising BRATS.

Your MIL is a BRAT and I'm SO MAD at her right now, for you.  In fact, I'm mad at you, for not being MORE mad at her.

I see that you have 2 options with this MIL.  You will either have to roll over completely and let her get her way.  Or you will have to set some hard boundaries.  And your DH is going to have to be completely on board with this, because it's going to be super-hard to re-train her on how to treat you and what you consider acceptable behaviour in your home and around your children.

So, you can (have DH) call her and tell her that your Mom will be here from x day until x day, and that she's welcome to come after your Mom leaves, or for New Year's (or whatever).  She will fuss and complain.  But I think the alternative is to have her come and she will ruin your Christmas.  She will try and dominate your DS, taking precious time away from your Mom and DS being together.  (If this only happens once a year, then it's PRECIOUS time, that's so very limited it should be jealously guarded.)  She will speak rudely to you.  She will try and take over your kitchen and your house.

The way I see it, you're going to fight with her anyway.  Might as well do it when she's in her home, 2 hours away, BEFORE Christmas, instead of ruining Christmas.

I know the MIL's here are sympathetic to the situation of a Son's Mom, BUT in this case, with the clear examples of crocodile tears, only saying mean things when the MIL & DIL are alone together, and steamrolling everything to get her own way, these are all hallmarks of a rotten person.

Good luck - you're going to need it.


I too am an emotional person.  Tears are not used as a means to get my own way, it's just how I am.  I think Christmas is a very important time for all grandparents, & whenever possible should include both sets.  I cry for some people I know that don't get to see their grandchildren on such a special day.
Scoop, I agree that this mil is over the top, way over the top, & love your suggestion to have the gp over individually, but think this should happen on Christmas day, you know, a little time for my Mom, a little time for yours.


This MIL is an ill person, from what Phillek has said "MIL has problems with anxiety, depression, social skills, learning disablities, self esteem, dementia, you name it (this isn't my diagnoses, she is medicated and/or treated for all these things). "

This MIL may be rotton but she is also not well, and it shows in her behavior. All of her family seems to know and understand this.
Why be crewel to an ill person?


I don't see phillek as being cruel at all.  I see her as being very understanding of MIL's disease and trying very hard to work with her.  I also don't think a disease of any type gives you a free pass to be cruel to others either.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


Redrose, I deal with a similar MIL, mentally ill as well.  It might seem cruel but those are (the suggestions/advice in this thread) are the most effective way in dealing with them, not only for the non afflicted, but the best thing for the afflicted. 
People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift


This MIL may be rotton but she is also not well, and it shows in her behavior. All of her family seems to know and understand this.
Why be crewel to an ill person?

Having a mental illness (or being somewhat mentally unstable) doesnt give you a "free pass" or an "excuse" to behave poorly.  Im sorry but I dont think the OP needs to put up with or deal with her MILs poor behavior just because the rest of the family does it.

Add me to the camp of WHY is your MIL invited to Christmas?

Honestly, I wouldn't put up with this type of behavior from a friend, neighbor, co-worker, stranger on the street etc. I certainly wouldnt be willing to put up with this brash behavior from a FAMILY member.


Maybe one problem here, phillek, is that you are expecting rational behavior from someone who isn't rational.   You seem to want her to make sense but she isn't going to make sense.

When someone is truly irrational, you have to drop all your expectations of finding sane solutions.  You have to be the one in charge of the situation, imo.  This comes from experience with my mildly demented MIL living with us for 5 years.  Reality is not the same for people with true mental issues.

I think you're stuck with the invitation this year, but maybe there is a way you can limit the number of  days she is there so you can have some time with your mom without her.  Personally, I would just do it, tell her to come on the 24th and that she'll have to leave on the 26th.  Put her bags in the car and wave goodbye and go inside.  Expect some blow back from her but just calmly enforce it. 


See?  When you're ILL, it doesn't make you do mean things, then when you see the consequences, you fake cry and cause a fuss and then STOP CRYING immediately after you get your way.  That's not an illness, that's just plain old mean behaviour.

People who are mentally ill may say the mean things, they may even realize it and regret it, to the point of tears, but the fake tears and then stopping?  That's just manipulation.

And people who are sensitive?  Who cry easily?  They can't just turn it off either.  So we're not talking about someone like that either.  Let's be clear here.

Also, I would consider a pedophile to be mentally-ill, but it doesn't mean I'm letting them near my DD.  Psychopaths are mentally-ill and they don't get a free pass either.  The OP has to determine what level of contact she's comfortable with.  She has to protect herself and her children's well-being (physical AND mental).

And again, boundaries are not punitive.  They are just an expression of what treatment is acceptable to you and draws the line at what you WILL NOT tolerate.


I totally agree that MIL shouldn't come for Christmas and is manipulative and outrageous.  Phillek, you are so patient and have suffered enough. 

So MIL has been officially diagnosed with mental illness and dementia.  Wonder if she is on medication and therapy?  Sounds like it's needed.

Anyone who has been educated as to how this affects the mind and behavior (a psychiatric doctor) probably recognizes the mindset which is different from the ordinary manipulative controlling MIL's.   She is acting like a spoiled brat but is also mentally ill.

It's too bad that the family has allowed this behavior bc even though she is mentally ill, she can learn how to act and speak appropriately and to feel for others.  I wonder if your dh and you and FIL and/or everyone involved could speak to her doctor(s) or a counselor, armed with her history and diagnosis, on how to deal with her so that she can be "retrained" or at least give you all advice on how to deal with her w/o giving in to her odd behavior and demands...... and so that your life and the lives of other relatives aren't constantly in upheaval.  If this is impossible, then the books suggested.

There's no way you should have to placate her and give in this way to her; the rest of her life she will make everyone miserable.  If you all haven't had some help with dealing with her, please do. 

And have dh call her with a no for Christmas.  No big explanations, just plans were already made.  (Believe me, I understand her being lonely for Christmas....maybe next year the two holidays can be reversed (alternated.)  She has to learn to share.)

I hope you can speak with someone, read something, get some help with dealing with her bc she is acting horribly and it's not the usual horrible MIL you are dealing with.


Oops, just reread OP's post that MIL is being medicated/treated for her conditions.  But sounds like she needs some therapy on how to get along w others.  And you all definitely need some assistance in how not to just give in to her, ignore her speeches, etc.  (Forgive me if you already have!)   All the advice given here and the books should help; if not, it's always helpful to talk with a professional on how to deal with a demanding and sick person w/o her running your lives.


Stand your ground. Re: crying. I believe crying is used as a very effective tool to make people feel bad. That may not be the intent, but nonetheless, that is what crying does. I also believe that changing your behavior in reaction to tears sets a precedent to repeat the same behavior until you decide you are not going to alter your behavior when the crying starts. It's harder to do later than sooner, IMO. I cry when I feel upset too...but, I do so in private, I will not let the rest of a happy room have the burden of my upset feelings. My emotions are not their problem, they are mind.

Your MIL might get a pass for uncontrollable emotions due to her disorders and problems, but that does not mean that she gets special treatment and gets to rearrange your plans.