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Started by willingtohelp, May 22, 2010, 09:51:50 pm

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I'm a DIL who is estranged from her ILs.  To abridge a previously posted long story, it started when my DH and I were dating and he became ill.  My ILs treated me and my husband horribly.  They attempted on multiple occasions to convince me to leave the hospital and then tried to get me barred from the hospital because they said they felt that it was a time for family only.  My boyfriend wanted me there, so I stayed and the hospital said that as an adult my DH could decide who he wanted there.  They constantly attempted to undermine my DH's medical decisions by trying to talk him into changing them, trying to tell the nurses that he actually wanted something different, and trying to intercept forms and sign them as if they had the authority to do so.  The basic fight always boiled down to the fact that I reflected my DH's adulthood (He could choose if I stayed, he and I called them to tell them he was hospitalized, he and I discussed treatment plans, etc) while (in my opinion) they were clinging to the idea that DH was still a little boy.   I will grant that this was a stressful time for them, but I also believe that the character of people isn't determined by the hardships they have but whether or not they handle them with grace. 
Things continued to go downhill during the wedding planning and subsequent years of our marriage.  My DH and I maintain a relationship where we each bear the responsibility of "handling" our family of origin.  It made the most sense to us because we are each uniquely aware of what is important (and unimportant) to the respective families and are therefore best equipped to satisfy the needs of our respective families.  For a variety of reasons, my ILs were unhappy with the amount of visits, gifts, and other deference they were being given.  At this point, I was only maintaining a relationship for my DH, while he was becoming annoyed but still open to a relationship.  A blow up between them and him over them not feeling included enough angered him since he had been doing his best, and he became estranged and contact ceased. 
Fast forward almost 3 years later...DH and I now have a daughter.  While we dislike the fact that our daughter has not and will not meet her grandparents on my DH's side, we don't know of a reasonable way to restart the relationship when nothing on their part has changed.  We are neither willing nor able to give them the role that they want to have (ie, they still want to be the have input on which job my DH and I take, what car we buy, where we spend our holidays), and I imagine that this behavior will only increase in severity with the presence of our daughter instead of decrease.   If anyone has any suggestions on how to get this relationship to work, I'm all ears, so please feel free to chime in.  So far we've tried joint counseling with our priest prior to DH and I's marriage, DH has explained to them numerous times when something occurs that is unacceptable, and we have both tried "letting it slide" only to have the level of neediness that comes from them ratchet up a notch each time we give them an inch. 
This past week we received an invitation to DH's cousin's wedding.  It is addressed to all three of us.  I know that MIL and FIL will be there.  DH's cousin has said she would really love for all three of us to be there.  I tried the "I worry DD will disturb the wedding" to be told she would rather have DD there than have a silent exchange of vows.   Even if it doesn't happen this time, there are going to be events where we must co-exist without a scene occurring.  So how do I do this?  How do you get (or can you get) a civil relationship with two people who expect to be integrated into every aspect of your marriage (yes, I do mean every.  My MIL once asked me about DH and I's sex life).  To be totally honest, DH and I have no idea how to get the relationship we want (friendly but with healthy boundaries), so it's easier to just not associate with them than it is to keep saying no and hearing the lectures and whining and crying. 
So my questions are.... Do you see a way to "fix" this relationship?  If not, do you think there's a way for us to both attend a party without causing a scene (to clarify, DH and I aren't planning to cause one, but we anticipate the ILs will come over and try to engage us).  If not, then how much information would you give when declining to explain to the host that it's not because we don't love them but that we don't want to create a spectacle without it venturing into gossip? 


Oh, Clover. My take is that they aren't going to change. That's how they are. I don't see how you can both attend family functions without issue, embarrassment while also making others very uncomfortable. I don't think you can explain except to offer to see those people you turn down on a one-to-one basis and insist that you not be required to give any explanation (because it will go right back to your ILs and be distorted and magnified.)

I think your efforts have been reasonable and well thought-out...and that your boundaries have been necessary. You are focused on establishing and preserving your relationship and family unit. That's as it should be. Others, no matter who they are, shouldn't be given power over you and yours.

I will probably be shot at down for this perspective but I don't think all mothers (and/or all MILs) deserve respect. I think respect has to be earned and maintained...and needs to be mutual. Sending love...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


While in so many ways I think you're opinion is the right one, I keep hoping for that magic pill.  Isn't that what we all want....the one that makes us lose weight, feel 10 years younger, and makes all our relationships work out.  But the core is that you can't change another person.  And I've yet to see how I can change myself and keep my self respect/identity.  I think that's a unifier for all of us.  None of us want the situation we're in, we all want to get the "Norman Rockwell" (or heck, I'd settle for functional) relationships we see, and in a way, and we want to find that key that will unlock it.  For some of us, it's as easy as looking under the mat.  For the rest of us, the key is hidden well or has never been made. 


Yes, I see just what you are describing all of the time on my counseling Website:

"Tell me how I can not have it be how it is...tell me how I can have it be the way I want, need, desire."
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


What about telling cousin the truth...that you are c/o from the inlaws and are afraid they will make a scene?  Let her decide whether she wants the possibility at her wedding.

I have no doubt you would withdraw and not cause a ruckus...I just have this vision in my head of one or the both of them following y'all as you walk away asking questions in really raised voices.  Y'know "WHY are YOU doing this to US!", etc.]

Are they the type of people who would ruin someone else's even by throwing a fit?  If not...go.  If yes...tell the bride why so she doesn't think it's personal.

Don't expect them to change.  The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior.  And, I may swim against the tide here, don't feel guilty either.  Sometimes it just becomes too much to sacrifice your mental well being to make other people happy.  Protect yourself, your daughter, your dh.  If that makes monkeys fly or people sad or angry or whatever...too bad.


Clover, you are in a tough spot for sure and as you stated, the wedding is only the first of many times when DH's family will want you involved. It would be sad to miss out on all the important times families share, especially for your DD. I tend to agree that your IL's probably won't change, although people never cease to amaze me. Sometimes you just have to accept them for the way they are. It sounds to me that they are quite controlling and over protective. Some parents never get beyond seeing their children as their responsibility. They feel they need to guide and council them throughout their entire life. It's not done out of malice or disrespect - it's done out of love. You may take issue with their approach but it's hard to fault their motivation or intent.

If you want to re-establish a relationship you may just have to accept the fact that they are going to have an opinion on everything. Doesn't mean you have to agree or take their advice. Let them say what they have to say, say thanks for the advice, roll your eyes and carry on. All you can hope is that for the times they are overbearing and opinionated there are many more times when they are pleasant, loving and supportive. It may not be ideal but if you can keep the balance tilted towards the positive you are still ahead of a lot of families out there.


I agree with Anna and DDM...they are giving good advise.

Sometimes we have to accept things we cannot change. If you want to ever have a relationship with them you are probably going to have to forgive, forget and start over...if that is possible.


I'm over here in left-field wondering who would want to have a relationship with them? Would your put up with any of that with anyone else? Why? Do genes mean anything goes and all consideration and decency are history? Why set an example for our kids by obviously rewarding offensive behavior? Or showing them that entitlement reigns?

Sending love...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


I agree luise,My best friend pointed some thing out to me.She said you would divorce a man who treated you bad,well heck,you would not even keep dating a man who would treat you so disrespectful.And thats how i'm looking at this now too.When you try everything you can,and it causes you hurt and's just not the path your suppose to be on.........let go,and move on.


Yes, it's called self-respect.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


One of Clover's questions was .. Do you see a way to "fix" this relationship?

The only way I see to do this is to forgive and forget the past the best you can and move-on.
If they want a relationship with you they need to do the same.

I don't see how you would lose your self-respect by trying to mend the problem.
If anything you are the bigger have a big heart...just for trying. You see the value of family and the benefit of more love for the children you have or will have.

If it doesn't least you tried.


In playing devil's advocate here, I recall on a former thread how long and hard Clover tried. To me, self-respect is learning from the other person's continued behavior that they are not capable of "forgiving and forgetting," and drawing a line at some point.

It's just another perspective, I know. I think you need the raw material of stable and mature family members to create and sustain "family." Clover's MIL shoved her and knocked her down after ruining her Thanksgiving dinner, if I remember correctly...Red Rose.

Conversely, if, after all of that, you are still dreaming of unity, Clover, you may not be ready to draw that line yet.

Sending love...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


You are correct, Luise, but I'm actually willing to overlook that behavior because 1.  Physical violence isn't the common MO of my ILs, 2. I don't think it was intentional.  I think that they were angry and upset and in the process of storming past me, I got knocked down. and 3.  I don't think they'd do that to my daughter under any circumstances, and if they'd be a positive thing in her life, I'm willing to put up with a lot.

Which brings me to where I'm at now, trying to decide if they would be a good thing to have in my daughter's life.  Oh, to have a crystal ball....

From the way my DH describes his childhood, I think they'd be great in an infant's life and worse as the child got older and started having their own thoughts and feelings.  My DH said he just learned to go along with them because it was easier.  And if my child is only around them sometimes, then she's less likely to learn to just "go along" (nor do I want her to learn to say yes just to make someone else happy) and the tantrums will be more than I want her to have to deal with.  I think for a teenager who already knows what she likes and dislikes (and is maybe too good at standing up for herself  :)), they wouldn't be detrimental, but I can't imagine her finding the time enjoyable since most of it will be filled with nagging or outright fighting.  As I posted on the other post, I know what I have, now I just have to figure out what to do with it.


Clover, when your MIL asked you about your sex lives, what did you tell her?

What was your response? 

You may want to start training them, which means, if they act up, no matter where you are leave, if they behave stay, and if they say something so inappropriate, then tell them point blank, it's none of your business...and walk away...? 

May make it worse, I dunno, but sometimes you have to tell certain people straight up to get they're attention...

and I'm leary about them spending time with your daughter, it may do her more harm then good? 

sorry I just don't know what to say or think on this one?


The sex life question...I had been away for a few weeks for work.  I got home early, and the day after I arrived, my MIL called.  She was surprised to hear me answer so I explained that something was cancelled so I came home early.  She replied that I also missed DH, and I said it was never fun to be away from him.  She said, Well, I bet you're having lots of fun now, huh?  And I said that we had gone to a movie and were planning to go hiking in a  bit.  To which she replied, "that's not the type of fun I was talking about"  The tone said everything and it was just eww.  I just handed the phone to DH.