Problem Solving => Grandchildren => Topic started by: willingtohelp on May 22, 2010, 09:51:50 pm

Title: Suggestions?
Post by: willingtohelp on May 22, 2010, 09:51:50 pm
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 parents...to 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? 
Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: luise.volta on May 22, 2010, 10:21:11 pm
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...
Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: willingtohelp on May 22, 2010, 10:30:38 pm
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. 
Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: luise.volta on May 22, 2010, 10:44:02 pm
Yes, I see just what you are describing all of the time on my counseling Website: www.MomResponds.com

"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."
Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: 1Glitterati on May 23, 2010, 08:09:54 am
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.
Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: DDM on May 23, 2010, 01:24:14 pm
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.
Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: RedRose on May 24, 2010, 06:59:50 am
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.

Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: luise.volta on May 24, 2010, 07:51:22 am
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...
Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: Marilyn on May 24, 2010, 01:37:41 pm
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 pain...........it's just not the path your suppose to be on.........let go,and move on.
Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: luise.volta on May 24, 2010, 02:33:07 pm
Yes, it's called self-respect.
Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: RedRose on May 24, 2010, 04:13:03 pm
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 person...you 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 work....at least you tried.
Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: luise.volta on May 24, 2010, 04:33:41 pm
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...
Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: willingtohelp on May 25, 2010, 11:07:44 am
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.
Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: cremebrulee on May 25, 2010, 11:25:00 am
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?

Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: willingtohelp on May 25, 2010, 02:30:43 pm
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.
Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: luise.volta on May 25, 2010, 03:49:38 pm
Yuck! Time to say, "This conversation has become inappropriate on your end so I am disconnecting on mine."  :o
Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: cremebrulee on May 26, 2010, 04:17:33 am
Quote from: clover on May 25, 2010, 02:30:43 pm
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.

Hi Clover...

So my take from this is, that you didn't let her know you were uncomfortable with that kind of talk?

I would go ewwww myself...however, there are some people that are neither offended by talk like this, and it seems like your mil is not.  It is actually quite a part of they're conversations, joking around like this, etc.  Doesn't make it right, however, there are probably some DIL's who would not be offended by this...apparently, this is how your MIL views life...and didn't mean anything offensive by it...she probably talks like this with everyone....I'm guessing of course...

Next time she says something like this to you...what I would do is say...Geeze, I apologize and mean no offense, but I've got to let you know, I'm very embarrassed as, that subject is limited to my husband and myself, it is a very personal ma

Just because he is your husband, doesn't give her an automatic go free card with that kind of talk...it does and would offend a lot of people...including me...I would just let her know in a very nice way, that this kind of talk is offensive. 

Again, I suggest in the most caring of ways, this problem is a lack of communication on your part.  We were raised to believe that parents should be respected....however, you are now an adult and have every right to expect her to respect your wishes about certain topics....don't worry about her being offended...she will get over it...but if there is a certain topic you wish not to engage in, you've got to let people know that...stand up for your personal values...there is nothing wrong with doing so...and in that way, MIL might learn that if she wants to be friends, there are certain boundaries she must consider, that being one of them?

What do you think about it?  Are you afraid to let her know you are offended by that type of conversation...? 

We as human beings want so to be accepted that a lot of times, we compromise our own personal values, which is our identity, who we are...and when we let things like this go...the other person simply assumes it's ok, when it's not....it offended you, embarrassed you...hurt you...you are not used to being talked to like that...

This is an example....It's like if your out in public or at a party and someone starts to tell an off color joke, instead of standing there and listening, and then pretending to laugh, b/c everyone else is, just quietly walk away....that is your right...and we all need to stand up for what we believe in...don't ever compromise your identity to be accepted or to get along...let people know who you are...if they are offended, that is they're problem.

Here is another example...
I am a loner...always have been, ever since a child...
So at work, all my life, I've always gone off by myself, at breaks and during lunches...I don't like company politics or getting involved in them....so, I meet this wonderful woman who becomes a very close friend of mine...and she tells me that when I go off by myself, it sends a message to others, that I feel I'm to good to be with them...not true...in the least...I just like to spend my break time, not thinking or talking about work...and most people don't do that...however, my friend told me, that is they're problem, not mine...but I won't go to lunch with them to simply prove they're assumptions are wrong....and there are other reasons why I don't go, which I won't get into...like loosing my parking place, etc....which I've explained to my co-workers since then...which was a long time ago, however, they now know me very well...but they saw my actions as being anti-social which translated to them, that I thought I was to good for them? 

what I'm trying to explain is, that some people like your mil, cannot see past they're own assumptions and perceptions....and it's ok to let people know they're wrong, or you don't feel that way....I learned this from counseling and reading up on this, b/c when I was young, I was just like you...I didn't want to ruffle any feathers....and in doing so, I made myself a victim....and I'm not saying you are....just guessing that perhaps some of this advice might help you through a few issues....

Speaking up for oneself is not disrespectful, if anything, it lets people know who you are...and what your beliefs are, and it also gives them a reality check that everyone else doesn't think and feel like they do...

is it really worth being offended or saying something...you have to ask yourself are you offended easily.... and simply over look what she said....think nothing of it and assume, this is simply the way this woman is...? 

You have to decide...and you know way better then anyone, what you can say or not say to this woman...but you have every right to be offended, I would....

Does this make any sense or help at all?


Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: Pooh on May 26, 2010, 06:04:55 am
Just like Anna, sex has always been a topic that was discussed at my house.  My sons would come to me and have open discussions about sex when they had questions.  My Mother, bless her, was from the generation where sex was a taboo subject and I was so naive when I graduated.  Everything I had learned was from girlfriends and "bathroom" talk and most of it was very wrong.  So I wanted my sons to always know that if they had questions, I would do my best to explain it.  When my DS was dating my FDIL, he would joke about sex around me sometimes.  No details, just comments and my FDIL would punch him in the arm and laugh.  I finally asked her one day if she was comfortable with him making comments around me and she said, "My Mother and Father would never talk about sex in front of me, so it is just different for me to hear him say something around you.  I'm not used to it."  I told her then that if she ever wanted to talk about it, I was there but that their sex life was their business and I would never ask about it.  I also told her if she wasn't comfortable with him making comments around me, to tell him when they were alone and ask him to stop.

I don't know what happened, if she ever said anything to him, but he would still say something in front of her and I every once in a while.  Nothing detailed but something like, "Well you know, she knows how hot I am and can't keep her hands off me."  It was done in a joking manner. This was when they were dating (and I should point out that he was 18, in college and still living at home and she was 20).  I think it embarrassed her that I said something, but I wanted her to know where I stood and I wanted to see where she stood.  It wasn't meant to make her uncomfortable, just trying to set our boundaries.  That is why I continuously say that I am not blameless in the downfall of our relationship.  I said things in the beginning that she wasn't comfortable with and took them as I was trying to tell her what to do.  I honestly wasn't, I was trying to help and learn her personality but I can see where she took that as, "You need to do this."  My bad.

I think that sex is a normal part of life and as Anna said, very important to most men.  I know it is to my husband as well.  But I agree with Creme that it is a personal choice if you talk about it or not.  Some people are comfortable with it, some are not.  But that should always be your choice.  When someone is talking at work about something I am not comfortable with, I walk off.  If someone comes to me and starts talking about something I don't want to get into (like problems with a boss) , I simply tell them "I am really not comfortable talking about XXXXX.  This person is my boss as well and I have alot of respect for them.  I understand you are having issues with them, but I am not, so I can not relate to you or offer any advice."  Also, like Anna, these are conversations that were taking place at our home.  Not out in public. 

I think there is nothing wrong with talking to your DIL about their sex life if she broaches the subject and you are comfortable with it.  But if both parties are not comfortable with it, it shouldn't happen.  I also think Creme hit the nail on the head.  If you haven't talked about the boundaries with her, she may not realize that you don't appreciate it.  If she is used to talking about it, she probably didn't think a thing about her comment and was just joking around.  So talk to her about it and explain you are not comfortable talking about your sex life and that you would like to keep it a private between you and the DH.

This is not your fault Clover and she should have taken her cue from the fact you don't talk about it around her.  But sometimes you have to remind us that just because it is Ok with some people, it isn't right for everyone.
Title: Re: Suggestions?
Post by: cremebrulee on May 26, 2010, 07:58:11 am
yanno, and this is probably really hard for anyone to understand, I don't even understand it, however, I am pretty open, but discussing my sex life with my MIL would be very uncomfortable for me...I think?  It never happened so, I can't say for sure...maybe not, but right off the top of my head, I believe, out of respect, b/c it is her son, I would be a little embarrassed....?????? 

adding, I had all those talks with my son, very comfortably, b/c I didn't want him to grow up in the dark like I did...I to came from a generation that made me feel like sex was a bad thing...and should never be discussed....