March 07, 2021, 01:06:41 am

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"Welcome to WiseWomenUnite.com -- When adult children marry and leave home, life can sometimes get more complex instead of simpler.  Being a mother-in-law or daughter-in-law can be tough.  How do we extend love and support to our mothers-in-law, adult children, daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, and grandchildren without interfering?  What do we do when there are communication problems?  How can we ask for help when we need it without being a burden?  And how do our family members feel about these issues?  We invite you to join our free forum, read some posts... and when you're ready...share your challenges and wisdom."


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Topics - MarinaRae

1
I haven't posted here for awhile, but am really needing some wise wisdom and maybe a chance to vent a little. 

TL;DR Summary - Youngest son and DIL are keeping us from seeing the grandkids because we did something awful. They are suggesting a reconciliation, but on their terms. We're ready to set boundaries but afraid of the consequences. How to proceed? 

Sorry this may be long, but I am having a really difficult dilemma right now. As I have posted before my DDIL (difficult daughter-in-law) is very troubled. I am 100% sure she is a toxic narcissist. I have done a lot of research and spoken to my therapist at length about our history. DIL's behavior checks all the boxes for this personality disorder. She has been very controlling and sometimes verbally abusive towards me for the past 12 years, while doing all the usual blame, shame, gaslighting, love-bombing, hoovering, projection and discard. At times she can act very sweet and has given me beautiful gifts. She is ALWAYS kind and caring in front of other people, but behind the scenes it's a different story. You never know what will set her off. We have never interfered in their marriage, even though we have seen signs of emotional abuse from her towards our son. We have cycled through all  the phases with her/them more than once but this is the first time grandchildren have been used as pawns. Right now we are in the discard phase and it's a tough spot to be in, but really no more difficult than the other phases of catering to her, walking on eggshells and trying to be an intermediary between them and the rest of our family. It's all been hard. Currently, we haven't seen our grandchildren since late August. Once again we have done something so egregious as to require isolation from them (in her mind). My son and DDIL are doing the usual carrot and stick tactic trying to get us to fall back in line, apologize to her (yet again) and admit we're terrible people. Most communication has been via group text. 

There's a lot of history over the past decade but it is a cycle of abuse that I am no longer willing to be a part of. This relationship has given me extreme anxiety and PTSD and I'm ready for it to end. However, I would like to see my grandchildren under some circumstances if at all possible. I'm not sure it is, but I haven't given up hope in that regard. It makes me very angry that they are doing this to their kids, especially the oldest granddaughter (almost 4) who was used to spending a lot of time with us. 

The (most recent) story - early September my husband and I were keeping our other 2 grandchildren for a few days. We had only seen them twice all year as they live out of state and because of covid. We quarantined in advance, as did they. (There is a history of drama and jealousy between our sons and their wives, primarily because of DDIL and her antics.) The first night we had the grandkids out of the blue DDIL sends a group text announcing she and our younger son and kids will be over next day for a BBQ (which we had not planned) to see the kids. Older son lets us know he does not want DDIL around his children when he's not there and why did they even know kids were there? He doesn't trust her. Now he's mad at us. We proceed to get in an argument. Older son is now fighting with my husband and husband and I are also fighting about it. What a mess. I text younger son and DDIL to let them know it won't work out, we're not feeling up to it and let's get together another time. That's all it took. She proceeded to blow up my phone with calls and then sends me a very hateful text filled with accusations and profanity when I didn't answer. I didn't respond to the text. It sure put a damper on the time with the grandkids, which I think was her intention. Here we go again.

Three weeks go by and I text my son asking how they are doing and say that we'd like to see the kids. SHE responds with another nasty text about how disrespectful we are to reach out to son and not include her, that we don't want a relationship with her, she's not welcome at our house and blah, blah, blah. Blame and shame. Ugh. (They have been invited to our home MANY times but they rarely come.) We ask again to see the kids a few more times (to both of them) and they completely ignore us. After a few tries I give up on asking. 

More time passes and now they text us to suggest a phone call to attempt a reconciliation. Weeks go by before this takes place, but we finally do. Very early on it was apparent the main reason for the call was for us to tell them why we had cancelled them coming over - blame it on older son we assume. We said it was a personal thing between us (fighting) and we didn't want to talk about it. The phone call went south within minutes and she ended the call with "I'm DONE!" and screaming F*** yous to both my husband and me. Well, that's not OK. My son sounded completely defeated. We weren't surprised at the outcome. She unfriended me on Facebook right away. (Oh well.) Halloween came and went, my grandson's 1st birthday came and went. We sent treats and gifts in the mail. No acknowledgment. Christmas came and went. I have all their gifts sitting in a corner in my house. It's just sad. 

Right before Christmas she texts again now suggesting we have a meeting with a mediator. We agreed but said it needed to be a professional counselor. Weeks go by and she says it can only be done by Zoom due to covid, which she is unwilling to do (we were fine with Zoom). Now she suggests her sister mediate who she claims can be unbiased. Against my better judgment, I reluctantly agreed to her sister. If we insist on a professional it will be a year before I see my grandkids, if ever. Her sister has always been nice to us, but I don't know if she can truly be unbiased. Her whole family is part of the problem. A part of me thinks of it as an opportunity for them to see her as I do, but that's not really realistic I guess.  

At this point, I am supposed to reach out to her sister. I have not. I am so torn about it all. My husband didn't want to do it in the first place. He only agreed because he misses our grandkids. He has said he can't guarantee he won't go off on DDIL if we have a meeting. In fact I think he's spoiling for it now. I don't see this ending well. DDIL can present as a calm, caring individual in front of others. In my experience if there's even a hint of criticism she is known to fly into a rage. My husband has only experienced this directly on the one phone call. Usually it's just been directed towards me but then he has had to deal with the fallout. My husband is sick and tired of her crap and how she has treated me. Angry at our son for allowing it. Our son is completely trauma-bonded and will defend her as the poor victim with his dying breath and cast us as the bad guys. Her family are all enablers and flying monkeys. Bottom line - she is a big bully and I'm ashamed to say I've been quite traumatized by her. I'm done being the target of her abuse. For the first time I am really ready to set boundaries and stick with them, but it might be at the cost of seeing my grandchildren for the foreseeable future. 

I have considered just sending them an email - kind, caring, but being clear about what we want (a civil relationship and to see the kids) and what we will and will not tolerate. How honest should I be? I want to tell her she needs professional help. I'm afraid that if I try to do that in a mediation in front of her sister my position will not be clear or I won't be able to get to it before things deteriorate or I'll lose my nerve. I have to figure out how to deal with this because it is taking up way too much of my emotional energy and head space. All my efforts at distracting myself with projects or focusing on other things (as suggested in this forum) haven't really worked because this feels so unresolved. I don't know which way to turn. 

I am so darn tired of all the drama, but she thrives on it. It's so bizarre. I'm so tired.   

Any advice is greatly appreciated.
2
Hello wise women! I am hoping for some support and advice as I try to navigate my way through the FOG (fear, obligation, and guilt) of a dysfunctional family relationship while trying to keep my sanity. There's always an issue and today is no exception. 

I've typed this post at least 5 times, deleted it, then somehow lost it. Re-typed it, then edit, edit, edit. I'm terribly unsure of what exactly to say to share the situation without typing a 100 page novel. However, I'll do my best to summarize the situation:

Covert narcissistic DIL has manipulated our family and abused me for over 10 years, almost always in private. I have tolerated it in order to maintain a relationship with my son and grandchildren. I'm so tired of living with the fear and worry, being told what to do, what to say and how to think. My son is trauma-bonded to her and bound to her family by golden handcuffs. I feel like we (DH and our family) are cast as either the villains or (occasionally) appreciated depending on whether we're fulfilling their needs at the moment. Their approval of us is transitory and totally dependent upon what we're doing for them TODAY. Anything we've done in the past is irrelevant unless it was hurtful - then it's brought up as a reminder of how terrible we are. I am constantly off balance in regard to these relationships and have developed a variety of stress related health problems - IBS, migraines, anxiety, depression, insomnia. I am so sick of this situation and want to make a change, but not sure how to take back my power without losing the relationship with my son and grandchildren. I feel like fear is my constant companion. 

A little of the backstory - youngest son and DIL have been together about 10 years. She is very beautiful and presents a lovely persona in public. She has many admirers who all think she is  wonderful and kind. There were red flags in the beginning, but our son was blind to them and we did not attempt to influence or intervene. Since they've been together DIL has been very difficult to get along with. Causing problems in the family and almost always doing something to ruin family events (birthdays and Christmas, especially). At one point she decided we were a bad influence and they cut off all contact with us for 18 months so they could "work on their marriage". Not just me and DH, but our entire extended family. It was completely devastating to me and I almost had a mental breakdown. Thank God for my DH, oldest son and my mother or I would have gone off the deep end. They even moved during this time and didn't tell us. After numerous failed attempts at reconciliation we were finally allowed back in their lives with a heaping dose of blame and shame, but things have not gone smoothly. As long as we are doing whatever they want we are in their good graces. The first sign of dissent and we are the bad guys again. I have been continuously traumatized by the cycle of narcissistic abuse. I now know that's what it is, but I'm still affected by it and seem powerless to stop it or my own reactions. She cares for me and is grateful for me when I'm doing what she wants. I'm a horrible unkind, uncaring person when I'm not. While she has never called me profane names she has called me all manner of awful things - disrespectful, rude, dysfunctional, deceptive, superficial, bad influence, among others. This is mostly via text with my son tag-teaming her and joining in the abuse. It's very insidious and sneaky the way they do it, as if all they want is a close, loving, kind relationship but whatever we're doing is preventing that because we're so awful for whatever particular reason - it changes frequently. As I said before, I could write pages and pages of descriptive scenarios, but you get the point. 

My son does not recognize that his wife is not mentally stable. He believes she is beautiful and kind and loving and he thinks the sun rises and sets in her presence. His personality has changed to be much like hers over the years. He has become short-tempered, argumentative and defensive where previously he was a pretty laid back, fun and happy guy. They are surrounded by enablers (her family) who are in their lives 24/7. They are all texting and calling each other many times throughout the day. We don't want to be that involved. We want them to live their own lives. We're often compared to her family as far as what they have given them financially. We are not able to help them in the same way, but there's a hefty measure of shame that's heaped on us because of it. Her family gave them X and Y, the least we could do is a little z. I'm ashamed to say that we have rolled over. Every. Single. Time. Even when it's not about money - her family has "supported them and rallied around them", but we always fall short no matter how much we try to do. We're only as good as what we are doing today or tomorrow. Not ever about what we've done in the past. For the first two years of my granddaughter's life I was the ever-available babysitter. DIL started treating me like an unpaid nanny and it got worse and worse to the point where I was just sick to death of being taken advantage of. Again, lots of stories but one scenario was that I'd go over there expecting her to go to work and she'd say she was going to lay down for a bit first because she wasn't feeling well. Then she'd go up in her room and close the door while I stayed downstairs with the little one. She'd stay up there all day, never end up going to work, and texting me to check on the baby. This became more frequent when she got pregnant with baby #2. It was totally bizarre and I seemed to be the only one who thought it was odd. Finally, I'd had enough and decided to go find a job before the new baby came. Since then I've been mostly devalued since I'm no longer available at their bidding, although we've been "allowed" to have our granddaughter to spend the night quite often. I haven't ever said no because I fear DIL would then find a reason to exclude me permanently. (We have had veiled threats of this in the past.)  

So, the issue du'jour - for the past several years my son has been having migraine headaches. Since the new baby came they have escalated to where he's having them several times a day and at night. He's had a lot of diagnostic testing which has so far all been negative. I'm sure it's from the stress of two little ones and trying to keep his wife happy (which I see as a nearly impossible task). I sympathize with him over the headaches, but I cannot fix this problem. However, DIL has now decided that someone from our family (me, DH and my 81 yr old mother) should come over and stay with him and help take care of the children every Friday and Saturday while she's at work. She doesn't think he should be alone with the kids in the event he may have a migraine. Seriously?!! My mother has gone over to their house the past 2 Fridays and I have gone over the past 2 Saturdays and then brought my granddaughter home with us, then returned her on Sunday. I don't want to do this every single weekend. I want time at home with my husband and to take care of my house. I want to have my granddaughter a couple times a month, not every weekend. 

I am sitting here with a text message on my phone giving me total anxiety. DIL is basically asking me whether I want to come to their house and stay Saturday or take GD home. My choice - whichever works best. I don't want to do either, but the minute I say no it will be off to the races and the blame/shame game will begin. Truth is I'm really sick today so I have a good excuse for tomorrow and I'm already busy next weekend, but that won't matter.  

I have no strong boundaries and I always cave, but I want to be strong. Help!