February 27, 2021, 01:25:04 pm


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Topics - confusedbyinlaws

My relationship with my inlaws has always been difficult  They have been critical and controlling in the past  In the beginning all I wanted was their approval and therefore did all the things they wanted me to do and never confronted them when the insulted me or were too intrusive. I wasn't true to myself but we got along at first  I was very much a people pleaser   As my self worth began to improve so did my behavior   I began to object to their criticism of me and controlling behavior  It seemed that my words always fell upon deaf ears or they reacted angrily  This led to a big argument  After things calmed down we had a therapy session in which I apologized for losing my temper with MIL but she did not reciprocate  I learned from my husband's brother after the fact, that there is something clinically wrong  with their parents, where they are unable to acknowledge wrong doing and that they were a fragile facade of superiority.
They moved away shortly after and I chose not to accompany my husband to visit them but instead donated my airline tickets to our grown kids so they could visit. Still my inlaws complained that I didn't visit
They eventually came back here for visits and stayed with our grown daughter and I joined in some of the family activities  This went well for a couple of visits.
Their last visit however did not go so well.  We recently moved to a different house and they wanted to come and see it.  I agreed to let them stay with us for the first 2 days because my daughter was unable to accomodate them the first couple of days 
As my husband and I showed them our house we told them about things we planned to change   For instance "We plan to extend this patio"  MIL responds "this patio is plenty big "  Similar response to each thing we planned to do.  I wish I could say I was a confident enough person to just let these little comments roll off my shoulders but I am not.  Even into the next day they were saying things like "everythings already perfect "  MIL then went on the next day to say she liked my flooring much better than wood floors (I already told her I planned to get wood floors"  I reacted and said "We may do some things you don't approve of or don't think are necessary" 
Then she went off about how she would never tell me what to do.  I never said she was telling me what to do.  (wasn't she expressing that she didn't think any of what we were doing was necessary?)  She wouldn't leave it alone and I lost my temper and so did she.  I left and when I came back my husband was about to take them to the airport.  I stopped them and said I thought we could talk more calmly in the morning. 
One thing my MIL said that was true was that I have a low self esteem and I am too easily offended  That is my part of the problem in the relationship. 
The next morning I apologized for losing my temper and admitted that due to my self-esteem struggles I was more sensitive than other people   I admitted that I am particularly sensitive to her and that in the past she actually talked me out of doing things I wanted to do with my house, hair, clothes etc.  Then she said in a condescending voice, almost baby talk " I really want you to have a better self esteem. 
I went on to say that when she repeats an opinion contrary to mine over and over again it comes across as you trying to talk me into your opinion.  Her response to that?  "ok  I'm not to give opinions. "
She did not admit that anything she did was wrong and let me take the entire blame.
I did not respond because I just wanted to get through the weekend without another argument, but after this weekend I am done!
I don't think my reaction to her responses after I was vulnerable with her, is just me being sensitive.  She has been unkind
Daughter in Laws and/or Son in Laws / My inlaw/dil dance
December 17, 2013, 09:48:40 am
Reading about the MIL/DIL dance and who should lead brought about an emotional response in my.  I agree with some of the responses that in a relationship with 2 adults no one has to lead and that in itself could lead to problems.  However when it comes to the nuclear family,  the husband, wife and children, in my opinion, the husband and wife together are in the lead when it comes to the family and the inlaws need to respect that.  I wish I had realized this in my own situation.
My inlaws and I engaged in a very ugly dance.  We got into power struggles and competitions over things that in my opinion should have been ours to decide and not theirs. 
One example about a power struggle where FIL and I behaved very childish.  They came over for Easter celebration.  I had agreed to let FIL make a dish he serves over toast because my kids love it.  He made it for one of first Easters and it became a tradition because my kids then asked for it every year.  (I never liked it much, but  I love my kids) for this particular occasion, I had purchased several types of special bakery bread for the toast.  FIL brought a loaf of plain white sandwich bread and insisted on serving it instead of the breads I purchased.  I said I was happy to serve his white bread in addition to what I bought, but he wouldn't budge.  I literally pushed him out of the way to put some of my bread in the toaster.  This was my home and our gathering and I resented being told what kind of bread to serve.  I would never do that at someone else's party and never told them what to serve at their home. 
An example of the competing:  When husband had sinus surgery in his 40s.  It was outpatient and not life-threatening.  He told them I was there and they didn't need to come down to the hospital.  They came anyway and were sitting in the waiting room with me when the Dr. came out to tell us the surgery was done and went well.  The doctor addressed me and then my FIL spoke up and said we are his parents and made sure they were addressed as well.  When we were allowed to go into the recovery room, MIL was so busy doting on my husband, that there was nothing for me to do but stand there.  My husband finally became pretty irritated with her and fortunately said NO when they wanted to follow us home.
I realize now that I didn't have to take all of this personally.  My MIL's behavior was more about her wanting to nurture her son, not about thinking I wouldn't do it well enough.  My FIL's behavior was about him wanting to be in control.  I let my ego get the best of me with them.   I should have respected myself and my feelings and not worried about saying no to them or whether they liked it or not. I am not a controlling person generally, but when it came to my home, my gatherings, raising the kids etc.  I had the right not to be in the lead, and not my inlaws.  I never wanted to control them, but when it comes to my own home, I had the right to be in control.  I wish I would have realized that from the beginning.
My husband came home last night and said his parents had called him and said they were concerned about "the situation" with me and wondered what could be done to fix it.  He says he just said he didn't know what to do to fix it.  They asked if he thought they should try to contact me and he said "I can't tell you what to do.  Just do what your heart tells you to do. 

A little background:  My relationship with inlaws has been difficult during the nearly 30 years of knowing them.  I was passive and didn't address things and neither did my husband until the anger and resentment built to the point that I could no longer go forward with them.  I did try to address the problems one time about 10-15 years ago by sitting down and telling them the things what were bothering me  but my words had absolutely no impact on them or their behavior but I didn't continue to confront. I tried confronting them again about two years ago with a letter and it was not well received.  They were hurt and angry and blamed the problem entirely on me and never owned up to any of the things I complained about.  After that they moved and I have dropped the ball.  I have made  no effort to call, write or visit and my husband has visited alone.  Apparently during the visits he has made, they talked much about the problem with me and it sounds like he backed me up.  Some time about a year ago they sent a letter apologizing for causing me pain and my MIL said she was working on a couple of the things I complained about in her interactions with others.   I thought there might be some hope until I asked her why she didn't respond like that the first time we talked and that was what hurt me the most  She said she was trained as a teacher that when people said she was wrong to just let it "go floating by"  Then I was mad all over again.  It just reaffirmed what I had always felt from her but never could quite nail down.  She cares very little about how I feel and she still doesn't own up to anything. She asked at that time if we could just move forward.  I told her I wasn't ready and when I was I would let her know.  I had just about concluded that it was best for me to just stay away and now they want to fix the situation.  I just wish I knew what their motives are and if the relationship has a chance of being any better. I have so little confidence in my ability to stand up to them without getting angry and even less confidence that they will behave much differently. I just don't want to set myself up for more pain.  I feel nervous and upset that they might try to contact me and I don't know what to do.   Do I ignore calls... answer the phone?  Maybe just hear what they have to say and not say anything?
My husband's parents moved across country about 1 ½ years ago, not long after I tried to have a frank talk with them about my feelings that caused a big blowup between us.  Since that time, I did apologize for hurting them in that way and a year later they wrote a letter apologizing to me for causing me pain.  Yet I still feel stuck between a rock and a hard place, not feeling good about staying away but wanting to protect myself and do what is good for me.  I have declined going to visit them so far and my husband has gone to visit twice without me.  I have gone back and forth in my mind about re-establishing a relationship with them and can't decide whether or not to join him on his next visit.   I thought writing down the pros and cons of going would help me decide.  However there are compelling reasons for both.    What do you think I should do? 

Reasons to go:
1.   They say that they want me to come and want to have a relationship with me and I don't want to hurt their feelings
2.   It might help me achieve closure or peace with them.
3.    I might feel good about myself if I can be with them without giving up my power or feeling bad about myself.
4.   I would like to see my husband's brother and new family.
5.   I could do some sight-seeing  in New England.
6.   I worry about how other extended family will feel about me if I never go.
7.   It's expected of me.

Reasons not to go:
1.    I dread going.
2.   I could get hurt more.
3.   I could hurt them more.
4.   My husband enjoys time spent with them on his own and I believe they enjoy it that way too.  He is not pressuring me to go and in fact has said he has said I should go for me or not at all. 
5.   I would rather spend money on an airline ticket to see someone I miss and would love to see that I haven't been able to see.
6.   I could donate the money that would be used for my airline ticket to one of my grown kids, as I know my inlaws would like to see them.   
7.   It's expected of me.
I have been married for 28 years.  When I first met my husband and his parents I thought they seemed like the perfect family.  His parents were both college educated professionals and their two sons were headed in that direction.   They seemed close and did a lot of things together and I never saw any of them get angry.  I grew up in a household full of  people with tempers so I found this refreshing.  His parents seemed so nice and yet I still felt very uncomfortable with them.

After we had been married a few years, my MIL made a point of telling me that she had a terrible relationship with her MIL and she wanted very much not to be like her.  She said that her MIL never loved her so she made a point of telling me that she loved me.  I was touched and I thought she would be like another mother to me.  My relationship with my own mother was not bad, but my parents were not very demonstrative.  However I knew that they loved me. 

My inlaws used to take their two sons, even after they were in college and they would all go camping in their small camper.  When I came along (and I had a young child already), they thought we could also stay in those small quarters with them.  I went along with that because I wanted their approval and I concluded that if I was not comfortable with that it was because of something wrong with me.  There was a week on a houseboat with absolutely no privacy and no escape with inlaws, my husband daughter and I and BIL and his girlfriend.  I could tell BIL's girlfriend was uncomfortable too and I could not wait to get off that boat.  I told myself then that I would never agree to that again.  When we traveled together we shared hotel rooms too.  Eventually I said no to those kind of things.  My inlaws never express anger, but I could tell FIL was angry when he wanted us all to do something and I declined.  And I remember MIL saying "What's wrong with DIL?  Why doesn't she want to stay with us?"   But they got used to the fact that I didn't like close quarters like that.

My inlaws moved closer to us about 15 years ago and that's when the problems seemed to become worse.  When we would invite them over for parties or family gatherings they would insist on bringing all this food.  I was passive again and went along with that for awhile and then began to object.  There was an incident where FIL wouldn't let me serve the bread I had purchased at the bakery for a meal at my own home and he had brought bread and wanted me to serve it instead.... Not in addition to.  I literally pushed him out of the way and put my bread out with his.  It was a territorial thing and it made me mad.  That was sort of a last straw and I decided it was time to sit them down and have a talk.

There were a couple of other issues with my MIL that I was struggling with that I also talked with them about at that time.  The biggest issues I have with my MIL is that she visually examines me and comments out loud about my appearance.  She tries to make it complimentary, but it is often back handed compliments and she also expresses disapproval sometimes about the way I am wearing my hair or whatever.  The other thing is that she tries to hard to compliment me and it comes across as insincere.  Then sometimes she blurts things out that are insulting.  This particular behavior has been very confusing to me.  Which one does she mean.  Well, I know sometimes I blurt things out and it's usually something I was thinking but didn't want to say.  I recently read something about a defense mechanism called reaction formation where someone says and behaves the opposite way of how they are feeling because the negative feelings cause them anxiety.  So they over- compensate by behaving and saying just the opposite.  I am beginning to wonder if that was true for my MIL.

So when we sat and had our first talk about 12 years ago, things seemed to go pretty well.  There was no yelling, or ugliness and I felt pretty proud of myself for being about to talk to them about these things without losing my temper.  They seemed to react pretty well.  I addressed the issues of the food and MILs commentary on my appearance.  I didn't address the over-complimenting and the blurted out insults because I was simply confused by it and didn't know how to address it with her.  They nodded their heads and said they loved me and wanted to do whatever it took to make things right.    But they didn't

I had to fight every time to keep them from trying to bring tons of  food when we invited them over and I eventually wouldn't even let them in the kitchen..  Even recently when we had invited them for dinner they asked if they could bring prime rib.  I did stand firm though even though they kept trying.  When they asked about the prime rib, I said they could bring a salad.  Well they brought an entire salad bar that took them 30 minutes to set up and took up my entire counter top, so there was barely any room to put the main meal.  And there was enough salad bar for an army and it could have been an entire meal in itself. 
I decided after that I would just tell them no don't bring a thing and I mean it.

MIL continued with the commentary about my appearance, as if I had never said anything to her about it  Why didn't I continue to confront her about it?  I wish I had.  I wimped out.  I experienced  a lot of anxiety  when confronting them the first time and I thought it didn't do any good the first time so why put myself through that again.  Bad way to think!

So as time went on over the next several years I became more and more resentful.  Menopause hit, then my mother got cancer, then she died and that changed me.  I just feel like I don't want to tolerate things like I used to .  One thing I have realized is that I never had to tolerate things that I wasn't comfortable with and never should have.  I should have taken better care of my own needs.

About 1 ½ years ago I wrote a letter to my MIL addressing her scrutiny and commentary about my appearance again and how uncomfortable it made me.  I also brought up about how she gushes with compliments but then blurts out insults and that when she does that I question her sincerity (with the compliments)  I wrote the letter because I knew I was angry and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to say it all without losing my temper.  My husband and my grown daughter read the letter and thought it was fine to send.  My daughter even said it was a nice letter and compared to how I was feeling it was nice. 

Then inlaws came over to talk and it did not go well.  MIL was crying and saying "You called me insincere and that hurt me to the core"   FIL was defending his wife and turned it all back on me.  You think she compliments you too much and tries to do to much for you, I think you are the one with the problem.  I lost my temper then and they left.  I feel horrible about the way I behaved that day.  My husband just sat there in shock at their reaction and said hardly anything the whole time

After that I sought out the therapist who had helped me when my Mom was dying.  MIL eventually had a session with her in which I apologized for my behavior and tried town my part of it..  She cried through the entire session about how I had hurt her and how she didn't understand what she had done wrong., that she loved me and meant every compliment.  The session ended up being one to make her feel better, but I didn't feel better. 

Since then my inlaws have moved to be near their other son and be at a lower altitude for their health. My husband has visited twice without me and from what I hear he spend many hours trying to get them to understand where I was coming from. 

The way I feel now is that I have no desire to spend time with them.  I feel like they are not horrible people, but they have given me the message with their behavior that they don't care about how I feel.  The first time I told them how I was feeling, they just gave me lip service but continued doing the same things that I had said I wasn't comfortable with.  The second time they acted like they had never heard any of it before and put all on me as the one with the problem.

After my husband's first visit, which was almost a year after the confrontation they wrote a letter to me apologizing for causing me pain in the past.  I responded saying the apology surprised me and that they left me with the impression they thought they had done nothing wrong and that I was the one with the problem. MIL responded saying she was working on listening better and practicing not commenting on people's appearance.  I told her I didn't understand why they continued to do those things after the first conversation and she said she was trained as a teacher that one someone said she was wrong to let it go floating by.   (seriously!)

I left it this way. I said I appreciated the apology and expressed intent to do things differently, but that there was a lot of water under the bridge and I needed time. 

I still feel very hurt and angry and sad with the realization that this woman who claimed to love me so much really hasn't shown much consideration for my feelings. 

I feel like I do need to join my husband for a visit to them at some point but not exactly sure what to do at this point.  Right now I am just waiting hoping that my anger will subside and that I will feel strong enough to visit them without giving up my power to them.

Any insight or advice would be appreciated.  And please don't hesitate to tell me where you think my thinking in this situation is wrong.