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Help with MIL

Started by Peggie, September 30, 2011, 10:14:19 pm

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Hi I am Peggie and I was after some advice regarding my MIL.  I know this is a site for DIL problems so I hope you don't mind me posting here. I would love a MIL's perspective.  I have been married about 5 years and from the beginning I seem to butt heads with my MIL.  I never had a problem with her until I was married and then all these issues seem to evolve.  It took me by surprise because I never thought there would be any issues with her. My biggest problem with my MIL is that she seems to have a lack of respect for me.  It all seemed to start when my DH and I gave my MIL a key to our house to take care of our pets when we went on our honeymoon.  She decided to re-decorate the house while we were gone.  She actually went so far as to move furniture around and told me on our return that she had put all the old tacky things away and bought nice new things for our house.  Now the house was one I had bought on my own and decorated after working very hard to pay for everything in the house - I can't tell you how hurtful it was that she referred to my belongings as old and tacky.  She had also bought bright pink bath mat and toilet mat which just was too bright for me so after a couple of days I changed things back.  Well this started a huge drama which now has her buying things for our house all the time. 

I do have a couple of items that she has bought for us up in our house but the gifts keep coming.  This causes an issue between DH and I because I want to decorate our house myself and he thinks it's rude to reject someones gifts.  Now it was ok for him to tell his mother to stop buying him clothes but apparently it's not ok to tell her to stop buying things for the house. I have accepted everything occasionally I tried the exchange option (this was suggested by friends) however this didn't work too well, I heard her saying to my DH "I'm so sorry so sorry" when I had told her it was ok but that metal lampshades wouldn't suit the house so I might just exchange them but thank-you. I mentioned I was going to buy cushions and how excited I was so she went out and bought cushions.  I left her cushions for 6 months before I changed them and she wasn't happy about that.  I finally decided to be honest with her (after a couple of years of her buying us stuff) and I had a chat with her and said that I appreciated the fact that she bought us gifts and that she may not understand how I felt but that I really enjoyed decorating my house and that it caused issues when she was constantly buying stuff as it put my DH in the middle between not wanting to hurt her and me getting upset. I said that I would really like it if she got other gifts if buying gifts made her happy that just weren't for the house.  As well as that we didn't have room to store everything we were receiving furniture items, stools, chairs, wall paintings, cushions, lamp shades, rocking chair etc etc.  Well the gifts didn't stop even after I explained how I felt.

And this is what hurt me.  She knew it caused problems between DH and I, she knew I wanted to decorate our house myself but she kept on doing it.  She either didn't respect my feelings or just wanted to cause troubles.  This went on for 4 years until one day I lied to her and told her I was wrong and that I loved her gifts and yes you guessed it the gifts stopped that month.  So when I tell her that I liked it she doesn't do it anymore. I now can't trust her and feel resentment toward her.

She also likes to put me down, she told me while looking at a wedding photo that one of her friends had seen the photo and thought I looked fat (no I'm not fat), she will pick up on something that I do and then tell a story where a friend of hers is doing the same thing and how stupid they are.  It just seems a constant battle with her if I want to do A then she will insist on doing B.  My DH and I were talking of traveling next year and my DH mentioned that I didn't want to travel to South America so you guessed it my MIL is constantly harping on about us going to South America.

I guess I just want to know how to handle this.  I do understand that rejecting gifts is rude but when she started giving furniture for gifts I thought that honesty would be the best approach, it backfired majorly.  She denied there being any issue told me it was my problem and that I couldn't expect to always get my own way.  That was after telling me that whenever she sees my DH upset she wondered what I had done to him.  I also realize that I have gotten angry and spoken harshly to her on a couple of occasions however I have apologized for this.  I have always tried to be fair with regard to holidays etc etc and I don't always expect to get my own way. I have organized family holidays and we have paid for them to come with us however she has let me know how nice her son is for doing that for her, even though DH tells her that I have organized everything.  I am quiet and she has put me down for being quiet but I am not a snob I am just quiet and a bit shyer.  I guess I am just frustrated.  I have no idea why she would do this, so from a MIL's perspective where is she coming from, is it ok to speak honestly or would this just have come across as rude.  How should I handle this?  I do understand that life is different for her now, her son moved out of home after marriage and I do realize that this is hard for her but I want a quiet peaceful life.  How do I deal with this?


Peggy -

you most certainly DO have a MIL problem - she has no boundaries - and doesn't respect yours.  She has to learn to respect your boundaries, or it will be nothing but trouble between you and your husband. 

Decorating a house is a matter of personal taste.  I would have a huge problem with my MIL rearranging and replacing furniture, and I am a fairly open person.  (Many years ago when my darling MIL was alive - she had a key to our house and came over while DH and I were at work and left her wonderful homemade chili in the refrigerator.  Some on this board might be offended if their MIL did that - I was delighted.  Hey, she was being thoughtful and generous, and I then didn't have to cook that night!  :)  After my MIL died, my FIL married a lovely woman, who has embraced our family and been a wonderful MIL and GM to our kids )

So I'm pretty open, and I would have humongous problems with your MIL. 

For starters, I would hire a pet-sitter to take care of the animals when you and your husband travel.  Paying a pet sitter would be cheap compared to the problems that come with your *free* MIL petsitter.  Too many strings attached to her *free* petsitting.  Pay cash to a stranger - much cheaper in the long run and better for your emotional health.

If she starts up doing things to the house when you're not there again, you may have to change the locks. 

But mainly I think your husband has to get involved.  He needs to stand up for you with her.  If he doesn't back you, she may think she can continue to steamroll you for years to come.  He may also have to reassure her that he can love her and you at the same time.  She's obviously insecure.

I also think she has a passive/aggressive streak - Continuing to give gifts (that I betcha she knows you don't like) when you ask her not to - and stopping the gifts when you tell her you like them.  So why not use that against her?   If she violates your boundaries - tell her how much you appreciate her doing whatever it was that was the violation.  Knowing how her mind works, you can probably use reverse psychology and keep her at bay. 

Most MILs on this site seem to be going to great efforts to walk on eggshells around their DILs.  Your MIL does not seem to be making any effort to respect your boundaries.  It's not you - it's her.  I suspect that 90% of us on here would adore having you as a DIL.  Hang in there - get hubby to help.  He's a man - he needs to man up and set boundaries with her. 

Best wishes


One thing Luise might have said is - you can't make sense out of things that don't make any sense.  Stop trying to figure her out; it will probably be just a waste of time.

It would be nice if dh made his boundaries with his mother more clear, but you can't force him to do that.  I'm afraid that's out of your control. 

You do sound alike a lovely person who has done all she can to keep the peace.  Shelby is quite right; many of us would give our right arm for a gal like you in the family.    You sound like a very reasonable person.

there are many wise and caring women on this site.


Thanks Shelby and Sesamejane.  My MIL has also bought over numerous dinners for us, which I love because she is a great cook, I have even asked her for some recipes however she has never given them to me.  My Dh has stood up for me, she insinuated I was a terrible cook so he told her he loved my food and when she insulted me about the wedding photo he told her that was rude.  She cried and said sorry to him not me.

I guess I really wanted a nice relationship, I don't think it should be this hard.  I even asked her when I had the chat with her what she wanted in a DIL and was I doing something that was upsetting her.  She said all she wanted was to be acknowledged on her birthday and mothers day which is something I have always done.  Of course when I then asked her why she had never acknowledged my birthday in all the years we had been married but acknowledged everyone else's birthday she just looked at me blankly. She has even called up on my birthday and when DH had said it was my birthday she still didn't even say happy birthday. I know I can't change her but how do I stand up for myself when she cries to my DH and uses guilt to make my DH feel bad? 


Peggie, I think she's one of those people who you just cannot win with.  You may want to remind her that you'll probably have some say into which nursing home she will reside in one day. 

Are you the only DIL, and if so, are you the only one treated this way?  Some people are just not happy unless they are causing some kind of strife in ever path they walk.
When she gives you advice, just smile and say thank you and then go and do exactly what you want to do.  (Advice I gave my DIL in dealing with me.) 

I would not like her decorating my home at all.  I do buy gifts for my DIL but make sure she is with me and picks out what she wants.  I don't even do that to my DD unless I know it is something she wants or I will call and see if it's ok with her.  I bought several things for GD when she was decorating the baby's room.  Some she used, some she didn't.  I did not give a rip either way.

Hope things get better for you.   

lancaster lady

hi Peggy and Welcome ,
You have tried it the pleasant way , now maybe time to get serious .
No point asking your husband as they usually sit on the fence . This is your problem so you have to deal
with it .
Tell her how things will be from now on . This is your marriage and your household and you would like to run it your way .
You appreciate everything she has done , but would now like to decorate , holiday , whatever , your way !
When she prattles on about something for example the holiday , speak up , tell her there is no way
you are going to South America !
No need to be rude , just firm , she'll soon get the message .
Oh yes , and buy her something '' lovely '' for her house for Christmas !


FAFE - I chuckled out loud when I read your comment telling Peggie to remind MIL that Peggie would someday have some say in picking out the nursing home MIL would live in.  Love the idea, but I don't think Peggie should actually say it *out loud* to either MIL or Peggie's husband.  Remember the Miranda warning -- anything you say can and will be used against you.  I guarantee MIL will use that against Peggie if Peggie ever actually says it. 

Peggie can't win in dealing with this MIL - who is a caricature of a control freak.   - Peggie should comfort herself internally that someday she will have input into that choice of nursing home - but use the thought as a secret comfort - a mental security blanket if you will. 

Try to imagine yourself as made from Teflon.  Nothing sticks to you.  You could also develop selective hearing loss - and just not hear much of what MIL says, and therefore not take it to heart.  (I suspect most MILs on here can tell you that a high percentage of their children had selective hearing loss as teenagers)  ;)   

And always remember the Serenity Prayer - which I can't exactly remember - but is something like --

God, Grant me the courage to change the things I can,
The serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and
The wisdom to know the difference. 

Peggie, dear - you are going to need one ton of serenity - because you are never going to change this gal. 

Sounds like you live in same city as MIL - which can be an advantage.  Compartmentalize.  Have your own job, own friends, have a good relationship with your husband, and let your husband maintain a solo relationship with MIL.  You can see her only on holidays - he can see her the rest of the year.  Maybe the two of them have lunch together once a month - while you join me at the spa!  ;)

Of course he can't cater to her and hang out with her all the time - or you'll be hanging out with a divorce lawyer - but maybe you can just not have much to do with her.  Lots of DILs of the MILs on this forum do just exactly that!!  Of course it drives the MILs nuts, but apparently the DILs like it  ;)

Peggie - take care - take comfort in knowing that Sesamejane is right when she says you sound like a lovely person who has done all she can. 

Sesame is also correct that you can't force your husband to make boundaries clear with his mother - but perhaps you could get him to go to counseling with you - and through that he might begin to see the damage he does to his marriage if he won't set boundaries. (He sounds like he understands the boundary concept - after all he doesn't like her picking out his clothes - so why should he like her picking out furniture that belongs to both you and him?)

Again what you pay a therapist is cheap in terms of the value in your DH learning to put you first.  (and you can always have a garage sale, sell all that stuff she gave you that you don't like - and pay for the therapist that way)  ;)

Hang in there.


I'm sorry Peggy.  I agree totally with LL, and she has earned her wings in my opinion dealing with volatile issues in her family.  Your MIL has some major personality issues, you'll have to be a lot stronger than you've been before.  It isn't about you.  I think this kind of bully does back down when they see strength.  I wouldn't stop at telling her the nursing home line myself, if I got her alone and she was continuing to flex her muscles, I wouldn't consider this under normal circumstances.  But she's a stinker.


And by the way, I think at this time you have set the record on this site for MIL from HEL.  !!!


If someone has already said this, I apologize.  But it seems to me that the gift giving is a bribe.  This used to happen in my FOO.  "Isn't it wonderful that I am giving you a gift."  No matter that this person undermined you the day before or diminished your abilities or is highly intrusive and rude.  Of course it matters, and the gift is a way of controlling you to "be quiet."  So dear one, if I were you, I would put the "gifts" in a consignment shop or give them to a local charity, as I think refusing them would only escalate.  She probably would love you to refuse the gifts as she would have an opportunity to whine to dh or anyone else who would listen. When she asks about the gift, play the "dumb blond (sorry and do not mean to offend any blonds, just an expression),"  "oh it's around here somewhere..." or "oh I put it away.  I want to save it for a special ocassion."

Let her cook for you to her heart's content as long as she does not mean to stay for dinner!!  Lovingly thank her as you close the door.

I hope it all works out for you.   ::)


Welcome, Peggie. I feel your pain and frustration; my DM put up with a truly heinous MIL (my GM) her entire married life. GM outlived DM by 20 years, so poor mom never stood a chance. It won't get better unless you and your DH set boundaries and stick to them. Best wishes!

BTW, we're a bit MIL top-heavy here but we love to have the DIL POV. Please keep posting and reading!
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb


Welcome Peggie :)

Please read the Forum Agreement and WWU History in the category Open Me First.  We ask all new members to do so not b/c there is anything wrong with your post.

I know it's really not that funny but when you're describing telling MIL you like something and then she would stop -- I just can't help but imagine the fun you could have with this lol.

We have a thing here called "loving detachment" where you pretty much disengage from the toxic party.  I think it would help you.  You have to decide what you're willing to accept and that's it.  DH will probably be upset, MIL is already upset....oh well.  I suspect once DH is on the front lines taking MILs fire he'll be singing a different tune. 
People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift

forever spring

Hi Peggy, so good to have a DIL here. This MIL is a bit of a handful I do agree. I'm a MIL myself with problems of my own but I would never have dared decorating the house. I think, but that's for my DIL to say, that I have respected her. Boundaries is the word as so many others say who have replied to your post.
Hope things will get better. DH is such an important part in the whole scenario but they often don't really know how to deal with two women having issues with each other.


Thanks so much for all your replies.  I do think boundaries is the main issue, something I will have to work on.  I guess I really just wanted to understand why she acted the way she acted, I just don't get it at all.  I am starting to see though that it's not my problem to understand, I will never understand so I might as well just let it go.  I have taken it all so personally and really this is about my MIL not me.  Yes there is another DIL and she is nice to her face (she has kids) but not so nice behind her back. This is all easier said than done but it's a start.  Thanks for all your advice, I appreciate it.


Hi Peggy! Wow! Your situation is crazy! My first thought in reading your post is, don't stop the gift flow...hear me out. You have confronted her in the past and she hasn't stopped so it sounds to me like she is doing this to prove a point or most likely, to be obnoxious. If I were you, I'd be making a couple bucks off her "gifts." Do you have a local online classifieds site for your area? Like Craigslist? They are free. Sign up and start listing the items and start making some money and then with that money go buy what you want for your house  ;D  Don't bother displaying her gift for any amount of time, that only feeds into her gifting obsession. This way it's an win, win , win situation. Your MIL gets to give her gift, your DH gets to accept the gift, and you get to buy what you really want from the money you make from selling the gift.
"Women are Angels and when someone breaks our wings... we simply continue to fly --- on a broomstick... we are flexible."  ~Anonymous