Author Topic: My Story with my MIL  (Read 5015 times)

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Carmexx

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My Story with my MIL
« on: February 19, 2010, 08:28:52 PM »
Hello to all! I'm new here, and I've been reading this forum with great interest and some sadness too. I am saddened at the pain that I see many of you going through, and I hope that you are able to find resolutions soon.

I am actually a DIL and would like to share my own story with my MIL. Perhaps some of you can give me advice on what to do. After 4 years of marriage to my dear husband, I think I have reached some conclusions about my MIL who lives with us. Let me begin from the beginning. I'm going to be very careful to try to present both sides to be fair.

My husband and I got married, and within a short time we were expecting our first and only child. I had a horrible pregnancy throwing up about 5 times per day for months, and even when I wasn't doing that, I had debilitating nausea up until I was almost 7 months pregnant. I continued getting sick consistently until the end of the pregnancy, and this happened even throughout labor and up to a week after I had my son. During this time, my MIL would say things like, "control yourself!" As if I could switch off a button to stop what I was feeling! She would also talk about me to her friends and they concluded that I was doing that to get attention from my husband. How do I know? Well her friend came over to the house and started telling me how she would fake being sick any time her own husband  was paying attention to his mother so that he wouldn't pay attention to her, and all the time she would give me knowing looks. I was stunned! It was so early on, though, that I wanted so badly to convince them that I wasn't faking it. I finally started hiding every time I had to throw up so as not to upset my MIL, and this in my own house. It got to the point that I was scared of coming out of my room when my husband was not around because she was so sullen and would just scowl at me.

Meanwhile, I have got to say that I was trying very hard to be the best DIL I knew to be. I would engage her in conversations when she wasn't in a bad mood to try to get her to accept me and also so that she would feel like she belonged with us. It was such a strange switch from her being sullen, to her then opening up and talking to me and telling me and telling me that her friend (the one who I referred to above) was telling her that she needed to stay in her room and leave me and my husband alone. I would tell her, no, this is your house too! You don't need to stay in your room. Well, by the next day, she would be back in a funk, and I would get scared again. As a matter of fact, right before my b-day she got upset with me, and on my b-day she acted nice to me but didn't even tell me happy b-day! Months later she asked my forgiveness and told me she had done it on purpose because she was upset that I had not asked her to do something and instead had asked my sister to help me.

Finally, I had my precious son via c-section. It was an emergency c-section, so my body was completely beat up from 9 months of nausea, discomfort, and inability to rest well and full blown labor. As a result I was unable to walk well or wake up in the middle of the night the first 2 weeks after I had my son. First my husband took the night shift, and then she did to give him a respite. I was appreciative, but then I started realizing that she was trying to take control of my son. She would not leave her room until 11 in the morning, even though she heard me up and about since 7 am, and she would lock the door so that I couldn't go in. You may ask why I just didn't go in there and get my son, and if it happened now that is exactly what I would do, but remember that I would be so scared of her and her sullen moods. She would get angry every time I went to get my baby. I was furious because she wasn't even nice to me when I was pregnant, but now that I had my son she wanted to take him and shut me out!

I finally told my husband that I would be handling night feedings and took over those duties (gladly), but then ensued this ridiculous competition of who would hold the baby more and what not. If she ever had my son, she would get mad if I tried to take him from her. What kind of nerve would I have of taking my own child?

What made matters worse was that my husband would, to make her feel included, ask her what the baby should wear, eat, everything. She felt even more and more in charge.

We had some good days dispersed throughout that period of time, and she was very helpful in taking care of my son when I worked (about 18 hours a week), but the stress and toll it took on me because of the bad times was more weighty than the good times.

Things finally came to a climax when my son was 4 months old. She was in the front yard mowing the lawn (she likes to do that) and my husband decided to go out and do it. He went out with our son meanwhile I got dressed to go outside, and he took the lawn mower while she took our son. I then went out, and not wanting to anger her, did not get my son even though I really wanted to. So instead I asked my husband what I would do to help him and he told me. I got to work on what he suggested I do, and within 5 minutes she stomped into the house and slammed the door. I told my husband after a couple of minutes, I think your mom is mad. So in he goes to try to find out what happened, and she tells him, why should I be out there? Your wife is there. So that is finally when my husband believed me and realized something was wrong. Withing 30 minutes of that, she walked out to help with the lawn work and acted as if nothing had happened! It was so confusing for me.

After that incident, she left to a friend's house for a while and did not return until the following year. Fast forward 3 years, and within that time she has helped us a lot with our son, and we compensate her for her time. However, I have also within that time bought her countless gifts for special occasions (even sometimes not getting something for my own mother just so that I can get her something), included her in our family portrait (which is hung prominently in our house) so that she feels she is a part of our family, encouraged her (when she is in a good mood) to be assertive and even practice with her telling me no to my requests so that she can feel I am a safe person to deal with, but it seems that I can never break through completely to her. I even cried with her and sang a song at the funeral of her friend who was hinting that I was faking my nausea, but it seems that once she is in her funk, all of that gets erased from her memory.

Just as an example, she always always sits in the back of the car when I am driving to sit with my son. However, if my husband is driving and I'm not there, she sits in the front with him. A couple of weeks ago I picked her up from somewhere alone, and she said she was going to sit in the back with her things. Never mind that the space was very cramped because the car seat took up so much space. Also, one day I had to go to work around noon, and she wouldn't leave her room, and I didn't want to disturb her (b/c she takes care of my son). So I finally knocked on her door and she said, oh, I didn't want to come out because you two (my son and I) were out here. Now, you know she would have come out if it was just my son, but it was my presence that she didn't want to be around.

Mind you, I have never told her I don't want her around, ever. And I have never tried to act like it is my house only. As a matter of fact, I didn't even paint the house till about 2 months ago (4 years after we got married) because I didn't want her to feel like she was being left out. I also never have asked my husband to not spend time with her (except for when I return from a trip and I want to catch up with him or something like that).

I'm at my wits ends because I can't figure out how to please her, and I think that no matter what I do I won't be able to. I am pretty sure she is a passive agressive person, and it is very difficult to deal with her. Is there any chance any of you have an idea on how to deal with this? I don't want to give up hope completely, but I'm getting to the point where I don't have time for what I consider to be this nonsense.

Sorry for the long post, but thanks for your advice ahead of time.

Offline luise.volta

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Re: My Story with my MIL
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2010, 08:52:35 PM »
Welcome! My first take on this is that your MIL may have a lot of unaddressed and/or unconscious insecurity. I don't think there is anything you can do about that but it might help to know that she has something pretty disabling going on.

I also don't see how you can all live together. You may need to make other babysitting arrangements so your son doesn't absorb her anxiety and buy into her belief system and her points of view. She probably needs to find her own place, so your little family can thrive. I know there are those who won't agree with that. We are 200  strong and have many varying perceptions. I just don't think your whole married life should be about having to live in close proximity to someone who is constantly putting you at the effect of whatever it is that is going on with her.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

Offline isitme?

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Re: My Story with my MIL
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2010, 09:24:14 PM »
Hi Carmexx,

I'm sorry to hear of your problems.  As another DIL on this webpage, I can say the ladies here will probably have some good advice for you.  From trying to figure out my own IL issues, I have learned a lot - including many things from the ladies here!  One of the things I have learned is that relationships go two ways. It sounds like you have tried really really hard to invite your MIL into your life.  I bet a lot of the MILs here would LOVE to have you as their DIL.  Unfortunately, it seems like your MIL is not willing to claim any responsibility for her side of the relationship.  Yes, it sounds like she might be passive aggressive.  She may also have other emotional issues going on as well. 

It's helpful sometimes to step back and try to look at an individual's behavior as a whole in a detached way.  I think what makes it hardest in these close family relationships is that there's so much emotion involved, it's sometimes hard to see straight on either end.  But if you able to take a more objective look at your MIL and her life, maybe you will understand a little more about where she is coming from:  is her erratic and rude behavior a general thing or just directed at you?  What else is going on in her life?  Was she always like this or has something changed recently?  Once I started asking those kinds of questions about my FMIL, instead of spending time thinking about how hurt I was by her actions, I was able to detach a little bit and it changed the way I react to her.  In the end, I think that is what is going to make it possible to preserve any kind of relationship.  I've also realized that my FMIL seriously needs some professional help for her depression - I don't know about your MIL but it can be frustrating when you see how unhappy someone is, but her family will "contain" her rather then get her REAL help because it is easier then facing a confrontation.  As the perceived "outsider", it's a delicate situation to broach and sometimes you have to leave it up to your husband and FIL etc.

One of the saddest, but most helpful things I've learned lately is that you usually can't get people like this to change.  But what we can change is how we react to them.  I think you need to stop trying to get close to her.  It sounds like your husband is supportive of you and understands his mother's behavior.  If not, then that's something you need to deal with. 

It sounds to me like she really doesn't respect you, and is jealous of the attention your son pays to you.  She may perceive it as attention that SHE has lost, which is a shame because that kind of thinking is what destroys potentially good relationships.  It's sad because she's lucky to have a DIL who tries to be considerate of her feelings.  Your husband is lucky to have a wife who tries to respect his mother.  Unfortunately, it seems your MIL isn't able to recognize those things and fulfil her end of the relationship.  You can try to think more about her behavior, and if it seems there's really something wrong, maybe try to nudge your husband to encourage her to get help (that's going to be my strategy).  Good luck!  I think it's a good idea to try and figure out things like this because it will help you negotiate some kind of working relationship (for your husband's sake if nothing else) in the future.  You shouldn't feel scared of her - but that's something you have to work on yourself..

Carmexx

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Re: My Story with my MIL
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2010, 09:37:02 PM »
Thanks so much to the two of you for your words of wisdom and support.

What I'm hearing is that there is not much I really can do to make this work well, and my husband has reached the same conclusion. He wants us to put our son in preschool so that we are not dependent on his mom. I have been ambivalent about this because I don't want her to feel sad that she no longer cares for her grandchild, but I also think it will be better for all of us. My son recently started acting strange (kind of sad) and I think it has to do with the mood she is in. Once she got out of her funk, he stopped acting like that. So I do agree that this will be better for him.

Do you think I should confront her when she does something that is rude? Like when she said she had not come out of her room because we were there, should I have called her out on that? Or should I just let it go?

Isitme, thanks for encouraging me to not be scared. I'm thankful to say that I am past that, because the first 2 years were horrible with that fear.

Offline luise.volta

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Re: My Story with my MIL
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2010, 09:54:03 PM »
No, my thought is that it would be declaring war to confront her. She is how she is and she obviously doesn't see herself as you do. Nothing would be gained by that and it might make things a lot worse. I would just present a united front in saying that it is time for your son to go to the next level in his growth and socialization, which is probably true! When that is done, I would then let her know that the three of you need your own space. That's also the next level in your marriage. I wouldn't blame her for anything but I wouldn't back down no matter what her reaction is.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

Offline isitme?

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Re: My Story with my MIL
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2010, 09:58:08 PM »
Hmm, IMO it might be best to NOT directly confront her.  Especially since you live with her currently (I agree with Luise - if you can change this situation, it might be for the best).  I think you need to learn to be firm with her without having it escalate into an emotionally driven battle.  This is a tough thing to do.  There are some good books out there about emotional blackmail and dealing with difficult personalities (emotional vampires etc. )... they can help provide more insight into what is going on with your MIL and help you figure out strategies for dealing with her.  Like I said, the ladies here are always willing to pitch in with their two cents and that also help a great deal.  I think as much as we might now have to try and emotionally detach from our MILs, it is still hard to get over the disappointment that we might never have a good relationship with her.  So hearing some advice from the MILs here can be especially helpful I think - because they kind of step in as surrogates and provide the care we wish we could get from our own MILs..  For that reason, among many others, that's why I think it's nice for DIls to be able to check in with this site, instead of spending time on DIL support groups - they can be helpful too, but the tone is very different, and sometimes it is nice to feel like you have both the perspective and support of the "other" side!

cocobars

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Re: My Story with my MIL
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2010, 05:37:33 AM »
Hi Carmexx!  I'm extending a very heartfelt welcome to this site!  Your story is heartbreaking.

First, I'm assuming because of your age, you MIL is not elderly so her behavior cannot stem from the effect of dimentia, however I had a previous neighbor who's wife had alzheimers in her forties.  My parents are elderly and I can tell you that this type of behavior is typical of that disease.  It's also typical of many other psychological problems, that because I'm not a doctor, wont get into here.  I'm not saying that is her problem, your problem may just be that you are living too closely!  This can make her appear to be worse than she may actually be.

My own MIL was a beauty, so it's hard when I read things like this from DIL's on this site.  Some of you are exactly like us here and are so loving and understanding.  You want that healthy relationship with your MIL that we all want here, and I can see that. Unfortunately, it may not be possible to have while your MIL is still living under your roof.  I have to agree with Luise.  There are some underlying problems going on and I don't believe they will be resolved while she is living there. She is taking over your life as wife and mother of your household (I hope I don't get in trouble for saying that).  You are your husband's partner for life, and although I believe there are some area's where you should respect her wanting to be part of your lives, I can see no areas where you're not letting that happen.  You may be letting that happen to a fault.

Do you think you could pull your husband out for a "family meeting" without her knowing?  I do that now, as I'm living with my elderly parents, and don't want them hurt by what is being discussed.  My car has become the family meeting office!  LOL! 

I think it's very wise of you to come here and discuss this.  You may get some very good ideas that will be helpful in handling this situation in a tactful way.

Then discuss your feelings with your husband, just stating what you have here.  I believe (since he has noticed it himself) you may be able to put your heads together and help make some plans in a positive way.  If she is living with you because she can't afford to live on her own, then you could encourage her to go through social security and find subsidised housing - so she has her own place.  A good way (I believe) to counteract a bad response to this suggestion from her, is to let her know you still want her to be part of your lives and would like her to still be involved in babysitting her GC.

Anyway, we will try to put our heads together and think of more options here for you.  You seem to have a good head on your shoulders and have made this dilema clear in your post.  We are not all like that, just as DIL's are not, but I hope by coming here you will be able to come up with many different views of this situation, and options on ways of handling this.

It's hard to live with IL's that we love, but to be made to feel this way is really something that shouldn't be invited into your home - to stay. There must be a way of letting her have her own place, so that you and your husband can go on with your lives.  Hopefully with her in a better place in your own heart.

Keep loving your family.  Keep checking your post and post here as often as you may need to.  We're here for you, and we will put on our thinking caps!   ;D

God bless you and hang in there!
« Last Edit: February 20, 2010, 06:01:12 AM by cocobars »

cocobars

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Re: My Story with my MIL
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2010, 05:42:22 AM »
P.S.- Isitme gave you some wonderful advice.  It would be easier to do if you were not living in the same house.  I believe if you can find separate living conditions, you would have enough room to breathe to be able to see her in a new light, and start working on the relationship you need to be having with her.  She may not be as bad as she seems, but when you are living so closely your views aren't always going to be good ones.

Maybe this would be a good starting place for your talks (if you decide to have them).  Just don't give up hope!  I believe we can support you through this and help give you back that light at the end of the tunnel, but we are willing to help you think things out here and try to help you find solutions that benefit you and your MIL!  That's the ultimate goal. :)
« Last Edit: February 20, 2010, 05:44:57 AM by cocobars »

cocobars

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Re: My Story with my MIL
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2010, 05:54:57 AM »
Once she got out of her funk, he stopped acting like that. So I do agree that this will be better for him.

Do you think I should confront her when she does something that is rude? Like when she said she had not come out of her room because we were there, should I have called her out on that? Or should I just let it go?

Isitme, thanks for encouraging me to not be scared. I'm thankful to say that I am past that, because the first 2 years were horrible with that fear.
I would try little baby steps with her.  If you take your son completely away from her care, this could make her feel unloved and un-needed (which may be part of her problem).  I believe the preschool idea is a sold one, and he will learn some social skills that will be helpful when he reaches kindergarten age.  This will give her a break from his care and she can still watch him after that for you, which will let her know she is still valued and needed.

Personally, I wouldn't confront her.  Your husband is her son and should be the one to talk to her about her behavior.  If he can do that, you may even get some understanding from her about what she is thinking.  I agree with Isitme here too - you shouldn't be afraid of her.  Hence, the separate living quarters.  She may just be living in too close proximity and "breathing room" would create a better atmosphere and a foundation to start understanding eachother.  I'm hoping you find she is not as bad as she looks - up close.  Sometimes I believe we need a little distance, even with family to find that place of understanding.

I'm sorry I keep going on and on.  I was taken by your post and just keep thinking.  I hope everyone here gives you lots to think about and consider. :)

Carmexx

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Re: My Story with my MIL
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2010, 07:21:16 AM »
How I wish I had found this site 4 years ago! At that time I thought it was my fault and didn't think of even looking for help online until later.

Thanks for your advice, isitme and Louise. What I had in mind about confronting her is saying something like, "Oh, I see that you ride in the front of the car every time you're with your son but you always go in the back when I'm driving" just to let her know that I've noticed and it's bothered me. I definitely don't want to stir trouble, though.

Coco, you are so sweet to spend time pondering my situation. I appreciate your advice and kind words. I feel like they are a balm for that hurt I feel in my heart whenever I remember this.

I also agree that we like each other more when we don't see each other too much. This past summer I was off of work (I'm a college professor) on vacations for almost 2 months, and it was so great to see her. I think she was happy to see me too. And I know she has so many good qualities, but you're right -it's hard to focus on the good things when you're so close to the situation and the negativity. She has done lots and lots of good things for us, but she ends up erasing the good will it creates when she turns around and does or says something so negative.

I do believe she is passive agressive, but I also see a generational difference and even cultural difference. Even though I grew up as a first generation American, daughter of South American immigrants, she grew up in a rural area of MX where the roles of genders are very delineated and any move away from those roles is shocking. I have my MA and am a college professor full time, so I don't pay the same level of attention to things around the house as she is used to. For some time, I thought she viewed me as plain lazy, but it is so unfair because I graduated with my BA by the time I was 20 and worked very hard to get my degrees. We're just different types of hard workers, and while I recognize that, I don't think she truly does even though sometimes she says she does.

But honestly, I don't feel even half the pain I used to feel in the past over what she thinks of me. As Louise mentioned in another post, what someone thinks of me is none of my business, and I just want some resolution now.

Thanks a million times for taking the time to respond to my posts. Many of you sound like great MILs and it hurts me to see what you're going through. I wish your DILs were able to appreciate you.

cocobars

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Re: My Story with my MIL
« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2010, 07:29:37 AM »
Thanks Carmexx!  I really think you are on the road to someplace special!  I'm happy you had those good times with her after the distance was in place, and it my hope you get those times back and keep them in a safe place in your heart!

And Luise is right!  What you think of me is none of my business!  LOL!  What you think of yourself is powerful!

2chickiebaby

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Re: My Story with my MIL
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2010, 07:41:05 AM »
I agree....I would be so embarrassed to have this out.  I wish it could be known that there is another side of the story....ours.

That's all I wish was out there.  There is another side of the story

tillykilly

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Re: My Story with my MIL
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2010, 04:14:47 AM »
it is so interesting to read something of how dil feels and to me importantly just what some dil have to put up with from their mil....why is the mil living with you...does she resent her loss of independece for some reason and tries to hight light this by her over demonstrative actions ie staying in her room etc  it seems there is not enough real and truthful soul to soul discussions about the way your family and mil interact, boundaries, if any, emotional and practical support seems to be working for you, and maybe you would like to feel for mil also, but this does not seem to be actually cutting the mustard.  no matter what the perceived out come i think you and and your loving hubby should set out a time dinner date whatever to thrash it all out calmly and without reservation.  she is hurting and its spilling over to you and yours....deal with all the above issues openly honestly and even perhaps suggest she find, with all your support her own place..while she is still young and able, that maybe the kindest thing to do...if it is at all possible...god bless and keep trying for now x

cocobars

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Re: My Story with my MIL
« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2010, 06:35:32 AM »
it is so interesting to read something of how dil feels and to me importantly just what some dil have to put up with from their mil....why is the mil living with you...does she resent her loss of independece for some reason and tries to hight light this by her over demonstrative actions ie staying in her room etc  it seems there is not enough real and truthful soul to soul discussions about the way your family and mil interact, boundaries, if any, emotional and practical support seems to be working for you, and maybe you would like to feel for mil also, but this does not seem to be actually cutting the mustard.  no matter what the perceived out come i think you and and your loving hubby should set out a time dinner date whatever to thrash it all out calmly and without reservation.  she is hurting and its spilling over to you and yours....deal with all the above issues openly honestly and even perhaps suggest she find, with all your support her own place..while she is still young and able, that maybe the kindest thing to do...if it is at all possible...god bless and keep trying for now x
I hadn't thought about the "loss of independance."  That may have something to do with it.

Offline Pen

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Re: My Story with my MIL
« Reply #14 on: February 21, 2010, 08:15:17 AM »
Loss of independence - good point! Kind of a fine line between wanting to be included and involved and also wanting to have some control over one's life. No one wants to feel completely at the mercy of another. It must be harder for someone who's nature has been controlling than for an easy going person.


Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb