Author Topic: Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL  (Read 2778 times)

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shades

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Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL
« on: December 01, 2011, 06:36:59 AM »
Hello ladies,

I'm new here and have been lurking on the forums for a while. What I like about this site is that it seems much more balanced than the DIL sites I've found. I love to see a MIL's perspective, and I think overall, a MIL is the best resource for MIL advice.

Some background; I'm in my mid 20s and I'm engaged to my soulmate (DFH) in his early 30s. I moved 1000 miles to another state to live with him in his mountain home. We love it here and we're blissfully happy. I do miss my FOO, although my FMIL has been very welcoming. My impression of her is that she's very sweet and giving, but she also has specific and rigid expectations from other people. She's also very close to DFH and calls him almost every day. I spent some time with her at her house cooking and talking and had a great time.

My FOO is very different from his. FMIL actually disowned her daughter (FSIL) because she's a lesbian. I've been instructed never to speak of FMIL's daughter in front of her. I was at at FSIL's wedding and her mother was conspicuously absent. My mother and I talk on the phone once a week, and she doesn't ask about every little detail of my life. FMIL wants to know *everything* from DFH and spend a lot of time with him. At first, she used to drop in every weekend, which made me uncomfortable as she would come early when I was still in bed or showering (who doesn't sleep in on Sundays?), and she would start making little complaints about the house, such as there was too much junk on the kitchen table (we use it to hold our mail/purse/wallet etc and eat at the island), that "her" ice cream was gone, or that we didn't have "her" brand of soda in the fridge or enough leftovers for them to have for lunch. There was no way for me to prepare for these visits as she'd just drop in. It was DFH who realized that this wasn't going to work and asked her to call before she comes to make sure we're ready for her and that we don't have other plans. DFH warned me that she doesn't listen well and that he would handle her. She dropped in again the next weekend, and he gently reminded her again. The weekend after that, we got a phone call that she and FFIL were 15 minutes away (it's an hour drive). DFH and I were in our pyjamas playing an online game with several other people. If we dropped it, the game would have been ruined for the other folks. DFH said to continue playing. She came in, cleared the kitchen table, and set it with the new table cloth, napkins, and decorations she had bought for a dinner party we had mentioned we were holding later that week. We did not ask her to do this for us. She got angry when we didn't drop the game within a few minutes to come see her handiwork and left in a huff. I felt very guilty, but after this incident, she calls before she leaves her house to make sure we're ready. DFH seemed to know this would happen before the message of calling ahead would sink in. For the record, we did thank her for the tablecloth etc. when she opened communication again 2 weeks later.

You're probably wondering what the point to this story is, and it's that we can't make our wishes and needs known to her politely and gently, she disregards them. DFH (bless him) is the one to handle her, as he hopes to preserve my (so far) positive relationship with her. According to him, she has hated all his past girlfriends, and that if I say a word against her, it will be the same for me. She completely disregards any (simple) instructions I have regarding my puppy (take her out on the lawn once an hour on a leash) and got upset with me when the dog messed in her house 7 times. She disregarded the same instructions when DFH repeated them. I don't understand why she'd rather get angry and clean up after a puppy than to simply take her out, and DFH tells me it's impossible to rationalize the actions of an unrational person. She also disregards feeding instructions, and I have to deal with the diarrheal aftermath a few hours later (on my birthday, no less). I said not a word against her, but I was upset. We found someone else to puppysit from now on. This is only a puppy... imagine the problems if this was a grandchild?

Although I consider myself a very tolerant person, her visits are starting to take a toll on me. Like drops in a bucket, her complaints about the house are building up (It's a different complaint every time she comes) and I find myself starting to resent her. I'm extremely tense every time she visits. When she calls on the weekend, she's not asking to come up, she's announcing that she's coming, and we have to drop all our plans to accomodate her. This once happened when we had cousins over to help with landscaping, and as it turned out, her dogs did not get along with his. We offered to put his dog outside while hers was inside so she could enjoy breakfast with us, but she refused and stayed outside with her dogs saying she didn't feel well. She left shortly after, upset. She wants to come to the mountains because it's (she says) the only place she can truly relax. How can we deny her visits? On top of this, I'm told that when we upset her, she takes it out on FFIL, making him sleep on the couch and refusing to cook for him. FFIL is one of the most reasonable, friendly people I've met, and it upsets DFH and I to hurt him as an indirect result of us standing up for ourselves.

Don't get me started on the wedding planning. She took teary-eyed offense to our ideas, which brought all plans to a grinding halt while we contemplate eloping.

Please advise me, wise women. I truly think my FMIL's heart is in the right place. She's generous, she's kind, she's sweet, but she demands a lot in return. I think she has no idea how much she upsets the people around her, and nobody can say anything because if she doesn't ignore it, she gets upset and takes it out on people who don't deserve it. I cannot talk to her, and even if I try to make polite and gentle hints, she doesn't "get" them. I'm not trying to take her son away from her, but I don't want to drop everything for her every weekend. While nothing has blown up yet, I think this train might be headed to a wall, and I'm hoping we can redirect it to another track.

Sassy

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Re: Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2011, 06:51:02 AM »
Quote
When she calls on the weekend, she's not asking to come up, she's announcing that she's coming, and we have to drop all our plans to accomodate her.

Hi and welcome.  I am a DIL, not a MIL.  Your story sounds very familiar to me.  Like my own. 

FDH seems to have a handle on some of this.

What would happen if when MIL calls and you had other plans, you said "What a bummer. Today is not a good day for a visit.  Next Saturday would be great, though."

Perhaps even better, what if you and DH called her during the week and invited her over for a set time for the weekend. Say Sunday 12 to 3, so she would not be inviting herself at a time that interrupts you?

Offline Pooh

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Re: Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2011, 06:56:18 AM »
Welcome Shades- Please read the two posts under Open Me First. One is the Forum Agreement which has to be a fit for this to work…and the other is How This Happened…our history. Nothing wrong with your post, we just ask all new members to do this.  Also, we like to tell new members, since we seem to be getting a bunch of it daily now, that Spam does not need to be reported to the moderators.  We are all on different time zones and will erradicate it as soon as one of us logs on.  Thanks.

Now, onto your story.  You and FH have the patience of saints.  I think the way you are handling it now, is the only way to handle it.  Letting FH take the lead is great and kudos to him for doing that with his Mother.  Many guys wouldn't and leave the GF or DW to fend for themselves.  I think that the way you did the "dropping in" thing was great.  Hints, then flat out telling her, then not caving when she didn't listen, seemed to have worked with her and you are now getting the results you wanted.  I know that you don't like to make her mad, but you may have to keep doing her that way until she hopefully realizes that when you say something, you are going to follow through.  To me, it's like a child.  I hate hearing someone say, "Stop or I'm going to....I said stop or I'm going to....I mean it...stop now or I'm going to....".  That teaches a child that you will not follow through and they will not learn.  I think FMIL is going to be like a child and need follow-through.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell

Offline Pooh

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Re: Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2011, 07:01:09 AM »
Ooops.  Sorry Shade!  I just saw where you got the welcome-rules speech on another post.  My bad!
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell

Offline Scoop

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Re: Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2011, 07:05:52 AM »
Welcome to the board!  I think that as long as your FDH is on the same page as you, you'll be doing okay.  It sounds like you should follow his lead on how to 'deal with her'.  It seems like "natural consequences" is her way of learning.  So let her suffer the "natural consequences" of her actions.

So, if she can't follow the rules with your puppy, she doesn't get to puppy-sit anymore.
When you have kids, if she doesn't follow the rules, she doesn't get to be alone with the kids.  Now, of course, you should be open to "bending" of the rules by a GP, but not the big ones like carseats ect.

As for her treatment of FFIL, that has NOTHING to do with you.  NOTHING.  She is responsible for her own actions and her own emotions, and if HE doesn't like it, HE can speak up.  Please don't let her treatment of him impact YOUR actions.

As for your wedding, PLEASE have the wedding YOU and FDH want.  It's a very important boundary that draws a line between when you were "just" the girlfriend and becoming "the wife".  Listen to her suggestions and look her in the eye and say "FDH and I will definitely consider that when WE make OUR decision."  It would be kind of you to include her as much as you can, and to actually take some of her suggestions but not at the expense of what you really want.

Make sure she knows that you WILL BE inviting FSIL and her spouse.  And you'd better invite them!  Because this is a strong precedent that you'll be setting.  If FMIL can't handle FSIL at your wedding, what about at your kids birthday parties and graduations?  What about when it's YOUR TURN to host a holiday dinner?  Will you exclude FSIL from the important events in your life for the rest of FMIL's life?  I certainly hope not.

Good luck, you're signing up for a lot of trouble.  I hope your FDH is worth it.

Offline Pooh

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Re: Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2011, 07:10:07 AM »
Good point Scoop and I totally agree about FSIL.  FMIL does need to be told that you guys wants FSIL in your lives and that anything that the two of you plan, will include FSIL.  That if FMIL plans something, then that is her choice to not include her, but it is your choice to include her.

FMIL will then have a choice to make, but it will be her choice and on her.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell

Offline Pen

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Re: Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2011, 07:11:04 AM »
Welcome, Shades. It's great to have more DILs on the boards! I'm glad you found us.

Your FMIL sounds like a woman who is used to getting her way and woe to those who don't march to her tune. You've got your work cut out for you, but your FDH sounds like a smart, caring guy who isn't afraid to handle her. Pooh is right; follow through is key, even if it's difficult at first (like it is with a 2 year old.) Scoop makes a very important point about setting precedents, especially regarding FSIL & her spouse. Stick to your principles and desires regarding the wedding, pick your battles over the little things, & give her a job to do (choosing the venue for the rehearsal dinner? Making centerpieces for the reception tables?)

You seem like a DIL dream-come-true; I'm sure you'd be adopted immediately by many of us MILs!
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb

Offline pam1

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Re: Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2011, 07:17:29 AM »
Welcome Shades :)

I agree with everyone else "start as you mean to go."  Your story is much like my own and DH and I didn't handle things very well, we are still cleaning up *years* later.  If only we had started out with good boundaries to begin with much of our situation would have been avoided.

I do think since you know you're starting to build resentment towards some things that you need to be the one to fix it, FMIL is not going to.  So perhaps cut back on the visits etc.
People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift

sapphire

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Re: Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2011, 07:26:43 AM »
Scoop makes a great point about the wedding and doing it your way. It is perfect practice for all involved to figure out where they fit into things as you and your DH take the lead and start your own lives. People say weddings are no big deal, but really, how people interact with one another over the "little" things like that wind up setting a precedent for the "bigger" things that occur later on.

Doe

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Re: Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2011, 07:35:48 AM »
I truly think my FMIL's heart is in the right place. She's generous, she's kind, she's sweet, but she demands a lot in return. I think she has no idea how much she upsets the people around her, and nobody can say anything because if she doesn't ignore it, she gets upset and takes it out on people who don't deserve it.

Hmmm.....I don't think she is kind, sweet, generous.  She sounds like a bully! 

You've gotten a lot of good advice already, I would add (not sure if it's been said) that if you can, pay for the wedding yourself and don't take FMIL's money to pay for it.  That can confuse the issue.

Don't worry about how FMIL treats her husband.  That's their problem, not yours.

Offline Pen

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Re: Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2011, 07:45:27 AM »
Scoop makes a great point about the wedding and doing it your way. It is perfect practice for all involved to figure out where they fit into things as you and your DH take the lead and start your own lives. People say weddings are no big deal, but really, how people interact with one another over the "little" things like that wind up setting a precedent for the "bigger" things that occur later on.

Amen, Sapphire! Now that I look back, the wedding showed DH & me exactly how we would be treated by DIL & her FOO in the future. Of course we didn't know it then, lol. Well, maybe I had an inkling....and I guess we sort of showed them who we were, too - I didn't "shut up and wear beige" and we didn't cave on the invites. We were given 5 invitations out of 100, but I insisted on 10. We refused to pay for a DJ as well as the live band. And we had a ball at the reception while DIL's DM had a very sour look on her face. That's kind of how it's gone since then, lol. When we were uninvited somewhere because DIL's FOO didn't want us to be part of a fun day DS had planned, we bought seats in another section and went anyway. They couldn't say a word, but they were not pleased. We made our point.

Doe, I agree. When generosity comes with conditions, and when family members are cut off because they don't live the way one person insists they should, I'd say that qualifies as bullying.
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb

Offline luise.volta

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Re: Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2011, 09:17:46 AM »
Welcome - My view, (and please remember that on our site it is always "Take what you want and leave the rest"), is that it's remarkable your FDH sees through what's come down. That's not always the case. Your FMIL is how she is and I doubt that anything you say or do is going to change that. She doesn't listen. She does what she does and thinks she is right. Her over involvement in your lives is justified and rationalized in her mind, I'm sure. She sees it as loving. And it's only just beginning.

You and FDH are not dependent children under her benevolent rule. You are adults starting your own family unit where you have the right to make your own choices and establish your own boundaries. That means you get to pick out your own tablecloths, leave junk on the kitchen table, sleep in and entertain when you decide you want to. Visits from anyone, ILs included, are by invitation. If you fail to do that, your own growth and development will suffer. We are always growing and developing. I am 84 and I am still maturing and adapting and leaning. However, we need room to do that. If it's not given to us…we have to create it or go under.

If you elope the world is going to come to an end. If you plan and manage your own wedding at home, the same thing is going to happen because she sees you as her "kids" and she intends to run everything. There is no room for negotiation.

Don't leave your puppy with her…look ahead and anticipate what's going to come down before you get there. She is easy to second guess. I would even suggest a good couples counselor to help steer you through what is ahead. Her concept is that she is in charge of you, your home, your puppy and your future children. She may not know herself well enough to get that's true but it is already unfolding. If you try to keep her from writing you off (the way she has FDH's former girlfriends) it will require full compliance. That's the only thing she will accept. The only way around it is to either be her puppets and get that it has to be that way…or take a stand and let her know that your home is your sanctuary and is not a perpetual open house…and that how you manage it is your business, not hers. The is not going to be good news and you are not going to manage to stay in her good graces and take a stand at the same time. Asking for understanding and consideration is a lost cause, as you have already seen. She reigns. End of story.

The kind of interference that is just starting to become apparent is the kind that stresses new relationships and even ends them. The hardest part is to get that there is no gentle, kind, understanding, cooperative way to deal with it and when you try, the only change will be that things will get worse once she see that you aren't going to knuckle under. Being kind only works with people who listen and are open to change. She is not one of them.

I would let her know that you set the rules and she abides by them. Otherwise you are going to change the locks and get an unlisted phone number. You are not children playing house.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama

Shelby

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Re: Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2011, 09:31:23 AM »

Now that I look back, the wedding showed DH & me exactly how we would be treated by DIL & her FOO in the future. Of course we didn't know it then, lol. Well, maybe I had an inkling....and I guess we sort of showed them who we were, too - I didn't "shut up and wear beige" and we didn't cave on the invites. We were given 5 invitations out of 100, but I insisted on 10. We refused to pay for a DJ as well as the live band. And we had a ball at the reception while DIL's DM had a very sour look on her face. That's kind of how it's gone since then, lol. When we were uninvited somewhere because DIL's FOO didn't want us to be part of a fun day DS had planned, we bought seats in another section and went anyway. They couldn't say a word, but they were not pleased. We made our point.

Doe, I agree. When generosity comes with conditions, and when family members are cut off because they don't live the way one person insists they should, I'd say that qualifies as bullying.

Pen - you should have had far more than 10 invitations.  Either your side 50 and her side 50, or her FOO 33, your FOO 33, and the couple gets 33.  But NOWHERE is it appropriate for the groom's side to get 10 and the bride's side to get 90.  Emily Post would fry any bride or MOB who tried that. 

And paying for the live band AND a DJ?  Paying for the band was most generous of you.  What kind of person would also ask you to pay for a DJ too, when you didn't even need to pay for the band? Pen, I think you did comply with the "Wear beige" rule -  your responsibility was the rehearsal dinner, not the wedding at all.  To have paid for the band was above and beyond the call of duty - and you should have been allocated half the invites.  So you DID wear beige.  The bride's FOO was simply abusive. 

Shades - ALL the advice you have gotten here is WONDERFUL.  No disagreement among any of the posters - which means that everyone must be right.   

And, Shades, I have to thank you for brightening my day tremendously and really boosting my self-esteem.  I truly did wear beige and kept my mouth shut not only during the wedding, but also before and after.  Have worn beige 24/7 for several years now.  While I feel for you and the boundary issues you and your fiance face (but the great thing is he's willing to deal with it - and is not going into hibernation) - your description of her makes me look absolutely fabulous by comparison.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  ;D

summergirl123

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Re: Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2011, 09:38:39 AM »
The way you handled the puppy issue was perfect.  FMIL didn't want to handle it the way you instructed and so you found a different sitter.  I think that when you ask for someone's help, often you are at their mercy to some degree.  But, when you pay someone, it becomes different - more under your control.  I've always used that with respect to dog care/ home care etc...because even though they are family, it often is their way and not the way I wanted.

I think you are in for some rough times based on your post.  You've already said that FMIL didn't like any of the previous gf's because they had an opinion that didn't coincide with FMIL's opinion.  Same with her daughter....to me, it speaks volumes when a parent (for really any reason) can dis-own a child.  This is just something out of my realm of understanding.

Setting the boundaries now - is really the most important thing.  I also like the post that said to make sure you try and include your FMIL/FFIL whenever you can.  No one wants to feel left out.  This is an exciting time in her life also - she's seeing her son get married, start a family - it is very special so just keep that in mind.  Balance - that's the key!

Doe

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Re: Help me keep good relationship with volatile MIL
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2011, 09:42:32 AM »
You might consider moving...