Author Topic: What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.  (Read 7558 times)

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phillek

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What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.
« on: December 05, 2011, 10:55:27 AM »
My MIL has always had a hard time treating her grown children like adults, including me, even though we met when I was already in my 20s.  MIL has problems with anxiety, depression, social skills, learning disablities, self esteem, dementia, you name it (this isn't my diagnoses, she is medicated and/or treated for all these things).  I think that she has a particular phobia of aging, and so thinks that by treating us like 10 year olds, she can stay 30 forever.  Her three children seem to use an avoidant/denial strategy - everything she says goes in one ear and out the other.  Example: she nags them to pack sunscreen for the beach, they smile and get on thier way with responsible beach bags already packed.  Everyone is very polite and they rarely have arguments.  I, on the other hand, have not been conditioned my whole life to deal with her personality.  I'm sensitive, and want people to like and respect me.  I guess you could say we are a terrible match.

DH and I have been married 6 years, and we have been through a lot with her since the beginning.  She banishes me to my room in the middle of the day to "go take a nap!" while she rearranges my closets and furniture without asking.  She won't accept the food I offer her in my home because she "should be the one making the food."  DH has been put in a tough spot, and the two of us have had many, many upsetting conversations with me explaining how she hurt my feelings, and him trying to understand and figure out what to do.  He and his siblings have always just let her have her way and ignored her.  I have learned that I am just not capable of this.  I have tried talking to her in a polite, respectful way, asking her to stop doing specific things because it hurts my feelings, and she doesn't seem to get it.  We eventually had to limit our contact and have gotten her and FIL a hotel for thier visits.  This has helped. 

Now, I have her first grandchild (also my family's first) and one on the way, and our problems are amplified to an unbearable level.  I have waited my whole life to be a mommy; I am a sahm and we have a wonderful, happy, active life.  I know that every family is different, but DH and I have found joy in spending as much time together (with DS) as possible, rarely getting babysitters and enjoying each other.  Our only problem is that MIL expects that we should want her to practically raise our children and uses guilt and manipulation in an attempt to make me feel like I am wrong to want to be with my children (because how could I possibly know what I'm doing, she is the one with experience)  She is constantly trying to separate me from DS, and is visibly uncomfomfortable with our relationship.  Example:  I make him giggle, she scowls and paces.  She is constantly asking me to take a walk or a nap.  One time, after I asked to take him from her to nurse, she said "Why don't you cut off your breast and leave it here so you can go away."  This was in front of his entire family, who all just laughed uncomfortably and never brought it up again.

What can I do?  All I want is for us to be able to live our happy life and share it with her in a reasonable way.  To me, that means regular visits, behaving respectfully and pleasant to one another, sharing the joy I have with my children with her by making her homemade gifts, sending photos, spending time together.  It seems like she would rather us be miserable and dependant on her than happy and self sufficient.  She needs to be in control to be satisfied, no matter the cost.  DH and I are almost to the point where we tell her to change her ways or we are cutting her off completely.  This makes me sick;  I lose sleep over it.  I just couldn't do that to someone, even though she is making us miserable.  But what is the alternative?

I could list all the nasty, mean-spirited things she said to me just last weekend, but this is already so long winded.  I'm happy to give specific examples if someone thinks it would help them give me advice.

Thank you.

sesamejane

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Re: What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2011, 11:05:52 AM »
Dearest Phillek,
 You said "MIL has problems with anxiety, depression, social skills, learning disablities, self esteem, dementia, you name it (this isn't my diagnoses, she is medicated and/or treated for all these things). "  She is not well, and whether all these problems/diagnoses are real or not, she is also on meds which can affect her mood and behavior. 

Figure out what your boundaries are and hold fast. Kindly always, considerate always, but hold fast. Let her tantrum and say crazy stuff - it only makes her look ridiculous and is, really, quite sad.  BTW, I hope you say, "no thank you," when mil suggests nap, etc.  I would figure out ways to *reward* her when she behaves well.  "Catch her being good."  Reward could be asking her to hold the baby since it seems to be the most important thing.  That's what I would do.  It will take some thinking, and strategizing, but if she has to be around, you will have to be clear in your own mind what is acceptable and what is not.

I am so happy for you.  These days with your children are so precious.  Please enjoy to the fullest.  Much love to you and yours, and the *wise women* and there wonderful thoughts are on the way. :-*

phillek

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Re: What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2011, 11:24:27 AM »
Thank you, Sesamejane.  I am starting to feel better already and am thankful that I found this forum. 

I learned after a few years in my early 20s to say "no, thank you." to the nap and walk requests.  I used to just go hide in my room for a while!  Like I said, I am a pleaser.  Declining irritates MIL, but I just have to remember that I am not doing anything wrong and should not feel guilty if she gets upset.  This is an ongoing battle.

Thanks again!

Offline Pooh

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Re: What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2011, 11:55:59 AM »
Welcome phillek- 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. Also, you will see we get bunches of Spam.  We have 4 moderators, on different time zone and we will zap it as soon as someone comes in.  Thanks.

Yowzer.  What a tough position you are in.  Dealing with all her mental problems plus the fact that she has been conditioned by her AC to think that this behavior is ok.  They are not helping your case by going along with her, but at the same time, that's how they have been conditioned to deal with her.  I think you are going to have a hard time because you should be putting down your boundaries and saying no, but she's not used to that and it's going to cause problems because everyone else lets her have her way.  I'm not saying you shouldn't hold fast to your boundaries, just that I see no matter how hard you try to do it nicely, it's a losing battle for you.

I am glad your DH is sticking with you on things.  Does she live with you?
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell

phillek

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Re: What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2011, 12:17:49 PM »
No, Pooh, MIL lives about 6 hours away.  We see her about once every 1-2 months, and lately she has been visiting us instead of us visiting her (I'm pregnant and we have a 1 year old).  We most recently invited her and FIL over for four days over Thanksgiving and got them a hotel near our home.  We have a small house and frankly have decided that having her stay overnight with us for several days was unbearable for me and therefore also for my DH.  We do spend most of the day with them when they are in town, separating only to sleep at night and for DS's nap.  We are trying to compromise here!

Instead of enjoying the four days she had with us, MIL spent most of the time laying the groundwork to come for another visit for Christmas.  DH and I have invited my mother for that week, who also stays in a hotel with no complaints.  My mom sees us (DS is also her only GC) about once a year, and we wanted to make her visit special, so we tried to politely and respectfully explain to MIL that we already had plans for Christmas.  She continued to bring it up, insisting that she was coming, and eventually throwing a sobbing fit begging me not to tell her not to come.  This was after she got me alone and passive-agressively insulted me and my family for about 30 minutes.  I started to get irritated and asked her to please change the subject to something more pleasant and that's when she had her emotional breakdown.  Needless to say, she is coming for Christmas.

I thought it was a reasonable expectation to spend one holiday with one grandmother, and one holiday with the other.  After her meltdown I question myself.  I want to do the right thing.

catchingup

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Re: What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2011, 01:14:35 PM »
Hi Phillek,
Dear!Dear! me is all I can say.
It reads like my MIL (No longer on this earth)
My story is a little differant in that my MIL controlled her children with a sergeant major attitude--also thought they were not grown ups.
In your case I feel compassion for your MIL with her problems but she is fortunate to have a DIL who does not want to abandon her.A feather in your cap for that.
It may be a good idea to visit your mother instead of her coming to you for Christmas.You ,therefore, will not be home.

You are going to have to set boundries.
I just wonder if tough love is perhaps the answer here.
Counselling may help.

Offline Keys Girl

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Re: What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2011, 01:24:50 PM »
Phillek, she put you on the spot with her sobbing fit and now she's had her way.  She's learned that she can push you around with her tears and demands.  Not a good place for you to be in, it will be much more difficult at a later date to try to get her to "unlearn" the behaviour, and the emotional weapon will escalate.

It is reasonable to spend one holiday with one grandmother and one holiday with the other, but she's not reasonable.  I don't think it's a good idea to try to get someone like her to  like/respect you, I suspect you will soon be the one depressed and anxious. 

It's reasonable to change your mind especially since she used tears.  I would telephone her and tell her that you have reconsidered her insistence on you changing the plans you had already made but that you'll consider having her visit a few days before Christmas before you leave to see your mother.  Even 5 year olds have to learn the concept of have a "turn".  Thankfully for you she lives 6 hours away and not across the street.

It's a tough spot to be in especially when you are pregnant and have a small child, there are some books that might help you, I think there was one called "The Disease to Please".  The phrase "I would prefer that......." can be helpful in dealing with people who think their way is the only highway.  Trying to compromise with a dictator is a losing game, at some point in time I think you'll have to stand your ground and teach her that you won't cave in to her emotional blackmail. 



"Today I will be as happy as a seagull with a french fry." Author Unknown

Doe

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Re: What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2011, 01:34:01 PM »
Hi Phillek -

Have you ever seen an alpha dog at a dog park?  Any number of dogs can come yapping around them and the alpha just ignores them. He does what he wants to do, goes where he wants to go while the more insecure dogs figure out their place relative to the alpha.  He doesn't worry about what will the insecure dog think or feel if they do this or that.  If a lesser dog needs to be put on his back, he just does that.

I think you just need to cultivate that side of your personality.  Worry less about her and just concentrate on your alpha bliss and let her find a way to adjust to you.

Offline Pooh

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Re: What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2011, 01:46:33 PM »
No questioning on your part.  Totally reasonable to expect to have one GM for one, one for the other....actually...more than fair.  I'm with KG, you need to go back and undo what she conned you into.   I wouldn't call her though.  I would get DH to call her and explain to her that using tears to get her way was not acceptable and that you guys already have plans.  I know it was you that gave in, but it looks like she is setting you up to get you alone when she wants to have a tirade about something.  I think it is going to take DH dealing with her on these things and I would be sure I never had those type of conversations alone anymore.  If she corners you, firmly tell her that any plans need to be discussed with both you and DH and walk off! 

I think the only chance you have with her is to present a united front with DH so she's not playing you guys against each other.  And yes, kudos to you for recognizing she has issues and trying to deal with them.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell

Sassy

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Re: What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2011, 01:56:38 PM »
Rule number one is stop trying to please the unpleasable.  It won't happen, so might as well give up the persuit.  You have our permission.    That being said, your DH's siblings sort of have the right idea in ignoring her nonsense.  With someone like that, ignore or vaguely nod with whatever she says, then simply do whatever you were going to do anyway.

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Instead of enjoying the four days she had with us, MIL spent most of the time laying the groundwork to come for another visit for Christmas.  DH and I have invited my mother for that week, who also stays in a hotel with no complaints.  My mom sees us (DS is also her only GC) about once a year, and we wanted to make her visit special, so we tried to politely and respectfully explain to MIL that we already had plans for Christmas. 
She continued to bring it up, insisting that she was coming, and eventually throwing a sobbing fit begging me not to tell her not to come.  This was after she got me alone and passive-agressively insulted me and my family for about 30 minutes.  I started to get irritated and asked her to please change the subject to something more pleasant and that's when she had her emotional breakdown. 
Needless to say, she is coming for Christmas.

I am confused.  MIL insulted you and your family....for 30 minutes... and so you responded by inviting her to join them?  It doesn't make sense on several levels.  The reward reinforces bad behavior.   Also, if MIL does not like your family, why are you subjecting your family to someone whom you know does not like them?  I'm thinking: your mother deserves to travel for better company than that.

I also don't understand why listening to insults for 30 minutes.  Next time anyone, including your MIL starts with the put downs, politely excuse yourself.  You don't have to listen to anyone mistreat you.  Again, we give you permission to walk away.

Have you read about the acronym Don't J.A.D.E. ? It stands for Justify, Argue, Defend or Explain.  As soon as you JADE your personal decisions to someone, you invite them to debate them with you.  How I wish you said to MIL "I'm sorry a Christmas week visit won't be possible, but we'd love to see you in January."  And repeated as necessary.  It's a practice you'll need to learn for other reasons, as soon as your children start talking.

phillek

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Re: What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2011, 02:33:31 PM »
Thanks, everyone.  Good points to consider.

Sassy, I hear what you mean about not listening to insults.  I guess one of my problems is that she has mental health issues, and so I want to be patient with her.  Also, the insults are not outright.  She says, "What are you going to do when DS has no friends because he is still nursing when he is 5 and all the kids make fun of him?"  DS is not even two, and this was after she saw me nurse him for 2 minutes after he woke from his nap.  My instinct is to answer her question politely: "He almost definitely will not be nursing at 5, and if he were it would not be in front of his classmates" It is only later that I come to terms with the fact that she is trying to make the point that I am making a bad parenting choice and hurting my son.

She says, "How is your mom with DS?"  When I answer that she is wonderful.  She jumps to "Well I know you lived with your grandparents for a while growing up, so how was she then?"  I did tell her that I was uncomfortable talking about this.  She knows that my mom was a young single mother and had a problem with alcholism when I was little.  What else can I say?  I would have left the room with this one, but DS had fallen asleep in my arms, and I was stuck.  Incidentally, she only started with all her intrusive questions after I was pinned to the couch.

She also asked me "How do you and DH get together if you never get a babysitter?"  Again, I politely answered her question.  (He does sleep sometimes). 

I only asked her to stop when she started nitpicking something I let DS do that she didn't agree with the previous day.  It was such a small thing, but I did tell her she needed to drop it (several times, actually) and when she finally stopped that's when she had her meltdown.

I see what you mean about JADE, though.  It will take retraining myself to not be so accomodating and recognizing insults for what they are when they happen.  I just am not sure of the right way to react without being rude or stooping to her level, I guess.

Offline pam1

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Re: What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2011, 03:43:24 PM »
phillek, welcome :)  I can relate, my MIL also has a diagnosed mental health disorder.  Have you heard of the book "Walking on eggshells," it primarily addresses those dealing with bpd but I found it useful in dealing with difficult people period.

I think one of the more useful things I've learned when dealing with a person like this is being patient and giving in etc are all the wrong ways to deal with them.  It's enabling.  Think of someone with a physical ailment recovering, you wouldn't carry them everywhere to prevent them hurting by learning to walk again, would you?

It's the same with mental illnesses, limits are good.  When she asks an inappropriate question, you should tell her that it is inappropriate or not answer at all.  Do not give in when she cries, like a toddler, they are only doing it to control.

Good luck and keep posting.
People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift

Sassy

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Re: What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2011, 05:10:58 PM »
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Also, the insults are not outright.  She says, "What are you going to do when DS has no friends because he is still nursing when he is 5 and all the kids make fun of him?" 


That's very much an outright insult.   I'm sorry someone said such a thing to you.

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She also asked me "How do you and DH get together if you never get a babysitter?"  Again, I politely answered her question.  (He does sleep sometimes). 


That's outright invasive, inappropriate and offensive.  And even the anxious and depressed know this.

 
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I would have left the room with this one, but DS had fallen asleep in my arms, and I was stuck.  Incidentally, she only started with all her intrusive questions after I was pinned to the couch..

I'm so sorry.  I wonder if it would have been worth risking waking DS to excuse yourself.  It might be easiest and simplest for you .  It's encouraging to read that you normally would do this.  Where was DH when MIL had you pinned?

 
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I only asked her to stop when she started nitpicking something I let DS do that she didn't agree with the previous day.  It was such a small thing, but I did tell her she needed to drop it (several times, actually) and when she finally stopped that's when she had her meltdown.

What is the "meltdown"?  And how exactly did the meltdown result in MIL getting an invitation?

I ask for the detail, because understanding the dynamic better  (such as, does DH avoid her when she visits, did DH come in for the meltdown, did he play a role in a meltdown invite?) can help with understanding how to help you handle it better.

Sassy

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Re: What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2011, 05:11:43 PM »
By the way, I just noticed your subject line.  I am a DIL, not a MIL.  Hope that's okay  :D

phillek

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Re: What do I do about MIL? MILs, I would love to hear from you.
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2011, 07:05:09 PM »
Sassy, not a problem that you are a DIL, I appreciate input any way I can get it.  I was just hoping that MILs might have a more unbiased opinion and help me understand if there is anything I need to be doing better. 

I'm also happy to provide more detail:

DH was out at a sporting event with FIL during the time of the incident, so we were alone.  She would not say these things in front of anyone else, which is another indication that she knows she is wrong.  The "meltdown" went like this:

MIL: (after all the initial mean-spirited questions) "Yesterday, I can't believe you let DS walk under that rope.  I would never do something like that", etc, etc, on and on about this.

Me: "Please drop it."

MIL:  "I just need you to know that that was wrong" etc. etc.

Me: "Enough."

(repeat a few times)

Then, DS woke up (I was talking softly, but MIL was getting worked up).  I stood up to take him out of the room, and she started sobbing and saying things like "Please don't be mad at me!  Please don't tell me I can't come visit you!  I'm getting so old!  I love DS!  I love DS!  I want to come for Christmas!  Please!  Please!"  Meanwhile, DS is just waking from nap, needing a diaper change and a snack.  I say "ok, ok, just relax" ask her if she needs water, and grab my phone and dial DH.  MIL shuts off the waterworks before I can even hit "send" on my phone, and just says something like "I wonder who won the game?"  It's like none of it ever happened.  Then, when we say goodbye to them for the end of their visit, she says "see you at Christmas"

That's basically it.