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Problems with my F-MIL

Started by Sassy, August 12, 2009, 09:29:22 am

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Hi ladies, I'm Sassy and I posted here a few months ago looking for ideas abut how to make my Future MIL happy.

Everyone was so nice to me.  You gave me great hope that I was doing the right things.  And when things took a turn for the worse, I wanted to have something good to share here before I came back.  Sadly, I don't.  :-[

Background:  My boyfriend/fiance was raised by a single mother who did a wonderful job. He moved out at 19, now has a great career (as do I), and he always did whatever he could to help his mom out. When we got engaged, she wanted me to be very, very close to her.  I tried. I spent more time with her than anyone else I know, besides him. She expected more from me than my friends, sister, or even my own mother (daily calls or texts, weekly plans, drop ins, input into personal decisions) and got quite upset when I couldn't meet them all.  She began to complain about me to their relatives, and it all came back to us.  My boyfriend did not like his mother saying things he felt were quite untrue about me, to people he loves and hangs out with (aunt and cousins).

Since the last time I wrote, my BF had "a talk" with his mom.  As I wrote before, I did not want him to, as I thought it was Step 3 on Prissy's list.  But HE wanted to do.  He did not like his cousins repeating back to him, whatever his mom had said to their mom about me.  He told her: "Mom, I love you and you are always in my thoughts" (thank you Prissy).  And he asked her "Out of respect for me, can you not say things about my future wife to the family.  Sassy loves you, and she's trying to include you in her life.  But you make it hard when you're always upset with us.  We see you on Saturday, and you're upset if you don't get Sunday too.  We need to have 'boundaries' (yes, sigh, that is the word he said) and I hope you can respect that."  He also asked her to call before she'd come over, he asked her not to tell people all I care about is money, he asked her not to tell people I was keeping him from her.

Well, after that talk, things got even worse.  (No surprise, I know).  She cried to his Aunt, Uncle, his elderly Grandmother, and even the cousins themselves, and told them all how I was trying to turn him against her.  That everything was fine and he had "no problems" with his her, until I came along.  That now she's expected to "act like a stranger" by calling first.  That now she spends holidays "all alone" because of me (we went away Memorial Day and 4th of July weekends to a romantic cabin). Which is all probably true, from her point of view. I dont doubt she feels that way. 

But I didn't try to "cause" a problem!  I didn't want to take my BF "from" anyone; he was a single man.  We just want to be alone sometimes, or with other couples our age on Saturday night "date night".  Weekend lunches are not enough for her. She got very kealous any time we saw my family.    I think the problem is she felt left out when she couldn't spend every Saturday and Sunday with us, long weekends away with us, and he didn't have the time and money available to give to her that he once did. 

This is how I was afraid she would react to any talk.  Well, my BF got even more angry when all of her new stories came back to him.  When his elderly Grandmother called him and cried "How can you do this to your poor mother, throw her away just to make a gold-digger happy" he had enough. (We both make good salaries).  He contacted his mother and explained that disrespecting me that way, was disrespecting him.  And he told her until she could learn to respect us both, he didn't want to spend time with her.  She's upset him too much for him to be around her. 

They have not spoken for about a month now.  She calls us both, texts, emails, rings the doorbell, and he's asked me not to respond, so I haven't.  He says he told what she needed to do to be in our lives, but she won't.  He said he will handle her, when he is ready.  He won't take her calls, because he still is hearing what she's still saying about me.  The younger cousins understand, but the older relatives don't seem to.

Thank you for reading this far!!

My new problem:  We are going to be married in October, we are sending out out invitations - and HE does not want to invite his mother to our wedding!!!   >:(

I do!  Everyone will think its me who doesn't want her, or who's telling him not to want her.  Because that has been the story and this action will "confirm" it.  He said she does not respect him, his marriage, she is not happy for him, and he knows she will ruin his day and our day and our guests' day with her stories and tears.

I am trying to respect his choice as my future husband, but I am feeling terrible again. He is right about how she will act.  She will scream and cry and say the things she thinks about me from her point of view.  And to my relatives as well, since they'll be there.   He just wants to move on, and says he refuses to "let her misery" make things bad for us.  But I feel like if he doesn't invite his own mom, then I am the DIL she says I was but never tried to be.  He's asking me to let it go, and let her go, because he needs to right now. 

What should someone who wants to be a great DIL do??


This is Chicken Little speaking...I admit it. When I get into a no win, "darned if I do and darned if I don't" place...I don't choose...I pick another venue.

I suppose everyone is going to come down on me for this, but I wouldn't have a conventional wedding. I'd take the money it costs, ask my best friends to stand up for us and pay for them to go to someplace like Hawaii with us for a lovely wedding we could always remember with great joy. I'd have a video made and give copies to the family on both sides knowing that those who truly loved me would only want for me what I wanted for myself (a drama-free, hate-free, neurosis-free wedding) and that those who took exception always do. I'd have it be the wedding of my dreams and know that witnesses doing make a union...the heart does.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Dear Sassy,
I'd say, do what he says; he doesn't need her anymore. 


I love the Hawaii idea! We actually discussed this a while ago when F-MIL was getting upset about her name not being a host on the invite, and when we weren't taking her (very untraditional) suggestions.  But we both grew up here and have elderly relatives who can't travel, and this classic, formal celebration has been our dream.  We're 8 weeks out, most everything's been paid for already.

I guess what I was looking for from MILs here, is something, anything, he or I could say to her to make this right??

I can't imagine how much her not being invited to her son's wedding will hurt her! I don't want to even imagine it. She is a good person with a good heart.  She loves her son, and she always acted like she loved me, to my face. 

It hurt me when I would hear what she told others about me, of course, but I would try and put myself in her place.  Her sister (his aunt) is her comfort.  Her feelings are hers to have, of course.  So she has to express them somewhere, right. 

I also can't understand that after he told her how hurt he felt when she insulted me (and his taste for choosing me, I guess) then why she would keep doing what she knew would cause him pain.  I try to think, when I am a mother, would I do this to my grown children.   When they grow up and love someone more than me, which is the best thing that could happen to them, will I feel abandonded like she did.  Will it make me act in a way that does more damage than the original situation. 

As long as I was going along with what she wanted, things were ok.  They'd be ok for a few weeks or months.  It was when I didn't do things she thought were best (and I do believe she thought was best in her eyes) that caused a problem. 

Does it hurt so bad that a mother can't help acting this way?  It hurts me to see his heart broken by her. When he shakes his head and says "I wish my mom would respect me.  I wish she could just be happy for me." And her heart is broken by him, and me, I think.  Is this the future all, or most mothers of boys are doomed to have?

Does me loving him, have to equal me taking from her?  Is or was there a way to avoid that equation? 



Not inviting his own Mother to his wedding is forever.  It's a forever slap in the face that can never be taken back.


Anna and Prissy, I agree with you!  I know!!

I respect my future-husband, and he is calm and wise.  And almost always right in knowing how to best handle his mother (except the talk, I guess).  And I am worried that he will regret his own choice, in the future.  But he seems certain that if she goes, she will try to make everyone as unhappy as she is.

That is why I came back here for a MIL's guidance on this.   

The last time we spent togther, I shopped with her.  We bought her entire outfit for her, and had it fitted.   She wanted to wear white because she says its her color.  The salesperson told her that was not a good idea for a wedding.  Then she said she wanted to wear black because it was slimming.  The salesperson suggested a dark navy.  MIL said she looked up where someone said it was OK for people to wear black to evening weddings.  And so yes, I bought my MIL a formal black dress to wear to my wedding.  It feels weird to type that out.   I could see my BF was upset then (he said black was her mourning statement).  The talk came soon after.

Is there something that he or we can do or say so that she doesn't hurt my then-husband on that day?  As MILs, can someone help with this, perhaps?   

That she hurts him by the way she talks about me, is probably what makes me feel so responsible for this.  He says she's unhappy if we do invite her (she wanted to be a host), and she's unhappy if we don't.  So since she is unhappy either way, there will be many less unhappy other people if we don't invite her.  He said he knows she will try to make him sad, and he really doesn't want to be sad that one day.  We have talked about this 5 days nonstop.

Do you think that we should just accept that she will feel so bad on our wedding day, that she will likely try to make us, our guests, his family and my family feel bad, too. (I think to pretend otherwise, at this point, would probably be denial.) Or is there any polite way to prepare the guests who don't know her for this, so they are not as uncomfortable when she's crying to them?  I want to find a way to make this work!


I think you are dealing with a MIL that is still immature. Forget the chronological age. She acts like 15 (or 2), so sometimes it helps if you respond to them as you would to a 15 or 2 year old. Whatever your decision - I think you still could invite her. Despite all you can still do the right thing which is to invite her. She is his mother. He doesn't have any other. She can try to make him feel bad and I stress the word TRY. It is up to him whether he lets or not. When she starts her old ways, ignore her. When she behaves in a respectful manner give her attention and show that you appreciate her. She seems manipulative enough that I hardly think she would pull anything big off at your wedding. She is probably very insecure and scared inside. She will probably make faces, etc but I doubt she would make a scene or anything like that. Let her be with her feelings and concentrate on yourselves. She has the choice to enjoy your wedding or not. It is up to her. You have no control over anything other. And when she wears the black dress, let her wear. Let her make that statement if she so desperately feels the need for it. How is that going to stop you from enjoying yourself? Do not become responsible for her feelings and her choices. You guys have done your best to "make her happy". And here lies the paradox - no one can make anyone happy. Happines cannot be forced upon a person who doesn't want, let whatever to be happy. Maybe it is her protest, rebellion against change. Most people rebel in their teenage years  ;) The bottom line is that she still is his mum and your mum in law. So do the right thing. Invite her. Give her a chance to be there for you. Eventually she will get tired of being dramatic and she will want something else in her life.


I have to be with luise on this, because it sounds like a no win situation, I'd elope.

Since you can't do that, if you're going to do the wedding here, the mother needs to be included.  In this situation, someone needs to take the high road and it sounds like that needs to be you and your FH, because his mother can't.

How to be a good DIL in this case? 

I have had similar problems with my mother my whole life -- this isn't a MIL issue, this is a narcisstic mother issue.  I can tell you what I did that seemed to have changed this after many years of conflict.

Your MIL's complaining to family and friends is her way of keeping herself engaged with you two.  And when she gets a response from her son, she's hit the gold mine -- the comparison with a child is pretty accurate.   Negative attention, tempter tantrums, etc. are what kids do when they don't get their way.  Negative attention is better than no attention.

Excluding her from the wedding will give her a lifetime of ammunition. 

Anyway, it took me a long time to figure out what I needed to do with my own mother.  She still does her stuff, but it isn't as bad.   The less I react and play into it, the better things are.

When dealing with my mother,  I try to respond to her like I would a stranger who is saying the things she says. I don't get mad, I don't advise her, analyze her, argue with her, or correct her.  I  say things like, "I'm sorry you feel that way,"  or "I see,"  or "that must be hard for you".   

I just don't take it personally.  Her stuff is not my stuff.  She has issues she needs to deal with and it isn't my job to cure her, save her, change her.  I do have to deal with her as kindly as possible, but it's not personal on my end.

Your future MIL is trying to make things personal that aren't.  It isn't about her.  She may figure out that out some day.  She may not (my mother is 81 and she is like this not just with me)

Eventually people around her will figure this out.  If they don't, they don't. If you and your husband can just treat her like you would another person - if he can distance himself a bit - your behavior will speak for itself.   If you get sucked into her game, your behavior will be her proof and will fuel her on to keep the conflict going, so she can continue to get her attention fix.

My interaction with my mother has improved greatly since I have finally been able to stop proving that I'm a good daughter even though I want a life of my own (which may fit with your desire to be a good DIL).  I stopped arguing, debating and just did what I suggested above -- distanced myself from the emotional part of it.   She seems now to have stopped telling everyone (neighbors, doctors, her cleaning woman, the hairdresser we both use) how I never pay any attention to her because my actions don't fit her complaints. 

This took me over 50 years to do, so I offer this and hope it helps you and your FH so you can do it sooner!    If this doesn't fit your situation, I hope it helps someone somewhere!  I sure wasted a lot of time trying to find a way to be a good daughter and it was impossible to do it and please my mother -- I had to learn to do it for myself (selfish though that may sound). 

Good luck! 


That made a lot of sense! It takes a very secure and mature person to be able to pull it off...but/and...you and your FH sound like you have those qualities.

Here's another way to look at it. Being a "terrible-two", she will probably come whether invited or not. Certainly not having an engraved invitation won't work...who's going to be the bouncer? And there is no possible way to predict what she will do or not do at the wedding. She isn't logical and doesn't respond to logic. So...all the brainstorming won't help.

You are going to pass on Hawaii. She is going to attend. It will turn out however it does.

What you do have a great deal of control over is how you handle it/her. Non-involved is perfect. Also, respectful...compassionate...full of dignity and patience. You can do that.  :)
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


QuoteMaybe his Mom doesn't really feel that way & these are BF's thoughts only.

That thought also crossed my mind. It is a good point. I have had people in my life do that to me. Use me as their "shield". Or make me look responsible for their thought, feeling, action.

I have grown very cautions about that now. Anna - when your son does about you, you do know that there is a high likelihood that he might use his wife the same way. Say to you that he cannot do sth because of her.

It is like with the people that go around and gossip. They come to you and gossip about someone and I am so turned off instantly because how do I know they don't go around and gossip about me. Most probably they do.


Sassy, I've got three words for you - Borderline Personality Disorder!  If I were you I would research this personality disorder on the internet.  My sister was diagnosed with this a few years ago.  Thank God because  now we know why she acts so irrational and crazy!  I too was afraid to invite her to my wedding 12 years ago because I was terrified of her making a scene.  She was insisting that she be escorted down the aisle like our mother and my MIL, which is obviously not traditional.  She stayed drugged so much and barely could walk and when she'd eat the food would drop out of her mouth.  I thought she'd probably stumble down the aisle and embarrass the crap out of me!  So I stood firm and said no, with the support of my family.  Some of the irrational behaviors of you F-MIL are not normal, there is something wrong with this poor lady.  Trying to have a relationship with a person like this is not going to easy.  She's sounds extremely dependent and sees you as an obstacle to what she needs and thats her son.

You sound like a sweet girl but please don't let this woman damage your marriage.  I know that I"m going to upset some people by saying this but you have a right to put down boundaries.  You have to with someone who is obviously got some emotional issues.  Of course I would really look at the not inviting her to the wedding because that is forever.  But think of it this way, you have to reprimand a child when they act up and that's all you are your boyfriend is doing.  Your MIL is acting extremely childish and my gosh you have to do something or she will run you off.  Because I promise you will get tired of this.

I am saying this as a DIL who has experienced the wrath of in-laws who never wanted me around and saw me as an invader.  The harder I tried I failed even harder.  If I went around them more because I felt guilty for moving further away from them then this gave them more opportunities to find things they didn't like about me and then complain to family or even to my husband.  I realized that the only way to remedy this situation was to keep them at an arms distance.  Sometimes that's all you can do with abusive people.   I've been to counseling over this and have read two books that I would like to recommend to you.  Toxic In-laws by Susan Forward and Boundaries Henry Cloud.
It was devastating to not be accepted by my in-laws but I now know that I don't have to allow them to define   my self-worth!!


What lessons we get to learn about self-worth...to move past the pitiful, "You're fine, how am I?..stance." I've met people who appear to have arrived on this earth with that one (self-worth) handled and others who don't even know that it has to be addressed. For me, it's been a slow but sure process. When I was young I looked at others faces and listened to what they said about me and the tone of voice they used for definition. I didn't have a clue that what they said was about them, not me. Thanks for the book recommendations.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Dear Sassy,
I wish I knew what it means: "I didn't have a clue that what they said was about them, not me"

It would mean the world to me to understand.  I always think it's about me. I should have learned this by now but I can't understand it. 


AnnieB you sound like you really have it together!  I loved your answer.  I know what that's like to spin your wheels trying to make someone approve of you.  I still am not sure if its is all them or I contribute.  I have a feeling being too sensitive, which I can be, then I am some of the problem.   I wish I knew how to respond better to domineering, manipulative or abusive people.  Sometimes I just shut down and avoid them because I don't know what else to do.

Alicev you made an interesting comment " It is like with the people that go around and gossip. They come to you and gossip about someone and I am so turned off instantly because how do I know they don't go around and gossip about me. Most probably they do. "
It took me getting slapped up side the head for this to sink in about my MIL.  She constantly complained to me and my hubby about her other daughter, my SIL.  She was constantly criticizing her.  And my MIL never liked anybody and griped about everyone.  Call it denial or just not wanting to believe, but I didn't think she talked about me. Stupid huh?  I didn't find out the truth until I actually got a backbone and asked.  You're right, if someone rips someone else behind their back to you then most likely they are doing the same to you!

Luise thank you for your comments as well.  I agree its a slow process but I tell you what my thirties have much easier self esteem wise than my twenties.  I just read an article on yahoo http://news.yahoo.com/s/hsn/20090814/hl_hsn/goodnewsforelderlyhappinesskeepsgrowing and it makes total sense.  Sometimes it just takes age and life experience to feel comfortable in our own skin.  I may hate some of the physical ailments of getting older but I would NEVER go back to my twenties!

Can someone explain to me how to quote another poster so I can comment on what they've said.  I'd appreciate it.


I don't actually quote others because the blue box the quote comes in has printing too small for my old eyes. But what you're doing, in addressing the specific person and referring to their comment while combining your observations works well.

What a learning curve we're on. And I wouldn't touch 20 again with a 10 foot pole, either! I wouldn't even want to go back to 60 or 70. I am having way too much fun in my 80s! My life is still about learning and growing but my struggles are not as confusing and intense. Lots of miles and lots of lessons.

I watch my husband in his late 90s, enjoying life and in such a state of Grace. Nothing ruffles him. It's beautiful to watch and live with his acceptance. He's a great teacher.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama