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I need your wisdom....Please.

Started by ohmama, October 06, 2013, 07:59:38 pm

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I need the advice of women older than myself and ideally wiser.
I am the Dil and will try to concise my issue with my Mil.

Married 4 years. My mother in law and I have had the typical issues. She says we don't call or visit enough. I often perceive her advice as criticism. I can be brutally honest, she's passive aggressive. But misunderstandings arent too big. Typically she comes to me about a problem and I listen. If she says I've hurt her I apologize. Every time.

HERE is my problem: When I bring my concerns to her, she just gives passive aggressive excuses. For example she took my child to the emergency room for a cold. Since we live 15 minutes away, I asked that she discuss medical issues with us first unless its life or death. She responded that if I thought this was not normal then I must have simply married into a family that's more loving than my own.
Second example: My child has a peanut allergy. When I got to my mil house one day she was covered in hives. I told her she wasn't taking her allergy seriously enough. She said I'm just insecure about her being with my child.
Because talking to her has been so bad, I decided to write her an email. I told her about the lack of accountability. I cited examples of how I'd did something wrong and apologized to her. I then cited examples that me voicing a concern and her only diverting.

HER RESPONSE: I love you.

Yep that one sentence.
Now I feel patronized. Im trying to figure out why a person who refuses to respect me is worth my time. And id like insight into how to interact with her, if at all.

Side note: My husband is not close to his mother, always presents our unity. Outside of my phone calls and ideas to visit, she doesn't hear from him I do it because she tells the whole family I'm keeping them away. So I make the effort to keep my name clean.


Welcome, Ohmama. Please take a moment to read the pink highlighted items under Open Me First on the home page. We ask this of all new members to make sure the site is a good fit :)

I'm sorry you have to deal with such awkwardness w/your MIL, especially since it is impacting the health of your child. Your MIL needs to understand that your child's peanut allergy isn't some random weird thing you came up with just to be "trendy" but a possibly life threatening medical issue. Perhaps your MIL should see the doctor's report and recommendations, or read other information about your child's condition. If she isn't in on the latest news regarding your child, your rules might seem unimportant or silly to her. If she were to hear about your child's most recent check up in a timely manner she might feel more a part of your family and your child's health would be a more tangible concern.

As DILs we often don't get why we need to interact with our MILs at all. They aren't related to us, our DHs don't seem to care about them that much, we already have a perfectly wonderful FOO (family of origin) of our own, and our ILs can be annoying pains in the neck. However, as a fairly new MIL, I see it now from a different perspective. My DIL sees no reason to interact w/me, my DH or our DD. Our DS fits in with DIL's FOO really well - they gained a terrific son, but we, DS's FOO, are left reeling from the "loss" of our beloved son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, etc. When our emotions are raw we don't make the best decisions regarding things we say and do regarding DIL. We miss our DS a lot and want to feel as if we still matter, the way DIL's FOO seems to matter to DIL.

Just something to thing about. We (MILs & DILs) really have a lot in common, we all love our DSs/DHs. It's good that you have been trying to understand your MIL; I hope you and she can work this out. Are you able to let her know that you understand how she might be feeling? Maybe all she needs is to feel like she's being heard and considered. If she loves you, as she claims, she should be willing to do the things that will help your relationship, and her GC, thrive. Good luck! Keep us posted :)
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb


Awesome feed back! I really appreciate it.
I actually bend over backwards to include my MIL.
I call her about once or twice a week. Im a SAHM and I send pictures to her cell phone rugularly cute things my child is doing. My mil has attended doctors appointments with me. We have gone on vacations together. I actually tall to my in laws more than my family. Once I heard she was blaming me for not seeing her GD >:(, I made sure she could not say that. I haven't heard any complaints in 3 years.

I feel even if she finds it silly. There is a respect due from one person to another. And she is not giving it.
At this point its not about her not understanding. Its about her refusal to take any kind of responsibility. Going to her is futile because I've done it numerous times and she insults me further.


Hi ohmama - I am a fellow dil and in the gentlest way possible, I can only say this.  If your mil is giving your daughter foods she knows she has an allergy to, then she is threatening her life.  Period.   She should never be left alone with your daughter.  Your daughter could have had a bigger problem than hives, her throat could have closed.  The hives is bad enough.  Then, when you emailed her, she didn't take you seriously.  She blamed you and said YOU were insecure.  Well, its time to start taking it seriously, very seriously.  Good luck.


Sorry someone wasn't responding when you first wrote.  Many of us do not get on here on the weekends too much.

First, I want to commend you for trying to keep a relationship going between all of you.  That takes a lot, I know, because I did the same thing and it wasn't easy when you have an MIL that is passive/aggressive.  I used to tell people that mine was aggressive/aggressive, nothing passive about her unless she was in public.  So I do truly understand how hard it is. 

I do think that the place you have to come to, in order to get along with anyone that is a pain (that could be a co-worker, aunt, sister, friend, etc.), including your MIL is to accept that is how she is and you are not going to change her.  I had to learn to let the criticism just roll off, smile and go about my business, really not paying any attention to what she said after I learned to do this.  Once I figured out that the only person that was frustrated was me, not her, I figured out not to let her get to me.  Was it still annoying and I wanted to pinch her head off at times?  You bet, but I learned to let it go and just say, "Must be a bad life to be that miserable all the time that you have to down others."  After I quit giving her the reaction she wanted, she learned to slack off some.  The couple of times she said, "Are you ignoring me?"  I said, "No, I'm ignoring your words because they are hurtful, so I tuned you out."  She'd stomp off mad and I'd shrug. :)

Now, I did have my lines.  My MIL never did "medical" things and I agree with Sarah that it is a line that can not be crossed.  On those things, I would remain firm and not care if she got mad.  Your DH has your back.  If she did something like that again I would calmly put up that boundary, but there is no negotiation.  I would use the words, "Her peanut allergy is not an insecurity on my part, it is truly a life threatening allergy and if you can't understand that and work with that, then I will not be able to leave her alone with you.  I don't want to do that, but my Daughter's health is that important."

Period.  If she wants to argue, then simply remain stoic and tell her, "This is not up for discussion.  There are some things I can compromise on, but this one is not one."  Refuse to join the battle and she either excepts it, or she doesn't.  Her choice.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


Sarah and pooh that's great advice. I really do have to own the fact I can't make her change.
A lot easier said than done  :-[
And my daughters allergy is absolutely non negotiable.
I do wonder where my responsibility runs out. Is it really my "job" to keep her around. Or can I just be comfortable letting her get whatever she gets(for lack of better phrase), from my husband? Which isn't much.
I feel like I'm moving heaven and earth to keep around someone who takes joy in insulting me.


First and foremost, when it comes to your DD's allergies, you don't take chances.  Since MIL has proved she can't be trusted, DD doesn't stay with Gma unsupervised.  If Gma complains, you can explain the situation or just say "I love you, but the matter is not up for discussion."

Regarding the ER visit, it's easy to say after the fact, well, it was just a cold, she should have called us first.  This shouldn't be an issue from here on in since Gma shouldn't have DD alone due to the allergy issue, but I'd suggest not holding this event as an example of MIL doing the wrong thing. 

It sounds like you are a bit like me.  You wanted to make a point, so you thought things through and made a list of events supporting your point.  To a lot of people, though, it comes across as you attacking them.  (Doesn't matter that you are right and facts prove your point; we're talking about feelings here.  I know it's annoying because I've been there many times.)  Your MIL's reply may be patronizing; it may be an attempt to avoid an argument; it may be an honest response to focus on the relationship and not details.  Who knows?  Try to give MIL the benefit of the doubt that she wasn't trying to ignore you or patronize you. 

However, going forward, you have to decide how you want to deal with a MIL who communicates so much differently than you do.  You'd be within your rights to tell hubby that here on in his family is his problem. You could continue to take the higher road and continue to maintain contact with MIL.  The nice thing is, whatever you decide, you can switch tactics later on. 

Good luck however things go.  Having Dh in your corner is invaluable. 


I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to that one ohmama.  We've had this discussion here before, and it's a mixed bag of answers.

Personally, I don't think it's a "job" that you have to do.  It's just been in my experience, that normally (not all the time), women are better at "social" things.  My DH is a great guy who takes responsibility for housework, cooking, dishes, etc. without having to be asked.  But when it comes to what I call the "social" world, he's horrible at keeping up.  If I had to wait on him to mail a thank you card, birthday card, Christmas card....plan a friend dinner, family get-together....even his own RSVP's for his High School Reunions, etc...we would never see anyone or do anything with friends and family!  That includes his and my family.  He doesn't care to go to things, but I have to make the plans and remind him, "Hey, we're going to your Mother's house Saturday for your brother's birthday, remember?"

It's just how it is for me.  So I have no relationship issues with this MIL (unlike my first one) but yet if it wasn't for me, we would barely see her just because DH gets caught up in everything else.  Now saying that, I don't mind doing it.  I guess if it bothered me, I might throw it back on him but yet then again, I know my personality and would feel bad about missing his family events if I didn't do it myself.  So I just do it, and I don't think anything about it.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


Ohmama - I am a MIL, so I generally see things through the eyes of a MIL, but have also been a DIL to a fabulous MIL.   

I'm not sure this is a MIL problem.  It's a problem, but it would be a problem with this woman whether she was your biological mother, your sister, aunt, grandmother or co-worker or boss.  She is a very controlling person. 

Look at how she manipulates and controls you.  Previously she complained that you didn't keep in contact with her enough, that she did not see GD enough.  So what did you do?  You made sure to call her a couple of times a week, to take GD to visit her, to send her pics of GD.  Her wish is your command.  You dance to her tune.

When she is upset with you, she tells you tells you why, you apologize.

But when you are upset with her, she refuses to deal with the issue.  By telling you she loves you. Rather than deal with the issues you have raised, she changes the subject, tries to appeal loving, etc.  But she is not expressing love, she is trying to control you.  Refusing to respect the legitimacy of your concerns - refusing to look at her own behavior and acknowledge her role in the problem.  Doesn't mean you are perfect - it just means she refuses to take an honest look at her own behavior and see what role she plays in the problem. 

Wish I had the answer.  My bio mother is controlling - would have everyone believe she is a sweet easy-going person, but is actually very bossy and critical of others.  When she acts inappropriately and is called on it, she refused to deal with the criticism.  She goes from being angry and attacking, straight to pouting and withdrawing.  There is no way to deal with her.  One cannot reason with someone who is angry and attacking.  Since she goes straight to pouting and acting like a martyr, there's no reasoning with her when she is in that mood either.  Both modes of behavior are tools of hers to avoid taking responsibility for her own inappropriate behavior. 

Your MIL apparently does not attack or pout - instead says "I love you" - but it's really the same as what my mom does.  She adopts a behavior that enables her to avoid looking at her own bad behavior and that way she does not have to take responsibility.   

Wish I had an answer.  I can just identify with the problem.  I can't cut off my bio mother.  She's very elderly, and I have responsibilities to her.  I can't say I would stick it out with a MIL who treated me that way, though.  You sound like a saint to have put up with as much as you have.   (Herbal does have a point about the ER visit for the cold - which theoretically could have been something more serious - but maybe you knew she had a simple cold and the MIL over-reacted.  Who knows?  Hindsight is 20/20 )

Pooh - I understand that you do all the social organizing with your MIL - but it is easier for the DIL to shoulder all that when the MIL is nice like your 2nd one is.  You are to be commended, of course - but I'd rather be Pooh dealing with Pooh's MIL than be Ohmama dealing with her MIL.  I don't mind being the one to set up social things - as long as the other people are nice.  If I had a MIL like Ohmama's, I think I'd dump that one right back on my husband. 

Problem with my mother is that she is MY mother.  No one to dump that on. 

Hugs, Ohmama - no solutions here, but lots of sympathy.  (I want to rebel, but I know that's not really the answer, so I just grit my teeth and try to tough it out.)


I get that Monroe.  I did have a horrible MIL for 21 years, so been there too.  Even with all her snarkiness, I still made the attempts to insure she saw her GC and Son.  My first DH was a very irresponsible person and came by it honestly from his Mother...seriously.  If I had not been the one to make all the plans and keep up the communication, then there really wouldn't have been a relationship at all.  Was she a pain in my hiney and frustrated me to no end?  Oh yes...constantly, but my children love their grandparents. 

I don't regret it because both boys have a good relationship with them still, and yes, I did have a two year span about 5 years in where I truly had enough of her and refused to go see her or speak to her.  I let DH take the kids and still reminded him "Hey, your Mother's Christmas get together is at 5 tonight.  The presents are over there."  My oldest DS was around 6 when this was happening and one day he asked me, "Why do you not like Nanny?"  I was taken back and mumbled something about that it wasn't that I didn't like her, we just had an argument so I was kind of mad at her right now.  He literally said, "Well you make me and Brother hug and make up when we get mad at each other.  Can't you just hug her?"

Out of the mouth of babes.  I realized that my kids missed me going.  When they opened presents and such, they didn't have their Mom there to show what they got...simple things like that.  So I sucked it up and called her.  I did tell her that I couldn't take her constant criticism but that I didn't handle it well by refusing to go around her.  I set my boundaries with her and told her if she would back off, I would try again.  She agreed and was somewhat better, but it truly was just how she was.  Once I could take myself out of the emotions, I saw she did her daughters, friends, hubby...everyone that way and it was my turning point to realize she was never going to change and I could only change how I reacted.

For me personally, I am a major proponent of when good outweighs bad.  I do that every day of my life and maybe chronic illness has something to do with that now, but my Sons have formed life long relationships with relatives and friends from that side of the family because they grew up with them.  I also feel good about my decision because of what OS had said and I didn't want my kids to grow up thinking I hated their GM.  Again, personal choice and it wasn't easy on me at all to ignore many of her comments, but I did and life went on.

Now, if she was being mean to my kids or the medical stuff, it probably would have been different.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


Oh, Pooh.  You are totally correct.  I find it harder to not take it personally when it is my bio mother rather than a cantankerous MIL that I haven't loved for a half-century.  It does feel personal.  It's also harder since the universe has revolved around her for several months now since she had a serious illness.  I am exhausted and I just don't have any more to give.  My husband (who was ignored through all her crisis time) should be the one to complain.  She's always angry, and when one tries to discuss the problem with her she pouts, making any reasonable communication impossible.  Other than capitulation on my part.  So i just apologize and leave.  I'm just drained emotionally. 

My biggest fear is handling guilt after she is gone.  My emotional state can't take much more of her, yet I know in a few years or even months, I won't have the option of spending time with her.  But she is driving me away.

Sorry ladies.  I'm just having a tough time now. 

But I can identify with Ohmama when the other person simply will not deal with the problem. 


Oh Monroe thanks so much for the identification. Sometimes all you can do is find people who understand then you don't feel so crazy  :P. Thanks so much.
For clarity I was not truly upset with the hospital visit. But it was her response that had me ticked. She could have said oh I was just really worried, instead she insulted my family. She was so worried she didn't have time to call us, but had the bill sent to who?...yep you guessed it. >:(

Hugs right back Monroe for your bio mom. There's no help for that.
Good luck and I know you will be rewarded.


Pooh I'm really in awe of you to stick things out with your mother in law and be such a good example for your boys. I think your advantage was that your mother in law saw the problem. She may not have changed much but she listened to you. I bring a problem to my MIL I get insulted. Everytime. She is diligent in letting me know I've offended her. However if she offends me, I have to keep quiet about it.
I'm struggling with the balance of accepting her for the sake of all involved, and not allowing myself to be a door mat. I want my kids to benefit from a relationship with her but at what price?


QuoteI'm struggling with the balance of accepting her for the sake of all involved, and not allowing myself to be a door mat.

This statement reminds me of my relationship with my father-in-law (my MIL was a wonderful person).  He wanted me out of the family; so much so that he asked me to leave my husband and small child after we had been married for about three years.  He never gave me a reason.

This was several decades ago and at that time in history, most new wives did not challenge men - relatives or bosses or whomever.  So, I decided to not say anything to any one (including my husband) and to never be alone with him - at family functions, I made sure I never sat near him at the table, always visited with others on the other side of the room, never riding in the same car, etc.  About ten years ago, more issues arose when he decided to bully our adult son.  That's when my husband said "enough".  At that time, I told him what his father had said to me. 

In hindsight I do not know if I did the correct thing.  I was able to "pretend" for many years, and perhaps after thirty years or so, he decided I was going nowhere.  Whatever - my point - there appears to be no right or wrong way.  Instead of dealing with the cruelty of my husband's family early in the marriage, I just postponed it.  Today, I am civil with the rest of his family, and the sad part is that I feel a distance from my mother-in-law, and I doubt if she knows why.   Again - no right or wrong way ....