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very confused, need help with my MIL

Started by ub44, December 31, 2013, 12:57:08 pm

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I have been married to a wonderful man for 8 years and we have two beautiful children.  My husband and I are very happy.  We both have thriving careers and are what you would probably call successful.  We get along very well with the occasional ups and downs, but I would say we are happier than most couples.  However, my relationship with my MIL has never been a good one and I would like some advice.  I have found other message boards and the advice seems to be very one sided and extreme.  This may be long so if you read it all, bless you.

I very much would like my MIL to be a part of our lives.  However, my MIL either doesn't want this or doesn't know how to go about it.  I don't know, I guess I'm trying to figure this out.  MIL and FIL do not have a good relationship.  FIL is an alcoholic and is pretty much intoxicated all the time.  Even though MIL and FIL live together he is pretty much out of the picture (out at all hours of the night at bars, etc).  It's a sad situation.

The one thing that sets my MIL off every year is holidays.  Ever since we first got married I told my DH that I would like to alternate holidays.  We explained this to MIL and she was very angry.  She lives 3 hours away and expected us to get up at 5:00 a.m., be at her house by 8:00 a.m. (these were her instructions), and spend the day with her for every holiday.  Alternating would not do nor would coming to our home do.  I explained to her that since I work in the medical field that I am on call every other holiday and there is no way that I can spend each holiday 3 hours away from home.  I also explained that I wanted to see my family too and her response was that DH and I should spend the holidays apart.  My husband and I did not and do not want to spend the holidays apart.

My MIL expected my DH to leave me on our first Thanksgiving and Christmas and spend the night with her.  I asked DH what he wanted to do and he said that he wanted to alternate and that he had no desire to sleep over at her house without me.  We really can't spend many nights away from home with the exception of our PTO (paid time off).  The holidays are not PTO.  It was all or nothing with MIL.  I thought that if I called her and explained that I wanted to see her and it would be best to alternate that she would understand.  Nope.  It did not go over well.  She called me every name in the book and said that I was trying to destroy her family.  I was floored.  After all of this, DH was furious that she had cursed me out and called me names so he refused to go to her house at all.  It was a huge mess.  This is how all holidays have gone for the past 8 years. 

After the birth of our first baby I asked her to come stay with me for a week to help me with the things.  I had a c section and couldn't drive and needed some help.  She came over, but spent most of her time in our pool, watching movies, on the phone, or sleeping.  If I asked her for help with something (lifting something heavy) she cried and yelled that I was bossing her around.  She didn't hold the baby once and said that she felt uncomfortable around my son because he was so small (5 lbs, 3 weeks early).   After 3 days of no help and having to actually clean up after her, sleeping on the sofa after having major surgery, and listening to her yell at me I told DH that I thought it would be best for her to go home and only come for day visits.  By this point I was overly exhausted and starting to get some heavy swelling from doing more than I should have.   He let her know that we had all the help we needed and that she could go home (she acted like she really didn't want to be there anyway).  Again, we were cussed out, yelled at and then she didn't speak to us for over 4 months.    Does this sound like I'm making up a horror story?  I wish I was.

MIL invites DH to her house on the condition that I stay at home.  This makes him angry and he refuses.  I have asked her what I did to upset her and she refuses to give me specifics.  Only that I think that I'm better than her and that I talk down to her.  I have asked DH what I did to upset her and he gives me the same response.  I don't know if he won't tell me or if he doesn't really know.  I tell him that I don't care if he goes (it is his mother after all), but he says that if I am not welcome in their home that he refuses to go.  I don't understand why I am not welcome to come, but I'm not.  She sends me text messages at least every other month telling me that I am keeping her son away from her when in reality he wont visit her because she speaks badly about me to DH and it makes him angry.  I never respond to her text messages because it seems childish to me to fight via text messaging.  I call her and she doesn't answer the phone.

Now, MIL refuses to see her grandchildren because she says that I don't allow her to be a grandmother.  I am confused by this as well.  I have never said that she can't see my children.  She raised DH so why wouldn't I trust her with my kids?  DH turned out very well.  However, she refuses to get a car seat, baby gates, or put her pit bull who is very aggressive in a cage when we visit so it scares me that one of my kids will get hurt.  I don't mind taking them to her house for visits (as long as the kids aren't left alone with FIL because he is always intoxicated), but then again I'm not invited.  When my oldest son was a baby her dog bit him and he had to get stitches so I'm sure you could imagine why it scares me.

MIL says that my children don't know her and in reality they don't.  She never wants to spend time with them alone so how can they get to know her.  She doesn't like being with the baby (my youngest child).   I have suggested that she take the oldest for a lunch date at Chuck E Cheese or a park, but she refuses.  I'm really at my wits end. 

I guess my questions is this, should I just stop trying?  I have called her and asked her how I have upset her and to meet with a family counselor, but this only makes things worse.  I have met her at a restaurant to talk 3 times and each time ends with her screaming and making a scene.  I have written her a letter explaining that I wish we could all be a family.  I didn't have grandparents and I really would like for my children to have two sets of grandparents.  The only response I get is that she didn't want her son to marry me, she doesn't like me (she won't tell me why), doesn't like my family, and only wants time with my DH and her GC when I am not present.  Where do I go from here?  I am afraid that it will get to the point where my husband completely writes her off.


ub44 I have a couple of questions.  First is your DH an only child?  And second does your DH always remember his Mother being this way or is it only a development since your wedding ?

I can only think that if you stop trying to fix things, things will get better.  I am not saying to cut off contact but you should stop initiating contact.  When you have contact and she acts up leave, period.  If it is a phone call hang up.  Why?  Because it sounds like your MIL likes drama.  She likes having a husband that she can complain about.  She draws drama into her life so that people will feel sorry for her.  If she cannot find drama she creates it.  If you are around you provide a perfect target.  You cannot change her.  She can change herself if she decides to but no one....not even your DS will be able to make her change. 

If I were in your shoes I would limit the time that my children get to spend with her and I would make sure that either myself or my DH supervised.  I would take my children and leave if she acts up.  Do not let your children think that acting the way she does is ok.  Children remember their grandparents even if they do not spend a lot of time with them.  I would be more worried about her possibly bad influences than about their loss of a set of grands.

Good luck to you!  You must have married an incredible man to put up with this!  Go and give him a hug!!!

Your mind is a garden your thoughts are the seeds
You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.
Author unknown


My DH is an only child.  He says that she was always very volatile.  She wasn't this way with me until we announced our engagement.  We didn't date for very long and married soon after we got engaged.  We were both over 30 and had been married before so it wasn't like we were fresh out of college.  I got pregnant very soon after we married due to my age.

Perhaps you are right.  I will stop making contact as it has never improved the situation, only worsened it.  I would not cut her off.  She is my husband's mother and even though I don't like what she does to our family she is famiy.  He only has one mother.

I did marry a wonderful man.  We have a wonderful family and have made a great life together.  I just wish his mother could be a part of it, but she has to want it too.  I've read a lot of posts on this site and it makes me sad that so many GMs want to spend time with their GC and aren't allowed.  I wish my MIL wanted to spend time with my kids.  She could care less.  My oldest has started asking why his GM doesn't come to our house, why she doesn't come to soccer games, etc...


Welcome- U. Please go to our HomePage and under Open Me First, read the four posts there for new members. We ask that you pay special attention to the Forum Agreement to be sure WWU is a fit. We're a monitored Website.

I am a mother, grandmother and have great grandchildren in college. My take is that this has nothing at all to do with you, so there is nothing you can do about it. There are people 'out there' that are unhappy and do their best to spread it around. MIL's marriage sounds like a horror. I would be unhappy, too. That does not justify your having to suffer collateral damage. Her behavior is abusive. My take is to let her know, if she ever asks, (and that's probably doubtful), that you have no intention of interfering with her relationship with her son, but that you will no longer attempt to interact with her without being treated with respect. I would also take a close look at her being around the children. They are already feeling the rejection and deserve better. I wouldn't support that. She's shown no interest. How are they supposed to understand?

Everything else is going well. Turn in that direction and leave her to the misery she consciously perpetuates. Hugs...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


I agree with the others. You can only do so much, without her trying it won't work. Your MIL sounds very bratty to me. And I'm sure your DH sees how you've tried and loves you all the more for it. But it's time to follow his lead. You are the children's Mother and deserves respect for it. Stop awhile and let her either tone it down or talk to voice mail. Good luck.


Thank you for the replies. I really have tried to improve the situation, but after much thought and reading your responses I feel like it is time that I take a step back. I am going to change my phone number so MIL can't text me anymore. She has never called me for any reason other than to yell at me so it shouldn't be a problem.

I talked to DH about it last night and told him that I still want him to have a relationship with his mother, but until she can be respectful towards me and show love to the children I feel that I should take a step back. He agreed. He is very angry at his mom and I doubt if he will speak to her any time soon. We shall see how it goes.


Hmmm....I am not sure if I would change my phone number.  Maybe but that does not really let her know the conditions for communication.  I would try (if you can) answering her calls and when she gets out of hand say calmly "Call me when you are ready to talk nicely" and hang up then let any phone calls from her go to voice until you get a civil message.  If she texts you send a text back to the same effect then just delete any further texts until you get one that fits your criteria. This will clearly delineate your requirements for interaction.

I expect it will take some time for the reality to set in or it may not ever happen.  If she decides not to comply hopefully she will get tired of getting no response from you and eventually stop trying to contact you. 

Good luck!!
Your mind is a garden your thoughts are the seeds
You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.
Author unknown


I totally agree with the others.  You have done more than your fair share on working on the relationship.  It's about her and not you. 

Now, this is not an excuse for her behavior, but I couldn't help but think of how miserable she must be with an alcoholic husband.  She is so miserable at home that she is striking out at everyone else.  I know people that are very miserable at home and they feel so out of control there, that they try to control everything outside of there.  Also, since you gave her kudos for raising a great Son, I'd be willing to bet she poured her heart and soul into raising him so she didn't have to deal with her DH.  Now that she doesn't have that buffer any longer, she's lashing out.  Don't get me wrong.  I don't feel sorry for her as she has the ability to do something about it and that doesn't give her the right to treat you badly.   

I agree you need to step back because frankly, I don't think she'll ever change with her situation at home.   
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell


UB44, I'm so sorry you have had to deal with this unhappy woman in the past. I agree with the others too; you have tried, but she seems locked in her misery. Perhaps she's had as agenda all along and nothing you can say or do will be good enough. Please take care of yourself by stepping away.
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb


your FIL is an alcoholic who is intoxicated most of the time - I don't think you need to look much further for an explanation for MIL's behavior.  Living with someone like that has got to take a toll and unfortunately, it doesn't seem like MIL has found a healthy way to deal with it.  If you need permission to stop trying to fix the situation, you got it.  you have certainly made a heroic effort.  Now it's up to MIL and your DH to figure out how the relationship will proceed.  be supportive of his decisions and enjoy guilt-free sleep.