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Offline OptingOut

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Is this common?
« on: June 06, 2014, 05:28:21 PM »
I have a MIL who is very critical and rude. She is very thoughtful and kind at times but mostly mean. She also does not like the fact that her son married a black woman. I won't go into all of the insults but she has made hurtful comments about my weight, my race and my clothing choices. Apparently I dress too "indecently" because I wear dresses above the knee and I spend too much money on clothes. I am also too fat to eat baked goods. It is also "disgusting" for my husband and I to kiss or cuddle in public.

In spite of her nasty behavior, I am still very polite and friendly to this woman. Even though I do not like her very much, she is my husband's mother and I believe that I need to bite my tongue for that reason. Though I am not close to my mother, my mom gave me some good advice when I got married: "When your MIL isn't kind to you, keep on being good to her. Do not talk back to your MIL or get into fights with her. She is old enough to be your mom and you need to show her respect at all times." Believe me, if she wasn't my MIL I would tell her where to shove her snide remarks.  ;D

My MIL becomes particularly upset whenever her sons do anything nice for their wives. She will complain that her DILs are too spoiled (We both work full time) and she feels sorry for her sons. When my MIL makes terrible comments to her DILs faces, her sons rightfully stand up for their wives. When this happens, my MIL likes to play the victim.  My husband's aunt told me that my MIL just doesn't like the fact that women have taken her sons away.

Is it common for a mother to feel slighted and jealous when sons marry? I do not have children so I don't know how it feels. I would think that it is normal for adult children to marry and shift allegiances to their spouses. What do you think?

Offline PFORTE

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Re: Is this common?
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2014, 08:16:45 PM »
Hello

That sure doesn't sound like an easy situation!!  As a Mom, yes you DO expect your child to grow up etc. But there are lots and lots of moms who still have to feel "Needed" by their children.  Many who can't cut the final strings.  when someone new joins the family, she'S either gained a daughter - or lost a son.  In your case, it sounds like she feels she's losing her son.  Is there anything you can find to show your gratitude to her for raising such an amazing man and husband?  Thank her for bringing into this world, your soulmate and life partner.  Say, politely, "I'm sure there will be things we disagree on over the years, but I think we CAN both agree how amazing Her Son is" (he was her son long b4 ur husband. 

And when she's too hurt to be kind, it's really just the same hurt you would feel if you lost him to another woman.  She's not evil.  She just loves her baby boy, and it's hard to let go. 

Hugs

Offline OptingOut

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Re: Is this common?
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2014, 10:25:54 PM »
Thanks for your response. I appreciate it.  :)

I don't understand how losing my husband to another woman is the same as a MIL losing her son. Aren't mother and son relationships very different from romantic relationships?  ??? I suppose not if you look at it from a Freudian perspective...

My MIL's hurt feelings do not give her carte blanche to comment on my weight or my race.

My MIL threw a party for my husband and I when we eloped. I gave her a thank you card with a lovely letter written inside. I mentioned that I was glad she raised a wonderful man for me. Also, when her other son swore loudly at my MIL that same weekend because she was being nasty to his wife, I comforted my MIL as she wept on the couch. I also call my MIL just to ask how she is, especially if I hear about terrible weather conditions in their area.

My BILs wife (I call her my SIL to make it easier) is not nearly as diplomatic and respectful as I am. She has been known to get into screaming matches with my MIL.

 

Offline PFORTE

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Re: Is this common?
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2014, 05:06:43 AM »
Hi again!

Re relationships:  I think a close relationship is a close relationship.  She has different types of memories of their time together, but he was/is her heart and soul.  And a parent loves a child like no one else. I've often said - you don't even know love till you stare into the eyes of your newborn.  In a more general view - people get divorced all the time and are fine, but when someone loses a child, typically the parents are devastated forever. It's just different.

Re Nastiness - nope, nothing gives her that right.  And maybe she feels safe enough with you to just be raw emotion.  It's not kind, or right.  But usually these things stem from her own pain. Your story about being yelled back at - she clearly doesn't expect these things.  Perhaps she feels omitted?  Maybe she believes things should be done "a certain way" and it didn't happen and she's bitter?  Maybe she is very hurt that her son eloped?  Who knows. The point is that it's coming from somewhere. If she really cared about your weight or race, she probably wouldn't say anything. They're easy things for her to jab you with that can't be changed. 

There comes a time in every contentious relationship where you either have to sit down and decide to work through it, or give up and decide that that person is not worth having a relationship with.  And again - you can vision it as times you've probably done the same in a romantic relationship.  It takes a lot of work, but if two people want to work on it, it CAN be done.  It sounds like she feels very lonely, and that may give you an easier "in" to healing. 

Also you wrote something that sent up a flag "Thank you for raising this man FOR ME"  TRUST ME, her first response to that will be "I didn"t raise him FOR YOU!"  No matter how innocently you meant it, it READS like you feel she's handed him over TO YOU.  And it will invoke the "Mama Bear" inside all of us moms. Because (God forbid) anything ever happened between you and him, she will still be in his life helping pick up the mess.

So - should she act that way?  NOPE. Does she feel justified in it?  Most likely.  Do you want to move beyond it and try to have a strong relationship with her?  Up to you, but I would recommend it.  This could be your chance to be the next-in-line matriach of her family.  One day she'll be gone and she needs to know that there will be SOME woman who will keep her dear family together. Holidays, birthdays, keeping kids in line, making sure people are respectful of the family name and all that that entails.  Moms are proud, defensive and (Deep down) deeply loving. A lot can be learned - about her, her son, her other sons and family members. And maybe she can learn it's okay to let her guard down and be a little kinder. 

She dealt with you eloping without a big fuss. I dare say she really loves you both!   Same as getting married doesn't come with a manual, being a MIL doesn't either. Everyone is learning and IMO everyone should try to foster the relationship and try to wince off the wounds in hope of a better tomorrow.  "Wow! You know when you say that, that really hurts!" Can go a long way to improving the future.

Most people aren't evil inside - they're crying inside. Sometimes that comes out as evil. Sometimes as depression. Sometimes in addictions. Etc etc.  If you can find a way to get through her walls of self defense everyone wins.

Patty

Offline jdtm

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Re: Is this common?
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2014, 05:24:39 AM »
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"When your MIL isn't kind to you, keep on being good to her. Do not talk back to your MIL or get into fights with her. She is old enough to be your mom and you need to show her respect at all times."

Your mother is a very wise woman. 

There is a mode of communication called "the medium chill".  Basically, one appears to be interacting (and you are), but one does not give personal information, opinions or display emotional feelings.  One does not react strongly to good information/news or bad information/news.  It is not "indifference" because the "medium chill" appears as if you are involved.  You're not.  If another person were in the room, he/she would feel that everyone is getting along just fine. 

Honestly, this is what I would try.  I would not try to win her over (you are not going to win) and I would not try to justify your opinions (no matter how right you are) or even involve your husband (this puts him in a no-win situation).  If your SIL fights with your MIL, well - that's not your problem to solve (or comfort her).  And if she comments on weight or race or other hurtful issues - that says far more about her than you.  It's hard to take such rude comments - frankly, I think if it were me, I would just leave the room. 

I am blessed with a wonderful MIL; however, my husband's sister always felt threatened by me.  She was rude and ignorant and spread many lies about me for years.  I tried to win her over - did not work.  She let me know many times that I was not part of the family and that I was only included because my husband insisted.  The best I could do was be "distant" and "civil".  It worked - well, as good as it could work.  After all, some people are so self-centered there just is not any room left for anyone else.  My SIL was this way and I wonder if your MIL might be the same.  It is what it is.  I'm sorry ....


Offline Pen

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Re: Is this common?
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2014, 09:24:06 AM »
Good post, Jdtm. "The medium chill" can be a useful strategy in these situations, I agree. I use it with my SM & DIL. By extension I  end up using it with my DF (dear father) & DS as well. That makes me sad; I didn't want to have that kind of relationship with DS & DF. However, it's not under my control. Until DS/DF steps up & desires a deeper connection, the medium chill keeps me from feeling too vulnerable.
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb

Offline OptingOut

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Re: Is this common?
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2014, 01:29:18 PM »
Hi again!

Re relationships:  I think a close relationship is a close relationship.  She has different types of memories of their time together, but he was/is her heart and soul.  And a parent loves a child like no one else. I've often said - you don't even know love till you stare into the eyes of your newborn.  In a more general view - people get divorced all the time and are fine, but when someone loses a child, typically the parents are devastated forever. It's just different.

Re Nastiness - nope, nothing gives her that right.  And maybe she feels safe enough with you to just be raw emotion.  It's not kind, or right.  But usually these things stem from her own pain. Your story about being yelled back at - she clearly doesn't expect these things.  Perhaps she feels omitted?  Maybe she believes things should be done "a certain way" and it didn't happen and she's bitter?  Maybe she is very hurt that her son eloped?  Who knows. The point is that it's coming from somewhere. If she really cared about your weight or race, she probably wouldn't say anything. They're easy things for her to jab you with that can't be changed. 

There comes a time in every contentious relationship where you either have to sit down and decide to work through it, or give up and decide that that person is not worth having a relationship with.  And again - you can vision it as times you've probably done the same in a romantic relationship.  It takes a lot of work, but if two people want to work on it, it CAN be done.  It sounds like she feels very lonely, and that may give you an easier "in" to healing. 

Also you wrote something that sent up a flag "Thank you for raising this man FOR ME"  TRUST ME, her first response to that will be "I didn"t raise him FOR YOU!"  No matter how innocently you meant it, it READS like you feel she's handed him over TO YOU.  And it will invoke the "Mama Bear" inside all of us moms. Because (God forbid) anything ever happened between you and him, she will still be in his life helping pick up the mess.

So - should she act that way?  NOPE. Does she feel justified in it?  Most likely.  Do you want to move beyond it and try to have a strong relationship with her?  Up to you, but I would recommend it.  This could be your chance to be the next-in-line matriach of her family.  One day she'll be gone and she needs to know that there will be SOME woman who will keep her dear family together. Holidays, birthdays, keeping kids in line, making sure people are respectful of the family name and all that that entails.  Moms are proud, defensive and (Deep down) deeply loving. A lot can be learned - about her, her son, her other sons and family members. And maybe she can learn it's okay to let her guard down and be a little kinder. 

She dealt with you eloping without a big fuss. I dare say she really loves you both!   Same as getting married doesn't come with a manual, being a MIL doesn't either. Everyone is learning and IMO everyone should try to foster the relationship and try to wince off the wounds in hope of a better tomorrow.  "Wow! You know when you say that, that really hurts!" Can go a long way to improving the future.

Most people aren't evil inside - they're crying inside. Sometimes that comes out as evil. Sometimes as depression. Sometimes in addictions. Etc etc.  If you can find a way to get through her walls of self defense everyone wins.

Patty

I really appreciate your insight. It shows me a new way of thinking. However, I think you are making a lot of assumptions about my MIL based on your own experiences.  For example, my MIL wasn't hurt when I thanked her for raising a good man for me. She was actually very pleased; smiled and gave me a hug. The weird thing is, my SIL says she brags about what a wonderful girl I am to her! I don't know if my MIL means it or is just trying to hurt my SIL. I know my MIL criticizes my SIL to me and it makes me uncomfortable.

I was raised to be deferential to those who are older than me, so I would never dream of screaming back at my mother-in-law. I won't even call her by her first name out of respect as that is not the way I was brought up. I agree that she might feel omitted. My MIL was very blunt about favoring my BIL over my husband during my hubby's childhood. She also laughed at my husband when he lost his job, so I don't think she would pick up ANY pieces if I was gone. Though my MIL did not say anything to me about the elopement, my husband says that his family was not happy about it.

My MIL is very proud of her Scottish heritage, so I have made an effort to learn about the clans which make up her ancestry. I do this so that we can have some common ground. It also makes my MIL very happy. I ask her how to cook things so that she will feel like I am taking her advice. She praises me to others for calling her just to say hello. In my eyes, that is just being friendly and caring.

The rest of my husband's family loves me to death. They talk about how friendly and loving I am. My husband has an 85 year old aunt who is very senile. When we visit, I will sit with Aunt Yvonne for hours and talk about nothing. Aunt Yvonne knits dishcloths which are heartbreakingly bad, but I take some when she offers them to me because it makes her feel useful. There was one occasion where Aunt Yvonne's hair was sticking up all over the place. The poor lady didn't even realize it, so I asked my husband's uncle for a brush and fixed Aunt Yvonne's hair. For some reason, that story went all over the little town and my husband felt wonderful because everyone was saying that he has a very sweet wife.

About the not knowing love thing, my husband and I choose not to have children. That doesn't make our love less valid or strong than that of a parent and child. ;D Like you said, it is just a different kind of love. I would be careful about making statements like "You don't know even know love until you look in the eyes of your newborn". There are some people who are infertile and when you say such things, you will end up inadvertently offending them.   My SIL suffers from secondary infertility and sometimes she tells me about those who call her selfish for only having one child. It is really sad when people make such presumptuous remarks.

Offline OptingOut

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Re: Is this common?
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2014, 01:39:56 PM »
Quote
"When your MIL isn't kind to you, keep on being good to her. Do not talk back to your MIL or get into fights with her. She is old enough to be your mom and you need to show her respect at all times."

Your mother is a very wise woman. 

There is a mode of communication called "the medium chill".  Basically, one appears to be interacting (and you are), but one does not give personal information, opinions or display emotional feelings.  One does not react strongly to good information/news or bad information/news.  It is not "indifference" because the "medium chill" appears as if you are involved.  You're not.  If another person were in the room, he/she would feel that everyone is getting along just fine. 

Honestly, this is what I would try.  I would not try to win her over (you are not going to win) and I would not try to justify your opinions (no matter how right you are) or even involve your husband (this puts him in a no-win situation).  If your SIL fights with your MIL, well - that's not your problem to solve (or comfort her).  And if she comments on weight or race or other hurtful issues - that says far more about her than you.  It's hard to take such rude comments - frankly, I think if it were me, I would just leave the room. 

I am blessed with a wonderful MIL; however, my husband's sister always felt threatened by me.  She was rude and ignorant and spread many lies about me for years.  I tried to win her over - did not work.  She let me know many times that I was not part of the family and that I was only included because my husband insisted.  The best I could do was be "distant" and "civil".  It worked - well, as good as it could work.  After all, some people are so self-centered there just is not any room left for anyone else.  My SIL was this way and I wonder if your MIL might be the same.  It is what it is.  I'm sorry ....

When my MIL is rude, I stay quiet. Usually other family members are around and they take up for me. I never ask them to do so but I guess they feel bad.

I tell my husband when his mother makes nasty comments because I think he should be aware of that. He doesn't really like his mother because she was cruel him for a long time; my husband received much more love and acceptance from his father.

I tend to try too hard to understand other people's behavior. It is also my natural inclination to comfort someone who is crying.

Offline elsieshaye

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Re: Is this common?
« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2014, 07:47:54 PM »
OptingOut, I also have a tendency to spend too much time wondering "why?" when it comes to other people's behavior.  At the end of the day, though, for me personally "why" is never especially relevant or helpful.  All I can manage is my own action, and everything else can only be let go for the person who owns it to deal with, or not.  I've got two little signs on my computer:  "Not my monkey, not my circus." and "Sometimes, people are just weird."  I loved people's suggestions of using medium chill.  Another way of looking at it is compassionate detachment.
This too shall pass.  All is well.

Offline shiny

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Re: Is this common?
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2014, 10:09:30 AM »
Jdtm, Pen, ES: your references made to 'medium chill' and 'compassionate detachment' has piqued my interest. Went on a google search and still don't understand it.

Pen: it saddens me that this is how it is with your DS, although you don't want it, because I'm beginning to think my relationship with DS is headed in the same direction.

You see, our phone conversations in the past year consist of basic superficial chatter when he calls to 'check in' every week. I wish it wasn't this way -- like 'reporting' how the week was, etc., and checking off a list. (hope this thought is clear)
I'd rather have heart to heart talks with him. But since his marriage, these have come to an end.
Do you suppose we venture over to medium chill in an effort to self-protect, I'm guessing?

Offline elsieshaye

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Re: Is this common?
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2014, 01:44:39 PM »
Shiny, if you have any specific questions about medium chill or compassionate detachment, please ask them and we'll try our best to answer.  I can describe what they are like for me, if that would help.

Medium chill is a little different for me than compassionate detachment, in that I'll use medium chill on people who don't really matter to me when all is said and done.  Even family.  The goal of medium chill is to simply be as boring and non-reactive as possible.  It's not the silent treatment - I'm not ignoring the person - but any response I do give is as neutral and calm as possible.  Another aspect of it is that not every comment has to have a response.  Sometimes it's equally effective to let a couple of beats pass, so the person's clunker of a comment can just lie there, and then offer a change in subject.   I'm also a big fan of pretending I don't understand hints/subtext, or didn't understand that I've just been insulted:  "That dress makes you look less fat than the one you wore yesterday." gets "Thank you! ::big smile::  Oh, look at the beautiful weather.  Such a pretty sky!" Or: "Oh, my friend's DIL/MIL/cousin is so wonderful - she takes my friend out to dinner every Wednesday." gets a smile and "How lovely!"    The bottom line is that I don't have to defend myself, infer meaning, or argue back.  Poor treatment really doesn't have anything to do with me, and everything to do with the person who gave it, so why should I treat it like it's relevant by responding to it? 

Compassionate detachment to me is very similar, and is aimed at people I care about, where abandoning the relationship completely is not an option I choose to take.  The big difference for me between compassionate detachment and medium chill is that I do initiate some contact, and I do occasionally make statements like "I recognize that you're angry about that, but I won't be shouted at."  But for the most part, I again strive to be consistent, boring and nonreactive when attacked, even though I make slightly more effort to speak my piece in a calm and respectful way.  I hold the relationship loosely, and accept that it might not be what I had planned, but it is what is.   

I'm doing this with my son right now.  He has a drug problem, so in between the large stretches of silence, I'll occasionally get texts or facebook messages that could be from angry DS, or high DS, or needy DS, or sad DS - never sure which.  Some of them, I just let lie there and don't respond to.  Some, I answer the explicit question and ignore the angry subtext (the passive aggressive or mean point behind the question).  Some, I respond to honestly, or with a question.  If it gets too bad, I'll say "I don't want to have this conversation while you're being so aggressive with me.  If you can't be more civil, we need to stop now." and then if it continues I hang up or end the program.  The governing concept here is "I love him, and we both deserve respect."  The governing concept for medium chill, for me, is "not my monkey, not my circus" or "sometimes, people are just weird." 

Don't know if that helped you at all, Shiny, but putting it out there just in case.

Elsieshaye
This too shall pass.  All is well.

Offline OptingOut

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Re: Is this common?
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2014, 08:39:32 PM »
It is easy to avoid my MIL because she lives so far away. The incidents I mentioned happened during visits. Sometimes it is worse to have distant in-laws because the visits last for days instead of just a few hours. I cannot stay in my MIL's home again...the racist remarks were the last straw for me. I also do not feel comfortable in an environment where every move results in some sort of nasty comment.

I find that trying to understand why people behave a certain way helps me to be more compassionate. Of course, it doesn't help to obsess over it as that solves nothing.

I notice that when I feel pity for people like my MIL, some of the anger and hurt dissipates. She seems like a very unhappy person. It must be hard to feel so jealous that she has to resort to making grossly inappropriate comments. I agree that not responding to comments is best; that is what I tend to do with my MIL when she is rude.

To be honest, sometimes I think that too many MILs are very self righteous. They think that their petty jealousy gives them licence to be completely disrespectful and intrusive. "Losing" a son to his wife is no excuse for acting like a spoiled child. If a mother feels jealous or left out, she can convey that without being nasty.





Offline Stilllearning

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Re: Is this common?
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2014, 05:28:33 AM »
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/self+righteous?s=t

It is difficult to call someone self righteous without being so yourself.....

When you spend 18 years helping someone learn how to be independent and you do it well enough that they become so independent that they show no interest in your life it is difficult to look on the result as a victory even though it is.  I know my DS just wants to prove that he can make it without my help and part of me is very proud but the other part wants him to value my opinion enough to ask for it, even if he does not follow my advice.  Some of us feel like we are no longer wanted and that often results in poor behavior. Just look at the couples who go through vicious divorces and how little their  actions reflect the person that they used to be.  Often the marriages lasted far less than 18 years and the spouses have far less invested in their significant other.  In both cases the spiteful acts are a result of hurt feelings.

I happen to think that if you try to ignore your hurt feelings that they will pour out when you least expect them to and in an uncontrolled manner.  IMHO that avalanche of emotion does more harm than the occasional confrontation does.  It is unfair of you to not let your MIL know that she is hurting your feelings and yet expect for her to change.  I am not saying for you to argue with her but when she says something mean call her on it.  If she argues walk away.  Tell her not to bring up race.  She may be telling her friends about how wonderfully tolerant her DIL is.......
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Offline Pooh

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Re: Is this common?
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2014, 07:31:47 AM »
The problem with "titles" is that they are interchangeable.  It is a problem if your MIL is self righteous and jealous.  It is also a problem if a DIL is self righteous and jealous.  Bottom line is that it's not about a title, it's about a person.  And that person could be an MIL, DIL, Mother, Father, Sister, etc.  It's about how someone treats us and how we learn to react to it, or decide not to deal with it.

It's a two way street.  If an MIL feels threatened and becomes jealous because the allegiances have switched, then you are going to have problems.  If a DIL feels threatened and becomes jealous of the Mom/Son relationship, you are going to have problems.  In a perfect world, both women would appreciate what the other contributes and be happy that they both love the same man.  When one can't appreciate the other, you are going to have problems. 

Sounds like you have and are doing everything you can to keep the relationship alive with MIL and for that I commend you.  Especially with the cutting remarks.  I couldn't do it.  To me that's crossing the line and I honestly would have already told my DH that he was more than welcome to visit, but I wasn't going.
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. -
Joseph Campbell

Offline OptingOut

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Re: Is this common?
« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2014, 09:29:48 AM »
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/self+righteous?s=t

It is difficult to call someone self righteous without being so yourself.....

When you spend 18 years helping someone learn how to be independent and you do it well enough that they become so independent that they show no interest in your life it is difficult to look on the result as a victory even though it is.  I know my DS just wants to prove that he can make it without my help and part of me is very proud but the other part wants him to value my opinion enough to ask for it, even if he does not follow my advice.  Some of us feel like we are no longer wanted and that often results in poor behavior. Just look at the couples who go through vicious divorces and how little their  actions reflect the person that they used to be.  Often the marriages lasted far less than 18 years and the spouses have far less invested in their significant other.  In both cases the spiteful acts are a result of hurt feelings.

I happen to think that if you try to ignore your hurt feelings that they will pour out when you least expect them to and in an uncontrolled manner.  IMHO that avalanche of emotion does more harm than the occasional confrontation does.  It is unfair of you to not let your MIL know that she is hurting your feelings and yet expect for her to change.  I am not saying for you to argue with her but when she says something mean call her on it.  If she argues walk away.  Tell her not to bring up race.  She may be telling her friends about how wonderfully tolerant her DIL is.......

Actually, My MIL has been told that she is hurting my feelings more than once. This always results in a tantrum and martyr like attitude; she sees it as her sons ganging up on her despite my husband's polite way of telling her to stop taking shots at his wife. My BIL screams and swears at my MIL when she is nasty to his wife, so my MIL takes out her hurt feelings on my husband. My husband once told my MIL that her comments about my weight hurt my feelings. Her response was "I WISH I NEVER HAD KIDS!!!" I don't see the point of sharing hurt feelings with such an irrational and cruel person.

Also, I have refrained from showing an "avalanche of emotion" to my MIL. As I said before, I am quiet when she is rude. I am candidly sharing my feelings here because I deemed it a safe place to do so.

I know it is hard to believe, but sometimes MILs are at fault when it comes to difficult relationships with their DILs. There is nothing self righteous about expecting a grown adult to behave in a respectful manner. If I say anything to my MIL, I will be immediately branded with "the angry black girl"stereotype.