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Trying to understand my FMIL

Started by makingsenseofit, September 03, 2009, 09:01:46 pm

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Hi to all  :)

I was hoping to gain some helpful insight into the feelings of my fiances mother.
Her son and I have been together for 5 years and we have 2 beautiful children. I have never been rude or manipulative in anyway and I respect her fully.We got along great. We would have drinks together and spend time talking and swapping stories. Id ask her for advice if needed and include her in ourlives.We live close by and see each other quite regularly. I encouraged him to keep a strong relationship and even packed him and the kids up to go visit his family without me If I had other engagements. My fiance and his mother also work together so they see each other all day everyday.She always gave us our private time and let us learn on our own. Lately she seems to have a strong dislike for me. It started with digs at me or at something I have done and our whole dynamics seem to be changing.
My fiance does alot of long hours. Even though they see each other everyday she has started ringing at least 5 times a day when he gets home. She would like to know everything he is doing at that very moment if we are out shopping she would like to know what was bought were he is and with who.  When we go visit my parents once a month my fiance cant tell his mother or she gets upset.

My fmil has 3 other children and another dil who she gossips about to us frequently and seems to have a strong dislike for. I cant help but think that she is doing the same about me.

With the children she has started emphasising that they are her grandchildren.

I just cant seem to understand the sudden change as I am just the same as before. Both of our families are very different and I am quite sensitive but her remarks lately have been quite nasty. I never give it back to her so I don't fuel it in anyway.

As Mils on here could you give me some insight into her feelings and some advice on what I can do?


Welcome and while you are waiting for feedback, we have several threads that are about this very thing. Have a good read!
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Wow this sounds like my MIL!
How does the other DIL handle her?
Am very interested in finding out what MILs on here say.... I could really do with some tips myself!


September 04, 2009, 03:54:04 am #3 Last Edit: September 04, 2009, 03:59:02 am by AnnieB
When someone's behavior suddenly changes for no apparent reason, it's difficult for anyone to come up with tips on what to do.  We MIL's in here could speculate for hours but your fMIL's reasons are going to be different from our own, and our guesses are going to be nothing more than guesses, colored by our own histories.  There's really only one person who has the information you need, and that's your fMIL.

This might be best approached by the son and his siblings sitting with their mother and lovingly note that they have noticed the change in behavior and expressing their concern to find out what is going in.

Perhaps there are financial concerns with the job/business (the economy is pretty awful) or health issues, etc. that are causing these reactions. 

Starting from a position of love, wherein the family is concerned about her because she is acting so differently may give her a chance to explain whatever it is that is causing this.



Very wise and sweet words.
Very true indeed, and our guesses are going to be nothing more than guesses, colored by our own histories.
AnnieB, I feel so sad and frustrated with my MIL. I could never talk to her, this is just the way she is. I just feel as if my situation is hopeless.


Hi makingsenseofit!

Thanks for sharing your story. AnnieB took the words out of my mouth. Have you or your husband asked her what has happened? You can of course speculate - that is one option. Another is to find out from her. She would know the best.  It really could be something that has nothing do do with either of you personally.


I'm on board here and would like to say that I'm impressed that you're not giving it right back to her. That's very wise. One person out of control is one thing but interactive insanity is something else.

If you can by-pass guilt while you are sorting this out, all the better. Looking to see if you are different is important, but lacking that, it is about her and guilt only confuses the issue.

Family conferences sometimes work. However she may not know on a conscious level what is bothering her and may miss-identify the problem through the easiest way  know; which is externalizing through blame.

Counseling may be needed and that can be tough if it isn't a desired solution.

I think your greatest asset is your relationship and finding the time to face this  together is imperative.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Another possibly sad option if your MIL is older, she might have had a ministroke or onset of another ailment.  Sudden personality change and paranoia (calling your husband so much now, emphasizing to your children they're her grandchildren) can be symptoms.  I've seen it happen to one of my friends, and it took diagnosis and treatment to get her back to the way she was.  You can't ask her Dr for medical information concerning her under HIPPA, but you can call and say you're concerned about it and wanted to let him know.  I know there may be other reasons, but if it is really out of the blue, then this is possible.


Hi MakingSense
I'm also a DIL who has trouble with inlaws.  I've posted my story in the My Story as Rejected DIL.  My MIL almost always nice to my face but once we moved to my hometown she got much worse in her behaviors.  I guess that was a major trigger for her.  She also talks about others and can be really mean.  I wanted to believe she wasn't doing that to me but she was.  She rips her own daughter to me and my hubby.  Why?  I just have no idea why.  I wonder if something recently happened with your MIL to trigger this.  Maybe she struggles with depression??  Its hard to say.  I think I"d certainly talk to my hubby.  Maybe your MIL needs someone to ask her if she's having problems and needs help.  Good Luck, just don't let her cause problems in your marriage.  That's my biggest battle, it makes you paranoid thinking someone is talking about you behind your back. I know I always feel uncomfortable when we go to big family gatherings because I know everyone there has probably heard her say horrible things about me.  Its so humiliating, especially when you tried to be nice to her to begin with.


September 04, 2009, 09:27:24 pm #9 Last Edit: September 07, 2009, 03:18:25 pm by lookingforanswers
I would love to think that heath issues were the problem with my MIL. However I honestly don't think they are. Yes she has had things happen to her in the past that may lead to depression. But I have come to the conclusion that she needs to have some type of Drama in her life. If there isn't one, -one of her 5 children doing something she doesn't approve of - she will make one. She remembers all the tiny little things you say and will Always bring it up in conversation if she is looking for a bite. She thrives on the drama. She needs to feel hard done by and that she's the victim and if it's not placed in her lap she will create some kind of tension, or make comments and digs at me or my husband just waiting for us to bite back.
Lucky my husband has learned that it doesn't work. I struggle with visiting them... it is just soo hard. they live 30min away and we try to visit as often as we can. I have (after being married for 4 years) only just stopped feeling physically sick just before we visit them.  I know for a fact that they travel into town (where we live) at least once a week for groceries or work. We moved into a new house nearly 2 years ago now, but it took them 12months before they came to visit us. And that's not because we never invited them. But we the worst people in the world if we haven't visited them on a regular basis. This is very hard as my husband works 8am-6pm 6 days a week. We are involved in our local church and 3 week nights and sundays are taken up with different commitments. We also have a 12month old son. Yet that just doesn't cut it.
If we have confronted them about several issues and everything just gets twisted around and we are once again made out to be the bad guys and her the poor mother who no one loves.
The thing I find the hardest is to forgive her. I have once completely forgiven and let myself open to building a relationship with her. It didn't work. I was hit and hurt harder than I have ever been. I have tried to forgive, i really have, but I struggle so much because I can't be myself, I can't risk getting hurt like that again. It really is as tho she doesn't care for me or her son, at all.
My conclusion is, to make sure you are yourself. But we are only accountable for our actions. So my friend, if you believe that you have done nothing to provoke this and if you remain civil, then the problem is all her.
I know it doesn't make it easy when visiting them. But if she's anything like my MIL - I'm damned if I do, and I'm damned if I don't!


lookingforanswers said: I have (after being married for 4 years) only just stopped being physically sick just before we visit them. My husband would have to pull over for me to throw up.

Girlfriend you deserve better than this.  I just feel like you don't have to put up with this.  Is your husband gonna hate you if you let him visit w/o you?  Nobody deserves that kind of abuse.

Also I would research some personality disorders.  My sister has Borderline Personality Disorder and my goodness the drama!!  Also I would look at histrionic personality disorder.  I got some of my education in this type of stuff so I think its pretty interesting.  I wish I had studied it more.  Our teacher said most politicians have narcissistic personalities! What a surprise!

I don't go around my sister at all anymore because she did abusive things like stealing and neglecting her children, and doing drugs.  But anyway I just can't stand it when someone tries to abuse me like this because they think they can get away with it because I'm family.  If we're nice and good people there is no reason in the world why we should have to put with abuse from people.


Thanks for the support just2beaccepted.
I have read up a little on on Borderline Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder, and there are bits out of each of them that are my MIL all over. I guess I'm not in a position to suggest this to her, or my husband really, as they do not have a close relationship (if one at all). My concern would be though that she would use this to her advantage in some way.
From past experiences if my husband or myself (even one of my family members) had a major health issue and we told her, her very first comment is always 'oh I had/have that... I've been tested for that...'

My husband would not hate me for letting him visit on his own. He has on a few occasions, and pretty much every time he has, she has said things about me to him. He doesn't take it, so it usually ends in an argument and just really upsets him. As I have said he doesn't really have much of a relationship with her, however he remains in contact as he has other brothers and sisters still at home that he just loves to bits and misses heaps. The issues with my husband and his mother go WAY back to childhood. My observation is that things have never been discussed or sorted out. We have tried, my husband poured his heart out, I have never seen him cry so much. But it made no difference at all.
The thing that gets to me is that she gets to pick and choose when she's nice. She gets to send nasty/harsh and totally uncalled for text messages or emails, most of the time completely out of the blue. But we can't react because then it only fuels her. If we don't reply to a text or email (the same day) we cop it. Yet it can take her weeks, if at all, to reply to ours. My husband and I have changed our email address a couple of times and have just told her we are no longer on the net. I try to limit communication through any other means then face to face, so she can't twist or miss read anything we say.
I will talk to my husband about the disorders and see what he thinks. But I am pretty certain there's no way we could get away with mentioning it to her, or her husband. It would just makes things worse.
There hasn't been a major ordeal in a little while, she is very good at acting fake, and pretending nothing has ever happened (when she wants to of course). Me, I struggle with it all the time. I am not a fake person and I hate not being able to be myself. I can't pretend things are all good, when nothing has been talked through, or apologised for. I still feel sick in the gut every time her name is mentioned. But out of respect for my husband and concern for my child, I'm just going to have to go along with whatever mood she chooses to be in. I'm learning real fast, to just shrug things off, and keep telling myself to not let it get to me. I hate it, but I'm not sure what else to do.


It sounds like you've accepted your situation.  And I understand that it must be important to maintain a relationship with the siblings and I guess the Father as well.  That's a really tough situation.  And that's why the MIL will probably never change because she knows she can act this way because family never going to abandon her right??  I know from personal experience that some family members think they can act however they want and that you'll just stick around and keep taking it, believe me I've experienced with a couple different family members.

I agree that you can't say to your MIL "I think you have such and such personality disorder." That wouldn't fly.  But it would be nice to know what you're going up against.  I saw something on another website and it was talking about narcissistic mothers.  I typed that term in the search engine and there was quite a bit about that.  You might even want to read up on that.  I saw characteristics in that reminded me of my MIL.  But I would limit contact with her as much as possible especially with your child because who knows what she says to the child.  That would be my biggest concern is that my MIL would try to turn my child against me.  That would sting so bad.  Good Luck!


It is so strange my Husband is all for Families and they are the most important thing to him, but he struggles so much with his own. What you said is exactly right. The MIL will treat us however she wants because she knows we won't abandon her... however, My husband has said many a times, that as soon as his younger siblings are older and moved out of home, he will have even less to do with his mother. I know that if she pushed us too far my husband would cut contact. After 27 years  of putting up with her behaviour, and after seeing how a loving family can operate, I think I'm safe to say he's only hanging on by a thread.

you are spot on with your comment - "But I would limit contact with her as much as possible especially with your child because who knows what she says to the child.  That would be my biggest concern is that my MIL would try to turn my child against me."
That is my biggest concern. I know that she has turned the rest of the family against me. We don't see the extended family much as they live in different towns, but I know that she has gossiped about me to my husbands siblings. I hate to think that they have just taken her word for it, and that they have the same opinion of me. I have tried to have the kids come stay with us when they are on school holidays, but she won't let them. I have offered to take them to the movies, bowling, the park etc so they can spend some one on one time with me and my husband and get to know me for me, but she won't allow it. I can't build up a relationship with them because of her. I tend to think that she feels treatened by me. But all I want to do is have a relationship with them. It is soo sad.
Since having my child, I feel as though I have more rights and responsibilty to my child and husband and I am 100% prepared to stand up for what we as a family believe in. I will not let her influence my child in a way that my husband and I do not approve of. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones as I know my husband will back me 100% just as I will back him.

This website has opened my eyes so much. I am 'this' close to maybe giving her another chance, but I just don't want to get hurt again. I might forgive... but don't think I can trust her.
I will read up more on these disorders, they are very interesting.


What a tough set of circumstances. Whether it is the MIL calling the shots or the DIL. We're talking abuse with some kind of license(?) There are ways to see pathology and understand better, (if we diagnose correctly), but what we have to live with isn't altered.

The sense of entitlement is what comes across the strongest to me. The attitude that all the rights belong to one person and others don't have any.

In the name of family...how far do we go, any of us? Wherever the pathology is, it corrupts. What do we do with helplessness and the rage under it? Counseling is the only  option I know of to keep the door open and cutting the person off is the only other course of action...closing the door. What else is there?

For me, there is great value in connecting with others who are trying to find their way through this maze. Mine is in retrospect but I still wrestle with it...replaying incident after incident and second-guessing myself.
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama