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Need help

Started by pam1, August 09, 2010, 09:26:50 am

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Hello all, I need help from you wise women.  I am a DIL and new here.  I've searched all over the web for a helpful site but most don't seem to fit me.  I'm looking more for solutions than just a venting space.   I've found too much venting makes me feel worse.  Anyway, I read here a bunch last night and the sites name fits :)

Neither my husband or I can talk to my MIL about anything serious or that we need to change.  Any deviation from what she did or does still do, she can't handle the conversation.  If DH talks to her alone, she cries, screams and yells at him.  Conversation with me, she ignores and changes the subject.  Conversation with both of us, she does a mixture.  After the conversation she goes around gossiping about me and DH, how my family made me the way I am -- like I'm bad or something.  She tries to get other family members on her side, gets them to call us and try to change our minds.  She pouts and moans for weeks, lays guilt trips and is generally a very hard person to be around.

We do see her a lot by my standards, probably 4 - 6 times a month on normal months.  Holiday months it is  3 - 4 times a week.  She sees us a lot and she gets lots of quality time.  So that makes our situation even harder, we are around her a lot to begin with.

So now we have to talk to her about something relatively important in the next few weeks and as it is a change from her norm, it's going to be a blow out.  Both DH and I are very tired of her problems and the massive problem of talking to her.  We are both tired of feeling guilt tripped and like we are bad people for wanting to have our own marriage.  We've both felt like we've given in to her an extraordinarily amount of times and give her preferential treatment over my family, because the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Right now, we are going back and forth about how to approach the conversation.  And for clarification purposes, the conversation is about something normal adults get to decide but it is something that MIL still has not let go of with her grown children.   I'm leaning towards we just need to tell MIL "no" and ignore the outbursts.  If she starts in, then we leave, we don't take phone calls from other family members etc.  I think we need to pull back.  DH said he has no idea what to say or how to act, he said he can tell her but when she starts in on the guilt trips he doesn't know what to say and is afraid he will just get angry and say something nasty.

So what would you wise women do? 
People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift


You sound like a reasonable person, Pam1. I'm sorry you're going through this. If only your MIL could understand how much she's missing out on by acting the way she does, it might change her behavior. As Dr. Phil says, "How's that workin' for ya?" However, if she's as rigid as you say, she's not likely to change anytime soon. You can't change her, you can only change your reactions to her.

Perhaps your DH could calmly, clearly and simply let her know that if she stops yelling and crying he'll talk with her; if she starts up with the unpleasant behavior the conversation will be over. Then, let her know that her behavior is pushing him away (at this point it doesn't sound like she cares if you feel pushed away or not, so the conversation should focus on her relationship with her son for now.) She has a choice - behave and maintain a relationship with her DS, or act up and have limited access. Throughout all this, he might make certain to constantly reassure her that she has been a good mother, she's valued and loved, and that the years she put into raising her kids are not going to be forgotten. Be calm and loving even if she's throwing a fit (think "terrible two's.")

At first this may be difficult (I can hear DILs around the planet gagging a little) but mothers of a certain era who put it all into raising their kids often need to know that a large portion of their life isn't being tossed away like garbage. This is her life! No one wants to think their life's work means nothing. I'm guessing these transitions are more difficult for one who is rigid and overbearing. As weird as this sounds, I feel for her. She must be really miserable, and she's only going to experience more of the same if she can't change.

Best wishes to you and your DH, Pam1, from a MIL who appreciates hearing from concerned DILs. I'm glad you're here.
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb


Welcome - you make a lot of sense to me. Since we are anonymous here (I'm not but it's my Web-site,) it would be helpful, at least for me, if we knew what it is you are about to present to your MIL. Without that data, I can only say that it feels to me as though she is inside of your marriage instead of outside of it. That wasn't part of your wedding vows. Too much of your time and energy is going to having to deal with her. And her attempts to alienate you from your family appear to be succeeding. It's time to take a united stand, to my way of thinking...and distance yourselves from her. People who dominate, manipulate and have tantrums when they don't get their way need to suffer the consequences. They only have one enemy...themselves. Sending love...
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Thank you Pen and Luise.

The conversation is mostly about making plans.  MIL doesn't tell us plans, then calls last minute over and over again, multiple messages and then pouts when she can't get a hold of us.  It also has to do with holiday time.  DH and I haven't spent one holiday with my family, at all!  So, instead of the usual where she makes the plans and demands us to come along, we want to get through to her that she has to ask us and accept our answers.

Every holiday/major event we go through this with her and frankly, it ruins our holiday spirit. Well, even minor events she does this too.  It's draining and causing problems.

And we are trying to make a point to include my family more, so it's even more important that she start notifying us within a reasonable time frame and give us the space we need to make plans with our entire family. 

People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift


Got it, thanks. My comments still stand. She is much too visible, much too demanding and much too thoughtless. Good for you for deciding to make some changes!
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Hi Pam1 - Welcome, from one DIL to another.  I agree with the ladies so far, you sound like a reasonable person, and you sound like you want to do the right thing by everyone.  I can certainly sympathize with you, your MIL sounds so much like mine its freightening.  Tantrums, screaming outbursts, snarky-ness, and being totally inept regarding anyone else's feelings, plans, etc. 

I give you kudos for seeing this problem ahead of Christmas time, and getting your game plan together early.  The most important thing is just as Luise said, you and hubby have to be a "united front."  You both have to be solid on that, and if he has a tendency to cave into her tantrums (mine did for a long time!), then you will have to be there to give him strength to stand up for himself, and for you.  For holidays, this is really easily resolved if both sets of parents live close by.  Then, you simply make brief stops at both.  If traveling is involved, you may have to make a choice.  Alternating holidays between both sets of IL's is (I think), the easiest way to make everyone happy, though everyone may not be as happy as they would be if you were there for EVERY holiday, but reasonable people understand the concept of sharing their children with the other set of parents.  If they don't understand that, they are unreasonable, and that's not something you can fix. 

Regarding the "last minute plans," if her mode of operation is "last minute," that again is not your problem.  But don't avoid it, confront it head on, in a loving way (this is a strategy DH and I learned in therapy).  When she calls last minute wanting to make plans, you say "oh, sorry we have already made plans for tonight and won't be around.  Maybe we can make plans for one night next week?  I'll call you back tomorrow to confirm."  Then, you have to follow up.  WHAM!   :D  You have stood your ground, set a boundary for her to follow, and spared her feelings by wanting to arrange another time just for her.  It will take a few times for her to get the point, but she will.  :)

About those tantrums, Pen gave some really great advice.  You can't change how she acts, but you can control how you react to it.  When she pitches that tantrum or lays on the guilt, say "Mom, we love you too much to argue with you."  Pen is right, too, about the boundaries.  They are SO important, and you'd be amazed at the moms out there who really believe there should be NO boundaries between them and their children (just ask my MIL!).  But boundaries are healthy.  And if you establish them in a loving way, you've done no wrong by them, but instead you have helped them understand how they must treat you in order for you to hang around.  You're doing THEM a favor by establishing boundaries for yourself!  And it's as simple as Pen stated it: "Mom, we love you, but if you continue to speak to me this way, we will not be visiting as often or at all."

You guys sound like a young couple, and I may be totally off here, but it sounds like your MIL might be single with limited or no hobbies or personal interests other than her children.  I hope you can get the boundaries in place early before there is too much damage to the relationship.   


That's a big part of the problem, MIL doesn't understand sharing.  My parents don't live here but when they do come out here, MIL invites them to all her events.  It sounds nice but it's a pain.  MIL doesn't get that my parents want to spend some time alone with just us.  So we have her hovering the entire weekend, calling, emailing.  And if my parents do decide to partake in any part of her activities, she spends that time asking and hounding them to stay the whole time so that DH and I will stay the whole time.  And before they come, it's a non stop barrage.  If she doesn't get a yes from me, she moves on to DH.  If she doesn't get a yes from either of us, she has FIL start calling.  If he doesn't get a yes, then SIL's start calling.  And if we say anything to her, she was just being nice!

And if my parents do not come out here -- which a lot of the times, they don't, they have young children in school too and have a busy life, like DH and I.  MIL takes that as a sign that she gets free run for the entire time.  Just yesterday she got it in her head that she wanted to do something yesterday afternoon, between DH and I we had 5 voicemails, an email to each of us demanding we call and I don't want to even know how many times she actually called b/c BOTH of our phones battery died.

Well, it's just not my parents either.  DH and I are busy, we don't have time for a lot of this.  I think from reading around we do spend a lot more time with her than most people do, but it's still not enough.  I don't know if we are young, we are late twenties.  And MIL is married, she does not work -- has never worked, even after the kids were in school and out of the home.  She has hobbies but I don't think it is enough to satisfy her.  She does cherish her role as mother and I've never really heard her talk about anything outside of that, anything she's done with or for her children etc.  She also had a tragedy happen to one of her kids a long time ago and I don't think she's ever gotten over it.  But I also think a lot of people just give in to her because of it.

People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift


August 09, 2010, 05:23:27 pm #7 Last Edit: August 09, 2010, 05:30:38 pm by luise.volta
Yeah...late twenties looks pretty young from my mid-eighties!  ;D  8)
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama


Quote from: Anna on August 09, 2010, 05:09:15 pm
Hi Pam1 & welcome.  I just have to add that in matters with mil please, please do whatever you must do with love & kindness.  Then you will know you were compassionate, and caring of your mils feelings.  Ignore any temper trantrums.  It probably won't be easy.  Are you going to make some time to celebrate with your in laws?   Maybe not on the exact day the holiday falls on, but some other time? It might be easier on all if something else can be worked out.  Wishing you luck.   (((((hugs)))))    Anna.

Hi Anna, and thanks for the welcome.  It's funny you mention about doing it with love, I totally agree with you.  My husband does too, except for when it comes to MIL.  He starts out trying to be nice but the more she badgers, he starts losing it.  He hasn't yelled at her or anything, but he gets a nasty tone with her and starts bringing up other issues that could have waited for another time.  It's like he almost wants to hammer her back as much as she is doing it to him.  However, I don't like that she yells and screams at him.  Sometimes I think I just shouldn't get involved but at the same time, I think we have to communicate to get anything solved!

We do have time we have set aside for them, we probably have more time set aside for them than anyone else in our lives.  But if you asked MIL, she'd say no, she doesn't get enough time with us.  What we really, truly want is for the asking to start and the demanding to quit.  We want to be treated like adults.  We also don't want to ruin the relationship, but I think with the way things are going, it will head there b/c so far, we haven't been able to make any headway with MIL.
People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift

Keys Girl

Hi Pam1,

I'm assuming that if your MIL has never worked outside of the home, then her "career" was her children. 

I'm familiar with the 5 voicemails in 5 minutes routine and it sucks.  I think you have a tough nut to crack here, but my approach would be to find another outlet for her energy.  She's got too much time on her hands and it would appear not much of an outlet except you and your husband. 

I would ask her to write up a journal for her grandchildren, and talk about her early life, and the early life of her son.  Take it year by year, make a scrapbook with photos of her family events that she can pass on to her grandchildren.  For all their meddling, the one thing that will be lost when these people die are the memories of the families' earlier years.  Hopefully this will keep her busy for a few hours a day and every year her scrapbooks could be her Christmas gift to her children.

I would give her a particular time frame, say 90 days.  Every tantrum, snarky remark, etc. etc. will elicit a fine of $50 to be paid to your favourite charity for children.   At the end of 90 days, I would up the fine to $100 per remark.  It's hard to deal with tantrums but if you are going to suffer her bad behaviour then maybe a charity can benefit. 

How does she know when your parents are coming to visit? I wouldn't tell her and if she invites them to all "her" things, tell her that their schedule was set a couple of months ago.

Re: planning holidays, it's easy everyone can take a turn, and alternate years.  The first year that you spend with your family, you can spend an "early" Christmas with her and the same thing for your parents the following year.

As for last minute demands on your schedule, institute a new planning policy on Jan. 1 as a new year's resolution.  Make it a policy of the house to have at least 7 days notice for any event.  Anything less will be met with the phrase "I'm sorry but that timeframe is booked".  As in booked for some peace and quiet away from her. 

She'll scream and holler and call everyone, because she's a bully and used to getting her way.

If after 6 months she's still tiresome, I would sit her down and tell her if her intrusive behavior persists, you will move to another city at least 500 miles away and be willing to move away to get some distance and peace and quiet.  Finally, I would tell her that if she calls you more than once ever again, that qualifies for the $50 charitable donation fine.  Each call is $50.

Good luck,
"Today I will be as happy as a seagull with a french fry." Author Unknown


August 10, 2010, 04:10:13 am #10 Last Edit: August 10, 2010, 04:19:38 am by cremebrulee
Hi Pam and welcome....
apparently your MIL has always gotten her way by acting out...well I'm sorry, life isn't always fair, and we can't always have our way...

First I would suggest that you and hubby get on the same page regarding this.  You are grown adults...and you need to say no...and that is that...if other family members call you about this, tell them right out, you love them, but this is between you and her and that MIL has to stop putting them in the middle of all of this just to get her way, period.  Say the same thing to everyone that calls on her behalf. 

Yanno, many inlaw problems start, b/c one person wants they're way...and that's silly to fight a lifetime war and not give in...so, your going to have to teach MIL...she can't always have her way and it's about you and hubby, not appeasing her....

You sound fair, understanding and very calm about this...your husband is very lucky you don't throw in the towel when it comes to his mother...

Life is to short and people are way to busy today to cater to someone's every whim like this...it's about you and hubby....and where you want to be, where you want to go, and who you wish to spend time with. 

Don't allow this woman to bully you into giving her, her way, and go, for God's sake, spend time with your family...regardless of whether she knows the word share or not.  Everyone needs quality me time...if by themselves or with the people they wish to be with....this will cause much resentment on your part eventually and husband isn't being fair to you by giving MIL her way.  Your grown adults, and your hubby has to understand, you no longer have to appease family, you do and will have your own family now...it's your life, not theres. 

You know what you want to do, and what you have to do...stop trying to gain everyone elses approval in that family for your actions...you are never going to be able to please eveyrone...this is a very immature selfish woman....and it's high time you and hubby stand up to her together....and be firm, and never give in...if you decide to do something, no matter how badly she acts out, don't either one of you give in...

It's about you and your happiness together, not about her...and Pam, you sound like a very fair person...you've given her the benefit of the doubt....she is acting out like a child to get her way...that's all, she'll get over it, and if she doesn't so what?  To bad....

Why are you not standing your ground?  Do you both fear being estranged from the family?  How long has this been going on?  Hubby must realize, he married you...you are his wife, and it's mutual all the way here....does he feel sorry for her when she does this?  And why haven't you gone to be with your own family?  They deserve to be with you and you deserve to be with them.  Here is a suggestion....that maybe you can toss around....

My neighbor and good friend told me, that Christmas dinner, got to be a problem with her son's and DIL's.  Not because they wanted to be with DIL's parents, but b/c they wanted to spend Christmas Day at home, with they're kids, opening they're gifts and having they're own Christmas dinners...they wanted to start they're own traditions.  Well, my neighbor said, "fine, how bout we all make a date from now on, to get togher the Sat. before Christmas, here, for dinner and gift exchange?  They agreed and it worked....

So, depending on your schedules, you do have several options and if you wish to start your own traditions instead of running all around, do so. 

Yanno what I started to do...I went away over Christmas....it was my vacation, I didn't at the time, feel like running around to everyone's home, all I wanted to do was sit and relax...(I can't stand schedules or feeling like I have to be there) so, every Christmas, I booked a vacationand it was marvelous....my girlfriend and her husband rented a cabin, packed the kids sleds and went to the mountains for Christmas....and those were the greatest time in my life...of course older sister used to really complain, but tough...now my younger sister and her hubby are not always there for Christmas...she said to me one time, I know older sister isgoing to talk about us and complain...and I said, "so what".  And when older sister did start to complain to me, I said the same thing, "so what".  "It's they're choice, they're life....get over it..." and she did.

Sometimes you have to tell people right out to get them to realize, just how unreasonable and stupid they are sounding and acting, just b/c they don't do something.  I'm sorry, but your situation is in dire need of a 2 x 4, which you gotta hit people with sometimes to get they're attention... ;D  Not really...however, all kidding aside, this woman sees it upset you and so she knows she's manipulating you and your decissions.  Is she by herself, divorced, lost her hubby?  Don't feel badly if she is....yanno, you can always invite her to go with you to your parents home if she is single...and you feel guilty about leaving her?  However, if she says she doesn't want to go, then so be it, then you two go...

So, this to, can be worked out...however, you and hubby need to stop feeling guilty or tying to appease this woman who has no other thought in her mind then she wants her way.

And as far as anything you plan, if she doesn't follow through and calls at the last minute, leave her out...she will in fact not do it again...if you do so.

It's like training a child...no words exchanged other then to tell her, well, you weren't there, you didn't respond, so we figured you were not coming, we're not going to second guess you, if you don't respond, that's it...period.  Not mean, but matter of factly...don't get into a verbal argument...she is going to have to change, and if she takes this further, then demand she see a counselor along with you both....however, please yourselves.

We had new neighbors move in...these people are in they're 60's.  They were in the process of unpacking and could not find they're wine bottle opener so they came over and asked me if they could borrow mine, and he said, "by the way, don't tell her mother, she doesn't approve or understand drinking wine????"  Yanno what, tough, she may not understand or drink wine, however, it is there perogative that they do and none of her business....boy that stuff makes my skin curl....that grown adults fear what they're parents will say if....sheesh?  Someone needs to tell that particular parent to bud out...period.  LOL

So, keep us informed and wishing you the best...I know it's difficult but once you start, it will come natural to you...and please print up these suggestions and let your husband read them over...he needs to be firm and very instrumental in this...and needs to remember, once you both decide something, he can't cave.

Hugs and my best


Thanks Keys and Creme.

Some of these things are just so difficult.  With holidays, no.  I know they will not let anyone take turns, it's always at MIL's house.  In the past if there had been any hint of change, she would start crying and saying that all her traditions were being taken away.  It's well, just awful. 

As far as why we do this, I think for holidays that it just sort of happened.  My FOO is very relaxed about holidays, the most important thing is to have a good day, not necessarily where you're supposed to be.  There are no demands on our time.  So when I first met MIL I rationalized that it meant more to her than to my family.  Bad idea.  We set a precedent I was unaware of.  She's even made comments about how weird my family is for not wanting to spend time with me but again, that's not true.  It's just how they are, they aren't going to act like her to get their way and I think that is something she expects.

We don't go running over for every phone call anymore and that's a good thing.  However it doesn't make it any less frustrating that she does this.  I think my DH is easily swayed by peer pressure too.  If one of his siblings call him to change his mind, he will sort of sway back and forth, feel guilty that his sibling called etc. MIL had a tragedy happen to one of her children when they were younger and I think she uses guilt and emotional manipulation a lot, on all her children. 

It's also been hard for me to watch my husband go through this.  It's very painful to him and I think he's opened his eyes to a lot of her behavior but it doesn't make it any easier for him to deal with.  MIL is very hard on DH and DH doesn't always know it, I think it is just so ingrained in him that it's normal or was normal to him.  So for a long time I just gave in b/c I didn't want to see DH in pain.  But I'm realizing giving in doesn't work either b/c then I'm resentful!

So we just have to say no.  And ignore the tantrums.  lol, this is going to be a hard few months.

I don't want you all to think it's all bad.  She can be a lot of fun some days and very generous too.  She has a lot of talents that she is willing to teach others and is a great cook, better than anyone I've ever met.

People throw rocks at things that shine - Taylor Swift


Wow, Pam1, this is very similar to my DIL's FOO...we backed off so as not to be hovering or overbearing and they think it's weird that we're not more demanding. DS isn't buying it; he told us he appreciated us not giving unsolicited advice or demanding time on holidays. He stepped up and told them that he wanted some holiday time with his FOO, that we all loved each other but weren't going to emotionally blackmail anyone. It must have been hard for him to do so - they've also been very fun & generous, but are quite able to be horrid when crossed.

Now, that doesn't mean I don't feel like throwing a fit and screaming sometimes. I'd love to get a free pass to say everything I've ever wanted to say to DIL, her FOO, and DS...I'm sure I could rant and rave with the worst of them. However, without that magical free pass, I'd lose everything. I have to be very careful about what I say to friends as well...you never know what could wend it's way back to DIL or DS. Loose lips and all that  :P
Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
-- Annie Gottlieb

Keys Girl

Pam, I have found that the phrase "What would lit take........" as in "What would it take for you to realize that you aren't the only one who has Christmas traditions too?"  "What would it take for you to realize that if we choose to change our plans and make our own traditions, that it doesn't mean that we don't love you but just want to have our own plans?"

If you are ever able to make some changes for holidays, the first one will be the most difficult.  Making changes with people who throw tantrums is very difficult.  Those behaviour patterns are deep rooted but if you can get as many people within the family as allies that might help.  As for the family tragedy that you mentioned, everyone has a tragedy of some kind in their family, so cutting her more slack because of this adds to the problem.

A destination Christmas trip for you and your husband, might be a good choice.  You'll be a 1,000 miles away when she's having her tantrums, call her on SKYPE and wish her a Merry Christmas.
"Today I will be as happy as a seagull with a french fry." Author Unknown


Wow Pam1 - You've got your hands full, and a hard task ahead of you.  But it sounds like you already know that all too well!  I can totally relate.  Kudos to you for wanting to handle this in a loving way.  I have to be honest with you, I hope this ends "prettier" than I think it will.  If she's as manipulative as she sounds with the fits, crying, tantrums, and guilt trips....chances are this will not turn out pretty.  Chances are even greater that she will never blame her son for "tearing her life and traditions and family" apart....so I'm sure you've realized by now who that fault will probably land on.

Your MIL sounds so much like mine, so you certainly have my sympathy.  I hope your situation turns out much better.  Hugs to you.