How to handle a very rude mother in law?

ilovepinkApril 6, 2008

My MIL came by to see the nursery that I completed recently. She brought a group of friends. I wasn't prepared for so many guests but was as gracious as I could be.

After showing all the friends and my MIL the nursery I stood at the end of the hall to kind of wait for them all to pass me and go into the living room.

My MIL took it upon herself to continue showing our house to all her friends. She opened the closets in our bedroom. Then went to the guest room and was opening the closets and showing them even our bathroom. Which by the way had dirty clothes on the floor. I thought I would die.

I could see the pained look on a few of her friends faces. But, she is just like that. She is intrusive and even when you say something to her she either plays victim or disregards your feelings.

I'm sorry but I am very private. My own mother doesnt' even give tours of our house or does she even look in my bedroom closet.

My husband tries to say something. But, it doesn't seem to work. Any advice?

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That sounds awful - and I'd be mortified!

Once she started, could you have said, lightly but firmly, I'm afraid my house isn't in "showing shape" at the moment, sorry Mom!, and then laughed it off while guiding them all downstairs? Rather than just die inside and let her keep going, if you'd have stepped in and joked it off while gesturing toward downstairs, I'll bet that the other women would've taken your lead and left your MIL in the dust.

Be firm! It's your house! And you said your husband has "tried" to say something. What if he presented it as a "Mom, look at it this way. What if I show up at your house one day with a bunch of friends and parade them through, showing them every bit of your space? Would that be polite of ME to show YOUR house?". Sometimes that's what it takes with that type of person.

Look - pretty nearly everyone (certainly me!) understands that houses aren't always in a state that makes us proud to show them off. So - even if you MIL is rude and dense, I'll bet the other women's sympathies would've been with you and they'd gladly have stopped.

Take charge of your own space.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2008 at 4:43PM
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"Take charge of your own space."

Huge dittos to suzieque! YOUR house. YOUR space. I don't care who she is. You must exert control when this kind of behavior emerges.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 4:54PM
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When my husband said to her "how would you like it if we gave a tour to anyone we decided to bring by?" Her response was "It would be fine by me. I don't mind showing my house off."

Do you see what we are dealing with here? UGH

She once went into my suitcase and took out a gift I had for someone and gave it to them. I came downstairs a few hours later and see the gift that I had picked out on the coffee table. I thought my husband had given it to the person we bought it for.

Hours later when I asked him he said he thought I had given the gift.

Nope. It was his mother. She is a pain in the rear.

She always has to be in the middle of everything. She calls to find out about our baby so she can send out emails to everyone telling what he is doing. Or the best is that she shows up to visit maybe once every few weeks and takes photos to send out to friends and family. We are never on the emails and apparently she writes a ton about him.

It bothers me a lot. But, my husband can't seem to control it and I am sick of always being the witch that has to put my foot down. I'm not sure what to do.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 7:03PM
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She sounds like she needs a lot of attention!

I know this can be difficult. My mother-in-law needs to be in the spotlight all the time, and she loves to make a HUGE deal out of everything. Now that she is 80, she is simply a "character," and it's easy not to take anything to heart. (Probably has to do with my being older, too -- I am better at ignoring things.) But believe me, from many years of being her daughter-in-law, I hear you!

The best advice I can give you is NOT what you want to hear.

She is NOT going to change.

You can't change her. Your husband can't change her. She is going to continue to do these attention-getting things. And the more you try to thwart it, the harder she will try. I think of my sister-in-law ignoring my MIL when she talks too loudly, and my MIL just yelling louder and louder. You'd think that after 56 years, my SIL would have caught on, but nope. And what a sad, strained relationship they have -- which makes MIL cling all the closer to ME.

The best advice I can give you is to GIVE her some attention. If you do it at times and in ways that are convenient and pleasant for you, then she will not have to try so hard the rest of the time. This doesn't work 100% of the time (what does?) and can backfire, but usually it is worth it. Just be the bigger person and humor her whenever you can.

After all, not all her actions and desires are unreasonable or obnoxious; it's just the extent to which she takes them. For example, your story about the gift -- just plain over the line. period. But you also wrote:
"She calls to find out about our baby so she can send out emails to everyone telling what he is doing. Or the best is that she shows up to visit maybe once every few weeks and takes photos to send out to friends and family."
Your writing "our baby" seems kind of telling: after all, it's also "her grandchild." And showing up "maybe once every few weeks" doesn't seem like so much, nor does sending photos and e-mails about her family. I can understand how you might not like it, but I don't think that this is objectively wrong. It's the kind of thing that if my own mom or my favorite aunt or someone did it, it wouldn't bother me at all, but if my MIL does it, I feel put out and critical! How unfair to her, I then realize. Maybe that trick will work for you, too? After all, you certainly wouldn't want her not to care about the baby, would you?

Once I realized that
(a) she isn't going to change
(b) these things are irritating, but certainly not malicious - -think of what some DILs have to put up with!
(c) she really is a good person and we love her, even when she is annoying
(d) we aren't going to have her forever
it made it much easier for me to let this stuff go. She is my husband's mother and my children's grandmother, and I owe it to her and them to respect her and not run her down. Yes, she still gets on my nerves plenty. But I am getting better at focusing on the positive and just doing my best to be a good daughter in law.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 11:36PM
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Be thankful that she calls to ask about the baby. For the first 8 months of my daughter's life, my MIL never ONCE came by to see her. She only lived about a 2 minute drive away too... if that! She wouldn't call either. Her excuse is that she was too busy with her business. She never had time for her kids but always had plenty of time for her employees or friends. My parents came once a week and had to drive 15 minutes.

Now she's retired and is very lonely. DH once told her "Well, you wanted us all to get a life and we did. So what do you expect now?" LOL She only calls or stops in when she WANTS something, and it's usually in a rush. You can be talking with her and, in mid sentence, she'll change the subject to what she WANTS to talk about, which is usually something about her. I don't invite her for supper anymore during a holiday cuz I did twice, and she declined. I once told her that I was going to compile a bunch of very good dessert recipes and make a small cookbook for her. She told me in so many words that she'd prefer to get her own recipes! LOL She'll call now and then for a recipe.

She's always commenting on how she doesn't really know my daughter. DH tells her straight that it's because she never spent time with her and that it's her fault.

You can never change these women. You got to bite the bullet, as they say! I give her some attention now and then, and sorta get a kick on how she reacts! Sometimes it's too much. I told her once that she's so dramatic and would be good on stage! DH laughed so hard and said he couldn't believe that I would tell his mother that. Fortunately, she took it as a great compliment and laughed!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 11:34PM
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Life is short. We all have our idiosyncrasies, we just don't know we do.

Unless the behaviour is deliberately malicious or physically harmful, ignore it.

Yes it's annoying but in the whole big picture of life, laugh about this with your husband and kids, talk about "nutty" granny" but don't let it get to you.

More damage is done by stewing over these things than by the deeds themselves.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 3:10PM
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"More damage is done by stewing over these things than by the deeds themselves."

Oh, Chase, you have given me a new mantra!

Thank you for those very wise words. I hope I can keep them in mind at the appropriate times.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 10:07PM
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Yes, but why are some people so clueless???? Some things are just so basic in terms of manners, and how to behave in someone else's home, and it is stunning that some people are so dense.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 12:39AM
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Sounds to me like she is very proud of the home you and her son have and wants to show her friends how successful her son is and what a good decorator you are. And calling to find out what the baby is doing or coming by once in awhile and taking pictures to share with her friends also shows her pride in your family. Perhaps you could take some pics every week or so and email them to her. I'm sure she would be so delighted to see your little one doing everyday activities that she does not get to be part of. It is especially hard for MIL's to please their DIL's just because they do not have a history together. You hardly ever see these same problems with a SIL because the men are just easier to please and less critical normally. Just remember that if it were not for her, you would not have the wonderful man she gave birth to and raised! That should help you be more tolerant with her. You don't have to like or love her, but you are stuck with her--best to just shrug some things off and "just be polite". Maybe if you work harder at giving her what she needs which is to be part of your family, the less "pushy" she will be. Just try to think what it is like in her shoes. Worth a try, right?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 12:36AM
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luvstocraft, your response was far kinder, and will bring forth a happier relationship, which in turn will give ilovepink peace. I apologize for my response. It does seem to be such basic common sense though, on how to behave in someone else's home.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 8:17PM
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ilovepink, the other posters' comments made me think of one more observation I made about my MIL and SIL that may be helpful to you.

All her life, SIL pushed MIL away -- HARD. I can understand why, because MIL really can be overwhelming, and she and SIL are just a complete personality mismatch. And I can understand MIL's feelings, too -- how painful to be rejected by your only daughter, especially when a lot of the rejection was really nasty (like the time she sent her father -- only -- an anniversary card). But whether SIL's coldness was cruelty or self-preservation and MIL's pushing was neurotic or natural isn't the point, which is:

The more SIL pushed MIL away, the tighter MIL grasped. The more she tried to keep her life private, the harder MIL pried. The more she tried to keep MIL's voice out of her life, the louder MIL yelled.

If you make it a battle, it will be one you CANNOT WIN. In fact, it will be one that EVERYONE loses -- not just you and MIL, but your husband and children, too. I know that's not what you want.

So the solution to a buttinski is NOT to try to lock her OUT; it's to invite her IN. It is natural for her to want to be involved in her child's and grandchildren's lives (and for that matter, her DIL's). That is a GOOD thing: see khandi's sad story, above. True, she can overstep boundaries, and I don't blame you for not liking that. But if you make it a point to include MIL, the involvement is at times and circumstances that are convenient for you, rather than whenever she manages to breach the walls.

And no, it doesn't work perfectly. But for those times when it doesn't, really, the best thing you can do, for all concerned, including yourself, is to keep a sense of humor and a large margin of tolerance for Grandma.

(And then pour yourself a glass of wine and call your own mom or your best friend -- or come here -- and blow off steam!)

    Bookmark   April 15, 2008 at 9:23AM
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I really appreciate all the advice. It's true if I gave her more attention she may be easier to handle. But, it's hard because she sucks the life out of me and others.

I don't even have a mother that gets in my business like my mother in law does.

I don't think by me giving her more attention I'm going to see a change in her to the point where she will stop picking up mail, or reading birthday cards or going thru albums that have been put away and out of site. She just seems to be very nosey.

For instance the other day my SIL bought something for our baby. I know she is waiting to give it to the baby next time she sees us. My MIL takes it upon herself to let us know that SIL bought something. Tells us what it is even. It wasn't her place to do that. She can't stand that she would appear not to know about it. She just has to be in the middle all the time.

In reference to her calling to find out things or taking pixs and sending them out. It's not that part that bothers me. it's that she lives 15 minutes away and we never see them until they decide to stop by after a month and then they take pixs find out a few tidbits then send a mass email to friends and family that we are never on and put on this little act that they are involved in our lives and their grandchilds life. They aren't. It's very phony. Our baby is three and a half months old and they have only seen the baby four times. They have always been the type of inlaws that want the family Christmas photo for the card but didn't care a flip that the kids are not talking and that nobody sees one another the other 364 days a year. It's the show they want for everyone else. It's really quite sad.

I've never done well with phony people. But, I do try to grin and deal with them as well as I can.

The other night I was holding my child and I called the baby by a nickname. My MIL asked why we call the baby by this nickname and we didn't really have an answer. She told us it was a 'dumb' name. It's moments like that when I just laugh to myself

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 12:49PM
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luvstocraft has written an excellent post, IMO. I agree with her completly.

I'd also like to add something for you to consider.

I unexpectedly lost my own Mom was I was 19. She was my best friend. Painful loss.

When I married, I was overjoyed to have a Mom's presence again. Not that MIL would/could replace my own mother but she was there for me when I had questions or just needed to talk. We developed a strong, loving relationship. In time, I called her, "Mom". I'm certain my real Mom watched my relationship with MIL bloom with pleasure. She would not have wanted it to be strained in any way.

My MIL was not a perfect woman. Neither am I. She cooked different than my mother. She raised her children different than I was raised. Her accent was different. Her mannerisms were different. But, her love was the same...I've no doubts it was genuine & came from her heart.

MIL often told me that she worried raising her two sons that, someday, she would have bad relationships with her DILs...and how happy she was that I accepted her. Her worst fear of her son's marrying was rejection. She was afraid that her importance in her son's life would be reduced to an obligatory phone call on Mother's Day. She was afraid her son would spend all of the Holidays with his wife's family because she'd taught him to honor his wife. She'd raised her son to be independant & strong. That left her afraid he would no longer need her in his life. When the grandkids came, she was afraid her DIL would always turn to her own mother & there would be no place for her in the grandkids' lives.

We lost MIL 3 years ago come the end of June. We lost FIL January '08. I miss them both terribly.

I believe our relationships are what we make of them. I became the daughter my MIL never had. She became the mother I lost. It worked because we both put forth great effort to bridge the differences. We talked together, we argued with each other & then apologized for harsh words, we cried together over silly girl-stuff, we disagreed & then agreed it was OK that we viewed something different than the other.

Someday, your MIL will be gone. You will either view her as a valued & cherished member of your family or you will be bitter & angry at your differences. The choice is really up to you. The ball is in your court to either allow her a place in your family & heart, or not.

Like it or not...woman are the glue that sticks families together. There's an old New England custom...summer homes are popular here (they're called "camps"). When the patriarch/matriarch of the family passes...the "camp" is often willed to the wife of the oldest son. Yes, the property goes to the wife. Why? Because it is respected that women will hold the family together & even through difficult times the summer house will be filled with family laughter making good memories.

You are the glue between your DH's family & your own. You can embrace that responsibility & honor it...or you can reject it. We reap what we sow. The next time you see your MIL...greet her with a genuine from the heart big hug & a smile, tell her how glad you are to see her looking well & that the kids can spend some time with their grammy. Then, look in her eyes. Look hard. Watch them soften.

Someday, you may find yourself in the role of MIL. Be a good example to your kids.

Sorry, I don't mean to sound harsh. I'm getting old & I've lost a lot of family. Don't wait until they're gone to appreciate them.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 12:53PM
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Oh, tricia, what a beautiful, wise, and touching post. Thank you for sharing it with us. Your husband's family is very lucky to have you as its "glue."

"My MIL was not a perfect woman. Neither am I." That really says it all, doesn't it? There is a Yiddish saying, "A daughter-in-law is a little bit of a mother-in-law." Once I understood what that means, I think (anyway I hope) that it made me a better DIL -- anyway, less critical and more appreciative.

I hope I get a DIL just like you!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 5:48PM
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There are so many beautiful responses and thought on how to live with your mother in law the way she is.

Alas, I too know what it is like to live with an intrusive MIL. LOL

When DH and I were visiting her in FL, we were out for a ride and she took us past SIL's house. SIL's car was not in the drivway, but we stopped anway. And guess what, she took out her key and opened the door and took us on a tour of SIL's house when SIL didn't even know we were coming. I was so ucomfortable. This was even before DH and I were married.

Yesterday I was on the phone with SIL and invited her and her family over for dinner tomorrow. Today, MIL calls and says "Oh, you are cooking tomorrow, what do you want us over?". What am I supposed to say to that? "You aren't invited"?? Every week she calls up to ask when are DH's days off. She comes over every weekend. And GOD forbid we have plans already or don't include her and my FIL. They both get very insulted.

When my dh was in college, his exgirlfriend wrote him a break up letter and he ripped it up and threw it in the garbage. Two days later, she asked him specifics about the break up. She knew things because she took the letter out of the garbage and pieced it back together!

The best, is one day she stopped over SIL's house once again uninvited without SIL home. Apparently SIL and BIL were a little adventurous in the bedroom and had left some rope things tied to the posts. When they got home, they found that MIL had cut them off of the posts and laid them on the bed.

The main problem is that she has no boundries. She has a little more with me than her own daughter because I think she knows that I will stand up to her more so. But the problem is that no one does stand up to her.

I have been living with the motto lately that "people only have as much power over you as you let them". Slowly I am incorporating that into my lifestyle.

I agree with one of the other posts about saying that your house wasn't in show condition and laughing it off.
I do alot of that and sometimes it works - sometimes it dosn't.

Good luck and hang in there.

Also, one other thing that keeps me going -
she can't be all bad, she raised the man that I fell in love with.;)

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 11:23AM
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Exactly! She did produce a fabulous husband for me. Of course if you start looking at why he is so fabulous is b/c he was always the one that was in the middle and his mother would actually write him letters in college to complain about his younger brother. My husband will be the first to say that he always felt he had to be good, or do what his mother wanted because otherwise she was upset and the 'victim' and it was easier to just let her have her way.

Nice huh? LOL

I will never ever have regret when she is gone. I know a previous poster had a MIL that it sounds like tried really hard to have a good relationship with her DIL.

My MIL has gone thru my luggage, given tours of my house, taken photos of our house and sent them out in emails, read my journal, read letters, looked at bills, etc.,.

It is a big deal for us when she is sending out emails and bragging. It is very easy to say oh she is proud or others will only look at her as being rude. Sorry it's not like that always. My husband relies on our personal relationships for business and my MIL has hurt a few business transactions with her bragging.

I do what I have to do as a DIL. I wish I could be more involved with her but it's just not happening b/c there are no boundaries. We give an inch and she takes a mile! Again I wish she could see if she stopped being intrusive or so pushy about being overly involved in our lives that she would actually be allowed in more so.

My own mother doesn't really try. I don't know how to explain it. But, in the end my husband is far more willing to spend time with my family on vacations and long periods of time b/c my family is not draining. It's interesting to see how as a MIL if you don't push or stay within boundaries what a better relationship you can have. It's something I plan to do one day. I don't want my DIL to worry that i am going thru her drawers when she isn't in the house.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 11:32AM
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One thing to remember is that your husband loves his mother, and I'm sure you don't want to put him in the middle between you two.

I think your MIL must have felt very comfortable showing you off to her friends. While I wouldn't dream of doing that myself, I think she must have been very proud of your home (and housekeeping too?) to feel like she wanted to show them.

As both a MIL and a DIL myself I have always thought that family is more important than friends, and go out of my way to let everyone know how much they mean to me or to our family overall.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 3:02PM
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ilovepink and any others with MIL problems...

An absolute "must read" on MIL's...go to the parenting forum and read the extraordinary post by magicgran!!! It is a must read!!!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 9:14AM
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I forgot to mention the title of the post: It is "Why I Cut My MIL off" and is on the parenting forum. Scroll down to MAGICGRAN's post; it is fantastic!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 9:19AM
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I went over to read that.
I mean the MIL if that is 100% true sounds like she has issues. But, the DIL to have that much time to even type that up seems to have some too.
I don't think that it's always fair to say that 'why did you marry him?'

At my own rehearsal dinner my MIL did some things that were upsetting. I swear as God as my witness it was the first time we ever saw the behavior. I went home that night and I did actually stop to think about what I was getting myself into.

When the catering manager walks up to you after your rehearsal dinner and says "I'm so sorry for you." Then pauses to think about what they are about to say and says "Your MIL is just a b**ch." Well, it doesn't make you feel too good. Our wedding coordinator also said as much. Then the wait staff that night was in an uproar because she had been nasty to them. It was embaressing.

She had a terrible time the week of our wedding. She acted horrible at a brunch. At a luncheon she got up in the middle of it to go cry (she made a scene.) It was horrible.

Now we are kind of use to it. If she had done any of this when I dated my husband at least I could have been prepared It's hard when you don't see it from the MIL until three days prior to a wedding.

I think she likes to show us off. My BIL and SIL together keep a messy house. We are tidy in our house. I am certain MIL likes to show that off.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2008 at 10:45AM
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ilovepink, but did you read MAGICGRAN's post?????

    Bookmark   May 2, 2008 at 10:00AM
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I DID. Finally. Just this morning.

It was good!

You know what kind of makes me sad. Is that my MIL isn't a woman who never spoke up or doesn't have anything to occupy her. So I still feel like "WHAT??????" But, as always it shows there are two sides to every story.

I try to remember that. But, it still is hard not to let some of it bother me. I'm only human. I can't pretend that all is well when things happen and I don't believe she is clueless to doing them.

I keep my distance and try to stay busy not worrying about it. When I see her it is fine.

Magicgran really shared some wisdom!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2008 at 3:45PM
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