Why I Cut My MIL Off

cindylouwhoonlytwoMarch 28, 2008

Basically, because she could not LISTEN and would not RESPECT to my concerns.

She would buy plane tickets and invite herself to our house for a month. My husband told her that she was to stop doing it. She said, okay, and within 60 days bought a ticket to visit again for a month, telling us afterward. A non refundable ticket. A week or so later, she bought another ticket for a two-week visit, six weeks after going home from the first month-long visit. Another non refundable ticket. Again not asking if it were okay. A week after that, she changed her second ticket to open-ended and informed us that she was going to stay until we got sick of her.

I didn't want her to come at all, but my husband said, she will take care of herself, just go on with your day as you usually do, you can ignore her. So I said I'd give it a shot.

She whined and moaned and complained and caused trouble from the minute she got there. She's a non-stop talker. She starts talking when she wakes up and doesn't stop until she falls asleep. She talks when you are talking, when you read the paper, when you are talking to other people, when you are on the phone, when you are pulling out of the driveway walking along side the car with her head in the window, when you are watching the news--truly she NEVER stops talking. You can tell her on the phone that you can't talk and she says okay and continues to talk for another 40 minutes. I asked her once to leave me alone for a couple hours while I wrote essays for a job I really wanted. She agreed she'd stop talking and then talked for two hours about how she wouldn't talk (I'm not making this up). If she HAS to stop talking because my husband yells at her to stop talking, she moans. She will sit on the couch and make a big huge gusty groan. She groans when she gets up, she groans walking up and down the stairs. She sighs the loudest sighs you ever heard, every two minutes or so. And if you ignore her she starts talking to herself.

What does she talk about? All complaints and butting in and nasty gossip. She head hurts, her eyes hurt, her back hurts, her shoulders hurt, she didn't sleep well, this person was mean to her, that person was mean to her, her husband divorced her and she was a wonderful wife and he was so mean to her (the divorce was 29 years ago). She lives with a married man and his wife, and this man is mean to her (so move out and get your own life--nope can't do that for various dumb reasons). Her kids are mean to her, the people at church are mean to her, her college roommate was mean to her, her mother (dead 25 years) was mean to her, her ex co-workers were means to her. She will stand outside the bathroom door and talk to you through it while you are in there doing your business, and if you ask her not to do that, she either agrees to stop, then does it anyways...or bursts into tears, claiming you are mean to her for no reason and runs around telling everyone all about it embellishing--no, LYING, about what really happened to garner more pity.

Oh, and the gossip. She failed at everything she ever did in her life (she was a public school teacher who was fired for incompetence after 25 years, the union wouldn't help her and she tried suing and the court upheld her firing). She pretty much abandoned her 11 year old son after her divorce (too busy crying and feeling sorry for herself, even though she didn't like her husband and hadn't for years). He raised himself and finally went to live with another family.

She's never been able to manage living alone (my husband said every attempt has been a disaster). She lived with her husband, then her parents, then moved in with this married man and his disabled wife. She's complained about every place she's lived in, is always the hanger on and absolutely clueless that if she wants to run a house, she needs to get a house of her own to run. Everyone else will run their own homes, thank you very much, now will you go away and leave me alone.

She's a rotten cook and housekeeper and bad with money and tacky at decorating. She can't make a decision to save her life. Everything has to be agonized over and cause agony and unbearable uncertainty and multiple changing of the mind and endless discussion. I swore I would NEVER shop with her again after she followed me to the grocery store and nearly had a nervous breakdown because she couldn't decide whether or not to buy celery salt.

She loves melodrama. She invents it. After 25 years of not seeing her ex or talking to him or having any contact of any kind with him, she saw him across the room in the social security office. It nearly caused a nervous break down. She burst into tears, ran out of there and called my husband at work 2000 miles away and lost it.

She's a nasty mean two faced backstabbing gossip. She loves to analyze what's wrong with everyone, and the nicer you are to her the more unsatisfactory she finds you. She thinks my one BIL does a bad job of running his business (as though she ever ran one, like she has any idea of what she's talking about). She talks meanly about my husband, her own son, to me--even when I told her I will not tolerate anyone speaking poorly of my husband in my presence. She trashes all three of her DILs, this one's too old, that one too religious, this one too controlling, that one a bad mother. She thinks she's a psychologist and keeps diagnosing everyone with all sorts of mental health problems.

She does it to her grandchildren too. This 8 year old boy is a misogynist and doomed to never having a happy relationship. That 4 year old little girl is too eager to please and bound to end up with an abusive boyfriend. This 6 year old grandson is too fat and out of control. This teen isn't doing anything with her life. That teen is on probation for drinking at college (note: she was on probation afte being arrested for shoplifting--but she doesn't want to talk about that). This child is lazy like her ex husband and shows no initiative (incredible. Not only is she talking about a 10 year old, her ex husband is probably the most successful person she knows, making lots of money at the top of his profession--whereas, she's a fired public schoolteacher.) All her children are too lenient with their children. And are neglectful parents, and don't do this or that right (remember, she abandoned her own kid at age 11).

She even went whining about me to my own mother (who'd never met her before) AT MY OWN WEDDING.

She interferes with child rearing. She sneaks money to my kids after I've told her no. My kids are nice and well brought up. My son brought the money to me and said, I know you didn't want me to have this. (My MIL has less integrity than a 14 year old boy.) If you ask them to turn off the tv after this program, she waits for you to leave the room, jumps up and starts running around the room like the sky is falling, making them turn off the tv right then and telling them they are in trouble, your mother's mad, you are in trouble. The older kids are puzzled, the younger ones are anxious. She makes up weird rules such as the 5 year old has to have permission to sit on her lap--and says those are MY rules and the kids will be in trouble if they don't follow them. It creates anxiety and confusion in the younger ones.

She tells them straight out what's wrong with their parents and how wrong we are and how she'll fix things for them with us. She makes lots of promises to them she doesn't keep, and when they expect her to keep the promises, she feels they are being mean to her and starts crying.

She cries ALL THE TIME. At least once a day, more likely twice or three times. It's poor her, everyone is mean to her.

She teaches the kids to lie and sneak. I caught my 8 year old jumping on the bed when she was standing about 3 feet away from him. I said: "Son, are you jumping on the bed?" MIL answers for him: no, he wasn't jumping on the bed. (You effin' liar). I have LOTS of stories like this. She tries to buy their love doing this stuff and if just confuses them and makes them lose respect for her.

She butts in everyone's conversation: "Daughter, do you want a cookie?" MIL: "Of course she wants a cookie?" (Let her answer for herself? HOw controlling are you? Are you afraid she will answer wrong? Can't you tolerate a conversation that doesn't involve you? Or do you think the child is too stupid and maybe doesn't speak English?). She does it with EVERY conversation she hears.

She meddles constantly. THe kids aren't eating their cereal out the right bowls. They have the wrong bookbags, they aren't wearing the right clothes to schoool. And she's always wrong. She doesn't know the school uniform rules, doesn't understand about the bookbags, and neither my husband or I care which bowl they eat their cereal out of. Mind your own business, lady. But she can't. If you ignore her, she implements her ideas anyway, particularly if you tell her not to. She didn't agree with a paint color for my daughter's room, and manuevred my husband away and almost tricked him into buying the color she wanted.

SHe desperately wants to be in our business and organize our closets and do our laundry. When I say no thank you, she bursts into tears and runs to my husband, "I wanted to do your laundry, but CindyLou said, nah, nah, nah." I did not say 'nah, nah, nah'. I said no thank you.

She will not accept NO. She wanted to take the kids 2000 miles away on a plane to visit her and was told 4 times by me 'no'. I don't know how many times by my husband. One evening she sat down after dinner and said, brightly: so what dates should I buy the children's plane tickets for?

If you displease her, she runs to other people and lies about you. She will do this to the kids, come running to us telling us a lie that one of the kids said or did this or that to her. I find out later it's a lie, but if you are on her 'mean to me' list, she spends her time trying to recruit people to help her punish you. She told me straight out that if I didn't treat her the way she wanted to be treated, she'd ruin my relatinship with my husband. She said this in my own house on that visit she invited herself to.

This is the kind of game she plays: she doesn't know how to use our TV remote. Instead of asking, she tries to figure it out and messes it up and makes the tv blue. INstead of saying how do I fix it and will you show me how to make this work, she waits until she gets my husband alone, starts crying and tells him she's AFRAID to to watch tv because I'm so mean to her.

She loves to say how AFRAID she is. I got tired of her nasty negative criticism of my BILs and SILs (all of whom I like). I told her several times I was not interested in listening to negative gossip about them. She would agree to stop, and second later, continue like I'd said nothing. I got exasperated and snapped. "I told you I don't want to talk about anyone who is not in this car with us. Are they in the car? Then stop talking about them behind their backs!" She looked shocked, blinked her eyes furiously, and then crumpled into a pitiful sobbing heap: "I'm AFRAID to say ANYTHING around you." (then why don't you hush yourself up?)

No matter what you do for her, it's not enough. When she came for that disastrous visit uninvited, I was nice to her and made special dinners, and took her around to see the kids schools and parks and stuff. The third morning she was there, she ran to my husband: "I dont feel welcomed!" I took my husband up on his advice just to ignore her, and heard, "SHe's mean to me!'

I can go on and on. There's a lot more.

We tried to fix it. I took her out to lunch and had a talk with her. My husband had hours of talks with her. We talked to her together. Her other children talked to her. We wrote letters and emails. We gave her another chance. We told her straight out what the problem was. If we spoke nicely to her, she'd nod her head like a bobble head doll, agree, and then completely ignore everything we'd said and continue on. If we were angry, she'd lie, deny, cry, try guilt, try to change the subject, blame us and get indignant.

We told her her behavior was intolerable, and if there wasn't a change, she'd be cut off. She got snotty. We cut her off for three months, then gave her another chance. Nothing changed. She denied she was interfering with the children, or whine that she was only being nice. She denied all the lies and manipulations or minimized it. (All I said to Cindy Lou's mother was I was not her favorite person--untrue, I was on the other side of the curtain divider I heard for myself).

She plays victim. SHe's always the victim. We're mean to her. She is a decent christian (yeah, one who shoplifts, commit adultery, bears false witness and gossips). She wants to love us but we won't let her. She has rights. My husband is just like his father--he left the family (duh, that's what grown men do when they get married, leave mommy and cleave to their wives--MIL is very confused about what husbands do and what sons do). He's dead to her, she can't stand the pain. (and a couple weeks later--she emails: keep in touch, I just want to hear your voice). She saw no reason to apologize after all she was the victim. But fine if we wanted an apology, she was sorry we were the way we were and she apologized for everything she had ever done since the day she was born. There are we satisfied? No? What does she have to do? SHe's apologized dozens of times, we just won't accept it. SHe has rights, you know. We are mean to her for no reason.

She got cut off for a year, then was given another chance. A movie, a museum and lunch, she stays in a hotel. My husband and I thought it went well. She was very unhappy. I monopolized my daughter and she didn't get to be alone with the children. She wanted them overnight in her hotel room (she knew before she came that wasn't going to happen). She did spread some mean gossip (I swear the woman cannot open her mouth without complaining or criticizing or crying). But all in all, it went well.

She went back home and whined and complained to my BILs and called up my husband and cut him off, then waited for him to beg to fix things, which he didn't, so she left a voice mail saying she just wanted to hear his voice. The BILs were sick of hearing complaints about us and refused to listen.

She was cut off another six months. We saw her at BILs house at Xmas. The kids pretty much ignored her. The other DILs who also don't like her, ignored her too. She tried to finagle my husband into allowing her to take the kids off by herself. It didn't work. She asked my daughter to sit on her lap, and my daughter said no thank you. She was reduced to saying to no one in particular: "I hope I have ten healthy good years left". She was ignored. She was told that if she started crying, she would have to either go home or lie down in the bedroom until she got herself together. She has no idea of what to do with herself if she can't complain, whine or criticize. She was very unhappy.

She took it out on the only DIL who's still talking to her (just barely) the next day. That DIL went over to the house she shares with that married man and his wife and MIL made a point of telling SIL about all the people who don't like SIL. SIL said she would NEVER go back.

MIL has succeeded in alienating all her DILs, estranging herself from all her grandchildren, and annoying all her sons.

And the thing is, MIL has NO idea why she is estranged from her family. She didn't do anything. It's young people. It's everyone else who are mean to her for no reason. Her DILs are controlling and jealous of how close to her sons she was and unable to love; her sons are weak and brainwashed and just appeasing their wives to have peace in their lives. It all deliberation misunderstands and insecurity on the DILs' part. It's embroidered half truths and made up allegations. Everyone else has a personality disorder, mental illness, or were damaged by their dysfunctional families. SHE didn't do anything to deserve this. She never thought this could ever happen. She never saw it coming. ALl she wants to for everyone to love everyone. ALl she wants is to be a grandmother. She has no idea what went wrong.

I don't get it. She'd rather lose her family than give up playing victim, give up interferring, give up criticizing, give up back-biting, give up complaining.

I read these other stories of mothers who have been estranged from their adult children and see so many similarities, and I still don't get it. If she doesn't choose to stop criticizing and interfering and gossiping, we can force her to stop--simply by cutting her out of our lives. And our lives are more peaceful for it. My husband's blood pressure dropped 40 points within 3 months. Since we've demonstrated that we will not tolerate her awful behavior and she will be the biggest loser (she says she's in unbearable pain and in complete despair), why doesn't she knock it off and LISTEN to what we've said t her?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Obviously you hate her from what little I read of the above.
How could you possibly marry her son?
Linda C

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 10:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Great retort, Lindac!

This would seem to be one really messed up family - THE ENTIRE FAMILY - and what Cindlou....whatever doesn't realize is that her husband has probably inherited many of the same characteristics as his mother.

However, methinks Cindylou..... and Forms are one and the same person just coming here to make trouble.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 7:07AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


If someone has severe problems in their relationships and their life, it isn't because they are someone's MIL. It is because they have severe problems. Which preexist their being a MIL and a mother. Everyone is a person first. They don't get better or worse once they become a mother and later a MIL. Your MIL wasn't once upon a time a stable, sensible, wonderful person who went out of control once she became a MIL.

It is unfortunate that your husband wasn't able to set some boundaries with his mother on his own. It wouldn't solve your MIL's problems but it might have helped the situation. "No," is a complete sentence. If she had had to pay for the nonrefundable plane tickets and not been allowed to come to your house when she wasn't invited, she might have booked fewer plane tickets. Or run out of money.

I have met people like your MIL. I don't believe that your description of her fits that of most or any of those who are participating in the Gardenweb discussions on estrangements.

I understand that you might have a great need to vent your feelings about her behavior. But your need to attribute her qualities to those who are posting here about their pain is misdirected in my opinion. I do not see a connection between your MIL and the parents who are posting here.

As I have said previously, "No," is a complete sentence. It is a shame that your husband wasn't able to say that.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 11:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

cindylou's post sounds all too genuine to me;
there are scads of people just like her MIL, & they wreak misery & dread everywhere they go.

I don't know if it's exactly their "fault"-

I think their behavior develops as a result of a basic mental problem combined with the learning experiences presented by life.

& as to how she could marry this woman's son, it sounds like he's a victim of his mother, shell-shocked into passive acceptance of her because, well, "that's just mother".

He would no more think of confronting his mother with a demand that she behave herself than he would demand that the rain stop falling out of the sky.

So many times abused children have that passivity;
it's the safest way to keep what passes for peace in their lives.

cindylou, the only "advice" I have is don't allow her around your children.

She's a manipulator, she feeds on creating chaos & misery for other people, & she'll make their lives miserable now & forever;
children who are around this kind of chaotic personality develop anxiety, fear, & dread that lasts their entire lives.

(Ask your husband what his prevailing mood is.)

I wish you the best.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 10:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"...Obviously you hate her from what little I read of the above. How could you possibly marry her son? Linda C..."

Her son has had problems with her since he was a kid and his mother was telling him how 'mean' his father was to her and expecting him to take sides. Throughout the years and before he met me, he too had to cut her off periodically and on at least on occasion sent her home from a visit to him because she kept complaining and whining and criticizing.

It's not just us who have problems with her. My oldest BIL has been married for 15 years, and his wife won't talk to her or make eye contact and is very pointed in avoiding her. My SIL's husband counts how many complaints he has, simply annoucing "One", "Two", etc... the last time we got together it got up to 35 in 90 minutes. He also argues with her and points out her selfishness, illogic, self pity. He's very, very rude (but funny). MIL avoids him, and they live across the country and only see her about once every three years and only with everyone else around and for an afternoon. In the meantime, no calls, just a Christmas present once a year, no pix of the kids, nothing. SIL says she feels like she's stuck in the middle and she blames her mother for being so difficult. She always looks ill after being around MIL.

Youngest BIL is the most attentive to MIL, and his wife came from a close Greek family where no matter what happens, you stick with family. Well, after MIL was so disagreeable to her last Christmas, this woman has said, "Never again", and we'll see what happens.

I was at a party where lots of people from the community came, people who'd known her and the family all their lives, and I was surprised how one woman in particular would avert her eyes and walk away when MIL came around. At first I thought it was me because I was the newcomer, but everyone was warm to me, until MIL came along, and then they all would abruptly go away. I didn't understand then, I understand now?

Why did I marry my husband? That's easy. Because I love him. I didn't marry his mother. I didn't hardly know her. We live far away. Should men with unlikeable mothers be denied love and lifetime partners and marriage and children? Or maybe a man should only marry a woman who makes his mother happy? (I'm sure that would be popular with a lot of mothers). My husband and I have a good marriage, why should we be denied that because his mother is a black hole of misery and neediness?

Far better to enjoy our marriage and keep our distance from her.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 1:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"...what Cindlou....whatever doesn't realize is that her husband has probably inherited many of the same characteristics as his mother...."

Actually not. He's a nice guy, and definitely not self-absorbed and selfish and dependent--just the opposite. Had to be to survive his mother. His siblings are all very nice stable people. But they had a stable father to show them the way.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 1:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"...I do not see a connection between your MIL and the parents who are posting here..."

I agree for the most part. My situation is somewhat unique. The only characterist I see similar is that so many (not all) of the parents who find themselves estranged from adult children say, "I don't know why".

My MIL says that, and it's just an astonishing assertion. She's been told and told, but so many people, but since she rejects any possibility that she is at fault, it's always, "I don't know why this happened".

That's why I wrote so many of the reasons why MIL finds herself estranged--not because other estranged parents are doing the same thing, but to demonstrate that it's possible to be told and know exactly what the problems in a relationship are--and still convince oneself it's a mystery.

Frankly I don't understand this at all.

My husband has a higher tolerance for his mother's shenanigans. We discussed telling her that she couldn't come, but I didn't know her well and relied on my husband's assessment that she could find something to do and I could go on with my day. He said, if it turns out bad, I'll just send her home early--I've done it before, I don't mind do it again."

So we let her come and it was awful and he sent her home and she got one more chance, and blew it, and now she will NEVER step foot in our house again. Not even in the foyer for a 5 minute conversation.

He believes in giving unlimited chances (We cut her off for a year, the last time she did it, she's learned her lesson, let's give her another chance). I believe in three chances and you are out. We do it my way because a therapist we consulted said giving unlimited chances is the same as not ever enforcing any boundaries: she only has to wait for the next chance and there's no incentive to change.

It's hell giving her that second and third chance even though I know she's going to blow it. I'm all for NOW putting down consequences on the first offense with her--because she does not learn, and really should know better. After all who thinks it's proper to stab your son in the back with his new in-laws at his own wedding (My parents came up to me and said what his mother said and asked are you sure you want to marry him...his mother says...)? Who thinks it's right to complain about the bride on the wedding day to the bride's mother? Who thinks it's proper to go from table to table at the wedding banquet and sit down with the other wedding guests, most of whom you don't know, and tell them how meeeeeeeeeean the bridal couple is to her?

In fact, even MIL knows it's wrong. But she's so focused on her need to recruit people to her cause and get them to tell us how we should let her do what she wants, she overlooks how wrong it is--and overlooks how damaging to a relationship this type of behavior is. But she'll admit it's wrong--she just denies she ever did it. She would NEVER do anything like that, and you can tell her you heard it yourself and line up everyone who witnessed or heard her doing it, and she will lie, lie, lie, then burst into tears and say how mean everyone is. She's impossible and frustrating.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 1:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Did it ever occur to you that your husband married someone a lot like his mother?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 2:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Did it ever occur to some of estranged mothers with sons married to "manipulative, controlling" DILs that their sons married women like their mothers?

I cannot believe what I'm reading here. So many came and posted their stories about being estranged from adult children, complained about DILs and SILs and diagnosed personality disorders. There was sympathy and understanding shared.

Now someone posts about a difficult MIL and they are attacked. Ridiculous! It's the flip side of the same coin here, folks.

Those getting their panties in a bunch about this are taking it too personally. She can vent about her MIL without suggesting all of the estranged mothers posting here are like her MIL. I've read and reread the post and I just don't see the generalization being made that has others in a huff. Don't take it personally, it's a specific individual case. The poster didn't make generalizations.

All these estranged posts have a couple things in common. 1) We only get one side of the story and 2) They are all mostly for venting and emotional support, not solutions. So just read them for what they really are, they should not become slams against individual posters, no matter their age or family role.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 5:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

stephanie & cindylou, I do agree that it is the flip side of the same coin. I do have extremely difficult relatives in my family too. Some who had similar personalities to cindylou's MIL. I don't talk about them much. Years ago I talked about them but now I don't like to talk about them. Some are long dead.

I thought that cindylou in noting similarities to MIL's posting here, was making a statement that perhaps some here are like her MIL. If I misinterpreted your intentions, cindylou, I apologize.

For me the estrangement that I have experienced from my daughter is as though cindylou & her husband had a daughter who grew up knowing about her difficult grandmother. And then one day the daughter estranges herself from her parents. It is understandable how cindylou's husband and cindylou might estrange themselves from his mother. What would be harder to understand is estrangement from good sane loving supportive parents who have gone through the stress of coping with someone like cindylou's MIL.

A lot of times estrangements occur where they make the least sense. Often it is NOT the difficult MILs as described above in this thread who are estranged. It is the parents who suffered through the relationship with that MIL who then are estranged by their own kids ~~ after they have tried to do everything right.

cindylou, imagine if you can what it would be like after all you and your husband have experienced with your MIL if your own children grew up and estranged you. I am assuming that you are good parents. Try to imagine that regardless of your good qualities that your kids estrange themselves from you anyway. Even though you are nothing like your MIL. Then, if you can imagine that, you might know why some parents come here and say that they do not understand why they are estranged.

This is the hardest thing to explain to younger mothers who can't imagine that anything like this could ever happen to them. Who try so hard to do the right thing. Who have gone through the crazyness of having a nutty relative. Who do NOT deserve to be estranged. One day it happens and it makes no sense.

As for cindylou's MIL not being able to recognize her own responsibility for her situation, it is a symptom of some mental illnesses that the person who has the illness is unable to recognize that they have the illness. Which doesn't mean that we are therefore all crazy. But it does explain why cindylou's MIL can't see it.

I used to think that I could talk sense to my mentally ill relative too. This is someone who has had over fifty years of going to psychiatrists and has been in and out of psychiatric wards so many times that I have lost count. She believes that the only reason she goes to a psychiatrist is so that she can get her prescription meds. Otherwise she thinks she is absolutely fine. And yes, she lies. And at the same time she thinks she is a good Christian.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 6:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I, too, was struck by how unfair it seems that some on the forum would react so defensively (and thus attack) cindylou for posting what she'd described of her OWN experience and perception of a difficult relationship. It seems absurd that she should be challenged/accused of being hateful - or is herself somehow some version of her own MIL...

In fact, I think that for those of you that are in the painful situation of being estranged from someone you love, here is an invaluable chance to learn of another perspective...

Finally, I don't think that cindylou's characterization would sting so much if even bits and pieces of it didn't ring true for some here.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 8:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Maybe cindylou's MIL is mentally ill. Do you treat mentally people in this manner. I would try and get her some help.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 1:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You are probably correct, Enjoyingspring, in stating the the MIL is mentally ill. It always astounds me that people can shun the mentally ill when they would not do so (hopefully) if the same person suffered from some other chronic illness. "There but by the Grace of God, go I."

It was the "tone" of Cindy's post that I found most offensive, the capitalization of certain words and phrases, the "holier than thou" tone that I found off-putting.

Cindy, you are an individual and as Ginny said, "No" is a complete sentence. Either you say "no" to your MIL or "no" to your husband and then stop whining.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 6:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't know, I honestly can't even read the entire post because it just seems like a bunch of griping. Granted, you may have some very valid things to be upset about but the fact that you even mention she's a rotten cook or tacky decorator leads me to believe it's more a MIL problem than a real personality problem on her part.

I'm sorry but it really seems like you are just trying to find things to hate about her. Why spend so much energy hating her? Really, wouldn't it just be better to let most of the stuff go? Who really cares if she slips your kids a five from time to time? Why do you "cut her off" for such minimal infractions? She's your husband's mother and your kids's grandmother, she shouldn't be "cut off" just because you think she's a big complainer and argumentative, IMHO. It's like your punishing her like a dog or someone subhuman. No wonder she's on edge. It does sound to me that you are being mean to her, so maybe it's not all in her head.

I know you may just get defensive yourself and think maybe people just don't understand, but I'm really trying to offer some sincere advice. Life is too short to be angry at people all the time. Your MIL is NOT in competition with you. Your husband will probably always love her no matter what (just accept that). Pointing out or dwelling on her problems will just make him mad at or resent you NOT her. He knows his mom and knows she is difficult -- you pointing it out doesn't help anything or make her look worse -- it just makes you look bad. He is still going to love her no matter how crazy she acts. Just accept that.

Living each day hating is just going to make you nervous and negative. I would bet I could find just as many mean things to say about my best friend or my own mother if I wanted to, but I try not to dwell on the negatives... instead try to find positive things to focus on about her (nice hair color, drives well, etc). You can do it if you want to.

I think it will actually bring your husband closer to you and respect you more if he sees you bending over backwards to be kind to his mother even though she is acting irrationally.

"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind."
Author:Henry James

Try to be kind to her... It will work wonders if you take it to heart.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 6:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You poor thing! Sounds like your MIL would get on anyones nerves!

My advice: tell dh to stick to no visiting without being invited! If your mil buys tickets again without being invited tell her NO! Tell her that is not a good time for her to visit and you will have to plan for another time. When it is planned give her a week or two and tell her that is all she can stay. Stick to it!

Make dh lay down rules for when she is at your home. Pick a few things (maybe 3)that irriatate you all the most and then have him tell her she absolutely can not do those things. Have him tell her how unpleasant she makes you feel in your own home when she visits because of those things.

At this point I would just have dh be brutally honest with her. Maybe she needs someone to stand up to her behavior so she will snap out of it!

The reason why I keep saying have DH do it is because it is his mother, if it was your mother I would tell you to tell her these things.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 6:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Unfortunately, the husband/son is not going to say anything, no matter how often Cindy asks him to do so.

My ex refused to say anything to his mother about her behavior. Finally, I had to do it. It wasn't easy but in some respects it did help and perhaps it was easier for her to hear it from me than her son.

Do not cut her off - it's the worst thing in the world you could possibly do for everyone concerned as it will come back to haunt you one day.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 7:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I do not write to criticize. I think you are right to limit contact with your children. Your MIL is very wrong to interfere with how you raise them. It is wrong to give them money when you say not to, it is wrong to encourage them to sneak or lie to you, it is wrong for her to answer for them when you speak for them and all the things you wrote.

I think it's also wrong for her to stand in your own house and threaten to ruin your relationship with your husband. Interfering with your husband and children are more than enough severely limit her interaction with your family. In the new Testament, in Titus, it says to warn a divisive person twice, then turn your back on them. And you are not following the commandment to honor your parents by allowing her to behave basely to you. Christ warned that He was coming as a sword to severe unhealthy relationships. And this sounds like an unhealthy relationship.

I do not want to preach to you. You may not be christian and did not ask for spiritual guidance or insight, but did mention she was a christian, so I added that.

I do not want to justify or excuse your MIL's behavior, but perhaps I can explain it some. You asked why she does it. Maybe I know a little bit why. She's still wrong though.

The world is very different than it was when some of us were born. It's hard for young people to know how different. I was born in 1916, am 92 years old and have seen the changes myself. People have always cut off family members. This is nothing new. What is new is who gets cut off now. Before it was homosexual children, children who married outside their faiths, women who drank, men who smoked, anyone who committed adultery, children who did not follow the careers their parents chose or marry the partners their parents wanted, and daughters who were not virgins at marriage or had out of wedlock children. I had a friend who's aunt was cut off because she voted.

Before it was parents who cut off children, and now it's children who cut off parents. The greatest value was family and individuals did not matter. Even in not cut off families there was a lot of secret anguish and misery. People felt more trapped. So you got cut off for not conforming. Today the value is on individuals and not so much family. People are no longer trapped. If you are not happy, you have choices, you can't blame being trapped, you are responsible for your own life and happiness. If anyone hinders those choices or impign on that happiness, no pity for you to allow it. You are expected to stand up for yourself. Before there was no way for women to be independent so they were taught, taught, taught to stick with the family. The alternative was the poorhouse or the workhouse. So you had to please your family at all costs.

I think this way is better. People are so different, different things make them happy. They should follow their own paths and take responsibility for themselves. There is actually a lot in my opinion fewer unhappy families. Less violence in family, less sexual abuse, less tyranny, and I think more love. People are only together because they love or maybe because they are weak and scared. But for whatever reason, today it's a choice and not a trap.

But women born in the 10s, 20s, and 30s, grew up very different from women today. Maybe this is not your MIL, maybe she was born in the 50s, or 60s, but older women were raised so different back when I was young. It's closer to how women in muslim countries are raised.

So because they were raised differently, they think differently and believe different things. When some of your parents were raised they were not allowed to go to college. No matter how rich or smart. Most colleges would not let women go. There were only a couple jobs women could have, nurse, teacher, shopgirl librarians, secretary, maybe telephone girl. That is all. ANd when you got married, you had to quit your job. Except during the war, and then after the war women had to quit. You could be a servant or a wash woman, but that was shameful, some women worked in a factory, but that was shameful too.

I can't explain why that was, it just was. So once you were married you only had two choices of being supported: your husband or your family. You were taught to please your husband so he wouldn't leave you. Him leaving was disasterous. You would have to be a washerwoman or go to the workhouse. Or you'd have to go back to your family. So you put up a lot from your husband and you put up alot from your family because you were scared not to. Men were scared not to because they had to get their beginnings from their father's. You got a piece of land from your father, you got an apprenticeship through your father, you got the starting of a store or business from your father. Man or woman, it was desperate for you to alienate your parents, even if they were bad people.

And there was a lot of brainwashing on this score. You heard it from your family, from the community, from the church, from literature. You couldn't help but believe you didn't count much and the family did.

And that's something else. In today's world you have to find a place for yourself. The world is more generous about moving over and making room for you. All you need is is talent or interest or the willingness to work hard and improve yourself and today you can make a life for yourself. A couple generations ago, you were assigned a place, you were a daughter, wife, grandmother, widow. If you left your place, people would be so outraged, they would NOT make room for you to make a life for yourself. That was bad in it's way, but good in another way. As long as you followed the rules and kept to your place, you would always belong.

I think a lot of older women still take this very seriously. Followed the rules and kept to your place and you know what to expect. They worried a lot about what the rules were and to follow them. I know I worried a lot about it. Maybe you would not believe how restrictive the rules were, things like not wearing purple, not putting your hair in a certain style, not using certain words even like 'darn' (but you could say 'drat'). Women talked all the time about who did what and whether it was okay or not, and this was how you learned the rules that made your place in the community secure. There's no real reason why someone can say 'drat' but not 'darn', but it was important to know and the only way to find out was to talk to other women and come to a concensus.

Some of the complaining younger people do about how much older women talk, may be because older women are still using very detailed talk about each other with each other as a way to establish that concensus of what's right and wrong. Perhaps not your MIL, but maybe others.

I think also women, particularly older women use talking about people as a way to bond. Your MIL by insisting on talking to you even when you don't wish to talk may simply be trying to bond. "Here's something we both have in common", and she gives her viewpoints on your husband, her son, or how she raised her babies--not so much to tell you what to do, but to share and bond.

It used to be that you never bragged about people in your family. You'd never say, "My son won first place in the spelling bee". It would be rude and bragging and obnoxious. Fifty or a hundred years ago the only things you were allowed to say about your immediate family were gently disparaging. "Oh George, he's always late." That was extremely acceptable. It showed you weren't partial and signalled that you weren't blind to your husband's or your children's faults.

To you this might seem like backstabbing and appalling, but to her, she's just demonstrating a willingness to share common experiences in an attempt to bond with you and to demonstrate that she's not one of these foolish doting, my-son-can't-do-anything-wrong type of mothers, she wants you to know it's safe for you to talk to her.

I understand you are uncomfortable with her criticizing people you know mutually, particularly family members. It's a different ethic, to you perhaps that shows loyalty and integrity. Never say anything about someone that wouldn't be said to their faces. You aren't wrong. And perhaps it's better. I think more people these days agree with you, than agree that the way to bond with another person is to gossip about them behind their backs. But it's possible your MIL was taught differently.

I understand also you asked her not to do it in front of you any more. That's fair. It makes you uncomfortable. You said she continues to do so. This does make her wrong. It's as true now as it was 100 years ago, a good person tries to make the other person comfortable in a relationship. I agree with you that she is wrong to continue bashing your loved ones to you, but please consider she may not know what to say if she can't do what she's been raised to do and has been doing for 60 years.

We used to be taught that a positive female characteristic was to be vivacious. Now that's considered to be 'babbling'. Women were taught to keep the conversation going. To be a good conversationalist was a wonderful compliment. Today that's considered to be a 'motor mouth'. Your MIL may think she's being friendly and when you rebuff her, she doesn't think she's being pushy and obtuse, she thinks she's turning the other cheek and trying again. You may see her constant talking as assaultive and rude. She thinks she's reaching out. Neither are wrong, it's a misunderstanding.

She also might talk a lot because she's nervous. It's scary trying to win your DIL's favor.

Also about complimenting. It used to be you never said anything nice about your immediate family or YOURSELF, instead you waited for other people to do it. It was understood that everyone must compliment everyone else extravagantly, or else no one would ever feel good about themselves. People were taught NOT to think well of themselves, but to have humiliting and be humble and modest. If you were complimented, you secretly loved it of course, but would deny it. "You like this dress, oh it's just an old rag. But thank you." You were never allowed to say. "Oh thank you, it's my favorite dress too." You got all your 'esteem' from outsiders. THEY told you you were smart, funny, nice, a good cook, etc... You never told yourself. It would have been embarassingly conceited. So people complimented each other all the time, over and over.

People don't do that anymore. They get 'self' esteem. They evaluate what they do and measure their accomplishments against their values. I think over all it's better. It's good to have a firm inner compass, calibrated by social expectations (without the social calibrations, though, you can get yourself in trouble by becoming that conceited person my parents warned about). In life ultimately you have to depend upon your own good sense and judgment. It's wise to teach children how to do this from childhood.

However, remember, there are a lot, an awful lot of women who were not taught this. They were taught to ignore their own estimation of themselves and to rely only on what other thought of them. In other words to rely on those compliments that used to be given so freely--and aren't any more.

This is a horrible social change for so many women. Suddenly no one is affirming them, complimenting them, or making them feel valued. And for a lot of women this social change came at the same time a predictable life change occurred, they got older and their children left home.

It might be hard for younger women to understand how lonely older women are, and how invisible. Once you are about 50 you just don't exist. Sometimes in a retirement add you see a white haired woman with her husband, but other than that, society gives women a clear signal that they are to vanish. But we don't. If you don't have a husband, don't have children living in your house, and don't have a job, it is very easy to become invisible, unwanted, unnecessary, forgotten, abandonned, hidden, unreal, obliterated, and unappreciated. You feel like you don't count for anything. YOu feel worthless. PARTICULARLY WOMEN WHO WERE TAUGHT TO GET ALL THEIR VALUE FROM OUTSIDE THEMSELVES.

Women who were extroverted have it the hardest, because as you get older there is so much loss, loss of health, mobility family members thru death (and nowadays thru estrangement), loss of friends. You find you can't go up and down stairs any more, so you lose your house and have to move to an apartment. You can't drive any more, so you lose your freedom. Your kids become self sufficient, so you lose your place in their lives.

Smart older women join groups, make friends, get out and about, whatever the bother. I remember after my husband died assessing my life and feeling the horrible sick feeling that my life was over too, I was unnecessary, unneeded, unimportant, and worthless. I got lucky though, something in me said, that means I can do whatever I want and no one will care, and I did join groups. I learned about gardening, cooking, genealogy. And it was through genealogy that I learned about computers and the next thing I know, I'm having more fun than I ever had in my life.

But a lot of women don't make that leap. They become depressed and then it becomes impossible to join any groups or make new friends or take an interest in travel. Everyone needs to be loved and recognized and appreciated and wanted. ANd the truth is that a lot of older women are not getting any feedback that they have any value. They are lonely. And feel useless. And they watch tv all day and obsess about their health. And they remember how when they were young, older people had a place in the world. And they feel that someone should make a place for them, they should have to do it themselves, that their place is there, like a reserved seat at the opera, and somehow they are being excluded unfairly from their place.

They don't realize that in today's world you have to make a place for yourself. So they turn to their children and demand 'their place back'. Usually the place that their grandparents had. And God made us social creatures, hungry for recognition and love. So when it becomes clear to them that they no longer have a rightful place in the center of their children's lives, they feel desperate and do stupid, desparate things.

It used to be there was so much work and so little entertainment, that an extra pair of hands and another sociable body was always welcome. Grandma could cook, sew, wash, dust, mind the baby, shop, knit, help out in the family shop, etc... there was ALWAYS something for her to do.

Young people today don't realize how easy their lives are work-wise. Women cooked everything from scratch. Three full meals a day. Bread from scratch. Everything you ate or drank was homemade from raw ingredients. All the laundry, including sheets and towels and diapers had to be washed. It was a monumental job. Endless dishes to wash too. Diapers for babies. There used to be more babies. ANd sewing. You sewed everything. ANd if you wanted something pretty, you learned to embroider. And when socks got holes in them you knitted more or darned them. And there were usually more babies. Today's women have one or two, maybe three. Of course, they want to spend those sweet years with their babies and not drop them into grandma's lap.

Years ago, their were five, six, seven babies, and they came close together; mother's were grateful to drop a baby in grandma's lap. There was always another one coming along, an unlimited supply of babies. When you were done having them, your children started. The wonderful lovely baby time was not a limited commodity back then as it is now. There were enough babies for everyone.

There was enough 'expertise' for everyone too. If DIL was an expert cook, grandma could be the expert sewer. If DIL was expert cook and sewer, grandma could be the expert storyteller or vegetable gardener. There was enough room and enough work for everyone for everyone to get their share of recognition.

Now, houses and families are small, notions of privacy are bigger, and there's less 'women's work'. If you are an expert seamstress today, you are obsolete. Daughters and DILs can work and run their houses without help--in fact, it's easier to run a house without help--unless it's the anonymous cleaning service that comes in while you are at work. It used to be you got points for folding your sheets correctly. Today no one cares. Older women feel so useless, lonely and obsolete.

Please younger ladies, have pity on them. You will probably fill your golden years with projects and hobbies and entertainment. Many, many older women got stuck between two worlds; they don't know what to do with themselves if they can't be in charge of a family.

And there's nothing like being desperately lonely and frighteningly obsolete. All the reasons they were beloved and got praise for for fifty years of their lives are gone. They feel driven to make things better for themselves, and perhaps foolish, mean, frantic tactics.

Remember, a couple generations ago, women were taught NEVER to have 'needs' and especially never to get 'angry'. That was for selfish women, or for unlovable women. The social pressure preventing women from being angry has been particularly intense, probably up to the 1970's. There are a lot of women, many, many women, perhaps even most women who were born before then who learned that if they expressed anger, they would be unloved, ostracized, and abandoned. Many many women are intensively afraid to be angry.

And yet, many older women are angry. Why? Because life changed and left them behind. Because they weren't prepared for today's world. Because they thought they were married for life and it was enough to put supper on the table and keep the house clean and got divorced because they didn't make their husbands happy (not that they tried to make them happy either). They are angry because life stomps on everyone eventually, and stomped on them too and so many things they wanted out of life didn't happen and they know now never will. They are angry for all the reasons everyone else gets angry, and more.

And yet, they fear admitting to being angry, even to themselves. Anger equal rejection and unlovability. It's a horrible conundrum. And it makes some women downright neurotic.

I'm supposing your MIL can't admit she's done anything wrong because it would make her too vulnerable; she would be validating your reason to reject her and for her son and grandchildren not to love her. So she denies it, or lies about it, and tries to pretend it didn't happen. Fifty years ago, when people thought family was more important than individuals this is how they handle mistakes one family member made to another. Now individual relationships are more important and an adult child usually wants to 'come to an agreement' with the parent, one which include self-recrimination to the older parent and demands for change on behalf of the children.

Your MIL could be frightened by your anger and desperately lying and denying to get you to lapse into a resolution she feels most comfortable with: just sweeping it under the rug. Your anger may remind her of her own anger and create in her a need to get your acquiesence, so she can quell her own scary anger. Remember when I wrote about how women would talk about what was acceptable and not acceptable. Pretty much the only socially sanctioned anger a woman was allowed, was against women who did not follow the concensual social mores. So your MIL talks to her friends, who believe the same truths as her, and then they decide you as a DIL aren't following their rules of behavior, and she gets self-righteously angry.

I agree your MIL is wrong and behaving probably in ways even she knows is wrong. It was never right to simply invite onself to another person's house. But possibly she is so lonely and desperate to belong to your nuclear family, she bends the rules and assures herself that's it's her right because he's her son and family doesn't wait for invitations. When her son tells her otherwise, she ignores him, because the alternative is to be alone in her apartment, with the tv and radio and nothing to do all day, feeling the walls pressing on her and convinced that she's been forgotten and shelved and is useless and invisible. I've had that feeling, and it's a panicky feeling.

Your MIL knows that you don't go to someone else's house and criticize the food and entertainment they provide. But she might actually not be criticizing the accommodations but hungering for compliments. She knows not to give the kids things you've banned. That was not permitted a hundred years ago, of course it's not permitted now. It's never been the right thing to do. But she's desperately trying to buy their love and attention. It's the shortcut to getting grandchild approval.

I am appalled that she would encourage the kids to lie or sneak, but that's the same thing. She wants the kids to rely upon her. She wants to form bonds with them based on disliking their parents. It's a cheap and immoral and selfish thing for her to do. But I believe it's done out of desperation to find some place to fit in. I do not think God will be lenient with her at the Day of Judgment, but perhaps you can understand why she's driven. Is she number one in anyone's life? Is there anyone who puts her first? Probably not. It's a bad feeling to know that you are not on the top of anyone's list and a salve if you be first with your grandchild.

I'm not excusing her. That you've spoken to her and your husband has as well, and she will not listen and change her behavior to make her presence more welcome in your lives is unexcusable. It shows pride and arrogance on her part. I don't blame your for limiting her influence and contact; but for your own sake try to imagine what it's like to be her.

Sorry this is so long. I wrote it over three days.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 3:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Magicgran -

Your contribution to this thread has to be one of the most fascinating, insightful, and invaluable things I've read on the internet in a long, long time. I intend to print out - and share it with a few of the people I know that might relate to the situation of the OP.

I hope that many mothers and daughters - and sons, too, for that matter - will stumble across this very compassionate and powerful explanation for some of what shapes a person.

Thank you.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 5:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Like teachbls, that is one of the most incredible things I've read in a long time. I'm going to save it.

Thank you so much, Magicgran.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 10:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yeah, Me too Magicgran...what a pleasure to read your posting.

You have a lot to say, and I urge you to SAY MORE, we need someone with your insight guiding us novices !

I found your posting very interesting, and thank you so much for letting us into your thoughts.


    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 2:30AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Magicgran, you are very insightful and that is a VERY well written post. You addressed issues I didn't even know existed (I'm 30, so I still have a lot to learn from the older generations). Although, some things my grandmother does make more sense to me now, after reading that.

I think you may be right about the OP's MIL, in some respects. Especially that, currently, she is not at the top of anyone's list, and it's caused her to panick and act out.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 10:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Magicgran, I enjoyed reading your fascinating thoughtful well written post! It is marvelous! Thank you!

The following is not the most important part of the post but is is something that caught my attention. You wrote, "When her son tells her otherwise, she ignores him, because the alternative is to be alone in her apartment, with the tv and radio and nothing to do all day, feeling the walls pressing on her and convinced that she's been forgotten and shelved and is useless and invisible. I've had that feeling, and it's a panicky feeling."

Two things occur to me. One is that the MIL lives with a married man and his wife. Which doesn't mean that she is not alone. Maybe she does spend a lot of time alone. I don't know. But she's not entirely alone. I agree with you that people do make decisions out of fear of being alone and feeling lonely and often those decisions are not good ones. I think that some people are their own worst enemies and it is painful to see what they do to themselves and to their relationships. Sometimes they drive others away in their attempt to eliminate their fear and neediness.

The other thing that struck me is that at times you have felt "forgotten, shelved, useless, and invisible." I feel sad that you have felt like that. That is terrible!

You have offered a valuable perspective in your post recounting your experiences and thoughts from so many decades of life. Thank you for that! It has been a pleasure to read and I hope that you come back and write some more.


    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 11:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

What a wonderful post Magicgran! Full of the insight and wisdom and generosity of spirit that only long experience brings.

And how wonderful that you have learned to use the computer and are able to share your insights with 'the modern generation'! We need them desparately --

Please chime in here often -- I'll be looking for more of your wisdom.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 4:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm still digesting your post, Magicgran; everytime I read it, I find something new and wonderful. Thank you!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 7:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Magicgran, Thank you for the amazing, informative post! You remind me of my dear grandma, (now deceased) who was born in 1902. What long and wonderful talks we use to have! I miss her EVERY day. Please keep posting on this site...we can all use your wisdom. You spoke of how Cindy's mil might be desparately trying to win the grandkids approval..I thought of a quote I read once..."grandparents and grandchildren are natural allies against their common enemy, the parents." I don't think grandparents think of the parents 'as the enemy' but we have more understanding? or empathy? towards the grandkids. Thanks for your insite!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 7:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I relate to your post. I can only think my husband is the fantastic guy he is because his father was so special, the most ever, and it balanced out her idiocy. Good job on knowing reasonable boundaries and good luck allowing her in when she is in the right.

Magicgran, you hit it on the head.
"Many, many older women got stuck between two worlds; they don't know what to do with themselves if they can't be in charge of a family."

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 5:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Magicgran, thank you so much for taking the time to share your wisdom on this forum. I will watch for your posts, as your input is so worthwhile. Your words should be published where everyone can read them. So many have had their own struggles with a MIL who is manipulative, unkind when it is so easy to be kind, etc. etc. etc. and for some, I imagine they are stunned to find that their behavior cost them more than they dreamed, and that true forgiveness does not come as easily as they imagined it would. The wounds run deep.
So many have other family members in the same age bracket who do not behave this way. But I learned something valuable from your post and plan on downloading it to read from time to time, and perhaps pass along to others. Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and your perspective.

And for those who are MIL's or will be one day, be kind and caring to your DIL's as it is so hard to repair these relationships once they are damaged. Treat her with kindness and respect because like Humpty Dumpty, once damaged, there is so much pain to overcome, that it will never be the same, even if you are fortunate enough to repair it.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 11:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Just to chime in here, it seems to me that Cindylou is venting about an extremely difficult situation. We are all entitled to our opinions, that is what a forum is for, and sometimes just getting it out on (virtual) paper helps a great deal. The original poster did not ASK what she SHOULD do and attacks of her character do nothing but hurt. Teachbls, your'e right on the money.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 10:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow.... I almost didn't read Magicgran's post - I'm so glad I did! I'm a long time lurker here, I don't really post anything because I have such strong feelings on so many issues and feel like I would post something wrong and get blasted for it... I/we had/have MIL and SIL problems so much that we don't see them unless they come to our house or at funerals and such... Thank you so much, Magicgran, for the other side of the story. So well thought out and easy to understand. I know you prayed over what you would post and God heard and answered you. I will be looking forward to any and all of your posts... (((Magicgran))) Thank you... Nancy

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 11:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 9:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My mom told me a long time ago that the worst feeling in the world is feeling that your kids don't need you anymore once they've moved out of the house for good, single or married. She loves it when one of us asks her to hem a pair of pants, shorten a skirt, call her to ask how to make this certain dish, ask for advice on where to plant this certain vegetable, etc.

Elderly parents NEED to be NEEDED.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 11:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Magicgran, you have spoken to so many of us. I am amazed at your wisdom and insight and I thank the Good Lord that you are adept at this computer and reach out. Please continue.

to cindylou, not only digest these wonderful words from magicgran, but I would recommend a book to you: Foolproofing Your Life by Jan Silvius. It's a Biblical perspective of damaging relationships.

Insight is a wonderful thing, it enables empathy, and that brings an entirely new perspective. Grab it wherever you find it. Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 11:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Magicgran, thank you so very much. What an amazing essay. Thank you so much for taking all that time to share your wisdom with us. I look forward to reading whatever you write.

At age 50, I find myself sort of with a foot in both worlds. I wish someone had told me "It's scary trying to win your DIL's favor" years ago -- it would have helped me to understand my MIL so much sooner.

And your words about the women of your generation's, and those of the next one, needing to get approval from outside themselves has helped me to understand not only my MIL, who (while nowhere NEAR Cindy Lou's) has often exasperated us with drama, false helplessness, and other things I saw echoed in the original post, but my own mother (they are 80 and 78, respectively). With my MIL, I had just thought she was immature and narcissistic. But you taught me that there is more to it than that.

My mom was more puzzling. She has always been so optimistic, low-maintenance, cheerful, and strong, that I never understood why she sometimes lets certain things get to her so much. Now you have helped me understand: I see that the pattern is that they are all situations in which someone else's opinion mattered way too much to her, even in situations where that someone else was WAY out of line, and someone in my generation (let alone my children's) would just think less of the OTHER person; certainly we wouldn't think less of OURSELVES.

A few years ago, she told me about a time when she was in the supermarket with my late dad, who was then in the middle stages of Alzheimer's Disease. He started taking items out of another woman's cart. My mom put the items back, apologized, and explained, but the other woman started berating her and told her she had no business bringing him to a store. She told me, "I didn't know what to say." I said, "*I* know what to say -- 'go ___ yourself!'" She was absolutely flabbergasted -- and not at my language, either. She told me what she had done that day: she had started to CRY. She was completely stunned to realize that she could have had a different reaction: not to SAY "go ___ yourself" to the woman, but to THINK something like it inside, realizing that she wasn't doing anything wrong, she'd handled the situation fine, and who cared what that nasty person thought? SHE was wrong. But it never occurred to her to do anything but blame herself any time anyone criticized her.

That was a real turning point for her. I'm sure she never says anything like that to anyone (neither do I, by the way!). But she has that spirit inside: rather than automatically blaming herself for everything just because someone criticized her, she thinks about her OWN opinion of herself and her actions. She says it has been a wonderful thing for her. She's just as polite and considerate as ever, but she doesn't let other people's rudeness or unkindness throw her anymore -- she shakes it off.

I told this long story because you have helped me understand both my mom and my MIL better. I know we don't have unlimited years left together. I want to make the most of them.

Thank you for helping me to be a better daughter, daughter-in-law, mother, and -- I hope someday -- mother-in-law.

Please keep posting!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 8:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Gellchom, how much I loved reading your words:

"She's just as polite and considerate as ever, but she doesn't let other people's rudeness or unkindness throw her anymore -- she shakes it off."

That's taking responsibility for one's own feelings and not trying to lay the blame at another's feet, as in "you made me......"

It's a lesson so many of us, children and parents alike, need to learn. No one "makes" another feel a certain emotion; they allowed themselves to feel like that.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 7:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

njtea, I disagree, and yet at some level I understand that we have "some" ability to control our response and/or feelings about something. And yet, in some way, you are putting the blame on the innocent person/victim of the abuse, instead of where it squarely belongs, and that is on the abusive person, or the person creating pain with their words or actions. Often blame can be laid most assuredly at the feet of the person creating needless pain, strife, discord with their words, or behavior. I fully disagree with the statement that no one "makes" another feel certain emotions, they allow themselves to feel like that. What a crock of hogwash, or pop psychology. It let's the person with the awful behavior off the hook, and fails to hold her/him accountable for their behavior.

Our horrible behavior can indeed harm others, and to say that the target of this behavior needs to take responsibility for their own "feeling's" and not try to lay the blame back on whom ever was horrible is harming the innocent person even more. And it is a ridiculous expectation to place on them. Here are some examples:

1. A woman who had a very long, and close friendship with a cousin, shared something very, very personal and painful with her. Something she had told no one, because it would be devastating to her if it got out. The dear friend/cousin, understood how important it was to keep this to herself, to protect her dear friend. But the woman whispered it to many friends and relatives, who treated the other woman differently from that day on. The cousin felt no remorse, and justified her behavior.

2. A woman works to sabotage another woman at work whose career is very successful, because she takes her career very seriously, and works very hard at her job. She makes up some vicious gossip and starts whispering it here and there, all the while pretending to be a friend to the successful woman. Soon, everyone in the office starts treating the woman differently and she has no idea what is wrong. The first woman actually succeeds in getting the successful woman's job by getting her laid off. The second woman is emotionally devastated by the betrayal, and spirals down. The betrayal changes her somehow. She never fully recovers from the blow. It took her 7 months to find a job that was comparable to the job she loved, and lost, and she never felt that passion for her work again. The woman who harmed her feels no remorse.

3. A woman with a new baby, and a toddler comes across some very painful text messages one of her best friends has been sending her husband. The best friend (while pretending to be a dear friend) has been doing her best to win him, by offering pleasures without any expectations or commitment. Fun without a price. The young mother is devastated at the betrayal of her friend, and her sense of trust is blown away. She finds she has trouble making any close friends now, even 2 years later, because of the betrayal of someone she trusted completely. She now struggles with vast loneliness. She dearly misses the friendship of other women, and yet she is completely unable to open herself up again. The friends apology went something like this: I am sorry you are so sensitive. I was just playing around.

I would not even dare suggest to any of these women that they cannot place the blame of their pain, at the feet of the women who created it. Or to suggest that if they are spiraling in pain, that it is their fault, because they should better control their "feelings". People "feel" pain when they are hurt. And the person whose words or behavior hurt them, indeed have responsibility for the pain they inflicted, and should be accountable.

I see so many who so easily justify what they do. They twist it, and turn it, making it look not so ugly. I imagine most of us do that. So few have the guts to fully acknowledge our wrongs, and sincerely apologize for them. We want to justify behavior, and often are quite successful at doing so. How sad.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 10:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Bnicebkind, my point is that we can't do anything about the people who hurt us, we can't change them and rather than let their bad behavior hurt us, we can determine to move forward in a positive manner. Some times it's very difficult, but it can be done.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 12:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you for all the responses.

"Posted by enjoyingspring (My Page) on Mon, Mar 31, 08 at 13:40 Maybe cindylou's MIL is mentally ill. Do you treat mentally people in this manner. I would try and get her some help."

Our marital therapist absolutely forbade us to even discuss what was wrong with her. It was impossible to know and arrogant on our part, and it is impossible from 'symptoms' to diagnose mental illness, emotional disturbance or bad character. It requires a trained professional to diagnose someone and it is unprofessional and futile for even a professional to diagnose someone in absentia. For her to even say that it sounds as though MIL is co-dependent, or narcistist or borderline or depressed is completely unprofessional--and a diversion for us. Our focus was on ourselves, our marriage and our integrity as a family.

As an example, she listed all the things that could be responsible for MIL's behavior: mental illness, alcoholism or other addictions (even something like a gambling and shopping addiction); dementia (in all its forms); severe co-dependency; cultural distortion; any variety of neuroses; any one of several personality disorders (dependency, narcisstic, borderline); brain tumors or some aneurisms; certain vitamin or nutritional deficiencies; a tendency to black and white thinking; a belief that people are divided into one of three catagories (victim, hero, or villian--which apparently is a common unconscious belief); distorted thinking and false beliefs; low self esteem and insecurity; immaturity; bad character or bad habit; etc...

Or it might be none of the above. The therapist said, it might just be that MIL just doesn't show her best self to us. It's not our job to fix or diagnose her; she knows there's a problem and she knows she's unhappy, and she knows there's help if she wants it. And we were wasting our time trying to figure her out. We did the try to understand one another thing, the communication and talk it out thing, and it didn't work--so we had to deal with what we had.

In our sessions if we started to talk about why she did something ("she only said that because she was embarassed" or "she's just jealous"), the counselor would stop us and redirect us from why to what. It didn't matter WHY she invited herself over uninvited or WHY she didn't listen; WHAT were we as a couple going to do about it.

It was surprisingly hard not to talk about why or what she was, only what she said and did. But once we started talking about us, things got better.

MIL's behavior put us in a position where there were no good choices, only choosing the best among unhappy options, the one that works best for our family. Then it was up to MIL to chose in reaction to our reaction what worked best for us. If she felt it was best for her to continue on the same as always, then we had to respect that choice.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2008 at 8:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Magicgran that was a phenonmenal post. Thank you.

The world changes on all of us, and changing along with it is important, and yet so many cannot or choose not (wasn't that a subtheme of Gone with the Wind too?). I wonder what the difference is between those who change with the world and those who don't.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2008 at 8:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"Posted by khandi (My Page) on Sun, Apr 27, 08 at 11:14

My mom told me a long time ago that the worst feeling in the world is feeling that your kids don't need you anymore once they've moved out of the house for good, single or married. She loves it when one of us asks her to hem a pair of pants, shorten a skirt, call her to ask how to make this certain dish, ask for advice on where to plant this certain vegetable, etc. Elderly parents NEED to be NEEDED."
MIL NEEDS to be NEEDED. This was something my husband would say to try to explain his mother. But as we worked through the idea, it became apparent that the sentence at first sounds like MIL is selfless and noble and eager to be kind. It SOUNDS like MIL (and I'm talking about the person I know, my MIL, not your mother) is eager to please and to make the lives of others.

But in our case, although it is true that MIL needs to be needed, it wasn't because of selflessness, but because she was NEEDY. It was about her needs as a helper, not about the needs of the recipient of her help. That's why she could never follow instructions you would give her. Your instructions were to meet YOUR needs not hers. So because she was helping to meet HER needs, not yours, she'd do it her way and it would end up a mess.

For example watching the kids in the pool. She'd volunteer because she wanted to be the hero and get the recognition for helping. And she'd talk it up too, she loved watching the kids play, and how nice it would be to sit by the pool, etc...and you'd thank her and tell the kids, yes, you can go swimming after all while I'm at the store. And the kids would yell yay grandma as they raced to get in their swim suits, and she'd feel like a hero, and beam and make a big to do about getting a drink and putting her chair in the shade, blah blah, very pleased.

But then when it came to actually sitting there being bored without anyone to talk to because the kids were playing in the water, she'd get angry and resentful, and would just leave. After all, her needs were no longer being met and my needs to ensure my kids were safe, and the kids needs to be watched didn't matter. She was bored, so she'd leave. ANd because she wouldn't want to disappoint the kids and make them get out of the pool, and risk them being angry with her, she'd just leave. And when I would come home outraged to find my kids in the pool without supervision, I'd confront her and she'd LIE and say one of the older kids agreed to watch them. (But that kid wasn't even home at the time). And then she'd cry, and wail, "I was just trying to help. I was just trying to be nice. Why are you so MEAN to me." and she'd run around to everyone she could find or telephone and tell how she'd been napping and minding her own business and the older kid was supposed to be watching them and HE was the one who walked off and blamed her, and everyone believed him and no one believed her and sob, sob, sob, everyone was so mean to her and she was just trying to help. And people who weren't there wouldn't know what to believe. But on the one hand there's an angry mother and the other is a sobbing old lady, and nothing good would come of it. Especially when the angry mother would say, "She's NEVER allowed to watch the kids again." Oh, it's just a misunderstanding, give her another chance. NO! Grandma cries and cries, and everyone is stressed and anxious and suddenly the angry mother is being unreasonable.

Everyone learns quickly not to accept her help for anything. But then she's unhappy because she just wants to help. She 'needs to be needed' because she uses helping as a way to bind people to her and meet her own needs.

Your mother doesn't sound like this. She sounds lovely and very loving. I wonder if she really "NEEDS" to be needed, rather she just loves being needed. A subtle word change with a big meaning difference. Like the difference between 'enjoying' a drink and 'needing' a drink.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2008 at 9:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Gellchom, that's an inspiring story. Isn't it amazing how something so small can shift a person's perception and improve their lives?

I'm sorry your father has alzheimers.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2008 at 10:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"...cindylou, imagine if you can what it would be like after all you and your husband have experienced with your MIL if your own children grew up and estranged you..."

If I had a child who estranged me, I would not think it had anything to do or not to do with my MIL. I would not think that they owed me a relationship because I tolerated my MIL (maybe I misunderstood what you meant by connecting my MIL into that idea).

If my child estranged me suddenly and with no warning and if I asked and they said, "You know", and I truly didn't, I would make the assumption they didn't quite didn't know themselves. That they have feelings and upsets they don't quite understand themselves and that they needed time away from me to work them out.

(This is assuming there's no mental illness or addiction. If there is mental illness or addiction, then I do know and frankly, maybe I'm just getting too old, but I've seen the hopelessness and heartache of addiction and mental illness, and I think I'd just be grateful for being cut out).

More likely, I would have been told the answer. And I'd accept it, even if it didn't make sense. "Because you wore blue to my kindergaren graduation." Huh? Ok. I don't think I'd argue. I can't imagine arguing with an adult child. They are an adult. I barely argue with them now. My parents didn't argue with me, I never saw them argue with their parents. My aunts and uncles on both sides didn't argue with either their adult children or their parents. It's just not done. I can't imagine it.

There are differences of opinion and hurt feelings and misunderstandings and on rare occasions, conflict between adult members of my extended family. Of course there is. But everyone seems to understand a basic rule. I live my life and you live yours, and I can offer my opinion and it's fair if you don't follow it. The person who's business it is, gets the final say. The person who has the most responsibility gets to decide. The person who takes the biggest risk chooses.

We are none of us perfect people; but we don't squabble and manipulate and gang up on each other and form one alliance and then another to force family members to do what we want. And we don't stab each other in the back. That's such a bizarre concept to me. And we are very close--without melodrama. There's not a lot of conflict.

So if a child told me, "I don't want contact from you because you wouldn't let me go to Aruba on spring break." I'd respect that. I'd figure sooner or later they'd understand. Or if not, sooner or later it wouldn't matter any more. I would absolutely believe that eventually they'd come back. Not the way they were, it wouldn't be the same relationship, but had we stayed close, it wouldn't be the same relationship at 30 as it was at 20 or 10.

Would I miss them and be hurt. You bet. But I'd be comforted that I would see them again and focus on the other blessings of my life while I waited. I truly believe that if you love something you let it go, and if it loves you, it will come back. And if it doesn't come back, you never had it to begin with.

If after 10 or 20 years there was still no contact, I'd have to face the fact that it's probably for the best. We didn't have the relationship I thought we had; I didn't know them, and we obviously weren't a match even if they have half my DNA.

Do I hope to have close, intimate relationships with the families of my adult children? Of course. But I will be happy with any non exploitive relationship my children feel comfortable with. I may want more contact or less, depending on the personalities, but perfection doesn't happen in relationships; it's like tension between togetherness and individuality that has to be worked out in a marriage. When your children are adults with families, you renegotiate your relationship, and if it REALLY doesn't work for someone, you might have to walk away. Sad, painful, but realistic.

I have a coworker who is retiring and moving to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren. They are delighted to have her. On a recent house hunting trip she was dismayed that her daughter seemed to expect/demand a lot of babysitting from her. She's not moving there to take on the responsibility of babysitting her grandchildren, altho she does hope to see a lot of them and participate in their lives. Things were tense as she attempted to come to understanding with her daughter. She came back and asked if things don't work out in the other state, can she have her job back. I sometimes in the past had wondered if she's a meddling MIL so much does she talk about her grandchildren. But I see now she's got a life outside them and is not exploiting her daughter's family to fill the emptiness (if any) in her own life. And she's not going to allow herself to be exploited by her daughter however much she loves her family. She sees her standing up for herself may result in a cut off; and I respect her handling of this delicate situation. I'm sure it will all work out, but I can see myself in her place; in any relationship, there's always the possibility that you or the other person will walk away for whatever reason.

You may think, oh yeah, you are so philosophical, just wait until it happens to you. Well, like anything, what choices do you have: you either accept with grace or you don't. How does not accepting with grace help anything? The ends don't justify the means. Bullying, manipulating, harassing, yelling...none of that is going to help. If you accept with grace, while you are waiting for the problem to resolve itself enough so the child talks to you again with a willingness to compromise, at least you can still have meaning and pleasure in your life.

It also gives you time to reflect as well. It might not be that you did something WRONG, it's just that you don't mesh well. And you can measure in the absence how you and your adult child's family don't mesh and what you are willing to compromise to make the relationship more pleasant for EVERYONE.

"Mom, you can never be unsupervised with my kids." "Why?" "Because you are a taurus". Huh? Well, that makes no sense to me. But why jeopardize my supervised visits with my grandchildren which can be wonderful by arguing if being a taurus prevents one from being a good grandma or not. Why fill that time with strife and anger and posturing and demands and righteousness and counter accusations when I can be on the floor playing Candyland and angling for the chocolate swamp or coloring in Barbie coloring books or stacking Lincoln logs as high as the sky. Who cares if DIL is glaring at me when my darling grandson and I are holding our breathes to see if we can make a Pixie Stix teepee?

I believe letting them go gracefully gets them back eventually, and if it doesn't, the relationship would have just caused heartache all around anyway, estranged or not.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2008 at 11:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Magicgran, thank you for the post. I am going to take this post and print it out so I can read everything again and again. I think it's helpful.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2008 at 12:10PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
In-laws that don't get it!
We had to see MIL yesterday for Mother's day. Once...
My Fledgling
Hello everyone. I've never posted in this section before,...
Joseph Corlett, LLC
Adult daughter says actions speak louder than words
My Daughter and I have not had the best relationship...
What do other working moms do?
Ok to start I do work full time but I work friday/saturday/sunday...
Those Annoying Chistmas Brag Letters!!! ugh..
Does anybody get those annoying Christmas letters EVERY...
Sponsored Products
Pre-owned Lane Brutalist Headboard
$495.00 | Chairish
16" Basalt stone Wash-hand Basin Bathroom style - KALOO BLACK
Outdoor Lighting. Vista 1 Light Satin Outdoor Halogen Wall Light
$50.40 | Home Depot
Tonin Casa | Splash Coffee Table
Madison Wall Sconce by SONNEMAN Lighting
$300.00 | Lumens
Bath Authority DreamLine Visions Frameless Sliding Shower Door and SlimLine Sing
Modern Bathroom
Vig Furniture - 959 - Modern Italian Leather Sectional Sofa - VGCA959
Great Furniture Deal
Personalized Pet Bowl Holder - R
$250.00 | Horchow
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™