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Tact

Posted by silversword (My Page) on
Wed, Sep 15, 10 at 13:24

My father and SM are coming out for the holidays. The last time they came here was fine, but I did have irritation, as usual. The difference is the last time was the first time my father acknowledged his irritation with her too.

Biggest issue: everything centered around her schedule, and we were expected to drive her, etc.

I guess my question is how to tactfully separate myself from her needs without seeming like a _________. The tendency is for her to whine, moan, complain about how she's going to get something accomplished, so that someone will step in and solve it for her. Then she never says thank you.

I know the easy answer is "don't rescue her"... but somehow when I let her fall on her face it looks like I tripped her.

I feel a bit like Thurmann... I'm dreading it already and it's not for 3 months...


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Tact

"but somehow when I let her fall on her face it looks like I tripped her."

ROFL! OMG! That was so funny!

How long will they be staying?


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RE: Tact

Hi SS -
Don't you just hate it when you feel the Thurman coming out in you?? I thought of of a couple of different things you could possibly do to reduce your holiday stress.

I am assuming they don't rent a car, but that she drives. Would or do you let them use your vehicle? Contact her a couple of weeks in advance of the visit and let her know that you are trying to plan out their stay with you guys. Let her know that you have a map for her so that she will have the freedom of running her errands without waiting for you to drive her. Make her feel as though you are trying to do her the favor of not being inconvenienced by you and your schedule, and lump your dad into it so that she doesn't feel like you are picking on her.

Also, I don't know if this is applicable, but you can also have some kind of loose itinerary of what you have planned and this way she can plan her things around you, i.e., open house at the neighbors 12/19 @ 2:30 or whatever. This way, if she had something that required you to be with her, she will know in plenty of time that you need to be home before 2:30. I don't know if she gets her nails done or anything like that while she is with you, but you could ask her if she would like to have you make an appointment for her. This way if you need to get yours done, she can have hers done at the same time or you could time her appt. with one of your errands (should you be the driver)

I hope those are usable suggestions. The holidays are stressful enough with or without a blended family and maybe these are subtle enough hints that will meet everybody's needs without hurting feelings or adding to the stress pile.


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RE: Tact

Gerina had some GREAT suggestions! Very diplomatic.

Couldn't they just rent a car? UGH.


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I think that when my MIL goes home after a visit here, she tells her friends, "They are so sophisticated -- wine with dinner every night."

Little does she know ... ONLY when she is here.

Does the job for me! (Actually, she's great, but she can be kind of exhausting.)

The point: just get through it. If they aren't staying very long, and they don't come all that often, just live through it. It helps if you have a friend you can complain to! And, again, I do recommend that wine ....


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RE: Tact

Ashley, no clue. 1-2 weeks probably.

They do rent a car. The last time was so convoluded, I don't know if anyone is interested in hearing it. I'll try to make it brief.

Her mother lives 50 miles from me (about 1-2 hours depending on freeway traffic). She needed to get up there. She discussed the train ad nauseum. I pulled up the train schedules (my DH sets up a laptop in the bar so they have their own internet access while here) but she couldn't understand them so I had to read them off and discuss the merits of each one.

The only way the train would have worked with our original plan (lunch with dad's family at a restaurant, then she catches the train from that town, cutting 1/2 hour off of her train trip) would be if we had only one hour at the restaurant.

This is because she did not want to take a later train... and they leave EVERY HOUR ON THE HOUR. Everyone knows, that's not enough time for a family lunch. So, even though I said EXPLICITLY I didn't want the family over to my house... long story... I caved on that because that would allow 2 hours for lunch before taking her to the train.

Then she decided that the family could drive her up on their way back up the coast. I (diplomatically, I thought) said that wouldn't work because they were going the mountain route which is no where near her mother's house (b/c the aunt she thought should drive her ABSOLUTELY would not want to).

It morphed into this giant stress wig-out because once she takes the train she will have to take a TAXI (OMG) with her LUGGAGE (OMG x 2) to her mother's house. Then they will have to take another taxi (OMG x 3) to the train to ride up to her brother's house.

Ok. So where we are is:
1. I am now cooking lunch for 10
2. I now have a few hours to clean my house
3. After lunch my dad has to drive her to the train, 1 hour round trip, and I will be in the kitchen cleaning.

Nope. After fretting and frowning and throwing mini tantrums (huuuuhhh! uggggghhhhh! hmmmmmmm!) my dad finally says, "I can just drive you up to your mom's".

Oh! she says in her little girl bright happy voice...ok! And proceeds to go on her little merry way. ARRRGGHHH. So I tell him I will drive with him. Because that afternoon was really the only time we'd have to spend, just the two of us. And I wanted to spend time with him.

On the way back (yes, it took over three hours) he told me it pissed him off that she didn't even say thank you to him for solving her problem. Yeah, you think?

As a side note, while I went shopping and cooked and cleaned she took a 2 hour shower and grooming ritual, and I went into the spare bathroom after her to make sure it was tidy and it looked like she shaved a bear in there.

So I'm on the floor, frantically wiping it with a wet rag (messy, dirty, cooking all morning, wiped out, looking like you-know-what because I didn't have time to shower and get all pretty) and she comes to the door to show me the most beautiful dress in the world. I thought she got it for me. It looked like my size (she has at least 8 inches and 50 lbs on me). But no, she was just showing me what she bought for herself. And to tell me there's one just like it in my size at the local boutique. ha.

Last time she was irritated because there weren't more shops on Main street in my town. I told her she could drive 20 miles in three directions and hit some pretty cute places, but she wasn't interested.

Those are great suggestions Gerina, but any appt. I made for her would come into conflict. With something. It is a constant give give give with her. It's all about her, it's all about her diet, it's all about her shopping needs.

I've made 1000000 suggestions, she always wants the one no one else wants. But she won't go by herself.

Last time it was her toe hurt. It HURT. IT REALLY HURT. DID YOU HEAR ME??? So, finally, I asked her what would make it better. Epsom salts. Well, I don't have any, but I hopped my little tush in my car at 11pm so quick to go to the drugstore to get her some salts so she would SHUT UP. I got two bags. I'll never want for epsom salts again.

These are just two examples. It just feels like a swim upstream with her. You know how some people are easy? Well, my dad is super easy, laid back, etc. He could go into anyone's house and kick back and not be a pain in the butt. But she drags conflict with her like a security blanket.

I just need help with tact. So I don't kill her. Because although she's getting better, or I'm getting older so it doesn't affect me so much... I can feel the Thurmann Tension creeping up my neck already.

I know I will need to bend, and I don't want to.


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RE: Tact

Shaving a bear - I love it! I also remember the dress story. She does sound a tad insufferable. I guess you should embrace the Thurman in you.


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I have no clue how you have kept from freaking out on this woman!!!

Honestly instead of having tact maybe you need to work on the skill of expressing your feelings!!!

"SM I understand you do not want to take a taxi or a train, but your plan involved me shopping, cleaning my house, and cooking for 10 people within the next two hours---it just will not work."

"SM I know you don't like to go shopping by yourself because you are afraid of getting lost, but I have a lot to do today so why don't you borrow my GPS."

You need to stand up for yourself so she will stop bullying everyone into making her life easy as pie. You can stand up for yourself and express your feelings in a kind way. Maybe this woman needs people to stop catering to her so she will see she is now a big girl and has to deal with inconvenience at times too!


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RE: Tact

Ha ha, you could drink gellchom's wine and then let the inner Thurman out to visit for a while!

I have an older friend whose mother was like this. It was just constant moaning, groaning, whining - is anyone else old enough to remember The Whiners on Saturday Night Live? Anyway, when he came back for visits, she'd start... and my friend would just laugh at her. Seriously; he'd not only refuse to engage but just make a joke about it (and have another drink). It was great! It also tended to put a fairly quick stop to her behavior because his jokes tended to put everyone else at ease too, and conversation would just continue as normal instead of coming to a dead stand-still while everyone tried to get past whatever misery she'd just dropped into the middle of it.

You've got to refuse to engage. I know it's really hard and the first few times may be more stressful than just dealing with her stupidity, but she won't stop until/unless you do. She can't understand the train schedule? You're sorry to hear that. She has to take a taxi - with luggage?! You're sorry to hear that too. Oh well. And then just continue right on with whatever you were doing or saying.

And I don't think at all it's going to look like you tripped her - I think it's going to look like what it is, an adult woman who wants to be catered to is not getting her own way. Seriously, she can't understand the train schedule?! C'mon, college kids take the trains around Europe all summer - come to think of it, your Dad's taken her to Europe, correct? There you go, just laugh and say that you're sure a well-traveled woman such as herself can figure it out.


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Mom2, I spent the first 10 years of their marriage freaking out on her and asking my dad how the heck he can put up with it. I stood my ground like a mtn. goat. I did not cave, unless she was seriously hindering someone else. Example, her 80 year old mother came to stay with them. They live on a hill just above town with a restaurant within easy walking distance (if you are physically able to walk down the hill). Her mother has a cane. Well, SM wants to walk to restaurant. MOSM says, I can't walk. It turns into this giant thing until I tell MOSM that I will drive her down. It's under 200 yards. But it's downhill. And on the way back it will be dark. SERIOUSLY? She was going to let her 80 year old cane-wielding mother walk down and up a hill in the dark.

I have left SM in the lobbies of grand hotels because she was throwing fits. I have been on airplanes, in my seat, fully prepared to leave her in the terminal only to have her rush on at the last minute and accuse me of ditching her. (yeah... we arrived in the same taxi, checked in at the same time. If you can't figure out how to get from the bathroom to the plane, there's not much I can do about it). But when we landed, I was the one who got in trouble with dad because I was being mean to SM. P L E A S E. It was that trip that I told him I would never travel with her again.

In other words, I was strong and vocal and that didn't work. It ended with me and my dad not talking for a few years.

Unfortunately, it has looked like I tripped her to EVERYONE. No one could see her for who she was. I was accused by everyone in my family as being a jealous spoiled brat. It drove me to the brink of insanity, with my dad, with my first husband, with my family members. No one could see her for who she really is.

I tried ignoring her with the train. But after her asking for help several times.... well, then her rudeness becomes my rudeness. I let her float with the taxi, but my dad rescued her. And I chose to ride with him, that's my fault. Really I can't complain, because I do it to myself.

So. After 10 years of being absolutely unwilling to play her little game I decided I really wanted my relationship with my dad back and in order to do that I had to play the princess SM game. If I don't play with her, dad won't play.

My solution was to anticipate her needs and provide for her before she asked, so it felt more like I was giving than she was taking. That has worked pretty well.


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One thought

Silver, your posts are making me giggle because they are causing horrible flashbacks to life with my XMIL. She was the same way, a drama queen who had to be the center of attention. I realize years after the fact that my XH's inability to minimize her digs at me was actually one of the reasons we drifted apart and divorced.

There was one thing I learned back when I had to deal with her: so long as I myself was in charge, I could not win. What I had to do was gently move the responsibility back to XH himself. Like your father, he felt torn between us. (He was my freakin husband so his wrong choices were lots worse than your dad's, ha.) She wouldn't criticize him, he was the prince, so I would move it to his column. Like if I served a food she didn't like, which was usually the case, and she complained, I would turn to my XH with all concern and say, "XH, the lasanga isn't agreeing with Mom, could you see if there's something else we could make for her?" I needed to appear concerned, but not responsible and not setting myself up to fail AGAIN.

It even worked for more serious things. For example, one Christmas XMIL decided she wanted to go to a midnight Christmas eve service, and she wanted to take the kids. They were young to be up so late and I also did not want them to go to church, nor did my XH. This was one of the few non-negotiables for me and he knew it. She kept after me, kept coming into the room trying to engage me in an argument or debate. Normally I am all about open discussion and dislike passive-aggressive communication, so I had to control myself. But over and over when she brought it up, I would walk the two of us to wherever my XH was and just not be saying anything so he would have to take over. It got to be kind of funny, and I kept a tally of how many times I had to do it, it was over 10.

Have you ever tried that with your SM, Silver? That if she makes a demand that seems unreasonable or will truly inconvenience you, that you make it your dad's problem, while expressing concern? Like, "Oh dear, Dad, SM's toe seems to be hurting quite a bit. I wonder if there might be something at the drugstore that could help?"

One other thought. It sounds like you can't win if you complain to him or your other family members. You might shift the responsibility to them as well when they are around. "Oh dear, SM needs a ride to her mother's and I'm afraid the luncheon I've planned won't be over by then." And then go back in the kitchen.


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RE: Tact

Silver - I think anticipating her needs is a great idea! That's the route I was going to take.

Anticipate the family luncheon and a trip to her mother's house. That way you can make sure the two won't conflict.

Maybe you can pull up train schedules in advance and say "I thought you might want to see your mother, so to avoid the fiasco last year, I printed out all the train schedules for the time you are here."

I know it's hard and seems like a lose-lose situation, but I really commend you on WANTING to make things easier for everyone and not giving in to the urge to be hard-nosed and have your own way.


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Hi Ulrike! Your ex-MIL sounds like a piece of work. "Normally I am all about open discussion and dislike passive-aggressive communication, so I had to control myself."

This is my problem too :) I guess the difference is that my dad has gotten to the point where he's more on "my" side than hers, if you know what I mean. He sees it now. But he's just on the very edge of seeing it. It's not full-blown yet. So I have to tread carefully, and with humor.

With the toe I expressed concern "wow, yes, that does look like it hurts", etc. as did my father and husband. Both my father and her get hopelessly lost when driving so it was just quicker and easier for me to go than to spend 1/2 hour drawing a map and another 1/2 hour directing them back by cell phone.

LOL on the shifting the responsibility to the other family members. They'd say "that's too bad". Honestly, most of them have been so absolutely rude that I feel more on my SM's side than theirs because she honestly, truly (I believe) does not know she is this annoying and they are being rude on purpose. Instead of telling my dad "hey, your wife is so annoying we don't want you to stay over" they just say they have no room. So, in essence, they've shifted it right back to the grey zone. No one will admit to anything, so it just feels weird and awkward.

As for the luncheon, I was really just trying to take the pressure off of dad. There may be a dinner at my house this year, which would be fine, as we are not in the horrible throes of renovation like we were last time, and if I plan in advance it won't be a big deal. The problem last time was I had been asked in advance and I said "no way, not this time, not a good time, let's go to a restaurant". But then she made it so complicated, I folded.

Here's a really big part of it. They are (especially my dad) very much so into discussing things. So at any given time they will start re-hashing some event or misunderstanding to death, and (kind of) asking me to take sides between them. Getting in touch with feelings is popular. Unfortunately I usually end up crying out of frustration if it has anything to do with me, and nothing gets resolved. They don't "get" me, if you know what I mean. Or if they do, it takes so long I'm exhausted. So I don't like playing that game.

Thanks Ashley, I appreciate it. I tried hard-nosed. It's not becoming :)


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Oh, I misunderstood!

Sorry, Silver, I thought you were saying that your family thinks that YOU are being unreasonable, jealous, etc. If your family members are also irritate by SM's antics, that helps, ha.

One of my SILs shared my annoyance with MIL, and she and I would "go for a walk" sometimes during the holidays so we could download to each other. The other SIL always sucked up to MIL. Of course, guess which of her DILs MIL badmouthed the most?

It's also really good that your dad is starting to take off the rose-colored specs a bit. After a few years, we start to be more oriented towards extended family rather than just the fresh new love thing. It sounds like your dad might be becoming more willing to spend some time focusing on you and other family rather than catering to his somewhat high-maintenance wife?


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OMG, you have the patience of a saint. I guess baby steps is one way.


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No problem Ulrike, that's how it was for years and years (10 to be exact). It really strained my relationship with many in the family and that hasn't quite healed.

The strange thing is that now I'm a bit protective of her, in a way... because they were such jerks to me when I was young and really quite bewildered by her selfish, mean behavior, their inability to see it and subsequently me feeling very out in the cold (my interpretation). Now that they're wanting to commiserate with me I feel more like being rather petty "oh, she isn't that bad"...

Dad is (just from the last visit 9 months or so ago) really starting to come clean about his realization that she's very difficult and always has been. And you're right, for him now it's all about family. The problem is, he drove them away by not listening about how horrible she was being and defending her and making everyone bend for her.

LOL KKNY. I don't. But thank you.


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I would just let your dad take care of her, he wants to drive her let him. But I would not be cooking for 10 just to please SM.

I do not have SM visiting (do not have any) but SDs behave similar to this when visit and when traveling with us. It is horrible. OSD refuses to rent a car so we must drive her 24/7, they are late everywhere, YSD makes a mess all over the house right before everyone comes for dinner (like she shaved a bear LOL). I can go on on, yes there is Thurman in all of us...I don't have any advice besides just let dad handle it...Just try to survive the visits...


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