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tranquilsea's avatar

Personal dilemma about ongoing MIL drama LONG?

Asked by tranquilsea (17756points) May 12th, 2010

This problem started when my husband and I first started dating. His mother has general problems with anyone who marries into the family and she really doesn’t like me at all. She made that very clear from the get-go. She’s elitist and referred to my family as trailer trash. For shame, my dad is a cabinet worker and my mom was a SAHM until we were older and then she got into insurance.

She made it abundantly clear that she disapproved of me in how she talked to me, rolled her eyes and sighed.

I naively thought that she would change her mind once she got to know me, and besides, I really liked her son.

We didn’t spend much time with her as we dated and became closer and closer and eventually fell in love. When we became engaged she was mad. As we planned the wedding she made some pretty ludicrous statements like, “If you invite your father I won’t come” to which we replied, “We’re going to miss you.”

She came to my bridal shower and sat at end of my mother’s sofa with a sour look on her face. She really didn’t endear herself to my family at all.

When we became pregnant for the first time her reaction was, “I don’t want to be a grandmother!” We didn’t talk to her for a while. I ended up losing that baby and in the days when we didn’t know whether the pregnancy would go on she called my husband yelling into the phone, “When is she going to make up her mind whether or not she’s pregnant.” I dove across the sofa and ripped the phone out of his hand and hung up on her. The first time in my life I’ve ever hung up on anyone.

Life continued much like this. We tried to avoid her as much as possible, but that is impossible in many family situations. She was very upset with every child we did end up having (3) although she did warm up to them once they were here.

Things never did get any better. She was free and loose with the kids about how much she disliked me to the point where they would come to me and ask me why she hated me so much.

At one point, after I had a breakdown, she convinced my husband to leave me but in a really strange way. My husband came to me and told me what the new plan was, thinking it was good idea. I was horrified and told him so. He gave his head a shake and went back to his mom and told her that he was going to stay with me and the kids. The very next time she saw me she yelled across the parking lot that I was “controlling, manipulative and vindictive”.

We moved to another province to get away from her.

The problem comes because my husband’s grandfather accrued a lot of money and some property during his life. The money he split up after his death. The property had been in his daughter’s name for 50 years prior to his death for tax purposes. She caused a lot of problems with that property in that 50 years. It was so bad that he severely regretted the irrevocable decisions he had made in regards to the property. The property is worth in excess of one million dollars.

He died three years ago and since then she has wielded the property like a weapon. If you don’t do “A, B, or C” I’ll sell it. All the boys (my husband and his brothers) are very attached to the property. She got so bad that we cut off all communication with her three years ago, and that has been the happiest time of our marriage (16 years).

My husband has been worried that she is going to cut him out of the will. My opinion is that she should take that property and sell it and spend the money on herself. I don’t like being manipulated. He has recently made the decision to open up communication with her. Which will eventually result in us heading down to that property where I’ll have to be around her 24/7. I can’t handle more than 2 hours with her, she is that mean.
I have, in the past, refused to go with him and he has put a lot of pressure on me to go “for appearance sake and to support him”. This goes beyond just a difference in opinions and right into emotional abuse when it comes to how she treats me. Just the thought of going puts me into anxiety attacks.

I have a good friend who believes that I should hold firm and not subject myself to her tirades. I know that that is the right thing to do for me but I think I do have a duty to stand by my family and especially my kids. I am very torn about this. My husband knows my feelings and thinks that I should buck up.

Should I stand my ground and refuse to go on family “vacations” to this property, or, should I stand by my husband and kids and show her that we are a united front?

My husband, his brothers and most of the family knows how badly she treats me. My husband has gone to great lengths to try and get his mother under control. We even went to extremes like leaving dinners and such when she would start to go into me. He has told her to back off, but she doesn’t listen. She just believes that I control him and control what he says.

Sorry for the length of this, I though a little back story was necessary. And this is a very little of what has happened in the last 16 years.

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28 Answers

Draconess25's avatar

Tell her that for all her money, she must not have much of a life to spend it on. She should go by a new attitude.

But seriously, I have the same problem. Both of my girlfriends’ families hate me. Just put on a big smile, bat your eyelashes, & calmly say “Oh, I’m so sorry for polluting your royal bloodline. Next time, I’ll make sure to conceive in my finest cravat!”

Response moderated
WestRiverrat's avatar

Is there a hotel nearby that you could stay at? Then you could be there for him, and when it gets too much plead a migraine and hit the hotel. If it has a pool or waterpark you could say you are staying there so the kids can enjoy the pool etc.

Silhouette's avatar

Go, I’ve been there done that and I can tell you she’d like nothing better than to see you avoiding her. You have inadvertently given her what she wants. She gets to visit her grandchildren, her son and she gets to do it while telling everyone “See, I told you she was unreasonable.” Go, get in her face with all the phony platitudes you can muster. Be the sweetest, most wonderfulest daughter in law in the history of daughter in laws.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@YARNLADY Your response really shocked me! You attacked a woman you don’t know because one of your daughters-in-law disrespects you. That’s quite a leap of inference isn’t it?

YARNLADY's avatar

OK, flagged by me.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@YARNLADY How do you imagine the OP feels about your comment? This question was no about you but your response was pretty rough on someone you don’t know. I expect better from you.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@YARNLADY Flagging your comment is a classy response. Thanks for that.

SuperMouse's avatar

Before I share my opinion I have to say my ex-mother-in-law and I never got along. She thought I was not good enough for her son and was not nice to me the entire time we were married (over 20 years).

I think you should stay away – far away from this property. I understand the point of not giving her anything to talk about, but the fact is, if this woman is as awful as you describe her, she is going to talk about you anyway. If she has always been this nasty to you, then what’s to make you think that will change? Bottom line, whether you go or not she will gossip about you and feel totally justified in doing so. Period.

Your husband needs to decide which is more important to him, getting his share of this property, or his wife and kids. As far as I’m concerned, exposing my children to someone who blatantly badmouths me to them is out of the question and I would hope the man I was married to would agree. With what you have endured at this woman’s hands over the years, I think you have it backwards, it is your husband who should be showing his support for you: by staying away from her and not asking you to spend time with her.

tranquilsea's avatar

Thanks for the responses. I frequently tried to sit down with her to hash out our differences in the beginning. The first time was when my eldest son was 2 months old. When I said that we needed to work on our communication or the likely result would be a growing distance between us and I didn’t want that to happen as I wanted her to be a part of my son’s life. Her response? She got up and told me that if I ever tried to “take my grandson away from me I would sue you for custody”.

I know she is never going to change and I’m not the only person she’s done this to in this family. She treated her father’s second wife like crap for 50 years. When I first landed in the family I was under the impression, from what she was saying, that her father had met his second wife when she was his dying wife’s nurse. I didn’t find out until later that his second wife came along a year after his first wife died.

My hubby’s older brother was here a couple of months ago with his girlfriend. He turned to his girlfriend and said, “Just be thankful my mother likes you”.

She bad mouths me to everyone who will sit down and listen. I’ve had to walk into rooms knowing what kind of pre-existing information is circulating about me. I put a smile on and continue to be who I am and I’ve managed to knock down those prejudices, but that process is wearying.

But this isn’t just about me. It is awful how she treats the kids. She goes from being very nice to doing things like pressuring the kids into talking about our private lives. It makes the kids feel very uncomfortable. The reason she does this is because she doesn’t get information about our lives because we don’t tell her.

Part of me is extremely frustrated with my husband. I really understand how much he loves this property. He has a LOT of fabulous memories down there with his grandfather. His grandfather was an amazing person. Very magnanimous, kind, thoughtful and caring.

But putting all the pressure on me to “just not pay attention to her” is not fair. It isn’t just my husband, his oldest brother has told me that I should just put up with it too, so that he and the rest of the extended family can see the kids.

I lean towards @Silhouette in how I’ve handled this in past. She definitely would see me not coming along as an opportunity to try to pry the kids and my husband away from me. She’s just awful for my own mental health.

When I made the declaration that I was no longer going to property two years ago my kids were upset too. They didn’t want to be caught between my husband and their Nana as so often happens.

tranquilsea's avatar

Sorry to be so encyclopedic in my original question and response.

tranquilsea's avatar

@YARNLADY I can see where you would parallel your experience with mine, but my MIL tends to alienate nearly everyone in the family. None of the daughters-in-law have good relationships with her, those relationships are just varying degrees of what goes on with me.

I think the reason I got such a vitriolic response from her is because I basically inferred to her that she should float a boat when we were dating. She doesn’t get to choose who her son marries, her son gets to do that. I suppose she thought I would be easy to run off.

Silhouette's avatar

@tranquilsea Just keep reminding yourself, you’re not doing it for the land, you’re doing it for your husband, your children and your pride. Kill the ole cow with kindness, purposely obtuse comes in handy in this kind of situation. Every time she takes a cheap shot at you misinterpret it and thank her for the compliment. For instance, “You’re just so stubborn.” Thank you Millie, I try very hard not to let others steamroll over me and I’m so pleased you noticed this. I think it’s important to teach the children how to stand up for themselves, don’t you?”

tranquilsea's avatar

@Silhouette I agree. Most of what she says now is behind my back so I don’t really have the opportunity to kill her with kindness when she steps over the line. I do have a problem handling the blatantly cruel things that come out of her mouth. She tends to shock me into silence. Once the shock wears off I start trying to reason with her…but she doesn’t really deal in reason so that is fruitless.

Silhouette's avatar

@tranquilsea Silence is the perfect answer. Stand there like a mute when she starts her crap, paste a smile on your face, smile, even if it’s a sad smile, because sadder than a sad smile is the sadness of not knowing how to smile. You can teach her this before she leaves this world.

tranquilsea's avatar

Well, rarely is there a smile on my face. I’m pretty sure my eyes are wide and my mouth is hanging open. Smiling is something to aim for.

tranquilsea's avatar

I’m heading to bed. I’ll be back tomorrow morning.

And again, you have all been wonderful in your responses.

Iclamae's avatar

If I were in your shoes, this is what I’d do:
~Tell your husband he is free to go whenever he wants. He is the one who has memories attached to the property.
~Tell your kids they are free to join him if they want. (They won’t understand if you forbid them from seeing their grandmother.)
~If you can manage to see the woman once a year, I would make that effort. If in general, you are ever capable of going with and handling the abuse, I would try to. But if you just can’t take it or aren’t willing to put up with it anymore, make it clear to your husband that you can’t handle that woman anymore.

Important points:
~Do NOT forbid him or your children to see her. It feeds her argument that you’re a bitch and could turn your family against you.
~Your husband should understand the stress she puts you under and shouldn’t ask you to go through that. Similarly, you understand that she’s his mother, so you aren’t preventing him from seeing her.

I suspect this is very similar to a “friend” problem I have had for the past couple of years. I was friends with a girl but she turned out to be a complete bitch. And not an outright one. She’s better at making snide and rude comments that don’t necessarily attract attention from other people but that do get your blood boiling. A group of my good friends befriended her and didn’t understand my problem with her. So until I had my own apartment, I had to deal with her being around and being a bitch. Once I had my own apartment, the rules were laid down and I didn’t see her anymore. She still spent time with my friends but at different times.

My mother and father had a similar problem too. Again with friends. The unfortunate thing is that my mom was much more controlling and forbade my dad to see these people and for me to see them. This caused some animosity toward my mother and when they later split up, I suspect it was due to her controlling manner. (They have since gotten back together, married, and her controlling habits are gone, fortunately.)

If you are able to go more often and do the “best daughter in law in the world” thing, it would be playing her game and make you look good. But I understand that’s a super stressful thing to do. “Sucking it up” would also make your husband happy and if he understands the stress on you, it should make him super happy. But he should not expect you to go with him. If he sees the problem and understands the stress on you, he should take your feelings into mind too. He can visit his mom if he wants but he shouldn’t force it on you.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I would go with the family no matter what. I would also be smiling the whole time. I would use family get together as a chance to speak privately with other individuals and discuss what “Matilde” said about them. Very discreetly, of course. I would end each conversation with “Well, bless her heart, she is clearly too old to change. I can’t wait to hear her next story.”

Go with your husband and kids. If you don’t, she will have won.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Silhouette at this point I think it is time for hubby to do this for her. “This” being not forcing her and their children to be anywhere near the old battle-axe. The fact is that this woman does not want to be nice to her daughter-in-law. Killing her with kindness, always responding with a smile, whatever she does, is just a waste of time. There are of course those who say this is taking the high road, but to me the highest road runs nowhere near this woman, for @tranquilsea‘s sake, and for her children. Emotional abuse never alright, no matter what.

tranquilsea's avatar

@Iclamae I have never forbade my husband or my children from seeing her. In fact, I have made effort upon effort to be sure that they do. I hold out the very slim hope that someday she’ll have an epiphany and moderate her behaviour.

This issue is really about my husband’s, children’s, and brother-in-law’s need to have me there and suck it up.

The problem with my husband came when I told him I wasn’t going to go anymore. Just me. I told him he could take the kids (of course). He got pretty upset and told me that I had to go because it would look bad if I didn’t.

tranquilsea's avatar

And our whole family has memories of that property as we have spent a significant portion of the last 16 years down there (when his grandfather was alive). Most of our summer pictures are of the kids down there, from the time they were babies.

Silhouette's avatar

@SuperMouse It’s only a waste of time if @tranquilsea thinks it’s going to change the mean ole cow. If she goes in knowing it won’t change her but it will take some of the pressure off her husbands and her children’s shoulders it will work. She has to do it for herself and her family, not for grumpy.

Iclamae's avatar

@tranquilsea ah, I didn’t know that. I mean, if you can suck it up, that’s great. But I still don’t think he should expect it of you. Everything you do looks bad to this woman, so I’m not sure how you not going changes that.

tranquilsea's avatar

@Iclamae I came to realization a long time ago that nothing I said or did could ever change her opinion of me. Although there was a time where she seemed to begrudgingly like me. But that didn’t last long. What happens is that my husband does or says something that makes her mad and she does an amazing flip in her mind and blames me for it. Because, heaven forbid, she should be angry with her son.

tranquilsea's avatar


We just got back from a week with his mom and she was great. No snide comments, no picking fights etc. It didn’t even seem like a contrived nice attitude.

I hope this is a lasting change as I want my kids to have a good relationship with her.

YARNLADY's avatar

* * * Y A Y * * * Thank you so much for the update.

tranquilsea's avatar

@YARNLADY Your welcome. Family is very important to me and since my mother died she is my kids only grandmother. She has so many great qualities that are hard to pay attention to when she starts attacking me. I really hope that this is a lasting change.

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