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Please help! I’m not sure what to do any more.

Bit of background: I am a teacher in a highly volatile environment. I specifically deal with English Language and Literature, Dramatic Arts and Theatrical Development.  All of my students have severe educational difficulties and other issues pertaining to their own experiences of education, which have never been resolved. I quite often find myself teaching much older learners to read and write simple spellings and names.

My in-laws don’t have a ‘permanent’ job, they standby for emergency work only and are struggling financially to keep paying their mortgage and their car payments etc.

The tale itself:
My In-Laws like to think they are superior to everyone. Not only are they constantly late to family gatherings, obnoxiously rude to my (gay) brother about his ‘choosing’ to be gay but also emotionally blackmail my husband into doing every little odd job they have around the house. They treat our home like it is their private skip and have even gone so far as to invite my husband’s ex-girlfriend to our wedding!  They really don’t like me, that is obvious, but I am now at a loss of what to do.

My f-i-l constantly complains about the educational system in my country. He says things like, “Teachers are paid too much”, and, “I don’t know why we bother with exams, they don’t prove anything.” The day I got my degree, he said, “Congratulations, you are now one of the mindless masses.”  He said this so quietly, no-one else heard, and of course, my Husband doesn’t believe he said it.

He constantly slates Dramatic Arts programs, saying that “they don’t teach anything” and that my students “are bad enough already, they don’t need to be taught any more rubbish.” (I have taken out the swears, in deference to the lovely readers here.)

He is always bringing up how my students “must be really thick, having to learn how to spell their names”, and, “you can’t be much of a teacher. They’re all really stupid.” He continually comments about their educational difficulties saying it makes them “stupid” or “retarded” and that “no one in my (his) family would dare have something so shameful.”  Yet he, himself is dyslexic!

My f-i-l also likes to “call-out” my dad and brother, saying things like,  “Your brother’s dyslexic, that means he’s retarded, no wonder he can’t get a decent job”, and when looking at text messages my dad has sent him about something,  “Your dad’s messages are stupid…what is he, brain dead?” He comments about my brothers’ job and how “thick” he must be, working in a shop, even though he is a manager.

So far, through all these comments I have managed to “bean-dip” away from the topic, and although he never mentions my family whilst my husband is around, it hurts. Every time my husband has been there and heard he’s called his dad on it, and basically told him to shut up.

However, I’m not sure how much more I should/can take. I’m sick of changing the topic all the time and having no “normal” conversations with my in-laws. Everything seems to revolve around F-I-L and his opinions, which are hurtful and upsetting.

I’m at the end of my tether and my ‘polite spine’ is about to snap!! 0919-13

Relinquish your hope of ever having a “normal” relationship with your FIL because he is not normal and likely won’t be for the foreseeable future.   There are some people in the world who live to goad others into misery because their own life is one long, miserable mess  and your FIL is one of them.  He’s trying to needle you every chance he gets and if he gets any kind of reaction from you, he scores.    I wouldn’t even bean dip at this point but rather ignore him completely, as if he did not exist, during the moments he says those hurtful things.   People like this are not worthy of the brain cells we yield to them and their opinions matter even less.

{ 77 comments… add one }
  • Mer October 17, 2013, 3:31 am

    Admin’s advice sounds reasonable. Does your husband know how much trash his father talks to you while he’s not around? Have you told him and how did he take it. I don’t know. I think I would like just to avoid him as much as possible. Cease family gatherings and don’t invite them over. If you husband likes to visit them/have them over, you don’t have to go with him or be home at the time. No-one should need to listen insults. Problem of course is that if your husband does not recognise the issue, he might feel insulted so tread lightly here.

  • just4kicks October 17, 2013, 4:01 am

    OP: I sympathize with you, my MIL was like that towards me, and my husband never believed the hurtful and downright ugly things she would say to me. We had many an argument over “my mom would NEVER say such a thing to you!” She has since passed on, but after many awful incidents, I would push the “bean dipping” to the limits, and make myself very busy during visits. One story out of many, at my wedding shower, she was so horrid and complained about EVERYTHING, from the decor to the food that my Dear sweet grandmother (who while she was alive I never heard a cross word or insult towards anyone come out of her mouth) leaned over to my mom and whispered, “Oh, dear….does Kim know what she’s getting herself into? That women is awful!!!!”
    Hang in there, OP, and while I don’t have any great suggestions in avoiding your FIL, take comfort in the fact you’re not alone. Your husband will see his father’s true colors eventually….but I do agree that sort of interaction with a person who has not one kind word to say, is truly exhausting.
    Good Luck, Dear.

  • Lex October 17, 2013, 4:43 am

    Your FIL is a bully and his emotional attrition is not healthy for you.

    It is great that your DH stands up to his father when he hears things, so he must be aware of at least some of his fathers attitude.

    I would sit DH down and explain all the things you’ve been hiding from him and the effect it is having on you and ask for DH’s support. Even if it is a case where he deliberately doesn’t leave you alone with his father or restrictions on them coming to your house.

    I’m not sure why your father is texting your FIL but for FIL to go to you and belittle him behind his back is inappropriate. I’d have a discussion with your father and ask him to curtail his contact with FIL. Feel free to explain why – half the reason people use passive aggressive behaviours is because they want people to find out but don’t have the guts to say it to their face.

    You should not have to put up with this behaviour and you need to stand up for yourself. There is nothing wrong with having a polite spine.

  • Lily October 17, 2013, 4:56 am

    I had a relative like that. I snapped one day and told him how hateful he was and that he would end up a very sad and lonely old man.
    Funny enough, he changed after that. Maybe he took it to heart.

  • Kirsten October 17, 2013, 4:56 am

    I would tell your husband that you are no longer prepared to be around his father. I am sorry but nobody should have to put up with that disgusting abuse from anyone, and your husband needs to accept that. It isn’t even just you – he is abusing your family! How you’ve managed for so long, I don’t know, but it’s unbelievable you should have to – which you don’t. There are limits, which he has crossed over and over. He is disrespecting people you love on top of this.

    Take a stand – for your parents, your brother, your students and, above all, yourself.

  • goddessoftheclassroom October 17, 2013, 5:09 am

    Some coping mechanisms for your consideration:

    1.FIL Bingo. Make a bingo card with the usual unkind remarks and mark the squares as you hear them.
    2. When FIL makes one of those insulting comments, get out your phone and ask him to say it again for a video. Tell him you treasure his opinions and want to keep a collection of them.
    3. Smile serenely and say, “Bless your heart” as though he were a person with a neurological condition which precluded his controlling himself.

    The most serious issue is a serious conversation with your husband about this. Perhaps your can share your polite spine with him. Create a list of professionals whom they can call for the odd jobs because DG is “sorry, he simply can’t.”

    I wish you true peace.

  • ferretrick October 17, 2013, 5:37 am

    “That comment is ill mannered, offensive, and wrong. You will need to refrain from making such comments about me/my students/my family/my profession or you will have to leave my home (or I will leave your home) and we will see you another time when you can be more civil. Thank you.”

    Having a polite spine does not mean putting up with abuse, and your FIL is a verbal abuser who cuts others down because of his own sense of inadequacy. Which is sad for him, but doesn’t mean you need to take his abuse. Start giving him consequences for his actions.

  • A October 17, 2013, 6:23 am

    I agree with the admin…but I would also be tempted to remind him of his own dyslexia when he says that makes your brother “retarded”. I’m sure I could come up with a few other zingers too, but if you are looking for an etiquette appropriate solutions I guess ignoring and avoiding this jerk is the way to go.

  • Jazzgirl205 October 17, 2013, 6:32 am

    To allude to Dickens, every human being has the power to make the people around them happy or miserable. Why does your FIL choose miserable? Perhaps you could point blank ask him this in a calm, almost pitiable, tone.

  • Anonymous October 17, 2013, 6:39 am

    Admin took the words right out of my mouth…..or fingers…..or, okay, that metaphor doesn’t work that well on the Internet. Let’s just say that she hit the nail squarely on the head. Forget bean-dipping; I’d just stop visiting your father-in-law. If your husband wants to visit him, he can go alone. Also, OP, I think limiting FIL’s visits to your home would be a good idea, except that it’s your husband’s home too, so if he really wants to be able to have his father over to visit, maybe some kind of compromise could be set. For example, no overnight or all-day visits, Husband prepares everything for FIL’s visits, OP gets to beg off and go to a movie (or whatever) when FIL visits, and finally, Husband cleans everything up after FIL’s visits–both literally and otherwise. Inevitably, FIL will ask, “Where’s OP,” and then, Husband would be perfectly polite to tell him, “Well, she was uncomfortable with you calling her, her dad, her brother, and her students stupid, so she decided she’d rather go to the movies than stick around and spend another afternoon being insulted.” Or, he could just say, “Ask her,” and then you’d say the same thing, with first-person pronouns instead of third.

  • SV October 17, 2013, 6:43 am

    When someone is saying hurtful, antagonizing things, there is nothing more powerful than simply looking at them and then continuing on as though they didn’t exist. It is both embarrassing and frustrating to have no one acknowledge the fact that you are speaking. You will never have a normal relationship with this man. Why would you even want one? He will never be someone you can confide in, cherish, or trust, and he is not worth the effort. As for your husband not believing you ….does he think you are mishearing, misunderstanding or making it up? Thinking you are mishearing or misunderstanding are okay, as he likely cannot believe his father would say and do such things. Thinking you are making this up is not.

  • Jewel October 17, 2013, 7:00 am

    Avoid, avoid, avoid. Keep yourself separate from these people as much as you possibly can. Don’t share with them ANY information about your job or your students. Don’t talk to them about your family. Help your family members stay away from these clods. Don’t share your text messages (for heaven’s sake, why did you do this anyway?!). Don’t answer the door if they come over when your husband isn’t home. Do not accept invitations to go to their home. In short: from now until these people are laying in their coffins, see them as little as you possibly can. And, share your letter with your hsuband so he can accept/support your decision to give your insufferable in-laws the cut direct.

  • hjaye October 17, 2013, 7:02 am

    The admin is right. Your FIL is a miserable person who only takes pleasure in goading other people and getting a reaction out of them. Stop giving him the reaction he’s looking for. I agree with her to just ignore him, act like he’s not even there. If he follows you around, maybe just give him an “Uh, uhh” or “thats nice” to any comment he makes. Just like you would do if you were busy with another task that needed your undivided attention and weren’t listenting to anything he had to say.

    the more he doesn’t get any kind of rise out of you, the more miserable he will become.

  • Jinx October 17, 2013, 7:04 am

    Wow. This man sounds like the hope diamond of ***holes.

    Why would you want a relationship with him? I get that you’re related, but if it weren’t for that, would you really want to be around him? What kind of value could he personally bring to the relationship table?

    It seems like he brings a lot of negativity, hate, ignorance, intolerance, and just general toxicity. I refuse to be around people like this because it’s not healthy. I find it very stressful.

    He says nasty things to you in your husband’s presence, and your DH does tell him off, which shows that your DH does think it’s unacceptable and will stick up for you. Why both of you keep putting yourself in the presence of FIL is perplexing. Why do you keep hanging around this man? DH tells him off… but then you guys keep going back for more verbal abuse.

    If it’s your husband’s wish to have awkward dinners, so be it, but makes yourself as scarce as possible. Bring a book to read (a usual etiquette no-no, but this is no longer etiquette, it’s now self-preservation) and just read it all through dinner. As admin points out, you’re going to have to ignore him completely. He’s not changing. What you’ve been doing isn’t working.

    I’d start telling your husband the things FIL says when DH is not around. Or, better yet, don’t even be without DH.

  • Amp2140 October 17, 2013, 7:04 am

    I’d leave my phone on record one time they’re over and show your DH how much trash his father talks.

  • Jinx October 17, 2013, 7:12 am

    I had a second thought: do you have children? (personal, I’m sorry)

    I can’t imagine exposing your (theoretical) children to this horrible man. Who knows what horrible things he would say to them behind your back of they didn’t meet whatever idiotic standards FIL has. Who knows what horrible subversive things he would say about you/your relationship towards them (as he’s said about your father towards you).

    The point is, you really can’t trust him, can you? Do you think he would be kind or hurtful?

  • Abby October 17, 2013, 7:49 am

    I’m bothered by the sentence about how FIL quietly will insult OP and OP’s husband doesn’t believe it when OP repeats the little gems his father said.

    The fact that your FIL congratulated you by saying you were one of the mindless masses is either true or false. It either happened or it didn’t. There is no way to misinterpret that sentence. For me, my husband implying that I was making something up would bother me far more than whatever drivel FIL spews.

  • Roslyn October 17, 2013, 7:50 am

    Your FIL is an old curmudgeon. He has a lifetime of misery that oozes from his pores. I have known quite a few in my family, and in my husband’s family. There is no reasoning with a curmudgeon. You can get your blood up and fight with them, but that is just like feeding a troll…..they only come back for more.

    I have a situation in my own life, my MIL. My husband is a non-confrontational guy, he’s lovely. He is also a Mama’s boy. She has never been warm to me, but recently things are very negative and nasty. I feel as though I am under attack for just existing, I don’t know of anything I have done to cause her treatment of me. The last time she visited was the worst and left me very shaken at her treatment, and the fact that my husband sits there and does/says nothing. She is his Mother, and he can’t make her angry or go against her, it’s his training from a child. I put my foot down and told him that he can stand up for me or I will stand up for myself. The way things have gone since then…..well, let’s say etiquette is out the window, I will stand up for myself, my gloves are off. I am thankful that she lives 10 hours away, visits are now very rare. If she lived closer, then I would probably not be married. She is the Queen at passive aggressive “emotionally blackmailing” my husband into doing “every little job around the house”, so I know exactly where you are coming from.

    Your husband does speak to his father for you, in that you are lucky. Your choices are simple. Let politeness go and just let the old guy have it – to vent your spleen so to speak – or completely cut any kind of contact off. Period.

    He is toxic to you, you many need to cut that from your life. Those words have a way of creeping back into your head, and then one day you realize you are saying them inside your own head and continuing the abuse. That isn’t good for you. Don’t feed the troll, but don’t fall victim to the troll either.

  • Angela October 17, 2013, 7:50 am

    OP, I don’t know if you and husband have children or are planning them, but you definitely don’t want them exposed to this man. Ignoring him is good if you can do it. This kind of insults, especially directed at your loved ones, are hard to ignore. Otherwise, avoid him as much as possible and if asked why, be honest.
    Teachers of the neglected and handicapped have all my admiration and respect. Maybe FIL would be a better person if he’d had you for a teacher.

  • mpk October 17, 2013, 8:00 am

    I agree with the other posters. Either limit your visits with him or cut him off altogether. Your dh can still visit if he wants, but there is no reason for you to be putting up with that nastiness. And no more bean dipping. If you are around him and he says something nasty and your husband isn’t in the room, I would call him in and tell your fil to repeat what he just said. Or get a tape recorder and start recording him for your husband to hear. You can even tell fil you’re recording. Might just shut him up.
    In my opinion, right now you don’t have a polite spine. You have no spine. So, stop being a doormat for this lowlife. And if your husband doesn’t believe you or isn’t supporting you ALL the time, then I think it’s time for some couples counseling. If he doesn’t want to go, then you should probably go by yourself. If anything, they should be able to give you the skills to handle this situation. And if you get a therapist that expects happy family at any cost, drop that person and find another.
    One other thing. When your fil made comments about your brother and his dyslexia how did you ever keep from responding -‘ takes on to know one’. (Even though your brother sounds like he’s actually doing fine for himself).
    Good luck to you and so sorry you’re in such a sad situation. But it’s time to start worrying about yourself and what makes you happy instead of trying to not rock the boat.

  • Kaye October 17, 2013, 8:00 am

    Good for husband for standing up for OP- but if he’s heard this and stands up, then why doesn’t he believe OP is bullied by FIL when husband isn’t around?

    Honestly, FIL sounds downright evil… but what does his job status or his dyslexia or the ex-girlfriend invitation have to do with it? His comments would be hateful and horrible no matter his financial status or his own learning disabilities.

    Years ago, there was a very silly show on Mtv called “Engaged & Underage”. The tagline was the featured couple saying “We’re our own family now”. Well, you and your husband are your own family, so stop revolving your family around his parents. Admin is right- drastically reduce his presence in your life (via locksmith if need be) and when you can’t avoid him, ignore him.

  • Mae October 17, 2013, 8:20 am

    I like many of the previous suggestions, especially the ones that say speak to your husband and then limit or even cut all contact.

    There is absolutely no reason you should continue to take abuse from your FIL. Because verbal abuse is exactly what this is. He sounds like an awful person who is intent on making everyone around him as miserable as he is.

  • Lo October 17, 2013, 8:24 am

    I don’t understand why you haven’t cut this person out of your life?

    Surely nothing can be worth this? This is not a disagreement you are having with an inlaw, this is abuse. You are involved with a verbally abuse person. If it were a partner I’d tell you to cut and run but because it’s your FIL you need to explain to your husband that you are no longer able to tolerate his presence in your life. Should you have children are they going to be exposed to this highly toxic environment? I cannot imagine looking this man in the eye much less allowing him into my home.

    I think you need to sit down and have a very long talk with your husband about what you are prepared to deal with when it comes to the inlaws.

  • Marian Perera October 17, 2013, 8:25 am

    I knew someone like that – my father. He not only belittled and insulted me, he told our entire family that I was “in thrall to Satan” because I wasn’t a Christian like him. He was incredibly toxic.

    So as soon as I could, I got out of the house and didn’t stop going until I was on another continent. Literally, since I moved from the Middle East to Canada. And that was the last time I saw him. He keeps trying to contact me – emails, Facebook, what have you – but I either ignore or block, and it’s wonderful being away from all that unpleasantness.

    I’d be all in favor of avoiding an abusive in-law as well. If that wasn’t possible – say, husband really wants his father there for Thanksgiving dinner – then I would either stay as far from him as possible or have some kind of recording device with me at all times. But then again, having gone to some lengths to escape an emotionally abusive home, I’m really not prepared to tolerate that kind of thing again, under any circumstances. Good luck, OP.

  • Jen October 17, 2013, 8:26 am

    @goddessoftheclassroom and @ferretrick, great suggestions! I know the advice was for OP, but I hope you don’t mind that I will be implementing them, too.

    A somewhat silly solution (that I find effective for me, personally), is to picture the rude person as a muppet. It tends to make it easier to deal with them in good humor, because muppets are expected to be ridiculous. This is especially effective for ranting rude people because you can just picture them as Animal.

  • Lisa October 17, 2013, 8:28 am

    OK, I’m probably going to be crucified for this…

    Your FIL is the type who will push and push until he feels resistance. There is no law that says you have to take this from him. There is a big difference between being polite and being a doormat. My response would be that the next time he says something similar to what you described, you look him directly in the eye and say something such as “I feel very sorry for someone who needs to degrade others to make themselves feel better”.

    This will continue until he is shut down.

  • Cady October 17, 2013, 8:30 am

    I would simply refuse to be around the FIL at all at this point. He is cruel, and no one deserves to be treated the way he’s treating OP. I would tell my husband, “Honey, I know you love your dad and you don’t believe he would say some of the things he’s said to me, but he said them, and it hurts, and I am not going to allow toxic people into my life.” Then don’t ever stop him from going to see his parents, but there’s no reason you have to go with him. Use that time to visit your own family or do the things you enjoy that he’s not really that into.

  • Lee October 17, 2013, 8:36 am

    You don’t always have to be the polite one in all situations. Stand up for yourself and tell him to his face he’s rude, hurtful and out of line. You won’t be in his company anymore until he stops his behavior. Put his behavior on him and walk away, let him explain to everyone why you are not around family gatherings. Don’t be bullied, ever.

  • Elizabeth October 17, 2013, 8:37 am

    It sounds like you are giving FIL too much information on which to (negatively) comment. Whyever does he know so much about your job and students? Stop giving him anything to cut down. I suggest keeping all conversation with him mundane: weather, how green the grass is, etc. Share nothing that he can disagree with, discredit, or otherwise opinionize on. If he’s bright, he’ll catch on that your treating him like a brick. I also suggest not being along with him, forcing him to say these things in front of your husband. And yes, as Admin suggestions, completely ignore him. People of this nature haven’t earned the respect of a response, a discussion, or an explanation. And of course, minimize the poison in your life by keeping as much physical distance as humanly possible. Good Luck!!

  • Stacey Frith-Smith October 17, 2013, 8:40 am

    If you don’t stand up for yourself- you are going to continue to be miserable. Your husband doesn’t have to witness a remark in order for him to deal with his father about it. You don’t have to tolerate the presence of anyone in your home who is insulting. You say that your polite spine is about to snap- but it could be that in try9ng to be polite you’ve actually failed to deal with the issue” Sit your husband down and explain what has been happening. Come up with strategies for dealing with it and implement them. Limit contact, end the visit, do what it takes. Once you’ve dealt with communicating with your hubs and gotten a plan in place, deal with the severely boundary challenged in-laws by refusing entry when the visit is unplanned and refusing to entertain subjects that are provocative. You can’t change your in-laws at all, but you can decide what behaviors you will tolerate and act on that. You can also tell your truth to your husband and to your in-laws as needed, and follow up with action. If your spouse is not able to offer support because he sees his father as an irritant but not a bully- you have got a problem, but not an insurmountable one. Stand up for yourself, calmly, and stop allowing FIL to whisper outrageous remarks to you that you don’t call him out on. Silence and access are the twin dynamics that he is using to bully you and to cause you to lose your equilibrium. Remove the silence by speaking and the access by communicating to your husband and limiting contact.

  • The Elf October 17, 2013, 8:42 am

    FIL sounds like a real prize. I’ve got a PITA FIL too. The way I deal with it (sometimes this isn’t easy, but I try) is to let it roll off my back. I already know his opinion is worthless, so I don’t let it bother me. I already know he doesn’t like me, so I don’t try to get him to like me. I try to find the most absurd thing he says to see if he can top himself, making it a private game that I laugh about inside the confines of my head. Last time he topped himself by saying he was going to give up on this country and retire to Central America, which considering how much he hates “foreigners” really has me laughing.

    Oh, and I also find lots of excuses not to be around. It’s amazing how many errands I need to run when he visits!

    The only time I would put a stop to his rambling is if he openly disparages your family. Then you look him straight in the eye and say “I’m not discussing that.” Then change the subject. He might still rant, but it takes two to have a conversation/argument/debate. It’s important that you get your husband on board with this, too. He needs to not discuss your family with his family too.

    You can also try to set boundaries within your home about what is and what is not acceptable, but I understand this can be difficult when habits are already entrenched. Still, that’s something to think about in the future. First try to get your head in the right place (by disregarding FIL) and your husband on the same page as you.

  • Redneck Gravy October 17, 2013, 8:49 am

    There are many great suggestions here…I, too, would leave when FIL was coming over and refuse to go to his home. I am stunned that your DH is allowing this to continue. That is a huge red flag to me – he needs to grow a spine and stop responding to their emotional blackmail and stop tolerating their verbal abuse of you. I see marriage counseling on your horizon, obviously DH still has issues tolerating his parents nasty sexist, racist, homophobic comments.

    Just Wow!

    And thank you for taking on the special needs students it takes a special person to teach them.

  • Lynne October 17, 2013, 9:10 am

    I would go one further than Admin and state that it’s YOUR home he’s disrespecting you in. Why are you putting up with that? If this happened to me, I would tell my husband that until his parents could behave as civilized adults, they would be asked to leave every time they behaved this way. Your husband really needs to man up and support you EVEN IF HE DOES NOT WITNESS THE ALTERCATION. He knows his dad is a jerk, why would he doubt specific incidents?

  • InNM October 17, 2013, 9:20 am

    Would this be a good time to give him enough rope to hang himself? I mean ignoring him so much he feels he has to work so hard to get your goat that he shows his true colours to everyone and embarrasses himself into silence?
    I like the cell recording idea but I don’t think it would work if he knows he is being recorded (but it may be a great deterrent) since he chooses most insults for times no one else can hear. I would consider setting up one in a house or a room where you’re alone, then playing the tape in front of the family gathering. I know it’s a little rude/passive agressive, but like most other abuse, this one is thriving on secrecy, where the FIL finds the DIL is private and begins this nonsense.

  • Allie October 17, 2013, 9:27 am

    I would suggest you confide in your husband and limit your contact with your in laws, especially your FIL, as much as you can, and altogether if possible. It’s only a matter of time until this starts to impact your marriage negatively. It sounds like your husband could be of more help if he knew the extent of the situation. I’m sorry you are having this problem. Hang in there! I do hope things improve for you. I bet many of your students really look up to you and think of you as a hero. Try to remember that.

  • Mae October 17, 2013, 9:28 am

    @Jen, comment #25- no, not Animal- he’s my favorite muppet! FIL can be the old, grouchy men in the balcony!

  • Lila October 17, 2013, 9:34 am

    My dad’s brother is like this–rascist, opinionated, bitter, and angry. The last conversation I remember having with him in which he was actively spewing hateful garbage stands out. He was going on and on about the place I worked at the time–a big box retailer that has a pretty good reputation but for some reason he doesn’t like them. They probably give too much to charity. I was young enough at the time to still engage and try to express my point of view. But people like this will never change their minds. They enjoy having controversial opinions because they can use them to belittle people. Suddenly, during that discussion, a light bulb went off in my head. I looked at him and just felt sad and sorry for him. And I swear he saw it happen. The conversation just ended and I’ve barely spoken to him since. I also have a similar situation with my dad, his wife and her daughter. My dad is completely opposite from me on the political scale as are his wife and step daughter. They are well aware of my views and EVERY holiday they made at least one or two comments to needle me. I used to rise to it but my philosophy over the last few years has been, “Don’t engage!” My dad figured this out and now never says anything controversial. His wife and step daughter aren’t as bright and can’t restrain themselves. I just ignore them. Now that they don’t get a rise out of me, it happens much less often. That being said they were never as bad as the OP’s FIL. I think something should be said to him and the consequences of his continuing his behavior laid out clearly–he is not welcome in their home, the OP will not visit them in theirs, etc. And it should be done by her husband. And the husband should make it clear that the FIL’s behavior is hurting him not just the OP. Then they need to stick to it. People like the FIL are giant children trying to get attention by behaving badly. He is getting rewarded for bad behavior by seeing her distress and by feeling a warped sense of superiority and he’s been given tacit permission to keep doing it. If they give him consequences and stick to them, he’ll either come round or not. Either way, the OP will end up not being around his poisonous nonsense.

  • Devil's Advocate October 17, 2013, 9:39 am

    @Lo–dead on advice.

    Why or why are you putting up wit this? Just because they are related doesn’t mean you have to like them, love them, or even be friends with them. This treatment is reprehensible. Here are the next steps I would take.

    1. Sit down talk with you husband. I understand (somewhat) his possible niaveness with re: to his father. Record the father if you have to in order to show your husband what you are dealing with.
    2. FIL is no longer allowed in your house when you are there, period.
    3. Never spend any alone time with FIL. Make a point of this. In fact, I would stress to only be around FIL when your husband is also there. This way, in order for FIL to continue to “goad” you he must do so in front of your husband….this hopefully will help your husband see the light with regards to cutting them out of your lives.
    4. You said that your in laws are financially stressed…..do NOT I repeat do NOT provide any financial aid whatsoever.
    5. Lastly, if you are forced to be around the man don’t discuss anything about your job etc. If he brings it up ignore him. Don’t fuel the fire.

    Please note this is going to be an issue for your marriage until it is resolved. Obviously your husband still allows this man into your house after he has treated you absolutely horribly. You need to repeatedly sit down with your husband, let him know how hurt you are, let him realize that any contact with FIL (unless he changes) is not going to happen for you. Also know, that when you cut contact, but your husband continues contact his family will try to poision him against you. Be aware of this and watch out for it.

    Good luck OP.

  • Barbarian October 17, 2013, 9:55 am

    OP should record FIL’s remarks and play them back to her husband. It might help if she asks her dad to not contact FIL anymore because FIL is harassing her.

    Saying as little as possbile also helps-she is not fueling the fire of his ignorance and spite.

    If he persists with the evil comments, I would reply, “Thanks. DH and I will take that into account when it’s time to select your nursing home. “Worst Nursing Home in Town” sounds like the ideal place for you. You’d fit right in. I’ll be happy to call if they have any space available.”

    I have survived ongoing battles with MIL. Lucky for me, she lives in another town. When they visit, I take mini-breaks at the coffee bar and the gym. I also stay busy with food prep, hospitality, etc, and don’t say much.

    Last year, she really took the cake. She asked DH to pay for an expensive dental treatment and before he could say yes or no she cursed at him, certain that he had voted for the current President and it was all his fault the government would not pay for her dental care. In reality, Medicare has never included dental care as a benefit. Dh offered a less expensive option that would still give her what she needed, but she indignantly refused.

  • Amber October 17, 2013, 10:04 am

    Is there any way to give these people the Direct Cut, OP? They sound like horrors. At this point I would simply refuse to go to events with the inlaws or let them in my house. No amount of family obligation is worth this sort of abuse.

  • Lisa Marie October 17, 2013, 10:06 am

    In situations like this you have to turn to your husband. I see he is on your side and you should ask him to be more so. He should tell his parents his house, his rules and they are to only come over when invited. Ask him to limit your time with FIL to once a week or better yet once a month. Then ignoring his comments as much as possible is the way to go. Less contact. Less stress.

  • Otterpop October 17, 2013, 10:07 am

    After reading your OP, why are you still talking to this man? He insults you, your family, your profession, the students your teach…there are no redeeming qualities in associating with this man. Let your husband visit and be “too busy” to go with him.

    If you’re trapped into being around him for your DH’s sake, make yourself so busy you have no time to chit chat. Offer no personal information other than your opinion of the weather. Set up straw men (“I think Icelandic fishing is terrific this time of year. Boycott Peruvian pears as they are bad for the environment.”) for him to knock down. Be so obtuse that he couldn’t find your opinion with with a microscope, stethoscope or binoculars. Don’t stay on the phone with him longer than it takes to hand it to DH. If he corners you, smell something “burning” or “hear” and alarm going off.

    I did this with MIL and she toned her harshness waaaaaayyy down. She still asks to talk to me, eeks out praise now and again, but I don’t EVER take the bait. We hardly ever see her now and she, in her heart, knows why (I have a special needs/dyslexic DD that I protect with ferocity! She’s done exceedingly well with the kind of help YOU offer. She will be attending university in 2 years and entering an LE forensics profession. MIL can claim no part in either of my girls’ successes).

    Protect yourself OP. Do not engage the crazy/dysfunctional/twisted/shriveled bag of nothing but ill-wind.

  • nayberry October 17, 2013, 10:07 am

    OP i feel for you, my own FiL is just such a charmer!

    i mention a “widget” that we can’t get at work, he knows that he could get it, nevermind he can find generic and i need specific.
    he thinks that my parents are showing off when they take us all out for dinner, not that they are just being kind and know that we couldn’t afford go otherwise.
    and so on ad infinitum.

    i have him under a cut currently, and it’s a shame that i don’t see mil because of it (she doesn’t drive and can’t/won’t work a mobile) as she is a darling and the best mil a gal could want.

  • Wild Irish Rose October 17, 2013, 10:18 am

    I like the advice Anonymous gave about being gone when FIL comes over, and not visiting their home, and about what your DH should say to his father when he starts in. And I’m sorry, but it sounds like being polite makes zero difference, so I would have absolutely NOTHING to do with this man. Life is too short and sufficiently stressful that you shouldn’t subject yourself to this tripe. Why are unhappy people like this? I’ll never understand.

  • Lisa October 17, 2013, 10:38 am

    The only way to remove the power your FIL is exerting over you is to not respond. Once you engage, he’s won. If he starts going on about something, just pretend you didn’t hear him and excuse yourself. Whatever you do, do not give this man one ounce of your time or energy.

  • Library Diva October 17, 2013, 10:50 am

    I feel for you, OP. I think you’ve gotten some excellent advice on how to handle the situation, but I wanted to write in and tell you that I admire what you do as a profession. I work in PR for an arts organization and one message we often try to communicate is that the arts aren’t a mere luxury item. Training in the arts provides skills that are invaluable for the workplace, even if you become an accountant rather than an actor, you’ll still need to know how to solve problems creatively, look at things from another’s perspective, and work as a team (for example). Your profession proves that drama or literature can reach people that have not responded to anything else. A high school student may loathe school and have a lot of pressure to drop out, but sticks around and maintains a decent average in order to continue in orchestra or to use the school’s sculpture studio. Arts are important. What you do is vital. Don’t ever let your turd of an f-i-l convince you otherwise.

  • startruck October 17, 2013, 10:54 am

    this sounds like a classic case of, “iam miserable so i want to make you miserable to.” your father in law is an unhappy human being and since a person has to choose to be happy, there is really nothing you can do. however, when it comes to bad mouthing my brother and my own father i would simply say , please do not speak about my family that way, i find it offensive. there are some people that you can kill with kindness and they feel guilty about their behavior . so you could try that. but, he might just be one of those relatives that you weed out slowly and only see on certain occasions.

  • Harley Granny October 17, 2013, 10:55 am

    I say it’s time to say hello to your spine.

    Put it back on him. Next time he starts this ask him point blank why he feels it’s OK to be so insulting to you and your family.

    If and when he goes off on another tear, calmly look him in the eye and say something to the effect of “How sad for you. ”

    After that when you are in a situation when the two of you are in the same room, do not engage him. when he asks why….tell him. Repeat as necessary. If he doesn’t relent….refuse to talk to him at all or visit his home. And tell your husband why. Repeat as necessary.

    Good luck to you…it really sounds like you’re trying to be the peace keeper. Sometimes it’s just not possible.

  • Calli Arcale October 17, 2013, 11:36 am

    Yeah, I’d basically cut your contact with FIL down to the barest of bare minimums. He’s gonna be mad and abuse you behind your back, but y’know? He’s doing that anyway, so you have nothing to lose.

    As far as his abuse towards teachers…..

    He is certainly not alone in making teachers the object of his disdain. Though it might not be a good response to actually use, there may be some visceral satisfaction in reading Zen Pencils # 124 at this point. It’s an illustration of Taylor Mali’s poem “What Teachers Make”, about an exchange between a teacher and an odious nitwit at a dinner party on the subject of the value of teachers.


    Go read it. It will give you some satisfaction, I think. 😉 Though as far as FIL goes, I’d ignore him as much as humanly possible.

  • Brenda October 17, 2013, 11:51 am

    I would definitely try the ignore completely method.

    However, if it doesn’t work, needle back. It’s unfortunate, but many of these types only get more obnoxious when they’re ignored, and taking the high road doesn’t work. If that is the case, then you have to be willing to take him on. I don’t mean righteously indignant, or pointing out how he’s wrong, because that won’t change a thing. In this case, you have to fight fire with fire. And that means possibly destroying what is left is of this abusive relationship. You have to ask yourself if you’re willing to do that.

    If you decide you are, then practice and be prepared. The next time he makes a comment about your brother the shop manager, reply, “Why, he has [x] number of employees he supervises, and is up for a promotion in the next year. We’re quite proud of him. How many people do you manage?”

    If he makes comments about homosexuality, respond with, “We love [gay relative] so much. He’s always been so helpful and kind. He even volunteers with [_______]. It’s amazing how much he is able to accomplish, since he doesn’t spend his time sitting around and complaining about other people’s sex lives.”

    You’re not being bitter or nasty with these responses. You’re pointing out the bullies failings and loserhood.

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