I am currently living a family situation that is becoming tiring and cumbersome. Since I cannot intervene openly, for reasons that I will make clear later, I am asking advice on how to discreetly handle the situation with the people concerned. But I will tell the story in my own point of view. I understand that this is only one side of the story, but I hope it will be clear enough to understand the situation.
Our family consist on FIL and MIL, respectively in their seventies and eighties, who are the sweetest. MIL is manipulative, but not in a damaging way. She wants to keep the family together, that’s her prime directive.
FIL reacts negatively to manipulation. He abhors that, and I cannot blame him, since I also despise manipulation, if done to damage people.
Their oldest son, S#1, is a good man, but prone to get into situations that requires usually tact and diplomacy, which he has, in small doses.
The youngest son, S#2, is also a good man, but has no backbone. He is ruled in everything by his wife, the DIL. She is also a manipulative person, with a tendency to step on others in the family to get her way.
Me? I am the lover of S#1, accepted by the family, treated as a family member. But with no marital status, I feel that I am in a kind of limbo with them, even if I love some of them dearly.
The players are in place. Here’s the story :
MIL had bad health for quite a few years. She manages to get by, as best she can, with the support of FIL, who is in perfect health. DIL has been pestering the family for many months now to put MIL in an institution. Since she works in that field, she appointed herself the expert on that topic, as well as many others. Usually, the family simply brushed her pretentions and demands aside. But a recent discussion has ignited the fires of discord, and even I am not immune, even if I try my best to relate the facts in an objective manner.
FIL recently celebrated his 75th birthday. To that effect, a small party was organized by DIL. Things went from good to bad, because there were imposed restrictions right from the start. The family was not permitted to invite some guests close to them, but DIL had made provisions for members of her own family to attend. No problem there, as they were welcome, but why not extend the courtesy to the family of the birthday man? A battle of wills erupted between MIL and DIL. S#1 tried to interfere, and was rudely brushed aside by his brother and his wife. After a heated exchange, DIL decided she didn’t want to organize anything anymore, and left everything in the hands of S#1.
Fast forward to the party. It was a beautiful one. I helped my lover, and I have not regretted it. What was regrettable, however, was the attitude of DIL, who arrived early in order to boss everyone around. We had organized the seating at the restaurant so that the birthday man and his wife would be sitting at the end of a table (that was thought so that MIL would get an easy access to the restroom), and the immediate surviving family of FIL around him, which amounted to seven people. The rest of the long table was free for the rest of the family. DIL threw a fit, declared the arrangements inadequate, felt insulted to be seated so far from everyone else (which would have been the third seat from MIL/FIL at the end of the table). She later told that she envisioned a table “just for the old people”. My lover and I didn’t give her any footing. So she decided to dine at another table in the restaurant, and…sulk, with her own family. In fact, I was so infuriated by her childish attitude that I answered quite dryly at a question she asked me.
FIL, who had seen the way she behaved, wrote her an email the following morning, carefully worded, extolling her many qualities, but telling her why she was not endearing herself to anyone with her attitude. Her answer was to, in that order :
1. Read diagonally the email, and keeping in mind only the bad things the email said about her
2. Wrote another email, including a copy of the former, underlining all that was aggravating to her
3. Said that she would retire from any family functions from now on
4. That what was done to her was unthinkable, and couldn’t be mended
5. She destroyed her Facebook page
MIL, who was quite affected by the whole story, phoned her, asking what’s wrong. She said that FIL told her in the email that she shouldn’t phone them again for a few months, which is a lie, as some of us have seen the “offending” email.
Now, things are becoming ugly, as MIL is manipulating FIL in order to keep the family together, FIL is having none of it, and S#1 is upset that the same chain of events will begin all over again in a few months, if DIL has her way.
The reason I cannot intervene directly is that when you are a guest and a semi-relative (again, no marital status), you shouldn’t meddle in family affairs. But if I can pass discreetly a few words of advice from someone wiser than me on those topics, especially if it can allow the peace to return in this troubled household, I would gladly do it.
My frank point of view on the DIL attitude is this. I believe she is under a lot of pressure, for reasons unknown. I base my POV on the destruction of her FB page. Why do that, and deprive her own side of the family of her news, while it would have been simpler to just unfriend FIL and my lover? The move struck me as irrational. Any thoughts? 1112-13
Some things don’t make sense. The MIL and DIL have a series of epic fights regarding FIL’s birthday party yet it is FIL and S#1 that are the villains? It would appear to me that DIL has learned what buttons of her MIL to push and despite the cat fights, she views them as worth the effort since she achieves her desired goals in the end. Such tactics don’t work on the menfolk.
And what constitutes “manipulation” by MIL to FIL? Nagging? Pleas? Whining? Or just appeals to be reasonable?
My other thought was, when FIL’s birthday was pending,was there any family discussion to figure out who was doing what to celebrate the event? Did the event planning fall to DIL by default or did she assume control over the objections of S#1? One remedy to family members who take commanding control of family functions is to take the initiative to plan early, assume a leadership role from the beginning and lay claim to the responsibility to delegate duties as is expected from an event host.
As I get older my tolerance for the drama queens in the family diminishes. I have discovered that it is healthier to have harmony and happiness among a smaller population than attempt for years to bring or keep the drama llama into the family fold. Life is more peaceful when the habitual liar is allowed to prance off in a huff with no one chasing them to appeal that they come back. Let them go. This new reality does burst the illusionist bubble of a happy family but the sad truth is, there may never have been a happy family at all to keep intact.