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Author Topic: SIL - needing some support/ good phrases  (Read 6151 times)

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figee

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SIL - needing some support/ good phrases
« on: April 04, 2012, 08:17:36 PM »
Some of you will remember the issues I was having with my SIL a couple of years ago.  Well, since last year, there has been no drama not least because she decided that she didn't want contact with me.  Things have been much nicer since!

However, mum rang last night and said that SIL had suggested that we 'all' - the whole family - get together some time over Easter.  I think this is the first step towards normalising relations.  I almost threw up but continued speaking to mum.  It would mean a lot to my mother if we could do this.  She has my niece about 1/3 of the time to 'help', she's tired, and I know we're all worried about my niece should SIL go back off the rails.  I want to support my mother and would love a closer relationship with niece, particularly since I will not be having children of my own (another thread, heartbreaking, but there you go).

DH and I spoke about it.  We know that it's possible that SIL has changed.  However, in order to assess this, we need to give her a chance to prove herself and that, sadly, means contact over a prolonged period of time.  We've decided to draw some nice big boundaries and agreed that afternoon tea at my parents would be preferable to a sit down meal.  We can always leave because 'the dogs need to be walked' if it all starts to go wrong.

But, really, I need to know ways of saying things or things to say that won't come across as being too aloof or patronising.  Keep in mind that she has accused me of being patronising and aloof before, in addition to a string of other things.  I do know what's been going on in her life through my mother - can I ask her about that?  Should I wait for her?

I'm afraid that if I wait for her to approach me, we'll either end up in a row or with her attempting too much intimacy......  I don't want her knowing anything about my life and last time I saw her (January 2011) I was unable to stay in the same room as her - I had to leave.  I'm actually really quite scared.

AnnaT

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Re: SIL - needing some support/ good phrases
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2012, 08:38:08 PM »
Can you please put up some links to the previous story so there's a bit of background?

I would suggest a neutral meeting place for the family to get together - a park or a restaurant or something similar - easy to slip away from.

figee

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Re: SIL - needing some support/ good phrases
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2012, 08:51:52 PM »
http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=85757.msg2043790#msg2043790

I hope the above links OK.  Since then, contact has been limited to my letting her know that my mother (who had broken a wrist) had just taken painkillers so to time her visit appropriately (so mum wasn't totally out of it), to which she responded that all communication should go through my brother.  That was last October or so.  Since then, I've respected her wishes and not communicated at all.

weeblewobble

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Re: SIL - needing some support/ good phrases
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2012, 09:41:04 PM »
From what it sounds like, your brother and SIL are self-centered, self-involved people who are hyper-sensitive to criticism (real or perceived) and refuse to be held responsible or accountable for their actions.  And that always makes the holidays a pant-load of fun.

How can you wring the slightest hint of reasonable behavior from people like this?  Well, you can't.  We cut off a sibling in law for other reasons, but here's how we handled easing back into holiday visits with her after a two year break from contact. 

Before the holiday, we made it clear to my parents-in-law that we would spend the holiday as a family for their sake, but that we were drawing the following boundaries.

1) We would only see SIL at the official holiday function.  We would not arrive early so she could visit with the kids. We would not stay late.  We would not tack on additional meals/events/visits over the holiday weekend while she was in town.

2) Any gifts or cards she gave our children were to be screened through us first.

3) If she made a scene, began asking us uncomfortable questions, cornered one of us away from the rest of the family to try to "talk things out" or otherwise made us uncomfortable, we would leave immediately.  End of discussion.  No second chances.  Even if the meal had just been served, we would get up and leave.

4) This exception was not an "all clear" to SIL that we were ready to resume our relationship as before. (This was her pattern.  She did something awful/illegal.  We drew a boundary with her.  We relaxed the boundary even the slightest bit.  She took that as a sign that all was forgiven and we would end up right back at square one.) We were willing to see her over the holiday, that was it.  Beyond that, we didn't want to see her.  We didn't want her to write, call, email or otherwise contact us.

5) This would SIL's only chance.  If she did anything to make us uncomfortable during the holiday visit, there would not be a second chance.

And we were ready to enforce those boundaries.  SIL was so cowed by her parents pre-holiday warnings that she was on her best behavior.  On the next holiday, we drew the same boundaries and she behaved just fine.  On the third, she started creeping back to her old ways and we ended up leaving in the middle of the festivities.  That was enough to remind her that we were serious about drawing the line with her.

Take from our experience, what you will.  The main thing is that you have to draw the line and be willing to stick to it.

Mental Magpie

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Re: SIL - needing some support/ good phrases
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2012, 10:16:25 PM »
From what it sounds like, your brother and SIL are self-centered, self-involved people who are hyper-sensitive to criticism (real or perceived) and refuse to be held responsible or accountable for their actions.  And that always makes the holidays a pant-load of fun.

How can you wring the slightest hint of reasonable behavior from people like this?  Well, you can't.  We cut off a sibling in law for other reasons, but here's how we handled easing back into holiday visits with her after a two year break from contact. 

Before the holiday, we made it clear to my parents-in-law that we would spend the holiday as a family for their sake, but that we were drawing the following boundaries.

1) We would only see SIL at the official holiday function.  We would not arrive early so she could visit with the kids. We would not stay late.  We would not tack on additional meals/events/visits over the holiday weekend while she was in town.

2) Any gifts or cards she gave our children were to be screened through us first.

3) If she made a scene, began asking us uncomfortable questions, cornered one of us away from the rest of the family to try to "talk things out" or otherwise made us uncomfortable, we would leave immediately.  End of discussion.  No second chances.  Even if the meal had just been served, we would get up and leave.

4) This exception was not an "all clear" to SIL that we were ready to resume our relationship as before. (This was her pattern.  She did something awful/illegal.  We drew a boundary with her.  We relaxed the boundary even the slightest bit.  She took that as a sign that all was forgiven and we would end up right back at square one.) We were willing to see her over the holiday, that was it.  Beyond that, we didn't want to see her.  We didn't want her to write, call, email or otherwise contact us.

5) This would SIL's only chance.  If she did anything to make us uncomfortable during the holiday visit, there would not be a second chance.

And we were ready to enforce those boundaries.  SIL was so cowed by her parents pre-holiday warnings that she was on her best behavior.  On the next holiday, we drew the same boundaries and she behaved just fine.  On the third, she started creeping back to her old ways and we ended up leaving in the middle of the festivities.  That was enough to remind her that we were serious about drawing the line with her.

Take from our experience, what you will.  The main thing is that you have to draw the line and be willing to stick to it.

I like this plan.

figee

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Re: SIL - needing some support/ good phrases
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2012, 10:26:01 PM »
I do too.  And it gives me some hope that this might be manageable.  Calm and cool.  I'm hoping that she'll be on her best behaviour, although I have a feeling the problem will be that she will assume that we are all one happy family and behave as if we are bestest buddies.  Given I can't/ won't act like that, she'll get upset and we'll be back on the merry-go-round again.

Mental Magpie

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Re: SIL - needing some support/ good phrases
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2012, 10:29:32 PM »
I do too.  And it gives me some hope that this might be manageable.  Calm and cool.  I'm hoping that she'll be on her best behaviour, although I have a feeling the problem will be that she will assume that we are all one happy family and behave as if we are bestest buddies.  Given I can't/ won't act like that, she'll get upset and we'll be back on the merry-go-round again.

So that's when you get up and leave.  "I will not tolerate this." because honestly, you shouldn't.  Although I desperately want one for you, I think you'll have to accept that she will never apologize for the hurtful things she has said.

diesel_darlin

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Re: SIL - needing some support/ good phrases
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2012, 10:33:10 PM »
I do too.  And it gives me some hope that this might be manageable.  Calm and cool.  I'm hoping that she'll be on her best behaviour, although I have a feeling the problem will be that she will assume that we are all one happy family and behave as if we are bestest buddies.  Given I can't/ won't act like that, she'll get upset and we'll be back on the merry-go-round again.

So that's when you get up and leave.  "I will not tolerate this." because honestly, you shouldn't.  Although I desperately want one for you, I think you'll have to accept that she will never apologize for the hurtful things she has said.


This.

MyFamily

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Re: SIL - needing some support/ good phrases
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2012, 10:48:49 PM »
You are not responsible for stopping this merry-go-round - you are responsible for you.  Go and be polite, but don't be a doormat.  If she acts like all is normal and you are best friends, pull back and step away. If she confronts you either get up and leave or sit there and listen and when she's done turn to your mother, father, brother, husband, or niece and say "so the weather has been just lovely lately, hasn't it" and act like she never said a thing.  The action you take is up to you, but you can't control her or her reactions to anything.
"The test of good manners is to be patient with bad ones" - Solomon ibn Gabirol

weeblewobble

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Re: SIL - needing some support/ good phrases
« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2012, 12:30:15 AM »
I do too.  And it gives me some hope that this might be manageable.  Calm and cool.  I'm hoping that she'll be on her best behaviour, although I have a feeling the problem will be that she will assume that we are all one happy family and behave as if we are bestest buddies.  Given I can't/ won't act like that, she'll get upset and we'll be back on the merry-go-round again.

So that's when you get up and leave.  "I will not tolerate this." because honestly, you shouldn't.  Although I desperately want one for you, I think you'll have to accept that she will never apologize for the hurtful things she has said.

True.  She's counting on you being too nice or too determined not to upset your parents to make a stand against her. She has to learn there are consequences to her actions and that there are limits to your tolerance.  And if you do get up and leave, do not let anyone tell you that YOU are the problem and YOU are making a scene.  Your actions are the result of SIL's choices.  You made your plans and boundaries clear from the beginning.

AustenFan

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Re: SIL - needing some support/ good phrases
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2012, 01:50:34 AM »
This sounds like the merry-go-round from Hell.

You already know SIL is going to start up the drama again, because she still hasn't apologized. If she honestly wanted to mend fences she would have texted asking you to take a call from her or something to that effect. It sounds to me like she is hoping to sweep her past heinous behavior under the rug, and since she has been given no reason to change it's only a matter of time until she starts escalating herself again.

In your last thread you mentioned that your parents cared for your niece a substantial amount of time, and the cynical side of me is wondering if she needs more free childcare and that's why she's suddenly trying to make it look like she's extending an olive branch.


Otterpop

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Re: SIL - needing some support/ good phrases
« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2012, 06:27:19 AM »
I was thinking this too.  People like SIL tend to burn up friendships and family to the point where no one is left.  They then turn to attacking the spouse.  Maybe she needs to mend relations to keep her little "fiefdom" going.  I would be skeptical of any attempt at contact (barring a heartfelt apology).  As Dark Magdalena said, go for your mother's sake, but erect impenetrable boundaries.  Plan to leave immediately if SIL attacks.

(BTW - people rarely change)

Winterlight

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Re: SIL - needing some support/ good phrases
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2012, 08:01:38 AM »
From what it sounds like, your brother and SIL are self-centered, self-involved people who are hyper-sensitive to criticism (real or perceived) and refuse to be held responsible or accountable for their actions.  And that always makes the holidays a pant-load of fun.

How can you wring the slightest hint of reasonable behavior from people like this?  Well, you can't.  We cut off a sibling in law for other reasons, but here's how we handled easing back into holiday visits with her after a two year break from contact. 

Before the holiday, we made it clear to my parents-in-law that we would spend the holiday as a family for their sake, but that we were drawing the following boundaries.

1) We would only see SIL at the official holiday function.  We would not arrive early so she could visit with the kids. We would not stay late.  We would not tack on additional meals/events/visits over the holiday weekend while she was in town.

2) Any gifts or cards she gave our children were to be screened through us first.

3) If she made a scene, began asking us uncomfortable questions, cornered one of us away from the rest of the family to try to "talk things out" or otherwise made us uncomfortable, we would leave immediately.  End of discussion.  No second chances.  Even if the meal had just been served, we would get up and leave.

4) This exception was not an "all clear" to SIL that we were ready to resume our relationship as before. (This was her pattern.  She did something awful/illegal.  We drew a boundary with her.  We relaxed the boundary even the slightest bit.  She took that as a sign that all was forgiven and we would end up right back at square one.) We were willing to see her over the holiday, that was it.  Beyond that, we didn't want to see her.  We didn't want her to write, call, email or otherwise contact us.

5) This would SIL's only chance.  If she did anything to make us uncomfortable during the holiday visit, there would not be a second chance.

And we were ready to enforce those boundaries.  SIL was so cowed by her parents pre-holiday warnings that she was on her best behavior.  On the next holiday, we drew the same boundaries and she behaved just fine.  On the third, she started creeping back to her old ways and we ended up leaving in the middle of the festivities.  That was enough to remind her that we were serious about drawing the line with her.

Take from our experience, what you will.  The main thing is that you have to draw the line and be willing to stick to it.

This. And if she acts up, leave. You and DH need to be a united front on this.

I'd add a fourth clause- DH screens your calls from her/reads the texts and tells you if there's something you need to know. He's less likely to get stressed by her than you are, especially if she starts the barrage of texts again.
If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
Caroline Lake Ingalls

Mikayla

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Re: SIL - needing some support/ good phrases
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2012, 03:28:18 PM »
I do too.  And it gives me some hope that this might be manageable.  Calm and cool.  I'm hoping that she'll be on her best behaviour, although I have a feeling the problem will be that she will assume that we are all one happy family and behave as if we are bestest buddies.  Given I can't/ won't act like that, she'll get upset and we'll be back on the merry-go-round again.
I read the other thread, and I'm sorry this is happening to you!

But, there's a subtle difference between what weeblewobble suggested and what you're reading into it.  The biggest difference is that weeblewobble set the non-negotiable boundaries *before* the event took place.  There was no mention of hoping someone would behave in a certain way, or what should be said when this happens.  Think of it as zero tolerance.

The other problem is that you may be giving her too much credit.  Both she and your bro are borderline toxic, meaning your own assumptions about how she might behave are based on a normal person - you.  They aren't normal.

So instead of worrying how to react when she does x or y, you're much better off getting in touch with your brother and laying out very specifically what you will tolerate and what you won't.  This way, you don't even have to stand up and say "I won't tolerate this".  Everyone, including your mom, will have already been told you won't tolerate it.  So it negates the need for a scene.  Just smile, pack up, kiss mom goodbye, and leave. 

Your list may not be the same as weeblewobble's, but find one that works and just build from it, as necessary.  #4 might be very applicable.  Then email your bro and tell your mom that you've done this.

It's always hard for nice people to set non-negotiable boundaries, but sometimes it's the only way to stay civilized.  Good luck with all this.

figee

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Re: SIL - needing some support/ good phrases
« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2012, 04:49:38 PM »
Thank you all for this!  My brother is, I think, working till tomorrow (emergency services) but I'm going to sit down with DH and talk about what we're going to do and how to manage different scenarios.  I suspect the stuff said above about childcare is right.  She still relies heavily on my mother for 2 - 3 nights a week and this is likely to increase given the fact that she is trying to find a job.  Mum is going overseas again this year so SIL might be stuck.  Sadly for her, I've got the first half of the year from heck at work, so I've got no extra time for me, let alone anyone else.

Afternoon tea is tomorrow, so I'll post an update then, but will check back here periodically.