Author Topic: Handling MIL's monologues; graceful interruptions? Other ideas?  (Read 8794 times)

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GratefulMaria

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Background:  We're walking the fine line with toxic MIL, who lives about a half-hour away.  DH is an only child, she's alienated almost everyone else in her life, and frankly we'd feel terrible if she lost us.  We've taken care of the mental health aspects of our relationship with her, know we can't change her but have found ways to keep our lives healthy, and are doing all we can to support and protect our adult children.  At this point, we only see her when our sons aren't around, and that's become Thanksgiving and maybe one or two other times a year for a couple / few hours.  End background.

MIL speaks at length, in monologues.  Sometimes from written material, passing out copies to each of us in attendance, but sometimes just in what's usually a casual setting.  DH and I can handle it when it's just her and us, because we know she doesn't have someone else to hear her out, but it gets really tough at a gathering with anyone else.  And that's where eHell comes in, I hope!  Last Thanksgiving, MIL held the floor for the entire meal -- her entire time at our home, actually.  It was just DH and myself, my mother, and MIL.  None of the rest of us had a chance to say a word.  I'm looking for suggestions for civilized interjections I can try next time.  Would it be rude to say something like, "Mom, I want to hear more in a few minutes.  Let me tell you the latest about such-and-such, though?"  Other coping methods that have occurred to us include inviting my mother an hour or two earlier so we get a chance to chat.

This feels terribly disorganized, so please ask for any clarification.  I don't even know if there's a way to salvage the situation (and we have tried compassionate honesty; she feels it's our responsibility to accommodate her.  Making things go smoothly is entirely up to us).  Thank you for any advice and opinions!

SamiHami

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Re: Handling MIL's monologues; graceful interruptions? Other ideas?
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2012, 02:29:58 PM »
Seriously? She shows up, complete with handouts to give out? Yikes.

Time for your DH to have a serious talk with her before she visits next time. He needs to explain to her that others would like to have a chance to enjoy the holiay meals and relaxed coversation, and therefore her monologues must stop. Perhaps you can designate a time for her to speak about things she thinks are important. If she does start up, I would let her go for a few minutes, but would at some point interrupt and say, "MIL, that's all very interesting and we'd like to hear more about that later. Let's spend the rest of this holiday meal catching up. Mom, what have you been up to lately?"

It's going to take some retraining, but if you are consistent you should be able to get her to curb her behavior somewhat.

Good luck!

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Giggity

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Re: Handling MIL's monologues; graceful interruptions? Other ideas?
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2012, 02:30:10 PM »
Jeez, this one's so far beyond me I will admit I'm only posting to see what other people have to say.
Words mean things.

GratefulMaria

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Re: Handling MIL's monologues; graceful interruptions? Other ideas?
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2012, 02:48:18 PM »
Seriously? She shows up, complete with handouts to give out? Yikes.

Time for your DH to have a serious talk with her before she visits next time. He needs to explain to her that others would like to have a chance to enjoy the holiay meals and relaxed coversation, and therefore her monologues must stop. Perhaps you can designate a time for her to speak about things she thinks are important. If she does start up, I would let her go for a few minutes, but would at some point interrupt and say, "MIL, that's all very interesting and we'd like to hear more about that later. Let's spend the rest of this holiday meal catching up. Mom, what have you been up to lately?"

It's going to take some retraining, but if you are consistent you should be able to get her to curb her behavior somewhat.

Good luck!

DH has raised this to her in clear and considerate ways -- he rehearsed or had me proofread emails!  Her response is that it's his role in the family to make sure we all have a close involvement with her.  She's not interested in improving the situation for others; she's terribly lonely and interested only in getting airtime.  That's how we got to the point where we need techniques.  I absolutely love your suggestion in quotes!  I'm going to make up index cards for DH!

SuperMartianRobotGirl

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Re: Handling MIL's monologues; graceful interruptions? Other ideas?
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2012, 02:53:48 PM »
Well it's nice to know that my family doesn't have a monopoly on crazy.

Have you tried being direct? She hands you her lecture notes and you say, "Mom, we aren't going to be able to go through everything on your list with you today. Everyone else would like to contribute to the conversation too." And when she gets going, say, "Mom, we'd all like a chance to contribute to the conversation. Thanks for giving other people a turn." And then just talk about something else. Directness isn't necessarily impolite. The impolite (but tempting) thing to do would be to walk out of the room when she gets going, and when she says something say, "I'm going into the other room so I can listen to someone else talk for a while."

weeblewobble

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Re: Handling MIL's monologues; graceful interruptions? Other ideas?
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2012, 03:01:04 PM »
She's doing handouts?  Is she performing the Festivus Airing of Grievances?

"On Page 9, you will find a list of the ways you have disappointed me this year?"

GrammarNerd

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Re: Handling MIL's monologues; graceful interruptions? Other ideas?
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2012, 03:01:11 PM »
When you brought it up before and she ignored you, were there consequences for her to continue doing this?  If there were, it seems as though they need to be stronger.

I'd give her another warning, just like you did the other time. She needs to realize and be told that close involvement goes both ways....you can't have close involvement with her if she never listens to what you say. 

I might try telling her that if she's not interested in having a two-way conversation with the other people in attendance, then she might as well just stay home and tape her monologues (rants?) and put them on youtube.  If she won't listen and make some--any--sort of effort, then follow through with those consequences.

Ohjustlovely

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Re: Handling MIL's monologues; graceful interruptions? Other ideas?
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2012, 03:15:43 PM »
Hi. Stepping in from the shadows.

Wow. Sounds like she was a preacher or dictator in a previous life. Actually sounds like some people I used to know. Once you let them start, there's no stopping them.

I wonder whether you introduce a three minute egg time, like the mini sand-clock from many board games. Announce at the dinner table, "We have a new rule, each person gets 6 minutes (two turnings of the sand clock) and then it's time for someone else to talk." Ask for a show of hands vote. You and your husband outvote her, sorry.

When my conversational dictator started droning in the car, I would look at the clock in the car and interrupt with either turning on the radio and changing the subject. Rude? Oh I'm sorry ... I was falling asleep at the wheel...

At other occasions, well I was out of luck.

 

SoCalVal

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Re: Handling MIL's monologues; graceful interruptions? Other ideas?
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2012, 03:32:39 PM »
Well, would it be rude that if she insists on handouts and an event that includes more than you, DH and her, you have an agenda you hand out yourselves (complete with time allotments)?  >:D



Magnet

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Re: Handling MIL's monologues; graceful interruptions? Other ideas?
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2012, 03:34:42 PM »
Ahh, the Great Pontificator.  I feel your pain, as there is one in DH's family.  One time, I interrupted the seemingly endless monologue only to be told I was rude.  I replied that if I wanted a lecture, I would take a college course.  Not only was I retaliatory rude, it did not stop the lecture.  I don't know the answer, but I am interested in hearing the replies.

USC_Gamecock

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Re: Handling MIL's monologues; graceful interruptions? Other ideas?
« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2012, 03:52:31 PM »
Well it's nice to know that my family doesn't have a monopoly on crazy.

Have you tried being direct? She hands you her lecture notes and you say, "Mom, we aren't going to be able to go through everything on your list with you today. Everyone else would like to contribute to the conversation too." And when she gets going, say, "Mom, we'd all like a chance to contribute to the conversation. Thanks for giving other people a turn." And then just talk about something else. Directness isn't necessarily impolite. The impolite (but tempting) thing to do would be to walk out of the room when she gets going, and when she says something say, "I'm going into the other room so I can listen to someone else talk for a while."

Parking my POD right here.  MIL is beyond gentle redirection.  I don't think walking away is even impolite at this point.  In fact, it might be the only option that gets her attention.

SamiHami

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Re: Handling MIL's monologues; graceful interruptions? Other ideas?
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2012, 05:25:53 PM »
Hi. Stepping in from the shadows.

Wow. Sounds like she was a preacher or dictator in a previous life. Actually sounds like some people I used to know. Once you let them start, there's no stopping them.

I wonder whether you introduce a three minute egg time, like the mini sand-clock from many board games. Announce at the dinner table, "We have a new rule, each person gets 6 minutes (two turnings of the sand clock) and then it's time for someone else to talk." Ask for a show of hands vote. You and your husband outvote her, sorry.

When my conversational dictator started droning in the car, I would look at the clock in the car and interrupt with either turning on the radio and changing the subject. Rude? Oh I'm sorry ... I was falling asleep at the wheel...

At other occasions, well I was out of luck.

That doesn't necessarily work! We had a round table meeting with a large group of physicians at my former employer a few years back. We knew that one MD in particular had a serious case of verbal diarrhea, so in an effort to limit him, we brought a kitchen timer and announced that each speaker would be limited to five minutes per turn.

When Dr. Diarrhea Mouth got started, he got furious when the timer went off. When we told him his time was up, he got very angry and told us to turn that *** thing off because he was TALKING and the timer was rude! Some people are just oblivious to those around them.

What have you got? Is it food? Is it for me? I want it whatever it is!

Calypso

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Re: Handling MIL's monologues; graceful interruptions? Other ideas?
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2012, 05:44:25 PM »
Think about it in terms of dancing.

Your MIL is very unhappy and very lonely. She's decided it's her son's job (and yours) to alleviate her happiness, but she also insists that she will lead the dance. How can you do a job you don't have any control over? You just can't.

You've decided you don't want to exclude MIL, and that's compassionate of you. But it's ok---in fact it's more than ok---to take the lead. Your DH can say "Mom, I know you feel bad and I know you're lonely. What you've been doing doesn't help. This time, when you visit, let other people share with you so they can feel closer to you and you can be less lonely. When you talk and talk, people tune you out, and that's got to hurt. I'm going to make sure next time you visit that we all are really together, not just your audience. Try it my way once and see how you like it."

Piratelvr1121

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Re: Handling MIL's monologues; graceful interruptions? Other ideas?
« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2012, 05:49:37 PM »
Wow. The narcissism is strong with that one.   :o  I wish I had suggestions, but I don't so much.  I managed to shake a monologuer by not letting him get my cell phone number when I changed providers and we got rid of our landline, which is the number he had.   DH still gets subjected to it, but the guy's more his friend than mine anyway, though I think DH is only friends with the guy cause it takes a LOT for him to cut a person off. 

But even he doesn't give out notes. Sheesh.
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lady_disdain

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Re: Handling MIL's monologues; graceful interruptions? Other ideas?
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2012, 05:51:15 PM »
I feel you...

My father has some of the same tendencies (although he has never had handouts - he prefers to email further information after the event). The last time I invited him for dinner, he had the entire conversation planned in his head. He wanted my opinion on popular TV series, but first he had a speech about series, what he and my mother were looking for, the research he had done on the best series and the list he had compiled of the top ten series. I wasn't allowed to give my opinion on each as they came up either - I had to listen to the entire list, to his opinion of each and why he thought it might be interesting or not. At the end of all that, I could speak. At that point, all I could say was "yes, father". He also wanted to talk about a certain historical fact he had learned. So he starts by asking my opinion of a certain person. I answered that although most people thought X, there was clear signs of Y and Z. He answered "oh, so you already know about it" and went to retell it all, not allowing me to state my opinions either.

It was a long night.