Author Topic: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).  (Read 11517 times)

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blarg314

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #30 on: October 28, 2012, 09:03:26 PM »
For this Christmas, I think you need to be really blunt with your husband.   You're grieving for your mother and the fact that you won't see her this Christmas.  If your PIL were reasonable people, you could suck it up and go for a while on Christmas for their sake and DH's sake, but they're not reasonable people, and they've behaved really badly towards you during your mother's illness and death. You can't face spending an emotionally charged Christmas around them.  You're fine with DH going to visit them for a short while, but you'd be really hurt and very sad if he chose to leave you alone for the whole Christmas when you're already in pain.

Then, independent of this, I'd very, very strongly recommend counselling with someone who specializes in family issues. It's very hard for someone like your DH who grew up in a family like this to learn to handle things constructively. His current, well ingrained response is to ignore it, and/or put up with it, and that approach does *not* work for you. Changing his approach will be a very difficult process.

And if your MIL cuts you off because you can't spend the first Christmas after your mother died putting up with her garbage, this will just force the issue out into the open.

sparksals

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #31 on: October 28, 2012, 09:14:50 PM »


Someone upthread asked who he would prefer be upset with him - you or his mom?  Whom he chooses in that regard will be very telling. 
I never wanted it to have to be a choice, I would not have liked to have to choose between DH and my mum - but if she had treated him the way his mum has treated me, I would definitely have put DH first - but I can say that knowing my mum never would have treated DH badly.  My mum also never treated me badly, as his mum does to him. 

You also mentioned he dismisses the situation and his mother's actions by saying that is just the way she is.  That is a cop out.  He has to learn to put YOU, his WIFE first.  This is a highly emotionally charged time for you.  He needs to be there for YOU. 
I completely agree, I find "that's just the way he/she is" is almost always used as an excuse to excuse otherwise inexcusable behaviour (did that make sense?) - people are the way they are because they choose to be that way.  I am also aware that DH has been subjected to his mother's behaviour and this excuse for his mother all his life.

In every other situation, in every other way - he has put me first and he has been there for me, it has not been an easy year for him with his MIL being ill and dying and his wife grieving and other things that have happened, unrelated to this situation (financial problems, issues I have had with my work etc.). 

All that makes perfect sense.  It is so easy just to let it slide and go with the old excuses because it is far better than the outcome of her having a total fit.  He probably doesn't even realize HOW much he enables her behaviour. 

I really like the idea upthread someone said about laying out the specifics of what she has said and done to you, without the 'I feel' statements.  He just may not realize HOW mean it is to YOU b/c you have not dealt with it for a lifetime like he has.  For him, it is completely normal.  In real life, it is horrible abuse.   Maybe once he can learn that... perhaps through counseling... he can learn to be on the same page as you.


Quote
You two must be on the same page and dh needs to put you first.
A lot of people have said this and I would like us to be in agreement and I would like DH to put me first - I would also like to make it clear that I will put him first and we will take it from there.  I don't think he really understands how I (or my sister) feel after losing mum and how this has affected us because he does not have with his parents what we had with our mother. 

This is SO important. He doesn't have a clue how you feel.  No one can know just how much it hurts to lose a parent until it happens to them.  It is an immense sadness that is indescribable.  People can offer their empathy and sympathies, but until they have gone through it, they just can't know how it feels.  It is a feeling, for me, that I had never felt and it feels like crap. 

You are still in the new stage of grieving.  It has only been three months.  I was still an emotional blubbering wreck at that time after my dad died.   While he can't possibly understand how it feels, he as your husband, should empathize and listen to your lead that you need him and your sister this holiday season.  You can't be put in any toxic position because you are not emotionally equipped to deal with it right now.  This step you're taking not wanting to spend Xmas with his family is very healthy for you b/c you are setting a clear boundary of what you can and cannot accept in your fragile state.   

You also have a sister, so you need to take steps to ensure she is not alone for the holidays.  If she is single, that means she spend the holidays with you.  That is reason enough to want to stay home b/c it doesn't sound like his family is welcoming to your family for their Christmas holiday. 


sparksals

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #32 on: October 28, 2012, 09:16:21 PM »
Can I also suggest for you a book that will help you set boundaries and perhaps understand how your MIL's toxicity has affected your dh:  Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner .   It gives tools to set new boundaries and how to handle the toxic relative's reaction to your changes.  The key is you are changing how you react to the toxicity. 

GrammarNerd

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #33 on: October 28, 2012, 09:34:48 PM »
OP, you have my sympathy for your loss, and for what you have to go through now.

My mother passed away 3 years ago, and I had some issues dealing with the inlaws after her passing.  First, DH had a hermit uncle (yes, most definitely some psychological problems there).  For some reason, there were several relatives who did the grocery shopping for him, carted him around (when they could get him out of the house; he was a lifelong bachelor so had no wife or kids of his own), etc.  Basically, instead of getting him help or encouraging him to get help, they enabled him.  For years. He got more and more and more reclusive. (This man had been very active and outgoing years before, so this reclusiveness was a somewhat new thing; I have my own thoughts on that.) He refused to go to the doctor, even when it was obvious there were problems.  And when he finally did go, it was too late because he had cancer and a host of other problems. 

My mother had a chronic condition which could be managed, but she also had a weaker heart than average.  The condition took a toll on her heart.  My sister and I did everything we could to manage her condition and keep her with us as long as possible.  She knew this (well, some of it), and was very appreciative, and trusted us to make the best decisions for her, even if she didn't want to do it (no chocolate? blasphemy! ;)  ).  So after my mother passed away (and I was right there with her), I couldn't stand to hear ANYTHING about DH's uncle.  We tried so hard to keep my mother alive, and when they talked about him, all I could see was a man who refused medical help until it was too late to have any benefit. Whenever my MIL would bring him up, I'd grit my teeth and say nothing.  Finally, within a few months after my mother died, DH mentioned something about the uncle or seeing the uncle since he was sick, and I lost it.  I told him, tearily and noticably upset, that I just lost my mother, and if there had been some way keeping her alive longer, some other medical thing, we would have done it.  Without hesitation. Not a question...we would have done it.  Yet there was nothing that could be done for her anymore.  Yet his uncle could likely have had a much better prognosis, yet he REFUSED medical treatment, or even to SEE a medical professional, for months (could be years...I don't know).  He had it available to him, and he REFUSED it.  So, I told him, don't talk to me about going to pander to a man who values his life so little that he could essentially throw it away, when my mother just wanted to live and went through a lot, weekly, just so she COULD continue to live.

It was strong, I know.  There were circumstances of uncle's mental state, I know.  It wasn't as cut and dried as that, I know.  But that didn't matter to me at the time.  I had just lost my mother, and I told DH that I could just NOT handle seeing or hearing about the uncle.  It was like sticking a knife in my grief and twisting it.

OP, I don't know how your DH is, but maybe you need to get a little bit mad and emotional for him to understand.  Contrast what you were going through, with what MIL said at a certain time.  "DH, I was in the hospital, knowing that I had hours left with my mother.  EVER.  And your mother said XYZ.  Do you know how that made me feel?  Do you realize that I will ALWAYS remember that she chose to do/say that?"  Tell him that the wounds are still very fresh, and you still remember that like it was yesterday.  So to be around her at Christmas, which meant something special to your mother but was just almost an ordinary day to his mother?  No, you do not need to be around MIL on that day.

Perhaps 'she didn't mean it'.  Fine.  But you're feeling what you're feeling, and you have the right to feel that way.  Your MIL is a big girl and she didn't just lose someone.  In fact, she told you the day had no special meaning.  So you're taking her at her word.  Tell him you need him to have your back on this, even though he may not understand it completely.  And if MIL gets mad?  Tough.  She can get over it or die mad (to use a phrase I've seen on this board numerous times).

Hang in there.  And again, you have my sympathies.

JoyinVirginia

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #34 on: October 29, 2012, 12:33:22 AM »
Condolences to you and your sister. You have received a lot of good advice. There is nothing wrong with telling dh that you cannot deal with mil over the holidays and you will not be doing anything for  her, so out is on him to get card, gift etc -   but gift limit is $x and not expensive. You and your sister do what you want. Mil will live. And if she throws a tantrum, well, your dh will live too.

Iris

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #35 on: October 29, 2012, 01:21:36 AM »
I just wanted to pop back in to comment on one thing - the "who would he rather have upset" idea. While this is a veryvalid point  know it can come with pitfalls. My MIL, although nowhere near as toxic a yours, was very PA and had a history of crying when she didn't like a situation. So early in our relationship, DH really *would* have rather upset me than his mother. Not because I was less of a priority or because he loved me less, simply because firstly I appeared less upset (because I reacted like an adult  ::) ) so he just didn't realise how I felt and secondly because it was just so much more unpleasant for him to have an upset mother than an upset wife. It took a lot of verbalising my feelings and pointing out his mother 'tricks' before he really understood the full implications of "who would you rather upset..."

I was never so proud of him a the day that his mother cried over something trivial and he just ignored it. Doesn't sound like much but it represented a lot of healing after a mother-centred upbringing

"Can't do anything with children, can you?" the woman said.

Poirot thought you could, but forebore to say so.

blarg314

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #36 on: October 29, 2012, 01:45:01 AM »

As an aside - after losing someone close to you, holiday times can be particularly trying, even after you've progressed past the rawest part of the grief. The routines and setting are familiar, but you've got the constant reminder of this big gaping hole in the middle of it.

So even when it's a happy holiday, you sometimes need to sneak away somewhere quiet and cry, and have people around you who understand when you get sad at happy moments. 

Balancing this against a toxic family situation means that you have *two* very difficult things to balance, and that can really wring you out emotionally.

So I think it's worth sorting this out with your husband well in advance of Christmas, and planning carefully about how you're going to handle it, to save yourself some heartache at the time.


Snooks

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #37 on: October 29, 2012, 07:04:21 AM »
I think after losing someone it's a good thing to change traditions because that gaping hole isn't obvious every time you go to do something.  This year is maybe not the year to shake everything up, do what you need to do with your sister and play things by ear.  Maybe you'll go to the cemetery every year on Christmas day, maybe you won't, but this year you need to.  Next year will be easier because you will have made a half step away from your traditions this year.

As far as your MIL goes, let DH go and see her on Christmas Eve and let him get the present (first year married - new tradition, joint presents!).  I may be projecting slightly but one of my concerns would be how DH is with his parents without you around, if you want him to start standing up to MIL when she says something about you then I would suggest explaining to DH that this needs to happen whether you're there or not.  So make sure he tells her before Christmas Eve that you won't be attending, and try to get him to understand that if she says anything on Christmas Eve about you not being there he must speak up on your behalf.

I'm sorry for your loss and I hope that you and DH can navigate through this successfully together.

RooRoo

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #38 on: October 29, 2012, 07:22:09 AM »
I agree with every one above.

I want to point out one important thing. DH should not go to the PIL's on Christmas Day. If he has to go, it should be Christmas Eve, as usual.

If he goes Christmas Day, it will set a precedent, and you can look forward to "But you did it laaaast yeeeear!"
"Someday we must write a book of Etiquette for sensible people," said Mrs. Morland, "though apart from a few rules it really boils down to an educated mind and a kind heart." ~ Angela Thirkell, Never Too Late

bopper

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #39 on: October 29, 2012, 10:50:29 AM »
Tell your DH to imagine you have two kids, ages 5 and 7.  How will he and you want Christmas to go?
Would you want your children to wake up on Christmas morning and open presents and then get a chance to play with them...
and do you see yourself then travelling anywhere or just staying home? 
How do you and he see Christmas Eve?
And then boxing day? 
Ask him for a balance between nuclear family time and extended family time.
So let's say you end up with spending time with the PIL's on Xmas Eve, having Xmas time at home, and then your side on boxing day.

Then you should start that now.  Let him go to Xmas eve this year (him telling everyone you are still in mourning but intend to join him in the future), and then have your xmas day alone this year.

mj

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #40 on: October 29, 2012, 11:31:05 AM »
I'm so sorry for your loss.

My MIL used to approach DH specifically without me there to make holiday plans.  DH has a similar family dynamic as yours.  One of the things he learned was to go on offense, rather than defense.  So, instead of letting her tell him what she wants (demanding) Dh would simply say he would get back to her when we know our availability.  That progressed to DH actively going to her to let her know, before she had the chance to ask.  He grew more confident the more times he took control over his own plans and was able to state them.

MIL would cry, pout, gossip, try to get others to intervene.  Each time it cut down on our availability.  But the thing is, that is on her and it did take my DH some time to realize that her reactions are hers, not ours. 

With that said, my best advice is for you to go on offense too.  State plainly to your DH what you need and what you will be doing.  The rest is on him to figure out.


TootsNYC

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #41 on: October 29, 2012, 12:58:01 PM »

You also mentioned he dismisses the situation and his mother's actions by saying that is just the way she is.  That is a cop out.  He has to learn to put YOU, his WIFE first.  This is a highly emotionally charged time for you.  He needs to be there for YOU. 
I completely agree, I find "that's just the way he/she is" is almost always used as an excuse to excuse otherwise inexcusable behaviour (did that make sense?) - people are the way they are because they choose to be that way.  I am also aware that DH has been subjected to his mother's behaviour and this excuse for his mother all his life.


Sometimes I think people say "that's just the way she is" when they are feeling pressured to CHANGE someone. When they are only being presented with *complaints* and not with requests to craft a response.

Your DH can't change his mom. And if your complaints feel to him as though he is being pressured *to* change her, then this is how he is going to respond to you.

The truth is, That IS just the way she is. And he has realized that he is not going to be able to change her.

So if this is the response you get from him when you complain about your MIL, you need to change your script. You need to start saying, "Since your mother is this way, I want to response in *other* way than we have been doing."

I think a lot of times that "just the way they are" gets trotted out not to *excuse* the behavior but to say, "this is the part of the equation we are not going to change. Stop pressuring me."

Just a thought.

wheeitsme

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #42 on: October 29, 2012, 01:27:22 PM »
It's hard, I know.

Last year was the first year in 5 years since my Mom died that I didn't have to go to the IL's for Mother's day.  They just did not get it. They are sweet people, but I had to leave the state to be able to ignore Mother's day.

I think that it is perfectly okay to spend Christmas away from the PIL's.  But I don't think a present boycott is the way to go.  Take this time to bond with your family.  This is going to be a really hard Holiday for you all. If your DH feels that he needs to show up at some point at his parents, so be it, but that day will be painful enough without having to put on a "Happy Christmas Face" so soon after your loss, so you will not be able to join him.

And no matter what people say, no matter how nice they are, people tend to be made uncomfortable at the happy holiday by any outward grieving.  Ask your DH how comfortable his parents and family would be with any show of grief on your part.  And then ask him how nice or kind it is to make you put on that "Happy Christmas Face" for his family.

Losing someone like that is like a piece of glass that has been shattered with a hole and then tossed into the ocean.
The pain will ebb.  The sharp edges will get softer.  The hole will always be there.  ((((Hugs))))

sparksals

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #43 on: October 29, 2012, 01:52:50 PM »
It's hard, I know.

Last year was the first year in 5 years since my Mom died that I didn't have to go to the IL's for Mother's day.  They just did not get it. They are sweet people, but I had to leave the state to be able to ignore Mother's day.

I think that it is perfectly okay to spend Christmas away from the PIL's.  But I don't think a present boycott is the way to go.  Take this time to bond with your family.  This is going to be a really hard Holiday for you all. If your DH feels that he needs to show up at some point at his parents, so be it, but that day will be painful enough without having to put on a "Happy Christmas Face" so soon after your loss, so you will not be able to join him.

And no matter what people say, no matter how nice they are, people tend to be made uncomfortable at the happy holiday by any outward grieving. Ask your DH how comfortable his parents and family would be with any show of grief on your part.  And then ask him how nice or kind it is to make you put on that "Happy Christmas Face" for his family.

Losing someone like that is like a piece of glass that has been shattered with a hole and then tossed into the ocean.
The pain will ebb.  The sharp edges will get softer.  The hole will always be there.  ((((Hugs))))

Oh my!  I can't imagine how painful those Mother's Days must have been for you.  I'm so sorry you were put in that position. 

What a great analogy for the Happy Face vs Visible Grieving.   If that doesn't drive the point, I don't know what will. 

heartmug

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Re: Christmas with PIL (my mum not with us anymore).
« Reply #44 on: October 29, 2012, 02:21:26 PM »
I am so sorry for your loss.

When my mom died, I didn't go to any function with my inlaws.  I too felt they just didn't care.  She died.  Then sent a card and flowers, then she was never mentioned again.  Not on Mother's Day, my birthday, or Thanksgiving.  No calls to see how I was holding up nor offers of help.  So I stayed home Christmas Eve and day and DH decided to stay with me.  BUT that was his choice.

Good luck with your situation.
The trouble is not that the world is full of fools, it's just that lightening isn't distributed right.  - Mark Twain