General Etiquette > Family and Children

FIL's unwanted opinions about everything, incl. wed photo, Response #42, 60, 64

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lorelai:
This is a part vent/part plea for how to respond to my negative FIL. Warning - miscarriage mentioned below.

<BG>FIL has a habit of criticizing people or things - although he's a boisterous guy who likes to be the life of the party, he's also got this mindset that everyone and everything can be improved. Although this sometimes makes his family feel like nothing they do will ever be good enough. His daughter (my SIL) is too fat, she doesn't make the right choices in life, my DH who is amazing and the best son, isn't good enough. If we come for Thanksgiving weekend well we should have taken the whole week off. If we visit them for xmas for a week they say we should have come for two weeks.

When he and MIL were visiting at our house for a week, I got upset when he complained about a dessert I made, as well as complained about the quality of photos received from our wedding photographer. He fancies himself an amateur photographer. I found myself having to defend her choices, which were my choices too as I was in charge of media at the wedding. He also insulted DH's food that he prepared for them which really angered me. At the time I only complained to DH.</End BG>

Went to visit my FIL this past weekend as he had an angiogram. He's had heart attacks and issues in the past, and it was important that I be around to support both my DH and the family in general. Everything was totally fine in this regard, and he's thankfully as healthy as he can be.

Every time we see my in-laws they say that they want to blow up our wedding photos and frame them around the house. They have all the digital files but won't actually take the steps to get it done themselves. I got the brilliant idea to select photos that they might want to print and present it via slideshow and then they could decide and we could send them to the drugstore to get printed.

First of all, it's clear they hate almost every photo I've selected. DH and I are both getting a little frustrated but we can hide it well. FIL makes me crop photos so our faces are big - never mind that I'm uncomfortable with our faces being blown up like that in their house. We preview all the photos once more. We get to a photo of me, DH, SIL and BIL. Both of their children and DIL and son in law. I'm thinking this photo is golden. It's a posed portrait taken before our wedding. (we did all family portraits beforehand)

FIL  says, "This is not a good photo. She looks tired." I look up, and ask him who he's talking about, and he just keeps repeating himself about how tired she looks and that it's not good. DH asks him who he's talking about, and he says Lorelai!

At first I'm just stunned and I don't say anything. Nobody does. I am unbelievably hurt, and finally come up with, "at least I was smiling." I say this with a smile. DH doesn't realize how hurt I am until he sees me shut down a bit, but by then it feels too late for him to jump to my defense.

I tell DH privately that I couldn't believe FIL would say something like that to a bride - to anyone on their wedding day. The photo wasn't even the end of the night. I went straight from hair and makeup to taking this photo, my smile was good, I (was hoping I) looked beautiful. DH said that it was a baseless comment and that FIL didn't mean to hurt me and that he loves me very much. These two things I know are true - yet they don't stop him from offering his God honest opinion even when it isn't asked for.

As I am an extremely sensitive person, I ended up crying in our bedroom. I told him even if I wanted to say something in the moment, that he had a heart procedure the previous day and I didn't want to create conflict. We were already running late to dinner and DH said he hated being put in situations where one has to fake happiness, and that we should just cancel going out to eat. I told him to tell them that I wasn't feeling well, which was true. Instead he went out there and told them the truth.

Both his parents have said insensitive things to me in the past so I give DH credit for wanting to stick up for me. But I felt so badly that I was making FIL feel bad after his procedure that I was not happy. DH came and told me about their convo and I decided to go to bed early and deal with it in the morning. Although I know they were upset that I didn't come out, I needed the time to compose myself.

Their convo, btw, consisted of FIL defending his right to state his opinion and that he is old and has warts and I have to accept those warts. That I should know that he loves me. FIL and MIL both said they don't want to walk on eggshells around me. But I'd rather they did! They can both be really harsh and their manners are different from mine.

For example, after my miscarriage my MIL said that my cramping could not have been more painful than her arthritis. Cuz that's what I want to hear 2 days after I lost my baby :-/ So yes, walk on eggshells please! Although FIL felt bad that I felt bad, he was more angry about my reaction, which made me want to come out of the room even less.

In the morning I came out and FIL refused to look at me - ignored me completely. He left the room and went to his office. DH pleaded with me to talk to him to end the madness. I went up to him and said, "I'm so sorry about last night." I was about to add more, when he responded harshly, "Don't do it again. We look forward to your visits so don't do it again." I hugged him, again in shock, and went to the other room.

Don't do it again? Cuz I'm a child that needs to be scolded? How about meeting me halfway? DH said that the reason he said that is because he's probably still angry and since he doesn't have a filter he was trying to keep it brief so as not to let loose on me, which I obviously can't handle.

I'm so angry about his response. I can't believe he didn't apologize for his comment to me. If I had half a spine, when he called me tired I would have told him right away that I worked hard to look good on my wedding day and that his comment was hurtful. If I had half a spine I'd have told him DH worked hard to cook him food and that his criticism isn't appreciated. But I didn't want to upset a heart patient, or the father of my husband.

Fine, I WON'T do it again. I won't cower or mope or let him hurt me. I just have to think of what to say next time. In the moment I am always too stunned. I do much better in writing or when I've had time to think. But I need to do better next time. What would you have said?

Btw, if anyone thinks I overreacted to the "tired" comment I'm really open to hearing your POV. I do recognize that my sensitivity is my biggest flaw. The one good thing in all of this is that DH is with me on this, though he does think I should try to let comments roll of my back since it would cause me less distress. I have a hard time with mean people in general.

weeblewobble:
"If you look forward to our visits, perhaps you should try to make them more pleasant."

If you have to accept him and his warts, he has to accept yours, too

AustenGirl10:
He was feeling embarrased that you and DH called him on his abusive, demeaning behavior. You are not a child to be spoken to in that way! He says these hurtful things because he can get away with them.  Is there any way you can stop visits for awhile until he learns you won't accept that behavior? And why did your DH plead with you to "stop the madness"?  None of fil's behavior and harsh words are your fault!

Iris:
Why on earth would you put with this? He was rude, rude, rude. Quite aside from making a personal remark what about the simple "SHE looks tired". Excuse me, you were *right there* and he was referring to you as SHE? He's telling someone they look bad in their wedding photos, speaking rudely by *anyone's* standards, regardless of the content, reacting ungratefully to the effort that you put in to help them choose a photo, disregarding your wishes as to your comfort of having your faces blown up on the wall and then chastises YOU!? This is one of those situations that makes me want to start waving my arms around like a crazy person I'm so annoyed on your behalf.

Firstly, stop catering to him. I can't fathom why your DH wouldn't simply say "Nonsense, she looks beautiful" right at that moment, or why you wouldn't say "I actually really like this photo, but anyway" and click over to the next. Secondly, stop giving him room in your head. This man does NOT love you, he is a pig who is trying to exert control. Try not to care about his stupid opinions because I guarantee that he is not just "being honest", he is maliciously trying to hurt. So I would say your first option is to just. not. care. what he says. I know that's a lot easier said than done, but with training it's achievable. Honestly, I wouldn't have been that upset at the remark, but I don't have the history that you do. Sometimes when someone has worn us down it only takes a relatively small thing to be that final push.

Second option is to limit contact. I would see that as a long term goal though because it seems clear that your DH is locked into this extremely toxic dynamic where Good Ol' Dad can be as abusive as he wants and it's all FINE because he LOVES us. As an aside I will add that your DH needs a come to Deity meeting right now. He should have your back, NOT throw you to the wolves as he did by telling your FIL the real reason you didn't want to go to dinner when you had asked him not to  >:(

Thirdly, and this is the one that EvilIris would use, is turn it back on him. He says "She looks tired", you say "That's a really rude remark." Or even the slightly kinder "She's the cat's mother. Didn't you know that?" When he takes offence say "What? That's my opinion! We're ALL allowed to speak our opinion aren't we? No? Just you? That seems kind of unfair." Sling it right back at him and see how he likes it.  >:D

You could turn it back on him in other, less direct, ways too. Turn off the slide show because they're clearly not enjoying it. Decide it would be best to not have a picture blown up for them because they don't like any of the photos. Leave early at Christmas because obviously they aren't enjoying your visit. Remember, you're thinking of THEM. After all if they're so unhappy with every single thing you do then clearly you're doing them a favour by removing your offensive presence.

Lastly, and this is really, REALLY, my favourite you say "Shut the Ehell Up, you old windbag. No-one cares what your opinion is!" Or at least imagine saying it in your head. It's not rude to imagine things.

NyaChan:
lorelai - I actually had a really really hard time reading your post.  When I got to FIL telling you not to do it again, I pretty much had to stop.  I am so angry on your behalf and I really have to give you credit for being as patient and tolerant as you were to someone who had no right to expect an apology from the person they hurt.

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