OP here: Thanks for all of your comments. I just got back home last night and DH is still over there, so I have some quiet time to reflect on the situation. Iím still not sure how Iíd like to proceed, but I figured I could respond to some of these questions.
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!
DH asked me if I wanted him to tell FIL to stop the madness and I told him not to, because I felt that the freeze-out was childish and I wanted to be the bigger person. So he asked me to then go talk to FIL so I did.
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.
At the time DH said he wanted to say something, but then because I responded he thought I was alright Ė and he also didnít think the comment was as bad as I did. After hearing directly from me how much it hurt me, it upset him. When he went out to the living room to tell them what happened, and they kept pushing back with all their crap, he kept defending my point of view, so I appreciate that at least. He told me in the future if he is not reacting to something on my behalf due to cluelessness or whatever, that I should look at him or come up with a signal so he can defend me properly.
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.
Thank you for this, I love it.
Your FIL sounds like a jerk who has bulldozed his way through life with a "sorry I just tell it like it is" attitude.
But I get that the entirety of his character is probably not reflected in your post. You say he loves you very much, so there must be some things that he does that makes you know he cares about you.
So you have a couple of options. One - don't see him any more. It sounds like you are not likely to do that.
Two - stop caring. I mean, I know that's easier said than done, but really, you have to stop caring about what he thinks about things like that AND stop caring if you offend him or hurt his feelings. So what if he doesn't like your dessert and can't appreciate you and your DH making a nice dinner for him? You know it was good and you guys put in the effort to do something nice. So what if he thinks you "look tired" in that picture? I would bet that you heard a hundred times on your wedding day how beautiful you were, and I'm sure everyone who has seen that picture thought you looked great. Basically, he has shown you that you are NOT going to get what you need from him (normal kindness and consideration), so do yourself a favor and stop expecting it.
And call him on it. Not angrily or with malice, but draw his attention to the fact that he has said something stupid. "I worked hard on this, and I would prefer not to hear it criticized." "You may not realize this, but it's offensive to hear that I looked tired on my wedding day." "When you spend visits talking about how much you wish we were here longer, it taints the time we have together." Sure, he may feel like he has to walk on eggshells, but it sounds like his version of walking on eggshells is the general public's version of basic courtesy.
Good luck. I have dealt with similar situations, and it's stressful.
Will this "man" even care about these responses?
See, I don't think it matters if it makes him re-consider his behavior - the OP probably can't make him a better person. But if she calls him each and every time he does something like this, then he will eventually learn to stop saying it, even if he's thinking it, and that will make OP's life more pleasant.
Iím not sure he will care about the responses. But I do think itís possible such responses will make me feel better so maybe thatís what counts. Before I left yesterday DH was cutting some watermelon and started eating the leftover watermelon on the rinds. MIL starts up Ė ďDonít eat that, itís not tasty. Stop it.Ē FIL continues ďItís not tasty, itís the bad part. Donít eat it.Ē They REALLY like to tell people what to do. DH kept eating it and I smiled and said, ďWell it must be tasty if youíre still eating it, huh!Ē and DH said he didnít see what was wrong with it. Itís not like he was eating the rind itself, just the pink watermelon bits. Iím relating this because being contrary to their negativity and controlling nature felt really satisfying! So maybe being contrary to the other unsolicited opinions will make me feel better too.
Audrey Quest's examples are very much something that needs to be thought about.
OP, your FIL and MIL are bullies. Do you want your future children to be bullied? Now is the time to have an honest talk with DH about how you will no longer be mistreated and that you will not allow your children to be treated in this manner.
No. I really, really donít. I told DH yesterday that even if I couldnít stick up for myself, that I would not let them to talk our future children like that, and he agreed. Somehow I feel more strong and capable to defend children I donít even have, rather than myself. But I hope to get there.
I am absolutely incensed on your behalf. These people are toxic bullies and there's no way in ehell I'd be visiting them again.
And I'm afraid to say but your husband is a huge part of the problem here. Each and every time these vile people say one of their nasty remarks he needed/needs to step up to the plate and call his parents on it and/or shut them down. Whilst he continues to stand aside and let them bully you, and not defend you, they of course think it's okay to continue on with their venom. Newsflash: this is not okay.
The miscarriage comment blows my mind. I don't care if your MIL has the most painful arthritis in the world, that is nothing compared to the emotional pain of losing a child.
The 'tired' comment was flat out rude and nasty. Even if it was true, there's no excuse for saying it.
Although DH does defend me, it takes me awhile to even tell him whatís going on, and so itís never in the moment. I didnít tell him for 6 weeks what MIL said about my miscarriage. I just told him I wasnít up for talking to people on the phone and that he needed to field the calls. When I finally told him, he confronted her (and she denied it). Later while a guest in our house she apologized to me. It was so unexpected I didnít get to ask her the question I really wanted to Ė why did she say it at all?
I sometimes think my in-laws are like bad puppies. If I donít confront them peeing on the floor in the moment nothing will change.
I have a question, does he complain about everything in life or just his family?
He has a lot of positive things to say about life and family, but nothing is ever 100%. There is always disapproval or a criticism somewhere. And he truly doesnít think thereís anything wrong with that. My husband was a good student in high school but every time he came home with an A test FIL would say, well [valedictorian girl] got an A+. He did say positive things about some photos Ė but I donít know if he thought this was a review and critique session because thatís how he treated it.
I have never heard him say anything positive about SILís choices or life. If he talked to me the way he talks to her, I would run screaming. This last weekend MIL told her we were taking a family portrait at xmas time and she needed lose weight. Afterwards I told SIL how sorry I was that she said that, but she said she was used to it. Perhaps I should have said something in the moment to defend her.
You are trying to make your FIL happy. Most likely he won't ever be, so stop trying. So if they say they want a picture blown up and you do it, you are stepping into making them happy about a picture. Instead, make the pictures available and let them know about it and then step away.
I think youíre right about this.
If he's going to ruin your evening, I see no reason why his should not be ruined as well. Over time, you may be labelled 'the sensitive one', but at least he'll try to curb his poison tongue around you because he won't want to deal with your emotional outbursts.
(I should add - I'm not recommending that you fake the emotion, I'm just saying that you should express the emotion that you do feel and not hide it for their sake.)
Although crying in front of him is certainly an option, and I would like for him to be faced with the consequences of his actions, it may lead to more of what youíre all calling bullying. He used to call DH a crybaby and that he needed to stop in order to be part of the cool, tough club. Itís a wonder that DH turned out as wonderful and sensitive as he is Ė he doesnít have any qualms about crying when it comes up, despite FIL doing this.
Where is MIL on this? Is she equal in this or is she just as complacent to put up with it from FIL? You said that she has said hurtful things, also stating that you are very sensitive, and I'm wondering if she's just as crotchety or if you got your feelings hurts, as tends to happen from time to time in life. If both are toxic, all the more reason to avoid these people.
MIL actually came to my room (just walked in, she doesnít know how to knock) and turned on the light and told me that I made FIL feel bad and that I needed to come out and talk to them so he wouldnít feel bad anymore. I told her I wasnít feeling well and that I did want to talk to them but that it would have to be later. She didnít contribute to the initial photo critique. Sheís got arthritis, and sheís in a lot of pain a lot of the time, and I think that makes her a mean old bat. Sheís rude to waiters, rude to family, rude to me. She thinks of herself as loving. I see that she can be loving, mostly to DH. Sheís 70, and she likes to tell people what to do. I resist people telling me what to do especially because many of my choices were not honored when I was younger (my parents sent me away to India for two years because I was behaving badly according to their perceptions, when I was 14), so when I turned 18 I took that independence and ran with it, real fast. So I have a hard time with their controlling natures.
I completely POD Audrey Quest's experience. My in-laws practically rolled out the red carpet for me after I started treating them like acquaintances, polite but distant.
The explanation is they disrespect anyone in their "inner" circle of family. Close relations or anyone stupid enough to care about their hurtful opinions are prey to a bully. Once you jump back to an outer orbit they have to be more polite (to lure you back in as you are now outside the influence of the destructive gravity, outside the range of their weapons). Do not let your guard down and become vulnerable again. It is their nature to hurt you and anyone "close." It makes them feel better about their pathetic lives.
You may feel like a pioneer, lonely explorer in this new dynamic. However, your self-esteem and emotional well-being are worth it. Create your own loving environment within your own household and only let in only those who abide by healthy rules of interaction.
I think the sad truth (sad for DH anyway) is that this is probably going to be the mode of operation going forward. Yesterday when he was dropping me off at the airport he said that perhaps a polite distance would better serve me, even if itís not what they want. What they want is to be really close to me, so close so that they can treat me like a daughter and talk to me all the time on the phone. Before I knew what they were like, DH and I made the decision to call our in-laws mom and dad. I think that has forced a familiarity, a relationship
that does not or should not exist.
This weekend they talked a lot about visiting us, but the truth is that this year, Iíve spent more time with them than with my own parents and my new niece. So I would like to take the next few months to focus on my own family and hopefully that will preclude any visits from them. The last time they visited they stayed for 10 days and it was awful. This time perhaps I can bring that down to 4 or 5 days. Our next definitely scheduled visit is for xmas, and itís better if itís celebrated in Texas so I can choose my flights for the shortest visit possible.
Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts about my miscarriage. Itís been more than a year but itís still a kick in the heart/gut to think about it, every time. DH and I are actively trying to have a baby amidst fertility issues, and I dread the day that my in-laws have an even bigger excuse to visit with us. I am going to keep reading and rereading, and decide what to do. At least what I think I should do, before DH comes back.