General Etiquette > Family and Children

Sensitive MIL

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takeheart:
I've written about dealing with MIL's feelings being hurt over unintentional actions before, but I honestly believe its reached its peak. MIL and FIL have been divorced a good 25+ years. Even though they are not friends by any means, they remain civil for the kids. FIL goes as far as inviting MIL to holiday get togethers at his house. DH and I are expecting baby #2 in September. My sister recently threw us a baby reveal party/baby shower this past weekend. MIL and BF were invited, as well as FIL and GF. The shower went really well! I especially enjoyed being able to share the surprise of the gender with everyone at once. Within a day or two of the shower, problems with MIL began.

I had forgotten the memory card to my camera, so the only pictures I have are a few that I took with my phone and some that guests had posted on Facebook. The pictures I took included pictures of each table while everyone was eating, five guests playing the Drinking Bottle game, and a group picture of "Team Boy" and "Team Girl." MIL called DH crying hysterically that we don't love her and we don't care about her. DH asked why she would think that. She said she saw on FB the baby shower pictures and she wasn't in any of them. What she meant was she wasn't in the picture of each table because she was in fact in the game pictures and the group picture. DH asked me about it. I think she may have gotten up to use the bathroom or get more food? Regardless, it wasn't intentional. I didn't even get a picture of DS in his "World's Best Big Bro" shirt because I was so busy! She hung up on DH, so he went to her house to reassure her that we love her. She apologized for being 'emotional' and said it wouldn't happen again.

Today, I received a text from her asking, "Do u hate me?" I thought it was because I had not returned her last three text messages, which were text messages that didn't really warrant a response (e.g. "Won $5 on a scratcher"), and I have been really busy with work and preparing the nursery. I apologized for not returning her text messages, but asked why she thought I would hate her. She said something along the lines of, "There are no pictures of me, but you have pictures of FIL with that woman." Again, I reiterated that it wasn't intentional and that barely took any pictures. She ended the conversation with, "Ok sorry."

Additionally, MIL text messaged my sister asking, "Do u hate me?" as well! Sister replied that she didn't hate her and questioned why she would assume that. Again, she replied that there weren't any pictures of her. Sister reassured her that it wasn't intentional because we were busy and not very many pictures were taken in general. MIL ended the conversation with an apology about how she had cancer and the treatments have messed up her hormones.

Between losing her parents about 5 years ago and having had cancer, I know MIL has been through a lot. She has physically issues, like her knees and back bother her, and she is also on various medications for her kidney, hormones, and what not. I can't talk to DH about it because he sympathizes her for having gone through everything that she has. All he does is reassure her that we love her and that we will make a better effort to include her in our lives. He is aware she isn't the mother she used to be. Apparently she used to be really independent, but mentally she has changed. I asked DH if I should block her from seeing some of my FB posts, but he said that it would hurt her feelings even more if she found out I did that. The thing is DH and I have always kept to ourselves. We're not the type to invite family over for dinner just because.

Previous suggestions include trying to distant myself as much as possible from her, which I have. I don't ask her for anything unless I absolutely need to. I have a feeling that with us having a girl, the girl that she has always wanted since she only had sons and she isn't close enough to her sisters to be close to her nieces, it's only going to get worse. Should I continue to distance myself and go about my business, or suck it up and attempt to have a better relationship with her even if it drives me crazy while tip toeing around her feelings? DH and I are at a point where we just don't talk about her because it has started disputes.

artk2002:
Yes, distance yourself from her. Stop caring that she's offended. In the example you gave, her offense is not rational. If she goes straight from "I'm not in picture X" to "you don't love me," she's got some serious problems. Add to the fact that the "you don't love meeeeeeeee" has likely been effective in the past -- I'm sure she's pulled that one on a regular basis and everyone has rallied around to assure her that she is loved. Stop feeding her neediness.

She'll get over it or die offended. It's not your job (nor your DH, nor your FIL) to make her happy. Only she can do that.

lakey:
" she is also on various medications for her kidney, hormones, and what not.....  He is aware she isn't the mother she used to be. Apparently she used to be really independent, but mentally she has changed. "

If this is a change in personality brought about by medications and health problems it may be better to tolerate her emotional roller coaster behavior for the sake of your husband.

TootsNYC:

--- Quote ---The thing is DH and I have always kept to ourselves. We're not the type to invite family over for dinner just because.

Previous suggestions include trying to distant myself as much as possible from her, which I have.

--- End quote ---

Well, no wonder she thinks you don't much like her.

And the verbal reassurances DH gives her about your feelings are frankly a bunch of "wah-wah-wah." If you want someone to *believe* you are fond of them, you have to offer evidence.

And words aren't enough. Actions are what matters. What people *believe* is shown by what they *do*.

Honestly, his mom lives close enough for her to visit easily, and she has cancer, and you are distancing yourself and never have her over for dinner "just because"?

The secret is not to push her _further_ away--it's to pull her closer.

She's not *really* complaining about the pictures from the shower; she's complaining about the trend in general, which is that she feels lost and vulnerable, and the actions of those closest to her aren't making her feel any less so.

I'm just a bit flabbergasted that when she says, "I don't feel loved! I wish you loved me. I wish you showed that a bit more," your response would be to pull further away.
   Sure, her way of saying, "please show me that you love me, that I matter to you," is not the smoothest or more self-actualized. But few of us are like that! Her communication pattern is probably the only one she knows.

If you want a better relationship with her, you need to go out of your way to contact her a bit more. Don't make her do all the work--you initiate the contact now and then.

Make a point of commenting on her Facebook wall. Give her a call in the evening every now and then. Invite her for dinner. Maybe every 2nd Wednesday, have her come over for dinner, and eat just whatever you were serving anyway--nothing fancy, just spaghetti and sauce from a jar or something.

When she says, "There weren't any pictures of me at the shower," you go WITH her--not against her. Say, "That's right, I'm so pissed off--I forgot my camera, and nobody else did any picture-taking, really. There aren't so few pictures, I'm really upset. Nobody got a picture of you and me together, either. I could just cry."

Next time, when she says, "You never invite me over for dinner," you say, "You're right, we haven't had you over! I keep thinking we will, and then we get too busy. What about tomorrow? We won't make a big thing of it, but we get home from work about 6 and are done cooking about 7--what if you come over then? We'll just make sure there's an extra serving of chicken nuggets. It'll be good to see you."

Now, maybe you don't give a poopadities about her and just want her to shut up.
Even then, shutting her out, etc., is not going to be effective. Because unless you completely cut her out of your life, she's still going to want more than what you're giving her (esp. if you're giving her nothing).

So you might as well include her in your lives a bit more.



jilly:
I'm not sure your MIL is actually emotional, more emotionally manipulative and a drama queen. It's hard to say how much of each as it varies from person to person.

My SIL has these tendencies she has taken a simple sorry we already have plans on boxing day are you free Christmas eve? and gone on a 3 SMS rant ending telling us we are being unfair to her children!! We have had to distance ourselves a lot over the last few years to the point we only see her 2-3 times a year.
My experience with SIL is obviously colouring my advice and is based on how I've had to deal with someone who was once my best friend.

I would start by not responding to messages of the don't you love me variety with the reassurance she wants. A simple why would you think that? is plenty. Gradually distance yourself emotionally and physically. Try to see these outbursts for what they are. It may not change her but it can help take the stress out of them for you.

If you believe , as toots pointed out, she is just bad at communicating her feelings and not actually emotionally manipulative you could try little or no response to any outburst coupled with including her more in your life when she is not going through these outbursts, showing her the truth you love her but dislike being guilt tripped.

Hopefully you won't need to distance yourself from your MIL as much as DH and I have from SIL.

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