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Confronting Father in law

(21 Posts)
WorriedDIL Tue 06-Aug-19 11:02:34

Apologies, thus may be long. My MIL passed away last year after several years of illness. We were so close and we miss her terribly. It was a difficult time and my DH suffered a breakdown due to his grief. My FIL is also understandably devastated. However, he acts like he is the only person who lost her. He did not acknowledge my DH struggle at his health issues nor losing his mother. My FIL worked away from home for his career so my DH was raised by his mother and only got to know his DF as an adult after he retired. My DH although mid 40s now strives for acknowledgement from his DH. He is very hands on in helping his DH during this period of grief. He takes him out and my FIL has spent all holidays staying with us including my MILs first birthday after she passed. We have barely had any family time that does not include him as my DH wants him to feel included and tries to minimise his loneliness. We live 3 hours away so when he visits he stays with us. My AIBU is, he is a very difficult man. He criticises my DH constantly and also my DC. He has also recently started to criticise me. He is extremely pass remarkable on our home, life choices, even the food we make whilst he stays. As time goes on this ya getting worse. Think MIL kept him in check and more than made up for him with her warm, generous personality. It’s got to the stage where we are dreading his visits. The kids have noticed. He now expects all of our holidays should include him (summer, Christmas, Easter, birthdays, mis term breaks). We have set a president in this first year that he wants to continue. My DH feels that we should still include him despite his terrible attitude. On his most recent visit I pulled him up on all of his comments. It was like being on edge the whole time. He’s very wealthy but expects to be treated and entertained the entire time. Every morning he gets up with “what are we doing today?”. It’s exhausting and is ruining our quality time with our children. My DH is very like his mother which is why I love him so. His generosity is boundless. But he ya recovering from a bad mental health episode and needs support, not criticism. Incidentally when my DHs grandparents were elderly his father did nothing to help them stating he had his own life to live.
He is due back to stay in a few weeks and I am dreading it. He now also wants ya there for Halloween mid term and has invited himself to ours for both Christmas and new year. My DH has a brother close by but he only covers practical duties. Shopping, small diy jobs. He has insulted his wife so much that she doesn’t see him and he’s not welcome in their home anymore. Help me cope?

Cabbie21 Tue 06-Aug-19 11:10:35

As with so many issues relating to in-laws, I think this is something you need to talk with your husband about.

Yes, he wants to support his father, but if his visits are upsetting you and the children, they need to be restricted, and you need to try to get your husband to appreciate this point of view, and reach a compromise.

WorriedDIL Tue 06-Aug-19 11:46:13

Thanks Cabbie. I’m not sure he’s strong enough. After his breakdown and the loss of his Mum he isn’t as strong as he would normally be. He’s set on ensuring his father is looked after in these few years despite the effect on his own mental health. His father’s criticism is so normal to him now that he doesn’t even pick up on it all the time. I feel like I have to be his advocate until he is stronger.
I feel like we have to have these visits but need to limit their length and frequency. How confrontational can I be to a man who has recently lost his wife but is also upsetting my family?

grandtanteJE65 Tue 06-Aug-19 13:26:59

Frankly, I think the time has come for you to have a frank talk with your FIL without anyone else present.

Try to find something nice you can say to him to start with and do mention that you know how difficult loosing his wife has been for him.

BUT his constant criticising is upsetting the whole family and you would like him to be a little more considerate in his remarks.

If he doesn't like the food you serve, tell him he is welcome to do the shopping and cooking while he is at your house. I would add that I am trying to bring my children up to be polite, and criticising the food you are given in someone else's home is very definitely not polite.

I would also try to discuss the fact that you neither can nor should include him in everything your family does and certainly not pay for it.

Ask him for example if he would like to come to you for Christmas Day and Boxing day, or for the New Year. Make it quite clear you are not inviting him for both.

He may well be offended by your plain speaking, but on the other hand he might well respect you for grasping the nettle.

Dinahmo Tue 06-Aug-19 13:45:19

I think that you should be looking after your DH's health first and foremost. Many years ago my mother was suffering ill health and at the same time my grandmother was widowed. After my grandfather died she moved from Sussex to Essex, where we lived, but not close enough for regular short visits. My father (who didn't like his mother) used to visit her every weekend and return home with migraines. My parents' GP told my father that he would need to chose between his wife and his mother because of my mother's ill health. My grandmother fell, breaking her hip and after time in hospital she went into a nursing home. My father felt guilty about this but didn't talk to me or my siblings and when he got cancer he died after a short illness. At that time there was a theory that people who were "buttoned up" were more likely to suffer. (I'm talking about 40+ years ago)

If your children are old enough perhaps you could talk to them about it, without denigrating your FIL I loved my grandmother but at the same time I knew that she disapproved of my parents who didn't criticise her in front of us children. I wish my father had talked to us about his mother because it might have helped him a little bit.

I hope that you manage to resolve this without too much stress for you and your DH.

Hithere Tue 06-Aug-19 13:56:50

My most sincere condolences for your loss.

Has your fil attended grief therapy? Has your dh?

Your dh's generosity is not boundless.
If it were the case, he would take you and your kids into account and start doing what is best for his family, not his father.

Has his father always been so self centered?
Fil did not want to take care of his parents because fil had his own life but now you are suppose to drop yours for your fil?

Talk to dh. He must start putting you and your kid first. It has been a year and you do not want to spend the rest of your lives being fil's crutch.
His father needs professional help that you are not able to provide.

Stansgran Tue 06-Aug-19 14:00:24

I had an uncle who attached himself to us after my mother died. He got invited on a regular basis but he started to feel he could criticise. When he told a teenage girl as goodness you are spotty I reached my limit as the whole of Christmas she barely left her room. I broke a toe just before the next Christmas and he was very put out as I had just not told him about any activities we did before then. I think op you have to protect your own family even if it means lying. I had no hesitation.

WorriedDIL Tue 06-Aug-19 14:08:05

Thanks so much for all the this advice. I have felt that I am stuck in the middle. Normally my DH would step up and say but he keeps thinking looking after FIL is what his Mum would have wanted. I agree with you all. It’s been a year and he is needing to start relying on us less. I have started to be more frank and will continue to do so. I was worried that I should give him more time. I really appreciate you all taking the time and listening

Luckygirl Tue 06-Aug-19 14:41:08

This resonates with me!

When MIL died we took FIL on holiday with us and generally tried to be helpful. Eventually he took himself off to France to live with his DD - which was a shock to all of us as they did not get on - I did eventually find out the financial incentive that motivated my SisIL to offer this!!! - less said about that the better!

However, when SisIL got bored with him or had screwed the max dosh she could from him, he was sent to us like a parcel and landed on our doorstep homeless. So we had no option but to take him in - SisIL said he was dying - was he heck!

He stayed with us for several months - a very dictatorial and difficult man, with whom my OH barely spoke. Eventually I took the bull by the horns and just said to him that this was not working out for us and that I was happy to help him find somewhere else to live back in his home town where he knew people. It was a difficult conversation, but in the end it all worked out for the best and he went back to his former territory where I had found him a suitable sheltered flat.

So - sometimes you just have to grab the bull by the horns and speak up!

eazybee Tue 06-Aug-19 14:44:48

Do not underestimate this man; he is capable of wrecking your marriage. He senses a weakness in your son because he tries desperately for his approval, and he will exploit it. You have to be resolute not only for yourself but for your husband and his health; unfortunately you will have to counteract his constant desire to please his father.

Restrict the forthcoming visits: half term OR Hallowe'en; Christmas OR New Year, not all, and have very good reasons why you cannot do both: other family commitments, friends, children's activities?. Be pleasant but firm. Limit the visits in the following year, again doing some but not all; your brother in law must take his share; (easier said than done; I remember this with my father, grandmother and uncle, who would not take any responsibility, because of his wife.)

Your father in law is used to having his own way and if he is anything like my ex-father in law, who wrecked both his children's marriages, he actively seeks confrontation. Hence all the criticism of you, your husband and your children. It is to establish his dominance. Your mother in law may have known how to handle him, but it probably put her under immense strain; remember this.

You are not being unreasonable because you can foresee the pitfalls ahead with this man, but dealing with him is not going to be easy.

FlexibleFriend Tue 06-Aug-19 15:34:28

You've made a rod for your own backs by trying to be so supportive. If you don't start restricting his visits soon this will be the pattern for the rest of your lives. I doubt either of you want that. Personally I wouldn't stand idly by and listen to my loved ones being put down. I would pass comment in a very matter of fact voice. I'd simply say please be nice and if he persists would again say please be nice or be quite and continue in that vein. Don't get into an argument keep your voice low but convey your intent. Your Husband and kids are far more important than him. I'd also find things for him to do when he visits, local clubs etc and when he says what are we doing today I'd say we're having a lazy day but I've found this club for you and I'll drop you off. He needs to find his own life not take over yours.

WorriedDIL Tue 06-Aug-19 16:03:16

My condolences to everyone who’s been here. Thus has given me the strength to be more outspoken. I don’t let him make the remarks without commenting. However, he’s not picking up on my comments. He leaves having had a tremendous time oblivious to the shell shock he’s left behind. Then the emails start to arrange the next visit. I feel like he never really leaves. We gave up our 2 weeks annual summer leave to be with him. We both went back to work shattered.

Namsnanny Tue 06-Aug-19 16:03:54

Worrieddil...Isn’t it always the way in do more than is required to lessen his pain and he does more than required to heighten yours!!!

But no matter how your husband is feeling, try to find a way to show him how bad for your family his fathers behaviour is.

This isn’t a problem you can deal with on your own. Because both of you have differing loyalties at the moment, so are hoping for different outcomes.

Your husband is allowing his need (grief) to have his father near, to cloud his judgement.

Lots of small steps can be taken to help. But your husband needs to be on board with you or he could end up Misinterpreting his feelings and blame you instead of fil.

shamrockgood luck

M0nica Tue 06-Aug-19 16:08:42

The first thing your DH should do is come to terms with the fact that striving to win is father's approval is a waste of time and just accept that this failure to get his father's approval, is nothing personal, just a feature of the man, no son would ever get his approval.

I struggled for years trying to make (in my case, much loved) mother understand, my life choices from the major to the trivial, until one day I suddenly realised that I was wasting my time and it was better to accept the relationship we had and not continue striving for one I would never have.

Once he has done that, you both need to sit down and discuss how, given his difficult personality, he can do as his much loved mother wished but at the same time reduce the stress this places on the rest of the family. I am sure his mother wouldn't want his care of his father to jeopardise his mental health and relations with his wife and children.

It will mean reducing the amount of time his father spends with you, as another poster suggested visit for Christmas or New Year, take him on one short holiday together and then go away for holidays on your own. Have him for his birthday and possible your DH's, but not every one. Limit his visits to only a few days and no more than one a month, if not six weeks.

Personally, I would confront him and tell him that his constant criticisms are unacceptable and that if he doesn't stop doing it he will not be welcome. You are not his son and there is no reason why you should put up with it. His brother's wife has clearly put her foot down about this, perhaps you could refer to that and threaten to do the same.

MissAdventure Tue 06-Aug-19 16:09:31

Looking after your father in law means helping him with his grief; helping him to manage life, not cushioning him from everything, as that will help nobody, long term.

Good luck!

wildswan16 Tue 06-Aug-19 16:14:00

Your priority has to be the well-being of your husband and your children. At the moment your husband needs your help to recover his health - and part of that will include ensuring his father does not jeopardise that recovery.

As others have said - compromise. Use the happiness of your children to persuade your husband to cut down on the visits. Remember, he could live for many more years and you need to set boundaries now. It isn't going to be easy - but is necessary. Good luck.

Hithere Tue 06-Aug-19 16:17:53

Your fil may or not hear your comments. He may even ignore them for his own benefit.

Words clearly do not work in this situation. It is time to act.

"Fil, this is the first warning. You know we do not allow this kind of language/behaviour in this home. If it happens again you will leave"

He opens his big mouth again:
"Fil, the visit is over. Dh will contact you again when we are ready to see you"
Your dh takes him to the door, opens it and locks it.

No more holidays with fil- a few hours here and there in key days if you feel generous but you retake the control of your own life

Daisymae Tue 06-Aug-19 16:22:31

While your fil is still so dependant on your family he will have no incentive to start his own life as a single man. He is starting to feel that he is head of the house not your DH which is why he feels able to criticize. Time to gently give him the space you all so obviously need. The first year is always the most difficult but it really is time for you all to move forward. Make plans that do not include him, let him know in advance. But it looks like you are going to have to be the one to move things along.

Summerlove Tue 06-Aug-19 16:28:45

I’ve got no better advice than what you’ve been given, but I wanted to say how sorry I am for your family. I can’t imagine the stress on all of you, and the frustrating memories your children will have of their grandfather instead of lovely ones

WorriedDIL Tue 06-Aug-19 20:32:37

Thank so much everyone for taking the time to respond. It’s so sad that after so many wonderful memories of MIL that FIL is ruining this relationship. We are booking a holiday just ya for the next break and I will call him and arrange either Christmas or New Year. The children need a break too and when we are there it he is here that is not happening.

BradfordLass72 Wed 07-Aug-19 03:49:06

WorriedDIL It's going to be up to you to be the strong one and being tough with this old despot is what he needs.

Clearly he has waltzed through life getting his own rude way for far too long.

He has a right to his opinion but in your home you have the right to tell him to keep his wretched opinions to himself.
And warn him if he doesn't, you'll give him bus fare home tout de suite

Your DH says he feels his mother would want you to look after him but I'd like to bet that such a wonderful lady would not want her son's care for his father to result in ruining your lives.

Work out a calm but definite set of behaviour rules whilst he is enjoying your generosity and your home and put it to him with firmness.
If you feel your husband is up to it, consult him but I feel that in the end, it's you who must be the guardian angel and put this old rogue in his place.

I'll tell you something, WorriedDIL if he visited with me, his first rude comment might be ignored; his second would see him on the other side of the door, carrying his suitcase! grin