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Family problems after MIL's death

(20 Posts)
Katek Mon 17-Nov-14 22:37:54

Oh dear, not sure how to handle this current situation at all. It's now 5 weeks since MIL died and the cracks are beginning to show. DH has always had a very difficult relationship with his father and they were estranged for a number of years. They've been on speaking terms for 6 or so years now and obviously were a lot closer while MIL was unwell. Dh doesn't have any great desire to be any more involved than he already is. He's happy to phone his father on a regular basis and go and visit app 6 weekly (we are 150 miles away with no motorway). He also keeps in regular touch with his sister who only lives 5 minutes away from their father so she keeps him informed as to his health etc. The problem is that FIL wants us to go down every 2-3 weeks and we just can't do it. Not only has Dh had 2 heart attacks but he's still working and our children/grandchildren live 70 and 100 miles away so we have to factor them in. We also have our widowed daughter and small gd nearby who need our help and support. My husband says that he will end up falling out with his father again if he sees him too often. FIL is. and always has been, a very unpleasant, selfish and opinionated bully who has told my husband on more than one occasion that he's no son of his. He's never really accepted me as I was a divorcee with two young children when dh and I met 38 years ago. FIL still refers to the girls as 'her children' even though my husband has taken them to his heart - so much so that it was he who gave them both away. The girls were always tarted differently to my subsequent children and not acknowledged at birthdays or Xmas. I've tried to subdue my feelings on this so as not to interfere with what little relationship my husband had with his parents. Now, despite all the hurt and damage he's caused he's putting the emotional screws on to get what he wants. I know he's bereaved and lonely but the hurt he's caused looms large for dh and I and dh is carrying a huge burden of hurt and resentment. FIL thinks he deserves respect and consideration just by virtue of the fact that he is dh's father. There doesn't appear to be a way out of this situation but I can't stand back and see my husband run himself into the ground but my attempts to care for him are only adding to his quandary. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

soontobe Mon 17-Nov-14 22:44:34

Has your fil said sorry for anything?

Even if he has, it sounds like your DH cannot possibly manage any more trips than he is currently doing.
Your DH needs to look after his own health.

Does your DH phone your fil in between the 6 weeks at all?

Ana Mon 17-Nov-14 22:53:13

It does sound as though your FIL is taking advantage, KateK. Has he said why he wants 2/3-weekly visits from you and DH?

He's obviously newly bereaved and perhaps just wants to keep in touch, but your DH must put his own health first, as soontobe has said.

His daughter lives nearby so there's no question that he's been abandoned or neglected, I think you should make it clear that visits can't be that frequent, but DH will phone him regularly.

alex57currie Tue 18-Nov-14 00:46:35

Katek has your Dh spoken with his sister re. this current situation? Maybe the siblings need to formulate a plan to support each

Katek Tue 18-Nov-14 09:36:48

Yes, he calls him every Sunday evening and no, he's never apologised for anything. He hasn't said why he wants these frequent visits either-have assumed he just doesn't want to be by himself. His sister was/is the golden child so I'm not sure how she would react to a discussion, but it's certainly a suggestion that I'll bring up with husband. To give you an example of demands - we're taking FIL out this weekend for his birthday lunch to a very nice restaurant around 20 miles from his home. The restaurant lies between us both and sister in law was picking him up so we could meet at venue. FIL, however, isn't happy with that-he wants us to go to his house before lunch which involves us driving past the town where the restaurant is located and making a 40 mile detour! Husband ended up agreeing to this because FIL was crying on the phone. I can only see this getting worse.

Mishap Tue 18-Nov-14 10:05:37

The bottom line is that you must both say No to more visits.

I know that this sounds harsh, but you both have quite enough on your plates and if your OH has had heart attacks, protecting his well-being is his and your first responsibility.

It is very sad that this rather difficult man is now alone and grieving, but he is reaping what he has sown. Clearly he needs a bit more input poor man, but this needs to be in the form of phone calls rather than making the long trek to see him more often. You can only do what is possible and safe for your and your OH's health.

Perhaps make a regular date for a phone call each week - which you have probably already done - but stick to it.

How very hard this is for everyone - we all want to be kind where we can, but this cannot be at the expense of your OH's health.

alex57currie Tue 18-Nov-14 10:15:16

My son-in-laws's aged parents are getting divorced-69yrs+ and in process of setting up 2 seperate homes. Sil's mother is behaving in a similar manner. DD is torn between dh wellbeing and keeping some sort of logic. She's exhibiting some sort of cognitive dissonance. Really ott re. Christmas etc. It's her way of coping with her deep unhappiness at a situation that is out of her control. I suspect that's what is going on with you Dh's father. Dh really needs to take control of his part in the dynamics. Not saying it's easy with his ill health and all. Even if sibling is the golden eyed one. I would say go for it. She's surely not that ignorant of what's happening here.

FarNorth Tue 18-Nov-14 10:28:07

Surely the sister can see how unreasonable the FiL is being re the restaurant visit. If she is made aware of the whole situation yet refuses to deal with it in the interests of keeping on FiL's good side, then she is being as unreasonable as he is.

vampirequeen Wed 19-Nov-14 07:05:13

You say he's always been a bully. Well this is emotional bullying. I know he's lost his wife but that also means he's lost his most controllable victim. Now, whether intentionally or not, he's looking for another.

He's like a manipulative child. You mustn't give anymore than you are able to/want to because the more you give the more he'll push.

suevie34 Wed 19-Nov-14 08:10:00

Katek what a horrible situation for you.

Everything vampirequeen has said is correct. Fil is doing what he's always done...using emotional blackmail.

It may be tough but you have to make a stand. Do what you can when you can re fil, but your DH and own family must come first.

NfkDumpling Wed 19-Nov-14 08:15:26

You and your DH must stick to your guns and present a united front. My DM acted similarly and it became a constant battle but given an inch she would want a yard. If you do visit every 2-3 weeks it won't be long before he'll be demanding weekly. Watch out for appeals for help to get the extra visit - like a broken tap washer he can't manage or he's poorly and SiL is no good. Controlling other people is their way of overcoming things they can't control - the loss of a partner or worsening health. Stand your ground.

soontobe Wed 19-Nov-14 08:29:41

I have 3 additional theories

1. Your fil is unwell, and not quite himself anymore. He feels weaker both physically and emotionally, so doesnt feel able to cope in lots of ways, hence he wants his son on hand.

2.He has decided to up the manipulation and decided to guilt trip your DH if he can, as he knows his time is running out to do that.

3. He is feeling very guilty for how he has treated your husband in the past, and wants to keep seeing him.

Do you think that he loves your husband, deep down?

Maybe all 3 are going on.

Or/and what everyone else has said!

The thing is, he does have the daughter around.
Does he bully/try to control her too?

alex57currie Wed 19-Nov-14 09:24:43

You might be on to something there Soontobe. Tactics won't be same with golden child. Been there, t shirt bla bla bla. If you were a fly-on-the wall you'd see a whole different set of phsychodynamics in operation between the father and daughter. I've on occasion nearly peuked having seen it with my mum and other sibs.

Faye Wed 19-Nov-14 10:14:55

Katek that is too much expecting you to drive out of your way when he can be driven by your SIL. Could you phone the SIL and tell her that you won't be able to pick FIL and could she just pick him up without saying anything before hand. If FIL says anything at the restaurant say OH was unwell and it was lucky SIL was able to pick him up otherwise you would have had to cancel.

As NfkDumpling posted, stick to your guns and stand firm. If your husband is unwell and can't stand up to him you may have to tell your FIL you are very sorry but OH is unwell and can only do so much. The SIL lives close by to your FIL, he is not being neglected. flowers

HildaW Wed 19-Nov-14 12:37:30

Am going through a similar thing here so do understand that there some very self-centred folks out there. The outside world sees a frail old person....we know them for how they have always been and it gets to a point when you just have to scream 'Enough'. Your health, sanity and wellbeing needs to come what you can but no more....if its not good enough by him then that's his problem. It will not necessarily be easy...believe me I siblings and I have had it from childhood from a father who really should not have had children. Time and time again we tried and failed to meet his expectations and then, when we started to stand up to him as parents ourselves...we were ostracised in a sort of of us would be out of favour for a few years to be replaced by the next one who dared to try to state a point of view. In the end we have all stepped back to save our selves and have just kept a weather eye on him from a distance as we still sort of feel a duty of care. We have just learned that he has been admitted to hospital and were all once again wracked with guilt. Its all so sad and twisted...he could have had a family of delightful grandchildren and great grandchildren but he chose to ignore them all.

Mishap Wed 19-Nov-14 14:02:41

Oh ditch the guilt hilda - we reap what we sow. If your Dad has been so difficult over the years then you are going to have mixed feelings about him - it is inevitable and unavoidable. It is not something for you to feel guilty about. You did not make him the man he is.

My Mum was a difficult lady and I spent years feeling guilty that I did not seek out her company and try to have a close relationship with her. That was until a friend said to me in a puzzled voice.."Why do you feel guilty? - you were just a child when you were first trying to deal with her and none of it was your fault."

I think it is a bit like parenting - I used to say to Mums who were finding it very hard that they should work out how much parenting they could do well and then seek out playgroups or childminders to do the other bits. It is the same with elderly parents - obviously we want to do the best we can, but we need to work out what we can manage with our own heath needs also in mind and then do that and pass the rest on to the care services or other relatives.

It does sound harsh, but mercy has to be tempered with self-preservation.

Even if we understand the forces that have made some parents difficult, it does not mean that the effects of their behaviour on us are any different. I finally, as an adult, decided that my Mum had severe PMT as she really was two people - very hard for a child to cope with.

I was very interested in a "Who do you think you are?" episode where Patrick Stewart (he of Star Trek fame) found out that his father had suffered from shell shock and this explained his violent and controlling behaviour towards his family - but Patrick also, in a very well-balanced and guilt-free fashion, recognised that having this explanation in no way minimised or mitigated what they all went through.

HildaW Wed 19-Nov-14 14:50:21

Of course you are right the cold light of day I see the man for who he is, I just find myself mourning the idealised parent I'd invent on dark unhappy days.

Funnily enough I used to day-dream as a child that I was not his daughter (as the eldest I got the worst treatment...always psychological never physical thankfully).

Thanks for the kick up the 'you know what' Mishap, I shall think of you if I start to brood again. The three of us have survived albeit a little battered around the edges. However, our darling children unanimously agree that , in the words of my younger daughter, we 'broke the chain' and are 'not half bad' parents!

Mishap Wed 19-Nov-14 14:54:25

Praise indeed Hilda!

Nelliemoser Wed 19-Nov-14 15:28:21

Mishap Very wise words there. It is so easy to get dragged into difficulties like this.

Katek Sat 22-Nov-14 10:16:23

Off today to face the FIL....this has not been easy. Thank you all so much for advice/support, so helpful to know that I'm not alone in my thinking. Am anxious about birthday meal as well-last time we took him out he fell out with restaurant manager and told him that his restaurant/service was a 'travesty'. Hopefully we won't have a repeat of sliding under the table in embarrassment. Will let you know it goes.