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Potential estrangement... DIL side

(106 Posts)
Abi30 Mon 03-May-21 07:23:27

I’ll start by saying that I am the DIL in this situation. We have had a growing poor relations with my husband’s parents. They themselves estranged one set of their own parents due to bad behaviour. It feels as though the cycle is repeating. We are not estranged, but it is heading that way / quite low contact. I had two loving grandparents from both sides of my family as a child and I am heartbroken over how things will potentially be for my kids. I thought I would post on this forum for advice.

I’ve been with my husband 10 years and we’ve shared some lovely weekend breaks and visits with his parents. Everything changed when I fell pregnant 3 years ago.

They live 4hr drive away, so when we see them it is usually for a full day or a weekend of hosting. Whilst I was heavily pregnant with my first, my FIL started passing some mean comments, referring to me as ‘fatty’. I think the worst was when I was talking to my husband about a pregnancy craving and my FIL said that he could go and grab some food for me, but only for the unborn baby, because “they don’t actually care about me, I’m just an incubator for grandchild”. I was in tears when they left, those words really effected me and triggered a lot of anxiety in the times that we saw them thereafter.

Once my first was born they were excited (as you would be) about being grandparents and we welcomed visits from everybody. They were quite pushy for my MIL to come and stay with me for a week, my husband never got back to them about organising it... and it was a relief at that point as I felt uncomfortable with the idea without my husband being around too - it was also the time when my postnatal anxiety and depression had started and it wasn’t the support I needed at the time. I didn’t feel like I could approach them.. other than that situation, we’ve never ever stopped them from seeing the kids, always kept them informed of health visitor updates etc and we have always hosted visits when they’ve asked to come. They currently get picture updates of our kids regularly which I upload, my family are also a part of the same updates. The only boundary I have ever laid down was for my husband to not leave me alone with them because of a long string of rude comments and cold vibes. They are unaware of this boundary.

When my first was 7/8 months old, we went to stay with them for the first time and FIL rude nature was peaking through even more - receiving the cold shoulder, he seemed to get increasingly annoyed as the visit went on, I vividly remember him huffing and puffing because I asked if we could sit down somewhere to breastfeed the baby. It was time for us to return home that Evening and he got very huffy about dinner plans also, as it was around the time we were also leaving (easier for us to make big journeys in the night when baby sleeping) - that was when the cold and unfriendly vibes started to properly reveal itself..... we then had our first family Christmas as a family with them. It seemed they all had some kind of indifference towards me at that point. I remember my FIL flipping me off behind my back and the silent amused look my MIL exchanged with my FIL over it... I absolutely love Christmas and it was the worst Christmas I’ve ever had. I felt so uncomfortable in my own home. I was incredibly hurt about how our first family Christmas went. I am not sure how I could ever repeat another Christmas with them. Being around them adds on to trauma and anxiety now.

After that Christmas I took a step back, I needed it for me, emotionally. Leaving my husband to do the bulk of messages or calls. A number of other situations and the cold vibe continued and got worse for all of last year (2020) whilst I was pregnant with my second. I remember my MIL calling me directly for the first time in my pregnancy, around 2 weeks before I gave birth. One thing stands out from what she said - ‘let us know/Keep them informed’... those words had a lot of meaning. I felt she was trying to absolve themselves from not reaching out during my pregnancy to find out how things were going and at the same time trying to place the blame on my shoulders for not ‘’keeping them informed’. In my mind I thought it was also ironic that they only contacted me for info right before I gave birth, be of course - that’s all I’m good for - incubating grandchildren.... I knew at that point that I needed to drop my expectations of them caring in a genuine way, I had also had a rough year - rough pregnancy, pulmonary embolism scare, high blood pressure, perinatal anxiety and depression. We now have two very young children, I’m up to my head with juggling just day to day Mumming - and being the best Mum that I can be for my children. Any interaction with my in laws has caused an immense amount of anxiety and the tension in the air is affecting us all. In particularly now, I think my eldest can sense it. I don’t know what is best for them.

I know that it’s my husband who needs to resolve the tension, but he has never talked to them. He won’t admit that he feels vulnerable doing so.... even when he himself has been upset by things directed towards him. I can recall him getting an aggressive message in the middle of the night - that he wasn’t making enough effort with them... I had been sharing photo updates regularly (of which I still do), he also calls his Mum every week (and he still does)...I think it took my MIL about 4/5 months to even acknowledge the pictures by sending a message, I took that as what we were doing just wasn’t enough for them. I think it is very clear that no matter what I do or say, nothing would please and it’s not good enough for them...

We know they have issues, the way they have been shows that it’s directed towards me. There is so much murky rude water under the bridge and cold vibes - I don’t know how I can move forward with them... because they no longer view me or treat me as ‘family’ nothing I would ever say would resolve it abs my husband is basically too scared to talk to them. They aren’t going to change their newfound outlook of me and that will forever effect us as a family.

BlueBelle Mon 03-May-21 08:40:41

Stop,, stop, stop trying to please because you can’t. Let your husband make any contact needed, they re his parents
If you have parents of your own get help and support from them and your friends and stop feeling you have to fulfil all their desires you are a mother firstly, and need to put your energies into that
As you live 4 hours away surely you don’t see that much of
I do not and never will understand all these rules and regulations of having to have in laws or even (not such nice) parents for Christmas or visits that put you through intense stress Cut it all out and enjoy your life with your husband and children they are your family now no one else
It’s wonderful if you get kind supportive in laws but if you don’t keep well away You are trying way too hard to please unpleasable people you ll never get it right however much you try and call that horrible father in law out if he’s as rude in the future don’t be so passive you don’t need to be rude just say calmly ‘that’s a very unpleasant thing to say to me’ and if he has a come back ignore it Your husband unfortunately sounds weak he should be the one protecting you and telling his Dad to stop being so rude
Your children will pick up on your distress and stress so you need to stop thinking about these people completely do the normal polite things like sending photos etc but beyond that they can whistle

Nonogran Mon 03-May-21 09:11:18

[email protected] this morning has hit the nail on the head. It's truly words of wisdom. Take care of yourself & your little family. You are clearly deep thinking & caring but they are your priority now. Be strong, stay friendly in a guarded way with your husband's parents but relax from this worry & enjoy your young motherhood days.

MerylStreep Mon 03-May-21 09:29:54

My daughter had awful problems with her father in law. After every visit she would relate to me all that had been said and done. In every phone call I told her: just stop going there ( fortunately there was no chance of the in laws visiting them)
I told her to stop putting yourself through this, they are never going to change, if her husband wanted to visit them, fine.
She finally did it.
Everyone’s been happy for 10 years now ?

Loislovesstewie Mon 03-May-21 09:37:19

I agree with BlueBelle. You can't please them so stop trying. Do whatever makes you happy and leave your husband to sort out his own parents. Life is too short for all of this stress.

Smileless2012 Mon 03-May-21 09:39:28

There's no need for you to put yourself through this Abi. You need to talk to your H and do what MerylStreep's D did, stop seeing them and if your H wants to do so, he can without you being involved.

geekesse Mon 03-May-21 12:24:25

My FiL was similar - rude, thoughtless and outspoken. The final straw was when my MiL offered to have the kids for the morning while I went to an ante-natal appointment. When I went to pick them up he grumbled about my ‘dumping the children’ on her.

So I banned him (but not MiL - divide and rule!) from coming to our house and from the Christening of number 4 a few months later. He was a dreadful snob and name dropper, and the fact that the baptism was being done by a bishop meant that he badly wanted to be there. MiL apologised repeatedly for him and, a week before the Christening, asked if there was any way I could forgive him. I told her that I wanted a proper apology, in person, that was sincere and lasting.

The following day, he turned up at the front door in his very best clothes, raised his hat when I opened the door, and asked very politely if he could come in to apologise. He made a full and remorseful apology for the way he had spoken to me both recently and in the past, and asked penitently if he could come to the Christening. I accepted the apology, and he was never rude to me again. In fact, we had a very good relationship after that.

MiL rang me afterwards to say that in the 40 years they had been married, she had never known him to apologise to anyone for anything before!

Smileless2012 Mon 03-May-21 12:29:28

What a great story geekesse; good for yousmile.

A fine example of how dealing with a situation head on can make all the difference.

Bibbity Mon 03-May-21 12:42:55

Honestly just drop the rope. Anything and everything direct to your husband.

“Your mother called”
“Your prenatal are asking XYZ you should let them know”

These aren’t people you even like by now so you don’t need to tolerate them anymore.

Madgran77 Mon 03-May-21 14:10:41

I agree with all who say that you need to leave this one to your husband. The only exception would be if you become aware that they are saying things about you to your children or doing anything that you feel is not what you want with your children.

If either of those happen then I think you and your husband have to agree together what you as parents of your children wish to do about it. You both have to stand together on anything like that.

For anything else just stop trying. It is THEIR loss!

Buffybee Mon 03-May-21 14:50:41

You've been way too nice Abi30, these people do not deserve a kind, thoughtful person like you.
As everyone has advised above, cut all contact directly from you, it's up to your husband to keep in in touch with them, if he wants to do.
I'm afraid when you caught your Fil making a rude sign behind your back, in your own home and Mil, smiling at it, that would have been the absolute end for me. No coming back!
They've made their bed, leave the nasty pair to stew.

M0nica Mon 03-May-21 14:55:57

Your children will not be irremedially damaged for life just because one set of grandparents are missing from their lives.

Yes, it is lovely to have two sets of doting grandparents, lovely but not essential. My DH grew up, effectively with no grandparents at all, three had died, the survivor had remarried and started a second family and they occupied all his time. DH grew up a perfectly normal child, what he did not have he did not miss.

The same applies to your family, your children will have one set of loving grandparents and one set, you see as little as possible, because they are not loving and caring.

Your children will not thank you for being contantly brought in contact with grandparents who they will very quickly realise are not nice people and only cause tension and strain.

You have done your best, but the problem is them not you. Leave contact to your husband. he clear has problems with them as well. Relax, and let the children enjoy the lovely grandparents they have and let the nasty lot be a small cloud on the horizon, but not enough to spoil a sunny day.

muffinthemoo Tue 04-May-21 13:45:24

A working relationship needs both parties to work at it. You have worked and worked and they have.... not.

Don’t initiate contact for yourself any more. They know where you are and how to reach you when they can be bothered, or when they want photos.

A lovely Polish family member taught me the saying “not my circus, not my monkeys”. Your H’s family sounds a right circus but his parents are his monkeys to wrangle!

Things can always change and if they try to be decent then of course meet those overtures with decency, but right now it seems like you are chasing folk who don’t want to be caught.

Abi30 Tue 04-May-21 20:17:13

Thank you for all the responses. I appreciate the time that’s been made to read my story and write back to me.

In a way, I have been leaving the communication to my husband. I took a step back after that Christmas in 2019. It really helped. Although, it actually allowed the trauma of being bullied to come out more. It has helped me feel a bit stronger over speaking up next time something happens, as I’ve remained quiet and pretty awkward so far. Unfortunately, my husband is generally a very bad communicator and they know that. If his Mum sends him a message, it might take him days to respond etc...

I think I will eventually take the advice of removing myself from the situation and leaving my husband to deal with in-person visits. It’s just difficult right now because a visit requires a long journey so a visit is extended. It’s hard for me to remove myself from a situation when my baby is breastfed and both children are very young. I don’t really want to be separated from them. Prior to COVID we would see them every month.

I love the story of one of you confronting your FIL and all turned out well. That’s brilliant! Unfortunately, I can’t see my FIL behaving in that way at all. It really is his behaviour that has driven the tension, not my mother in law.

Hithere Tue 04-May-21 20:28:55

Your dh decides if he and only he wants to have a relationship with them.
If he is not outraged on your behalf, red flags

The "incubator " and her "output" (the kids) are off the table forever
No visits, no photos, no calls, zilch

Abi30 Tue 04-May-21 21:03:21

Every time I’ve asked my husband to talk to his parents about their issues, he runs for the hills. He is not in denial, he is just too vulnerable/scared to confront them. Each time I’ve asked him to try and talk with them it has resulted in him avoiding contact with them... or keeping things quite short, so an opportunity doesn’t arise for him to do so. It’s been years now, so that’s just how it’s going to be with them. I haven’t bothered to ask him again because I know how he is. He knows that I’ve lost faith in him actually standing up for me because he never did in the past. I am fully aware that he played a part in how bad my anxiety has been around them, because I felt as though I had no support. So yes - red flag. But, he is trying to be there for me now - not leaving me alone when they visit. He keeps telling me that he’s with me, but I guess that’s something I will see over time when more hostility arises. There’s no escaping the awkward tension though...

Hithere Wed 05-May-21 00:09:25

So you have a husband problem

You have to stand up for you and your kids

Your dh will eventually be tired of dealing with his parents on his own without buffer

B9exchange Wed 05-May-21 00:25:36

As you say the problem is with FiL much more than MiL, I just wonder whether a quiet word with her on her own might give you an idea what his problem is? If you have a rather spineless DH who won't stand up for you, then stepping back is the only option, but I would be curious as to what was behind his behaviour.

Madgran77 Wed 05-May-21 08:21:57

Clearly it appears that your husband was brought up in a difficult and I suggest manipulative pattern of behaviour resulting in his obvious fear of dealing with them. He needs empathy for that but unless he deals with that history I can't see things changing. Maybe focusing on and talking to him about why he is unable to talk to his parents as adults rather than your upset, might move things forward for both of you longer term? He probably needs counselling, therapy to really get to the root of this and it may be hard to get him to see that, but worth a try?

In the meantime maybe work on your responses whilst you feel the need to attend because of breastfeeding. Don't focus on your feelings, focus on their behaviour in your comments:

Eg. A very direct look at them and say "Dear me, that was rude!" They will waffle on and you say "Oh!" No more!

Or "I don't want to listen to this!" Pick up child you are breastfeeding and remove yourself. When queried say "I refuse to breastfeed whilst having to listen to unnecessarily rude comments!" and go to another room

I know none of this is easy but you might be able to work out a certain way that works for you. If you would like to PM me for further suggestion on specific scenarios, that is fine flowers

Yoginimeisje Wed 05-May-21 08:51:24

Whilst I was heavily pregnant with my first, my FIL started passing some mean comments, referring to me as ‘fatty’. I think the worst was when I was talking to my husband about a pregnancy craving and my FIL said that he could go and grab some food for me, but only for the unborn baby, because “they don’t actually care about me, I’m just an incubator for grandchild”. I was in tears when they left, those words really effected me and triggered a lot of anxiety in the times that we saw them thereafter

Don't believe a word of it!

Madgran77 Wed 05-May-21 09:30:30

Don't believe a word of it!

Why not?

OnwardandUpward Wed 05-May-21 10:04:47

Great responses from MadGran!

Keep developing those responses. I am working on it with various family members myself. As the saying goes "The only people who object to you having boundaries are those who would benefit from you having none"

Another saying I love is "when someone shows you who they are don't repaint them"

You've seen it. They know you've seen through them. I hope in time your husband grows stronger and learns to stick up for himself and your family.

It's not always easy to talk to parents about their issues. If they are narcs they will be in complete denial anyway and project it all onto someone else. Its a waste of time. Just best to accept they are who they are and be glad they showed you!

DiscoDancer1975 Wed 05-May-21 10:28:47

I could speak realms here. Been there, done it, put up with it for 25 years.
Show your husband your post, and say that...until he sorts this out, you AND the children are NOT seeing them again....ever. I did this, and after three years, we started seeing them again, slowly. MIL, started sliding back into her old ways again.
We finally cut off completely, aged 40, twenty years ago. Best thing we ever did. Don’t worry about your children missing out. My oldest two remember stuff, and have always said we did the right thing. Our youngest two don’t remember, but trust our judgement.
Your first....and only priority, is to your children. Their welfare is paramount. No one else matters.
All the best.

Smileless2012 Wed 05-May-21 12:56:47

"you AND the children are NOT seeing them again .... ever". They are not just the OP's children, they're her H's children too.

"so you have a husband problem" "a rather spineless husband" unpleasant and no doubt unhelpful comments. The OP has said that her H is vulnerable and scared when it comes to his relationship with his parents, and it's good to see that she has some understanding of his difficulties.

It's important that they find a way forward together and IMO encouraging the OP to make demands that involve using their children could be counter productive.

DiscoDancer1975 Wed 05-May-21 13:01:00

I do agree with you Smileless, and appreciate where you are coming from...but you can’t keep making allowances for adults, over the welfare of the children. I agree...her husband is vulnerable, but so are her children. He is the adult, and it has to start with him. Children need protection.