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OT but need to get it out of my system - INSANE IN-LAWS

z3girl's picture

This is really long and convoluted. I'm writing this simply to get it out of my system. If you have any insane in-law stories, I'd love to know that we're not the only ones! I have to wonder if any family is normal, or if there is always drama, but I wasn't exposed to it as much since I didn't have anybody but my immediate family growing up.

I've blogged about my entitled GUBM SIL who is completely enabled by my MIL and FIL. In my own family, my father favored his sons over me, but always expected me to be the one to take care of everyone. In DH's family, SIL has been completely coddled and thrown money at while DH is expected to just take care of himself (which luckily he has been able to.)

My MIL is not the kindest of people. She has an angry, selfish streak in her, and gives and withdraws affection at the drop of a hat. My FIL can be a real gentleman, very kind and generally understanding, but he tends to drink too much, but we figure it's his way of coping with the more difficult moments with MIL.

SD26 has been mostly estranged from them since she was 18. The original conflict is what brought me to this site. (SD was very violent toward DH in front of MIL and FIL, and she got the police involved...I couldn't believe anything like that could happen in a seemingly "normal" family.) SD26 misses FIL, but can't stand MIL. MIL wrote BM hate letters after the divorce, and BM showed them to SD26. I don't learn about the hate letters until a couple years ago.

MIL has been showing signs of dementia the last year or so. She either acts strangely (takes things that are mine but has no idea what I am talking about when I ask if she saw what I left on the bed, etc.) She also will suddenly act insanely angry out of the blue and then storm off to her bedroom. Example, one minute being thrilled my children like the food FIL made, then as soon as everyone is out of the room, starts screaming at me that my children (who were 4,3, and 6 months at the time) were out of control, rude for eating so much of the food, and they are just horrible, then ran off to her room. FIL's excuse at the time was that her medication was making her act strange.

This year with the extra SIL drama, MIL has been even more up and down. FIL has appeared to really enjoy seeing our boys, and FIL had our boat fixed up and put in the water behind their house, so it seemed they wanted us to visit more. They have always asked for us to spend weekends there, so we finally did. The first time was very uncomfortable because SIL had been complaining to MIL about DH, and FIL did not want to hear DH's side, so we tried to ignore MIL and just spent time with FIL. I was not happy being there, and go out of my way to keep my boys under control since the place is not kid friendly at all.

My boys are very close in age. My DS5 has ADHD and a strong personality. He's the "leader" of the 3, and unfortunately can't necessarily help some of his behavior. When any of my children are alone with me, they are completely calm, so I know their rambunctiousness is at its worst when they are together. They are actually very normal and not particularly out of control.

We went for a visit again yesterday, intending to stay for the weekend. The boys brought their stuffed animals and like to throw them at each other pretending to play Angry Birds. MIL was furious with that, so I kept telling the boys to not play like that, all while trying to either get the baby to eat, changed them into bathing suits, get them ready for the boat, etc. DH was outside prepping the boat which takes some time. After we got back, I let the older 2 boys swim in the pool while trying to get my youngest to settle down and stop crying. MIL was even playing with them at one point. After the pool, I took each boy to get showered, and then went to pick up the toys from the pool while supposedly the boys were inside watching tv. Apparently in the 5 minutes I was cleaning up, the boys got out of control and were tossing their stuffed animals down the stairs, and my in-laws were having a fit. I put a stop to it immediately, but it was clear my in-laws were not happy. It seemed no matter how my children played, MIL kept saying "" We had the boys sit down for dinner, and they ate very well, but I could hear my MIL grumbling, and then DH was acting annoyed too. I just couldn't take anymore. So I said to DH if he doesn't want to be around the children like his parents, then we're going home. We're not welcome here, and you don't have any patience for them either. I said that he might as well stay there and I'm taking the boys home because he can get the peace he so badly wants. I go upstairs and start bringing down suitcases. The next thing I know, there's shouting going on. I ask to speak to FIL privately because I didn't want to hurt MIL's feelings by saying that I didn't feel welcome by her, and that I mostly just wanted to know how he felt about us. MIL freaked out about any secrets, and then FIL agreed with her, so then I said it's not a secret, but by then FIL didn't want to listen to me. I don't remember the exact words, but I'm packing things up in the kitchen, and the shouting going on is awful, and then I start crying, so MIL snarls at me "Don't you go pull your crying crap!" I walk over to her and just say, "What are you talking about?? What have I ever done to you??" FIL is shouting while standing next to me so I turn to him and tell him to stop yelling at me. The boys are scurrying to the front door and I tell him he's scaring the children.

DH walks outside to talk to his parents while I'm still trying to gather things while hysterically crying, and it lasts all of 2 minutes because FIL storms in and tells us to get out. He shouts to get the boat out of his yard and put it in a marina because he's selling the house and DH is in for a rude awakening. MIL in the meantime is saying, "Please don't sell the boat!" and "No, we're not selling the house."

DH had gone outside and said that MIL is the reason there's so much conflict going on (truth, but I doubt it was put tactfully) and FIL completely flipped out about the way DH talked about "my wife" (notice, not "your mother")

So while FIL was shouting nonstop, DH was standing in the door way with the smirk on his face. I personally know the smirk means 2 things. It means DH has retreated into his own thoughts and is thinking that anything FIL does to DH isn't going to affect our life. We don't need their money, and we don't plan to retire using their money either. Second, the smirk also means he's close to tears. He was probably hating himself and the drama that always seems to happen when it comes to his side of the family. He was probably thinking about his 2 hour commutes to work (each way) and how exhausted he is from work, and that he can't even enjoy a simple weekend with his parents and on his boat.

I don't remember why I started telling FIL this, but I said that DH works his butt off with 16 hour days and FIL cuts me off, shouting at me about how HE knows what real work is and that he doesn't need to hear about DH's "haha 16 hour days". FIL hasn't worked in 25 years!!!!

MIL and FIL start saying that they are 80 years old and can't handle young children. We have not once asked for them to do anything for our children. The longest time they spent alone with our children was the 5 minutes I took outside to pick up the toys. We never just show up at their home. They are always asking us to come visit, and they are always pushing for us to spend the night. We did it a few weeks ago, so if the children were too much yesterday, they could have told us earlier in the week that they would prefer us not to come.

Ironically, the babysitter I have for my 3 boys is an 80 year old woman. She's older than MIL. She drives over an hour to watch my children for me. She says to me that she lets them run around the house because they are active and does not see anything wrong with it as long as nobody gets hurt. She says she likes it better that they run around playing rather than just sitting with their iPads.

My father is also 80 with Parkinson's, RA, he's had a few small strokes, and has dementia. While my Dad can be grouchy and nothing much holds his interest anymore, he loves when I bring the boys around. The more lively they are, the happier he seems to be. His caregiver says he is happy for days after we visit.

Back to yesterday. So then something changes in MIL and she comes over to me, hugging me, and saying she loves me as much as her own daughter. She says that I am a wonderful person and she is going to keep in touch. FIL is shouting at her to shut up, but she's crying saying how much she loves me and says I'm the best thing to have ever happened to DH. She comes outside with us, begging me to believe her and crying.

I walk over to FIL and the last thing I say to him is that it's obvious how much he loves his wife, and that is a beautiful thing. I said I wish I felt love like that, and then I left. When I was outside with MIL and she was crying, she says she can't believe how FIL can't stand DH. She never knew that (neither did I considering FIL calls DH weekly just to chat.) She said she has to go because FIL inside shouting for her not to talk, but again, she says she loves me. I look at her and say she is a lucky woman to have a man prove how much he loves her. I said if nothing else, she has that to take away from today. I told her all I want is for my children to know their grandparents, and with my mother gone and my father in such poor health, they were my only hopes. (My parents fled Hungary in 1956, and I never got to meet my grandmothers, and both grandfathers died in WWII.)

I guess my children won't know their grandparents. My take on yesterday is that FIL is overwhelmed with MIL (he has admitted to having a hard time taking care of her) and between young children and then DH yelling about MIL, it was too much. I feel overwhelming guilt starting it all, assuming nobody wanted my children around including DH, not realizing that MIL was affecting him as much as me. I don't understand why MIL and FIL seem to use their money as a weapon. We don't need their money and never have. We don't want their house. As nice as it is, it's not our dream home, and not someplace we'd really care to live in.

I am heartbroken over this. I know DH has a lot of work-stress, and our 3 boys are very lively, but the time is going so fast. I try to enjoy what I can with my children, and I try not to create more stress for DH. I'm glad our own backyard is like a little oasis with our pool and new paver patio with music where DH can sit and unwind because his boat was always his favorite spot to unwind. Taking a break (maybe even a permanent one) from MIL and FIL would be peaceful, but they aren't my parents, and I can't imagine how DH must feel.

I finally blocked SIL and her daughter from FB last night. I originally just unfriended them, but I don't want to know anything about them anymore. I don't care if MIL and FIL fund their lives and they live it irresponsibly. I just want to live in peace.

Sorry for the rambling novel!


moeilijk's picture

I think the money is just an excuse for a power trip. It seems like MIL and FIL are a pair, aren't they? Afraid of conflict, so they use money to keep the upper-hand, but if they ever feel like they don't have control, the conflict is way out of proportion. It's a cycle of dishonesty, really. Nobody says anything genuine and hopes that others pick up on their signals... and then deny any signals that make them look bad, or get furiously angry when signals are missed or misinterpreted.

It's worse, I think, because FIL and MIL are a team. It's challenging enough to forge a path of being direct and honest and expecting the same from one person, but when it's a team and they use a lot of manipulation and roping in of family members.... I suspect it's not worth the effort.

I'd take a long break from contact with your in-laws. If you're longing for grandparents for your kids, lots of senior homes have residents that no one visits. What a great project, baking cookies and then visiting at social hour. If a program doesn't exist yet, build one - doesn't have to be this ambitious, but you can help your kids make the intergenerational connections you want for them:

I remember your history and your DH. I know he's a tough nut to crack. He can let his anger out in inappropriate ways. And I'm sure I'd be angry to, to watch my children and my wife be rejected by my parents, and then my parents make sure I know that they are rejecting me too. Again. What a game they must have played on his head over the years.

It's hard to be the kid of bad parents. I mean, as an adult you can have the insight and the compassion to recognize that your crappy parents did/are doing the best they can... and maybe even that it's waaaay better than how they grew up. But bad parents that are less cruel and do less harm than their parents - still do damage. And damaged kids grow up into adults that are still seeking that love and support. Because that's a basic human need.

With luck, and a lot of help, those adults understand themselves enough to not put that hurt in charge of their lives. For myself, that damage is very deep and as much as I know it's always going to be there and I don't have to let my need for approval (or whatever it is...) be the driving force in my life, sometimes I get overwhelmed at how deeply and how negatively my childhood affected me. And I suspect your DH is the same. But... he's not as willing to be wrong or as willing to be vulnerable as I am --- gender roles have a lot to answer for! So he is wound tight.

I'm sure you want to offer him comfort, to give him space to talk... but are uncertain what to say or do to avoid his anger yourself.

I don't have an answer. I suspect talking is not the way to go. Maybe some non-verbal support for a while, see if he initiates a conversation.

I wish you luck. You seem like a really nice woman, and that you try to be a good mom and good partner. I would stop trying to be a good DIL and I would also suggest that you stop caring about whether your kids are behaving ok or not. Three boys 5 and under? Running around nonstop is pretty much the name of the game.

z3girl's picture

Thank you; I think you really understand what I was trying to convey. DH is far from perfect, but it's so glaringly obvious he is the product of his parents, and he doesn't want to be like any of the negative traits he was subject to.

It's such a shame my father chose to leave the assisted living that is close to me; my father would benefit (if only a little) from having my children around, but he is over an hour away, and between school and activities, it's difficult to get to him as frequently as I would like.

I thank you again for understanding that 3 young boys are just generally very active! I will look into seniors who don't have family. I really would like to volunteer in any capacity with (or without) my children someday to give back to the community. We are not wealthy by any means, but there are so many out there less fortunate than us, and just helping one would not only make me feel better, but possibly help another's life.

z3girl's picture

YES! It is odd, isn't it?? Why can't they just tell us they're busy, or just that it's not a good time if they don't want us to visit?? Yesterday my MIL even asked why we needed to leave Sunday instead of Monday if my DH has Monday off as well. Very full of contradictions.

My in-laws won't drive to us anymore (again, odd that our older than them babysitter will drive to us, but not my in-laws) since it would take an hour an a half. We've accepted they won't drive, but with the traffic and my DH's work schedule/commute, it's difficult to manage just a short visit.

My boys already talk about how "we were kicked out of grandma and grandpa's". How awful! There will definitely be some time before we ever visit again. I know I will not be happy about my children visiting without a specific invitation from my FIL. I get the feeling dementia is more the problem with my MIL, but I don't understand what made my FIL so explosive, except possibly he had more to drink than I realize. I don't know.

I lived just fine without grandparents, so I know it's not the end of the world, but it is disappointing.

z3girl's picture

Thank you so much for your understanding! My therapist is in her late 60's, and when I bring my youngest for my appointments, she's always asking if it bothers me when he cries or carries on because she said she has no problems with it, and I really shouldn't either. I think I've been programmed by DH and his parents to think my children are excessively active and poorly behaved, while anybody who has been around children thinks they are completely normal.

I remember my MIL talking about DH's nephew, saying that he used to jump on their couches but he was so loveable that they didn't mind. My children could never do that.

It's so sad. I try so hard to let them all develop relationships, but it really looks to me as if my in-laws are just not good with any children, and I pity the my DH that he had to grow up in their home. He definitely did not grow up in the same loving environment I did. Kudos to my mom who would have made the best grandmother to my children if only she were still alive. *sniff*

z3girl's picture

The boys were outside all day either on the boat or swimming, but we live in a ranch, and my in-laws' house is a bit of a novelty to them having stairs. My ADHD son is the instigator in it all; any of them alone would have been very well behaved. It was literally 5 minutes where I didn't realize DH was outside while I was getting pool toys from the pool before going inside. If I had known he was outside, I would have gone in and had him pick up the toys or vice versa.

DH isn't really hands on all that much, but I've accepted that from the beginning. The boys are at a difficult age, but they really are normal.

It's funny; my DH is 15 years older than me, but my parents are/were older than his parents. He is the oldest while I am the youngest in my family. My aunt is over 90 years old, while my in-laws are in their late 70's. It's just the way it is.

I think my in-laws are just volatile people, more so than my DH needing to be hands on. If you were to ask my family, they think DH is a loving, attentive father, paying attention to the boys more than anything else. I think the anxiety visits bring to me and DH (which I didn't realize) makes these trips even worse. My MIL is really out there. I do little things like buy them soaps they mention they like, or glasses they can't seem to find in stores, and bring wine so I won't drink all of theirs, and they just love that. Neither of their own children are like that. But it must be their own fault. The very first time I met my FIL, he got drunk and tried to get in a physical fight with DH. I let it go, but this is the equivalent, 11 years later.