Monday, November 3, 2008

'this solves everything!'

So, yesterday afternoon it occurs to me - if my husband and I are in this together, presenting a united front, protecting our family, we should call his parents on speaker phone, with me on the call too.

I hate this idea, but it's the right thing to do. So we called last night at 9. And talked/argued for over 2 hours. Told them the baby news at an hour and 45 minutes in.

Let's see, there were probably two money quotes.

First, after hearing the baby news, my MIL says, why didn't you tell us this at the beginning of the phone call? It solves everything!

Second money quote, from his dad - you have only one set of parents. I have three kids, so I have two other kids to lavish attention on if you turn away.

The whole conversation was unbelievable. His mother refused to acknowledge anything. Flat out denied telling our daughter her daddy sucked. Absolutely denied putting our daughter into the conflict. Said we did. Did say that she treated daughter differently, but we caused it, and it killed her to do so. She would never hurt our daughter. Said she took our daughter's pictures down from her house because they hurt her too much too look at.

Proudly, and with no irony, said she had handled the conflict far better than we did. After all, they sent cards to acknowledge milestones over the past year, while we had ignored them.

And the conflict? Was 100%, in her mind, about how on holidays we always choose my family over her. How last year - in the midst of the shitstorm of our marriage, trying to put things back together, we decided we would not spend 24 hours with them on Christmas - never mind our plan was we'd go up a few days early, have all Christmas prep with them and Christmas morning, it was leaving Christmas Day.

She wanted - she insisted - on making nearly 80% of our conversation over the issue of Christmas Day. My husband actually did a great job of trying to rise above the specific issue and talk about how to best resolve conflict without involving the kids. But each and every time, his mom brought it back to how could we have not spent all of Christmas Day with her.

At one point, I sputtered - I just have no response to you saying you haven't talked to us, you took daughter's pictures off the wall, that this is all about dinner.

And she engaged in revisionist history like you would not believe. I said to my husband after - I did not do a great job of rising above the details to get at the heart of the issue. It's too hurtful to me to hear her dismiss our November and December as nothing out of the ordinary. I know dates - hell, I have them chronicled here. And to here her spout nonsense about how we'd prmoised in early December to spend all of Christmas with her, after we'd spent all of last Christmas with my family ,was just over the top. OVER THE TOP. At another point, I said, well, remember, my dad almost DIED last year? And she said, exactly, he shouldn't have been driving all that way to see you.

The only time I think I said something good was when she was gonig on and on about how we could have had a "nice holiday" and I interrupted. Would it make you happier to know we only spent maybe two afternoons with my parents? That they stayed with my brother for the holiday? That we did not have a 'nice holiday?' That there was no such thing as 'nice' last year? NICE was not at our house last year. That we were just struggling to stay afloat? His dad actually got that and acknowledged that. His mother, on the other hand, immediately switched tactics and said well, we shouldn't have come at all then (we had gone to our niece's 3rd birthday party). We should have told them that. WHAT? What planet was she on?

Another of her diversionary tactics was to go on the physcho-babble offensive - why did we have to make things so difficult? Why were we so neurotic? She'd never hurt our daughter, etc etc.

My husband said can't you even acknowledge that we need new ways to handle conflict? Can you acknowledge there could have been a different way to play last holiday? She said no. His dad said yes.

His dad actually tried to end things on a civil, if distant, note - how about we leave it at this - we don't involve the kids, you all do whatever it is you need to do, invite us along when you want, and if it fits into our schedule maybe we'll participate in your life. I was happy with that. My husband, not as much - I think too hurt.

And then, as we were wrapping it up, my husband said, ok, well, there's one more thing. And dropped the baby boy arriving in three weeks news. And, for them, that did solve everything. His mother immediately switched into happy tears and when could she take the baby and we would need a break and maybe in the first few months we should drop the kids off at her house and what did we need and how was I feeling and oh yeah, when were my parents coming, and when was my next doctor's appointment and they'd call that day and why didn't we tell them earlier and she could have spent part of the summer with us helping us get ready, and she was going to kill my husband's brother because he had known and hadn't told her so on and so on
in the run on way she has.

I have the sinking feeling she's going to cram 9 months of preparation into the next three weeks. God help me.

As one of my friends said to me this morning as I was relaying the saga - you're right back at square 1. And yeah. I am. When we plotted this all out in advance my husband and I had agreed that we would limit post-baby time with them. Not have them waiting in the waiting room with my parents (my parents know most of the story, and know they've been badly maligned by this crazy woman), not have them visit. After we hung up, of course, I said, shit, we shouldn’t have told them the exact date and time of the C section. And my husband just utterly and completely caved. Said, well, we can’t hide it from them, you heard how excited they were, I’ll just have them wait separately, we can’t have your parents there and not mine, that’ll just make things worse, etc etc etc.

In our one hour post phone call decompress, my husband kept saying, I just don’t know what to say to get through to her. And I kept replying, nothing is ever going to get through to her. She’s 60+ years old. She is not changing. All we can do is set our limits and live our life.

The women in her family - with the exception of her own mother - have all lived into their mid-90s. That means 30 + years of this craziness. I'm not up for that job. I'll just flat out admit it.

The good news is my husband joked, well, you won't see us at Thanksgiving or Christmas and they both said oh no, of course not. Whew - at least we have cover this holiday season. But it all starts back up again.

I walked the dog this morning and thought more about this all - not like I hadn't tossed and turned all night replaying it all. And it's depressing. We are exactly where I feared we'd be. All is forgotten, swept under the rug, the slate is clear as far as they're concerned. No acknowledgment of bad behavior. No understanding of our concerns. No respect for resolving conflict in a way that might lead to better relations in the future. Just them, as usual, thinking of themselves.

OK, all you folks with bad in-laws and successful boundaries drawn - what now?

10 comments:

Meg said...

You guys are being so much more mature than I could ever be. It's not my in-laws that are crazy but my own family. 4 years ago I cut ties and haven't looked back since (aunts/uncles/grandmother, but not my mom.) The way I look at it life is short and precious. I will not spend it with mean manipulative people that don't really care about me or my well-being.
I realize that's not the correct path for everyone to take, just my 2 cents. It does work.

Molly said...

No, the slate is not clear now! The woman is mad! Your FIL has a much better outlook. I say limiting time with her is still the best option. I can't believe how stubborn and self-centered she is.
I'd be interested in hearing other takes on this, who have had similar problems.

CLC said...

I got no advice but I feel frustration for you. It doesn't sound like there's any way to get through to MIL, so I have to agree that limiting time with her is probably best for your sanity!

Ya Chun said...

maybe your parents can talk to his parents.

maybe you guys need to go to an arbitrator. or ask them how they think this can be solved moving forward.

niobe said...

When I'm having a lot of trouble solving a problem, I just give up. Works for me.

Antigone said...

Can I just bask in the glow of niobe's comment?

Anonymous said...

I sympathize with your problems... I don't refer to mine as the Outlaws for nothing you know. My MIL particularly has caused rifts in the marriages of all of her children. She didn't speak to her own daughter for over 20 years. She told another daughter she miscarried because she didn't want the baby and God took it back. She told a third daughter she was to blame for her son's severe autism. She is a vicious, mean-mouthed woman who will live forever just to spite me. As for my FIL, while I was dating my husband (I was 21 when we met), God help me if my FIL answered the phone when I called... the names he called me are not worth repeating here. My parents were furious and reminded me that I was marrying a FAMILY and I had better think twice. I refused to believe it. Guess what,I did marry that whole crazy clan. They are all crazy. 13 years later, I develop my own mechanisms. Arrive late and leave early to their functions. Or send hubby + kids. I will not call but I will dial and put the phone in hubby's hand so they can't blame me for his not calling (they have). Not answering their calls, thank you call-display! Even my 9-year old is starting to catch on although I don't discuss with him. Hang in there, sister! You are in excellent company.

-N

Rosabela said...

Wow ... your life sounds like a soap opera. I lucked out and have a wonderful MIL. My husband's father wanted nothing to do with him when he was born ... he said that he was an "accident". How can a life be an accident??? Okay ... There's one thing that puzzles me about your story. If your MIL is excited about the arrival of your son, doesn't she care about your daughter anymore? Eventually wouldn't she treat your son the same way as your daughter and remove their pictures "because it's too painful for her"? She doesn't sound stable so I would be very careful to leave the kids with her alone. Either you or your husband should always be present during visitations (if there will be any). Keep doing what you're doing and watch the kids when they're around this crazy woman. Maybe this is one of those situations that will never get resolved. As one viewer said, completely cut off all contact. You will have more peace of mind. I did that with some family members years ago and life couldn't be any better. :-)
GOOD LUCK TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.

musicmakermomma said...

You are a saint! Good luck with the horrible situation. I was lucky in the inlaw lottery, although my mom borders on insane (but loving!) So my advice (assvice?) is questionable...
Remember YOU have the child. While it would be great if they liked you, sounds like you are past that worry. So if you have to be the badass who won't let them see the grandchildren unless they behave, DO IT. And if they start up during a visit, LEAVE. No scene (if possible!) just go, they will know why. I hope your DH is up for that, and if he is not, leave without him (having discussed what will happen ahead of time). My heart is breaking for you that you have this crap in your life when they SHOULD be bending over backward to make things easier for you. Some people are just bad. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear that you have to deal with all this. In my life it's my own family, not his that is this way. And being an only child and in the middle of a divorce, I don't really want to go no contact (NC) at this point, so I do what I can to deal with it. Look up narcissistic personality disorder and read all you can. It will help you understand how to deal with these type of people in your life. Just learn now that you cannot change them, you cannot make them acknowledge their crappy behavior, your cannot resolve conflict in any sort of mature way. It's like trying to reason with an out-of-control 5 year-old. They will always look out for their own interests, always need to feed their own egos at your expense, and always drain your energy at every encounter. That's just how it is. The only thing you can control is your own response and your own expectations. We don't expect too much of 5 year-olds, so consider them the same. Isn't that sad?