Author Topic: dealing with that MIL  (Read 4970 times)

Case

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dealing with that MIL
« on: November 27, 2016, 01:54:49 PM »
Curious for suggestions on how to deal with family conflicts.  Trying to determine when to assuage the mother-in-law versus stand our ground.

My wife and I live in different states from our parents/families.  We try to spend roughly equal time with the respective families.

A problem we sometimes deal with is the MIL.  Sometimes she can be very rigid and must have things her way, otherwise she gets upset.  When she gets upset, there is a small but significant chance of major consequences (e.g. she has stopped communicating to familiy members in the past).  My wife and MIL are very close, so it is important to preserve their relationship.

For holidays this year, MIL wants us to go to their extended families thing.  We are planning to do this.  We proposed the idea of leaving slightly early (skip a breakfast event) so that we can catch a flight to see my family that lives farther way.  MIL is on the verge of going thermonuclear over this.

I'm trying to find a compromise, such as catch a later flight so that we go to this breakfast thing and also go to see my family.  Anyways, I'm curious about people's ideas on how they choose when to draw a line in the sand and when to just go along with other's wishes.

I'm leaning towards the compromise, if we can find it, or just canceling our plans to see my family until later, because the consequences of severe family backlash are large.

crispy

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2016, 02:41:11 PM »
Your MIL is a control freak. You need to set some boundaries and not give into her every whim because giving in only makes things worse, not better. I used to dread spending holidays with my family because I spent my time walking on egg shells and hoping not to set someone off (there was constant tension between my mom and two sisters and I was often caught in the crossfire). After my sisters pulled some particularly egregious stunts while my father was dying, I just we decided to cut them off. It was a good decision for me.

I am not suggesting cutting your MIL off, but it is ridiculous to feel guilty for wanting to see your family at Christmas. She is being unreasonable, not you. Setting boundaries may hurt at first, but it needs to be done or you will spend the rest of your life bowing to her whims.

Kakashi

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2016, 03:00:54 PM »
It sounds like your MIL needs to chill out.  Skipping a breakfast so you can see your family is a very reasonable thing.   However, this needs to come from your wife, and not yourself. It's easy for you as the SIL to be the "bad guy" in your MIL's eyes.

FINate

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2016, 03:09:58 PM »
Your MIL is a control freak. You need to set some boundaries and not give into her every whim because giving in only makes things worse, not better. I used to dread spending holidays with my family because I spent my time walking on egg shells and hoping not to set someone off (there was constant tension between my mom and two sisters and I was often caught in the crossfire). After my sisters pulled some particularly egregious stunts while my father was dying, I just we decided to cut them off. It was a good decision for me.

I am not suggesting cutting your MIL off, but it is ridiculous to feel guilty for wanting to see your family at Christmas. She is being unreasonable, not you. Setting boundaries may hurt at first, but it needs to be done or you will spend the rest of your life bowing to her whims.

+1 Your MIL's relationships are predicated on control rather than mutual respect. If your wife and MIL are really that close then she, too, should not want to damage their relationship over such a trivial thing (BTW - your desire to leave a bit early to see your family seems perfectly reasonable to me).

Sidebar: Have you considered simply alternating between the families each year? My wife and I alternate every year spending Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve with one family and Christmas Day (the big event here) with the other. Both families are local, but it's still too hectic to visit both families on the same day.

AMandM

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2016, 03:26:50 PM »
I think the important question to ask yourselves is: are you choosing what you see as a good solution, taking MIL's desires into account along with everyone else's, or are you caving in to her desires at the expense of everyone else's in order to appease her?  The first is completely reasonable; the second is allowing her to manipulate you.

I totally support preserving your wife's relationship with her mother--insofar as it is healthy! It is not good to preserve a relationship that consists of tiptoeing around your MIL in case she decides to "go thermonuclear."  What you said suggests this is a real possibility, and I think you and your wife have to be on your guard against it.  But be warned, it may be hard for your wife to recognize this, if she's habituated to deferring to her mother's wishes. 

If I'm reading the situation right, you and your wife may well have to put up with "severe backlash" on the way to establishing reasonable relations.  It's not easy!  You may have to change the whole pattern of your interactions with MIL.  Hang in there! 


RetiredAt63

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2016, 03:33:46 PM »
Captain Awkward does a lot of discussions on setting boundaries with controlling people.  Worth reading.

https://captainawkward.com/

Case

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2016, 03:40:05 PM »
Your MIL is a control freak. You need to set some boundaries and not give into her every whim because giving in only makes things worse, not better. I used to dread spending holidays with my family because I spent my time walking on egg shells and hoping not to set someone off (there was constant tension between my mom and two sisters and I was often caught in the crossfire). After my sisters pulled some particularly egregious stunts while my father was dying, I just we decided to cut them off. It was a good decision for me.

I am not suggesting cutting your MIL off, but it is ridiculous to feel guilty for wanting to see your family at Christmas. She is being unreasonable, not you. Setting boundaries may hurt at first, but it needs to be done or you will spend the rest of your life bowing to her whims.

Appreciate the response.
It is not as extreme as maybe I'm making it sound.  MIL is not terrible, and generally is good about respecting our time.  For the most part I/we have a good relationship with her.  However, every once in a while she bears her teeth, and wont budge.  For example, a certain holiday has to be a certain way on a certain day.  As opposed to celebrating on a later date which is more reasonable for everyone.
It's not a stepping on egg shells situation... sometimes it would be nicer if there was more genuine warm-fuzziness but that I think is being worked on and is good enough.

That said, I do want to see my family and I will.  It's not particularly important I see the on XMas but it is efficient time-wise (saves us some travel time if we travel from one event to the next in a single swoop; also traveling on XMas is easier than other days due to less congestions on the roads/air).

Case

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2016, 03:44:44 PM »
Your MIL is a control freak. You need to set some boundaries and not give into her every whim because giving in only makes things worse, not better. I used to dread spending holidays with my family because I spent my time walking on egg shells and hoping not to set someone off (there was constant tension between my mom and two sisters and I was often caught in the crossfire). After my sisters pulled some particularly egregious stunts while my father was dying, I just we decided to cut them off. It was a good decision for me.

I am not suggesting cutting your MIL off, but it is ridiculous to feel guilty for wanting to see your family at Christmas. She is being unreasonable, not you. Setting boundaries may hurt at first, but it needs to be done or you will spend the rest of your life bowing to her whims.

+1 Your MIL's relationships are predicated on control rather than mutual respect. If your wife and MIL are really that close then she, too, should not want to damage their relationship over such a trivial thing (BTW - your desire to leave a bit early to see your family seems perfectly reasonable to me).

Sidebar: Have you considered simply alternating between the families each year? My wife and I alternate every year spending Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve with one family and Christmas Day (the big event here) with the other. Both families are local, but it's still too hectic to visit both families on the same day.

Sidebar:  Yes; actually, it's my preference to celebrate some of the 'holidays' at a different time in the year.  Smashing all of these events into 1.5 month window gets to be a bit much.  I prefer fewer, longer, more meaningful visits, rather than more frequent short visits that get rushed.  This however goes counter to holiday traditions (also winter travel is harder/riskier in the midwest).
In terms of one family for one thing and one for the other, it hasn't been a huge issue yet as she is an only child and my sibling lives near my parents (so they get to see him more and are happy to travel to see me whenever).  So we usually combine holidays for both families and it works out fine.

Case

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2016, 03:50:31 PM »
I think the important question to ask yourselves is: are you choosing what you see as a good solution, taking MIL's desires into account along with everyone else's, or are you caving in to her desires at the expense of everyone else's in order to appease her?  The first is completely reasonable; the second is allowing her to manipulate you.

I totally support preserving your wife's relationship with her mother--insofar as it is healthy! It is not good to preserve a relationship that consists of tiptoeing around your MIL in case she decides to "go thermonuclear."  What you said suggests this is a real possibility, and I think you and your wife have to be on your guard against it.  But be warned, it may be hard for your wife to recognize this, if she's habituated to deferring to her mother's wishes. 

If I'm reading the situation right, you and your wife may well have to put up with "severe backlash" on the way to establishing reasonable relations.  It's not easy!  You may have to change the whole pattern of your interactions with MIL.  Hang in there!

My wife just wants to make everyone happy and be accommodating to everyone, which inevitably runs into a problem when there is a timing conflict such as this.  Another factor is that my wife's parents and rest-of-family are in different locations; so on the less frequent events that we see the rest-of-family, it is in a different location. 

Catbert

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2016, 03:59:01 PM »
I can't offer any specific advice except to say that you need to figure out how to handle holiday's and your MIL in general before you have children.  (Assuming you plan on children.)  Logistics are harder with children...dragging them around on holidays and b-days is a PITA.  Plus you MIL will want to have them all holiday's for as long as she can.


LadyStache in Baja

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2016, 04:05:55 PM »
My mom's family has a neat solution.  They always celebrate Christmas the Saturday after the 25th. This way no one has to compete with in-laws.  It's been this way for as long as I can remember.  So we always spent Christmas with my dads family and the Saturday after with my moms.  In your case, maybe you could propose this to your (more reasonable) parents.

Case

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2016, 07:31:54 PM »
I can't offer any specific advice except to say that you need to figure out how to handle holiday's and your MIL in general before you have children.  (Assuming you plan on children.)  Logistics are harder with children...dragging them around on holidays and b-days is a PITA.  Plus you MIL will want to have them all holiday's for as long as she can.

Probably no children for us, but if we had children I would change my policy and institute a line-in-the-sand.  Having already personally experienced family schisms, I will not be involved with personality elements that in any way resemble them.  If I encountered them with children in the picture, the MIL would be given an ultimatum.

Sibley

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2016, 01:36:41 PM »
Seconded on Captain Awkward.

OP, it's your life. If you want to see your family, you get to see your family. You and your wife figure out what makes the most sense for you to do to meet your wants and needs, considering what all the possible options are. Do that. Everyone else will adjust.

doneby35

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2016, 01:39:53 PM »
Just stand your ground and tell her to shut it. Easy.

boarder42

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2016, 02:40:20 PM »
in the future why no spend thanksgiving with one side a xmas with the other and flip flop every year.  so no one gets upset, and everyone knows the situation.

but going thermonuclear over skipping a breakfast is dumb.

former player

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #15 on: November 28, 2016, 02:56:06 PM »
If you are proposing to leave before breakfast on Christmas morning I can sort of see your MIL's point: if you have said you will spend Christmas with her but then tell her you will be spending all of the most special day of the holidays travelling to see someone else, leaving before all her family can be together,  I can see why she might be feeling a bit miffed.

I think you are right to go to the Christmas morning breakfast and then travel.  In future, I think you and your wife should work out precisely what you are proposing to do for the holidays and give that information out in September, before anyone else has got to the stage of thinking about it, so that they can take it on board at a time they are not particularly invested in what will be happening and can then plan around you both.

Case

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #16 on: November 28, 2016, 07:58:44 PM »
If you are proposing to leave before breakfast on Christmas morning I can sort of see your MIL's point: if you have said you will spend Christmas with her but then tell her you will be spending all of the most special day of the holidays travelling to see someone else, leaving before all her family can be together,  I can see why she might be feeling a bit miffed.

I think you are right to go to the Christmas morning breakfast and then travel.  In future, I think you and your wife should work out precisely what you are proposing to do for the holidays and give that information out in September, before anyone else has got to the stage of thinking about it, so that they can take it on board at a time they are not particularly invested in what will be happening and can then plan around you both.

The main event (to my knowledge) is Christmas Eve.  We only heard about Christmas Breakfast a few days ago.  The family convenes on Christmas Even ( I believe).

The planning in advance idea is a good one; I will try to institute it.  The main thing I want to play out in the future is, no more back to back holidays.  TGiving and XMas are too close together.

AMandM

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #17 on: November 28, 2016, 09:52:25 PM »
My wife just wants to make everyone happy and be accommodating to everyone,

Classic behavior of the child of a manipulator.  Other people's wishes set the agenda, and it's her job to satisfy them.

The fact is, people often have irreconcilable desires.  Accommodating everyone is an impossible goal, so don't shoot for it.  Shoot for doing something reasonable.

And I second the advice to decide ahead of time for future years.

ickhos

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #18 on: November 28, 2016, 11:45:47 PM »
This is your wife's mother. Your wife should be backing you up and having these conversations with your MIL, not you.

If she's not, if she's trying to accommodate everyone, *that* is the issue you need to address. Perhaps with the aid of a professional marriage counselor. The MIL / holiday issue is a symptom, not the problem.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2016, 11:48:17 PM by ickhos »

Wilson Hall

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #19 on: November 29, 2016, 11:25:57 AM »
My wife just wants to make everyone happy and be accommodating to everyone,

Classic behavior of the child of a manipulator.  Other people's wishes set the agenda, and it's her job to satisfy them.

The fact is, people often have irreconcilable desires.  Accommodating everyone is an impossible goal, so don't shoot for it.  Shoot for doing something reasonable.

And I second the advice to decide ahead of time for future years.

As a recovering people-pleaser, let me say that being accommodating is great...until you realize that everyone can't be made happy all of the time, and then they'll get mad at YOU for trying to make OTHER people happy.

When we first got married, I pitched the idea of rotating the holidays between the households. This got complicated quickly, since 1) spouse and I are both only children, 2) there are three households because of divorce/remarriage, and 3) one household is local, which means they think they should get us by default if we don't have the time or ability to visit out-of-town family. The out-of-town households have been pretty reasonable overall about our visits, especially given the distance we have to drive. Because of our work schedules, we usually end up staying in town for Thanksgiving.  But this year, rather than giving the local family our presence at Thanksgiving for the fifth or sixth year in a row, we decided to do the holiday on our own at a resort a short distance away. That didn't go over well initially, but they came around after a few days.

Putting one's foot down can hurt at first, but showing that you can't be yanked around all the time is a great feeling.

FLBiker

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #20 on: November 29, 2016, 12:33:16 PM »
Personally, I don't give into temper tantrums.  In my experience, that just enables future tantrums.  That said, you can't change other people.  Like folks have said, your only real choice is boundaries.  How much do you want to participate in this?  Giving in to her demands is max participation.  Any other option (offering a compromise, making an ultimatum, breaking off contact) represents a boundary demarcating less participation.

Juslookin

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Re: dealing with that MIL
« Reply #21 on: November 29, 2016, 01:58:02 PM »
Years ago I had to draw the line in the sand with my mother...it wasn't pretty and landed me in therapy, seriously.  When I got married and moved out of state my mother felt that it was our responsibility to travel home for all the major holidays. For several years we packed up kids and all of their assorted giant, little tikes, plastic craptastic gifts and hauled ourselves back to that state at her wishes for the holidays. For awhile it was fun...until it wasn't.

Finally, one year I tried to hint that we weren't coming, I realize now that it was immature of me, I should have just come right out with it from the beginning, and said we weren't doing it anymore, but my mother, and worse, my father, hold grudges. When I finally was exasperated and said straight out we weren't coming, my father had a few ridiculous choice words for me. Also immature behavior on his part. 

I ended up in therapy for a few months learning how to set appropriate boundaries that my old school Italian mother had no choice but to respect.  It has been much smoother sailing since then.

I suspect that at some point your wife will also have had enough of her family failing to respect boundaries and will put down her foot.  Unfortunately, until that happens, your choices are limited.  Try to make sure plans are outlined and agreed upon way in advance. Your wife really has to want to address this with her family.  That's probably the discussion you should be having right now.