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Family - bad relationships - need advice (bit long sorry)

Topcat

Topcat

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Joined
Jan 8, 2018
Messages
4,072
I had to go to my in laws this afternoon so husband could say what he needed to say to his mother. She's basically always got problems with our house, or the way we do things, is often quietly disapproving.
She doesn't like the mess in our drive, it's "disrespectful to the neighbours" (it's like she feels our mess reflects badly on her). She told husband yesterday that she wants him to clean up the drive, and if he doesn't he can't use her field any more, and there's someone else who wants it and he'll pay her £2000 rent a year.
We have a friend who is up there too, he offered to pay a little rent years ago but she said no, so he's always said if she ever needs anything doing just ask. He's a nice guy. But apparently although he says thank you to her, she now says he doesn't say it often enough or show it, with gifts basically. She would expect him to send her a bunch of flowers every now and then or similar. She feels appreciation should be paid for - is this fair enough? I don't know what other people do? Am I rude not to routinely buy things for people who do me favours? Serious question.

She really kicked off that we'd forgotten to send husband's niece (20) a birthday card last month, how much it hurts her for us not to have sent a card.
Clearly a cardinal sin. (ps I forget to send everyone cards)
She then said "If you're a member of this family, I expect you to behave like a member of this family"
That made me stop, wtf?

She uses manipulation to control, always wants people to do as she asks, she belittles and mocks in little jokey sarcastic ways, starts/creates arguments then wonders what's all happened when husband's pissed off with her and it's always his fault.
(they are very similar in all or nothing thinking and the way their emotions go bang when arguing - it's always really awkward because it immediately pushes his buttons and he dreads seeing her because he hates the arguments. The stupid thing is I think she feels the same way, so when they see each other they're both just waiting for a row to start and both look relieved when it doesn't by the end of the visit.)

I don't know how to help him with this. She basically said she'd seen a solicitor about disowning him in the week, after she wound him up on the phone on Monday and he told her to fuck off. But she thought after their meeting yesterday, where he didn't get upset, that he was 'back to his normal self' and it went much better. He only stayed calm because he was recording the conversation due to her often saying things then denying she ever said them.

He didn't sleep all night and decided he needed to go over to ask her to butt out of our personal life, she can't keep telling us to do with our house, kids etc. He tried to stay calm but through anxiety he comes across as abrupt, and defensive to begin with - which just ends up starting an argument. He did stay calm but my mother in law lost it. I think she was embarrassed that we all knew about their conversation re the field because it was meant to be kept secret between them, I wasn't supposed to know neither was dad in law, I think because of money.

Anyway, I don't know what mess this sounds like to other people. They can both be as bad as each other sometimes, and are so similar, he can't even think about her without feeling wound up. They've always been like this, sometimes worse than others. Last few years have been some worse ones.
I don't do confrontation, and my family are nothing like this, so I don't understand but they aren't good for each other.
Any advice?
 
AnxiousE

AnxiousE

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Joined
Jan 8, 2020
Messages
3,759
Location
USA
Oh boy! Uhhh. I mean, my first thoughts are that's me and my siblings with Dad... Except that I don't like fighting BECAUSE I struggle to keep my cool. And hubby is always on me to defend myself with my father, so I kinda do. He still doesn't change. I mean, I don't think he's quite as critical as what you've described here, but still bothersome...actually, my aunt is just as bad or worse (maternal side oddly).

What H and I have had to do is to just limit contact. With my aunt, it's easier (although I miss out on seeing my cousin but they don't live together right now anyway), but with my folks it's harder because Mom is like my best friend and I would like to be able to talk to her and visit so much more! :/

So, all I can say is I can sympathize and maybe just some time away might do some good. And if you really want to, although we haven't, you can literally tell mother in law that is what you are doing...but probably better if you don't.

Best wishes that things improve for you folks! :hug:
 
L

LittleWren

Member
Joined
May 18, 2020
Messages
14
Location
Scotland
I had to go to my in laws this afternoon so husband could say what he needed to say to his mother. She's basically always got problems with our house, or the way we do things, is often quietly disapproving.
She doesn't like the mess in our drive, it's "disrespectful to the neighbours" (it's like she feels our mess reflects badly on her). She told husband yesterday that she wants him to clean up the drive, and if he doesn't he can't use her field any more, and there's someone else who wants it and he'll pay her £2000 rent a year.
We have a friend who is up there too, he offered to pay a little rent years ago but she said no, so he's always said if she ever needs anything doing just ask. He's a nice guy. But apparently although he says thank you to her, she now says he doesn't say it often enough or show it, with gifts basically. She would expect him to send her a bunch of flowers every now and then or similar. She feels appreciation should be paid for - is this fair enough? I don't know what other people do? Am I rude not to routinely buy things for people who do me favours? Serious question.

She really kicked off that we'd forgotten to send husband's niece (20) a birthday card last month, how much it hurts her for us not to have sent a card.
Clearly a cardinal sin. (ps I forget to send everyone cards)
She then said "If you're a member of this family, I expect you to behave like a member of this family"
That made me stop, wtf?

She uses manipulation to control, always wants people to do as she asks, she belittles and mocks in little jokey sarcastic ways, starts/creates arguments then wonders what's all happened when husband's pissed off with her and it's always his fault.
(they are very similar in all or nothing thinking and the way their emotions go bang when arguing - it's always really awkward because it immediately pushes his buttons and he dreads seeing her because he hates the arguments. The stupid thing is I think she feels the same way, so when they see each other they're both just waiting for a row to start and both look relieved when it doesn't by the end of the visit.)

I don't know how to help him with this. She basically said she'd seen a solicitor about disowning him in the week, after she wound him up on the phone on Monday and he told her to fuck off. But she thought after their meeting yesterday, where he didn't get upset, that he was 'back to his normal self' and it went much better. He only stayed calm because he was recording the conversation due to her often saying things then denying she ever said them.

He didn't sleep all night and decided he needed to go over to ask her to butt out of our personal life, she can't keep telling us to do with our house, kids etc. He tried to stay calm but through anxiety he comes across as abrupt, and defensive to begin with - which just ends up starting an argument. He did stay calm but my mother in law lost it. I think she was embarrassed that we all knew about their conversation re the field because it was meant to be kept secret between them, I wasn't supposed to know neither was dad in law, I think because of money.

Anyway, I don't know what mess this sounds like to other people. They can both be as bad as each other sometimes, and are so similar, he can't even think about her without feeling wound up. They've always been like this, sometimes worse than others. Last few years have been some worse ones.
I don't do confrontation, and my family are nothing like this, so I don't understand but they aren't good for each other.
Any advice?
I had a similar ish thing going on with my in laws in the past...it caused me so much anxiety and worry and anger but I eventually just actually said exactly how things were affecting me and how what she did was a total invasion of privacy too..i did get an apology...not that an apology is the answer
 
Topcat

Topcat

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Joined
Jan 8, 2018
Messages
4,072
Yes I think they need to just stay away from each other for a good while. They aren't capable of being around each other without this anxiety about potential confrontation. Husband doesn't go out of his way to argue, but she often manages to bring up topics that she doesn't want to hear his opinion on then shuts him down rudely when he starts to give one. I don't think he would be upset if she disowned him, she's threatened it a couple of times in the past. This rocky relationship has been going on ever since I've known them (23 years). She can never seem to see her fault in any of it, it's all husband's fault. Husband can see he blows up and reacts badly but struggles to control it when she's pushing his buttons.
 
Ozymandias

Ozymandias

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Joined
Aug 12, 2019
Messages
301
Location
West London
I'm presuming, given how the relationship has been problematic for several decades, that your father in law is either unwilling to successfully mediate in all of this, or is simply unable to get through to his wife?

Also, does your mother in law have any other children, and - if so - what's her relationship like with him/her/them? The way I see it, if she has problematic interactions with all of her offspring then it would indicate she's the issue, but if she gets on better with her other child(ren) that would suggest to me your husband is a major part of the conflict.

All in all, I'm inclined to suggest cutting off your mother in law completely. I don't say that lightly - I once did precisely that with my own mum due to her unreasonable words and demands, so I know it's a difficult and unpleasant thing to do even if you genuinely feel pushed into it. Who knows... perhaps threats to disown your husband are a game of call my bluff, and if he allows that to happen without seeming unduly bothered it'll shake your mother in law up a bit in a positive way? For whatever reason I'm not particularly hopeful of that outcome, but I figure it's possible.

However, as I see it, there's a big practical issue with taking that course of action - the field. To be honest I'd be tempted to advise giving that up irrespective of anything else you do or don't do, simply because what you've written here indicates that your mother in law weaponises it against your husband, using it as a stick with which to beat him and generally holding her ownership of it over him. However, from my memories of your other writings, use of that field is something your husband cherishes... unfortunately, if that's the case, no doubt your mother in law knows it too, and it's exactly why she uses it as a blackmail tool.

The problem here is that while the state of your driveway is none of your mother in law's business, nevertheless if that field belongs to her and your husband has no legal claim over it, then as far as I can tell she's within her rights to withdraw permission for him to use whenever she likes, and for whatever tenuous 'reason'.
 
Topcat

Topcat

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Joined
Jan 8, 2018
Messages
4,072
father in law is either unwilling to successfully mediate in all of this, or is simply unable to get through to his wife?
I don't think he knows what to do. He placates, tries to keep the peace, generally is on mother in law's side but he is more diplomatic and calm. He says things like "oh, just do XYZ to keep her happy, she'll stop going on about it".

Also, does your mother in law have any other children, and - if so - what's her relationship like with him/her/them?
Husband has a brother who lives with them since the breakdown of his relationships and money problems. He was the golden child who did no wrong, whereas husband was the "naughty one". He gets on with his mother ok, they don't argue in the same way at all. He sounds like a patronising prick sometimes and she doesn't get angry. He does have his problems with her, in fact his ex said mother in law was part of the issue because she's so interfering. But that was 18yrs ago. She still interferes in his business and irritates him. Treats us all like children really and we have to live up to her expectations.

To be honest I'd be tempted to advise giving that up irrespective of anything else you do or don't do, simply because what you've written here indicates that your mother in law weaponises it against your husband, using it as a stick with which to beat him and generally holding her ownership of it over him. However, from my memories of your other writings, use of that field is something your husband cherishes
We thought the same thing. There's other issues over there that can be unpleasant, other family members who try and cause problems and cause husband anxiety due to the confrontations with them. He would be gutted to lose it, as would our friend.

Dad in law wants to see us tomorrow, I expect he will either try and smooth things over and suggest a couple of things we could do just to make peace and "keep her happy" (she doesn't stay happy long, soon finds something else to be unhappy with).

Thanks for your reply, it's good to hear others perspectives.
 
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