Post # 1
My husband recently came back from a fishing trip with his father and recounted a conversation they had. His parents are apparently hurt because they don’t feel like they aren’t “involved” in our lives.
To be fair, they aren’t, really. They live a flight away (or at least 10 hours by car), so we see them 1-2 times/year – they have more flexible schedules & money, so typically they visit us instead of the other way around.
I generally like my ILs, but I have pulled back over the years, intentionally, especially from my Mother-In-Law. She is very emotion-driven and tries to force emotional impact into every interaction and conversation. From what I undertand, this stems from some issues with her childhood/parents. I played into it for years, but over the last couple of years have started deflecting it for my own mental health – it was emotionally exhausting and not good for me.
She also projects (a lot) and she responds over-the-top to attempts to share with her. For instance, if I compliment something random, like a unusual storage solution, the next thing I know, we own one. To her, a compliment means I want it. So I’ve cut back on the compliments. If I mention I’m interested in something, she wants to be part of it and goes way overboard – I mention I’m interested in geneology, and the next thing I know she’s sending me her family history and supplies for a geneology project. Darling Husband specifally recommended I not tell her if I’m collecting something because she will buy me items for the collection forever. He also recommended I pull back on the compliments and comments because she doesn’t know how to respond in a “normal” way.
Now my husband wants me to help find ways to involve her again. But her idea of involvement is way overstepping for me – when she is “involved” she does things like rearrange our furniture, buy decor & organizational items for our first house (a rental, but I was really excited about having a house to set up and she took that away from me), and generally take over anything we let her in on.
I want to have a good relationship with my ILs and I want my husband to be happy, so I’m looking for suggestions on involving them in a way that allows me to set some healthy boundaries and preserve my mental health. How can I connect without re-opening the door to enmeshment?
Post # 2
LadyBear : Your husband needs to accept that his mom is the way she is. You two can’t operate based on how you wish she was. Your needs come before his mothers needs, always. And your current amount of visits with them work for you and your family. It doesn’t matter what Mother-In-Law wants.
Do you two plan on having children? If so, his mom’s behavior is likely to escalate 10X more than it is now. You two need firm boundaries in place and you need to keep them in place. This is going to be a husband problem because its his mom and his job to manage her. Whats important is your husband make peace with how his mom is. She won’t ever be the mom his friends got to have. She won’t ever be the mom who he can confide in like other people can. He needs to be super realistic and make peace with the reality.
Post # 3
- Wedding: September 2019 - City, State
So he had recommended before that you not tell her if your collecting something and pull back on compliments and comments but now that dear Mil feels hurt because they don’t feel involved in your lives he want’s you to find way’s to involve her again? Ummm does he know how emotionally exhausting it was for you? Maybe he needs to put your feelings first. Having them visit 1 or 2 times a year seems to be working out for you. Maybe he needs to step up and tell his mom why you have pulled back and how she can be. It may hurt her but it’s the truth and she can work on her way’s.
Post # 4
I’m just here to say I think we might share a Mother-In-Law haha.
Mine is the exact same way. A quick example: last week husband and I thought we were alone, while at IL’s talking about a concert in the area we thought sounded cool. Later that night she texts us saying she “overheard” our conversation and not only did she buy us tickets to the concert, she got a VIP package and spent over $800 on this for us. That’s how she is. I had to stop going shopping with her because if I stopped for .4 seconds to glance at something, it ended up in the cart and she was buying it for me.
It can be exhausting. I feel guilty for all the things she buys us, mostly because we never actually asked for any of it. The guilt is actually exhausting. I understand where you are coming from.
Post # 5
beekeeper2018 : Omg, yes. I am pretty frugal, and I feel guilty when people spend a lot of money on random things I don’t need (or worse, I don’t want). I HATE shopping with the ILs. Gifts are their love language and I try to be understanding of that, but they are most definitely NOT mine.
My ILs aren’t terrible people, truly. I just don’t know how to strike a balance of letting them in, while still having my own life with Darling Husband.
Post # 6
I would lose my shit if my Future Mother-In-Law came into my home and rearranged my furniture.
Why doesn’t your hubs engage with her more if she’s feeling left out, why does it have to be you?
Post # 7
beethree : I’ve already pointed out to Darling Husband that this is really his responsiblity, but I don’t want to be the problem DIL. Darling Husband is much closer to his dad, but I’ve pushed him to include his mom during visits and such.
I appreciate all the commiseration – it’s very supportive and validating – but does anyone have useful tips, too?
Post # 8
LadyBear : and I know my Mother-In-Law has the best intentions. But I have noticed a pattern where she will buy us things and try to spin it like it was /her/ idea, so we praise her. Almost in a way to try and force herself to be involved in our lives. It can be frustrating. We’ve asked her to return things before. Not because we’re ungrateful but because apart from Christmas and birthday gifts, it’s stuff we’re not asking for. We have to convince her we don’t need it. It might be rude and harsh, but it’s our way of setting a boundary with her. Especially because often it comes off like she’s trying to force her way into our lives through buying us stuff.
Post # 9
LadyBear : Useful tips would be more on DWIL nation. Google it. They are Pro’s.
Post # 10
How genuine do you want this relationship to be? If you think there’s room for it to be authentic and honest, then I would let Mother-In-Law know why you pulled back. My Mother-In-Law can be very emotion driven in conversations and once, she burst out crying in my face (during a conversation that didn’t seem to warrant that degree of emotion, imo) and I just asked her, “Why do you do that?” and she said “Do what?” and I said “Crying in peoples’ faces during regular conversations. What’s that about?” and we had a great conversation where I got to learn more about her and who she is. When she gets emotional during conversations now, I can usually understand and it’s less confusing and upsetting to me and I have less desire to pull away.
It sounds like your in laws can tell that something is going on but they don’t know what and that’s a confusing and scary place to be in. Personally, I’d rather have the honest and uncomfortable conversation so that I can have a positive relationship (if there’s nothing else toxic happening). My ideal would be to get to a place where I could tell my Mother-In-Law what was going with us and also make clear boundaries for her (since she doesn’t seem to have a solid grasp there).
I’m interested in genealogy and we have a conversation about it and then if she sends me things, I’d just say “Oh, I said I was interested in it in a mild way. I didn’t mean I wanted to dive in that much, though! Thanks for thinking of me.” and send it all back.
If she touches my furniture, I’d just say “Our home is set up in a way that makes me/us feel good. Don’t move my furniture without asking first. That’s not okay with me.”
But also, I’d let her know things that I did like or want so that she could go to town and feel like she’s making the connection she’s clearly striving for and so that I could be genuinely appreciative of her efforts.
“Hey MIL! I love massages and have a goal to try out all of the best rated massage therapists in this 5 mile radius. Wanna join me?”
After doing that for a while, she gets to know who you are and can (hopefully) develop an understanding and respect for your boundaries and you may find that she’s not so much in your face because she’s getting the connection that she’s craving.