Feel Like The Odd Man Out

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-12-2007
Feel Like The Odd Man Out
38
Sun, 08-05-2012 - 9:24am
I can't tell you how many times I've written here about my MIL issues...so, here it goes, again. Let me preface this by saying that my MIL of 22 years and I are not close. We don't hate each other, necessarily, but the good vibes don't flow between us. Let me give a little background. My husband was recently unemployed for 11 months. My MIL was very good to help us out, financially, and we were very appreciative. We told her so many times in person and through e-mails and cards. Unfortunately, a month or so before he got let go, we booked a week-long cruise for our family vacation and didn't take out insurance on it. Therefore, we ended up having to go on the cruise, much to my MIL's dismay. Well, thankfully, several months ago, my husband landed a great job and we're finally getting back on track. We went to see my MIL, who lives 3 hours away, in June. My husband had gone golfing with his brother, who my MIL is extremely close to. He's never been married, 52 years old, and a "momma's boy". Well, when I was in her kitchen with my oldest daughter, my MIL cornered me and asked, "What lessons have you learned from the past 11 months?" I was so taken aback by her question! I stood there for a minute or two thinking about what the "correct" answer would be. I, finally, blurted out that I'd learned patience from the whole experience. WRONG ANSWER! Without skipping a beat, she said, "Well, had it been me, it would have taught me to stop living such an extravagant lifestyle." I think I had steam coming out of my ears at that very moment! She wasn't referring to herself...that was a direct slam at me! Let me state for the record that we DO NOT live an extravagant lifestyle, by any means! The only thing we splurge on is summer vacations with our 2 girls...a trip to the beach, a cruise from time-to-time, etc. Other than that, we watch our money! This is coming from a woman who takes cruises about every 8 months or so and spends money like it's going out of style! Well, my MIL will turn 75 in a week. So, my husband called his brother and suggested they do something for their mom. My husband's idea was to take her to a nice dinner, then have her friends set up a surprise party in her house while we were eating dinner. It would help keep the costs low. My BIL took the bull by the horns, so to speak, and planned a party for her at his clubhouse and invited 40+ people. He did so without ever consulting with my husband about whether or not it would be something we could afford. We have a lot of expenses right now with our oldest daughter in college. My BIL has no kids, so he doesn't quite "get it". Needless to say, it ended up costing a whopping $1200! I about fell over! The party was yesterday and my husband gave my BIL $500 is cash to help with the costs, which is all we can swing right now. My girls and I had a bet that my MIL would spend about 7 mins. total talking with us...she is not close to my daughters, either. The only communication she has with them is forwarded e-mails she sends them from friends of hers. Well, we were right on the money. She sat down with us to eat her food and was done in about 10 mins. She hardly said a word to any of us, othere than my BIL. She, then, got up from the table and sat down at every table there and visited for quite awhile. These are people she sees several times a week....we only see her about once every 3-4 months. Now, I completely understand that she needed to spend time with everyone in attendance, but she definitely put my family at the very bottom of the totem pole. I admit that I felt slighted by her. Oh, and another thing that got my goat. I didn't know but about 5 people at the party. Well, once my MIL got up from our table, my huband picked up his chair and moved it to another table to he could visit with them. He left my daughters and I sitting alone at a table at the back of the room and I thought it was rude of him. Any time we're around his mom and brother, he treats me like a third wheel, yet he doesn't see it. He has a very outgoing personality and I'm more of an introvert, so social situations with people I don't know can make me feel uncomfortable and he knows that. Well, after the party ended, we all went outside for a few moments. Not once did my MIL thank us for coming. We drove 3 hours over and 3 hours back the same evening...all for her! In fact, I was talking to a family friend and the next thing I knew, my MIL had gotten into her car to leave. No hugs goodbye, no words of appreciation...NOTHING, NADA! However, as the party was winding down, she walked all around the room, hugging and thanking people for coming. It's like she takes us for granted or something. We got in the car to head home and my oldest daughter said, "Grandma didn't even hug me goodbye." I, without thinking, said, "Yeah, she didn't even thank us for coming." My husband came unglued! He screamed at my daughters and me! He told us that all we ever do is complain about his mom and how she does everything wrong. See, that's how it always is. No matter what happens, he will defend his mother to the end! When I had mentioned to him the comment she made to me about us living an extravangant lifestyle and how much it upset me, he didn't do anything it. He never brought it up to her...and I think he should have. When I feel like he won't stand up for me with her, it makes me grow resentful of him. He should have my back at all times...PERIOD! He's intimidated by her and doesn't want to stir the pot. So, he allows her to continue to offer her unsolicited advice and make cutting remarks. Needless to say, after he blew up in the car, he didn't utter a word to any of us on the 3-hour drive home. He even slept in the guest room last night and got up early to play a round of golf. I am so mad I could spit nails right now! Do you think I have good reason to feel the way I do?

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iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2004
Sun, 08-05-2012 - 3:09pm

Yes, I think you have reason to be angry, BUT you've been married to this man long enough to have a college-age daughter with him, so it should come as no surprise to you that he behaves this way.  You've obviously had it out with him a thousand times about it and he's STILL not "getting it". 

At this point, I think you're probably pretty much "stuck" with a nasty MIL.  I doubt you'll ever be able to change anything in your relationship with her.  Instead, I would concentrate on your husband not getting it.  My husband was sort of the same way about his mother...he didn't get angry at me for "complaining" about her, but he didn't ever say anything to her about her behavior having grown up being taught Mother/Father know best and the "kids" are to shut up and agree. 

What finally worked for me was when my MIL got really nasty with me right in front of my husband and he didn't have a chance to not see how she was behaving.  I spoke up to her and told her I wasn't going to put up with her behavior any more.  We had an argument and when we were finished, my husband came up to ME, put his arms around me and asked me if I was OK.  His mother about lost her eyeballs they were bugging out so far.  She had assumed he would comfort HER because obviously I was the one in the wrong in her eyes.  After that, she was a whole lot less mouthy and nasty towards me.  And, hubby FINALLY "got it" that SHE was the problem. 

I wish I knew how to advise you to get to that final moment and get your husband to see the facts, but I don't.  The only thing I can say is to say what you feel about the big slights and let the little ones go.  When we're not heard, I know it's normal to tell ALL the slights in hopes they'll add up to something in his head so he gets it, but I found it worked much better to keep my husband from thinking that ALL I ever did was badmouth EVERYTHING his mother did/said when I started saying outright to MIL that I didn't appreciate her comment/action when they were big ones and pretty much ignoring the smaller stuff. 

Of course, it also helped that he did have my back when we had that argument.  I honestly think he had an epiphany at that moment..."aha!  The world won't spin off it's axis if I tell Mom she's wrong!"  That's a hard lesson to learn for a man who was raised to think Mom held the world on her shoulders like Atlas.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-12-2007
Sun, 08-05-2012 - 4:33pm
Wow...you hit the nail on the head with your reply to me. You completely understand where I'm coming from because you've had the same sort of issues with your MIL. Thank you so much for your wonderful insight and advice! My husband has not uttered a single word to me since about 7:30 last night...I'm not kidding. Personally, I don't think it's my place to come crawling back to him, apologetically. All I did last night was make a comment, possibly in hopes of making him see what I see. I know my husband well enough to know that if my MIL ever came here for a quick visit and I didn't take the time or the courtesy to thank her or hug her before she left, he would have my hide! Why, then, ls it OK for him to ignore that kind of behavior in his mother? My husband, as you pointed out, was raised to think that parents know what is right 100% of the time and to question their authority is to show disrespect. However, it's all fine and dandy for him to allow her the opportunity to say whatever she will to me or our daughters with absolutely no consequences. In fact, that's something he always preaches to our daughters..."actions and consequences". Point is, if his mom is not going to treat me or my daughters the way we think we should be treated, the consequence of that is that we're not going to be able to establish a close relationship with her. The way it stands right now, she would be the last person on the earth that I would call in a time of crisis. I think a lot of it boils down to the fact that I have a Master's degree, but have been a stay-at-home mom PROUDLY for the past 20 years. I think she resents me for not bringing home a paycheck and contributing to the family finances. That...among other things. My husband keeps telling me that I should call his mom out whenever she says something that upsets me, but I know he would be mortified if I ever stood up to her. She would be appalled at my complete lack of respect towards her. I can see my husband, my brother-in-law, and my MIL turning on me. So, is it worth the risk? I just don't know at this point. My MIL, I've failed to mention, has booked a family cruise during Christmas for us to go on to celebrate my husband's upcoming 50th birthday. I appreciate it, but I'm not looking too forward to it because I expect my husband and I to get into an argument about him siding with his mom on some issue. Let me add here that we'll have adjoining rooms...oh, joy! Being that we'll be with my MIL and BIL for an entire week at Christmas, I suggested to my husband that we stay home for Thanksgiving, just the 4 of us. He wouldn't hear of it, saying that we couldn't do something like that because my MIL is taking us on a cruise. So, I feel as though I'll be beholding to her for the rest of my dying days!
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2004
Sun, 08-05-2012 - 11:05pm

Get yourself some hot, sexy lingerie, take salsa lessons, and buy a few daytime outfits in your husband's favorite color with a flattering cut, showing a bit of clevage.  You'll be on a cruise...make it a second honeymoon!  Give your man the one thing mommy can't give him!  ENJOY the time with your hubby concentrating you the two of you under the stars out on the ocean whenever possible. 

Let mommy know HER place without having to say a word! 

...now wouldn't that be just delightful if it worked??????

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-12-2007
Mon, 08-06-2012 - 8:01am

Those are some great ideas...HOWEVER...our 2 daughters will be staying in the cabin with us.  Plus, remember, my MIL and BIL will be in an adjoining room right next to us with a door that connects the two. No privacy to be had, I can assure you.  Plus, my husband will feel like we need to spend every waking moment with his mother and brother since she's footing the bill.  It's gonna be one LONG week!

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-12-2007
Mon, 08-06-2012 - 8:15am

I forgot to mention a few additional things.  My husband still has not spoken to me since Saturday evening.  I am pretty stubborn, too, and have stood my ground as far as not being the one to cave in first, which I often do.  I am hurt that he, once again, has made me feel like he's siding with his mom over me.  My oldest daughter tried to open up conversation last night during dinner and all he did was yell about how he's sick and tired of us beating up on his mom all the time.  What he doesn't see is all that she has or hasn't done to contribute to the problem.  He even told us that he thinks we hurt his mom's feelings after the party when she asked if we were coming by her house for a little while.  Yes, I admit I wasn't too thrilled with that idea because we had a 3-hour drive ahead of us and my husband has a habit of yakking until the crack of dawn.  So, I felt it was wise for us to get on the road, which put us home around 10:15 PM.  Once again, I've hurt HER feelings and she did nothing to mine by not saying how much she appreciated us driving 3 hours to come to her party.  I simply don't get it.  It's called common courtesy!  The way my husband is acting right now is only driving a wedge between us, but I feel that if I back down, he won't learn anything from it.  I need to know that when it comes to his mom, he has my back REGARDLESS...and right now, I don't.     

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-19-2008
Mon, 08-06-2012 - 12:59pm

Doxie,

 

sillisadie did say it really well!  She spoke about what she did that worked and I will compliment her becasue she's given some really good advice and some that I've in recent years taken.  First, do not feel like you did something wrong.  Your feelings were hurt.  You went out of your way to be there and you were not only left out in the cold by her but also by your DH.  I know that expectation is that he should have supported you and understood how you felt.  However, he just didn't see what it was that you were experiencing.  Maybe there was also something going on in his own brain that he really hasn't shared with you and thus the reason he reacting so badly to you and your girls.  But what is funny, he still had the energy to go play golf the next day.  I wonder how that made you feel?

 

 

But, what should you do?  I don't think you should apologize.  I think you should just let it go for now and just do your normal stuff.  If he wants to sulk then let him and do not pay him any attention - period.  Treat him like the child he is acting like....ignore his tantrum.  But, when all is said and done, you've got to learn to do what is going to make you happy with regards to this mil.

 

The comment in the kitchen - I know that you wanted DH to tell her that she was wrong to lecture you about responsibility.  He (for whatever reason) didn't or couldn't or simply wouldn't.  So, you are left upset.  But, you shouldn't have had to be lectured and you should have stood up for yourself.  I think this is so important and why it worked with sillisadie.  She stood up for herself and she got it out in the open, off of her chest and no matter what the mil did, she (silliesadie) can be proud of how she handled it.

 

You should stop expecting DH to react like you would but stand up for yourself.  As for this party - okay, it was her 75th bday so I think you should have just bitten your tongue about her behavior.  However, with that said, I wouldn't go out of my way to do things for this lady.  If she treats you like dirt then why would you?  If DH wants to do something for her, let him. 

 

What made a difference in my well being is handling my inlaws myself.  After 20 years, I got tired of being angry at DH because he didn't do things the way I felt they should be done.  I decided to do it myself.  Now, I'm still the witch to the Inlaws (but that didn't change) and I currently have no contact with them (something I'm very happy about) but most of all, I don't argue with DH about it. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2004
Mon, 08-06-2012 - 3:49pm

>>but most of all, I don't argue with DH about it. <<

I think that's an important point.  I really don't think we are going to totally change guys who were raised to accept that Mommy always knows best.  My husband (even as a child) has always been very independent of his family which was dysfunctional in many ways.  He's the only "normal" one of them all.  BUT, he isn't perfect...his mother is dead now, but when she was alive, he always changed from being the strong, intelligent, manly man I knew him to be into someone more "squishy" around his mother. 

He's never been much of a drinker, but will have a beer on a hot day.  One time when his mother was visiting, they were sitting out on our back patio on a hot day and I brought her a glass of ice tea and he a beer.  He just about fell off his chair...told me later he would NEVER drink beer in front of his mother.  I kind of laughed about it because he was a grown-arse man at his own home with ONE beer.  He said "My mother would be insulted if somebody drank beer in front of her." 

Again, I laughed...She was in her late 70's at the time and what, she'd NEVER seen somebody drink beer?  My gosh...I truly NEVER understood his thinking on that!  

I think I have a terrific husband and since we didn't see his mother all that often, I came to the conclusion that giving in to his "squishiness" around his mother and not fighting with him about it and started holding my own with her without including him made for less drama.  I could have gotten my feelings hurt for his not appreciating that I'd brought them cold drinks, but was it really worth the fight?  No.  He believed it and wasn't likely to change.

It made a big difference in our relationship when I decided just how much power I would allow her to have in our lives, how much I was willing to be angry with him over things that were just too ingrained to change.  Yes, I would have loved it if he had stood up to her a lot more often than he did when she was nasty, but again, we weren't around her often enough for it to become such a big issue in our lives that we spent days giving each other the silent treatment or arguing about it.  I just didn't want her to have that much power over my happiness and my relationship with my husband! 

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-12-2007
Mon, 08-06-2012 - 7:42pm
Thank y'all so much for sharing so openly with me. I really do appreciate it. It helps tremendously to get someone else's insight who is removed from the situation. Hubby finally called me...didn't apologize, nor did I. We ended up getting into a pretty heated argument. His stance is that he doesn't like the fact that every time we go to visit his mom and brother or they come here, I dread it like no tomorrow. I often do complain about it, too. I tried to explain to him that visiting with them is always one-sided. What I mean by that is that they're so caught up in their own lives and goings on that they show very little interest, if any, in what's happening in our family. Really gets old. My husband doesn't quite know what I'm talking about because about the time we arrive there, he heads out for the golf course. My side is that he continually allows his mother to make cutting or judgmental remarks, or even offer myself or our daughters unsolicited advice, and he never says something to her about how it upsets me. He just lets it happen. He expects me to say something to her the next time it happens, but I know that if I did, he would be livid! How dare I show disrespect towards his mom?! I even mentioned the whole issue with Thanksgiving. Why not hash everything out, you know? My point is that if we're going to spend the entire Christmas week with his mom and brother going on a cruise wouldn't it be fine to suggest that we just have Thanksgiving home alone this year? He told me on the phone that he can't do that! He said it's just his mom and brother...where else would they go? I can't help that! We've lived here for 7 years and since that time, we've spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas with my in-laws! Am I wrong to not want to spend Thanksgiving with them for one year? How do I handle it with my husband? I think he already gave me his answer...suck it up and let him have his way. That is only going to make me grow even more resentful. I will make the efffort from now on to refrain from discussing too much information about my MIL with my daughters. However, I don't think I should be put in a position of having to bend over backwards to appease her every wish.
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-12-2007
Tue, 08-07-2012 - 5:40am

That's exactly how I feel, but my husband won't hear of it.  He's more worried about offending his mom and brother than he is about listening to my wishes for the holidays.  That's where the anger, frustration, and resentment build up.  He often puts what they want above my own feelings and I can't stand it..  I tell him exactly how I feel and he becomes so upset because, according to him, we would never have thought to exclude my parents (they've passed away).  #1...my mom and dad loved and adored my husband and never, to my knowledge, said anything that would hurt or upset him.  #2...my parents would have understood had I ever suggested to them that we not get together for Thanksgiving if we were going to spend an entire week with them on a cruise at Christmas.  I think my husband is scared silly at the thought of bringing that up to his mom for the fact that she's paying for the cruise.  See?  We've beholding to her!  I love my husband dearly, but he sure has a hard head at times...and this is one of them.  Do you think I should continue to stand my ground and not budge on the whole Thanksgiving issue?  Or, do I cave in just to keep him and his family happy...at the expense of my own sanity?I, actually, tried that approach last night and he played the big guilt card asking how I'd feel if our 2 daughters ever decided not  to have us over for Thanksgiving.  I know myself well enough that I think I would completely understand if they had their own families and wanted to do something different.  He's trying to make me out like I'm a horrible, uncaring person, which couldnt' be further from the truth. I agree...a week with them in the middle of the ocean is going to be WAAAYYYY to long for me, too!

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2004
Tue, 08-07-2012 - 1:12pm

One thing I started doing was, when MIL got mouthy, I'd take the car keys and go shopping.  I told MIL not to hold any meals for me, that I'd get my own, and told hubby to call me via cell phone if he needed me.  At first, MIL thought that was rude of me, but it sure saved a lot of stress for me!

Maybe the next time your husband heads for the golf course with "they guys" you and your daughters should head for the mall.  Ask your hubby to call you when he gets back to his mom's house where Mommy will have spent the afternoon alone bitching about your "rudeness" to herself in front of a mirror. 

As for Thanksgiving, how about making the party bigger?  Invite your best friends or co-workers or neighbors to celebrate with you so Mom isn't the center of the event.  One year, I invited a bunch of single people I knew would be spending the holiday alone...the guy who cleaned our floor of the hospital, one of the lunch ladies at the cafeteria in the hospital where I worked, a couple "singles" from church, some single people hubby worked with, a couple guys from the local military base, etc.  They ALL so enjoyed having a family home and home-cooked meal on Thanksgiving and for my family, it was what Thanksgiving was all about.  It was one of our best Thanksgivings ever!  I wouldn't "warn" Mom there was going to be a crowd, I'd just let her show up and BE one of the crowd where she wouldn't have the opportunity to be the center of attention!  (passive/aggressive much???  LOL)

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