MIL Troubles

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-13-2006
MIL Troubles
Thu, 07-25-2013 - 11:06pm

Hi Board -

I am having some issues with my future MIL who I also live next door to with my FI. In a nutshell she is very wealthy and all she talks about is how wealthy she is and how fabulous she is and how inferior and ignorant literally everything and everyone else is.  (My FI and I do very well for ourselves, I have two college degrees.)  I have tried on several occasions to invite her to dinner - but each times it turns into an absolutely miserable affair where she nastily criticizes and condemns everything about the restaurant. This past Sunday my FI and I thought it would be a good idea to take his parents to the restaurant that will be catering our wedding so they could try the food and also so we could all sit down and talk about the wedding plans. Needless to say she loudly condemned everything about it. It is a high-end restaurant by Chicago standards with a relatively well known chef. They gave us chef's table - which means it's a table where you get to watch the renowned chef work, they'll sometimes interact with you and let you taste food they're making - she hated it and wanted to move. The hostess acted fairly offended and because I definitely WANTED chef's table quickly said it was fine and we'll stay. She complained the entire time about the ambiance as a result. She was disgusted by the food, the wine, the service, the decor. In my opinion and my FI's opinion - everything was spot on as usual and we had no complaints. (Of course not everyone is going to like the same things - but it's expressed with such judgment, derision, and hostility you literally think she's going to punch someone) We brought up wedding planning twice and she changed the subject both times. When we're not out to eat we'll sometimes go to their house for dinner - then she'll begin ranting on politics when she knows that we have very different viewpoints. Pretty much everything I like she hates. I do respect our differences, however I don't feel like I get that respect in return. I was also raised to not discuss politics and religion. 

She recently purchased two puppies and is too good to housebreak them (she wants them to use wee wee pads in the apartment but they're not very good at it and are almost a year old) or walk them and let's them poop and pee all over her home and makes her legally blind husband clean it up. Recently she wanted us to dog sit for a week and we weren't sure we could for the entire week because we were going out of town - she flew into a rage and said that we needed to cancel our plans and do this favor for her. It ended up working out that when they needed us to dog sit did not conflict with our plans - but the dogs crapped up our apartment - until we realized they ARE housebroken to go outside. Oh and where my future FIL is concerned - she rips on him constantly about what an idiot he is and how embarrassing he is to be with (he's a doctor and he and I actually get along but, like my FI, he just let's her rant on and doesn't stand up to her). She also tears my FI down and tells him he's ignorant and lazy (he's neither - and I have high standards in the significant other department on both areas!). She does nothing for work, never has, so she sits at home and watches TV and Facebooks. As far as I can tell she has no physical friends and never goes out. Her dogs bark excessively and she will routinely leave doors and windows open so the entire apartment building has to hear them bark. Finally today several people called management and complained.

Her style of communication the majority of the time is pretty much full on verbal assault. To the point I don't even know how to calmly respond - so I end up not saying anything for fear of completely flying off the handle.

My method of coping to this point has been to avoid her as much as possible. When we do have to be together I just get myself in a mindset that I'm about to get hit by a short-lived hurricane and make the best of it. It is becoming increasingly difficult. She now calls and texts my FI several times a day - last night she called five minutes after we sat down to dinner at a restaurant I took him to for a mini-celebration. While on the phone, he started explaining the menu and I knew she was going to ask him to bring her something (this routinely happens when we're out to dinner or lunch - even though every restaurant delivers). He hesitated slightly at one point and she said "well don't over extend yourself or anything" and hung up on him. (I get that it's nice to take your parents food, but it comes across almost like an expectation that we will run her errands and deliver her food. She is perfectly able-bodied.)

Now we're trying to plan the wedding. She's made it clear she hates the food and she's seen pictures of the venue. Our budget for the ceremony/reception including food, bar, linens, tables/chairs, cocktail hour, etc. is $13,000. My FI and are planning on paying for that and hoping for help from my family on the rest (although that's a whole other story as they are talking about not participating for a variety of reasons, namely they don't want to leave their dog to come to my city for the ceremony). We are days away from signing the venue contract. This morning his mother emailed me a different hotel to consider. To be reasonable (even though we've already settled on venue and I knew this other place would be way out of our price range), I contacted the hotel and found out the minimum cost was $45,000! There's no way neither I, nor my family, can afford that - nor would I want to - that's crazy! Afterwards, however, I considered that maybe she just wants to feel included - so I did ask her to help with invitations and also to help us find additional hotels to book rooms at for out-of-town guests. She agreed and has made a few suggestions - but that was before the hanging up on last night. Tonight my FI went to their place to visit while I was out with girlfriends and I guess he had an extended conversation with her about what we "should" be doing with regards to invitations, honeymoon, clothing, decorations. This upsets me as I feel whenever I'm around and bring up wedding planning, the topic gets changed. So now he has all these ideas of what we "should" be doing but I feel like I wasn't even there to have a say in anything or participate in the conversation.

I'm starting to feel like I'm fighting an uphill battle here. My FI gets where I'm coming from but has absolutely no boundaries where she is concerned. After she hung up on him last night I said Boundary #1 is we no longer answer cell phones during dinner. If it's an emergency they'll call back. Dinner's our time to catch up on the day. I'm starting to feel like the other woman. Unfortunately I am not someone who gets talked down to and two hours later can then smile and laugh and pretend like it never happened because in my opinion when my FI acts like that with his mother its basically encouraging her to keep behaving badly. That's not to say I hold a grudge.... after Sunday night's nightmare dinner I still emailed her to see if she wanted to help with invitations - and was perfectly polite.

Sorry this feels like a mish-mash summary of what's been going on but I was wondering if anyone had any general advice or thoughts on how I can deal with her. I feel like I'm becoming part of the problem - but I also feel my FI needs to set boundaries.


iVillage Member
Registered: 09-16-2002
Fri, 07-26-2013 - 1:00pm

People don't act the way she acts unless others in her life tolerate it or she has a mental illness.  Until your FI is able to set those boundaries with his mother, I don't see this situation getting any better.  Why on earth do you live right next door to her?  Do you have any plans to move?  One thing you should not do is second guess yourself on your own wedding, opinions are cheap, everyone has one, but unless someone is helping you out, then ignore them.  My father embarrassed me *once* in a grocery store (he told me to bring the food up to the register while he was going to cash a check).  I did as he TOLD me to do, the cashier rang up the food, and he was no where to be found.  When he finally came over, he yelled at me for making everyone in line wait.  Some people are beyond ridiculous.  He was awful in restaurants as well, he did not like anything (because he ate crap all day so his appetite was off for regular food!).  It never again put myself in a situation with him where I would be embarrassed.  I hope you recognize that the problem is hers, for whatever reason, something or someone made her this way and I sincerely doubt she will change.  Let me guess, your FI is an only child?  Keep your distance, include her only when absolutely necessary, and if she's not contributing anything to the wedding, her comments don't count.  ;)

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

.  -Albert Einstein

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-13-2006
Fri, 07-26-2013 - 3:22pm
  • Thank you for your comment. It makes me feel better to know that I'm not completely off track. My thinking is that if she acts this way in public then I will never put myself in a position to suffer through a meal like that again. Meaning, I will never ask her out to dinner again. I agree - that until someone (namely my FI) sets boundaries with her she has no reason to change or see the error of her ways. She literally has an attitude that because she has money she can act however she wants. I must be a rare breed to her as I have always been 100% self-sufficient and have never taken a dime from anyone, ever.

We live next door because my FI bought the place next door on a short sell when it came available (he was living out of town at the time). After we met he began spending more time in my city (and, hence, his home). We do talk about moving. I have committed to living here at least until the wedding but if things don't improve one way or another - we have to move... and he agrees. We've also talked about moving out of state - although that's more do to work issues and less about any family situation.

I just don't want this stress to be a cloud over what should be (and is) a happy time!

Thanks for your commentss :)

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Mon, 07-29-2013 - 12:01pm

I really feel bad for you having to deal w/ MIL from h-ll.  Your fiance needs to start setting boundaries--I agree that he should not answer his phone when you are out to dinner.  He should not get involved in lengthy (or any) discussions about the wedding w/ his parents (who are rich--yet aren't contributing money?) and I think you should not even feel any responsibility to discuss anything about the wedding w/ them since MIL is so obnoxious.  I really wonder what the family dynamic was that the dad never said anything to her like "stop complaining" or "you're being rude"--I guess your FI just goes along cause that was what his father did and it's harder for a child to stand up to mother.  But now that he's an adult he is also free not to put up w/ her complaining--he can tell her that he will leave if she doesn't act more pleasant--you know, like with the rant on taking care of the dogs, he could have just said, without getting into an argument about it, that he had plans, she can't just assume that he'll be available all the time and he will give her the name of a kennel.

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Mon, 07-29-2013 - 4:47pm

Oh Brenya, sounds like a night time soap opera!

Like Music said, guessing your DF is just doing as he was shown growing up.  We all just tolerate mother. 

What ever you decide to say to your DF, just remember that it is his mother.  So tread lightly.  My second MIL was very controlling it oh boy, it can be challenging.  Even after her son and I got divorced, it was still challenging! 

Others have already the addressed the practical side of all of this.  Setting boundries that your DF can agree to (i.e. not answering the phone during dinner, telling his mother he needs to talk to you before making any decisions, don't go out to eat with her, etc.)  So I would like to throw something a little different.

She is a human being with flaws, just like anyone else.  Clearly there is something deep inside of her that causes her to act this way.  Not an excuse to behave badley, but there is a reason.  While setting boundries with her, you can still be kind, tollerant and accepting.  This does NOT mean you allow her to walk all over you.  It simply means you kindly, but firmly start changing what you do and what you say and move on. 

"I appreciate your input on the invitations, but me and your DS have already made a decision.  I could really use your help getting them sent out."  "I appreciate the dinner invite, however me and your DS already have plans."  (note: your "plans" may be your normal dinner at home, but that time together IS planned)

It really is unfortunate, if you think about it.  I don't know what your belief system is, but sometimes it helps to pray for people like this.  Some kind of deep seeded fear is causing her to lash out in anger and sarcasim.  Ever had a bad day and took it out on perfect strangers, or on your family when you got home?  And they didn't do anything wrong?  Sadly, your MIL is living her entire life this way. 

My controling MIL is still in my life.  I am the mother of her only grandchild.  We have really struggled, but every once in a while I get a glimpse of a human being in pain, and my compassion grows for her. 

I am not sure if you said, but how do you get along with your FIL?  You can't change her, but you and your DF can change how you react to her.  Good luck and I hope you give us an update. 

Serenity CL Making a Second Marriage Work

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-19-2008
Wed, 08-07-2013 - 9:52am

I agree with the first post reply - she gets away with her rude behavior because everyone is allowing it.  I personally think the way to deal with her is to get straight with your fiance right now exactly what is going to be tolerated.  With regards to the wedding -  all communication needs to be done in a three/four way manner.  Meaning, if mil wants to chat about wedding, she makes arrangements with fiance and you and you three sit down to discuss.  She is only allowed to offer suggestions and must respect that ultimately what you decide is the way it will be.  Mil needs to stop interfering in your lives and your future DH needs to respect this now.  No more bringing food to her - if he wants to do that he should do that in a manner that does not intrude upon your personal time with him.  When she asks something of him or of you or both of you - it should be discussed and agreed upon by both of you.  Not her dictating and you having to go along - just because.  

Ok - so she likes to have a hissy fit....let her.  She needs to be shown what your new boundaries will be.  In other words, if no phone calls during dinner is the rule - then you stick with it.  Eventually, she'll learn.  If no calls after 8:00 pm and on Sunday mornings is the rule - again stick with it.  She might not like it but she can only control you both if both of you let her.

I promise - you need to get this under control now.  And, agree about the terms now, with Future DH before the wedding.  You don't want to be in this mess when children come along.  

I would also suggest moving!  You are way too close to his parents.

As for your parents - sorry that they would put their dog over their child's wedding.  I think you need to do what makes you happy as you will soon learn that others (even parents) often do what makes them happy even before the needs of their children. 

Community Leader
Registered: 01-03-2004
Sat, 08-24-2013 - 4:28am

You're in for a life time of difficulties if you don't address the problem right now.

And the problem is your fiance. Before you sign any contract for a wedding, get yourselves to a marriage counselor, pronto! If you think he's going to put you ahead of his mother AFTER a wedding you're dreaming. He's got to realize he can't have his mother controlling his life and running his marriage (which she will do!) and have a happy life.

Put the apartment on the market and sell it. Find a place as far away from her as you can. He needs to set and keep boundaries with her, even if you do move. 

She's mentally ill not just "rich." I suspect she'd behave the same way if she was flat broke. She's a narcissist.

I tell you all this because my late sister was married to a man with the same mother. Her entire marriage  - 14 years - was impacted by a woman who could not deal with anyone having a life outside her own. She repeatedly invaded my sister's marriage, tried controlling her son with multiple manipulations and threats. My sister was no shrinking violet; she hit 'em back over the net every time MIL served one up. But it was exhausting. My sister died of cancer in 2010. Her MIL was GLAD my sister was dead! It meant she could go back to controlling her son (and by rote, my nephew). My BIL has had to deal with her as well as his loss these past 3 years. It hasn't been easy at all. I give him credit for realizing what a controlling witch his mother was and is after he saw my sister deal with her.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2004
Wed, 09-11-2013 - 12:27am

If I were you, I'd put the wedding off!  Your fiance tells you what you want to hear UNTIL he gets around his mother.  I'd get into counseling with or without the fiance to deal with HIS issues.  Your MIL isn't likely to change, so you have to either put up with her behavior or get your fiance to make you the first and foremost woman in his life.  You're due for a life of h$ll if you put up with her being babied at your expense.