I need ideas . . . (long & poss. trigs)

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-21-2003
I need ideas . . . (long & poss. trigs)
9
Sun, 07-20-2003 - 1:48pm
In a few weeks, I'm going to see my dh's grandmother. The last time I saw her, I had gained weight since the previous time we were together, and on the drive to her house, I cried for two hours worrying about what she was going to say to me and how she was going to treat me. I feel much more together and self-assured now, but I am still worrying about being with her.

Well, this time I have lost a lot of weight, and I'm still nervous about it. The problem I have with her is that she is extremely critical--not just of me, of everyone--and is especially so when it comes to weight issues. She is 84 years old and is constantly trying a new diet, so she's even critical of herself. (I will NOT be dieting at age 84, LOL)

She stares at people's bodies and makes comments about specific areas of people's bodies, and when she turns that kind of attention toward me, it makes me feel scrutinized. My father used to scrutinze me in that way. When my mother would take us school clothes shopping, we'd have to come home and try everything on for him, and he'd make us turn around so he could inspect us. He had weird rules about clothing--one thing I remember was that stretch pants were not allowed because they were too easily removed. (He payed for it, after all, so he got to inspect and make weird rules. I got a job as soon as I could and started buying my own clothes.) He also would walk into a room and come up and pinch my arm and say, "Your arms are getting fat." I hated being looked at in that way, as if my body were his property to inspect and comment upon. If dh's grandmother looks at me that closely, and she sometimes does, I freeze inside and feel very panicked.

She is similar to my father in other ways--they even share the same birthday, if you can believe that. She is moody, always wants to be the center of attention, pouts if she loses when you're playing a game with her (but gloats rudely if she wins), is blatantly sexist (even preferring my dh over his sister--my father is like this, too), is really only happy if people around her are kissing her butt and making a huge deal over her--in short, she is not very nice to be around much of the time. These are all of her negative qualities--I have to say that there have been many times when I have enjoyed being with her. She tells wonderful stories about when my dh was young, and she thinks my dh is the most wonderful thing on earth (to a point that almost sickens me, lol), so they are close. She's affectionate, loves to be with her great-grandkids, and is very spry for her age.

Here's what I expect her to be like in response to my weight loss--she'll compliment me, but it will be a left-handed compliment along the lines of, "It's great that you lost so much weight. You were really heavy before." She'll ask me a hundred questions about how I lost the weight--because she'll want to do it for herself. And the entire time we're there she will scrutinize (there's that word again) every bite I put in my mouth. She is also likely to point out specific body parts, comment on clothing I wear, and to be openly bitter that I have lost weight and she has recently gained. She often puts herself in competition with me (not just me--all other women). One time, we were going to a wedding, and I came out dressed in my outfit, and she actually huffed at me because it looked nice. She said something like, "Why can't *I* ever find an outfit like that?" instead of just saying that I looked nice.

So, I need to come up with some strategies for how to handle this behavior, and every time I try to think of something, I freeze inside and draw a blank about what I could say in response to her stares and comments. "Take a picture--it lasts longer" maybe? LOL I feel like this stress and being with her is a threat to my food plan and my abstinence with OA. I don't expect this woman to ever change--but I do need to find a way to deal with her that will help me feel like I can maintain my self-respect and in a way that helps me feel like I'm not submitting to her scrutiny. I feel like I have to defend myself. I never defended myself against my father's scrutiny, and it made me feel awful. I know that she's not out to sexually abuse me, but she is crossing my boundaries with this kind of behavior and I need to shore them up! Any ideas?

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-07-2003
Sun, 07-20-2003 - 3:59pm
Hmm, have you noticed that women hates herself? I'm sure you have and it probably is not much of a comfort. Ever tried saying "we can not all be as perfect as you" when she's being nasty? Do you ever call her on it, "how would you feel if someone talked to YOU like that." I don't know, myself i would only take so much before i went off. But then that is what i've always hoped for, some jack ass to give me real tangeble reason to let them have it. But theni don't know, it's hard to hurt people deliberately when you know how it feels already. I was told by my step uncle at my sisters wedding not to come back till i gained weight, he said i was so skinny it looked disgusting. Thanks a F*#king lot. And no i did not say anything back, (it was in a room full of my sisters new in-laws) just sat there with my jaw on the ground wanting to run and hide. I have not been back, don't really care to, that is where my "parents" are and my sister did not even send a thank-you note for the gift. Frankly i do not know why i was invited other than to show me just how much a part of the family i am NOT.

Now i'm whining my stuff, damn. Sorry, i don't know about you but i'm tired of being crapped on. The next damn person that talks to me like that is going to get it. I am going to try and not hold back anymore. WHATEVER goes through your head at the time she says those thing, SPIT IT OUT. Right into her face, perhaps it will be something mean, perhaps it will be an admittance of how much she hurts you, either which way we owe it to ourselves to start speaking up. I'm gonna try, want to try with me? It may never change those people but perhaps it will change how we see ourselves. Time to start defending our selves.

So good luck hun, let me know if this is any help or just another rambling whine,lol. Take Care and Stay Safe,

Danielle.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-21-2003
Sun, 07-20-2003 - 6:08pm
Thanks for your thoughts and support. They really mean a lot. I know that she only has as much power over me as I allow her to have, but I guess what I want is what I can't have--for her to change. I don't believe she will change, but that's what I want--for her not to treat me that way. I guess in the absence of that, I'll just have to somehow find a way not to let what she says and does bother me. But I think that expressing that I do not care to be treated that way is one way I can make what she says not bother me. I can't control other people, but I can control my response to them.

I went running this morning, and I was praying as I ran, trying to talk things over with my higher power and ask what his will was for this situation. I feel like I got down to the core feelings--I would really like for her to accept me as I am and not to feel as if I'm always on the verge of being rejected by her. Her constant criticism--whether it's positive or negative--feels like nothing but conditional love to me, and that's no love at all. Thank God my MIL and FIL are nothing like that.

Avatar for opal45
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-15-2003
Sun, 07-20-2003 - 10:17pm
She sounds like a dreadful woman. Whose mother is she? Your FIL's or your MIL's? I was just thinking that if she's this way then her children have suffered her criticism as well, if not more. What if you asked them how they've dealt with her in the past? Just a thought. Good luck with your visit though.
**gentle hugs**

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-21-2003
Mon, 07-21-2003 - 2:06am
She's my MIL's mother, and yes--she treats my MIL the same way. But my MIL has never said that it bothers her--in fact, she just makes a joke out of it. But I think it must bother her. My MIL had a severe head injury about fifteen years ago and gained a lot of weight afterward. She is so different from my dh's grandmother, though. My MIL is the most loving, accepting person I know. I am taking notes now because I want to be the kind of MIL that she is. She always makes me feel loved and welcome, and that makes me want to spend time with her. My dh's family deals with the grandmother by ignoring her. They just let her have her say, and then do what they want anyway. I know that her behavior must hurt their feelings sometimes--although I think she is a little freer with how she treats me because I'm so much younger--so as her grand-daughter-in-law I get worse treatment than her daughters-in-law. KWIM?

There are many times, though, when I love to visit her, and I have a wonderful time. And what's coming up is more than a visit, we're moving to a place that's much closer to where she lives, so I'll be seeing a lot more of her. That's why I'm so concerned. I feel like I have to be prepared, but without making myself so angry that I'm defensive and causing problems before I even get there. KWIM?

Avatar for opal45
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-15-2003
Mon, 07-21-2003 - 8:36am
Since you've already said she is so much like your father and that your in-laws seem to be able to shrug this off, I have a feeling this is much more about unresolved feelings with your father than it is about this woman. Perhaps your AMAC group can help you work through these issues before you have to move so close to this very triggering person. You're right, she may hit you harder b/c you're so much younger but she may hit you b/c you take it more than anyone else. It's so hard not to take it when it hits a raw nerve like the one you may have.

You've said you want her to change. I think that's a very brave acknowledgement. It takes tremendous inner strength to confess this. I was wondering though, is it the same desire for change that you have with your father? I know, you probably don't expect your father to ever change and that's why you moved across the world from him but still, could there still be a part of you who would love to have had him change? You see, it just sounds as if this is tied so closely to your father IMHO.

So, as I said, I hope you can work through some of these unresolved issues you have with your father so you can minimize the damage this woman can inflict. I just don't think anything you say to her will have too much affect on your inner psyche.

**gentle hugs**

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-21-2003
Mon, 07-21-2003 - 12:53pm
I would love for my parents to both change. If they called me today and were honest about what they've done and said that they were sorry, I would be so happy. I know that this is never going to happen, though. They would have to be people other than my parents for this to happen, and I wasted a lot of years torturing myself by hoping for this kind of change in them. But I don't have contact with him now not only because he is dishonest about the abuse and hateful, but also because he is dangerous. He is seriously unstable.

I also know that my G-MIL isn't going to change. And I know that my response to her in the way that I feel has a lot to do with my father. A LOT. The thing that's important to me, though, is my response to her. I don't need a response that changes her or that makes me "win" some kind of argument, but I need to be able to speak up. Even if she doesn't stop as a result of what I say, I feel very strongly that I have to speak up. Really, this conflict is between me and my inner self. Deep down, I am terrified that something is going to happen to me--but the part that scares me the most is that I won't be able to defend myself, that I'll just freeze up. I am afraid of losing my self-respect, above all. I have to be able to show myself that I respect myself enough to speak up in an uncomfortable situation.

I was talking with a friend of mine about this last night, and she suggested that I say something along the lines of: "I really don't like how it makes me feel inside when you say things like that." Very simple, hopefully not very accusatory, and honest. I'm thinking about it. Thanks for hashing this out with me! I appreciate it.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-07-2003
Tue, 07-22-2003 - 3:53pm
LOL, no such thing as positive criticism. Constuctional advice is possible, but i doubt that can be said of the woman in question. you know i was thinking about it last night and you know what? I understand a little more than i thought. You see my mother-n-law is a lot like that. I'm not actually married but clase enough. When i had my son over there one day she said to me "your son sh*t his pants" he's 3 and still in diapers. I have heard her say "my daughters are sl*ts", "i don't know whats wrong with them." (reffering to all 3 of her kids) and "he's JUST like his father" refering to George (my other half) and believe me that IS NOT a compliment. She makes fun of how small i am, will argue about anything just so YOU are wrong, and is generally a very miserable women herself. Now a days it actually bothers George more than me. Went there last night and she was still pulling the same crap but it just does not bother me anymore. When i realized i was never going to be right or win and argument (right or not) i stopped saying much. At first it felt really crappy, felt like "oh yeah I'm just supposed to TAKE THIS!" but then i started realizingg just how miserable that women really is. Just like my bio-mother they are so dissatisfied with themselves they project it on to everyone they meet. My bio-mother has been known to blast people with out even knowing them 24 hrs. Just plain 'ol rude. I cna't stop them with out getting slapped with an assault charge, because i'm pretty sure knockin 'em out and duck taping their mouths shut would be against the law, even if it would be ULTRA satisfying. But for now it helps to relize that no matter how she acts or what she says, she is actually more miserable than me! You and i, we have our little joys in life, things that make life worth it. Those women? Don't have much but their misery. Hopefully that is some solace as well. ((((HUGS)))) for you in your trial of patience to come. Good Luck Hun & Stay Safe.

Danielle.

PS,

i read today that if you get asked a question

you don't want to answer,

ask them why they want to know.
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-14-2003
Wed, 07-23-2003 - 4:17am
Sorry I've taken so long to reply. . .I've been hung up on my stuff lately.

Your GIL does sound like a horrible person to be around. Reminded me a lot of how my mom used to be (she isn't as bad now, even though I still have major issues with her).

One thing I'm learning about lately is how to be responsive instead of reactive. Reactive is emotionally charged and usually comes out as attacking the other person, and doesn't get you what you need from the other person. Also usually if we are reactive we aren't in control and we give our power away. Being responsive is allowing a moment to think about what was just said, and saying something more like a statement without emotion involved (even though you're still FEELING the emotion). I was thinking that you could say something like, "Thank you for complimenting me on my weight loss; I've worked really hard to get this far!" and you could let her know that you're giving yourself permission to eat a few extra snacks while you're visiting. That way you've already addressed what she'd be thinking if she scrutinizes your eating while you're there. If she does make comments about your eating or your body, you could say something like, "You know, a part of what I've been working on is accepting myself for who I am, and I need you and other family members to do that, too."

If it gets really bad, I don't think it's a bad thing to say, "That really hurt my feelings. I'm sure you wouldn't want me to say something like that to you. I would really like for us to have a nice visit, and in order for that to happen I need you to not make remarks about my weight or my eating."

I know it is hard to make those statements; I feel a bit like a hypocrite because I'm not that brave yet. I have been able to take a couple of stands with my mom, though, using that type of nonconfrontational language and it works. I've only been brave enough when it comes to how she treats my kids, though. My kids are my line she can't cross. I need to move the line closer to home and not allow her to treat me badly, either. She can get so nasty that I'm major chicken to actually be assertive. I usually do it in a roundabout way with her.

I do think that you deserve to have a nice time and not have to be under her constant scrutiny. You've come a long way and I'm sure you won't let her sabotage your efforts. When it comes right down to it, you might just need to say, "Don't talk to me that way." I did that one time to my mom on the phone when she was yelling at me. I never raised my voice. I kept it even and emphsized each word: "Do not yell at me." She knew I meant business and I think it stunned her. She stayed away from me for about three weeks while she figured out how to act around me, and she's never yelled at me since. If it comes to something like that while you're there, you can give her a little sideways hug at dinnertime later to let her know you still love her (since she'll probably want to make it all about her).

Another thought I had was that since she will probably be jealous, she might do the opposite and try to shove desserts down your face. My mom does that to me when she knows I am trying to do better. I'll say no thank you and she'll INSIST and keep at it to try and get me to eat more. One day I looked at her when she was doing this and said, "You should be telling me Good Job for saying no, instead of trying to get me to eat more." She didn't realize what she was doing and that made her stop and think about what she was saying to me.

I don't know if any of this is helpful. The responsive vs. reactive thing is what came to my mind since that is one of the things I'm working on. I'm sure you'll do just fine. It's great that you're thinking of this ahead of time and coming up with strategies. That will enable you to already have a plan in place when you get there. Good luck, and I hope she's better than you are expecting her to be.

Hugs, Heidi

HeidiRose

co-cl, Sexual Abuse Healing Board

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-21-2003
Wed, 07-23-2003 - 12:20pm
Heidi, this was extremely helpful. The responsive vs. reactive thing--that gives me the words to name what I've been reaching for. That's it precisely.

Mostly, I am amazed, astounded, impressed, and grateful that you have this much to give after what you're going through! What are you, some sort of natural spring of compassion? :o} You are amazing! But you know what--you don't have to be! I hope that you're taking care of yourself and resting and just making sure you're ok. (Your dh, too.) (((((((((HUGS)))))))))))