Thursday, December 29, 2011

Worst. Christmas. Ever. Part 3: A lifetime of pain?

This is the last MIL-drama post for a while, I promise! I have so many more cheerful and useful topics I want to discuss, but I need to finish the saga!

Part 1 and 2 deal with the specifics of MIL's recent crazy behavior. This part will get a little bit into our ongoing struggles over the years. This is something I've wanted to write about for ages, but couldn't really bring myself to, as the whole thing was too painful & I've been avoiding thinking about it; but now that it's front & center in my everyday, here it is.

So G is an only child. His mother got married young & had him right away. Mom & dad moved to the U.S. while G stayed with his MATERNAL grandmother for a couple of years, and then came over. The marriage was not good. Eventually G's dad up & left when he was 9. Divorce papers came in the mail, but no money or support. There has been no contact. MIL worked multiple jobs trying to support the two of them. She's had a hard life, and probably feels like she missed out on a lot of fun times with her child. She lost her job in 2009 and has been trying to find another one to no avail. Unemployment has run out and we are sending a lot of money to support her. G insists she was different in the past, but since I've known him, she's always been bitter & controlling, wanting to keep G with her all the time & run his life. She has lots of family around, but few friends, and while she is uber-religious and believes a lot of nonsense and superstition, the religion doesn't seem to bring her any true comfort or bring out any generousity or empathy.

I've left something out of my retelling of the recent fights we've had with MIL--the real crux of it all is that she believes that she should LIVE WITH US. This has been her mantra from the beginning of time.  In fact, before G & I married, she bought a big house without consulting anyone believing that G & I would live there with her. (Just to assure you, G had never told her anything of the sort, she just made it up, or perhaps he may have said it once as a young kid, and she's glommed onto it in her crazy head). In fact we had firm plans to move >1000 miles away. Yet EVERY SINGLE DAY she mentions this on the phone to G (yes, she calls him EVERY DAY, repeatedly). Every time she visits she gives me a 30 minutes lecture about it and he gets a separate one with more crying and emotional blackmail. She is fixated on this. The end of every visit is always a nightmare because of this. She cannot be happy with what she has---quite frequent visits with us and her grandkids, either here or at her house. No she wants it all and will be unhappy until she gets it. When we had our big fight she said she thought I was the one telling G not to have her come live with us, because in her mind G has always wanted that arrangment. I told her that was a big lie, and of course she was pissed that I called her a liar.

Now when G & I were dating, we talked about this a little; he told me that when his mother was old and couldn't care for herself, he wanted to take her in & not put her in a home. I said "of course"---I really can't imagine putting my parents in a nursing home unless they had needs beyond my ability, so I get it. However, since she's been out of work for a few years now and we are basically supporting her and her stupid empty big house, we've discussed potentially having her come stay with us sooner. I was frankly depressed a lot of the past few years because of this. Its constantly in the back of my mind---I feel like all our lovely time together as a family of 3 and now 4 is on borrowed time. That any day it'll come to a head and we'll have to take her in, and I'd be miserable for the rest of my life. I thought about how I could leave the family, thinking through all the details, the visition, the finances, etc...

Then I realized I was making myself miserable  so I spent most of 2011 trying to come to terms with what seemed to be a foregone possibility. I didn't want to leave my family and I understood that G couldn't abandon his own mother, so I'd have to find a way to live my life with her in it.

It took a LOT of soul-searching, and "happiness-project"-style exercises. but I came to accept that perhaps it could be to all of our advantage to have childcare available and a third person to love the kids, plus something to bring joy to a lonely and sad old lady. She was always so loving towards B and lately had been making an effort to be nice to me, as well. She was here for 3 weeks in October while I was on maternity leave and while she did little things that annoyed me, it was nothing major and life was quite pleasant. I told myself that if she came to live with us, she'd be even better, because she'd finally have what she's always wanted. I was the one who asked her to come for 5 weeks so that she could help watch the baby while I transitioned back to work, and be here with us for the holidays and B's birthday instead of being alone.

Yeah. This was BEFORE. As miserable as I am about what's been happening lately, at least we've both realized that we CANNOT have her live with us. I flat out told G I would leave him (taking the kids) if she came to live with us. We talked a lot about it, and he asked if I was sorry I married him and I said quite honestly "yeah, kind of, but not because of you". And I reiterated that I could never live with that woman because she is poisoning our lives and I will not subject my children or myself to that. I am the primary breadwinner in our family and I have my own savings. I can and will leave if it comes to it. She will never be happy unless we concede to all of her wishes, and as that will not happen, these power struggles & fights will continue, creating a toxic and stressful home environment. None of us deserve that and I'm not going to do it.

G says he agrees, and we'll have to come up with some other way to support her (he won't abandon her). He talked about getting her an apartment nearby so that we can help her out if needed (she's pretty young, only 59, and has no major health issues, but eventually will, as she doesn't take great care of herself & does have high blood pressure & cholesterol on top of her obvious mental health issues that she refuses to acknowledge), and she can see the kids. If it comes to a point years down the road where she needs to be cared for, then we can take her in. I told him she won't accept this, and he said he'll tell her the only other option is her staying >1000 miles away. Yet, when she mentions living with us, he never tells her flat out that its not going to happen. He always says "now is not the right time", as if there will be a right time. He says its because she won't get it, but I think she needs to hear it. But its his mother & I'm certainly not going there with her.
The only other good that's come of this is that G & I are talking openly about it. Before I completely avoided the topic because of the anxiety it caused me. But I thought about it constantly, literally every single day of my life, and not talking to him about it created a huge rift in our relationship; I realize now that I distanced myself from him. Now I feel we are coming closer together as a united front against her & for the children.
We're trying to figure out the best way to navigate the next 3 weeks, because she refuses to leave & he won't throw her out. One night we decided we'd just avoid her & use her as free babysitting....go out to dinner, a movie, shopping. Then we felt bad abandoning our kids just to get away from her and scrapped those plans. I just can't spend too much time in the house with her there. She's not talking to us, but her silence is so dramatic it's deafening. She refuses to take her bad mood to her room, she insists on parking it right in the middle of the house where we have to see it and feel the toxicity. I'm sure B knows something is up, he's been really weird, he was on her lap this morning when I came to say good morning---she give me a mean look & then he refused to let me kiss him; when she left he ran up and hugged me. Thankfully L is too little to be affected.  
Part of me is hoping she snaps and does something truly horrendous like hits me (nothing to the kids, of course) so that we have ammunition to keep her the hell away.
I was telling G that these holidays should've been so joyous for us. We have everything we've ever hoped for, and so much newness to look forward to with our sons. Its really a shame that one person has the power to ruin it for our whole family.

UPDATE: since I've written this, things have been calm on the surface. She is talking to us (barely) and we are trying to let her have more time with B to keep her placated until she leaves. I know its a bit like negotiating with a terrorist, but I honestly don't want any more blow-ups, for the sake of my health & sanity. Yesterday evening went so well, I actually felt happy for the first time in weeks. 17 more days to go!!


  1. Ugh. I don't even know what to say. I think the apartment in the same city sounds like a reasonable compromise as long as she does not also have a key to your house. I agree that G needs to be more up front with her about the prospect of living with you in the future.

    The problem is, it's really hard for me to tell what would actually make her happy. You say that all she wants is to live with you, but it's clear from how she acts that this isn't going to end if she gets that. I feel a little sorry for her in a way, since she's obviously had a hard life. But damn! You see how she's probably made it hard on herself as well!

    I also really wonder what on earth she's been saying to B. Obviously she's been saying SOMETHING. How incredibly awful to think she might be badmouthing you to your own son. Try to rise above it, is all I can say.

    I feel for you, I really do.

    Also, thanks for the reminder of why we ladies need to be financially self sufficient.

  2. I'm so sorry that you've had to deal with this, and dread the future, for so long.

    I have a crazy bitch MIL too, but you win the prize. If my MIL (or anyone) ever said one bad word about us to the children, never mind trying to turn them against us, she would never see any of us again.

    The "good" thing about her egregious behavior is that maybe it's enough for G to really understand how toxic she is for all of you. I've known many people in similar situations, both IRL and online, and usually the person in G's situation is so torn. My husband, on the other hand, sees all of his mother's faults and has never gotten along with her, but goes through the motions to be civil but makes the boundaries very clear. It's always been clear that we both can't stand her (and for me it's gotten worse and worse over the years) but one time I said to him empathically, "I'm sorry that you have a mother who is so difficult to love." He really appreciated the acknowledgement of his conflict, which again is far less conflicted than most in his and G's situation.

    Hope B's do-over birthday is wonderful. And hope your MIL leaves soon!!!

  3. Oh dear! My heart went out to you when I had the impression that this was a few weeks of hell. Now that I know how deep the roots of this problem are for you, I'm tossing in a lung and a few kidneys too.
    It does sound like the root of this situation is her fear of being alone. She wants desperately to be with the only family she has but she doesn't seem to be wise enough to understand that you are not her enemy in this but rather her only shot at it. I honestly don't understand her fierce hostility toward you except that, as you say, she is convinced that you are the only reason that she isn't with her son and grandsons (um, without you, there wouldn't BE grandsons).
    Her behavior is maddening because it's totally self-defeating! (AND because it is making your life hell - I promise I haven't lost sight of that).

    I am going to sit with this and think about it more when my own MIL is here (she is also crazy, potentially alone in the world, superstitious as only a Sicilian could be and hell bent on moving us back to Italy - but, honestly, I ain't got nothin on you!).

    I'm glad that you've written about it here and I urge you to continue to do so. It may feel a little like spewing but I think that it's possible that someone has some new perspective that can help you out. I hope that somebody can help.

  4. Thank you all so much for your support and insight. I know its a suckass situation and no one really ever knows what to tell me, but it helps to just be heard. 16 days until she leaves. I'm trying not to think about the future.