From the forums:
Well, that finally just ended after my mom threatened to not invite her or the family. And recently now, my fiancé cannot go to Christmas Eve with them because he is working late, and she threw a fit about that, blamed me, and is now having all the relatives call us saying how upset and disappointed they are.
This has been an ongoing thing with issue after issue for the last year since we got engaged. I am at my wits’ end with her and I am about to tell her that, if she doesn’t stop this nonsense, she can say goodbye to her future grandkids. But I don’t know if I am being overly harsh or what I am supposed to do.
I have been cordial, I have sat down one-on-one with her, and my fiancé has sat down with her and tried to work out the issues, but it’s like a cycle of drama and pettiness now that I want to stop getting sucked into. My parents WOULD NEVER start this kind of crap. So any advice/experience would be great. — Already Tired of My FMIL
Your FMIL sounds very difficult, and she is no doubt trying to establish some control as her son prepares to marry and start his own family (regardless of whether or when you have kids, you two as a married unit will be a new family). I can imagine that, for some mothers, seeing their sons begin to prioritize another woman to the effect that they no longer come home for every holiday can be jarring and sad. Of course, YOU aren’t responsible for your fiancé not spending Christmas Eve with his family, but you and your FMIL and everyone else knows that at some point you will be at least partly responsible for a change in tradition or for your husband’s presence and attention to be elsewhere when it would normally be with his family/mother. That’s simply what happens when two people get married and suddenly have twice the extended family to accommodate as well as a desire to establish their own traditions and sometimes do their own thing. For a control-freak mother, which it sounds like your FMIL is, this new normal can be devastating. Too bad for her. And, unfortunately, too bad for you (and your fiancé).
So, what can you do to help smooth the transition and make life with your in-laws a little easier? Well, for one thing, you can cool it with the threats. Your mother threatening to disinvite the mother-of-the-groom to her own son’s wedding is AWFUL. Honestly, that sounds as awful as anything you’ve claimed your FMIL has done or said. And your threat to keep her away from future grandkids is really terrible, too. You don’t disinherit someone for life and keep her away from grandchildren because she’s throwing a few hissy fits as she fights to establish some semblance of control over something the other mother has 100% control over.
What you CAN do is establish some boundaries while also being inclusive in your wedding planning. I understand that your parents are paying for everything and so that entitles them to much more control and decision-making than anyone else, but that imbalance must feel particularly acute for the other set of parents, particularly for a control freak like your FMIL sounds to be, and particularly if they would also like to contribute to the wedding but either cannot afford to or were made to feel like a financial contribution from them wouldn’t be welcome. (I have no idea if this is the case, but if it is, it could explain the behavior.) At any rate, it would be a sign of good will if you gave your FMIL one or two small plans she could be in control of, like choosing a song for the mother-son dance, maybe picking out a guest book, and/or making a list of some combination of family members she’d love to have grouped together for professional photos, for example.
It sounds like your FMIL really wants to be a part of the planning. She’s digging her heels into the ground over things like the number of guests and the food because she’s trying to establish some kind of ownership over something, especially when your parents essentially get ownership over the whole shebang. Give her a few little things to be “in charge” of and she might relent a bit over the bigger things that shouldn’t be her concern.
Finally, speaking of whose concern is what, hand the reigns back to your fiancé when it comes to dealing with his mother and family. You shouldn’t be fielding heated phone calls from them or dealing directly with the hissy fits. All of that should be your financé’s job. When your FMIL calls you, let it go to voicemail. If she leaves a message that requires a response, tell your fiancé to reply to her. If she emails you, forward the email to your fiancé. If she calls or emails your mother, instruct her to forward those messages on as well. Establish NOW that your fiancé is the point-person when it comes to relations between his family and the family the two of you will be establishing, just as, I assume, you are the point-person between you two and your family.
If it turns out that your FMIL’s behavior is just the tip of the iceberg and nothing you do to try to ease this transition for her helps and she only gets nastier, THEN you may have some justification for withholding future grandkids from her. But I still wouldn’t make threats about people who don’t even exist yet. Your life with your in-laws is very, very new, and you don’t yet know where the road with them will lead or where the road toward parenthood will take you, either. There may be a point that their support is needed, and you don’t want to start alienating them now, before you have any idea what life a few years from now might be like.
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