- This topic has 14 replies, 2 voices, and was last updated 2 weeks, 1 day ago by ron.
October 13, 2020 at 2:21 pm #963185JessGuest
Long time lurker from the Frisky days here. I am in a tough situation and could use some insight from people who have young children/have raised young children and have worked on appropriate boundaries with in-laws.
I’ve been happily married for 3 years to my husband and we have a 3 year-old daughter. I am 30, my husband is 31. We live in a rural area on an island that has had very few Covid cases, but in a state that has taken the pandemic very seriously. My husband “Matt”, has a brother “Kevin”, who is 35 and who lives abroad with his fiance.
Kevin was by all accounts an extremely challenging child and a problematic adolescent and young adult who frequently asked for (and received from my MIL and husband when he was 20) significant financial assistance that was never repaid and rescuing (a flight home when he was broke and sick from a foreign country, a place to crash for months when he was 25 while he was in my husband and SIL’s words “delusional” and inviting unsavory friends from across country to live at his mother’s house on her dime). It seemed that he had matured with stable work with some public acclaim, and a solid partner who supported his well-being and encouraged him to stop drinking.
Fast forward to June 2020. Pre-covid, Kevin was planning on coming to visit us on a trip to the States to look at prospective graduate programs with his fiance. They arrived just as borders were closing in the Spring, and were driving up to stay with us for a month in our camper trailer on our land and work on our small farm in exchange for some of their food and lodging, based on WWOOOFing (which we are set up formally to do). They both seemed eager to save money, and we all felt their long visit would be a safe way for us to feel less isolated, given the pandemic. My husband and I see now this was a mistake, however, company for our daughter and for our well being after several months of quarantine seemed the primary concern, and we had had nice visits before.
It was immediately apparent to me that Kevin was in a different, and edgy, space than before. Long story short, he slept until 2-4 PM and only emerged to eat food, vape pot and nicotine, and ponder the options to loaf around. Discussion points I brought up were immediately shut down, and there were constant passive aggressive put-downs about our accommodations, my cooking, how it was best to just “live life stoned so nothing bothered you”. I am a pretty type-A, grab the bull by the horns person. I have overcome a tremendous amount of early childhood trauma and physical/sexual abuse–I lost my mother and father to addiction, metal illness and suicide, and my extended family that took me in was emotionally abusive. The powerlessness and uncertainty of the pandemic had been extremely triggering, and I had sought out the best therapist in the area to help me be the best mother I never had and present partner to my husband. I was open about *some* of this with my in-laws, hoping to build intimacy in this crazy time, but Kevin was dismissive and filled with contempt, literally shrugging me off and saying I needed to learn to calm down and realize that we had it great compared to the country he had been living in. He was eager to hear if my husband and I had been having issues (what couple with young kids wasn’t having more conflict right now??). I said “Yes, there have been challenges with the pandemic, but were are committed to our marriage and we going to therapy. This is a crazy, trying time for everyone, especially parents. Our relationship is solid.”
My husband and I wanted to believe he was just enormously stressed and that time with his brother would help them get on the same page. I left several times on long outings so my husband and his brother could have space to connect one-on-one, but Kevin was evasive and dodgy. I was concerned that there might be a substance abuse or mental health issue and was not having it. My husband agreed and we reached out to my MIL, “Mary.”
Mary did listen, but just pivoted our concerns to Kevin’s health: he had a vitamin B deficiency, he had whole body inflammation, he was suffering from tear gas exposure (from reporting work), he had gut issues, the mosquitoes here were bad. She suggested that I covertly play “really loud, really high-pitched violin music” whenever Kevin was around to calm his nervous system down “so I could handle it.” To my husband, Mary pleaded that we not ask them to leave because of the dangers of the pandemic, and that Kevin and his fiance could watch our daughter for their work-trade. At this point I trusted his fiance, as she was level-headed, adored our daughter, worked in child development and taught health and wellness to children in her home country. We coordinated with her some times to watch our daughter within earshot over the next week or so.
Then, my BIL’s behavior really escalated. One night we had a friend over for a distanced bonfire in our yard. Kevin started slinging extremely offensive and paranoid vitriol about his and my husband’s grandmother. Then he turned to my husband and insulted both of us for manipulating their father in a ploy to get his assets. He was visibly disgusted with us, and it was so jarring and unfounded. My husband took him aside, where he refused to listen and instead insulted my daughter (who again, is 3) and then insisted that I was manipulating everyone, was egotistical, and that he was the only one who would be able to see it for 10 years.
My husband was angered and alarmed with these accusations, I was triggered again as Kevin’s hostility towards me increased, as his behavior echoed a lot of the verbal abuse I endured as a young child. We were both so dumbfounded. We waited until our guest was to leave the next day (he camped overnight on our land) while in private prepared to ask them both to leave ASAP, as it was suddenly explicitly clear how this was a mental health issue and that he seemed to be manic and delusional, with hostility aimed at us. We were unified in that we wanted them both out of our home with the best shot at him getting mental health support and without escalating the situation.
The next day Kevin was up before 7 and visibly manic and grandiose. He assured us he was going to leave the next day, but he escalated his hostility to me that evening the moment by husband stepped away by openly sneering, bullying, and mocking me with my daughter there, trying to instigate arguments, and faking these loud coughs and then pondering if it was “catching” in the space of a minute. It was exactly how I used to watch my father act before becoming violent with me and my mother. Immediately my husband picked up on this and came back while I went inside with our daughter and locked the door. My husband told Kevin to leave immediately and that he needed to seek mental health help and that his behavior was unacceptable and hurtful.
That evening a repressed memory of my husband’s came up: that 11 years ago an ex-girlfriend had accused his brother of a violent rape and subsequent physical violence while they were in a foreign country after she tried to end the relationship. The ex-gf “Isabel” sent a detailed, visibly traumatized account of this to my MIL because Kevin would not stop harassing her through email. In it Isabel begged my MIL (who was taking care of a sick Kevin for several months in her home) to persuade Kevin to stop contacting her. She was not interested in pressing charges, but wanted to make sure someone knew what had happened and wanted space to heal.
My MIL shared this with my husband, then 20, and begged him not to tell anyone, ever, for fear of what would happen to Kevin. My husband also remembers his mother doubting the veracity of Isabel’s claims on account of her “literacy” and disparaging the many typos in her account. My husband was absolutely crushed and ashamed that he participated in being silent for so long. He still has the original email that Isabel sent, and we read it, sickened that it was much, much worse than he remembered. My therapist shared that this was a dangerous situation, that we should notify the sheriff, and that I should stay somewhere else until we were sure he was out of the area (we live on an island served by ferry boats). We did all of this.
The experience brought an immense amount of stress up for me, which I am receiving help and support for. I had no appetite for almost 2 months from being terrified he was coming back and would hurt me or my daughter, and lost a lot of hair. I just CANNOT get over the fact that my MIL thought an accused violent rapist would be a good person to watch my daughter (they were not alone, and my daughter has not shown any of the signs that he hurt her. If she had, this would be a different conversation).
My MIL took the BIL’s side, and insinuated that I was the “real abuser” in this situation, and that it was our petty gossiping and inhospitable behavior that caused the “miscommunication.” The lengths she was going to enable him and the degree of their codependency became quickly very clear, and I blocked her from contacting me. Previously we had had a close and loving relationship, and she had treated me as a second daughter. I see now I was desperate for this love and acceptance from her. I am prioritizing working through all that this brought up and stopping these crazy cycles of abuse and enabling wherever they show up in the family tree.
Since then (2 1/2 months ago), we have drawn really firm boundaries with my MIL and BIL, which have not been respected. I have blocked both of them, and my husband has sought out therapy to extricate himself from the ways also enabled his brother throughout the years, and has made great progress in this regard.
But this leaves the question of our daughter and her relationship to her (only living) grandmother. They had been very close prior to this and adore each other. Currently we have decided that she is not to spend time alone with our daughter, as her judgement cannot be trusted anymore, but that she can still be a good grandma in a narrowly-defined role with supervision. My husband has facilitated lots of video calls between the two of them. Mary has partially conceded Kevin is not mentally well, but she hosted them for 6 weeks after we had them leave and he sought no help. She is now is desperate to patch things up without any real discussion of what happened and wants to plan visits as soon as it is safe. She has been a chronic worry-dumper since this, manufacturing emergencies as to why my husband needs to be in nearly constant communication with her.
The current plan is that in December she will come for a one week visit (our limit, she wanted two), stay at a VRBO, and we will begin the visit with a long family counseling session. Visits during the week will be planned,and supervised. We can say we are done if it crosses a line at any point.
I would like some insight from people that have had to draw really hard boundaries with family like this. I did not have parents to protect me as a child, so there isn’t a great blueprint for how to navigate the craziness while keeping the door open for our daughter to have a relationship with her grandmother that is safe. Does how we are going about this make sense and are we doing enough to protect our daughter?October 13, 2020 at 4:37 pm #963190anonymousseParticipant
It seems to make sense, now. But I feel like you’re putting too much blame on your MIL and letting your husband off WAY too easy. He knew his brother’s character. He knew about the accusations and he didn’t immediately kick him out when his brother became abusive to you. That is really disturbing to me. He was just totally fine with his rapist brother watching your three year old? WTF? He didn’t tell you about Isabel? Your husband needs to be a better partner and father.
For your MIL, you are right, she can’t be trusted to watch your daughter alone. She is 100% behind your BIL and always will be. I think supervised visits with her are the way to go. Have your husband take the lead and administer the tough conversations. You shouldn’t have to be the partner who deals with his family. It should be him, almost always. He needs to learn to stand up for you, and do what’s best for you and your daughter- not his brother, not his mother. His behavior, at least how you’ve characterized it here doesn’t make me think he had your best interests at heart.October 13, 2020 at 5:34 pm #963192golfer.galGuest
Oof. I don’t have kids yet but I do have experience with familial abuse and the wide variety of denial /gaslighting /blame shifting/ predator protecting dances families will do to “nuh uh” those facts into non existence, and the boundaries that need to be set as a married couple with the perpetrators and their supporters.
I’m going to just say this. You should cancel that visit immediately and go to family counseling without mother in law. You need to pull way back and hold firm on consequences. Utilize the counseler to develop a plan for interaction with his side of the family (preferably going no/very low contact at least at first for a long while)
Rapist brother in law should have been gone a loooong time before things escalated to that point and both you and your husband have to address why that is. You have some caretaking tendencies, a need for approval, and a pattern of prioritizing others over yourself to the point that it isn’t in your own family’s best interest. Your husband learned to deny and ignore big problems, especially if acknowledging them comes with a side of pissing his mom off, to the point he knowingly kept a dangerous person in your home who was openly seething with hatred at you both.
Grandma knowingly exposed you and her granddaughter to a rapist and now wants to act as if that didn’t happen. She accused you of abuse for protecting yourself and daughter from said rapist. She is not sorry. She is not willing to acknowledge the danger she put you in. That isn’t what love looks like. It is not possible to “adore” a child if you put the comfort of a rapist over the right of that child not to be raped. Allowing her in your life at this point is teaching your daughter that Grandma is someone she can trust and who has her best interests at heart. She isn’t and she doesn’t.
I know the number the trauma you’ve both experienced does on a person. I don’t want to come down too harshly on you because you’re doing a lot of great things – counseling, etc. You love your family, you’re working to overcome some awful things, and I think you’re a good person. It’s time to stop giving a shit about what others will say or think and fiercely protect yourself and your family.October 13, 2020 at 6:30 pm #963193JessGuest
Thank you, anonymousse. This is helpful. I have this well of resentment towards my husband for how things unfolded, and it has felt somewhat unproductive because no matter how many therapy sessions together/separately we have gone to and deep conversations we have had he still has not directly and confronted his brother or mother about the rape accusation/cover up.
I have been checking in about once a week, letting him know that for me to fully trust him as a father and husband going forward, that #1 he needs to believe me, if there ever is a next time, #2 we are unified on boundaries and upholding them going forward, and #3 he needs to clearly confront the rape allegations and cover up with his mother and brother, at least in a written letter. I am feeling discouraged that he is so conflict-averse, and am going to address this and come up with my next steps in therapy tomorrow.October 13, 2020 at 6:43 pm #963194BittergaymarkGuest
People don’t have REPRESSED memories about sex crimes their brother did to other people in their 20s.
Your husband is either lying here — or I don’t know what.
But it’s hilarious to me you invited a crazy person to live with you and are now all shocked the person is — gasp! — crazy.
🤷♂️October 13, 2020 at 6:48 pm #963195BittergaymarkGuest
PS — your husband knowingly exposed you to a rapist. Why everybody is obsessed with the MIL here I frankly don’t get.
Your husband is a fucking unreliable narrator. Repressed memory — my ass. Conveniently and deliberately forgotten is more like it.October 13, 2020 at 6:57 pm #963196KateKeymaster
There’s some really good insight here.
I will add that moms seem prepared to do ANYTHING to protect their sons, even at the risk of alienating everyone else and hurting them. My mom has become an absolute animal with me when I’ve tried to tell her things about my brother in the past. Do not even try, or have any expectation of getting anywhere with her in terms of admitting her son is dangerous. You are not going to have any kind of resolution here. Please don’t fucking bother with the family therapy.
As to your husband, a repressed memory? Really? Age 20? I don’t buy it. He knew / remembered, but wasn’t particularly bothered by it, didn’t believe it, etc.
I would focus on your own therapy and really think about whether staying in this marriage is best for you. Your and your daughter’s safety is not your husband’s primary concern, and it should be.October 13, 2020 at 6:58 pm #963197KateKeymaster
“ and #3 he needs to clearly confront the rape allegations and cover up with his mother and brother, at least in a written letter.”
No point.October 13, 2020 at 7:11 pm #963198JessGuest
Thank you golfer.gal, I feel really heard from your comment and I’m so sorry you have experience with family abuse as well. It’s a total mindfuck that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
You are spot on that he should have been gone long before things escalated to the point that they did. I/we need to do a much better job of addressing why the hell it got to the point it did and making sure that never, ever happens again. My husband and I are both clear that his brother is not ever coming back here to our home.
So many horrible memories and flashbacks are coming up with all of this, which has been hell, but I feel strangely grateful for this opportunity to work through them and make sure my daughter has the safe childhood I didn’t have. Thank you for the reminder to work even harder on not being a caretaker and needing approval. I really am going to take this to heart. All my life I felt like I had signed on the dotted line for my childhood abusers to treat me horribly, now I am seeing that yeah, I put up with whatever poisoned breadcrumbs my mentally ill caregivers left me because I did what I had to do to survive, but I don’t have to do that now. I’m going to rewrite all of those contracts.
As far as my MIL, I have really written off that relationshipOctober 13, 2020 at 7:18 pm #963199anonymousseParticipant
Your husband does not need to confront them in person, on the phone or in a letter. I do not think that would ever be productive. I also don’t think you have to still attempt to have any kind of relationship with your MIL right now. I do think the biggest issues here are your husband 1) not telling you about his brother’s past 2) letting his abusive and rapist brother come and stay with you 3) not kicking him out the minute he started acting like a jackass.
Forget therapy with his mother. He needs to explain what the fuck happened to his duty (as a good partner) to protect you and his child. He didn’t even warn you about his brother. And add me to the chorus that it’s highly doubtful he blacked out what happened with his brother. He saved that email!
And most importantly for you, you need to address your people pleasing, passivity that helped lead you to this point in therapy. You don’t have to let everyone stomp all over your needs. You are aware of your trauma, and it boggles my mind how your husband just wrapped up his abusive brother and brought him to your home. If you want to talk “coverups” you can ask your husband why he failed to alert you, protect you, let his brother babysit your toddler…. he’s the bad guy here. Not your MIL. She is not to be trusted but-it’s not her duty to protect you guys from harm in the same way your actual husband should be. Your MIL is not married to you. She should not be involved with the drama between brothers or with you.
Stress is a killer right now. Cancel your MIL’s visit. See a therapist because it’s very clear your daughter needs someone absolutely advocating for her and doing their best to protect her, and you can’t do that if you’re easily persuaded to give in to others. Fuck everyone else, your daughter is your #1 priority, not your husband’s family’s feelings.October 13, 2020 at 8:32 pm #963201PurpleStarGuest
I am with the others…husband knew about the rape…ignored it because, hey, that is what his family does…husband put you and your daughter in danger. That is the elephant in the room – being endangered by someone you love and trust. Hard to forgive. Brings up trauma from your past.
As for the grandmother – honestly, you child is young enough that if Grandma gently fades away, she will not be distraught. Lengthen the time between video calls and cancel the upcoming visit and then just stop. You really don’t need the stress…and Grandma is just going to use the visit as a platform to “convince” you that BIL is just misunderstood.
Nota Bena: My son saw my Grandmother almost daily from his birth (when she lived with me) until she passed (in a care home) when he was about 3…he really really did not notice that we stopped seeing her. He remembered her, and 21 years later still does, kinda’ in a -we tell stories about her and he remembers the stories he has heard- way. I filled the gap of missing grandparents and great grands with other loving senior adults.October 14, 2020 at 7:38 am #963213LisforLeslieGuest
Agree with everyone here:
Your husband did not repress this memory – he chose, at the time, to ignore it or dismiss it. Therefore there was nothing to remember. Only now that it’s a literal threat on his doorstep does he remember the accusation. Additionally, and I’m giving your husband credit he doesn’t really deserve, he has spent at least 20 years in this cycle. The person goes manic, everything blows up, and it’s the family’s responsibility to deflect, ignore, shrug, cover it up. Had he been the target of his brother, he’d be significantly more sensitized, aware and wary. It became an issue for him only when he actually and truly perceived a threat against you and his child.
You need to discuss this with your husband in therapy. He needs to acknowledge this cycle and the fact that this is normal to him. He also needs to understand that This. Is. Not. Normal. Most families may have a black sheep sibling. Most of the time it’s an accountant in a family of artists or a sales person in a family of PhDs. You’re dealing with a self-medicating, likely mentally ill, violent person.
In the meantime, your MIL does not have good judgement. She has put your family at risk because she never addressed what appear to be serious mental issues with your BIL. Your daughter can facetime with her if you want to maintain some sort of relationship but that would be a kindness on your part.