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Can't stand father-in-law anymore

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  • #857603 Reply

    I have known my father-in-law for 12 years, and he has always made me uncomfortable. In a nutshell, he is extremely unpredictable; he has demonstrated explosive behavior in the past with situations that did not warrant that level of anger (I don’t think there ever is, though). Additionally, he consistently makes inappropriate comments, sexual jokes, and can be very rude. He insults my mother in law and often speaks about people behind their backs. His behavior has made me dislike him more and more each year, and my husband and I even attempted an ultimatum one fateful Thanksgiving that resulted in us leaving for home two days early. We tried to convince him to get help and go to therapy but he refuses.

    Small attempts have been made to point out his behavior, especially since I have been in the picture, but it does not result in long-term changes. Though she is sweet and very loving, my mother-in-law is the kind of person who pretends everything is okay. After his most recent stunt, she even defended him, saying “He has gotten better over the years.” From my perspective, he hasn’t. Though, I have been told stories about how he used to be when my husband was a kid, and he was rather terrible then (locking him in the garage as a punishment, leaving the house in anger, flicking rubber bands at him).

    Luckily, my husband recognizes that this is not okay, but also falls into the mindset of thinking, “It’s not okay, but he just can’t control his behavior. He’s a good guy but he just struggles.” This, for me, is not a valid excuse, especially when my father-in-law refuses to get help (as a side note, I am aware that he had a TERRIBLE father growing up and it is most likely a contributing factor). Apparently, my father-in-law and mother-in-law stopped visiting my father-in-laws family when my husband was little, because they were so terrible. My mother-in-law has even expressed that her worst fear is that we will do the same when we have kids. Her fear is not unwarranted; I have told her I don’t want my kids around him but she brushes it off.

    The last important point in this story is I am a trauma survivor; I have experienced a variety of traumas, mostly at the hands of my father and the men my mother dated. My home-life was extremely volatile, and as a result I struggle with anxiety and PTSD. I really, really struggle being around unpredictable men. I feel sick, scared, and begin to fear for my safety, even if there is no physical danger. I’ve expressed this to my husband but I don’t think he grasps the degree to which I suffer when I am around his father.

    Well, I am now trying to put my foot down. Usually, we go to my in-laws for Thanksgiving (they live about 7 hours away) but I really don’t want to go this year. We just spent this last weekend with his parents (they visited us), and in the matter of 2 days, his father threw a tantrum, insulted my mother in law, made inappropriate sexual jokes, spoke about a neighbor’s private parts, made fun of his niece’s husband, and embarrassed me at a restaurant. It feels as this was the last straw and I don’t want to subject myself to it anymore. I feel like by continuing this relationship as we are, I am being compliant with his behavior and I am a complete anxiety ball. This isn’t your usual unfiltered father-in-law, but someone who I’m fairly certain needs mental health intervention. I told my husband today that I’m not going to their house for Thanksgiving, and that I think there is still time to visit my family (who is only 4 hours away) and my husband is extremely distraught. He keeps saying that he will talk to his mom…but we’ve been talking to his mom for 12 years about it. Please tell me I’m not crazy…I want to nip this in the bud now so that I don’t have to tolerate it anymore and that my future children won’t have to either…

    #857615 Reply

    You’re right and your husband needs to step up to the plate.

    #857635 Reply
    avatarPart-time Lurker

    At some point you simply have to say “enough, I’m done.” and then be done. Explain to your husband that you can’t and won’t do this anymore and then visit your family for the holidays. Whatever he decides to do is on him, but you don’t have to be a part of it and you don’t need to feel guilty about it either.

    #857636 Reply

    Have you suggested couples counseling to your husband? It sounds like since this has been going on for 12 years he figured you would always just “go along to get along” and now that you’re trying to put your foot down he’s panicking. If he is open to it, some sessions with a counselor might help him see how unacceptable his dad’s behavior is and why boundaries are needed. Especially when you have kids, he’ll be under a lot of pressure from his folks.

    #857644 Reply

    You aren’t crazy. Enough is enough. Tell your husband that if he wants to visit, he is on his own, you’ll be off visiting your own relatives (or whatever it is you want to do on the day).

    Maybe, just maybe, you bailing on the visit will give your husband an incentive to put his foot down and refuse to put up with his father’s behaviour any more.

    The thing with continuing to do duty visits to people like your inlaws is, they think that the behaviour “can’t really be that bad” precisely BECAUSE you keep visiting. If you stop, your MIL will have to confront the fact that yes, it really is “that bad”.

    #857647 Reply

    Yeah, I’ve seen this play out in my extended family. Husband is a bad-tempered jerk, wife twists herself into knots justifying and excusing his behavior and trying to keep the peace and mend the disputes, and the children and grandchildren end up living on the opposite coast.

    Couples counseling, for sure. Your husband may well agree that his father is an idiot, but he probably feels some sense of protectiveness towards his mother. I know I’d be worried about her if I were him. Her husband is emotionally abusing her, and if he’s that unstable, he may harm her physically. Maybe he already has. She won’t tell you if he does. The worry would eat me alive if they were my parents.

    And yes, you are entirely justified in keeping any future kids away from your father-in-law. For your own mental health, I’d recommend spending your holidays with your own family. Let him do holidays with his parents, if he wants to.

    #857754 Reply

    Explain your husband you won’t be going anymore to his parents house, and you won’t be hosting visits in your house again. If they visit, they stay in a hotel or something, but they are draining your mental health and you are not willing to tolerate bullshit again.

    I won’t consider bringing children to this world unless you find common ground about in laws with your husband. You need to have an agreement about the issue: are your in laws going to babysit them? Are you willing to have them over then to see the child? I tell you this because in the long run it would become a really, really dealbreaker. Having children makes uneasy to unentangle from those family dynamics.

    #857811 Reply

    LW i think there are a couple long term solutions here:

    1) Visit them for a holiday but stay in a hotel and keep your visit with them to a day. If you know other people in their area you could even stay an extra day and visit them while your husband gets one on one time with his parents.

    2) You divy up holidays and you go to your family and he goes to his. This works until you have children in which case i’d suggest only supervised visits with his parents.

    Either way, couples counseling so that you both feel heard and are happy with whatever compromise happens.

    #857813 Reply

    I think you’re going to have to really discuss this with your husband and he needs to be on the same page. Look up things like, how to make boundaries with toxic family, etc. Think of where the line is for you. Have a rough idea of what the boundaries will be for you. He should probably be the one to enforce the boundaries.

    Stay at a hotel if you’re visiting. If they are visiting you, have them stay somewhere else. Limit your time with them. Let your husband spend time with them. You don’t have to deal with his dad.

    Maybe your boundaries will be something like, if he talks about inappropriate things, people’s body, sex jokes etc- you leave. Your husband will leave with you after taking time to explain that you both are not going to spend time with him when he speaks like that. And then follow through and leave for the night or whatever. Expect pushback. Expect guilt from your MIL and FIL. Stick to the plan.

    You might feel like it takes forever, but my bet would be he suddenly manages to start behaving.

    #858009 Reply

    My husband’s mother was terrible. I originally went with him for visits and was served ham every time, and his mother never noticed I ate it. One Easter his mother told my husband that she was serving corned beef. He told her that I did not eat it. She said, ” She doesn’t need to come.” I took her advice. From than on I only saw her on Christmas. I always went to my family’s affairs and my husband went to see his family. By restricting my contact it was very easy to spend one afternoon a year with her.

    #858027 Reply

    Yeah – back ALL THE WAY off.
    If you’ve been talking to your husband about this for 12 years its time for you to do what you know that you both should do. In other words, stop supporting your husband in maintaining the relationship with them. That doesn’t mean, tear it down, it just means “Oh yeah, YOU go visit honey, I’m going to do X.” He is very likely to change the dynamic after that because guess what you’re making it so much easier and more comfortable for HIM to be around them because you come too and he can share the misery.
    Long story examples, don’t read if you have time constraints!:
    My husbands family isn’t absolutely terrible but they’re, kinda ugh.
    After years of being very rah rah, let me cook all the meals when they come for a week or two week stay, and let me do this and that and act like a social director, yadda yadda I started realizing that, you know what? I don’t feel like it. I actually have many, many other things to do than make people comfortable who act like – either just blah or are just mildly rude.
    After I stopped being the catalyst for stuff and was just like – Oh yeah, well let me know the plan once you make it – drop off was HUGE. Because guess what, he didn’t necessarily feel like spending that much time or doing that much for these people either! And then THEY weren’t getting all kinds of service/fun/conversation/entertainment from me so they seemed bored LOL.
    On his mothers last visit – and she’s fine, just WHATEVER, they’re low grade yuck, but still a little yuck! – I made a variety of meals in advance (I’m a pretty major cook) that they/we could take out and heat up, I left set things up for her as I would any guest, etc, etc. but I didn’t spend my time. I was like great, your moms here, have fun! I spent time with friends going to museums, happy hour, just hanging out in the late summer evenings in NYC. Had a great time! Hope they did too.

    #858056 Reply

    Stay home and make a new tradition. I’m sure there is market near that will sell you the whole turkey dinner. If restuarant is your choice make reservations early. There will be lots of people there avoiding their in-laws.

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