Dealing With Difficult People


#1

Hi All,

I’ve been dealing with difficult people all my life as I’m sure many of you have. At the moment I’m dealing with a difficult FIL. He seems to be judgemental to me but very subtle about it. I feel so much anger towards him all the time even though I only see him at Christmas for 2 weeks and in the spring for 2 weeks.

At first it was important to me to take what he said seriously and try to explain myself. I felt I had to defend against comments like “Sick people look sick” which was a comment he made to the room in general (he does that alot) when we were alone. I had to get him to repeat it, it was said so casually yet seemed so loaded. He repeated it and I went into once again trying to explain that I am sick with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome and Fibromyalgia and that in my case they are both severe diseases and disabling even though I don’t look sick. It’s very common for ill people to look well that have all sorts of devastating diseases actually.

The thing is, he knew that this is something I’m dealing with and have been for years…not being believed.

So at first I thought it was about me not being able to pull my own weight and him concerned I was faking and taking advantage of his son. (I became disabled on the 3rd day of our honeymoon)

But now I’m realising that my FIL is on my case about everything. He now says he accepts my illness but I think that’s because he’ll look unPC to his family if he doesn’t since they all seem to believe me.

Anyway, what I’m concerned about is his constant barrage of verbal abuse. He says things like “Look at her, she doesn’t even know what she wants!” about me if i take a min. to answer a question. He acts like everything we discuss is a contest with a winner and a loser. It’s odd when he acts like he lost and I’m just defending my right to exist the way I want to. It’s even odder that most of the time he acts like he’s won or somehow I end up feeling like he’s just one-upped me over something that shouldn’t be a contest. Like the time he said that fiber optic lights would look good on my dark blue bedroom ceiling and when I agreed he said,“Listen to her, she’s serious! I was just joking”. It’s like he’s setting me up to be trapped and then I take the bait and he attacks me.

I’m really hurting over this, I want to get along with him but when I try to tell him how he’s making me feel, he claims he’s just joking all the time. Believe me, they’re not jokes. Especially not the racial slurs he says about other people that I’m sure he knows bothers me.

It’s getting to the point that i don’t care what he thinks anymore, even if it’s that I’m a malingerer (I’m 90% bedridden but look and act remarkably well when I can be up and about). I’m very concerned about staying at his house over Christmas. Now that I’ve confronted him and he’s just brushed it off, I may just blow up at his rudeness.

I’ve tried so long to give him the benefit of the doubt but now there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s verbally abusing me. He does it most when others aren’t around. I asked him last spring if he sometimes pushes peoples’ buttons to try to rile them up and he didn’t answer since my husband jumped in to try come to his rescue but my FIL did get a wry little smile on his face which looked like he knew he did try to push buttons to me.

It took alot of writing just to give you, dear reader, a small glimpse of this situation but I would love some input from those of you who would like to respond and who’ve made it this far :slight_smile:

Thank you for listening,
Crystal


#2

Hi Crystal! Welcome to the forums…

I don’t have any advice for you because I am suffering a bad case of fibrofog at the moment. I too have FMS and CFS (or CFIDS or ME…whatever you like to call it, lol).

Just wanted to let you know that you are not alone…

Malia


#3

another thought…you should post this in the “Family Life” forum…I think you would get tons of replies/advice there!

malia


#4

[quote=Feanaro’s Wife]another thought…you should post this in the “Family Life” forum…I think you would get tons of replies/advice there!

malia
[/quote]

I think this is the family life forum, isn’t it? I haven’t had coffee yet so I could be wrong.

Your husband shouldn’t be allowing his dad to treat you like this. Stay away from FIL as much as possible, he sound like a bit of a jerk, and I doubt anything you say or do would change that. He is doing it for attention so ignoring him and staying away from him would be the best medicine…don’t you just love those people feel they have a liscense to say whatever they want but yet are too cowardly to stand by their remarks under the guise that they were joking? Just tell him his sense of humor is awful and he needs to go to clown college, then just ignore him.


#5

Crystal–I had a similar relationship with my father-in-law when I was first married. Granted my FIL was not quite as bad as yours, but I reacted in the same way that you react–hurt and angry and wanting it to be different. Let me say, that for the last 15 years or so, I am actually very fond of my FIL. While I’d like to say it is because I stopped letting him get to me, I suppose it may also be because I am the mother of some of this grandchildren! Our improved relationship are probably the result of both.

I see your religion is “spiritual”. Our Catholic faith and prayer has been a foundation for me to build my world views, values, and personal relationships. So whatever your faith, a prayer life would certainly be a first step, if you don’t have one already.

Another step is to will yourself not to get upset. Try to see the redeeming qualities of your FIL which outweigh this particular characteristic. Recognize that your husband is who he is because of this man. Try to “love” him like Christ asks us to love others. When you accept that he is not going to change, and you learn to forgive him and (accept him) for being the way he is, and you will yourself not to get upset, THEN you might actually be surprised. Often, once you do such things, the difficult person either changes a little OR you have changed just enough that your peace and love and forgiveness allow you to tolerate this difficult person. :blessyou:


#6

[quote=Peace-bwu] Just tell him his sense of humor is awful and he needs to go to clown college, then just ignore him.
[/quote]

I hope Peace-bwu is mostly joking. Being confrontational or insulting is more likely to exacerbate the situation.


#7

You FIL is an insidious manipulator and you and your husband should steer clear of events that include either of you when he is there. I really mean this. The fact that he enjoys “yanking your chain” tells me that he is an extrememly immature jerk and probably suffering from a certain degree of mental illness, for what person in their right mind would treat anyone with a serious, uncontrollable like this? And if I were in your situation I would never want grandchildren around such a man. Who knows what sort of terrible remarks he would make that would damage the soul of an innocent child?

******* What is imperative is that you and your husband are of the same mind about this matter. You should talk to your husband and tell him in no uncertain terms that your father’s behavior is beyond inappropriate, it’s emotionally abusive. As a couple, you and your husband must not stand for this ugly behavior any longer. Your husband should see his father alone, without the benefit of an audience for your father to criticize you in front of when you’re not around. ******

I am also curious as to why you have given your FIL this power over you. But you don’t need to figure that out in order to solve the problem. Your husband should tell your FIL in no uncertain terms that FIL’s attitude toward you has caused this problem. I wonder if your FIL is trying to drive a wedge between you and your husband with the secret hope that maybe his son would leave you.

In short, get away from this TOXIC man. He will continue to poison you and your marriage if he can. Pray, but act as well. Seek the advice of a priest or counselor is necessary.


#8

What does your husband say about the situation?

How do you feel about your MIL or husband’s siblings? Are you close to anyone in his immediate or extended family? (In other words, do they make the trip any more bearable because they’re fun to hang out with or roll their eyes at FIL’s comments, etc.)


#9

[quote=Cupofkindness]You FIL is an insidious manipulator and you and your husband should steer clear of events that include either of you when he is there. I really mean this. The fact that he enjoys “yanking your chain” tells me that he is an extrememly immature jerk and probably suffering from a certain degree of mental illness, for what person in their right mind would treat anyone with a serious, uncontrollable like this?
[/quote]

What I meant to say was that since you had a serious, uncontrollable ILLNESS (That’s the word I left out. Sorry!), why would anyone treat you like that. In any case, I also agree with Princess Abby’s observation. How do others in the family react? Also, would you show your husband this thread?


#10

Others have asked what your husband thinks of all of this. Does he realize how much this bothers you?

I’m guessing that everyone else in the family knows that FIL is a jerk so they’ve just learned to discount much of what he says. They probably are a bit uncomfortable when he says things but they may think everyone can just shrug their shoulders, roll their eyes, and say, “Oh well, that’s just Dad.” They may find it hard to understand why you don’t take that same approach.

It would be a much better world if everyone was kind and compassionate --at least to their own family members-- but that is not the case. And it must be very difficult to listen to what your FIL says and let it just roll off when you are in pain already.

I’m also wondering about the two weeks, twice a year. I’m guessing that means you don’t live close by. (Probably a good thing.) Are you actually staying in the same home? If that is the case perhaps part of the answer is to tell your husband that from now all visits require the visiting party to stay in a hotel. A little physical seperation may help you to have the energy to deal with the times you do have to see him.


#11

[quote=crystal]Hi All,

I’ve been dealing with difficult people all my life as I’m sure many of you have. At the moment I’m dealing with a difficult FIL. He seems to be judgemental to me but very subtle about it. I feel so much anger towards him all the time even though I only see him at Christmas for 2 weeks and in the spring for 2 weeks.

At first it was important to me to take what he said seriously and try to explain myself. I felt I had to defend against comments like “Sick people look sick” which was a comment he made to the room in general (he does that alot) when we were alone. I had to get him to repeat it, it was said so casually yet seemed so loaded. He repeated it and I went into once again trying to explain that I am sick with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome and Fibromyalgia and that in my case they are both severe diseases and disabling even though I don’t look sick. It’s very common for ill people to look well that have all sorts of devastating diseases actually.

The thing is, he knew that this is something I’m dealing with and have been for years…not being believed.

(I became disabled on the 3rd day of our honeymoon)

But now I’m realising that my FIL is on my case about everything. He now says he accepts my illness but I think that’s because he’ll look unPC to his family if he doesn’t since they all seem to believe me.

Anyway, what I’m concerned about is his constant barrage of verbal abuse. He says things like “Look at her, she doesn’t even know what she wants!” about me if i take a min. to answer a question. He acts like everything we discuss is a contest with a winner and a loser. It’s odd when he acts like he lost and I’m just defending my right to exist the way I want to. It’s even odder that most of the time he acts like he’s won or somehow I end up feeling like he’s just one-upped me over something that shouldn’t be a contest. Like the time he said that fiber optic lights would look good on my dark blue bedroom ceiling and when I agreed he said,“Listen to her, she’s serious! I was just joking”. It’s like he’s setting me up to be trapped and then I take the bait and he attacks me.

I’m really hurting over this, I want to get along with him but when I try to tell him how he’s making me feel, he claims he’s just joking all the time. Believe me, they’re not jokes. Especially not the racial slurs he says about other people that I’m sure he knows bothers me.

It’s getting to the point that i don’t care what he thinks anymore, even if it’s that I’m a malingerer (I’m 90% bedridden but look and act remarkably well when I can be up and about). I’m very concerned about staying at his house over Christmas. Now that I’ve confronted him and he’s just brushed it off, I may just blow up at his rudeness.

I’ve tried so long to give him the benefit of the doubt but now there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s verbally abusing me. He does it most when others aren’t around. I asked him last spring if he sometimes pushes peoples’ buttons to try to rile them up and he didn’t answer since my husband jumped in to try come to his rescue but my FIL did get a wry little smile on his face which looked like he knew he did try to push buttons to me.

It took alot of writing just to give you, dear reader, a small glimpse of this situation but I would love some input from those of you who would like to respond and who’ve made it this far :slight_smile:

Thank you for listening,
Crystal
[/quote]

I was diagnosed with CFIDS and FMS many years ago and got the same reaction from a lot of people, including my own father. I finally had to let go of the idea that it is my job to educate them. I had to let go of the idea that it is my job to convince them of anything. The way I did that, Crystal, was that I did what my 12 Step group calls a 4th and 5th step around my anger and resentment on the issue of my health.
I realized that what was being affected when these remarks were being made was my pride, my ambitions, my self-esteem and my relationships. I realized, in Catholic terms, that I was committing the sin of idolotry in that I was making their opinion of me more important than the opinion Jesus has of me. And I was not offering up my suffering - the suffering of my illness and the suffering caused by being misunderstood by those in my family - and united that suffering with His. Once I understood how their opinions were affecting me I was able to let go of the resentments and start to regard them in a different light. I was able to start being of service to them, to let their remarks fall off of me and to regard them as spiritually ill. I stopped needing to justify myself or explain anything. It drove my Dad NUTS, this new attitude of mine - and that, of course, was an added bonus (:tsktsk: ).

Anyway, sweetie, try and remember that ignorance only hurts the ignorant. You have nothing to prove. Hang in there, keep FIL in your prayers and remember you are in all of our’s.


#12

[quote=LSK]Once I understood how their opinions were affecting me I was able to let go of the resentments and start to regard them in a different light. I was able to start being of service to them, to let their remarks fall off of me and to regard them as spiritually ill. I stopped needing to justify myself or explain anything. It drove my Dad NUTS, this new attitude of mine - and that, of course, was an added bonus (:tsktsk: ).
[/quote]

Yes. I think that if he doesn’t get your goat, it will take the wind out of his sails. He is a Big Red Button Pusher and he has found someone with a big red button to push. Make it a joke, feel sorry for him, start treating him as an affectionate old curmudgeon…whatever it takes to keep it from being about you. Ignore what he says about you, make it about him, and do not let any drama be inserted into the equation. “Nothing to see here… move along, move along.” In my case, I had a brother who would constantly pick at me. Then one day, whenever he started telling me how stupid I was, for instance, I replied with a mock sympathy, “Oh, yes, I’m so stupid. I don’t know how you can stand to be around me.” He’d been at it all of our lives, and before you know it, it was over. His power over me was gone, and he didn’t need the reminder.

It does not help, I know, that you have an illness that is hard to diagnose and that doesn’t have obvious symptoms to prove him wrong. No matter. When someone makes inappropriate personal comments about you, it is not about you. Whether they are right or not, it isn’t for them to go there. So box him out gently, but box him out. Your illness is a matter for discussion with your doctor. With the exception of your husband, with whom you have one life, everyone else should be gently but firmly denied access.

A good way to do this, by the way, is to act dumb. “Sick people look sick” he says. Your reply? “Why, yes, generally speaking, yes they do.” Do not let on that you have any idea what he may be getting at. Then go back to reading. When he gets more specific, you can reply, “Hmmm. Well, that’s one way to look at it”… as if his opinion has nothing to do with you. Because it doesn’t. Then go on to something else.


#13

I also have CFS and environmental illnesses including MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity).

I have dealt with family members and friends who don’t understand, who think it’s all in my head, etc. I have joked that I often wish it was all in my head so I could tell myself to stop it and then I could feel better!

I have learned that those who really love me and care for me will support me no matter what; those who don’t, there’s nothing I can do about it and I’m not going to change them, but I can change how I react to them.

I try to stay calm and whisper a prayer for them, then either ignore their rude comment or walk away. Another response that my Dad often used if someone was rude or asked an inappropriate question, is to turn the table on them and respond **“Now why would you say something like that,” or “Why would you ask me something like that?” ** Usually stops them cold, and hopefully gets them thinking.


#14

[quote=Peace-bwu]I think this is the family life forum, isn’t it? I haven’t had coffee yet so I could be wrong.

[/quote]

It is NOW:) …it was originally in the Water Cooler…it must have been moved.

malia


#15

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for so many responses so soon!
What support! There are so many good ideas that I will be re-reading these
posts many times to take it all in.

I liked the clown school suggestion, Peace, that’s a good one. I may
use it. I know another poster thinks that may inflame him more
and it might, but I’m in the learning stages with this so it’s worth a try.
Plus, there really are clown schools for adults, so it’s a good suggestion for him.

<<Try to “love” him like Christ asks us to love others>>

Exactly, La Chiara, this is what I try to do with everyone.
It may be that this is how they get control over me as another
poster suggested. I am a firm believer of the teachings of
Christ btw. I will continue to love him but I have to deal with
him differently because his abuse is getting to me. I didn’t realize it
was abuse at all for the first 4 years I’ve known him.
(I’ve been married for 5 years) It’s strange but when he says these
things to me I don’t feel upset at the time at all.
It’s weeks later that it will keep replaying in
my mind and I will feel rage and anger towards him. I told my
father about it and he suggested I
call a Catholic Priest. So I called the first one listed
in the phone book and he called back and listened and said
"No wonder you’re so angry, he’s abusing you."
This really made me think. I just recently started
reading books and web pages about verbal abuse. And
boy, is my FIL represented there!

I still don’t plan on acting upset when he says stuff but
now I know it’s abuse! I also know that he’s in complete
denial about it with his “Just joking-ha ha”.

From what I’ve read ignoring him won’t work
because then he’ll know he’s getting to me. But maybe things
will be better because at least now I won’t be
explaining and defending myself constantly.

My in-law family dynamics are telling too. I wasn’t
able to make sense of them before but now I can. Like at dinner my
FIL will say something nonabusive about his day or
whatever but noone except my husband and me answer him.
My MIL either stays quiet or says “MmmHMMMmmm” to
whatever he says. She pretty much says this all day long
and he accepts it!
My BIL says one word at most if
questioned directly. Everyone in the family
says my BIL never talks and they all marvel that he
actually talks to me! They’ve brought this up every year
we’ve visited.
My SIL will glare at my FIL
when he’s rude and then she stomps off and stays
in a grumpy mood for the rest of the day. I always wondered
why she was grumpy so often because with me alone she’s
vivacious and happy and interesting but now that my FIL retired
last year I don’t see that side of her much. When I try to talk to my
hubby about his dad he gets defensive and says I can’t take a joke.

It’s like they’re all under a spell and it now also makes sense
to me that I feel so FREE when I would come home
from visiting. For a long time I thought it was because they
live in the snow and I just had cabin fever. Now I see
how oppressive the atmosphere is there. However, I get along
really well with all of them, including my FIL. I only just
approached him about this at our place last spring. I really
look forward to visiting my in-laws because I’m bed-ridden so much
and they take really good care of me. Family is all I have left
because of my disability.

I’m going to stop here for this post but still want to
take in the rest of what everyone else has written.

Thanks again for your kindness and support everyone :slight_smile:

Crystal


#16

Hi Again,

I thought I’d address some more posters.
Cupof Kindness I appreciate your advice. I can’t have
children due to my disability so at least that’s not an issue.
For now my husband and I have agreed to disagree on the
issue of my FIL and he assures me he would never leave.

I want to try to keep what’s happening just between me and
my FIL because the whole family, hubby included, aren’t
able to face up to how he is. Good question about showing
hubby this thread. I think for now I won’t because he
isn’t able to see this clearly and it just causes probs
between us. I think the whole family is happily going
along with this “spell” over them and they don’t want to
be woken up. They’ve all figured out their ways of dealing with
him and wonder why I can’t. My hubby and SIL’s husband play
video games the whole time we’re there for instance.

MY SIL did tell me that her hubby feels attacked by her
dad too, that he’s not working hard enough around their house.
Actually, my FIL complains that ALL of his kids are lazy
and when I asked him if he was joking, he said “NO”. This
makes me mad too, as they are some of the hardest working
people I know.

SMHW, my hubby and I have had our worst fights over this issue.
Amazingly, my hubby is extremely supportive of me in every other way.
He takes after his angelic mother:)
We live across the country from each other, thankfully!
And how sad that I say that. my anger is also about not being
able to totally want them around like I did when I first met
them. Due to finances and because I need so much care,
we all stay in the same house, out there at Christmas, at our
house in spring. We all have our own bedrooms though.

I don’t want to have to act out of character around this man.
I’ve read that quick, short, nip it in the bud comments
might work and that’s what I plan on trying with no emotion at all if
possible. Things like, “Cut it out.” in monotone, or “I don’t want to hear that” which I got form Patricia Evans, an author of books about verbal abuse.

Leslie, sorry to hear you’re in the CFIDS/FMS Club. I am
in admiration of the way you’ve handled your adversity and I
strive to get there. It sounds like you’re able to lose
your ego like Buddhists say we have to do to stop suffering.
That new attitude you speak of is what I want to cultivate.
My anger towards my FIL makes me feel like I’m sinning and
your post helps me clarify why. I’m curious to know if
your dad got off your case.

BLB, I agree with no drama. That’s for sure.

DIDI, sorry to hear you’re struggling with CFIDS and MCS.
I think MCS must be extremely difficult to deal with. And the
public is even less educated about it which makes it harder to
deal with.
I’m going to try to remember <<“Now why would you say something like that,”>>
That just might work. It’s worth a try. I have to remember
to read all this again before we fly out there.

It’s difficult feeling this much pain and anger and I sure appreciate
being able to get feedback from all of you. Thank you :o

Love and Light,
Kris


#17

Kris:

You sound like a very strong woman. And God is making you even stronger. And the fact that you and your husband have agreed to disagree shows the strength of your marriage.

Remember the movie Pollyanna? How Pollyanna changes Mrs. Snow (who was so critical and cynical)? Perhaps that’s your role in life. To kill your FILs meanness with kindness. And I suppose if God can help you see why your FIL was worth dying on the cross for, perhaps understanding that divine love for FIL can help transform how you feel about him.

This may sound like gibberish, but it seems like you are a ray of hope in your husband’s family.

I love the “Now why would you say something like that?” approach. It volleys the ball right back into their side of the court, without attacking or judging. And if the planets line up, maybe FIL will tell you why.

God bless you. And always post if things get you down.

~Cupofkindness


#18

crystal–You seem to see the situation in your husband’s family quite clearly and you seem to be realistic about not being able to change it–at least not in the near-term.

I experienced a similar set of in-law dynamics, struggled mightily with it, and learned not to fight it–but rather to “go with the flow” and to quietly step away rather than engage. Like you, I was frustrated by what I viewed as unhealthy dynamics. But now I can see that to some degree my initial reaction was more because my husband’s family was different than my “family of origin”. Of course, my family (like all families) had their particular behavioral quirks but I was used to those and accepted them. My husband was used to his family’s quirks and accepted them.

I suspect something similar is going on in your husband’s family–good or bad, the family dynamics are what his family is accustomed to. They will all probably fight and subvert any attempts to change the dynamics–especially from an outsider or an in-law–because attempts to change them and their interactions imply something is “wrong” with them. Things can change over time, but change in such circumstances tends to be gradual.

I would encourage you to adapt an attitude of loving acceptance towards your FIL. If you see him as fundamentally a kind, loving, but imperfect (and sometimes misguided) person, then you will see his positive traits first and be able to tolerate, with love, his less than perfect traits. All of us want to be accepted for who we are. To some degree, this is why you are reacting to him–because he is rejecting you for who you are–ill and unable to have his grandchildren and bedridden and not perfect. Hard as it is, the only way to break this cycle is for someone (and that would be you!:wink: ) to respond in love and charity.


#19

It could be that your FIL sees something in you, that he wished he had. I believe the problem is with your FIL not you.


#20

Hi All,

I appreciate your advice so much. I think this site is
full of intelligent, understanding people.

Sirach, you may be right and thanks for seeing my strength,
CupofKindness. And yes, I’ve got alot of Polyanna in me. However,
I think it’s unlikely that I’ll help someone change; still hold
out hope though.

Chiara, I’m hoping I can learn to stand up for
myself and still respond to him with love and charity. :gopray:
The anger I feel is very toxic and I can’t exercise
or go out to get rid of it.

I forgot to mention that out of everyone in their family,
my FIL and I have the most conversations and we have alot
of common interests. That’s also why I’m so angry with him.
I enjoy socializing and don’t get a chance to very often but
I don’t feel comfortable talking to him now that I perceive
his verbal abuse. It seems that he isn’t interested in
discussing things we agree on, he keeps changing topics until he
finds where we disagree. I was o.k. with that before because I
assumed he liked to debate like I do. (One of the things I miss
about college.) But I didn’t feel good later after debating
with him. I didn’t know why but now that I’ve read more about
verbal abuse I’ve learned about Countering. Countering is when
verbal abusers argue against your thoughts, perceptions,
or experiences of life itself. They feel that they have to win at all
costs and they look at every interaction as having a winner and a loser.

My FIL often refuses to believe what I say. He discounts my
experiences and won’t let up but then acts uninterested
if say, my husband comes along and can verify what I’m saying.
And the weird thing is, it’s my FIL who almost always starts
the convo in the first place. I’m usually involved in reading
or projects of some kind and he constantly interrupts me.

Almost every interaction with this man infuriorates me. Not
at the time so much, but later. As if there’s a part of me that’s
trying to get my attention and say,“This is not o.k. and
Look how you’re being treated”. And it’s going to replay the interaction in my mind continually until I take some action.

Wow, Getting input from y’all is quite therapeutic. You’re
all like angels to me. :angel1: Now I feel like I have support. Before I felt like I was going crazy.

Crystal


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