I would like advice on how to have a successful visit from my MIL


#1

Hello everyone. My MIL her twin sister and my MIL's two teenage children are coming to stay for 3 weeks as we are in Europe and they are flying from the US.

My MIL and I generally have a good relationship but there have been some difficult times. We have never stayed with each other in the same house overnight for longer than a day up until now. This was just due to circumstances, nothing to do with our relationship. I'm sure it will be a challenge for both of us to be in this situation for 20 days. When I first got married I was very open and loving with my MIL but over time I realized that it was best to not be so open, although I try my best to be caring and loving. I'm sure my MIL finds me challenging too as we are both very different in terms of interests, how we like to spend our time etc. We do share our faith which is a great gift from God. I can't say what will happen exactly during the visit as my MIL can be quite volatile and my last memory of her when I was in the US was of her chasing me around the house screaming and shouting at me. That day she had said something I found hurtful. I usually let it go but this time I called her on it as she was in my home and I didn't enjoy feeling so demoralized in my own environment. My dh and I are easy going and yelling and even fighting is extremely rare for us. Someone raises their voice in anger in our house a few times a year, if that. When there is an incident when my MIL's behavior has upset a family member (such as her children, in-laws etc.) she will not apologize - instead the whole thing will be ignored and eventually everyone pretends it never happened.

My MIL is not a terrible person obviously, she is a lot of fun, has a great laugh, loves her grandchildren and is the mother of two wonderful adults who are both happily married. Her own marriage ended in divorce just before my dh and I were married. My MIL doesn't believe in boundaries and will always try and get into personal business or even physically personal things, such as opening letters not addressed to her. This is definitely an area I will find challenging while she is visiting.

My own weaknesses include not being a good cook and domestically I am just not that interested in domestic tasks. I do them but not with much enthusiasm! I like to visit with friends and socialize which my MIL likes also. I also like to read and think about ideas and current events and my MIL not so much. My MIL loves to shop and be with her family. She is not very independent and will most likely want me to go everywhere with her while she is here. She would not take the bus into town alone for example, although I'm hoping she will feel more comfortable with her sister being here. My dh and I have three young children ages 9, 7 and 4. My MILs children are 14 &15.

Something positive is we have a small guest house so they will have their own private bedrooms and bathroom, although not a kitchen. There will be 9 people altogether during this visit.

I hope I don't sound too uncharitable, I'm sure she finds many things about me irritating and frustrating. If you have any advice and/or good ideas of how you have successfully handled a similar visit I would be very interested to hear them and grateful. My first recourse is prayer, naturally! And always try remind myself this is my husbands mom and my children's Nana.


#2

You don’t say if this is their first visit to where you live or not, but you may want to have some day trips planned to get them out and about. Perhaps you can research places to see and things to do for their visit. It might just keep everyone “out of trouble!” :smiley:

Maybe you could have a talk with your husband about boundaries too so that if your MIL steps over the boundary he will step in and say something so you don’t have to. After all, it is his place to stick up for you as his wife.

Lastly, remember that it is only for 20 days, they won’t be with you forever. As hard as it may seem to you when you think about it now, sometimes, you just have to suck it up and play nicely with the others for a while… :wink:


#3

Hello Kindndess. I also struggle with a MIL who likes to pick at me. Not fun. It does make visits a cause for anxiety.
St. Therese had a practice of dealing with people who were uncharitable towards her. If I remember the story right, there was one sister in her house in particular who just unbearably mean. St. Therese took up the practice of pretending that everytime she had to deal with this woman, she was in the precense of Jesus himself. She gave care and consideration to her just as she would if she were carrying them out for Jesus.


#4

you could do what I do, retreat to your own room and stay there during the visit, in the time you have not created busyness for yourself elsewhere.

Sounds like the big battle brewing is between MIL and her natural children, who grew up with her moods, anger and tantrums. Sounds like you and any other out-laws will be referees, so don’t let yourself become a player. I would play the “I am a lousy cook” card and stay out of the kitchen. You do laundry, make beds or something else as your contribution.


#5

When setting boundaries with your MIL, I think it is important that if she is crossing boundaries with you and making you feel uncomfortable, you should be the one to address, not your husband. But your husband needs to be prepared beforehand to back you up if necessary. I mention this because I have had some similar experiences with my MIL, whom I love dearly. It did not work with her to have my husband say anything to her, because it always ended up sounding like her precious son had to protect his weak wife who couldn’t speak for herself. :rolleyes: Totally not the precedent we wanted to be setting.
So after a few fights and tearful rejections, my MIL and I have worked out a way of interacting that honors our place in each other’s lives, and expresses our affection for each other. In her home, it’s her rules. In my home, it’s my rules. When it comes to the children, her grandbabies, I let her indulge them as long as naps, bedtimes and regular meals are given their proper priorities. If either of us is unsure how an action or choice is going to make the other feel, we talk about it first, just to avoid hurt feelings later.
I had to make a stand a few years back, which happened in her home, and which she did not like, and demonstrate that I was now the wife of her son (had been already for many years) and that she could not try to play him as a swing vote against me, or try to reduce my status so she could still get to play mommy. We were staying for a week in her home, and because of her behavior, my husband and daughter and I actually left the day after the tearful confrontation and did not return to her home for several days, although my husband talked to her on the phone a couple of times. After all the tempers had cooled and the reality set in, we planned a dinner visit, which began with lots of tears and hugs and apologies. Sometimes confrontations are scary, but in the long run, it is the best thing for a relationship or family.
My MIL and I are closer than I am with my own mother. She and I have worked hard to nurture our relationship, and our realization that we are in this together for LIFE has really helped us to draw closer. She is now my Naomi and I am her Ruth, though thank God we both still have our husbands! But my loyalty is with my husband’s family now, because his family and I have really worked to develop those bonds.
So good luck. Pray a whole lot. And stand up for yourself in the most charitable way possible!


#6

Wow! What a wonderful experience to go to Europe with your sister and kids. Absoluetly, plan places for them to go etc. I hope they were planning on touring and not planning on sitting in your house for the next 20 days.

You should ask the kids what they want to see and mil and sister. Then arrange it.

We lived overseas too. My ex-pat friends were wonderful. We all worked together entertaining each other’s family with coffees, teas, luncheons, trips to the beach, and excursions. The more the merrier! And you have those wonderful markets held in the town square. I can’t imagine anyone being bored in Europe. If the kids are boys, tour the Porsche plant if possible.


#7

[quote="mommamaree, post:5, topic:195003"]
When setting boundaries with your MIL, I think it is important that if she is crossing boundaries with you and making you feel uncomfortable, you should be the one to address, not your husband. But your husband needs to be prepared beforehand to back you up if necessary.

[/quote]

Mommamaree, Actually, I think we agree on this. I think I really meant that she should handle it up to a point, but once it gets "bad", expect a little "backup" from her husband. You said it much better than me!


#8

This part of your post stood out to me:

I

can't say what will happen exactly during the visit as my MIL can be quite volatile and my last memory of her when I was in the US was of her chasing me around the house screaming and shouting at me

I have a few volatile people in my life, people who get offended really easy and yell etc. I can't recall anyone screaming at me and chasing me around the house.

Can DH take vacation while they are there, take them site-seeing etc in the morning and then bring them back in the afternoon.

Or can you go away...maybe on retreat? (I'm not sure how possible the last one is)


#9

Thank you so much everyone, I so appreciate your feedback and advice. Well just to add a little excitement to the mix my (soon to be) 4 yr old has been diagnosed with Chickenpox since I posted earlier today. I don't see them postponing their visit (they arrive next Wednesday) but it will mean that until my son is symptom free he won't be going to Kindergarten (German preschool) or be able to go to stores/museums/castles etc. We weren't planning on going too far away until the weekends because my children will be in school for all their visit. They have already had way too much time out because of illness this winter so I can't pull them out of school. Also my husband leaves for work at 7am and is back between 6-7pm Monday-Friday.

My MIL and her sister have been taking excitedly about going to Paris and Rome and of course we would not prevent them going but I'm not sure how realistic this is as my MIL would have to pay for herself and her kids and she is on a very modest fixed income. My DH bought his mom and kids their flights from the US and they are staying with us so at least while at our house their expenses will be low.

MercyMia thank you for your advice via St. Terese, I will definitely use this reflection.

Mommamaree - regarding confrontations my MIL actually seems to thrive on and enjoy emotional drama. If someone is ill she always has this worst prognosis for them for example. She doesn't look after her health "because I'll be dead in five years" and so on. So I try not to feed into it and instead let comments wash over me and not rise to the bait.

Mary Gail - running away, I mean "going on retreat" sounds fabulous, however as a mom with 3 young kids and no family close by that's not an option. My husband will not be able to take more than a day or so vacation either.

With the "running round the house incident" she caught me on the hop as she arrived unexpectedly very early one morning as I was getting the kids ready for school. I think it was about 7:30 am. I was very tired as I was 3 months pregnant at the time and I think that's why I let the comment get to me. I miscarried that baby a few days later.

I think if I can come here to let off steam if necessary that will help me stay calm, knowing I have an outlet. I also told my husband I will be taking at least a morning off every weekend to be by myself. When it occurred to me a few days ago that I will be the hostess all day 5 days a week I realized just knowing I can take a short break will help.


#10

My MIL and I used to be like that. My dh stepped in and told him mom he was putting on warning - behave or he would stand by me. She didn’t he did. They didn’t speak for a year. They missed him. We all get along now.


#11

[quote="Kindness, post:9, topic:195003"]

Mommamaree - regarding confrontations my MIL actually seems to thrive on and enjoy emotional drama. If someone is ill she always has this worst prognosis for them for example. She doesn't look after her health "because I'll be dead in five years" and so on. So I try not to feed into it and instead let comments wash over me and not rise to the bait.

With the "running round the house incident" she caught me on the hop as she arrived unexpectedly very early one morning as I was getting the kids ready for school. I think it was about 7:30 am. I was very tired as I was 3 months pregnant at the time and I think that's why I let the comment get to me. I miscarried that baby a few days later.

[/quote]

Kindness -
I am sorry that my comments weren't more helpful for you. I think you are right that her personality, with her thriving on drama, would prohibit you from using my suggestions. I was hoping to demonstrate there is hope for a good relationship with a MIL; instead, I fear my comments may have been disheartening. If they were, I am sorry. I was also very aggrieved to hear about your miscarriage. Miscarriage is so hard to handle (I've experienced one myself) and to have to go through that so soon after a difficult and emotional encounter with your MIL must have amplified your pain. Has her behavior toward you changed at all since your miscarriage? It seems that human compassion would necessitate her to rethink how she treats you when it becomes so obvious how fragile life is. If she still behaves toward you in the same way, well, I guess that gives you a good idea of what life going forward will be like. I hope that the other posters here are able to give you more relevant and helpful advice. I am saying a prayer for you to have a surprisingly pleasant visit. :gopray:


#12

Mommamaree I definitely did not consider your comments unhelpful! I have attempted different approaches and the best seems to be carry on regardless :slight_smile: . I guess I was just stating the bald facts as I experienced them. I also don’t want to imply that the incident was linked to the miscarriage. I thought people might think the incident was 4 yrs ago because of the age of my youngest when it was about two months before we moved here.

Neither my MIL or FIL acknowledged the miscarriage, which was a bit weird but not unexpected. My FIL’s second wife was very kind and open with me and sympathetic. My MIL and FIL just hardly ever talk about anything directly that is difficult. I miscarried the night before Thanksgiving so I stayed home at Thanksgiving and dh and the kids went to my MIL’s. It was a relief to be honest. Then MIL and I didn’t see each other until Christmas was celebrated at our house and we all carried on as if nothing had happened (no fight, no miscarriage) because that’s how it is.

It’s kind of strange because in some ways she just doesn’t see boundaries and yet when something truly life altering happens and you’d think she’d be all over it there’s silence. My BIL and I compare notes and take tips from each other as how best to handle it and react. Most importantly you have to understand there will never be an apology, everything is buried under beautiful photo ops. Both my MIL and FIL love our kids looking darling and cute and lots of pictures of everyone together smiling so that’s what we provide.

My MIL is not cruel, I just don’t know how to describe her behavior to be honest. I am sorry to hear that you miscarried a baby. Yes, you are right it is very hard.


#13

Kindness -
Your MIL does sound more and more like a bit of an odd bird :wink: but you are demonstrating that you have an amazing capacity to be charitable with people who can be offensive or hurtful. I think you chose your screen name wisely! :smiley:
Anyway, I have had some experience with family members who are too proud to apologize, and yet too weak to acknowledge my suffering (like a miscarriage). You are right that with those ‘birds’, it is best to just let them go on their merry make-believe way, because they are most like ostriches, they stick their heads in the sand to avoid acknowledging reality, whether it is the reality of their own shortcomings or other people’s anguish. :shrug: This is my experience at least…and it has helped me tremendously, in cultivating compassion for them, to realize how fragile they must feel on the inside, that makes them avoid feeling the suffering of others while behaving in such a way to heap insult onto them. Forgive me if it seems that I am pointing fingers at your MIL; I am really speaking about some issues that I still struggle with regarding my own in-laws. That said, I would do most anything for those same people. They are my family now, and I have earned my place in the family, and I will defend my family fiercely (even if it happens to be that I need to shield them from painful truths - I just couldn’t tell my proud FIL about my miscarriage, he acts so proud and strong, but he is really so sensitive, I was afraid it would crush him).
So good luck with your visit. And take care of that poor baby with the chickenpox. I had it 3 times as a child! :eek: At least nursing your sick baby with provide a reasonable explanation of why you cannot be at their beck-and-call. Maybe they will have mercy on you and give you and your son plenty of peace and quiet for recovery.:thumbsup:


#14

I swear you could be writing about me and my MIL relationship…and guess what I TOO LIVED IN GERMANY for 3 years. Loved it!!! want to go back and my girls, they call it home…they grew up there.

I think you will need to set boundaries even if she doesn’t like them. As for your mail, get it very early in the morning or very late at night, dont leave them lying around. Lock your bedroom door if you can (I remember German houses do not have lock on the bedroom doors). Maybe set her up on some sight seeing tours. Do you live near the Rhein? They usually have boat tours and they can be almost all day. Take her to the Schloss’s. Dont know where you are but Im sure there’s sure to be some around you. Plan little trips to downtown. I lived in Wurzburg and we were always downtown. We loved going to the Residence Palace Gardens…spent the entire day there sometimes. There is so much to do over there…look up things do to in your area through the computer. Thats how we planned a lot of our trips. Some were vacations some were day trips. Good luck


#15

Remjsmom, so nice to hear about your experiences! Yes, we are in a beautiful region with lots to do, especially now the sun is shining.

However, My MIL et al were not able to board their plane yesterday to arrive today as it was cancelled due to the volcanic ash over Europe. Now, usually the airlines describe such an event as “an act of God”. This act has meant they will arrive next week and stay two weeks instead of three.

For my penance I am home with three children quarantined due to Chicken Pox. :wink:


#16

Sounds like an act of God.....


#17

Helo fellow thread readers, thank you for bearing with me! I am now going to ramble about a few thoughts that have been on my mind. I think if I off load these kind of things in this safe cyber Catholic world I will maybe be able to keep my "Don't react! Don't react!" promise to myself.

One thing that my MIL has said a few times (again, I ignore it because I feel why is she saying this if she doesn't want a reaction?) is "You have no friends" "Oh its a good idea you're going back to Europe because you never really made friends in America" and similar. This is complete nonsense. I made many friends and a number of extremely close friends (two sets of which were godparents to our youngest children). In fact she frequently tagged along when I was visiting my very wonderful loving American friends because they were so kind and Catholic. In fact my DH went to visit the US alone on business a few months ago and he and MIL visited three of my really good friends with gifts for them.

When we left the US we had a "Goodbye" party at our house. Who were all the 100+ people there I wonder, plus kids, plus nuns??!!! Surely not my friends! She was there but I guess she just thought they were people I'd dragged in off the street. She in fact is the one with no friends. It seems as if she is projecting onto me. Not one friend or family that there was at the party was a friend my husband had made first. There were husbands he'd become good buddies with once I knew their wives, but dh is quite introverted and he is quite happy for me to go out and bring home new friends for him to meet. During our whole marriage (13+ yrs) he has made two friends on his own that I have met.

Ok this has just become a vent. Venting! Venting! In cyber Catholic world!


#18

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.