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Horrible MIL Guilt trips

Let me just start by saying that I love my MIL. She has been absolutely wonderful to me throughout our entire relationship, was wonderful at the wedding, cares so much about us, etc. She's a wonderful person.

However,

DH and I live overseas. We have off and on for the past 5 years, now, and are overseas now. In the Spring, we are making a permanent move to Europe.

DH's parents (divorced) have a very hard time with this. For the past five years they have both cried to us over the phone, begged DH to move back "home", etc. It's really hard on DH and I, but what can we do? What do they expect us to do? Go home, leave our careers, our homes overseas just to go and get menial jobs in DH's hometown so we can be close to them? We recently spent a year living at home, and barely saw either of them. They never really had time for us, aren't the types to have sunday dinners or things like that, etc... they rarely called, etc.

But the moment we move back overseas, it all starts again. We called MIL on Christmas (at 2 am our time ) and as soon as she heard our voices she completely broke down and begged us to come home.

It's driving me up the wall... every time we tell her anything, she turns it into a joke(but not really ) about it being another reason we should be at home. So and so is getting married - well, if you lived at home you would save money on having to fly over here for the wedding... and if you lived here you could help so and so prepare for the wedding, etc. There's a global recession - perfect reason to move home! Jobs are always more stable at home, you know. etc.

My family is used to me being all over the place - and they couldn't care less about me living overseas. They're happy for us and are proud of us ( even though they are convinced our lives are something right out of an Indiana Jones movie.... ) but DH's family is always on us about moving home. Wanting to know when we're going to finish our little "adventures" and move home to make babies.

Do they not realize how difficult it is for us to live so far away from our family, friends, culture, language.... without them making it even harder every time we speak with them??

Any idea how to get them to cut it out??

image

Chronically hilarious - you'll split your stitches!
I wrote a book! Bucket list CHECK!

Re: Horrible MIL Guilt trips

  • Cripes! I can't seem to post anything on here without it turning into a novel. Sorry about that!
    image

    Chronically hilarious - you'll split your stitches!
    I wrote a book! Bucket list CHECK!
  • here's the thing:

    You can't change anyone's feelings about a situation but your own. Embrace that thought.

    If she makes it really difficult, have a one time heart-to-heart with her and explain that you appreciate that she misses you but that it is as inappropriate for her to dictate how you live your life as it would be for you to suggest she and her ex get back together for your convenience.

    Tell her the topic is not open for discussion and that you will not be revisiting it with her. When she next brings it up, end the conversation. Tell her you need to get off the phone because the pizza delivery guy is at the door if you must. Or come right out and tell her "MIL, we are never going to agree on this topic, so I'm not going to discuss it with you." I have done this with my pig-headed father and it works like a charm.

  • Auntie has it exactly right.

    And remember - no one can make you feel guilty without your permission. I know, easier said than done.

    Hope is not a strategy.
  • She does it because it works. She cries, boohoos, what ever, and the two of you fall over yourselves telling her how much you love her, how much you care, how you would if you could, blah blah blah.  So she gets her fix each and every time.  You let her do this; you can fix it; it is important that you and dh be on the exact same page, however.

    "Mom, we're not going to talk to you anymore about where we live. We've made our choices, and we are happy with the life we've chosen, and if you cannot speak to us without sobbing into the phone we'll hang up and you can call us back when you can speak to us without berating us for our choices. "  And then, when she does it again, get off the phone. "Ok mom; call back when you can speak to us respectfully".  CLICK.

    You let her do this. You can fix it so she stops; you just have to require that she does, and right now you don't.

    SO SINGS MY SOUL *WHAM!* MY SAVIOR GOD TO THEE *WHAM!* HOW GREAT THOU ART *WHAM!* HOW GREAT THOU ART *WHAM!*
  • Well, we sure do try. We try as hard as we can not to play into it. It's not like we're ever going to give in and move home because of it.

    I understand why she does it. However, it's not normal crying. She doesn't yell, or get upset, or berate us with anything...

    You know how kids get themselves so worked up when they're crying that each word comes between shuddering gasps and they keep heaving until they make themselves throw up? It's seriously like that.

    Why (sob) can't (shuddering sob ) you ( heaving sob ) just (wretching sound) come (gasping sob) hooooooooome (disolves into a wail ). It's freaking heartbreaking, and it tears DH apart each and every time. ?When she does this, we tend to reply with something like telling her "Oh, we miss you very much too, and we plan on coming home for a visit in the Spring. We really look forward to seeing you! You know you are always welcome to come and visit us. Did DH tell you about that new project at work? ( in an attempt to change the subject ). The subject stays changed for a little while until we have to get going and then it all starts again.

    She has lots of friends, DH's older brother still lives at home with her so she doesn't live by herself...

    I don't know. We don't want to resort to being rude to her at all... but does anyone have any insight as to why she might be handling things this way? I highly doubt that she believes that this type of thing would ever get us to move back "home". Is this like, separation anxiety or something? I just really don't get it... and it's hard not to get annoyed by it. I hate that I let myself get annoyed by it, and if I ever snap at her I feel horrible about it afterward...

    OMG, the night we left ( the most recent time ) for the airport, MIL broke down like her son was going off to war or something. It was horrible. I burst out laughing, which just made things so, so much worse ( I have a horrid habit of laughing when I'm uncomfortable. Doesn't always help situations much ) I just didn't know how to handle it... I'd never seen anything like it before.?

    image

    Chronically hilarious - you'll split your stitches!
    I wrote a book! Bucket list CHECK!
  • We don't want to resort to being rude to her at all...

    Standing up for yourselves and refusing to take part in her little mind-games isn't rude. And if you aren't willing to do that, you have no room to complain because you are willing participants.

    but does anyone have any insight as to why she might be handling things this way?

    BECAUSE IT WORKS!

    I highly doubt that she believes that this type of thing would ever get us to move back "home".

    No, but she knows that her actions ruin her son's day. She knows that her actions have a huge effect on her son's life and, by extension, your life. Look at all the power she has! Look at all the power both of you are giving her in your lives!

    I just didn't know how to handle it

    You handle it by refusing to play along anymore. It's really that simple.

    fiizzlee = vag ** fiizzle = peen ** Babies shouldn't be born wit thangs ** **They're called first luddz fo' a reason -- mo' is supposed ta come after. Yo Ass don't git a medal fo' marryin yo' prom date. Unless yo ass is imoan. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. Then yo ass git a all-expenses paid cruise ta tha Mediterranean n' yo ass git ta hook up Jared Padalecki on tha flight over while bustin yo' jammies. But still no medal.
  • Harsh, but true. Thanks ladies.
    image

    Chronically hilarious - you'll split your stitches!
    I wrote a book! Bucket list CHECK!
  • I can really see why it is she's divorced, can't you?

    DON'T RESPOND to the tears, sobs, clinging whines, etc. Say, instead, we'll call back when you can keep a lid on this mom;  or you're too upset to talk so we'll talk later mom; or if you can't stop this sobbing we'll just stop calling mom.

    What she's doing works for her. Make it not work for her, and you'll make some progress.

    SO SINGS MY SOUL *WHAM!* MY SAVIOR GOD TO THEE *WHAM!* HOW GREAT THOU ART *WHAM!* HOW GREAT THOU ART *WHAM!*
  • To the OP:

    How is your MIL's mental health, in general? 

    I ask because my MIL used to have serious problems with my DH living so far away (not overseas, but several states away), and had these sorts of tear-filled conversations and begged him to come home frequently.  However, she was also severely clinically depressed at the time... When her depression improved, so did her distress at DH being so far away.  Now she mentions it just once every few months in a "we sure miss you and wish we could see you more often" kind of way.

    The issue, for my MIL, wasn't really that her son was so far away -- it was really that she was suffering from depression and longed for a return to the "good old days" when she was happy, which happened to be when DH lived in the same town.

     

  • I'd just tell her when she starts up: "Sorry you are upset. Call us back when you are more composed." Click.
    image
  • The next time you call, when she starts crying, I think I would say something like, "I realize that calling you makes you even more upset. Why don't you call us when you think you won't be crying when you talk to us?"
    DD 2.9.10 DS born sleeping 12.2.12
  • It sounds like this is less about wanting her son home and more about the attention her tantrums bring. ?Sometimes when people throw a fit, it's because they really want the thing they're crying about; and sometimes, they're throwing a fit because they want to throw a fit, since every time they do the world stops and everyone pays them lots of attention and consoles them and tells them how loved they are. ?

    Where I work (with small children), throwing fits of both kinds is a frequent occurrence. ? (I say that not to compare your MIL to a small child, just to tell you how I found out how to handle things like this). ?When I did my student teaching, I did try to cajole kids out of fits, reassuring them, trying to convince them how fun it would be to stop crying and join the class. ?It didn't work. ?What it really did was made me feel better- made me feel like a good, understanding soul who really "got" children. It feels good to try and comfort someone who's crying, and it doesn't feel good to walk away or set firm limits with someone who's sobbing pitifully. ?When my supervisor finally sat me down and said- "You know, throwing a fit and crying IS misbehavior- it's disruptive, and it's obnoxious." ?I really needed to hear that- that it wasn't any more okay for someone to scream and cry and whine because they missed someone or felt left out than it was for someone to scream and cry because they didn't want to do math. ?Just because the stated reason behind it is sympathetic doesn't mean the behavior is acceptable. ?

    So that's when I learned to walk away and ignore fits, when I understood that. ?She knows that if she cries you'll feel bad, and that you'll even feel bad about your annoyance about her crying. ?My students know it, and a grown woman definitely knows it. ?Simply say that you can't talk when she's sobbing and ask her to call you back when she has herself under control, and hang up. When she does call back, don't mention the crying- say you're happy to hear from her, ask about her job, ask about BIL, tell her about the new little pub you found. ?She will learn that it's much more fun and interesting to talk to you with composure than it is to cry. ? The key is to be willing to wait her out- you need to be able to hang up when you really did want to talk to her, or to leave to get on the plane with her sobbing when you'd much rather have gotten in a goodbye before you flew across the ocean. ?Remind yourself that it's her choice too- she can control how and when she expresses her feelings. ?Require it, and she will. ?

  • image OUKatie:
    I'd just tell her when she starts up: "Sorry you are upset. Call us back when you are more composed." Click.

     ditto.  you've tried other ways to get this to stop, they havent worked.  logic isnt cutting the mustard, so being treated like a misbehaving child is what she needs.  dont make excuses, tell her exactly why you are getting off the phone and be firm every single time.  you love her, but this is an unacceptable way to live.  YH, of course, has to be on board with the plan. 

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  • image Tofumonkey:

    What do they expect us to do? Go home, leave our careers, our homes overseas just to go and get menial jobs in DH's hometown so we can be close to them?  

    Short Answer:  YES.

    It's what they chose, right?

    As for advice ... it may be time to tell them that these pleas to relocate back to the US are hurtful and stressful.  They are, right?  So tell them.  And keep telling them how it makes you feel every time she does it. Stop assuming she knows that she's being ridiculous and unsupportive.  She obviously doesn't know.  So tell her.  And make it about your feelings, not her bad advice about getting dead-end jobs in a dumpy town.  Make it about how it makes you feel to hear this continuous stream of crap.    

    My darling daughter just turned 4 years old.
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