Need some inlaw/help advice..

wendy2shoesDecember 21, 2009

Ok, I know you guys aren't Anne or Abby, but any input would be most appreciated. I have three daughters, all married, and cordial, what I consider to be "normal" relationships with two of the respective mother in laws..( lives next door!)

The most recent, however, is driving me batty. She's a very "interesting" woman, artsy, opinionated, ..but she has decided that she and her husband are our new best friends forever.

I'm uncomfortable with this. If we'd really hit it off, like I felt I was meeting someone that could really be a good friend, I would have no problem. But..we're kind of like oil and water.

I like to see them in gatherings which include my daughter and their son, but really have no interest in socializing with them on our own (hubby and me).

This is what's happening however. Constant invites to dinner..and they live 20 miles away..without the kids. I've been given a choice by her..via email, of three days where we can come for dinner over the holidays..the 28th,29th,or 30th. I am supposed to reply with "what day is best". I feel like I'm over a barrel, as she hasn't given a firm date that I can respectfully (and politely decline) due to other whatever.

My daughter and their son won't be coming. They do Christmas with them and that's it.

What do I do? I thought getting older would be easier, i.e. didn't have to deal with people you didn't like.

Do I sound grumpy and mean? Should I just suck it up and go where I know I'm going to have a bad time?

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irisgirl(Z5 - CO)

Dear Mean&Grumpy,
Don't feel like you are obliged to socialize with anyone you don't care for, just because they invite you. And, I still am old fashioned enough to say that invitations (RVSPs and Thank Yous)should be sent by snail-mail.

That being said, call her and say that your holiday schedule is full and thank her for the offer. She does not need to know if or what your plans are, but you may want to warn the kids. It never gets easier dealing w/ people like this, but we can improve our "people skills".


    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 12:01AM
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ladycraft(6b MO)

I agree with Irisgirl. There is no reason you have to go if you don't want to, especially if the kids aren't going to be there. Since kids seem to be all that you have in common, it would be a stressful evening. The conversation would soon end. She sounds like she needs to entertain for whatever reason. Just say your busy. Kathy

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 7:10AM
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disneynut1977(5b, Sunset zone 42)

If you don't want to go, don't make yourself go just because it might seem mean to decline. I would call her (even though that would stick you on the phone with her) and politely decline stating the holiday's are busy, stressful and packed for you. Be firm with it too if she insist's. Make sure your daughter and SIL are aware that you have delcined so the cat doesn't get out you really don't have plans though.

Do what makes you hubby and you happy for the holiday's and any other time for that matter.


    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 8:12AM
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Dear Mean and Grumpy,

Relate that you and your Hubs have little time together so the holidays are very special because it gives you that time. Write that you must decline the invitaion but that you'll think of them and toast them in the coming days.


    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 8:52AM
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Okay, I'm odd man out here. If you have definite other plans (this would include special dates with your husband), okay. But if your daughter and her husband are a good match, and her husband gets along with his parents, I would suck it up and go for a day. If you're good at listening & smiling politely, a day with opinionated people can be a gas. The trick is not to volunteer too much of yourself while you're with them - be cordial but not warm. It will be a challenge to socialize without inviting long-term closeness. But as I have gotten older, had some deep losses (and many more joys), I have come to believe that family peace is worth a little extra effort sometimes.

That being said, I do NOT think you are grumpy and mean, nor do I think that if you decline any invitation that you go on the "bad" list (although you might within the family, if they are petty). I don't believe there is a wrong choice here - follow your heart.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 9:53AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

If this was a single invitation, I'd agree with Drippy - but you said 'constant invites to dinner'.

I'd thank you graciously for the invitation (yikes, the week between Christmas and New Years, the woman doesn't have enough to do), ask for a rain check after the first of the year, suggest she find a night when the kids are free to join you 'so you can both enjoy them'. If you continue to decline except for times when your mutual interest - the children - are present, eventually she should get the idea.

I know that's kind of fuzzy advice. When I read your subject line 'in-laws' I thought I'd have an answer for you, having married a man with 9 brothers and sisters, I've practiced - but this was a new one to me.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 11:12AM
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She kinda sounds like a bully! If you KNOW you won't get along don't go, let her know (via email) that none of those days are good for you, thank you very much. Offer another time when the kids can be there, say mid Jan. when things are less hectic.

"Thank you so much for your kind offer, but we are unable to attend between the holidays. Would it be possible to get together sometime after the holidays? We look forward to getting together then.
Merry Christmas, "

Don't feel bad, she kind of put you on the spot, it was a short notice!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 11:13AM
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Now having read Morz8's advice, I think she's "spot on", as the Brits say.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 2:19PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I agree also with Morz8; be there with the kids if you really dread this. You might be intimidated about the artsy or whatever you said. Be yourself and you may find something you like about these people. She might really want to know you; tell her about winter sowing and your interests. If she is bored maybe she will back off or maybe you really will be friends.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 2:55PM
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let me be way out there...

what were they like while the kids were dating? what was their part in the wedding? is this the only child? only son? and this statement says more than you let on ( "My daughter and their son won't be coming. They do Christmas with them and that's it." )

As the mother of sons I know what marriage means in many families - the last time you see your son... As a group made largely up from women, I think most of us will agree that we spend more time with our families than our husbands. Perhaps she is trying to build a bridge -

My suggestion tell her exactly how you feel, remember she already knows you have a relation with the other inlaws - she may just feel she has to try that much harder to fit in. Another thing if she has any relationshio with her son... he has already let her know how you feel about her.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 3:46PM
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maybe totally out on the limb but.... as ED nurse I have seen my share of people who have some social limitations. My thinking on the subject- is she not reading loud and clear your unspoken lukewarm response to her "lets be best friends forever" call? I am assuming it is not a first time you are in the situation when you try to stay polite but firm and declining extuberant friendship...
anyway, consider she might have problems, be on some medications or off them or have some mild manic behavior... it happens much more often that you would imagine...and if such behavior makes you uncomfortable, you do have to set your limits and stick with them....

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 6:33PM
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As always, in such matters, I find my adrenaline flowing a little too swiftly. My anxiety level just rose a bit too much when I read your post. Not our of anger or anything like that, just anxiety. Know the feeling?

I'd be tempted to go with Morz8's suggestion. Even if she finds out that I was doing absolutely nothing on those evenings, well that's OK too. At our age we are not here for a popularity contest.

Yep, let her know that the holidays are a time for you to relax and that you need some "time out" from all the other things on the go. A future dinner would be nice, but at this time you have to politely decline.

Oh how I dislike being in such a pickle!

Hope your holidays are great!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 7:35PM
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It's been two plus years of this..I invite them when the kids are here..they invite us when they're not at theirs. I've seen more of them than I have my own daughter, and I don't know how to break the "tit for tat" dinner situation.
There's a grandchild on the way now too..
She's a "take charge" kind of person..dominates conversations..her opinion is the only opinion. She told us not to bother helping the kids move in to their first house, 'cause she was going to hang the drapes, and mount the artwork, and we would get in the way.
She's taken charge of decorating the nursery..chosen colors, wallpaper..yada yada. My daughter is a lot like me..too timid to cause, as they say in England..any "agro".
I just don't know how to deal with tools in my little Wendy toolbox.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 10:18PM
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Okay, I think I changed my mind. Sounds like the MIL is a real bulldozer. My own MIL is opinionated, a take charge person - who always means very well, mind you! - and would do the drapes in a heartbeat, but would NEVER tell me to back off from my own house. And she does respect my saying, "Mom, I had my own ideas about this" - sounds like your daughter's MIL does not.

I think Columbusgardener and Lindalana have some interesting thoughts. This behavior of hers is fulfilling some need that probably has more to do with her history than you're aware of. You're not required to support it, though!

Where is your son-in-law in all this? I fear that your daughter may have some problems down the road if she feels overwhelmed by the bulldozer and her husband is not coming to the rescue. Maybe you & she can talk to him? To my DH's credit, when he sees me getting uncomfortable, whether or not he believes his Mom is out of line, he defends me (he'll talk to me about it later if he feels I was the overly sensitive one at the time). I am a second child, and bet you might be too, Wendy - a natural conflict-avoider. Nonetheless, sometimes conflict is necessary for growth - not just yours, but hers as well! (And that is easier to say than believe.)

I'm going to keep you in prayer on this one. You are obviously a deeply caring person who doesn't like to hurt anyone's feelings, but this woman may not be advanced enough to avoid that, even if you try your best.

I come back to - follow your heart.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 11:14PM
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SusanC(9b/10a Sunset 17)

I would probably handle it like this:

(Her Name Here),

Thanks so much for inviting us; we really do appreciate it. Unfortunately, the holidays have us running ragged, and so this isn't a good time for us. -Maybe we could get together sometime in January? The kids would probably be able to make it then too, and that would be just super.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday,

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 11:28PM
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Sweet..Susan..I have been trying to compose something like that in my nailed it. Will not be doing this tonight..tomorrow with a clear head..(Hello Mr.Eggnog!)
Thanks everyone for such great and heartfelt advice. Abby and Anne ain't got nuthin' on you guys!

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 11:51PM
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Sorry drippy..I meant to reply as well to you. The son in law is a "work in progress". He's a musician, although he has a good day job. Does late night gigs over the weekend. I have a 'strong' suspicion that may change once the baby is born. And yes..I am a middle child..I'd rather hide in a closet for 24 hours rather than engage in any conflict.

His Mom encourages his other life..driving to Toronto to watch his gigs that start at 1 am. Sometimes I really want to smack them all up the head.

Meanwhile, I have every confidence in my daughter..she will become Xena if the need arises..(aren't we all related to she-wolves?). The next few months should be very interesting.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 12:05AM
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ontheteam(5a-6 (S.Eastern, MA))

"His Mom encourages his other life..driving to Toronto to watch his gigs that start at 1 am. "

But why? I ask as the mom of 3 future Sons in law... Did your DD know about this before they married? He's not getting arrested? The bills are paid? Then why let it bother you? And again... do not think your SIL does not know you disprove.
I wish my mom would have made an effort wit my in-laws( and vice versa) it would have made life so much simpler. So a huge KUDO to you for trying.

A few GREAT books I find that help with every situation in life.. Florence Littauer The Personality Tree and the 5 love languages by Gary Chapman. Does a great job at helping show what makes people.. yourself included and how to get along.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 7:56AM
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First, because I've been on the OTHER side of this coin:

Husband's class reunion. He was friends with one guy, and his wife was a wonderful gal. I wanted to stay in touch with them after the reunion, but they declined a couple of invites. I got the hint, but I was really disappointed. To get completely shot down was a real let-down. "Rejected" is how I felt. But, I'm not a controlling type, nor a "needy" type, either. I got over it.

But anyway, that aside, the only advice I can give is to watch Lifetime. Do you KNOW how many shows they have on there that deal with the controlling MIL figure? TONS! Oodles of choices on how to deal with them. Personally, my favorite would be a stinging sarcastic remark to get the point across if she was that controlling TO me, but I think at this point, you're probably better off with the others' advice to politely decline offers to get together. Be sure you have all answers ready, because she will want to know WHEN in January, and she'll want to know WHAT you're doing if you don't give her specifics as to why you can't come.

Course, then there's the one from the show "Still Standing" where Jamie Gertz (Judy) and Bill get rejected by their new friends that they pursue heavily, and the new friends decide that they'd RATHER be friends with Judy & Bill's current BFs because they feel that they are a 'better match' than Judy & Bill, and that Judy and Bill are "too competitive" for them. Judy and Bill are left disillusioned and rejected because they really wanted to be friends with them, but they move on...I forget the end of the episode.

Anyway, I'm babbling, but wanted to offer my 2¢

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 8:46AM
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Wendy - have read all the comments - and wow - this woman is not getting it... I am going to bet that they don't have many friends and so they are clinging to "family" as their social life.

I would always be polite but firm - Be sorry but you are busy - no need to tell them what,how, why, when or where - just that you can't make it. Eventually, they will get the message - and if they don't, that tells you even more that they are not the best people for you.


    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 7:38PM
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Wendy, what did you finally decide?

    Bookmark   December 26, 2009 at 6:59PM
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I emailed her back, because I wasn't sure if I could stay firm over the phone. I said thanks for the invite, but those days she suggested were going to be very hectic, and hoped that we would see them New Year's Eve. (They've been invited to a party being held by my husband's family).
The kids will be there as well, so it will be a "family" gathering which is what I've been aiming for.
We'll see how it goes.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2009 at 9:41PM
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Good for you! Enjoy your week!

    Bookmark   December 26, 2009 at 11:30PM
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