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Monday, 11 July 2005


Hey lady,

What I am not clear on from reading your letter is whether you are interested in setting boundaries, making hackle-raising accusations or both. The letter as it reads does both.

For example, you write: "While I was somewhat stunned by your prejudice and bigoted thinking about adoption as well as our situation, I must admit that I'm very grateful to know how you feel now than to find out in the future."

An alternative, less accusatory way of making the point/setting your boundary is: You expressed some narrow thinking about adoption during our last conversation. It surprised me to know that you had such a "genes are everything" attitude towards something we find as positive as adoption. While I respect your right to your feelings, we do not share them, and as such, will not be including your opinions in consideration of what we plan to do as far as becoming parents. That said, now that there is clarity about your position on adoption, neither your son nor I will tolerate your treating any adopted child differently than you would our genetic child. If you feel that you cannot treat the child as a member of the family, we will remove you from the child's contacts. This is non-negotiable, so I suggest you think carefully about what you can and cannot handle and speak your true feelings to us on this issue. For if we discover that you are treating our potential adopted child any differently than your other grandchildren because of your stated biases, there will be dire and immediate consequences. We will not have any child of ours treated like a "second class" child. Absolutely not.

Liana makes a good point.

Although, from personal experience, email is the WORST way to deal with in-laws. They will print and save those emails and throw them back in your face. (I know this from personal experience.)

Do whatever you feel you need to do to protect your family and future children, just be very careful about what you put in writing.

Wow. The tough thing about someone like your charming MIL is that she'll never realize that she's wrong. It's not just that she's old, it's that she's not a good person. And people who are not good people don't like to be told so, even in the most diplomatic ways.

This reminds me of my sister's issues with our (now deceased) mother. Our mother was a very difficult person to deal with. She said terrible things and then, when confronted, behaved even worse and found a way to make you look like the bad one. Even if everyone was onto her behavior by the end of her life, it still had the effect of making you look bad and making family functions miserable. My sister, at times in her life, would try to confront out mother. Everytime she failed to get an apology, she was surprised and angry. And finally I said to her "you know, you're trying to get a reaction, an apology, out of her like she's a normal person who follows normal rules. She isn't. Stop expecting that out of her and you'll have it a lot easier." And it worked.

Unfortunately, it sounds like you're in the same situation with your MIL. Anything you say, she's going to take it personally. You'll look like the bad one. Do set some boundaries, but keep it short and simple. I think the best move with this woman is to just avoid her as much as possible and when pressed, be the same type of passive aggressive bitch she is. At least then she can't walk around the wedding crying and whining about what a "bitch" of a DIL she has.

So, that's my assvice. Not so good, I know.

Take care.

Ewwwwww. Pretty tough stuff and of course there is never a great way to handle these things. I like what the first commenter said...

I think it is best to stay away from anything that can construed as an insult because then it just gives them ammo. When peoplen like this, in my experience, cross boundaries they lack a self awareness that might accept what you are saying and reflect. I think a strongly worded letter about your boundaries is ok and preferable. If you can suck it up (which I so hate to do) kindly put in something that she did right....even if it was how she chopped the lettuce so perfectly so she does not feel completly chastised even though in my opinion the bitch needs a good slapping. I do not recommend that one. So keep most of the letter just take out the name calling even if it is true and only state how you want her to handle the situation. You know "you do not have to like our decsion but you have to respect it or you will be asked to leave" kind of statements.

My .2

ps my mil is the stereotypical long island jewish mother to the tenth power with a mentl illness soooo ummmm I sooooo get it

I am so sorry you're having to deal with this situation. I read your entry this morning (and the older one) and I can't stop thinking about it.

I wonder if your MIL would even see that what she did was wrong. She may not even remember it as "cornering you" or waiting until her son had gone to work. In my experience, people like that don't see themselves for the manipulative bitches that they are.

I'd take Chris's advice and keep it short and simple if you do it by email. Or maybe if you wait, you and your husband could speak to her together. In any event, I would focus more on the boundaries going forward than on your disappointment with how she acted before. She's not going to change how she is, unfortunately, and in your shoes I would like to get my husband involved in the conversation.

Just so you can see where I'm coming from... my MIL isn't mean, just clueless and kind of dumb. She's said so many awful things to us about our miscarriages, but the worst part is how she sent us inappropriate baby-oriented gifts after our first one. Like a set of Winnie the Pooh books for my husband's birthday the next month, and a few weeks later, a birthday card for me with a poem about what a great "daughter, wife, and mother" I am. HELLO?

After a few more years of her inappropriate behavior my husband finally laid down the law. I was really glad he was the one to do it -- she's his mother, after all.

I hope you get this worked out so you can feel some security about having them around. If all else fails, never be in the room with her. And cut her off if she starts it again, seriously.

Here are my quick notes;

1) I wouldn't necessarily tell her that the email is more restrained that previous versions; this might get her imagining all sorts of things - none of which you really mean.

2) Don't tell her that you don't expect her to understand. This gets her on the defensive right away and so much so that she might not really listen to the rest of the message. Remember that the point of the message is that you want her to do something for you (ie: respect your boundaries) and to do that, you might need to be a little more consiliatory than you actually feel.

3) I would boil it down to just a few points: 1) you would rather that she not speak to you about adoption. Period. End of sentence. You're not going to change the views that she's held for probably her entire life and holding them up for what they are (bigotted, prejudicial) will just get you into another debate with her. Just say you don't want to discuss it.

3) You don't want to be asked to be more supportive of BIL. You have your own relationship with them and she does not know the entire story; moreover, she does not need to know it.

4) You are happy to see the twins.

I know that this is assvice, but I guess the point that I'm trying to make is that you don't want to open up a debate with this person because you'll lose simply by the fact that any debate will hurt you more than her. You just want to close some avenues of communication down with a minimal of argument about them. The way to do this, I believe, is to give her less information rather than more.

Please do take this as assvice, however! It's just my opinion!

I agree with the previous posters. In my recovery work one of the things that is very clear is that buttwads are entitled to their feelings and opinions and we are NOT obligated to point all the flaws in their feelings and opinions out to them. Long story short, MIL is entitled to be the creature that she is.

You, however, are entitled to set limits and boundaries for her behavior. You cannot, however, change her thinking about the subjects at hand. And you would do best to avoid pointing out how wrong you think she is. That just sets up defensiveness and entrenched behavior.

My crazy mother doesn't understand half of what my boundaries are about, but she is learning to respect them since they have been made clear to her. I try hard not to judge her behavior and add the little digs that you've added in your letter. She is who she is and (this was the hardest thing for me to accept), she has a right to her beliefs and perceptions. She does not a) have a right to hurt me; b) to coerce me into behavior that goes against my core beliefs; or c) cross one of my boundaries without anticipating repercussions.

Your MIL doesn't have to understand your position. You don't have to have consensus on the feelings. You just need clear statements of the boundaries so that she knows what she shouldn't cross and what the consequences will be if she does.

I write a lot of emails like this and never send them - so this could just be therapeutic for you. Your MIL isn't going to change, no matter what you say. I agree with Suz's comments. Drawing lines in the sand for people who don't understand the concept of boundaries will do you no good whatsoever and it may even make them even more entrenched and self-justified.

I also really, really hate personal emails because it doesn't give the other person any kind of way to respond without things escalating. The tone is just always weird.

I say: tell her exactly what you would like to avoid, i.e., "I would prefer not to discuss adoption at this point with you." and leave it at that. A simple and impersonal request is best.

But guess what? Even that might be ignored so gird your loins sister and stand your ground and all those other cliches!!

My SIL just decided not to come visit, such a relief, I was getting all ready for sabotage but now I can stop that.

Good luck!

While I loved your letter and was cheering you on with every word, I also had the same misgivings that the other commenters had. Basically, you "told her off." But you will surely make things worse for yourself by doing so. Do you really want to stir up more trouble and give her more ammo, as another commenter put it?

Go back with a pen and circle all the objective, straightforward boundary-setting statements. Then, erase the rest, and start over with the text that remains. Your letter as it stands is very very inflammatory (not that she doesn't deserve it, mind you, but I'm just thinking of how to help you achieve your higher goal of changing her behavior while she is in your presence).

I agree with the suggestion to get Mr. involved. This letter CANNOT come simply from you. It CANNOT. Mr. must be a co-signer on this letter. In fact, it would really be better if Mr. were the one handling this altogether, but I understand that since Crazy Bitch likes to corner you alone, then you feel compelled to deal with her head-on. So write the letter independently or with his help, but, insert "we" for "I" and make him sign it.

Keep your points simple and not too numerous. Her little pea brain will be overwhelmed as it is. Basically, you want to hit the following points: your family planning choices are your business, when you need suggestions you will ask for them, you do not wish to discuss this further, attempts to violate the boundaries thus set will result in you walking away from her or perhaps even cutting off contact, either temporarily or permanently. As an aside, at the end of the letter, casually mention the "side issues," such as that you are happy to see the twins, that your issue is with the father, and that you will not discuss BIL with her in the future, and that your policy with him has been founded on careful thought and consideration. But don't go into details.

Don't attack her character or that of anyone she loves. Don't call her precious boy selfish and self-centered. That will get you nowhere. I know it feels good, but it will just start a war. Remember: simple, objective, firm.

Good luck Millie.

While I loved Lianna's paragraph on adopted children, I would not include it at this time. Print it out and file it away to be used LATER, if and when you actually do adopt. To include that information now would only create a digression of sorts--it is not really the pressing issue at the moment, so why give her something to argue about and an excuse to evade the more immediate issue, which is her inappropriate communication style and disrespect for you? Start simple, with THE RULES OF CONDUCT. Once she understands the rules of conduct, THEN you can venture into discussing philosophies and outlooks and prejudices and treatment of future adopted children, etc. She is not ready for that sort of sophisticated, complicated dialogue yet, so do not open the door and invite it. First, the rules. See if she can even understand the rules, then go from there.

I wouldn't, not by e-mail. I agree that it will just bounce off your MIL's brick head and ricochet back to hurt and wound you. Yes, I bet you felt great after writing it but I would save it for you and your hub to say in person when she says inapppropriate things.

BTW I normally charge for assvice ;)

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