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Author Topic: Visit from witch bpd MIL  (Read 357 times)
pulauti

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« on: November 20, 2022, 09:04:55 PM »

Long story short, my MIL is a total witch . My wife can’t stand her but loves her father, who is still married to this abusive woman.

Thankfully for me they live 5 hours away.

A few months ago we did something that offended my MIL. She reacted by going to my sisters house (they coincidentally  happen to be neighbors) and telling my sister how horrible my wife and I are. She also told my sister how she is suicidal . My sisters husband was concerned upon hearing this and told my MIL’s husband. MIL said my sister is a liar and made this up. Keep in mind my sister has absolutely nothing to do with anything, she dragged her into her something that doesn’t involve her. For the next week or two MIL harassed my sister and her husband with completely sick, vile emails. Really disgusting stuff. I get the emails too but block them so I don’t see them.

MIL crossed a line and I’m just completely done with her at this point. I have no space  in my life for this type of thing.

Her husband pretends like nothing happens. He doesn’t apologize to me. After 40 years in an abusive relationship that he is too scared to leave, he seems dead inside. Like an abused dog.

MIL, FIL and my wife’s sister came to visit this weekend. I told my wife leading up to it I can’t bear to be near them. It’s like being near someone who murdered a loved one.

The visit thankfully featured no drama. But an incredible amount of fighting between my wife and I. She says I don’t support her and I say she doesn’t care about me. The whole time weekend I need to basically do my own thing, to limit contact.

The whole thing is so uncomfortable. And it’s awful for our marriage.

Both my wife and I feel very badly to see her father so empty. He didn’t care to go my son’s basketball game. It’s a very twisted, toxic situation. He just planted himself on the couch the whole weekend.

This post ended up being more of a rant. I’m upset at the toll  this took on our marriage. I think ultimately we need to speak to a couples therapist to repair things and know how to support each other.

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Couscous
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« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2022, 05:07:21 PM »

It is not at all unreasonable for you to limit your exposure to your in-laws and to no longer be willing to host them in your home. It would be quite reasonable for you to ask them to stay elsewhere during their visits, and perhaps you and your wife would host them for a few dinners for the duration of their stay. Your wife can choose to spend more time with them at their hotel or doing outside activities with them, if she wishes.

This will likely be extremely difficult for wife to hear and you will need to be prepared to encounter a LOT of resistance on her part, but don’t let that deter you. I agree that counseling is a good course of action and I recommend that you find someone who is familiar with family enmeshment/fusion who can help your wife begin to develop some boundaries. In the meantime you might find the books Toxic In-Laws by Susan Forward to be helpful. All the best to you!
« Last Edit: November 22, 2022, 05:17:57 PM by Couscous » Logged
Notwendy
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« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2022, 05:02:15 AM »

My mother has BPD and my father was similar in his behavior. I also wanted to continue to have a relationship with him, and this included BPD mother. He is deceased now.

I think it would help for you to read up on the Karmpan triangle as I think this is what is going on with your MIL. My BPD mother also has poor boundaries and would enlist other family members as "rescuers" which is what your MIL did with your sister, and painted you and your wife as villains.

In defense of your wife, this is difficult for her. This is what went on with me and so it may be what she's dealing with. If she upsets her BPD mother, her father is part of that deal. She wants a relationship with him and this is contingent on keeping BPD mother happy. While this appears outrageous to you, this is the "normal" she grew up with. It didn't have to be spoken as a rule but it's the dynamics in the family. If BPD mother is upset with her, BPD mother will take victim perspective and enlist her father as rescuer against your wife.

If this is the "normal" we grew up with, we may not see it as clearly. You can see the disorder better than your wife can. She may see it, but it's emotionally familiar to her. She may also perceive her father as the "normal" one, compared to her mother and hold on to that relationship. I know I did. I eventually did have to have boundaries with BPD mother and this angered both parents.

You are now in another "triangle" with your wife. Do you see the dynamics here? MIL created drama with you and your sister. Now, you have conflict with your wife, MIL, and you. Your wife feels unsupported by you, because, she feels obligated (FOG- fear, obligation, guilt) to her parents and you are trying to have boundaries with them. It's important to understand that while your wife may see the disorder with her mother cognitively, emotionally - having boundaries breaks a family rule. As a child, doing this is very scary. It may make no sense that a grown woman is afraid of her mother, but the child she was is afraid of her mother, and also her father.

You do have the right to boundaries and peace in your family. I think it would help to understand that this isn't easy for your wife to do. It's a process to learn to have boundaries with a disordered parent and their enabling parent and manage their reaction. Your wife likely needs support with this- counseling. I understand you feel she doesn't care about you, but she does. It seems logical to you to dismiss this witch of a MIL, but these are the only parents she knows and going against the family pattern is scary- especially when a parent is abusive. It's hard for my H to understand my perspective as he doesn't have an abusive mother.

In my situation, I am the one who took the initiative to have boundaries, so my H didn't get into the triangle. When you do it, you are right on it, as persecutor to BPD mother and your wife feels obligated to be the rescuer/caretaker. Now, you feel like a victim "she doesn't care about me" and so does she. That's a pattern that exists in disordered families. Your wife isn't doing this on purpose and she's not doing it to you. It's all she knows to do in her family. It's the only thing she's allowed to do.

My suggestion for both of you is marriage counseling. Not because your marriage is the main issue, but to be a support to both of you as you navigate this because you don't want conflict between the two of you over this. A counselor who understands these dynamics and the experience of someone growing up with this can help the two of you work together on this.
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pursuingJoy
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« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2022, 08:30:57 AM »

pulauti, my MIL also has BPD and created serious havoc on our marriage for 3 years. My H is her only surviving child and her husband passed away many years ago, so he is her person. She lives two hours away, thank goodness.

Dealing with my BPD MIL's behavior was like being exposed to a really strong, offensive smell, and feeling shock when my husband insisted he couldn't smell anything. In part, he can't. It's not only normal behavior, he's adapted to survive. I finally came to accept that he couldn't/wouldn't see it through my eyes, and that all I could do was take care of myself.

Ideally, you and your wife can set boundaries that work for both of you.

If your wife refuses, you can still set boundaries. Think about what you value and set a boundary to protect it. I value feeling peaceful and safe in my home. MIL can visit for the day, but overnights (with downtime) are a solid no. My H was not happy, I was accused of being cold and uncaring, told that I didn't care about family, that I just didn't like her, blah blah. I didn't get mad, I just stayed steady, continued to restate the boundary, and reiterated that this is what I needed for future interactions to be as positive as possible. That last part really helped him swallow a tough pill.

Took him almost a year but he is also calm about it now. I strongly believe that part of him is fine with, even needed, the separation.  He didn't know how to make it happen.

Counseling was THE only thing that helped us get over the hump because were stuck in circular, ineffective fights. Highly, highly recommend it. My H was able to hear things from a counselor that he couldn't hear from me, and I was able to receive tips and guidance that helped me navigate BPD effectively.  

Things that changed our dynamic: counseling, firm and reasonable boundaries, compromise, staying calm, and reassuring H that I wanted a relationship but it had to work for me.

Vent away anytime. We get it here.

pj
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   Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? ~CS Lewis
pulauti

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« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2022, 08:45:52 PM »

Thank you all so much for the thoughtful, generous replies.

Some additional background is that my wife despises her mother. Just the sound of her voice on the phone can cause her great distress. She tolerates her mother at great pain so she can also see her father. If not for her father, she would likely have extremely limited contact with her mother.

Her father is a nice man, but easily dominated. After 40 years of domination and emotional abuse, he has very little life in him left. This upsets my wife a great deal. He is like an old, abused dog. Even if the cage were to be opened, I think he would just lie there , not knowing how to live freely.

She has encouraged him to leave his wife, but he is far too scared to ever realistically contemplate that. He is resigned to his fate and accepts what is evolving into a rapid decline in physical and emotional well-being. This will sound very cold, but I find it hard to respect and like this man, as his inaction has enabled his wife to abuse everyone around her. He has qualities that are an example for my kids (love of nature, etc) but serves as a terrible role model.

If I set a boundary that respects my values (they sleep in a hotel and visit a few hours a day when they are in town), they would simply not visit at all. Then it would be my fault that my wife doesn’t get to see her father. It’s an awful catch-22.

The compromise is I suck it up for the few days they visit a couple times a year so my can see her father.

I suggested to my wife some things she can do to have more access to him, like getting him his own cell phone. But she hasn’t done them, which is frustrating.

It’s helpful to know that other people deal with similar problems.

 I completely agree that marriage counselling would be beneficial for me and my wife.
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Notwendy
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« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2022, 04:19:53 AM »

I did the same thing. I have not had a secure relationship with my BPD mother. I was more bonded to my father. He is deceased now. I also, like your wife, encouraged him to act more independently, but that was before I understood the dynamics in a BPD relationship. Her father may not be happy in his marriage, but he is enmeshed with his wife. If your wife pushes too hard for him to act separately, or tries to rescue him (Karpan triangle)- he will align with her mother against her.

There are threads about our relationships with our fathers too on this board. Like your wife, I perceived my father as the good parent and a victim of my mother. Yet, he wasn't a victim, he was her enabler, and he had choices too. They were enmeshed and functioned as a unit.

Like your wife too though, I didn't want to give up my relationship with my father. I am glad he was able to get to know my children and they were fond of him. Yes, the requirement for that relationship was to "suck it up" and tolerate my mother. I also have a reaction when I hear her voice on the phone. I am guarded and stressed around her. The best way to cope is that I don't live near them and the visits were not too frequent.

Would your wife be willing to join this board? I think she'd see she isn't alone in this. We  share similar situations and also share how we cope. I understand you wish to be supportive- my H is supportive too, but he doesn't relate in the same way. He didn't grow up with these dynamics. The suggestions, like getting his own cell phone, are good ones, and they should work. But they are logical ones and the relationship between your in laws is emotional. We kids have stepped in to try to "rescue" our father and it backfired, every time, because of these dynamics.

Your wife has grown up with the expectation that all family members enable BPD mother. Break this "rule" and you risk her anger. I did choose to have boundaries with my mother, and while I think it was an essential choice, the result is that, BPD mother got angry, my father aligned with her. The cost of that was the relationship with my father. I didn't expect that to happen. I assumed he cared more about me than that. He did care but my mother's feelings were his priority.

We tend to cling to the parent who we see as the good one. Your wife loves her father and doesn't want to lose that. When you "push" for boundaries, you jump into the Karpman triangle but the risk with her parents is hers. There's a lot at stake for her here.

She loves you and would choose you over her parents if she had to, but she'd rather not have to choose. I agree that counseling is helpful to both of you as a couple but also I think it's important that she have counseling to help her with these dynamics. It's helped me and I think others here as well but it's important to keep in mind that we aren't the ones who have the problem. It's a sensitive idea because we have been blamed for our mother's behavior but that behavior isn't about us. It never was. It's support and tools for us to make the best choices we can for ourselves.


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Couscous
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« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2022, 11:54:50 AM »

Excerpt
She has encouraged him to leave his wife, but he is far too scared to ever realistically contemplate that.

This suggests that your wife might have been a victim of emotional incest: https://www.bpdfamily.com/content/was-part-your-childhood-deprived-emotional-incest

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gvMuiXnm7oo&feature=youtu.be
« Last Edit: December 01, 2022, 12:00:14 PM by Couscous » Logged
pulauti

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« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2022, 02:01:17 PM »

thanks for the wonderful replies. @notwendy, sounds like you've had a very similar experience

my wife has been to a lot of therapy over the years about her mother. I think she continues to feel guilt over not being able to be closer with her father. i think she must understand that this is not her fault though, and must come to terms, however painful it is, that his loyalty is to his wife first.
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Notwendy
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« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2022, 03:16:50 PM »

Yes, unfortunately, but the shock that Dad would discard his relationship with me, due to upsetting BPD mother also was a time of emotional growth, and questioning the dynamics I was raised with.

I am my mother's scapegoat child and she has not really shown any affection for me. When there's only one parent that seems to care, that means a lot. They may have their own issues, but it's all we know at the time. However, there's an exploitative aspect to that relationship- if we want their approval, we have to also tolerate BPD mother's behaviors. 

I see him as having done a lot of good for us- and I attribute all the good in our family to him. My BPD mother is severely mentally ill and her moods and dysregulation were not positive situations. Although it appeared my mother was the "problem"- I know now that he played a part in the dynamics. Yet I know it had an impact on him too. Like your wife, I had therapy with the focus on my mother but then, I also had to look at my father. I had to work on my own co-dependent traits that I learned in the family dynamics. It helped me to understand his as well.
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Couscous
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« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2022, 05:44:00 PM »

My prior therapist seemed convinced that my mother was "the problem" and that all my issues were her fault. Then I read the book Silently Seduced and discovered, that no, that almost all of my issues were due to the enmeshed relationship with my father, and also discovered, to my shock, that my T had almost no understanding of the dynamics of enmeshment. Needless to say, I am now looking for a therapist who does understand this issue...

I also should add that even though I was enmeshed with my father he is very emotionally avoidant, and paradoxically, our relationship has always felt "distant". In spite of my inner child's desire to have a close relationship with him, I have realized that this is unhealthy for me and bad for my marriage, and I have had to let go of that yearning, and as a side-effect of that decision, I have noticed that I have found myself liking my husband a whole lot more!  Smiling (click to insert in post)

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Notwendy
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« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2022, 07:37:57 AM »

For me, I think I was influenced by both. I knew to not behave like her. I didn't know about co-dependent behaviors. Since I thought my father was the "normal" one, I thought these were normal behaviors until I decided to work on these.

I did have some "daddy's girl" behaviors- but I don't think they were much out of the ordinary. I think Dads are heroes to their daughters and it's normal that we look up to them. As kids, we don't see our parents the way adults do- eventually as adults we begin to see them as humans with strengths and flaws too, as all humans are.

I think the bigger influence was the co-dependent behaviors, and the conditional approval based on if I complied with BPD mother. There wasn't any question that Dad's priority was BPD mother, it was just more than I expected.
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