View Full Version : Five years later. . .What I Have Learned Here

May 7, 2009, 12:39 PM
It's hard to believe it was five years ago this week that I de-lurked and made my first official post here. Much has happened since that time, and I am not the same person I was when I made that first post.

This forum helped me to find my spine, to trust my gut, and to question many of my assumptions that had been with me since childhood. I owe a debt of thanks and gratitude to all those on here who took the time to respond to so many of my posts. I especially want to thank Hermit, One Tall, purple_rain, otis, and Onlooker (who I think are all still around), and Ames and Fred (who may not be anymore).

I don't know if what I've learned will be helpful or useful to anyone else, but I thought I would pass along some thoughts for anyone to take or leave as they see fit. (As a brief background, I have been married for 18 years to DH; MIL is dominating and controlling, with N tendencies, and she made DH her surrogate spouse early in life; late FIL was extremely passive (and P/A), and MIL was extremely disappointed and even embarrassed by him; and SIL is a true FM who is even more enmeshed with MIL than DH.)

So of all the things I have learned on this board, these are what have had the most impact on me:

1) You don't have a MIL problem, you have a DH problem. When I first started posting, I thought that if only MIL would butt out, get a life, stop being so nosy, stop calling so much, stop looking to DH to help her with everything in life, etc., then DH and I would be happy. I didn't see that DH was enabling her with all of this, that this is what he learned growing up (to not upset his M, ever, to do what she says, to not make waves, etc.) and that he didn't have any issues with this because that was the way things always were. The problem was that when I expressed my concerns about this, I was dismissed; when I expressed my feelings about this, I was dismissed (and worse); and that when I pushed and did not back down (as I had done so many times in the past), I became the problem, from DH's view, not MIL. In short, I had a DH problem, not a MIL problem.

2) The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I used to think that DH was so different from MIL and FIL, and ask myself how in the world DH ever turned out so well from such nutty parents. Through a lot of therapy and a lot of work, I came to realize that although DH was so outwardly different from MIL and FIL, and that he had structured his life very differently than they had, his way of communicating and relating, and his views on relationships and women and marriage came from them. Love was conditional, scores were kept, manipulation equals communication, women are controlling, appearances matter above all else. DH internalized very well the messages MIL and FIL gave him growing up, no matter how much he has outwardly told himself he was (and how much he desperately wants to be) different from them.

3) You can only change yourself, so work on yourself. There is a reason I was attracted to DH, and thought we had a wonderful relationship. There is a reason I put up with MIL for years, despite my gut feeling otherwise. There is a reason why I let DH essentially bully me into thinking I was the problem when it came to MIL, and in our relationship. I had a lot of issues I brought to the table, too, and I had to (sometimes very painfully) sort them out, in order to be as healthy as I could be and to know what a healthy relationship was supposed to be like. Without that, I was desperate (and I mean desperate) to "get" DH to "see" how awful MIL was, to "see" how our marriage was falling apart, to "see" how much I loved him and wanted to make things work. My focus for many years was on him, and trying to get him to change, when I needed to focus on me and what I could do to be as healthy as I could be, regardless of what DH chose to do.

4) Life is short, and circumstances can change quickly; don't assume, and don't wait. I heard for years how I needed to do x for MIL (and sometimes FIL) because she/they "were old", this could be their "last Christmas/Easter", etc. Well, it's everyone's potential last holiday, any day of the year. I became extremely ill and could have easily died several years ago. Now I have a potential chronic illness and am looking at possibly a lifetime of very expensive medications. Before all of this, I was interviewing for jobs to go back to work full time because I knew I would have to leave DH, but I was dragging my feet in part because of our child and in part because I couldn't let the dream of this marriage go. I thought I had time. I assumed I would be healthy. Had I prepared myself and had a job with benefits (including health and long-term disability), I could have ridden out my health crisis, been able to support myself, and been able to make decisions from a position of financial strength. Now I am much less able to do that (it's not impossible, but it's much less likely, given my age, my health, and the economy). Life is short and things happen. Be able to support yourself, and don't wait forever hoping DH will change, that he and MIL will finally "get it". Move on with YOUR life (the only one we get), whether you choose to stay in your relationship or to leave.

May 7, 2009, 04:23 PM
I wasted waaay too much time - giving instance after instance - of their toxic behaviour. All it got me was - us fighting and him making excuses for them which only made ME angrier at HIM than at THEM. (Their antics were designed to make he and I fight) They are expert manipulators. Lose - lose situation.

So, I changed me. I just stopped. Stopped going, calling, having any part of them in my life. Worked for me. I no longer waste my precious breath or time - fighting with him or visiting toxic people.
Peace! ;)

May 7, 2009, 05:13 PM
You are right, the only person you can change is yourself. I too wasted a lot of time trying to get dh to see what they were doing. Trying to get him to see it. I became the bad guy.

Finally, I just stopped also, stoped visiting, calling, picking up the phone when they called. I stopped fighting with dh. I also never mention them either. And an amazing thing happened...dh started to change for the better..then he began to see what they were doing and how off they are. It's not perfect...but you are right...it's a DH problem.

May 8, 2009, 10:13 AM
Thank you all for your comments, and for your good wishes for my health. It means a lot to me.

I am continually amazed at the wisdom, strength and generosity of the members of this board. Without it, I would not be in the place I am today. Thank you all so much again.

May 8, 2009, 03:00 PM
How DO you find out how long you have been posting here???

I see some people have it under their names and some don't.

I am curious exactly when I started - I think it was around September 2004.

Thak you.

May 8, 2009, 04:06 PM
Mine shows up when I log in. So if you registered and are logging in each time before you post (which you don't have to do in this forum), it should be showing up. If it isn't, you might want to contact a moderator, or click on Help in the menu on the left and then go to the bottom of the page to submit this as a question.

May 10, 2009, 01:53 PM
WOW! Powerful and wonderful post.

Sorry that you have the health issues but I can certainly relate.

One of the biggest point (for me) that you make is "Move on with YOUR life"
I have done this in other ways but am still doing the Hokey-Pokey with my NM. I stick my left arm out (or is it my neck?) then pull it back. I am slowly growing more spinal stamina.

Sending a virtual (hug) and thanks for your posting.

May 11, 2009, 11:20 AM
PhatLiz, I love your analogy to the Hokey-Pokey! I think it's so hard to do with either the ILs or FOO, but FOO is tough because we grew up with them and all that goes along with that (DHs handling - or not handling - their MILs comes to mind, for some reason ;-) ).

Virtual hugs back to you, too!