Sunday, October 11, 2015

Open forum (inspired by Alison at Ask a Manager and Carolyn Hax's Wedding Hootenanny)

You guys, you have made so many great comments and so many of you have alluded to in-law problems of your own (which makes me so grateful, not that there are other people who are in bad situations but that I AM NOT ALONE and maybe it's not me), but I only get a snippet of the story.

If you would like, maybe you could share here today some of your worst in-law stories? I feel a little bit like this is our own support group - not Al-Anon (although that would certainly be appropriate for Sly and Doris) but In-Laws Anon.

Please share! And thank you so, so much for reading. I started this blog years ago merely as a way to force myself to get the stories on paper in a way that was not too painful so I could write a book about my experiences, but it has become so much more, with so many wonderful readers who have commented and supported me and told me that I AM NOT CRAZY.

We are not crazy. That is our motto at In-Laws Anon.

xoxooxox,

GD

PS Primo had asked that I not try to publish the book until Doris was dead. Well, that means I had better polish that manuscript! I got it out a few weeks ago after not having looked at it for two years. I have already cut 75 pages, which felt like what I imagine cutting out one's own kidney must feel like. But the book is getting better!

46 comments:

  1. 1) As I had mentioned in a prior post my MIL law told my husband before we got married that I was an alcoholic. (I'm not). But I did stop making a drink when I was at their house. I think she was more put out because I didn't wait to be offered.
    2) about ten years later we'd come to visit with the 2 kids we had at the time. I don't even remember what set her off but she attacked me. Mostly verbally but she also hit me (nothing serious I was 30 years younger and bigger). This behavior surprised me as I's never seen anything like this before. but at the time her aunt in law was living with her and FIL while they were looking for nursing homes and I don't think she was handling things very well. But we all turned around and left. We were there all of 15 minutes and we didn't go back for about 4 years (after AIL passed).
    Most of the time is was just small digging things in her behavior. And my husband would wonder if she wanted history to repeat itself.
    The thing is there had been a falling out between her husband and his mother when his father died that had its start when FIL marrying MIL and the only contact they had in 30+ yrs was at an uncle's funeral. The nieces and nephews all wanted to know who this strange couple was at the funeral. The only one in the family who stayed in contact with them was the aunt I mentioned above. There supposedly was some money and she controlled them that way. Didn't matter to FIL. When his mother passed she left him $10 in the will. He sent it back.

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    1. Liz - she hit you? Holy smoke. She was old enough to know better.

      I like that he sent back the ten dollars. Leaving that amount is a pure-D insult.

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  2. Actually, I love my in-laws to death. The stories are about my family, who have varying levels of dysfunction due to a narcissistic/BPD grandmother on one side and a very neglected, impoverished upbringing on the other.

    Like my father, whom I love dearly, but he could not sit as a passenger in a car without a map or having looked at one, and then compulsively commented LOUDLY (because of course he's hard of hearing) on streets we were passing and places we had been before, which of course is very disconcerting to the driver. I actually had to be harsher than I'd like to train him out of it, but we really could not drive anywhere with him while he did that.

    And my father and his siblings can all pinch a penny until it's a copper wire, because their parents grew up in the Great Depression, and so their whole upbringing, while solidly middle class, was one of agonizing hyperfrugality.

    They actually told me a story yesterday that I hadn't heard before. It seems my grandmother (who actually saw it as a point of pride that she was a world-class harridan) would harangue my grandfather into beating my father and uncle whenever they got in trouble, and so he would take them into the bedroom and beat them with his belt. Or so my aunt thought until yesterday. My uncle told us that my grandfather used to actually just beat the bed, just to keep my grandmother from harping on them all!

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    1. TCA, I know good in-laws are possible, because Primo has a great MIL!

      I am glad your grandfather solved the spanking problem!

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  3. I'm not married, so I have no inlaws. But I did have a horrible grandmother. The day my uncle got married, to a lovely woman he's still together with about 40 years later, my grandmother pitched a fit and ended up passing out on the floor of my aunt's walk in closet. The grown ups tried to shield me from this, but I caught a glimpse by accident. We have so many stories about her.

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    1. It's sad how much one person can disrupt an extended family, but it's also heartening to see how the family can heal with time and distance. I'm a lot more functional than my parents were, and I really appreciate what they overcame now that I'm learning more about it.

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    3. Sprky, she held her breath until she turned blue? Good grief.

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  4. To understand the root of our MIL problems, you need to know that Husband was a six-month baby - a happening for which my MIL apparently never forgave Husband! In fact, he was 46 when he learned that they had faked their wedding date to "legitimize" him - oh horrors.

    When she was 80 - after having disowned him 15 years previously - she calls out of the blue and says his dad is dying, and could we come live with her when he was gone, so that she did not have to leave her home. It happened that it was convenient to our plans, so we moved 100 miles and into her (large, thank goodness) home. Things did not go well. She wanted to keep separate food, etc, and we said "no. we are a family and we will eat together and share." Things were rocky from the start, but we all tried to some degree, and then 15 months later she left a letter under our bedroom door telling us that Husband could stay, but that she could no longer tolerate me and i needed to move out. She gave me 60 days. Husband said, "we came together. we go together" and we started looking for a place to move. When we gave her a moving date, she sent a second letter "recinding her invitation" that we leave - seriously! It went on that way for five years until she developed dimentia and her daughter - who came at least twice a year to see her (100 miles) when daughter needed money - moved her into a nursing home ... five blocks from us. After MIL died, daughter told us that she had had a pacemaker and was told that the battery would last for 7 years. When we moved in, she had only 10 months left on the 7 years, so she thought that she would drop dead ... soon. She would never have asked us had she understood about the battery. She was just using us. In her will, she left my husband zero. It all went to twice-a-year daughter. We had not come with any expectation or inheritance, and our expectation was met!

    I totally get you situation with Doris (RIP) and Sly, but at least they are verbal about it. We lived for 5 years in a passive/aggressive silent house. It was awful.

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    1. She wanted separate food? Wait. That's not so bizarre. I had to take my own lunch to Sly and Doris' because you know, they don't eat lunch so why should they provide it for their guests?

      How awful for you. This is the sort of thing where you go to the funeral just to make sure the person is dead.

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  5. I have not had in-laws on the scale of Sly and Doris, thankfully, but I have some doozies.

    I married my first real boyfriend far too young (didn't work out). I'd met his mother when she came to visit him in college, and she was lovely, but his father refused to meet me until the night before the wedding because I was Catholic. They were Episcopalian--hugely different, you know. And he was very conservative (I am not), starting every dinner conversation with, "Rush says . . . " Despite that, he and I got along well enough because we both loved old swing and jazz, and no one else in the family appreciated his music.

    Later I dated a very sweet guy whose mother was manipulative, bullying, and extremely self-centered (probably narcissistic). His sister told me horrible stories of their childhood--kids going without medical care so parents could drink, blatant favoritism of one child, like that. He was terrified to express an opinion and had horrible social anxiety. I made a passing comment about his first wife being just like his mother, and he was dumbstruck. He'd never seen it, but after that (and some therapy) he could start to unravel a lot of his anxieties.

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    1. The Seasick Mermaid - see? Huge religious and political differences do not have to divide people! :)

      It's sad how people who have been abused think that it's normal and don't even see it when it's being repeated. Glad your former boyfriend got some help.

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  6. I've shared some of my story with you, but here goes. My InLaws are not very bad. But my FIL was maybe Sly-lite. He also was a professor and was very much right about everything. He was very conservative, while I'm moderate. When his daughter would suggest things like "When is Mom going to retire?" about how she's still doing all of the cooking and cleaning, I'd later hear about it as a "You don't get to renegotiate the terms of my marriage". I never said anything about how their marriage was, although I know he would be upset because I suggested my husband join us in washing up after dinner. My main beef with my MIL is her timidity, including things like changing her mind repeatedly about things like "Do you want to go with me and the kids to the zoo?"

    Our story ends on a (eventually) positive note. My FIL had a history of heart disease, and weaned himself off of his heart medicines. He had a fatal heart attack about 5 years ago. My MIL stayed in their retirement location for about a year, cleaning and selling things. She sold her house and moved to the city we live in. She now has a condo with 3 bedrooms, one for her, one for the sewing machine and one for the kids to sleep over. She's a member of a quilting group that makes blankets for homeless vets. She went to a symphony performance this afternoon.

    I would say I was certainly not happy when my husband was gone for all but 3 days the month my FIL died. His manager allowed him to work from home, with home being his parents' house more than 1000 miles away. It was good for him and his mom and sister, but it was pretty hard on me and the kids.

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    1. Judy, yes - you have told me this great story before. I am so happy to see a happy ending!

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  7. My crazy brother accused me of being a lesbian because I hugged his late wife's sister when I saw her. The same brother (a man in his 50s!) made our 79 year old mother cry because he didn't want her to take a picture of him. This same brother who doesn't want to have anything to do with our dead sister's 3 kids... really GOOD kids (they've all seen the Pope!). His crazy current wife called her stepson's extremely nice girlfriend and told her that she was tearing their family apart. These 2 people haven't visited my mom since 2013... and they live about 15 minutes away!

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    1. Me, anonymous, here. Clarification --- I didn't care abut being called a lesbian by my brother, but it really bother our mom. I actually laughed about the lesbian thing... I have friends who are lesbians, and they're wonderful. It was actually kind of funny... the WORST thing my racist, idiot brother could think of was calling me a lesbian?!?!?! He's a moron!

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    2. Anon, I am thinking of that scene in Roxanne when Steve Martin asks, "Big nose? That's the worst thing you can think of?" and then rattles off a bunch of really creative insults.

      Our next-door neighbors are a lesbian couple and they are as cute as can be and great neighbors. I can think of far worse things to be called than a lesbian.

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  8. My in-law stories are about my husband's six step sibs. His dad (a saint) married a woman with 6 kids, and they were (and are) very dysfunctional. My husband's dad was the rock in that family. Long story short, my step mother in law died, then my father in law died. The crises began with the obituary - the step sibs did not want any mention of DearDad's first wife (in passing), who he was married to for 20 years! (How to explain my husband and his younger brother?) Then the fighting over the estate began. Alliances amongst the step sibs formed and broke down. Old grievances were aired regularly ("You ruined my wedding!" - this said by someone in her 50s!) The sibs and step sibs voted to "help out" one of the step sibs by hiring him to do the repairs at the condo so they could sell it...he stopped showing up to do the work...several times he and the executrix changed the locks on each other at the condo! Then he threatened the executrix with a 2x4! Finally a deal was brokered, he got paid, and the condo got sold.
    We hear from two of the steps sibs...the rest...we don't and we're happy they live a plane ride away.
    And at DearDad's funeral, while my husband was giving the eulogy, one of the step sibs walked down to the front row right in front of him and STARTED TAKING PHOTOS of him. I was afraid he would lose his spot/break down...but he kept on going. And this is one of the "nice" step sibs that we still keep in touch with.

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    1. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but I have been amazed at the drama that can happen at a funeral. When my dad died and why my grandmothers died, the funeral events were a big, happy family reunion. No drama. As far as I know, no drama with the wills. (Helps that my grandmothers left either almost no money or no money at all, but I am getting the idea that people can be ugly OVER NOTHING.)

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  9. I was married, briefly, back in the early 1980's. My ex-husband was very good at hiding his alcoholism until 3 weeks after we were married, I guess he figured I was stuck with him so he could go all out on the booze.
    My MIL was a peach. My FIL was a nightmare. He would sit and drink brandy and rant at me for wanting my ex to get help or go to AA because no one in 'his' family has any problem with booze. Meanwhile a bottle of brandy a night was no problem. My FIL didn't work, said he had a disability . . . he wore a back brace and got mad at anyone who asked him to do anything. If he wanted to do something, like prune trees or work on his car, his back was fine, anything else . . . not his job.
    The in-laws went on a long road trip through the states (I live in Canada) one year. FIL smuggled a hand gun across the border because he needed one for home protection (I guess he had to guard all that brandy). One night as we were leaving from a visit where FIL was very angry, both ex and I walked up the driveway very quickly. Turned back to see FIL standing in the bedroom window staring at us. Ex and I were both worried he had the gun in his hand.
    Three months after I left ex, MIL left FIL - I always hoped I was a good example for her!

    In my direct family there is one bitchy sister, who can't say a nice thing ever about family. When my mom was in palliative care, when sis finally showed up at my mom's house, she walked in and first thing she said is, I am not sentimental, I don't want any of this shit. I haven't had anything to do with sis since. I miss my mom every day, sis can stay away from me.

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    1. Your FIL would need a gun to keep Sly away from the brandy, Gaylin, so he did the right thing. :)

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  10. Wait! I do have a mother in law story! The one that told me I had to watch my back! I hadn't known her long and she told me that she had taken some photos recently of my s-i-l and niece...and she chose the UNFLATTERING ones of my s-i-l to send to her. Her reason: so she would pull herself together. (Do something about her weight, her hair and her outfits.) I yi yi. I could not believe my ears.

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    1. Yeah, people respond really well to mean, vindictive feedback!

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  11. My ex MIL said I was a pervert for wanting to breastfeed my baby. Seriously. A pervert. smh

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    1. I just called my rescue cat a pervert, because she did a great job nursing her kitties (fixed now, pregnant when I rescued her). She has you beat, being able to feed all four kitties at once.

      Seriously, you're ex MIL sounds like a pervert. I bet you're a great mom.

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    2. What? Anon, I have never heard of anyone being called a pervert for breastfeeding an infant! A six year old - then it's getting weird. Who would even think that?

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  12. My in-laws (mainly my FIL) aren't mean, but rather quirky. When DH & I began dating, he revealed to me his family "secret" - that his younger brother (by 18 months) had a different mother. So FIL, having 9 month old DH with MIL, impregnated another woman (by all accounts a drug-addicted woman), then brought son S2 back to MIL to raise as her own (they were not married). Three years later, another son S3 born between them, and then they finally decided to get hitched. Another 8 years later (13 years after DH's birth), and brother S4 born. No one discusses the absence of the other mother, except when S2 occasionally uses the "you're not my mother" BS as an excuse for his behavior. Fast forward to a year & a half into our dating. S2 broke out in one of this "you don't love me moments", revealing that he has a 3 1/2 yo daughter that he never mentioned, because the mother was black (no one cared). Drama ensues. Almost 3 years later, S3 announces he has a 3 mo daughter. A few months later - oh, and he got married when she was pregnant.

    When DH & I decided to try for a family, we broke family tradition & actually told people we were pregnant. We also told them that we would not step foot into their house again as long as they were (heavily) smoking inside. They quit briefly (until MIL stopped hacking), but then resumed despite most of FIL's family dying due to smoking-related causes. DD has been to their home once in her 4 1/2 years, despite us living in the same city.

    The in-laws have always had financial problems. FIL, a mechanic by trade, decided to quit his job after an argument with his boss & never bothered to look for a new one. That was 7-8 years ago. MIL is the sole income earner in the house (S2 & S3 transiently living in the home, S4 permanently) on barely above minimum wage customer service job. A few years back, S4 lived with us for a year (what a nightmare) so he could attend HS in our (much better) district after MIL lost her job for a while & they thought they were going to get kicked out of their (rented) house. MIL's car broke down around Christmas last year, and had been relying on other family members to get her to work (remember, the only one working?). After she called us crying that she couldn't find a ride to DD's dance recital in May, we bought her a car.

    FIL is highly ant-social. He doesn't like being around anyone that isn't his wife or offspring, to the point that DH had to threaten him to actually come to our wedding, and he has never attended one of our DD's 4 birthday celebrations because my parents were there (not that they don't get along - he barley spoke a word to them at our wedding). His visits to our home have become less & less frequent (MIL visits once every few months maybe, as her work schedule had allowed). Last we saw of him was Christmas. Two weeks ago, we get a call from MIL that he was in the hospital, having had stomach pain for who knows how long, and he has cancer in his liver. This is one week after MIL broke out in shingles after (just learned this yesterday) getting fired from her job the week before that. I pity MIL, am angry at FIL, and dread the mountain of medical bills DH & I will likely be paying.

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    1. Anon, I don't even know where to start. You have been very generous with your inlaws. Wow.

      I am curious - as far as I know, children cannot be held responsible for the debts of their parents, at least in the US. If they die and there is no money in their estate, then the creditor is out of luck. I hope that's the situation with you guys and you don't get stuck with bills.

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  13. My MIL was actually my husband's step mother, who had raised him from the age of about 3. Husband grew up being told that he and his brothers were lucky that they weren't given to an orphanage. Step-mom went on to have a child of her own; that child was purchased whatever foods he wanted which went into a special cabinet; husband and his full-brothers were only allowed to have the "cheap" snack foods.

    When we announced our intent to marry (I had met her once) her first question was "is she pregnant?" I wasn't, and so what if I was, but DAMN.

    Distance was our friend, as they lived an 18-hour drive away, and we were too young and broke to afford plane fare. And they wouldn't visit us because, as MIL put it "we made the last trip, it's YOUR turn". On my last visit to my husband's hometown, (more than 20 years ago) we arrived about 2 hours ahead of schedule, with our young son in tow. We called the MIL; she coldly informed us that she was at WORK and we would just have to wait for 2 more hours. We asked if we could come by and get a key, she said she wasn't comfortable with that. So after an 18 hour drive we had to kill time in a 2-bit town with a very tired 3 year old. And then when she finally got home, she informed us that the guest room was being used for storage so we would have to sleep on the floor in the living room. It was my last visit there, until her funeral, probably 15 years later.

    At the funeral, we were informed by an aunt that she had left a seating chart for the funeral; that she wanted people seated in their order of importance in her life. The aunt had destroyed the list, but I always wondered where we fell on that list!!!!

    The final coup d'grace was a few weeks ago (she died about 7 years ago) we received a letter from an attorney that she had left a small trust that was being liquidated. The bulk of it went to her last husband, a big chunk to her only son, and 1% each to my DH and one of his brothers, and a specific mention that a 3rd brother got zip. We were completely not expecting anything, so I wanted to send it back! But, heck, it's the only nice thing I ever got from her.

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    1. Anon, your MIL was a bitch. I am sorry you and your husband had to have someone like her in your lives.

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  14. My MIL wanted to serve my FIL with divorce papers on the morning of my wedding. My husband talked her out of that (not out of the divorce, my FIL was abusive and an asshole, he just didn't want our wedding to be ruined by the inevitable fury of his father when MIL did serve him). A few years later, we found out she had taken out student/personal loans in my husband's name and SSN, to the tune of about $30K, and never bothered to pay them back, nor did she give that money to my husband to pay for school. My husband refused to press charges against her, but it also severed any relationship he has with her (he felt that she had "earned" that money for putting up with his abusive father for the years that she was married to him). He spoke with her on Christmas last year, for the first time in 2+ years.

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    1. Kara, your MIL is also a bitch! God almighty what is wrong with these people?

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  15. You guys, I have not been able to read your stories until now and have only a few minutes to write (I want to respond to you individually later this week). Thank you for sharing these stories with all of us. They are very hard to read - I don't know why people can't be nice to their own families.

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  16. I had a great MIL. She passed in 2008 2 months after she turned 89. I married the baby of 5 (late and 1st marriages for both of us). FIL died when hubby was 9. While my in-laws have issues like all families, they pale in comparison to my mother's family.

    My mother's mom shot my mother's dad in the face with a shotgun (he was cheating and not bothering to even try to hide it). He lived for 2 days. My mother (just turned 20) could not sleep for weeks afterward. Her doctor prescribed a beer at bedtime. She had never drank alcohol before. So began her self-medication of her mental illness. It breaks my heart to think what her life could have been if she had gotten help.

    Our lives were strange, but my sister and I turned out OK. But I consciously chose not to procreate, partially because I was leery of passing on any mental illness (Mom's whole family was hard drinking and hard fighting) in case it skips generations.

    I was so grateful to be welcomed and loved by my MIL. We had 22+ great years. She showed me such love and kindness.

    So sad that all can not experience what we had.

    ---Tammy

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    1. Tammy, I am glad you had a good MIL - makes up a little for the trauma your mom went through, I hope.

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  17. A week after my MIL signed over the family acreage to my 45 year old brother in law; he got himself engaged to a 35 year old woman who announced that she would not live with a Mother in law. So MIL came to live with us. While we all thought that new SIL was bitch of the century, turned out she was right. You should not live with your MIL.
    She came into my house and basically tried to break my family. She'd sit at the dinner table and try to pick fights about my cooking, or politics, or the state of my married children's marriages. She sat in on our evening prayers and interrupted whenever we'd pray for a family member - especially my bipolar daughter who was off her meds and living on the street, saying that we shouldn't pray for her safety, we should order her to come home. Like that would work.
    She refused to switch pharmacies and would only tell us she was out of insulin when she'd used the last dose. We worked at home, on very tight deadlines and HER pharmacy was a 45 minute drive away.
    She had hyperthyroid, heart trouble, arthritis, and diabetes, then she developed cancer and went on chemo. She refused to use a dosette and would regularly under or overdose herself on codeine, morphine and insulin. None of husbands three siblings every helped.
    I'm getting mad all over again. And this was all 10 years ago.
    The final straw was that she didn't begin to entertain the possibility that she might die someday about 18 hours before she actually did. Then my BIL made my children (Husband and I miscalculated and were away visiting a client in another city) kiss her dead face. One son still has nightmares, I can't bring myself to talk to BIL.

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    1. Anon, I am mad for you! ANOTHER MIL BITCH!

      Any MILs reading - it is not hard to be nice!

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  18. My MIL lived about 60 minutes from where our children were participating in an athletic event. Even though she is not close to anyone but her daughter, we invited her to see the children participate. It was probably a long day for her, but when she was getting ready to get back in her car and head for home, she asked to speak to my husband. And then she told him he had another older half-sibling that no one ever knew about!! My husband was about 40 at the time and was shocked, needless to say. And even though this long lost son had asked her not to contact him again or contact his 20-something children, she DID IT ANYWAY. She caused a rift between not known sibling and his daughter who was responsive to the contact. My MIL has many faults and they all make me glad I don't live near her and that my husband has very, very, very little contact with her. She has missed out on knowing our two terrific kids, but it is her loss, not ours. When I'm not appalled at what she does and how she interacts with her children, I feel deep pity for a woman who holds grudges, lets son 3 walk all over her, has secrets and seems unhappy.

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    1. Oh! That reminds me. Remember upthread, when I said that the crazy was all on my side of the family? I found out in my 20s that I have THREE older half-sisters whom I had never met nor heard about before. And my mother (who gave them up for adoption) didn't want me to tell anyone, even my wife! O.O

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    2. Whhhhaaaaaaaat? I expect this was a horrible situation for your mom, but how does someone give up three children for adoption?

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    3. Stacy, that is such a sad story. :(

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    4. Goldie, I really don't know. She was a wonderful, generous person, but planning and impulse control were never her strong suits. That's why, since I was smart and nerdy enough at a very young age to think about odds and optimal approaches, I often had to be my own grownup influence starting early in adolescence. (Primo can probably identify with that.)

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  19. Mine is pretty mild but my MIL wouldn't acknowledge that we were a couple for 4 years even though we had been married for two years at that point, wouldn't even say my name for another 6 years (she even stopped herself after saying one syllable of my name once). So after being married 8 years now she can say my name and admit we are together but still doesn't refer to me as his wife or that he is married.

    I will admit that he has the worse MIL though, My mother is a horror, constantly picking on him for not having a better job or a car, etc. I do put my foot down about it which is why we don't talk to her for months on end and don't ever plan to visit. And if she ever shows up for a surprise visit like she talked about, it is not going to go the way she plans. Motel and barely seeing us.

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    1. My MIL did the refusing to say my name thing too. I was "her" or "that one" for YEARS.

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    2. How does a MIL get away with not admitting that her son is married? Does she just lie about it?

      Kara, "that one" is something my (beloved) sister in law Stephanie says! She is Italian from Philly and I get the idea it's an East Coast thing. I am cool with it because the "that one" she is talking about is not a nice person!

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