Sunday, January 03, 2010

once again, I need to get over myself

I've done a bad thing. I don't feel the need to go into the gory details, but I yelled at my MIL and she ended up crying. It was a stupid situation; I was jetlagged, Kali hadn't slept in days, Mr. December wasn't there to act as my buffer, and (according to all sides) MIL was really pushing me in a particular conversation. So I exploded.

In the aftermath, she has revealed to Mr. December that she doesn't feel I respect her. It makes sense, in that she seems to always be looking for ways to gain my respect: she lists all the creative things she does with Kali, tells me about the wonderful activities she went to with her sons at this age, etc, etc. My reaction to all of this has revealed to me a stunningly ugly part of myself.

The more she ingratiates herself to me, and the more she seems to beg for praise, the less respect I have for her.

This is the opposite of the way I feel about other people. Usually when I see that someone has a particular weakness, whatever it is, I feel slightly protective. I go into "therapist" mode and do whatever I feel I can to alleviate their discomfort. Not so with MIL. I just feel the need to be tougher and tougher on her in the hope that one day she'll push back and reveal that she does have some self-esteem and possibly even a backbone.

As I said, it's an ugly reaction. I'm ashamed of it, as I am of my failure to show her the respect she deserves as my MIL. Respecting one's elders and one's parents is not optional, and yet I've neglected my obligation in that regard.

I'm not sure what to do. Whenever I look at her, I find fault. I try very hard to just not speak in her presence. I find myself biting my tongue. And yet a lack of disrespect is not the same as showing respect. She deserves respect as the woman who raised the man I love. Why can't I give it to her?

There will have to be a follow-up post; this one is getting long. I'll close with a call for suggestions. Real ones, please, respectful ones. I've got plenty of snark in me already when it comes to MIL. I need to tame it. Can anybody help me?


Aurelia said...

Quick thought--maybe some time with a therapist to figure why she triggers you?

Does she remind you of someone? A situation? A time in your life, like the past, or even the future?

Some people just do that to me. Because of who they remind me of. Maybe?

FosterAbba said...

I don't have a lot to suggest, but here's my list.

1) Apologize. Write a note if you have to.

2) Keep in mind that your feelings DO NOT have to match your actions. You can completely hate your MIL and still respond appropriately.

3) Create a little distance between you and the MIL. Sounds like she's been too much in your face, which is pushing your buttons.

Caro said...

No advice but lots of empathy. My MIL triggers me too.

Hollyn said...

My MIL (who annoys the CRAP out of me) was here for 8 days, over Thanksgiving... I realized that if I ignore the stupid stuff that comes out of her mouth and focus on the good stuff, I won't kill her. Also, know when you need a break from her. There were times that I went and took a nap, read a book in the other room, etc. I also praise Jan when she does something I like. "Wow! Thanks for keeping Jack and Lexi occupied while I cooked dinner, took shower, etc... I really appreciate it."

Chances are, she'll cut down on the stupid stuff if you praise her once in awhile. I've also learned that I can't go running to Alex, everytime I want to kick her in the shins... it just puts him in a hard position. He doesn't want to have to defend his mom (who annoys the crap out of him, too), but he feels like he should defend both of us.

Fortunately, my MIL is a plane ride away... thank the GOOD LORD for that! :)

E. Phantzi said...

My MIL lives 4 minutes from us and watches my 19-month-old at least 10 hours a week, for free. Which means I see a LOT more of her than I used to before we had a kid, and that's a LOT more than I would normally like!

One thing that helped me see her in a more compassionate light (because she has so many personality tics that really drive me nuts) was trying to figure out how she and I are alike. Yes, alike. I read somewhere that both men and women tend to marry people who remind them in some way of their mothers, and so I thought there MUST be something we have in common, or my husband wouldn't have married me. And I did figure some things out, that help me understand her better and respect her a little more. She and are are very, very different people in other ways, to be sure - and there are things she does and says that will ALWAYS rub me the wrong way - but this did help.

Good luck. The fact that you desire to improve the situation in itself speaks well for you.

Jodi said...

She is just trying to find a way to fit into your life. I haven't had a chance to read much of your blog yet but i used to resent my MIL too now she is one of biggest allies. Her son can be judgementaland difficult any advice on that? Kill her with kindness i think my MIL likes me better then dh ;)