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RoseRed135

Do you have "toxic inlaws?" - Part 2: "Engulfers"

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Posted (edited)

Earlier this week I opened a conversation about Susan Forward's book Toxic Inlaws... and two kinds of ILs she talks about - critics and controllers. Here, I'm thinking about another category she discusses - the "engulfers." These are ILs who make inordinate claims on a couple's time and expect each marriage to become swallowed up in their larger family dynamic. As Forward says,  they  "view your marriage license as enlistment papers, signing you up to total involvement with them."

Personally, I haven't experienced this situation, but I know one or two families that come very close to it. And no doubt, we have had members come in here and complain that their ILs demand their presence at every family event, etc. or that they see their AC's ILs doing this. In some cases, we've heard of such FOOs inviting the other parents/GPs to their events but making them feel isolated and uncomfortable.

How about you? Do you feel your parents or PILs are engulferts or try to be? For that matter, how about your AC or CIL or your AC's ILs? Or anyone else in your life?

Edited by RoseRed135

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Posted (edited)

P.S. About FOOs who always invite the other parents, etc. - TBF, I'm sure that many families are/feel they are just being inclusive when they invite the other parents/PILs/GPs to events. No doubt, often, such hosts think it's a generous thing to  and that this way, they can both be w/ their AC and GC (if any) on this/that holiday, etc. It sounds lovely, and often, I'm sure the other parents appreciate it. In those cases where they feel ignored, etc., IDK if the hosts are necessarily trying to make them feel that way or if the other parents are just more "private" people or whatever. It's a red flag, however, IMO, if one FOO insists on hosting every event.

Edited by RoseRed135

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before they both passed, my DM and DF never would even think they were more important than my DH.  the only experience I had was from PGM, who was very toxic - we just stayed away from her except  a couple of times a year.  So when I started dating and then married my DH, I really did not know how bad it can be...ITS BAD.  ILs have all the toxic labels, including engulfers think we should be at every event. They want to know EVERY detail of our lives.  I am very private, I didn't even tell my own mother day to day details. I have over many years, limited more and more time spent with them, including general family gatherings (in the beginning at least 15 yearly family gatherings, plus they wanted us to come weekly for Sunday dinner - HA that didn't happen but we did go a lot more and I let kids spend the night a lot too early on).  I have limited info that is told, but now my kids tell them things.  They use it for what ever they have up their sleeves...like randomly texting me "I hope feel better"....I told no one that I was sick, so that means she is using the kids information as "I still get what I want and I am showing you right now." I haven't cut off that contact yet. I am having a hard time going from VLC to CO. They also have informants in the family and other people at the school, the extra curricular events, etc.  They will show up to events without being invited, at school, and everything else.  My DuH KNOWS, and agrees that she is Kray-Kray, and almost 100% wrong each time, but he has always said "you know how she is" and never says anything to her about crossing boundaries - unless she does it to him, which has only happened twice.  We are now down to only going to 2 family events a year (Thanksgiving and Christmas), and only 1 time to their house, and I haven't allowed the kids to -spend the night in 7-8 months, and only called them for emergency type things for almost a year.  Now the few people in the family that I am really close to, I have not shared vital info with for almost 6 months..It doesn't matter, they get info by being PA manipulative, or out right lying to people they know.   I have blocked them on social media also, stopped telling my DuH (and now kids) information until last minute to try to avoid this uninvited show ups, and "look what I know" texts and calls.  I have now blocked them completely on my phone.  Guess what she showed up this week to an event, uninvited...  I have told them nicely and not so nicely what I expect them to do for things to change.. to be GP and DA and stop trying to be parents.  

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I don't know if I agree with the idea that one FOO hosting all events is a red flag. 

If the GPs are toxic, or the CIL for that matter, then the relationships might become solely about the GP wanting access to the GC. 

In this situation, I would expect the CIL would host/decide all visits based on when it suits the family and is best for the child (allowing for rest, time with friends, other commitments). 

 

I would also expect the toxic GPs would see this as controlling.

They would have no insight into the idea that expecting somebody else to make their child available as and when it suits you is, itself, controlling and entitled.

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"Guess what she showed up this week to an event, uninvited...  I have told them nicely and not so nicely what I expect them to do for things to change.. to be GP and DA and stop trying to be parents."  

JustBreathe, Good Luck with those issues. Maybe try cutting them away from you and the kids? Leave DH to deal with the huge problem that is his parents.

Anonymous poster hash: ea945...f93

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I read this book, and at the end of it, I couldn't quite fit my IL's into any of these categories.  For me, the one word description I can come up with to describe my IL's would be "users" which I think deserves its own category.  Towards the end of my active relationship with them, I felt completely depleted in the relationship with them as it was so one-sided.  It was all about serving them, accommodating them, doing things for them, making the kids available to them, etc., and I rarely received a genuine show of appreciation for what I did.  For example, every year I do my IL's taxes.  To date, I have not received a thank you directly to me.  Perhaps, a thanks is muttered to DH when he hands over the completed taxes, but I never hear it.  Last year, when my ODB died suddenly and traumatically, I didn't even get a condolence card from my IL's.  Why?  Because acknowledging his death would have required them to see me in a different light other than servant to them or conduit to their GK's, etc., which I don't think they ever did.   They were also extremely challenged in social graces and manners.

I also think that with toxic IL's, beyond these labels you may find a ground zero victim with a personality disorder, mental illness or an addiction which is at the root cause of the toxic IL problem.  In my case, I've long suspected that my MIL went undiagnosed her whole life with a personality disorder(or two).  I think she was a narcissist, and my FIL was her enabler/rescuer.  What was exhibited from this dysfunctional dynamic was toxic like behavior that ran the spectrum - at times controlling, at times engulfing, at times critical, etc.  It can't be put into one category, although the one word I would use to describe my experience with it would be that I felt "used" which I think is a common feeling to have when you are involved with a narcissist and the enablers.

 

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Posted (edited)

To my mind, organising and inviting doesn't make someone an engulfer in the toxic sense. Even if they invite the other side of the in-law family. I think the toxicity test lies in the reaction of the invitee if the prospective guest/object says no to the plans.

I've read the book and my own inlaws fall into this category. Though I've upheld my boundary of no more than 3 weeks a year of visits (due to past issues and constantly pushing for more) and although there's a fair amount of moaning and pushing, it's been more or less enacted - if not necessarily respected. I'm okay with the way things are now, if not necessarily happy. Though I'm okay with that. It does make interactions draining when people are trying to push for more than you feel comfortable with. And the instinctive reaction is to give less, not more.

In fact, now that the pushing and criticism is lessening, I'm more inclined to want to give more.

Distance is the only thing that stops them being engulfers in the true sense. I'm fully aware that my MIL would like - in her ideal world - to watch the kids every day and have H coming home to her on an evening for dinner. I can come if I want. She has told me this more than once. Distance makes this impossible.

A more respectful way of proceeding would be to express a (genuine, not forced) delight in the other person's company and a wish to see the others more: "I've really enjoyed seeing you, it would be lovely if we could get together more!" then step back and respect the other person (people). Where it becomes annoying/toxic is when there is moaning, criticising, unfavourable comparisons. Or a forced excitement at seeing the person, with an obvious personal agenda. Then more moaning when you don't get your way. This process stinks of the fact that you don't see the other party as separate individuals with their own lives and agendas.

Edited by parsleythelion
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12 hours ago, RoseRed135 said:

Earlier this week I opened a conversation about Susan Forward's book Toxic Inlaws... and two kinds of ILs she talks about - critics and controllers. Here, I'm thinking about another category she discusses - the "engulfers." These are ILs who make inordinate claims on a couple's time and expect each marriage to become swallowed up in their larger family dynamic. As Forward says,  they  "view your marriage license as enlistment papers, signing you up to total involvement with them."

Personally, I haven't experienced this situation, but I know one or two families that come very close to it. And no doubt, we have had members come in here and complain that their ILs demand their presence at every family event, etc. or that they see their AC's ILs doing this. In some cases, we've heard of such FOOs inviting the other parents/GPs to their events but making them feel isolated and uncomfortable.

How about you? Do you feel your parents or PILs are engulferts or try to be? For that matter, how about your AC or CIL or your AC's ILs? Or anyone else in your life?

Hmmm... FIL gets angry when we don't show up for "family" events now, even though MIL totally CO'd us years ago.Last time he had the nerve to tell us he was hurt by us not showing up, he felt that we didn't care. Gee, how does he think we feel about the way he/they have treated our entire family and not acknowledging nor apologizing for that behavior? Does that fit in here? Not sure.

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13 hours ago, 1004 said:

I don't know if I agree with the idea that one FOO hosting all events is a red flag. 

If the GPs are toxic, or the CIL for that matter, then the relationships might become solely about the GP wanting access to the GC. 

In this situation, I would expect the CIL would host/decide all visits based on when it suits the family and is best for the child (allowing for rest, time with friends, other commitments). 

 

I would also expect the toxic GPs would see this as controlling.

They would have no insight into the idea that expecting somebody else to make their child available as and when it suits you is, itself, controlling and entitled.

BIL is about to marry into a family of engulfers... FSIL is already making waves about insisting that we all go to her FOO for holidays. While it's nice to invite the other side, I really don't want to spend all holidays with my BIL's inlaws... I want to spend them with my own inlaws (who I very much get along with). If one set always insists on hosting, that's not very fair to the other CIL in the family.

Anonymous poster hash: 9ea45...38f

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Invitations are not summons.  Politely so no thanks, we have other plans.

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Actually, I said, " It's a red flag...IMO, if one FOO insists on hosting every event," not simply if they happen to host all the events. In fact, I realize that sometimes this constant hosting is pushed on/expected of one couples, as when BSW's ILs used to expect her and DH to host all holidays, etc.

I also realize, as 1004 points out, that some people have a good reason to make sure holidays are spent a certain way or w/ certain people. Not to mention that some couples just find it easier to host at home when, say, they have young children (as had been brought up here many times) or if their health prohibits traveling, etc.

But I was thinking of the kind of situation where the frequent hosts strongly object if anyone says, "Next year I want to do this at my house," even if there's no apparent reason for the objection. Some of my cousins had this experience when DS' MIL flipped out even if her own DD/their DIL said she would like to host a holiday. Eventually, there was a blowup between the 2 sets of parents/PILs/GPs (over something else) and now there are separate celebrations as much as possible. But for a long time, DS' MIL "had to" be the host (well, along w/ FIL) or else she'd throw a fit (or at least, so I'm told by my cousin).

Then again, she also made an issue of it, according to cousin, whenever cousin and her DH were asked to babysit, etc. So perhaps, whether or not the hosting issue is a problem depends on whether or not it's part of a larger pattern.

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Posted (edited)

Finding these replies very interesting (as always). I'm not surprised that some of you feel your ILs fit in more than one category. Forward says that even in that case, one pattern usually predominates, but I'm not sure that's always true. Or maybe it's just that, as BSW suggests, that's partly b/c there are some other possible categories that could be added, such as "users."

Cupcake, it sounds to me as if your FIL is kind of an engulfer wannabe. But MIL's attitude and your and DH's firm stance make it impossible to be one. It would be hard for someone to engulf someone else, I imagine, if that someone else sticks firmly to their boundaries.

Then again, perhaps he's just defending MIL. Or maybe he's still trying to sweep the problems under the rug and pretend - and get you to pretend - that everything is fine.

Parsley, good to see you! And glad to hear things are going better w/ your ILs now though I'm sorry it's not totally satisfactory for you. Hope it keeps getting better!

Welcome, New Member! And yes, it does sound as if BIL may be marrying "into a family of engulfers," at least where holidays are concerned. But, as Sue points out, you don't have to accept all their invites. Meanwhile, it's good to hear that you and your ILs get along well! Kudos to both you and them!

Edited by RoseRed135
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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, RoseRed135 said:

Finding these replies very interesting (as always). I'm not surprised that some of you feel your ILs fit in more than one category. Forward says that even in that case, one pattern usually predominates, but I'm not sure that's always true. Or maybe it's just that, as BSW suggests, that's partly b/c there are some other possible categories that could be added, such as "users."

Cupcake, it sounds to me as if your FIL is kind of an engulfer wannabe. But MIL's attitude and your and DH's firm stance make it impossible to be one. It would be hard for someone to engulf someone else, I imagine, if that someone else sticks firmly to their boundaries.

Then again, perhaps he's just defending MIL. Or maybe he's still trying to sweep the problems under the rug and pretend - and get you to pretend - that everything is fine.

...snip...

I think they do fit better in the controlling category. Though I have not read the book nor any descriptions beyond here. Wannabe is a good term for FIL though. I do agree with that and yes it's probably still all about rug sweeping and trying to use control, at least see if we will bend and give them back control. You'd think after so many years they'd get a clue. I know others have dealt with [bigger] issues for longer.

Edited by Cupcake55

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I sent a group text to my 3 kids, DIL & Sister asking who was hosting Easter....'cause its not me. I do Christmas every year at my kids' insistence. My new DIL hosted Thxgiving, asking for it to be her holiday moving forward, as it has been her big deal since she was a teenager (she and DS have been married just over a year, she's 35)...we're all good with that. DD & DsD fill in other holidays as they come up...Sister (who used to host Thxgiving most years) has volunteered for Easter. Like all of our parties, its some form of potluck with the host setting the menu and delegating assignments.

 

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On 4/7/2017 at 7:14 AM, INCOGNITO said:

"Guess what she showed up this week to an event, uninvited...  I have told them nicely and not so nicely what I expect them to do for things to change.. to be GP and DA and stop trying to be parents."  

JustBreathe, Good Luck with those issues. Maybe try cutting them away from you and the kids? Leave DH to deal with the huge problem that is his parents.

Anonymous poster hash: ea945...f93

thank you incognito... I have cut them off from the kids and me. one exception I haven't blocked their contact with kids via phone. I still invite them to some events, but they get info from others and show up to EVERY event even when not invited.  I don't say anything to them there, or call them to chew them out. I don't make a scene. however I have had discussions when they got ****** about I said no on somewhere they wanted kids to go with them. these discussions have happened many times over the years. me cutting back on our contact hasn't changed them at all. its just is showing how underhanded and manipulative they are to get what the want. I am just a mean DIL who for no reason is keeping the kids away. they think they have the right to know everything, be at everything, and we should be around them daily and they should know when we poop. they don't see they are the problem and never will.  right now no way to move but I'm looking at options. 

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1 hour ago, JustBreathe said:

thank you incognito... I have cut them off from the kids and me. one exception I haven't blocked their contact with kids via phone. I still invite them to some events, but they get info from others and show up to EVERY event even when not invited.  I don't say anything to them there, or call them to chew them out. I don't make a scene. however I have had discussions when they got ****** about I said no on somewhere they wanted kids to go with them. these discussions have happened many times over the years. me cutting back on our contact hasn't changed them at all. its just is showing how underhanded and manipulative they are to get what the want. I am just a mean DIL who for no reason is keeping the kids away. they think they have the right to know everything, be at everything, and we should be around them daily and they should know when we poop. they don't see they are the problem and never will.  right now no way to move but I'm looking at options. 

What I don't get about people like this is, why do they keep asking? And why do they get all shocked or offended when told "no," yet again (they kind of knew it was coming - didn't they?)?

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I have told them both a hundred times... you are GP and DA not parents. when you back off, follow the rules, and act like you are supposed to things will change. they will say I NEVER have told them that (gaslighting), they use guilt to try to tell me how LUCKY I should feel that they want to take child to xyz, that other poor children don't get to go.  they say "How are you all of a sudden mad?" I just laugh and say "I didn't just start it's been going  on from the beginning. (of course they deny everything and tell me how shocked they are) We been having his conversation for 20 years. I have directly said you don't follow the rules, I will continue to limit time spent. . " the last talk was about 8-9 months ago. same thing happened and I told them I was done explaining... I have over the years continued to limit contact to VLC. no I have blocked them completely on my phone. 

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Posted (edited)

oh and I can't let DuH handle plan with kids because he falls for their crap every time, let them take over. so now I won't answer via phone or text. they have to call him, but only I can okay what the kids get to do at this point. so we will see how this goes. 

Edited by JustBreathe

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2 hours ago, RoseRed135 said:

What I don't get about people like this is, why do they keep asking? And why do they get all shocked or offended when told "no," yet again (they kind of knew it was coming - didn't they?)?

This /\/\/\...they do know it's coming. I think somehow they see it as they tried and it's "your" (the person telling them no) fault. It's you not wanting to "get over it", rug sweep, whatever, but they tried, doggoneit. At least for us, I think this is how IL's see it. This whole situation would be "fixed" if WE would just GET OVER IT, forget about it and move on, allowing them to continue with their behavior, no matter how negative and hurtful it might be. It wasn't hurtful to them so it must be us.

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28 minutes ago, Cupcake55 said:

This whole situation would be "fixed" if WE would just GET OVER IT, forget about it and move on, allowing them to continue with their behavior, no matter how negative and hurtful it might be. It wasn't hurtful to them so it must be us.

My mom was like that...when confronted with her hurtful behavior her response was either "don't feel like that" or "oh, nevermind" then she'd change the subject. Never ever did she apologize or even recognize that her behavior was the problem.

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Posted (edited)

35 minutes ago, Mame925 said:

My mom was like that...when confronted with her hurtful behavior her response was either "don't feel like that" or "oh, nevermind" then she'd change the subject. Never ever did she apologize or even recognize that her behavior was the problem.

When we told MIL her behavior/actions hurt our ODD, her response was, "No I didn't" ummm, yes, we just told you you did. Happened twice. She decided a CO was in order instead of an apology. Been CO from MIL ever since. FIL still tries once or twice a year to play the invitation and  "you just need to get over it" card while also saying, "We don't have to apologize, she's just a kid." FIL owes her an apology for something completely different. He's even admitted he needs to apologize to her he is just dragging his feet. Though they've seen how far their comments and nonapologies have gotten them over the past several years. Nowhere.

Seems to me the longer the wait before an apology the harder it is. At this point, DH thinks we are just head butting. Maybe so but not going to force ODD to have a relationship with people who treat her badly especially if they refuse to acknowledge and apologize for it. They don't have the right to expect her or us to have to put up with that kind of behavior toward herself (or ourselves) when they wouldn't allow it around themselves.

The way I see it now is not only does MIL and FIL owe ODD an apology for their treatment of her, MIL now also owes DH an apology for the CO, completely ignoring his comm's to her over the years as well -just because we told her she needed to apologize.

Edited by Cupcake55
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My went to VLC for the better part of 20 years. 

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Posted (edited)

27 minutes ago, Mame925 said:

My went to VLC for the better part of 20 years. 

I quit responding to FIL a couple of years ago. I got tired of the circles and accusations, and repetition of this whole situation. I don't like sounding like a broken record. DH is the only one who responds to FIL now. DH has put FIL on VVLC as of a couple of years ago. DH's eyes were completely opened when he texted FIL, "Happy Easter" and FIL's response was a nasty, hateful message returned about our dog. It took him a long time to get over that one. DH realized he would text FIL and it would be A) 48% negative text returned, B ) 48% ignored, or C) >2% chance of a nice text returned. DH then had to decide with each communication, if he was in a position, mood, place he could deal with the negative or being completely ignored. He decided mostly he couldn't deal with it so just quit texting, communicating altogether. He will respond when FIL texts him though. He will also wave if he sees him driving (same with MIL) and stop and talk to FIL as long as ODD is not in the vehicle, will not stop for MIL though, or at least there has never been an opportunity or need to stop but he does wave. Sometimes she waves sometimes she doesn't. I used to wave and or stop for FIL. I don't anymore. I don't wave or stop for MIL. I'm childish that way. They've hurt my family too deeply so I just act like I don't see or hear them. Yes, that could compound the problem. ODD won't even look in their direction. They were jerks to their faces, they can apologize to their faces. No need to stop and take ODD or DH to the lions den. If they have something to say, they know how to contact us, where to find us.

Sorry; going on and on. Saw FIL yesterday for the first time in a very long time, on the road. Guess I needed to open this wound to be able to close it again.

Edited by Cupcake55

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Most of our conversations over that time frame were superficial. I couldn't trust her with my feelings so I stopped sharing them. Her loss. She did call to check on DH's health from time to time. The responses again were "he's doing OK, good days, bad days" and leave it at that. Although, when xH passed (about 6 months before DH) she called my DD, was very lucid and wanted to know what the "h" happened. DD always handled her well, and did then as well....gave her the 'readers' digest' version and "forgot" to mention when the memorial was scheduled. 

 

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17 hours ago, Mame925 said:

My mom was like that...when confronted with her hurtful behavior her response was either "don't feel like that" or "oh, nevermind" then she'd change the subject. Never ever did she apologize or even recognize that her behavior was the problem.

Ugh! I hate when someone responds this way after you (general) have told them how something hurt you. It dismisses your feelings and seems to me to be just another effort to control.

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