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RoseRed135

Do you have "toxic inlaws?" - Part 4: "Masters of Chaos"

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... Continuing the discussion of "toxic inlaws," as defined by Susan Forward in her book, Toxic Inlaws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage...

Forward labels another category of toxic ILs "Masters of Chaos." These ILs  are/appear to be "helpless" and seem to need (and sometimes want) their AC to parent them. Often, unfortunately, they are alcoholics, drug addicts, etc. or people, who, for what ever reason, are very needy. They may not mean to cause trouble in their AC's marriage, but sometimes they do.

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

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Yep, once again, my ILs fit in this category, too. I mentioned in the "Engulfers" thread, they would call all the time, complaining about each other, or asking us to take care of home maintenance and fix-it things. And all the ILs made excuses for PILs' neediness or bad behavior. Cockroaches? "They're 'old-school' (whatever the heck that means), they don't mind 'bugs' and they don't clean as well as they once did." My PILs were only in their 60s at the time. "We have to be careful with FIL, he's fragile, he has BPD." Meanwhile, they'd throw him into chaos during events and even yell at him in front of everyone for stupid things. I watched MIL treat him particularly cruelly when he was trying to drive us somewhere, once.

And DH would get so worn down and stressed out from worrying about them. They'd call and "confide" in him about their financial straits, there were a lot of "catastrophic" health issues (that weren't), and annoyances at work. DH would then tell me all about it, and I used to get worked up too, racking my brain, trying to think of ways to "fix" things for them.

After a few years, I got sick of it. We'd try to help, but it was never enough. There was always something. Finally, I started opening DH's eyes (after prying my own open!) that, if they really wanted help? They'd help themselves. They wanted their house painted again? They should hire it out, put some skin in the game. Their gutters were shot? They should hire someone to clean them out periodically, and no, I was never going to do it again. FIL's worried about MIL shopping all the time and they don't have money for taxes? That's THEIR problem. They're the adults.

They wanted all the authority of being our "elders and betters," but none of the responsibility, it seemed. It took about 6 years to begin to turn the train around, but it seems to be headed in a better direction, now.

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My BIL (DH's sib) gets the crown for master of chaos.  He was recently dx with a mental illness (bipolar) and a personality disorder (sociopath), so no doubt this plays a part in the chaos.  When he is in his frantic, aggressive, state, he most always involves DH - sometimes to vent, sometimes to try to involve DH in his drama, sometimes to get into it with DH over issues BIL has with FIL, DH (probably me but DH doesn't mention this), etc.  BIL is either texting or trying to call DH on a daily basis.  He is extremely needy.  My MIL's illness plays a part in BIL's mental state, as he lives with her and has watched her decline over the past three years since her diagnosis.  Also, since I've known DH, BIL has a history of trying to test DH's loyalty, similar to what my MIL used to do.  BIL and MIL are very similar, and believe hat DH's loyalty is to his FOO first, me second, and although MIL was covert in this belief, until last year during her ragefest when she came clean that this was a huge issue she had with DH, BIL has been vocal about it to DH.  So, quite often when DH and I have a vacation planned, about 1 hour into our vacation, BIL will usually contact DH with an urgent message involving some type of drama in BIL's life that BIL needs to talk about immediately.  He has done this in the past with important life experiences involving DH and me, such as the birth of our children.  I recall one time that BIL threw an absolute fit, the day we brought YDD home from the hospital, because DH would not come up to my IL's (where BIL also lives) to help BIL build a platform for his weights.   DH has gotten a lot better about not being available to BIL and just letting his messages go to voicemail.  I am trying to get DH on board with blocking BIL's number the next time we go on vacation, as I am done with this guy and the chaos he causes.

My IL's are also super needy and DH will forever be the knight in shining armor that rescues them.  That is his role in their family - the golden, rescue boy.  WIth my IL's, they want it their way, period end.  Relationships are completely one-sided.   For instance, my IL's could have moved downstairs in a unit they own, but refused and as a result my MIL is a shut in due to her illness and inability to walk down the stairs which makes FIL confined to home as he cares for her (BIL is completely useless in the help dept)  FIL needs to get out to the house to run errands such as get food and will guilt DH if he is not up there at least once a week watching MIL so FIL can get out.  FIL fails to acknowledge that he created this situation by not moving downstairs.  Had he done so, MIL could be put in a wheel chair and they would be free to come and go as they please, relying on no one.  I am done with FIL/MIL as well and the chaos they have caused.  DH is much better on not playing rescue boy to his IL's. but honestly this is his family role since he was a boy, so it will never completely leave him. 

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I've been following this series of posts, but none really fit my MIL until this one. So much of my frustration with MIL is her inability to just act like a normal, responsible, independent adult. My parents were both fiercely independent, and managed their own stuff, so her neediness is just mind boggling to me. It runs from minor, like wanting DH to call the cable company on her behalf because she was questioning charges on her bill, to the major, like her trying to suck DH into managing her then dying SO's illness.

I don't think my MIL has ever been so malicious to intentionally cause strife in our marriage (like BSW's MIL) but her behaviour definitely does. I kind of moved into the 'done' zone after the way she behaved when my mother died. I haven't seen her since September (I feel like a need a chip for that, like they get in AA, 7 months MIL free) but whenever she does visit she's taking to leaving little presents for me through DH. I just ignore them. The second to last one went in the garbage, and the last one I gave to DH. Gifts was never my love language, and I think this whole thing made me realize why. I feel like this kind of behaviour from her is rug sweeping her behaviour last summer, and there's no amount of gift cards or lotion or snacks that is going to erase the fact that she ignored the most traumatic thing that's happened to me and my family to date. Again, just act like a grown up, and take two seconds to say "I'm sorry your mom died". 

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MIL is depressed and lonely so she is always insisting that she take us out for dinner. She is also horrible with her finances, living paycheck to paycheck and often unable to pay her bills on time. We insist that she just come over and have dinner with us, but she is insecure and doesn't want to feel like she is imposing. We sometimes go eat at her apartment but she is a horrible cook and it embarrasses her.  As a result, our choices are either deny her invitation to go to a restaurant and she becomes more depressed (which leads to shopping trips that go on her ever increasing credit cards) or go out to eat with her and watch her pay the restaurant bill knowing she may not be able to afford rent. DH is burdened with worry about his mothers lifestyle but she insists she is good with her money and won't accept budgeting help, but does accept cash loans from us. 

She also badly wants to babysit all the time. This way she can spend time with GD without feeling like she is imposing. It gives her purpose and makes her feel wanted. And I want her to have those things. But because of her depression I don't feel comfortable leaving DD alone with her. There are other reasons why I feel like it may not be safe, such as former mental health issues that she took medication for (possibly might still need to), she doesn't listen when we ask her not to do something or not to encourage/teach certain bad behaviors (like spitting and hitting), and she can be disrespectful (once she ignored my calls/texts asking about DD wellbeing while she was babysitting because she was mad at me). 

For DHs sake, I want to help improve our situation. But I'm not sure how. She moved here to "help us" but instead has become a huge emotional burden. We feel bad that we don't trust her to babysit, but we can't help it. We also don't want to end up supporting her if her  wages become garnished (again).

Anonymous poster hash: 8c90c...b27

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WOW incognito, it sounds like you have your hands full with the emotional and financial needs of your MIL.  If she has taken medications in the past for mental health issues, I don't think I would be comfortable with leaving my child with her either especially when she refuses to answer calls or texts while sitting.

Would it be possible to accept an invitation to dinner, but offer to go "Dutch"? or maybe you really can't afford to be always eating out either.  Maybe offer to meet at the park etc and take along a picnic lunch.

It's quite a burden to be expected to handle someone else's depression and loneliness.  I sent my best wishes to you and your family.

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Welcome, New Member! I'm glad you came in to talk w/ us though I'm sorry it's under such negative circumstances. It definitely does sound as if MIL "has become a huge emotional burden." I feel for her, but I feel for you and DH, as well. It's sweet of her not to want to "impose," but in a different way, it seems that's exactly what she's doing, no matter how unintentionally.

IMO, you have to protect your child's wellbeing first. So, given what you've told us, I agree w/ not letting MIL babysit DD. If she can't be satisfied/isn't comfortable w/ just visiting you as a family, that's unfortunate, but not your problem to resolve. Yes, it's sad that you don't trust her to watch DD, but that's not your fault.

As far as dinner is concerned, I think Sue has come up w/ a couple of good solutions. I hope one of them will work for you and yours.

I'm not sure what you/DH can do about MIL's finances if she doesn't acknowledge a problem and won't accept any help. I'm wondering about those loans though... does she pay them back in a timely fashion? Would it be better to pay off this/that bill for her, rather than to loan her cash? Also, if you don't mind my asking, have you and DH supported her before when her wages were garnished?

I hope this doesn't sound mean, but you and DH may need to decide now the degree to which you would be willing and able to support/help support her in the future, if at all, and whether or not she would have to go on any kind of Public Assistance. And then, DH may need to (gently) show her the "lay of the land."  Perhaps that would be a wake up call for her... But maybe you have already done this...

Like Sue, I send you and yours my best wishes...

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This thread reminded me of the vacations with my S2BX and kids.  As soon as we reached our destination, sometimes before, MIL would call S2BX and ask him where we were, if we got there safe, etc.  Inevitably, during our vacations, there was always some sort of emergency at PIL's house that they'd call S2BX about for help.  Whether it be a snowstorm, power outage, a sewer backup or "Johnny got a deer.  Can you make arrangement so we can get some venison too?"  We couldn't enjoy WDW without a barrage of phone calls about a snowstorm and closed roads.  No idea what they expected S2BX to do about it from hundreds of miles away.  

The impending snow used to be another excuse to cause chaos too, if they were visiting us for a holiday/weekend.  They would arrive early, surprisingly between a half-day or full days early, because there was a flurry in the forecast.  No call to see if we were ready, home or had other plans besides hosting them.  Just show up and expect us to roll out the red carpet and include them in anything else we already had planned.  Boy was MIL ever angry when she learned including her at the last minute couldn't always be accommodated.   

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SIL1 and BIL1 are like this to an extent. They are actually very competent people and they are financially well off, but they expect a lifestyle for themselves and their children that they just can't maintain without outside help...and they want DH and his sisters (SIL1's family) to be that outside help. Not their friends, not BIL1's family, and they resist hiring people.

So SIL1 insists that ailing FIL live with her, refuses to even discuss him moving out with DH and me, then complains that it's really hard and DH isn't pulling his weight by driving out to care for FIL. (They live close to an hour away, more if there's traffic, and at one point DH was driving out there 2-3 times a week, which is 6-8 hours of driving.) SIL1 and BIL1 put their children in numerous extracurricular activities, some of them a very long drive away, won't consider cutting back, then complain that they're tired and overburdened and SIL1's siblings need to pitch in more. BIL1 is terminally ill and wants his kids to have a dog while he's still around, so they get a puppy with boundless energy, don't exercise or train it, don't hire anyone to exercise or train it, then yell, smack, and act martyred when it doesn't behave in the house. I could go on. Meanwhile they both, but especially BIL1, opine about how everyone else is incompetent, lazy, lives an easy life etc. BIL1 likes to remind DH that he and SIL1 are entitled to deference because they make way more money than anyone else in the family, which is especially charming when they're demanding free labour from DH.

SIL2 has moved in with SIL1 and BIL1 to look after FIL, and SIL2 is a people pleaser/enabler. She is working and worrying to the point where we think she may make herself ill. SIL1 now uses SIL2 as a stick to beat the other siblings, texting them (without SIL2's knowledge) to complain that SIL2 is overworked and needs a break. Last weekend DH went to their home, as planned, to relieve SIL2, but SIL1 and BIL1 asked him to pull weeds in their garden. DH said no (he has decided that henceforth he will look after FIL, cook, wash dishes and do some child care but he won't do their household chores). So SIL2 volunteered to do it, and her "break" ended up being...doing SIL1's yard work. As far as I know this was A-OK with SIL1.

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20 hours ago, SueSTx said:

WOW incognito, it sounds like you have your hands full with the emotional and financial needs of your MIL.  If she has taken medications in the past for mental health issues, I don't think I would be comfortable with leaving my child with her either especially when she refuses to answer calls or texts while sitting.

Just a comment on this -- I don't know Incognito's situation and her MIL does sound like an inappropriate babysitter, but lots of perfectly fine, responsible people take psychiatric medications. I have babysat while taking medication for depression and I never ignored the parents' instructions or failed to communicate with them about their child. It really depends on the specific condition, the medication, and the side effects.

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Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, Toaster said:

Just a comment on this -- I don't know Incognito's situation and her MIL does sound like an inappropriate babysitter, but lots of perfectly fine, responsible people take psychiatric medications. I have babysat while taking medication for depression and I never ignored the parents' instructions or failed to communicate with them about their child. It really depends on the specific condition, the medication, and the side effects.

Yes, of course, but Incog's MIL has, apparently, ignored the parents' wishes before, etc. And Incog doesn't seem clear on whether or not MIL still-needs-meds-but-isn't-using them (I realize some people have good reason to stop).

Edited by RoseRed135

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2 hours ago, Toaster said:

Last weekend DH went to their home, as planned, to relieve SIL2, but SIL1 and BIL1 asked him to pull weeds in their garden. DH said no (he has decided that henceforth he will look after FIL, cook, wash dishes and do some child care but he won't do their household chores). So SIL2 volunteered to do it, and her "break" ended up being...doing SIL1's yard work. As far as I know this was A-OK with SIL1.

Talk about bait & switch! I'm glad DH has now set some limits for himself. Not his fault if SIL2 chooses to do the jobs he refuses to do.

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