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  1. #1
    Senior Member substitute's Avatar
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    Default Mother-in-law phenomenon

    What is it that makes mothers-in-law always think they're in charge of everyone? Why are they so controlling?

    You could say I'm biased, because mine was a total bitch and one of the biggest celebrations of my divorce for me, was the fact that I no longer had to deal with her ever again.

    But I've observed it all over the place. Even just yesterday I was sitting in a pub, happily sipping my ale, when in comes a family group. The mother-in-law was instantly indentifiable by the fact that she was telling everyone where to sit, what they wanted to order, what the guy should drink and why he 'didn't want' to drink what he initially ordered, undercutting the mother of a small child in order to tell the kid how to behave before the mother got a chance, telling them all what 'we' want and what's most convenient and best for 'us', and just generally acting like she was the one in charge, in control there. And totally dismissing any queries or other options presented by anyone else. And everyone went along with it. I was sitting across from this guy, evidently the son-in-law, thinking "You poor, stupid bastard - why don't you tell her to get stuffed and let you decide for yourself what to order?"

    But of course, I know the answer. It's because if he did, the MIL would get upset. And that in turn would make his wife upset. And that would mean at least a week of emotional snooker at home.

    I've seen similar scenes and been part of them myself on many an occasion. Despite my personal bias, I know it's not completely unfounded, because the colloquial nickname for mother-in-law in the UK is 'old boilers' and it's a bedrock of many a family comedy to have a long-suffering guy whose life and relationship are made a misery by an interfering, pushy and overbearing mother in law - precisely because it's a situation many people relate to.

    And I got to thinking - why do mothers in law do that? Is it fulfilling some kind of psychological need for them? Does it help them to feel 'useful' after they've lived in an empty nest for a few years? Don't they realise how much friction they cause in their children's relationships, and how much their behaviour impinges on the happiness of their families? Do they do it on purpose? What??

    Anyone else have similar experiences? Explanations?

    Or better yet, examples of mothers in law who are not like that - in which case, what's different?

    EDIT - if you haven't been married
    , feel free to talk about GF/BF's parents, or even just parents of friends and their reactions to you, if they've tried to have an impact on your friendships.
    Last edited by substitute; 10-27-2007 at 02:35 PM.
    Ils se d�merdent, les mecs: trop bon, trop con..................................MY BLOG!

    "When it all comes down to dust
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  2. #2
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    I am super, super lucky I think-- my in-laws largely leave us alone. My MIL makes a concerted effort not to interfere. She's a forceful person in some ways (kind of a force of nature, actually) so I realize the effort this must take her.

    My FIL doesn't make that level of effort to MHOB, but he is very busy with his own life and stuff so he doesn't point himself in our direction very often. When he does it's fairly spectacular but it always blows over.
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  3. #3
    ~*taaa raaa raaa boom*~ targobelle's Avatar
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    oh how I wish I could be so lucky. my mother in law likes to tell me often what a horrible parent I am..... for some reason we keep going over when we're invited.

    so MIL tells me she hates me, my daughter adores my MIL as does my MIL adore my daughter..... my daughter is so much like me.... my daughter knows this, um what does that do for her? I'm certain she's an enfp, high anxiety and she wants everyone to like and love her. *sigh*
    ~t ...in need of hugs please...
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  4. #4
    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    I hate that. My mother-in-law is mostly a really cool person. She is extremely intelligent, her sense of humor is great (unless she's pointing it at you), and she is, in so many areas very real. OTOH, she does have control issues and she can be really manipulative. She made it clear to me that I was not the kind of person she wanted her son to marry, though she admits that we love each other and are very happy together. I hate that the relationship gets adversarial at times.

    My mom as a mother-in-law, though . . . she has never been particularly stupid to my husband, she doesn't have the guts, she's never been horrible to me in front of my husband, either for that matter. She has been worse than I have words for to my brother's wife (also usually not in front of my brother). My mom is just about the nicest person you could ever hope to meet, but she is nuttier than a fruitcake and she can turn on a dime. When she is being evil, she makes my mother-in-law, who is probably an INTJ, look like marshmallow fluff.
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
    ~ John Rogers

  5. #5
    Senior Member substitute's Avatar
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    Here's a mildly diverting story about my ex-mother-in-law, for those who have the patience to read it...

    I remember my mother in law's most famous performance. It was when my daughter was going to go and stay with her for a week. She'd offered to have her out of the blue, and spent the two months leading up to the week in question phoning her to talk about what exciting things they'd do together. She sent her like, three cards every week, containing messages of enthusiasm and great anticipation, and generally wound my daughter up to the point where she was crossing off the days on her calendar.

    Then about two weeks before the day, she started calling every day to check whether we'd packed this, that or the other. I explained we hadn't packed anything yet, and wouldn't until the night before. But it didn't stop her calling to check that we had this, that we were going to pack that, et cetera. The funny thing was that every time we'd sent her there before, she'd come back with everything we packed untouched, and a whole new wardrobe of new clothes from grandma.

    I was beginning to get seriously pissed off with the pestering, but humoured it for my spouse's sake. One day when my spouse was on the phone to her, I heard her (on the speakerphone) asking whether or not my daughter had a pair of shoes to take with her or enough underwear to last a week. The implication was that, since we were pretty hard up at the time, we were such shitty parents/providers that she actually suspected that our kids didn't even have underwear or shoes.

    I chuckled to myself and called over from the other side of the room in a light-hearted voice, "No we don't believe in shoes, I make a policy of spending all our income on alcohol - shoes aren't needed now that our feet have developed hard soles! And can't she borrow your underwear?"

    She suddenly burst into tears, spluttered something unintelligible and slammed the phone down.

    I managed to stop my spouse from calling her back for a full half hour, to give her time to cool down, but when she did, she wouldn't come to the phone. I asked to speak to her, but I had to speak to my FIL instead, who relayed messages in a stupid "tell her... tell him..." kind of way, and I could hear her crying hysterically in the background saying that I don't care about her feelings because I haven't got any myself. I tried to apologise (even though I knew I'd done nothing wrong) to keep the peace, for my daughter's sake, but she wouldn't have it.

    They sent a postcard in the mail two days later telling my daughter that she couldn't come to visit any more, and that it was my fault. Of course my daughter was devastated. For the next week she called my spouse every day, giving a choice between 'losing' them or me. There was literally nothing I could do, as I'd already apologised and tried to humour her, but she was totally fixed on hating me forever, based purely on this incident.

    When she finally did talk to me again, she said to me that she got the feeling that I thought they (her and my FIL) weren't 'good enough' for me. Since that was bullshit - I just didn't like them because they were basket cases, but had always made an effort to be pleasant and civil to them - I just thought, fuck it, what's the point any more? And answered, "That's because you're not, you heaving prole. But I've put up with your bollocks for six years because though I don't give two shits whether you live or die, I have a marriage to maintain and that's more important to me than you could ever be. But I've realised now that the marriage will survive with or without you, so I've no reason to put up with you any longer." And put the phone down on her.

    She called back an hour later, tearfully apologising for annoying me and trying to creep up to me. Oh-ho, I thought, a turn up for the books, to be sure! And from that day forward, though she still had her moments, she was altogether more subdued and less pushy when I was around.

    EDIT - of course, the irony is that marriage didn't survive, but that was nothing to do with her...
    Ils se d�merdent, les mecs: trop bon, trop con..................................MY BLOG!

    "When it all comes down to dust
    I will kill you if I must
    I will help you if I can" - Leonard Cohen

  6. #6
    Senior Member prplchknz's Avatar
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    Oh god, this thread scares me. My brother and his girlfriend our serious and either are moving into together or already have. Both families get to meet each other over Christmas, and if my parents don't like her parents I'll be stuck in the middle of it. Anyone want to adopt me just for Christmas? I can cook and generally low maintence, just give me a book or a movie to watch and I'll be happy. Or just show me the family pet.

  7. #7
    Senior Member OctaviaCaesar's Avatar
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    Smile A Good Experience

    My MIL-to-be is more organized, sensible, and rational than I am, but she still somehow manages to believe that I am one of the best things that could have happened to her son. She gives me extravagant gifts, sends me loving birthday/ Christmas cards, and is a joy to be with. I am so lucky--and I didn't know quite how lucky until I read these previous posts!

  8. #8
    にゃん runvardh's Avatar
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    Never being married I have no experience in this realm; however, I do have a habit of making the parents of my gf like me or find me brilliant with practical matters. This, however, only goes for parents I've managed to meet and only one that I have met has been an exception. I'm nasty, and by that I mean fair; I've had an entertaining mother so I have few reservations on shutting someone else down over their own stupidity. Now I'm starting to question my ability to maintain a long term relationship...
    Dreams are best served manifest and tangible.

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  9. #9
    Senior Member substitute's Avatar
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    I knew one girl who dumped a guy because her parents liked him... haha... reminded me of the time when my parents once said of a kid I hung around with, "he's a lovely boy, just the kind of kid we'd like to see you hanging around with more often", and that spellt doom for the friendship, I'm afraid!

    On the other hand, I was banned from 6 friends' houses by their parents as a teenager, and the last girl I was with was warned against me by her parents - she said it was the decider! Usually people's parents instantly love me, but after a while this changes. Once, when a partner's parents kept on liking me after several months, I started to worry that I'd gone square in my old age...

    My last partner said he thought the reason why a lot of parents didn't like me was because I totally accept my friends/partners as they are and encourage them to be themselves, to be sincere and independent and make their own decisions. I also demonstrate that not revolving your life around pleasing everyone all the time doesn't result in anywhere near as much harm as a lot of people would have us believe. This often results in them ditching parts of their lives and people in them, that they don't like, or that cause them stress or put pressure on them to be something else; it spells out the end of parental control, and thus, I'm the scapegoat. It's easier to say "it's all because of that guy they've been hanging out with" than to say "maybe they've just got their own minds and have decided they don't agree with us of their own accord".

    Anyone else been a figure of dislike by in-laws or friends' parents? Any inklings as to why?
    Ils se d�merdent, les mecs: trop bon, trop con..................................MY BLOG!

    "When it all comes down to dust
    I will kill you if I must
    I will help you if I can" - Leonard Cohen

  10. #10
    にゃん runvardh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by substitute View Post
    I knew one girl who dumped a guy because her parents liked him... haha... reminded me of the time when my parents once said of a kid I hung around with, "he's a lovely boy, just the kind of kid we'd like to see you hanging around with more often", and that spellt doom for the friendship, I'm afraid!

    On the other hand, I was banned from 6 friends' houses by their parents as a teenager, and the last girl I was with was warned against me by her parents - she said it was the decider! Usually people's parents instantly love me, but after a while this changes. Once, when a partner's parents kept on liking me after several months, I started to worry that I'd gone square in my old age...

    My last partner said he thought the reason why a lot of parents didn't like me was because I totally accept my friends/partners as they are and encourage them to be themselves, to be sincere and independent and make their own decisions. I also demonstrate that not revolving your life around pleasing everyone all the time doesn't result in anywhere near as much harm as a lot of people would have us believe. This often results in them ditching parts of their lives and people in them, that they don't like, or that cause them stress or put pressure on them to be something else; it spells out the end of parental control, and thus, I'm the scapegoat. It's easier to say "it's all because of that guy they've been hanging out with" than to say "maybe they've just got their own minds and have decided they don't agree with us of their own accord".

    Anyone else been a figure of dislike by in-laws or friends' parents? Any inklings as to why?
    My mother instantly hates any girl that makes lovey eyes at me while my father is always quiet unless I ask for his opinion, even then though, he's pretty tight lipped.
    Dreams are best served manifest and tangible.

    INFP, 6w7, IEI

    I accept no responsibility, what so ever, for the fact that I exist; I do, however, accept full responsibility for what I do while I exist.

    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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