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Dealing with WH's family - not directly A related but need help!

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naivewife posted 1/15/2014 14:50 PM

Some of you are so much further down the R path and have done so much work on your marriages I'm hoping I could get some insight. Something WH and I are finally trying to work on (with our MC) is "dealing" with his family, basically. I think because of the betrayal, false R, etc. it's like I've lost my sense of what I am right to be angry about, what I'm not right to be angry about - my perspective, I guess, I don't trust my own perspective anymore, and need guidance.
In many ways, I think WH fits the description of the "Mother Enmeshed Man" though not in the traditional sense where he worships his mother and thinks everything she does is right. Far from it. But he's 38 years old and seems controlled, far too much, by his mothers emotions. And because of that, more often than not, he resents her, all the while trying to please and appease her. I guess that's probably the best way to sum it up. His mom is a master manipulator - guilt being her most powerful weapon.
Rather than trying to give examples of all of the ways we struggle with this, here is the most recent situation where I struggle. Where I don't know if I am in the right or wrong to have an issue with this.
His sister is 33 and single. His parents live within a couple of hours from her, but in the winter they live in Florida and are nowhere near her. When the winter comes, they've come to kind of expect WH to take over for them, in regards to her (we still live several hour away from her, not like we're in the same town either). Without fail, every winter, she has at least one crisis or disaster befall her, almost always her own fault, getting fired from a job, being arrested for drunk driving, and the never ending breakups with boyfriends. In the meantime she also has at least one but usually several bouts of "depression." I put that in quotes because really, 90% of the time she gets dumped, arrested, or fired and declares herself "depressed" and goes to the doctor for antidepressants. WH and I really don't believe she has clinical depression - it's just her way of coping with sadness and it brings her lots of attention from her parents and WH.
I can't take this anymore. She's 33. It is a huge disruption to our lives. We have two small children, jobs, WH has health issues, and now dealing with betrayal. It's the same story every time. MIL sends all kinds of emails to WH telling him how depressed his sister is and he should really talk to her, have her come stay with us, and so on. And WH obliges. Doesn't sound like the worst thing, right? It's his sister.
This same sister patted WH on the back last year when he told her he was cheating on me after 18 years of marriage. She said she just wanted him to be happy, and then went on to befriend OW. WH and I never had a problem in our marriage, I was home with a newborn and a toddler, I had always been gracious with SIL. This was yet another incredible betrayal I had to swallow. MIL knows this went down and still is pressuring WH to be supporting SIL this winter, because yet again, she got dumped and she's depressed. WH explained to MIL that we need time right now as a couple, as this is the first antiversary of A season and I'm struggling. Her response is that she supports us and we can arrange to have his sister over next week. (because we all know I'll be all set by next week, right?!) SIL is also aware that this is a sensitive time for us but it's not stopping her from calling and emailing talking about how sad she is that her boyfriend of 4 months dumped her. They both just think about themselves, right?
Everything, for the past 18 years, has felt like it's been about them. Visits are a nightmare of this guilt/pressure thing, if he doesn't abide by MIL's plans then it's silent treatment until he caves. He hates it, he sees it, but he doesn't know how to break it without causing world war III. And he knows he can't change her, but wants a relationship with her, wants her to be able to be a grandmother to our sons. And because I have been cornered into this, and felt like my own needs have been trampled by their little triangle, I'm having a hard time deciphering if my own demands are reasonable or if I'm just trying to "control" WH and the situation. I feel like I'm babbling, but if anyone can make any sense of this, please share your insight.

naivewife posted 1/15/2014 15:16 PM

I think another reason I'm struggling with this is the whole idea of "control." Like many others here, one of OW's big seduction methods was to tell WH that I control him, he can't let me control him like that, etc. And like many of you, I don't think I really controlled or tried to control him at all - and WH realizes this, now, defogged. But still, any situation that comes up where voicing my needs seems necessary (which I've never been good at anyway), I cringe and want to retreat, fearing I'll get punished for it somehow, someday. So I really need to understand if my issues are valid or not.

refuz2bavictim posted 1/15/2014 15:47 PM

Your issues are valid.

The guilt/silent treatment used by MIL is something your FWH needs to address.

This was the very same tactic used by my FWh's FOO. All of whom have passed on, but the issues remained. He learned to lie, avoid and use whatever means necessary to avoid the anger (silence and withholding of affection) of his family. His mother, his grandmother and aunts. When I first witnessed this, I tried to intervene...and when it began to affect my children, when they withheld affections for small perceived slights by a 5 and 6 year old, I completely lost my cool. But no matter how much I tried I could not force my FWh to do what he was not ready to face. I could however discuss this with my children, so that they would not own the rejection used to manipulate them. It was horrible.

None of that is healthy for him, but it is him who must reconcile this. This is something you can not control. Your interference actually gives them a common "enemy" to blame. As long as you provide yourself as a scapegoat, they can continue to avoid the issue.
I suspect that as a result your FWH is a major conflict avoider. He does what is necessary to avoid the negative outcome of mother's anger.

Can your MC work with him alone on this issue? An IC situation will be far more effective, even though I know you feel equally affected by all of this.

I feel for you, having walked this path. ((hugs))

KatyaCA posted 1/15/2014 16:00 PM

Your MIL enables and protects her daughter which is a complete disservice to your SIL. It prevents her from maturing,growing up and having to face the consequences of her actions. It's a very unhealthy dynamic that she is asking her son to take on when she can't. It is not healthy for any of them. Unfortunately, your H needs to be able to stand up to his mother and tell her no and until he can see just how damaging his mothers actions are to his sister he may not be able to do it.

If I were you, I'd talk to him about him and then step back and realize he has to decide to man up or fall flat.

Otherwise you become the common enemy for them to blame their dysfunction on rather than grow themselves.

KatyaCA posted 1/15/2014 16:01 PM

double post. sorry

[This message edited by KatyaCA at 4:01 PM, January 15th (Wednesday)]

Morhurt posted 1/15/2014 16:35 PM

Oh man, what a terrible situation, I'm sorry. I echo the previous posters, this is his problem in the end, but yes he needs your moral support. Is he in IC? This sounds like a big breach of boundaries on his family's part.

It's so hard to negotiate these things but as an outsider... no, you're not over reacting or being controlling. The SIL and MIL are being controlling.

AND... SIL is not a friend of the marriage, even more reason to NOT facilitate her whininess.

lostmylight55 posted 1/15/2014 16:55 PM

Sorry you are dealing with this situation. You've explained it very well. I had the same relationship with my mother. She used and still uses manipulative tactics to try to get me to do what she wants. I never thought she was perfect, actually I thought she was a pain in the ass but she still controlled me. It was just easier to cave than to listen to it.

Some books that helped me recognize this better were:
The Emotional Incest Syndrome: What to do When a Parent's Love Rules Your Life (don't get freaked by the title)
by Patricia Love

When He's Married to Mom: How to Help Mother-Enmeshed Men Open Their Hearts to True Love and Commitment
by Kenneth Adams

The Emotionally Unavailable Man
by Patti Henry

one of OW's big seduction methods was to tell WH that I control him, he can't let me control him like that, etc.

Same here. This of course wasn't true, my BW wasn't controlling. If she was, I wouldn't have been able to have an A. My BW was voicing concerns she had in our relationship. That's not controlling.

After a lot of reading and work, I realized how similar my mother and the AP's personalities are. They are both very controlling and manipulative. Seeing these similarities now makes me want to puke. Also, it puts an additional strain on my already uncomfortable relationship with my mother.

I've learned that I cannot and will not change how my family behaves. I had to come to grips with the fact that they are unhealthy and how my behavior degrades when I have to deal with them. I need to keep myself in check when I talk with my family because it is easy to fall into the old family dynamics.

For me, the key is distancing myself from them and recognizing the manipulation for what it is. I had to establish healthy boundaries with them and get over my fear of conflict.

refuz2bavictim, you have some very good insights I relate with.

naivewife, I hope your WH can work on these issues. I would argue your title of this not being directly A related because IMO it goes to some of the why's of the A that should be worked on.


AND... SIL is not a friend of the marriage, even more reason to NOT facilitate her whininess.

Just saw this and have to say, it is an excellent point to consider.

[This message edited by lostmylight55 at 4:58 PM, January 15th (Wednesday)]

naivewife posted 1/15/2014 20:44 PM

Wow, you guys kind of blew me away. We've been dealing with this stuff for 18 years now (WH his whole life!) and it never really occurred to me that we're not alone. I appreciate each of your thoughtful posts, and I'm excited about the book recommendations. Who'd have thunk there would actually be books on the topic!
This gives me a great deal of hope, and yes, WH has started discussing this in both IC and MC. I guess I'm just struggling because the situation at the moment with his sister is seriously triggering me and I tell WH (who has responded fantastically) but then later hear OW's voice saying "She controls you. She can't tell you what to do. Who does she think she is?" Ugh - mental poison.
Lostmylight55 - WH is just now starting to see on his own the parallels between his mother and OW and yeah, I think he'd agree with
I'm sorry so many of you can relate so well, but again thank you!

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