Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Master Manipulator

Posted by Anonymous.

When I first met my husband I felt sorry for his mother. My soon to be in-law's were going through a nasty divorce that was, upon first glance, caused by my fathers-in-law's blatant and embarrassing infidelity. He was living with another woman while still being married to my MIL. What I have learned after a few years of inclusion in this family, is that I cannot blame him for leaving her. His choices, actions, and lack of recognition for the hurt he caused his children will never be acceptable to me, but I now understand why he couldn't take it from her any more. The woman is a Master Manipulator. The reason that I am writing is because it has begun to affect my relationship with my husband, and I need an place to blow some steam.

My husband is a good man. He is a lover, a provider and a terrific friend to me. I love him dearly and he loves me. He recognizes that his mother has weaseled her way between his siblings and their spouses by being that sympathetic garbage dump for all their problems (which she then shares with everyone else in the family). The problem, my problem, is that he does not recognize was she is doing as it pertains to me. He excuses every one of her words and actions that hurt me. I have heard him say things like "You are taking her the wrong way" "She doesn't think things through that far" "You are exaggerating" "Just get along" over and over again. I have had it with her, and there is going to be a big nasty fight soon if something doesn't give. Maybe there needs to be a big nasty fight. I have spent way too much time stewing.

I looked up the definition of the word manipulate and this is what I found:

ma·nip·u·late (mə-nĭp'yə-lāt')
tr.v. ma·nip·u·lat·ed, ma·nip·u·lat·ing, ma·nip·u·lates

  1. To move, arrange, operate, or control by the hands or by mechanical means, especially in a skillful manner: She manipulated the lights to get just the effect she wanted.
  2. To influence or manage shrewdly or deviously: He manipulated public opinion in his favor.
  3. To tamper with or falsify for personal gain: tried to manipulate stock prices. (From Dictionary.com)

Manipulators often make requests or demands by playing on your affections and your guilt. Spot manipulative comments like "If you loved me, you would (or wouldn't) do this" or the converse: "Since you insist on doing this, I can no longer love or trust you." There are no gray areas with manipulators. If you don't perform as they wish, there is something lacking in you. (From "How to spot a manipulator" on ANSWERBAG)

The definition "To tamper with or falsify for personal gain" makes me sick. This isn't a phrase that should be able to define how someone deals with family. I feel like she has tampered with me. I haven't fit what her idea of family is, and was told these words "You are married to (insert hubby's name) now. You're an (insert family name) now. This is how we do things". I don't think that my husband always sees her manipulation for what it is because she is very skillful at it.

I haven't handled this well from the start. I conceded to whining about her instead of presenting facts to my husband from a standpoint of logic. I can understand why he has a difficult time taking this from me. Maybe he does see the manipulation, but doesn't think her motive is bad, so he lets it go. I mean, after all she wants is a close family...just on her terms.



Anonymous said...

Logic isn't the holy grail. Your partner should care about your emotions without you having to present a legal summary or an affidavit for him to believe you. Standing up for you will risk a relationship with his mother, and that's something he's not willing to do right now. If that's a problem for you, then let him know that. If not, you'll have to deal with it on your own and risk alienating yourself from your husband's family and even from your husband. Despite everyone knowing she's wrong, they could still defend her from 'the outsider'. Confront her at your own risk.

Some things are deal breakers for people. If this is one of them, then do something about it. But if you're willing to compromise, then you can make boundaries for the way she interacts with you without telling your husband how he should have a relationship with his mother. If he's trying to get you to do something for her that makes you feel like she's manipulating again, simply state that she should talk directly to you so that way you can work out the best possible solution. Force her to *behave* with YOU and only you. Stop trying to force him to stand up to her. You'll always lose.

Anonymous said...

No one likes to be told what to do or be told on by someone else. If your hubby can't see the problem, maybe you need to be more assertive when it comes to your MIL. It'll make her mad and your husband may not like it, but someone has to stand up for you, even if you're the only one doing it. Don't let her manipulate you and try not to let her do it to your husband if you can help it.

Mrs. Priss said...

I have the utmost respect for you for not biting both their heads off yet. I've been through this situation with my husband and his mom, who was also cheated on by her husband and likes to play the martyr. What our husbands don't understand sometimes is that, yes, you married into that family, but he married YOU as well. He is not tied to her as he used to be, and needs to realize that you come first. I don't have much advice as I'm still struggling with this issue, but just know that you're definitely not alone in your frustrations!

Anonymous said...

I think you should come join us on the forums at motherinlawstories(dot)com There are a lot of us in the same boat and they have a LOT of good ideas and stategies.

What she's doing is girl-bullying, and sadly, it's VERY hard for men to *SEE* it. As far as I'm concerned, the only way to stop a bully is to be an EVEN BIGGER bully. So I would recommend that you use the same girl-bullying tactics back at her (sorry, you may have to channel yourself from Grade 7).

A huge blow up doesn't usually work with these MIL's, it will only feed her martyrdom "See? This is what I get? I only want a close family! WAH!"

I would also like to suggest "Toxic In-Laws" and "The Dance of Anger".

Good luck and come check us out.

Aunt Becky said...

You are an amazing wife. I have no idea how you haven't killed either of them yet. I don't care for my MIL--she's also a manipulator--but she's not nearly as rough as yours. My husband doesn't see it either, but I'm fortunate that I don't see her that often.

Good luck to you. I'd suggest having a heart-to-heart with him but he may turn a blind eye to what his mother REALLY is like. My husband does.


brenna said...

I've dealt with (and continue to deal with; a problem like that is never just solved) a similar MIL, the best (okay, ONLY) advice I could give is this: It might be better for you to deal with her yourself, instead of putting your husband in the middle. As awful as her manipulation is, she is still his mom, and he can't or won't see the worst of her behavior. Maybe even let him listen is on the conversation, so she can't run to him and twist your words around.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I have someone in my life that is like this too. I am sorry you are having to deal with this. Life is too short for this type of crap. I don't understand why people are like this. However, I think people DO WHAT FEELS FAMILIAR and therefore it is a terrible shame that the feelings that this type of behavior conjure up inside the manipulator are familiar to them and therefore they behave in a way to create these feelings. They can't stand when things are going well because things going well does not feel familiar to them. They screw things up in order to feel that agitated, unsettled, dramatic feeling. Yuck is a good word. So, how do we help the situation. I meah, we don't want to be part of this. First of all I think this is why good quality parenting is soooo important. We want our kids to grow up feeling what good quality relationships feel like so they can seek out partners that are suitable and so they can conduct themselves in their life in a manner that is functional.

I think you did a really nice job of explaining the situation in a pretty civilized way and I think the other commenters have provided some valuable insights. I for one have learned that I am not as alone as I felt I was in my own situation. And, I have learned do deal with her on my own terms and not put my loved one in the middle. I have also learned this new term "girl bullying" that is a really interesting way to think about it and, it gives me a whole new avenue for exploring what to do about it. I am NOT going to be bullied. I agree a blow out doesn't work so I'm going to put some effort into avoiding that because I was headed there. I am going to make some boundaries for how she interacts with me. THANK YOU to all of you. You have all helped me a great deal.

Good luck with your situation. You are worth it!

Anonymous said...

My husband recently informed his mom that he was having some potentially rather serious surgery on his arm, and her response was "Does that mean you won't be able to come over and mow my lawn this summer?" And yet he still thinks she's the "best mommy in the world" and that by comparison I'm a terrible mother.

Anonymous said...

I have a MIL who is often totally unaware of the imposition she is on my family. My husband has been very slow to see it. While I'm usually a calmer, talk-it-out, get a mediator/therapist type person, I will say that while this continues, your husband doesn't not have your family first in his mind. When you marry you have to CHANGE to a SPOUSE-FIRST frame of mind. Everything else is second. Perhaps a large blow-up would be a good idea, but that's only if your family fights fairly and nonviolently and if blowing up is your means to open and thorough communication. There is nothing wrong with bringing a problem to light.

Oh boy... said...

Based on all the comments here, I didn't realize how many women compete with their husband's mothers until now. I'm in for a big ride when my sons get older. You guys want to be the most important thing in his life. That's fine. But they have a relationship that was there before you and will be there after you (if you divorce). Not all relationships are perfect, but that special one needs to be respected. If you didn't get her blessing, most likely you're going to think she's toxic and (surprise!!) she's going to think you're toxic too.

Another thing, most people marry images of their parents (imago relationships), so I would not be shocked if you are just like his mother. ::giggles::

Note to self: teach sons that you are marrying a family, and not just an individual. Get to know the WHOLE family and see if they're right for you. Plus, set boundaries early, be flexible, and make room for forgiveness. Most importantly, listen to your spouse, make sure you show them openly that you empathize and love them dearly, but also make sure that they respect your decision to maintain respectful relationships that they may not necessarily want for themselves (that's a boundary!!). Your partner is not there to "open your eyes" to your mother/father/brother/sister, fight your battles, play therapist, or right childhood wrongs. They can provide support and give advice (not force advice). If not, then maybe they're not a match.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy,
You're only in for a BIG RIDE depending on how you behave...behave in a functional way and, surprised, no ride.

Hayley said...

Oh boy- When you marry someone, they become your number one. You are starting your own family with them. If he always puts his mom first, he'll end up single, in her basement at 40, playing video games. He needs to cut the umbilical cord. I'm not saying he needs to cut her off, but his wife needs to come first. That's part of being married. My husband didn't do that for me, and he is now my ex (for lots of other reasons, also).

I just avoided my (now ex) MIL. I'd be friendly, but I wouldn't tell her anything of value. She was more like a friendly acquaintance, even though she lived only a few blocks from us. I never gave her any fuel for her little fire. That's my suggestion- be friendly, but put up one hell of a wall.

Good luck!