How did you manage to move your marriage forward?

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PeacefulOne

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How did you manage to move your marriage forward?
« on: May 13, 2017, 05:17:25 PM »
Hi everyone,

Although this is my first post, I've been reading this board for a few days now and have learned a lot. Thank you all for sharing your experiences and wisdom. It has gone a long way in helping me feel validated and assuring me that I am in fact not crazy or overly sensitive.

H and I have been married for 3 years. My T suggested to me a couple of weeks ago that MIL may have N traits and that I read up on it and see if it resonates. That's how I found this forum, and my mind has been blown by the similarities with many of your experiences.

Since I first met MIL and watched our interactions, as well as H's and mine  concerning her, I have felt that something was way off. After a few blowups between me and H concerning uNMIL and me feeling he was defending her and dismissing me, I did what I now know is considered vLC with her and to a large extent his FOO. It has been great for my emotional and mental health, and I am beginning to feel more like my peaceful self-assured self again. For brevity I won't outline all the shenanigans.

My bigger issue is that I am now slowly coming to terms with the fact that the issues that H and I have been dealing with (which have led us to MC) stem from what I have now learned are referred to as fleas. For background, FIL and uNMIL had an abusive on and off r/s. They are now divorced and FIL is now partnered. uNMIL relentlessly disparages FIL to anyone who will listen every chance she gets. Subsequently H has a very difficult r/s with FIL which to his credit he has been working on navigating better now that he is older. I think that this led to H idealizing uNMIL and the fleas from this are doing a number on me and our marriage. My experience of them include; lying, not taking responsibility, defending his M to the point of making things up ( even though he knows I know the truth), conveniently forgetting unfavorable facts, responding in anger when I express feelings that he seemingly does not know how to handle (e.g. hurt), and my latest realization - using me as a buffer between him and uNMIL. He is a really great guy and I feel a lot of empathy for him. I realize that he really thinks her behavior and the craziness in his FOO is normal and has gotten used to everyone accepting it and just rolling with it. And then here I come... :sadno:

I feel resentful for the way uNMIL raised him to depend on her for everything. Some examples; he took his laundry to her place every Sunday when we met and he was 31. I had to shut that down and we now take turns doing it at our own place like normal people. He couldn't cook and picked up food from her place weekly. He has now learned to cook at my insistence that I am not going to prepare every meal for the rest of our lives, and he's discovered that he actually  likes to cook. He has absolutely no direct communication with any of his extended family and gets all the news from her, even regarding his paternal family although she and FIL are divorced (she and an aunt have remained friends). I have met these seemingly to me nice people and they have asked us to call or come over some time. He refuses to. I think because mommy wouldn't approve. He and siblings have had no contact with their half-sister (from FIL) for decades and get their reasoning from uNMIL that she was rebellious as a teen and had to move out. These people are now in their 30s and choose to continue to act like their sister doesn't exist. Her mother lives overseas. FIL and uNMIL took her mother to court to move SIL here when she was 10, and now none of them care to know where she is or if she's even alive. It's like she's a figment of his imagination. The whole situation baffles me.

I realize that I lost some respect for him along the way when I had to encourage him to do laundry, cook, not lend money to his family while overdrawing our account, have his mail delivered to our house and not his mother's, speak directly to his (paternal) aunts about our plans with them rather than through his mother. It felt somewhat like raising my son. I would like any advice on how to rebuild the respect that I have lost.

Regarding his M and FOO, I am learning to just disengage and let him handle them(challenging, but I am doing it for my own sake). My question is, how do you move past all these fleas? I am concerned about my health, our marriage's health and the health of the FOC that we are building. It's a lot of work and sometimes I just need a break. We are in T, but I don't know that my H will be ready to here that his M is actually crazy and I'm not just overly sensitive nor should I just accept her crazy as part of the deal. He says I don't have to see her, so he sees her alone. But he will sometimes (very rarely) construct situations where we "have to stop by her place briefly to pick up some mail (or something else)".  I also wonder about what she says to him when he goes over to her place. I know she has told him before that I didn't call her for mother's day (I don't know why she thinks I have to). She has denied making some hurtful comments about me at dinner before (she then later called him and apologized to him (!) probably after realizing there were other people there who heard her  ::) ). She has asked him how I spend my days ( I am building a business and she apparently doesn't like that I am "not working"). She has asked him how I am handling him being busy. He thinks she asks out of concern for me, but my intuition tells me otherwise. I do not trust that she has our marriage's best interest at heart.

I am working on letting the resentment towards her go, but really need help navigating my completely FOG'd H. Does anyone have a spouse who eventually came OOTF? How did it happen? I know I can't "help" him with it, but would really like some good news and guidance from the other side.

Thanks in advance.

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Bloomie

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Re: How did you manage to move your marriage forward?
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2017, 06:39:54 PM »
PeacefulOne - Hi there! Welcome to OOTF! I am so sorry for all that you are facing in your in law relationships and the struggle that so many of us have with H's who have been swimming so long in the messy, dirty fish bowl with their family members that they are used to disordered and enmeshed behaviors and truly do not see it.  :sadno:

I will be back soon in the next day or so to weigh in more fully, but wanted to pop in with a welcome when I saw your post! I do have a DH who after many long and difficult years has come a very long way OOTF with his FOO. Oh, but what a roller coaster ride it was for a very long time. I am thankful you have found us and know that this forum can be a great encouragement and help for you as you share here!

Looking forward to supporting you!
Bloomie 🌸
"Some people really don't get it, that we matter as much as they do." Moglow
"It takes emotional maturity to maintain decent relationships." Spring Butterfly

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PeacefulOne

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Re: How did you manage to move your marriage forward?
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2017, 07:11:42 PM »
Thanks for the welcome, Bloomie  :)

I've read some of your advice on here and have found it very helpful. I look forward to hearing from you.

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all4peace

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Re: How did you manage to move your marriage forward?
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2017, 08:37:36 AM »
Welcome, peacefulone! I'm sorry you need to be here but glad you found this very supportive and helpful place.

My DH was raised by a uNBPDm and possibly uNf. He was the lost child or scapegoat, so the dynamics are somewhat different for him. He didn't connect emotionally with any of his family, so for him it was very easy to ignore their behavior since it didn't reach him on any level anyway.

Then he got married, and we had kids, and that started to be acceptable. He used to always tell me how "I made him see" and it drove me nuts, as it felt like blame on my shoulders. However, there is probably a lot of truth in it. Often a different perspective IS needed to help our spouses see how absolutely abnormal their family dynamics are. (and he has done the same for some of my family dynamics).

With my DH, it took many, many years, decades, before he finally accepted that things needed to change. We live next door to half his family, so our journey shouldn't have taken that long and I was nearing a nervous breakdown before he was willing to really start figuring it out.

One thing that really helped him is when people outside the family weighed in. When our neighbors (non-ILs) complained about MIL's behavior, or our friends were aghast, or other people let him know how unacceptable it was, it finally cleared his vision and gave him some strength to step into a protective role between his FOO and his FOC.

It may be significantly more difficult for your DH because he seems to have emotional ties to his mother. I would agree with you that it's valid to be concerned over her comments about you and regarding your marriage. I would be very concerned also. While you can protect yourself with VLC, and it's great that your DH honors your right to that, her comments to your Dh do seem concerning.

I do think you can "help him with it." My brother's wife has a really tough time with our uNM, and one thing I've noticed is that the more calm she is, and reasonable and rational (rather than angry, frustrated), the more able my b seems to be able to listen. Same with my DH. The more upset we get, the more biased our message may feel to them. Good luck!

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Bloomie

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Re: How did you manage to move your marriage forward?
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2017, 10:14:10 AM »
Hi everyone,

Although this is my first post, I've been reading this board for a few days now and have learned a lot. Thank you all for sharing your experiences and wisdom. It has gone a long way in helping me feel validated and assuring me that I am in fact not crazy or overly sensitive.

H and I have been married for 3 years. My T suggested to me a couple of weeks ago that MIL may have N traits and that I read up on it and see if it resonates. That's how I found this forum, and my mind has been blown by the similarities with many of your experiences.

Since I first met MIL and watched our interactions, as well as H's and mine  concerning her, I have felt that something was way off. After a few blowups between me and H concerning uNMIL and me feeling he was defending her and dismissing me, I did what I now know is considered vLC with her and to a large extent his FOO. It has been great for my emotional and mental health, and I am beginning to feel more like my peaceful self-assured self again. For brevity I won't outline all the shenanigans.

Peacefulone what a healthy move to go to a more limited level of contact with a mil that is causing strife and division in your home. I wish I had had this kind of wisdom at 3 years in. You are already way ahead of the pack on this good self care move.  :yes:

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My bigger issue is that I am now slowly coming to terms with the fact that the issues that H and I have been dealing with (which have led us to MC) stem from what I have now learned are referred to as fleas. For background, FIL and uNMIL had an abusive on and off r/s. They are now divorced and FIL is now partnered. uNMIL relentlessly disparages FIL to anyone who will listen every chance she gets. Subsequently H has a very difficult r/s with FIL which to his credit he has been working on navigating better now that he is older. I think that this led to H idealizing uNMIL and the fleas from this are doing a number on me and our marriage. My experience of them include; lying, not taking responsibility, defending his M to the point of making things up ( even though he knows I know the truth), conveniently forgetting unfavorable facts, responding in anger when I express feelings that he seemingly does not know how to handle (e.g. hurt), and my latest realization - using me as a buffer between him and uNMIL. He is a really great guy and I feel a lot of empathy for him. I realize that he really thinks her behavior and the craziness in his FOO is normal and has gotten used to everyone accepting it and just rolling with it. And then here I come... :sadno:

The thing about fleas, which we all have to one degree or another if we have been living with others who have PDs, is that they impact our relationships the same way as full blown PD behaviors and exist on a continuum from mild to severe. The big difference being those of us with fleas can be reached and reasoned with at a certain point and learn to recognize harmful behaviors and take responsibility full for ourselves.

The good news is that the Personality Disorders trait info (at the drop down menu above) will be a help whether our DH's have a bad case of fleas or uPD. So, there are strategies and tools we can use in our relationships that will work to bring us to a full realized and equal partnership, rather than us feeling like we are standing over a naughty child wagging our finger at our H's as they flounder around in the old role they have long outgrown with their FOO.  :no:

One of the most important strategies we can have for harmful behaviors (fleas) such as responding in anger, making things up... dishonoring behaviors that do undermine your respect and regard for your DH and understandably so, is learning to set and keep boundaries with consequences attached.

A couple of really great resources that can support you far beyond what I could ever share here and that have been a cornerstone in the foundation of my own healing and recovery are:

The Book: Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life
By Henry Cloud, John Townsend
http://astore.amazon.com/ootf-squarespace-20/detail/0310247454

and a really great thread that explains well that boundaries are about what we are going to do and not going to do - our own behaviors only, because we know that the only people we have control over and can change is simply always and only ourselves.

http://www.outofthefog.net/forum/index.php?topic=24.0

So for example when your DH responds in anger you could calmly let him know one time that if he continues to choose to speak to you disrespectfully you will leave the room and resume the conversation at a another time when he is calm and in control of his emotions. Then follow through and do it. Every. Single. Time. That is what healthy love for ourselves and another looks like.

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I feel resentful for the way uNMIL raised him to depend on her for everything. Some examples; he took his laundry to her place every Sunday when we met and he was 31. I had to shut that down and we now take turns doing it at our own place like normal people. He couldn't cook and picked up food from her place weekly. He has now learned to cook at my insistence that I am not going to prepare every meal for the rest of our lives, and he's discovered that he actually  likes to cook. He has absolutely no direct communication with any of his extended family and gets all the news from her, even regarding his paternal family although she and FIL are divorced (she and an aunt have remained friends). I have met these seemingly to me nice people and they have asked us to call or come over some time. He refuses to. I think because mommy wouldn't approve. He and siblings have had no contact with their half-sister (from FIL) for decades and get their reasoning from uNMIL that she was rebellious as a teen and had to move out. These people are now in their 30s and choose to continue to act like their sister doesn't exist. Her mother lives overseas. FIL and uNMIL took her mother to court to move SIL here when she was 10, and now none of them care to know where she is or if she's even alive. It's like she's a figment of his imagination. The whole situation baffles me.

I realize that I lost some respect for him along the way when I had to encourage him to do laundry, cook, not lend money to his family while overdrawing our account, have his mail delivered to our house and not his mother's, speak directly to his (paternal) aunts about our plans with them rather than through his mother. It felt somewhat like raising my son. I would like any advice on how to rebuild the respect that I have lost.

This is a really dysfunctional dance that keeps your DH in the role of helpless child and his mother in a place of provision and in control of his extended family relationships like an air traffic controller. It allows his mother to filter and then disseminate not just family news, but to also add her interpretation to it and it puts him once again in a dependent, one down position which is really damaging to his sense of mastery over his own relationships and life.

Getting married to you has been a really healthy and empowering experience for your DH and it is to his credit that he has adjusted to your standards that you both be equal partners and carry out tasks that support your life together yourselves. It seems there is still a ways to go on the emotional front, but with the everyday tasks your DH is engaging and learning.  That has to be a relief and encouragement.

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Regarding his M and FOO, I am learning to just disengage and let him handle them(challenging, but I am doing it for my own sake). My question is, how do you move past all these fleas? I am concerned about my health, our marriage's health and the health of the FOC that we are building. It's a lot of work and sometimes I just need a break. We are in T, but I don't know that my H will be ready to here that his M is actually crazy and I'm not just overly sensitive nor should I just accept her crazy as part of the deal. He says I don't have to see her, so he sees her alone. But he will sometimes (very rarely) construct situations where we "have to stop by her place briefly to pick up some mail (or something else)".  I also wonder about what she says to him when he goes over to her place. I know she has told him before that I didn't call her for mother's day (I don't know why she thinks I have to). She has denied making some hurtful comments about me at dinner before (she then later called him and apologized to him (!) probably after realizing there were other people there who heard her  ::) ). She has asked him how I spend my days ( I am building a business and she apparently doesn't like that I am "not working"). She has asked him how I am handling him being busy. He thinks she asks out of concern for me, but my intuition tells me otherwise. I do not trust that she has our marriage's best interest at heart.

I am working on letting the resentment towards her go, but really need help navigating my completely FOG'd H. Does anyone have a spouse who eventually came OOTF? How did it happen? I know I can't "help" him with it, but would really like some good news and guidance from the other side.

Thanks in advance.

It is really important that you are in therapy with this level of enmeshment and self limiting behaviors your DH has developed from such an unhealthy relationship with his mother. I found that it took a series of happenings and insights from others, as all4peace describes with her H, over time for the scales to begin to truly drop from my H's eyes and him to begin to deal with the fleas and see the need to establish himself and our lives as separate from his FOO. To leave his FOO and cleave to his FOC.

It is a painful process to see this unfold in our H's lives. We all have experienced what it feels like to walk into the brick walls of the consequences for our maladaptive behaviors, and it hurts. But, that pain of our behaviors not working in our most cherished relationships can be a catalyst for change and it sometimes necessary for growth.

The best thing I ever did was to choose my battles, conversations, comments, involvement, words very wisely and for the most part to do what you are doing - go vLC with my in law family, get joint and separate therapy that focused on strengthening my bond with my H and protecting our family, and give my H the room he needed and deserved to be 100% responsible for himself in all of his relationships. Something he had never had offered in relationship before. In doing this I was showing not only respect for his personhood, but belief in his ability to work through his issues and make healthy decisions and sort out his loyalties appropriately. It didn't always "feel" that way to him, but that was my heart and intention toward him and we had to find our way through those feelings he had and my own.

My best advice... let him do this. Your healthy boundaries and reasonable expectations that he will prioritize you family first will give him plenty of opportunities (or brick walls depending upon what he chooses) to strengthen his bond with you and move into a boundaried, more healthy relationship with his mother. This didn't happen overnight for us it took time, but you holding a neutral, non judgmental position, accepting that this is a lifelong struggle and paradigm he is up against can go a very long way to setting the atmosphere in your relationship to promote growth and peace.

This is a marathon so pace yourself and continue to focus on your own healthy behaviors and healing journey in all of this and place this over your heart... progress, not perfection is the ultimate goal! :hug:
Bloomie 🌸
"Some people really don't get it, that we matter as much as they do." Moglow
"It takes emotional maturity to maintain decent relationships." Spring Butterfly

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MLR

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Re: How did you manage to move your marriage forward?
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2017, 02:52:26 PM »
Something I consider extremely important -

Do not get pregnant unless and until you are very very sure your husband has an adult relationship with his mother and puts you and his marriage first and foremost ahead of his mother.

If things don't work out, you can go on with your life and make a clean break.

Does mil consider her son her pseudo husband?  Does she think you will let her live with you and take care if her in her old age?

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PeacefulOne

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Re: How did you manage to move your marriage forward?
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2017, 04:55:55 PM »
Thank you all for the very thoughtful responses. Apologies for taking a while to respond. I have actually been re-reading your responses over the last few days and processing them before responding.

All4Peace - Thanks for the welcome  ;D. I have realized that I'm more effective when I'm calm as well. Funny how that works. I have also found what you and Bloomie have said to be true for my H. In difficult situations, he sometimes hears things better when they are coming from other people outside of our relationship as well. I will let that take its course.

Bloomie - Thank you so much for your very detailed response. I found so many gems in it. I read the PD traits link and yes, in my opinion my H does exhibit quite a few of them. I have been slowly coming to the realization that I need to work on boundaries for myself with my H. Funny how I somehow thought they didn't apply in a marriage. Really, I didn't for some odd reason. But like all things I am also learning that I can do better with them in other relationships and friendships. I seem to have gotten pretty good at them with my parents and FOO, but somehow skipped right over that little detail in my marriage. And now I find myself in an admittedly somewhat co-dependent situation. I will use the resources you have pointed me to in learning this lesson. I have been reading the very informative thread that you linked and am learning a lot from it. I will be ordering that book as well. Thank you  :)

Also, yours makes the second time that I have been advised to "let him do it".  I will heed that advice. I like your clarity about your heart and intention when you went through similar with your DH. In my frustration, my intention has not been as clear or pure. I see now that I need to set one that is in line with what I desire for myself, my marriage and the family we're building.  And thanks for the reminder to aim for progress rather than perfection. My perfectionist side must have been showing  :bigwink:

MLR- I hear you on that one. I do think much of the issue is also in what I have allowed to become the culture of our marriage as per my response to Bloomie above. I am no longer going to give MIL space in my heart or mind. She can be and do as she pleases. I am going to do my part for myself and my marriage and let the cards fall where they may. That's where my focus and energy are henceforth.