Verbally abusive MIL

I am in emotional turmoil. By sharing this, I just would like to put facts and feelings in order. My MIL (91) is getting more and more feeble, but still mobile around the house. She needs visits and some help with cooking and cleaning 3 times a day at the moment, for she injured her leg and she is recovering slowly. My husband does most of it, but sometimes he just needs a break. Then I help roughly twice a week. Most of the time she is ok, although still complaining about negative things, bad people, her hard life. But yesterday, she was mean to me as never before. To cut long story short, she has never accepted neither me nor our marriage. For instance, she was offended by the fact that on the day when my then boyfriend and her son proposed, she was not invited to witness the very moment (well, what if I said no? :wink: ). We celebrated with her the day after, but it was not enough for her. So, you have got the picture. Yesterday, she just poured tons of criticism on me and my OH. Things like: “My son helps me a little but he could do better.” Or: “You two got married and left me alone”. Well - we have lived 10 mins walk away for ten years. She was visited at least twice a week and had 3 phone calls a day from my OH. She sees her grandchildren once a week. For the last year, she has had at least one long visit a day, then two, then three. This is still not enough.
The most painful thing was what she said about me, that I have had no proper upbringing, I am rude and lazy.
But there was also a completely new thing: she admitted that years ago she watched a TV programme when I was interviewed about the sad story of an abusive teacher. She completely misunderstood the plot. She thought that I was involved in covering it up, while in fact, it was just the opposite. I was trying to explain to her the facts, but it didn’t work. She concluded: “You worked with criminals” :open_mouth: . You know, if something like that was said to me by a stranger, it would be a grave false accusation = a crime. But it was said by an extremely old woman who is my MIL and who is probably aware of her life coming to an end. I decided not to be defensive, just to listen and then ask her if she needed any more help. Then I said goodnight and went home. Perhaps my other half should firmly tell her that such criticism is unacceptable. The thing is, she says these things to me when he is not with us. I thought I mastered my skills to ignore her criticism, but it is still hurtful.

Personally, just a flying-through answer, if there is no medical reason for her being unkind (e.g. dementia,) I would leave if she started being verbally abusive. I’d cut her short the moment she began and as calmly as I could, I’d say, “I’m here to help you but if you aren’t going to be pleasant I shall leave.” If she doesn’t stop, just say goodbye see you on … and leave.

Yes, you husband should say something, you could try talking to him.

It sounds like she is taking up too much time and either her needs are increasing or she just basically wants someone with her all day. Have you explored support from professional carers/ a cleaner / meals on wheels etc to take over some of the caring.


NO ONE can be forced to care.

Have you ever thought about recording her outbursts on your mobile phone?

As she has never liked you before, and dementia is now setting in, I’m wondering if she is developing some sort of old age mental frailty or dementia.

Just because she is old and now needs help, does NOT mean that you must become her slave. She is entitled to help from Social Services, if she chooses not to accept that help it does NOT mean that she can choose to use you instead.

It may be that the culture into which she was born was different, well after 90+ years everything and everywhere is different!!

Thank you so much for your replies.
Yes, a few days ago I managed to stop her blah blah when she started to talk about my OH past potential spouses :blush: and herself as a perfect matchmaker and me as a terrible choice her son eventually made. :ohmy:
It is true her worldview is completely different from mine (generation gap). After all, she could have been my grandmother. My OH is supportive and very sorry for what she says. The problem is, she might not remember what she said yesterday. She may deny it. She has got her own interpretation of facts and she sticks to it. I don’t think this is dementia. She spent ten days at the hospital last June and nobody ever suggested dementia. But anyway, I am not an expert.

I just want to survive this Easter time. We need to meet at least once for a meal as I am cooking and children will visit her, but that would be pretty much enough.
I am just so sorry for my OH that he has to carry all this burden. There is some hope, however. We are going on a short holiday and for that time she will employ a lady who will help her. If they go along well, then perhaps part of the caring job can be done by her in the future.

Maybe your husband is a bit of the problem, that he feels duty bound to put up with any behaviour??
As you say she is old enough to be your grandmother, that is a huge age gap.

Fingers crossed that the lady she employs can be a permanent fixture, so that at least you can have one family day a week without her.

Don’t forget the mobile phone filming option. At her age, it is inevitable that her needs are going to increase.

I am lending you the forums virtual invisible Teflon cloak. It’s invisible but tough a nd let’s all comments and criticism slide right off. No one but you knows you are wearing it. When she says something you just mentally give it a big swish, wrap it tighter and either change the subject or leave the room, grinning as you go because you know nothing can get through to hurt you.

It’s worked for several people on here as the elderly can be nasty and forget their manners, though it can be a sign of a type of dementia. Dementia isn’t just forgetfulness

Wear the cloak whenever you need

Jolanta, while not being acceptable, No Woman is ever good enough for their baby boy in a Mothers eyes.
I’m sure you know this, so don’t take it personally, but I do agree with others that your OH needs to say something.

I remember when I had my first Girlfriend and started neglecting Mum, she hated my Girlfriend, even after five years they didn’t get on. As a Mummy’s boy it was like they hated each other.

Stephen, that simply isn’t true. I never had a disagreement with my MIL, EVER.

She knew I loved him, and I knew how much she loved him. Recognising that simple fact is all it takes!

I’m a mother in law. My 2 SILs do not have a problem with me, and I certainly don’t have a problem with them. They adore my daughters, are good fathers to my grandchildren, are there for me if I need them. Vice versa. Their own mothers, sadly one died, in the year my husband was starting his awful dementia etc journey, the other mother isn’t local. They love their Mother’s very much. In turn their Mother’s welcomed my daughters! I have respect for them.
As BB says, regonising the fact of love, in all its forms is all it takes.
I know this doesn’t apply to lots of families, but to many it does.

One day my husband told me he got married because he knew his mum wouldn’t last forever!

You can take that whatever way you like, but if he held me in the same esteem as his own mum, that was surely a good sign?

I’m sorry if I’ve offended, this post isn’t about me, I was trying to explain to Jolanta what the reason may be.

It’s a common fact that in-laws often don’t get on. “The relationship between women and their mothers-in-law is often fraught, but it needn’t be impossible” A quote from an article by the Daily Telegraph in 2018.

Its great when you do get on with you In-Laws BB and Pet, but its not always the case, just google it to find out.

Thank you for all your replies. IMHO this is all about insecurities and priorities. I found out that MIL has always been anxious about not being valued and loved. She probably unconsciously decided to make her son her most important person to fix her insecurities. He obviously failed her, because nobody can completely fix another person’s low self-esteem. She sacrificed a lot for him, as it appears now, to be rewarded in the future according to her own wishes. So when he got married, she felt betrayed and disappointed, for the married child cannot fulfill all her wishes.
She has been a widow for 25 years, I think her grief has not been resolved properly. She probably wanted to remarry, but she thought and actually told me that it would not be fair to her son. All her life revolves around my OH. There is no place for me here, as her standards for any daughter-in-law are unachievable. I think she is unable to accept that for her son the most important person is me as his wife. I honestly suspect, she believes that a child must put their parents first for the whole life - married or not. Her own MIL was mean to her. From what she says, her husband put his mother first, she must have been miserable, she even wanted a divorce.
Constant fear and insecurity and feeling bad if she is not in the centre of people’s attention.
Of course, this is not an excuse for her behaviour.

Actually, the problem is that she is always living in the past, chewing things over far, far too much. She has so much to be grateful for, a loving caring son, a daughter in law who supports her. In short, she is having a Wallowfest of self pity!! In the process she is ruining her own life, your husband’s life and your own.
Stop making excuses for her, she doesn’t deserve it!