Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dear ESB: My MIL Sucks

I'm hoping your readers can offer some advice because I'm scurred to death that my MIL and I will have a falling out someday, maybe sooner than I think. Here's the deal. My fiance and I planned on a wedding of 70-80 guests. Mostly because it's what we can afford and we didn't want to get into all the drama/politics of inviting 4th removed cousins we haven't seen in fifteen years. I have a dozen family members attending and my fiance has less than 10 attending. (Not a huge difference, right? Right.) We agreed on grandparents, parents, siblings, handful of cousins and our bestest of friends. My mom and grandmother were not so happy about this because they wanted to invite close family friends and important extended family members. I had some very difficult convo's with them and in turn, my mom and grandma had difficult conversations with the folks that thought they were invited, but weren't. But after being upset and listening to each other, we all got over it. They understood I couldn't afford the extra guests, and neither could they. Ultimately, they respected our choice to keep it small.

Step in MIL. Who, mind you, has been telling us all along to "ignore what everyone says and remember it's our wedding." And who also completely dissed our first venue choice by telling us in the most passive aggressive way that it sucked. (We later canceled that venue and didn't even get back our full deposit. She was 50% of the reason why we scrapped those plans.) MIL has been given the run down of the wedding many-a-time: a limited number of guests, casual affair, blah blah blah. So now she decides it's not fair for me to have 12 family members and her to have only 7. So what does she want to do? She wants to invite her friends. But, she's offering to pay for them. So shit, there goes our out. We tell her no and after she hears this she starts crying and drops the biggest guilt trip on my fiance. Not only is she passive aggressive, she's manipulative. Feeling guilty and horrible, we say fine. Ef it. Do what you want... bleh.

My fiance is pissed because he looks like an a-hole for his parents being a-holes who are literally buying out seats to our wedding, when he's already seen the tough stuff I had to go through with my family and that same issue. And I'm super pissed because 1.) my family can't afford to invite their friends and that's not fair to have MIL and FIL waving their money around at our wedding in the form their equally sucky friends 2.) we wanted to keep it relatively small and she's not allowed to take over our guest list 3.) Just because I have more family there doesn't mean they all get along or want to see each other, but they're willing to be put in awkward positions for one day for me, while the in-laws are not. (Oh, and a side note... my entire family has offered to help set up the day of. Have my FIL's? Nope.)

I'm terrified of having her as a MIL and I'm worried about the way she will interfere with our married life and eventually our parental decisions. I don't want to hate my MIL, but I'm starting to really not like her and that bothers me. We've agreed he needs to talk to her, not me, but I can't help but be hurt and angry. What else, if anything, should we do?

One Seriously Fed Up Bride


Dear FUB,

Giving in to the guilt trip was a big mistake. If your MIL knows she can get her way by crying, she'll never stop crying.

And why would you let her bring her sucky friends to your intimate wedding, whether or not she's paying their way?


(Image courtesy of superbomba)


  1. I agree with ESB, but would like to add that the bride in question is being incredibly whiny.

    She shouldn't have given in to the guilt trip in the first place. But now, she kind of needs to suck it up and deal.

    I was called a lot of nasty things by my parents when we said "small wedding" with no family friends. They will learn to deal. But you need to learn too.

  2. honestly, i would take back the decision to let her invite friends. if all she's paying for are those extra seats, then she has absolutely no say as far as i'm concerned. let her cry and bitch all she wants... it builds character.
    you guys have to make it clear RIGHT NOW that as much as you love and respect your parents and their opinions, you and your fiance are YOUR OWN family now and will make the decisions that best suit YOUR life. too bad so sad for everyone else.

  3. Seriously , I can relate. (About the guilt trips not the MIL.)
    All I can say... and what I did was- just let it go. I realized that it is this strange thing about weddings that people I am not even THAT close to want to be a part of it. I guess I don't understand because I was never one to climb over the crowd to get an invite to a wedding. Not invited? No biggie.
    But for some reason they want to be there. I say great. BUT I plan the ceremony. I spend time with my fiancé and my family. I choose to have a day that others can celebrate our relationship. (Isn't that what it is all about?) You celebrate your relationship every day and you have a wedding to celebrate with those that want to be a part of your life.
    This is how I have thought of it and this is what has helped me.

  4. Yup, I agree with ESB, as well. Just say no, people. Don't let someone boss you around on one of the most important days of your life. Once you give your MIL the green light to manipulate and guilt you, it will happen for the rest of your relationship. Imagine if you guys have kids, the kind of b.s. she'll pull then. Put your foot down from the beginning.

  5. This is the part that gets me: "So now she decides it's not fair for me to have 12 family members and her to have only 7."

    It's not about you and HER. It's about you and her SON. Eff the friends!

  6. I've said it to other brides and I'll say it again: if your man can't stand up to his parents while planning the wedding he never will and this will be what you deal with your entire marriage. He needs to fix this and quick. No extra people, she can keep her money. Do not respond to guilt, ever. When you make a decision stick with it fall out be damned because like ESB said if she knows crying works she will never stop crying. Same with yelling, begging, threatening, what have you. Once people see you respond to something that is what they will do forever to get their way.

  7. God, you've kinda dug yourself a hole here. Albeit with your future mother-in-law forcing your hand. The trouble is, it's awkward to say the least to un-invite someone and perhaps just as hard to un-un-invite them.... For the sake of fairness and future cordial relations perhaps you could invite the MILs friends and your mother's important relations to the evening only? That way you don't have to shell out for a meal but they can still be part of the celebration. Just an idea.

  8. Hm. This is a tough one because the issue is, what do you do now? I'm assuming that she's already gone ahead and extended the invitations? If that's the case, I think this will just have to be a case of a learning experience for you and the man. If future MIL cries and makes you feel bad about something you care about, don't give in. It just leads to bad feelings. In the grand scheme of things, having a few extra folks at the wedding is not a tragedy (although I know it's painful that your family made the tough choices). In the future there may be bigger issues. I think this experience could very well be the thing that will prevent the future interference that you are frightened of because you and your man now know that you will regret it if you give in to guilt trips. If he or you start getting sucked in, all you have to do is remember this experience. If, on the other hand, the invites haven't gone out yet, tell her you changed your mind!!! I relate; it's hard to feel like you've made someone feel bad, but it's experiences like this that teach you that, for the good of everyone, you need to stand your ground when it really matters to you.

  9. Hey, bride, you have all the power here. (1) You're marrying her baby boy. (2) Someday you may bear her grandchildren.

    Your fiance is on your side, and you together have the ultimate trump cards. Keep them in your pocket, draw from their power, and put. your. foot. down.

  10. I agree with hip hip gin gin (& ESB); if your husband doesn't stand up to his mother now, it set up the idea that your MIL can now influence your life excessively. And you two should ultimately be in charge of YOUR future together. Let MIL cry in a corner. Letting her have her way may seem harmless now but why set an awful precedent? Also, how rude (and awkward!) of her to wave her money around like that! This isn't a concert you buy a ticket to; it's your freaking wedding!

  11. If taking back the decision is still possible, how about hosting a bbq in a park the day after and invite friends of both families to celebrate. Pot luck would be super inexpensive. Hopefully most of these folks are in town. If they really are that important to your respective families, they will be totally down and understand that these things are fucking expensive.

    WHATEVER you do with the MIL, present the solution as an absolute. Say something along the lines of, "I'm sorry if this is upsetting, but your son and I have discussed and decided ______." Anything wishy washy will give her a foot in the door to do more damage.

    GOOD LUCK! Hopefully this is just wedding crazy getting ahold of her that will subside.

  12. There is lots of great advice here already. I agree that you either have to push back and be firm, or let it go. You may regret it if you let this put a damper on your day (or the planning process). It will be a wonderful wedding despite your MIL's antics. Congratulations!

  13. take it back, if you can. have your fiance (don't you go and do it- his job) tell her that your mom is feeling the pain of not bringing her nearest-and-dearest and it hurts your little heart that you can't afford them for her. allowing MIL to bring her pals will only salt-in-the-wound.

    if you can't reason with her and dance around it with niceties, just drop it. you already said, "yes." there's little going back.

    weddings are pressure-cookers. you're seeing all of the worst sides of the lady- don't assume it'll always be like this.

    and next time, don't cave.

  14. If my 2 year old has tantrum and starts crying for whatever it is that she wants. Its tough. And sometimes I give in. But I know I have to be strong and stand by guns for the greater good. Same goes to your sooky MIL.

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  16. As someone who has been bullied by family most of the way through this process, I totally feel your pain and resentment. The worst part is that you have been put in a position where you have this anger that you are holding inside when you are supposed to feel supported and excited.

    I know it may not be what Miss Manners would do, but I say mess with her back. If she wants her friends to come, seat them all together at the farthest table from you (and her with them), and don't invite them to the ceremony, just the reception. It's a not-so-subtle "eff you" that might help you feel like your power is still your own.

  17. I have to agree with the first poster and tell you that SISTA you need to CALM DOWN and GET ABOVE THIS.

    Yes, you don't want to be bullied, but you also don't want to get so worked up about this that you draw a line in the sand that you can never cross again. No matter how awful she is, if you can't ever learn to love and live with your MIL, your husband will end up resenting you for it. Period.

    Your MIL is not a two-year-old. She's set in her ways and she's probably going to act like this forever. You need to find a new way to cope, for the sake of your marriage.

    It sucks that she's crying "it's not fair", but guess what: you are too. Get over it. Be the gracious one. Let her have five extra people. It's just five extra bodies in a room with you on the happiest day of your life. Trust me, you will be way too happy to notice.

  18. If she's already invited them, there's not much you can do. Well, there are a few things you can do to sabotage their attendance or to uninvite them - but all of those options will make your behavior worse than hers.

    My MIL insisted on inviting a bunch of distant relatives (and she did not really pay for them). Ultimately, we paid for them (our budget allowed for it and we decided it was the generous thing to do even though our guest list was also pretty limited) and it did not in any way ruin our day. We ended up being very happy they came.

    These extra guests won't ruin your day either. If she's paying for them, it's not a financial hit for you. Just be gracious and let her invite them.

    Your fiance definitely should have had a talk with her, just as you did with your family. Talk to you fiance about how he handled the situation so that he can deal with it differently in the future. It's definitely his job to run interference and not yours.

    Plus, having a couple of extra wedding guests that aren't going to break your budget is not analogous to child rearing decisions. My guess is, that's a big enough deal to your fiance that he will tell his mother to stay out of it. Maybe this is a good time to have that conversation with him so that, when she tries to interfere in the future about things that are really important, she won't be as effective.

    As frustrating as this is, I think it may end up be a good conversation starter. You and your fiance can work these things out now and develop a plan for dealing with her before she strikes again...

  19. Just from my experience:

    My MIL sent a list of 40 people I had never met including friends and countless cousins and people who arent cousins but are called that, that HAD to be invited. We said NO.

    We invited grandparents, aunts, uncles, NO COUSINS. Because we didnt want more than 100 people.

    What happened was my invited family all rsvp'd yes. Husband's Aunts and Uncles RSVP'd no because his Nan would be there. (WTF)

    So WITHOUT involving the MIL we invited some of Husbands cousins. Not to just 'even up' the numbers, but so he had some family with him that day. Cause thats what HE wanted.

    Dont really have a point. Just saying WE made the decisons that ultimately left his Mother happier with us.

  20. I'm with MK. She is going to be a significant person in your life because she is, in fact, your husband-to-be's mother.
    You have to find a way to get along with her without being the mat between her and her son. seriously.
    and honestly, I would recommend talking to your officiant (if you know him/her well) or doing a premarital class of some sort. I'm so glad my husband and I took a class and did some counseling because we talked about how to handle each other's families. So far, our wedding planning helped us learn about each other and build up communication with each other and our respective in-laws. this can be a really good learning experience for all involved. Good luck!

  21. My mother told me, point blank, that she didn't have the money to contribute to my wedding. It initially started as emotional blackmail to get me to postpone my wedding indefinitely (because she doesn't want me to get married). It didn't work, and I accepted that to mean that I was not going to get financial assistance (and I was perfectly OK with that).

    I consulted my mother and my FMIL about the guest list and when I spoke to my mother, I asked if she wanted to invite Coworker A and/or Coworker B, both of whom I've known since I was a little kid. She told me, point blank, no, that it was unnecessary.

    She recently started a new job in a very small, intimate office. So, she asked me, "Can I invite my new coworkers if I offer to pay for them?"

    Wait. Time out. You have already told me, point blank, no to any financial assistance (even though I never asked for it), but you want to PAY to invite a group of women who are, essentially, strangers to me? Are you crazy? I recently started a new job as well. Know how many coworkers I am inviting? Zero. I AM inviting some of my former coworkers, but even that list I cropped and slashed, and there are people in that office that would make "the cut" LONG before people I don't even know!

    I told her no, I wasn't comfortable with it for a number of reasons. I didn't even bring up that her offer to buy their seats was crass and obnoxious, ESPECIALLY considering her blackmail attempt a few months ago.