He is off work every other Friday. I am not. After moving to our new house several years ago, he began spending most off Fridays working on the house and the yard with his parents. With his dad’s help, he was able to complete large projects in the house like installing an audio system and smaller projects as they came up. His mom typically could not help with those projects but busied herself in the house.
Since I was at work, I had no say or control over what happened. I would come home and find things…rearranged. At the previous house, boundaries had been set. I have some memory issues and could not have things moved around or put away. But now…the boundaries were gone.
MIL liked things stacked and contained. So MIL took all the papers and put them in a pile, no matter what they were. MIL moved everything from the table to the desk. MIL moved things from the kitchen counter into the fruit bowl.
One day, he asked me to leave a list of things I was doing that weekend that maybe MIL could help with; he needed something to keep MIL busy so FIL could work on a project with him. It seemed like a good idea.
I had been advised by a friend to thank MIL when she did something good so maybe she wouldn’t do the other things. When I came home and saw a spotless glass shower door, I was impressed. So the next time I saw MIL, I said so. And MIL told me that FIL had done it since MIL really couldn’t. MIL had interrupted FIL from an important project to do something they didn’t need to do at all. I never left a list again.
Over time, I made changes to how I lived in the house, to accommodate MIL. Although I might be exhausted, I would find myself cleaning up and putting things away every other Thursday to keep things from being moved.
Sometimes they came on other days without me knowing in advance. So I also began picking up and cleaning up each night and morning. It was fucking exhausting.
After finding out about my food allergies, I made a lot of changes. I would clean the kitchen after his parents were there or after he made un-safe foods; then I would cook or prepare food for myself. I would switch out the towels and dishrags so often that I had to buy stacks of them. It was exhausting but I thought it was keeping me safer.
One day, I came home and the towel drawer was full. I thought someone must have washed the towels. When I went into the laundry room, I found a few crinkly dirty rags left in the laundry basket and all the laundry I had left in the dryer still there. His mom had folded some of the dirty laundry and put it away like it was clean. I was incredulous–who fucking does something like this? How do you even tell someone not to put away your dirty laundry?
He said he would tell his mom not to do anything in the kitchen from then on.
So his mom would do little things that she thought no one would notice.
Time passed and I tried not to complain when things happened since he always got upset about my “bitching” about his mom.
But it was obvious that at least some of the things she did were passive aggressive actions she knew weren’t helpful.
I used to take my shoes off when I came home; then I would gather the shoes into a laundry basket when I had a basket to take upstairs so I could put the shoes away. One day, I came home and when I was ready to go upstairs there was a basket ready to go up so I was going to grab my shoes from the previous days but I didn’t see them so I went upstairs with the basket full of clean clothes. As I walked into my closet, I felt myself kick something hard. It was a wedge shoe that flew across the closet after meeting my big bare toe. She had gathered my shoes and lined them up in the closet doorway. Not in front of the shoe rack. Literally in the doorway. Who the fuck does that?
I was sick with bronchitis over the holidays. I thought of taking one more day off but it was his Friday off and his parents were coming. It wouldn’t be restful so it seemed a waste. I went to work. When I came home exhausted, he told me how he had caught her lying. He had also been sick so we both had medicine on the counter. She had put all of our medicine together since she likes it that way, but then said she didn’t touch anything when he questioned it all being together.
I had noticed before he told me about her lying that his egg pan was kind of clean and my cast iron grill was kind of clean. Since I’m allergic to eggs, and cast iron absorbs everything (and should not be cleaned with soap), I would generally clean my cast iron first, then the egg pan last, then change out the kitchen towels and rags. But she had cleaned both items although she was not supposed to be in my kitchen at all. Now I have to re-season my cast iron because she was “helping” me.
There are so many more stories of weird, odd, passive aggressive, idiotic, stupid things she did. It was a constant reminder that she could not take directions, that she would do things however she wanted, that she didn’t care that I came home to her version of clean and my version of fuck my life I have to undo that bullshit.
I worry that her super-nice facade and sugar sweet manner paired with the passive aggressive treatment she gives her daughters in law has ruined me. That I can never trust a guy’s mom is genuine, caring, helpful. That I will always be waiting for the other shoe to drop, that she doesn’t approve of the way I live my life or the decisions I make, that she wants me to change, that I’m not good enough for her son. How do I get over this? How can I not be ruined?