Should I try to fix things with angry father-in-law?
September 21, 2014 2:50 PM   Subscribe

My father in law blew up at me in an extreme way a few weeks ago. My husband wishes for his father and I to eventually reconcile, but I would like an apology first.

Husband and I have been together for 10 years, married 4. His parents had been helping us renovate our new place, and unfortunately witnessed us having a fight. On the evening this happened, nobody acknowledged it and we went for dinner together afterwards where everyone acted tired but normal.

The following day FIL was very rude and snippy with me. He had an abscess on his tooth and was taking painkillers for this the day before and day-of. I approached him about an hour after he arrived to ask if he could perhaps do the decorating he was taking care of in a different way. He responded by shouting at me that if that was what I wanted, he would just change into his normal clothes and go home. I was so taken aback that I quietly went to get my husband and asked him to work out with his father which option was best for this project. Later I tried to explain to my husband that FIL had shouted at me and that I would like him to tell him this was not ok, and ask for an apology. Husband refused and I got very frustrated.

At the end of that day the decorating FIL was working on turned out badly, and I was frustrated and asked if we'd have to start over again as per my original request. He replied angrily that this was indeed the case, and I swore about it annoyed that we had wasted a day, being that we were very short on time to get the work finished.

FIL then flew into a rage, his face a shade of purple while he yelled at me about how much of a terrible time that he and everyone else was having because of me. He then changed his story to be that he was angry because I had called his son a 'f*cking idiot' the day before. I did not remember this but realised quickly that he had been quietly seething since seeing us have a fight. He dragged my husband into things, and when I asked my husband to stand up for me he would not. I eventually became so upset that I shouted at FIL to leave and not to come back when I was there. When I said 'how dare you speak to me like this in my home', he replied 'well I just did, didn't I?!'

I left the house and did not return for an hour. By the time I came back FIL was leaving, and I was very upset that my husband had not come to find me or stood up for me to his father. He told me that after I left, his father gave him a hug and apologised 'if this jeopardised his [my husband's] relationship with [me].'

The backstory to the original fight between myself and my husband was that we had been working flat out at our place for weeks to get it ready. A new appliance had arrived and I was keeping it boxed so it would not be damaged. Husband kept picking it up and taking it out of the box, and eventually on the third try asked if he should stop doing it because I was getting fidgety about him touching it. He agreed to leave it alone. When his parents were around, he then started screaming that the appliance was smashed. I went to look and shouted that it was not broken, but he kept screaming and protesting. Eventually I pointed out that the thing he was upset about was a part of the design, and evidently I did call him a f*cking idiot because it was an entirely avoidable situation, but he had been pestering all day about it.

MIL has sided with FIL despite not being there to witness what happened. This is the second time in 4 years of marriage that his father has stepped in and nearly broken up our relationship. The first occasion was after my husband went to be assessed for a behavioural disorder which they did not believe that he had. Since then they have both been hostile towards me in both overt and passive-aggressive ways. I kept in contact with them during this time for the sake of my husband.

Husband is still talking to his parents, but stated retrospectively that he would take my side and that they did not have a right to try to take over. Do I try to salvage anything here or accept that the relationship with my mother and father in law is not something I can fix now? FIL has stated that he regrets the way he said it but fully stands by everything he said to me that day.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (58 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
TBH, I would start by trying to sort things through with your husband so that you are no longer having fights in which you call him a f*cking idiot. I don't know whether he also treats you that way, but it's not a communication style that I would accept in an intimate relationship, and I would be upset if I saw a relative treated that way by their partner.

I agree it was also not appropriate for your FIL to speak to you that way, but your relationship with your husband seems like the priority place to start working. Once that's better, perhaps you can together work out how to address your relationship with in-laws.
posted by shattersock at 2:57 PM on September 21, 2014 [71 favorites]


I have to say, I don't think your father-in-law handled this very well at all and he sounds very difficult to deal with, but can part of the problem be that he was not excused from "decorating," an activity that sounds kind of unnecessary and frivolous for someone on painkillers?

And also what shattersock said.
posted by pineappleheart at 2:58 PM on September 21, 2014 [26 favorites]


I think you are all at fault here, and that you need to take your in laws out to a really nice dinner and express how grateful you are to have them helping you, that you are sorry things have gotten so tense, and that you wanted to make sure they knew that you and your husband love and care for them greatly. Then you need to go to each member of your family and apologize to them, starting with your husband. You've all behaved very poorly towards one another, and hopefully if you start the first round apologies, others will follow. You need to be the one to start this process though.
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:00 PM on September 21, 2014 [57 favorites]


Wow, everyone is in the wrong here.

* your husband for "screaming that the appliance was smashed" (if that's accurate).
* you for calling your husband a "f*cking idiot."
* your father-in-law for losing his temper with you.

Frankly, though, your excuse that "[your husband] had been pestering all day about it" just doesn't pass muster. What you called your husband is a pretty inexcusable thing to say, and if I heard someone say it to someone I loved I would not easily forgive that person.

Sort of a smaller point, but when someone offers their labor without pay (as your in-laws did) you lose a lot of ability to micromanage their work. I.e. even if what they did wasn't all that helpful you don't have the right to criticize them for it or accuse them of "wast[ing] a day."
posted by crazy with stars at 3:01 PM on September 21, 2014 [63 favorites]


Everybody was stressed. Your FIL was yelling, but so were you (funny how we marry our parents sometimes). This has happened before, and will probably happen again, so... maybe just wait until it blows over? What's at stake here, other than your ego? Make things good with your husband and go from there.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:03 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ok, if your FIL is helping you remodel, then it's pretty darn inappropriate for you to be cursing at him for a delay in his (presumably free, voluntary) work. It's also completely normal for him to be outraged at someone calling his son a f*cking idiot. I would be as well. I agree it wasn't cool for him to scream at you, but to be honest I would fully expect anyone in that situation to be telling you off, flat out.
posted by celtalitha at 3:03 PM on September 21, 2014 [41 favorites]


You told your father-in-law "'how dare you speak to me like this in my home', but you called your husband a fucking idiot. How does that work? Forget how everyone else behaved and examine your own actions and attitudes. You've lost the right to pass judgement on anyone else for the time being. You sound like a real handful.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 3:05 PM on September 21, 2014 [28 favorites]


even in your own version of events, you don't exactly come out smelling of roses.

He may not have handled it well but he was in pain and doing you a favour, what's your excuse for behaving so badly?
posted by missmagenta at 3:05 PM on September 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


Yikes.

N-thing all the comments above that you are all in the wrong, all behaved like children, and all need to apologize to one another.

But what really stands out to me is the way you paint yourself as rational and great - just a bit tired, d'oh! - and the others as deeply flawed. You seem to think your husband is an idiot (based on your description of him, I'm totally ignoring the "fucking idiot" comment here), your FIL needs anger management, and your MIL is deliberately making things worse by "siding" with FIL.

Maybe some of those things are true or partly true, but you are totally glossing over the part where you flipped a shit on your husband for a terrible reason. (Sorry, being tired is an excuse for a little snippiness, not for meanness.) You also paint over the part where you totally fail to consider your FIL's perspective or to engage in a constructive way. This is deeply immature and childish, and honestly the way I behaved in like high school.

My advice? Apologize to everyone, cross your fingers that they all forgive you, and get yourself to therapy pronto.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:06 PM on September 21, 2014 [24 favorites]


Also, for what it's worth, you don't appear to have very good communication skills. If you needed your FIL to do a process differently, retreating after he asked you to take into consideration his needs and then asking your husband to handle it for you was cowardly. It's possible that for the last 10 years your in-laws have watched you and your husband become more and more dysfunctional as communicators and for his parents that must be really frustrating and difficult to watch when someone you love is in a perpetually disrespectful situation. Maybe you should treat this as your wake up call and consider working on that aspect of yourself in addition to the couples therapy that you are embarking on with your husband.
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:06 PM on September 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


If I had an abscessed tooth, was on painkillers, was volunteering to help my family and they micromanaged me and told me I was doing it wrong and they'd have to do it all over again after I'd been working all day, and I also heard you refer to my child as a f*cking idiot, you'd be lucky...VERY lucky...that all I did was yell at you.

Abscessed tooth and on painkillers on top of all this free labor where you told him it was all wrong in the end? You owe this man a HUGE apology. And your husband.
posted by kinetic at 3:08 PM on September 21, 2014 [104 favorites]


Yes, apologise, it's the least you can do. It won't fix things I'm sure.
posted by Namlit at 3:10 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Apologize to your fil, thank them for all the help they've given on your house, and relieve that of any expectation that they're expected to do more. Words to the effect of "this whole house thing has brought out the worst in me, and I'd like to go back to being your daughter-in-law and not the Project Manager" might come in handy.
posted by vitabellosi at 3:14 PM on September 21, 2014 [14 favorites]


I disagree with the pile-on here, I guess because I can't see myself acting differently from you. It sounds like everyone was stressed and tired and lost their temper. I know how much you'd like an apology, but in this case the faster route to family harmony might be for you to take the high road. Like perhaps send your in laws a nice fruit basket or flowers with a note thanking them for their help and apologizing for losing your temper. IMHO taking the high road is the best and easiest way to preserve relationships that have to last a long time.
posted by bleep at 3:15 PM on September 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


"Spouse needs to side with me" is for situations where in-laws are clearly crossing a boundary, not for situations where everyone has behaved like a jackass. You don't use "spousal unity" as a club to demand your spouse side with you against his parents. Before you can do that, you really have to make every effort to smooth the relationship between you and your in-laws, including (in this case) swallowing your pride and apologizing, even if you think you were in the right.

"Husband isn't on my side" is for when your in-laws are trying to feed your anaphylactic toddler peanuts because they don't believe in allergies, not for when everyone shouts at each other over renovations.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:15 PM on September 21, 2014 [48 favorites]


For what it's worth if I was on pain killers and didn't feel up to helping for free I would have just bowed out. Especially if I was obviously not helping. Screaming until you're purple is never ok.
posted by bleep at 3:17 PM on September 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think you need to take the log out of your own eye and look at your own behaviour before correcting anyone else's.

You had your father-in-law's unpaid labour on a home decorating project, and were pressuring him about it despite his suffering a painful tooth abscess for which he was on painkillers.

Next, you criticised the unpaid labour he was doing for you.

You also swore at him about it.

And, in front of your father-in-law, you called your husband names and swore at him.

You then reprimanded your father-in-law for speaking to you in your own home the way you had been speaking to others in your own home.

To be frank, it really does sound like you are giving your alleged loved ones a terrible time. If your account of the others is to be believed, you do sound pretty well matched in terms of temperament and social skills, but I would suggest focusing most of your efforts at improving the behaviour of the one person over whom you rightly have control - yourself.

You could start by apologising for your own behaviour, and doing so without a hint of "but it was your fault" or even "there's a rational explanation for why I acted that way" because explaining and apologising tend to negate each other if you do them in the same conversation.

Then, stop making demands of people who are doing you favours, and start showing them some gratitude instead. Stop swearing and stop calling people names, in your own home or elsewhere. Don't argue with your husband in front of other people. Then maybe your relationship with your in-laws will improve.
posted by tel3path at 3:17 PM on September 21, 2014 [33 favorites]


Apologize to your father-in-law. You're pretty obviously in the wrong here.
posted by ewiar at 3:19 PM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


One other thing. In your follow-up you admit that "I apologised to him for what I said..." That sorta suggests that you do recognize that you were in the wrong for your behavior on that day -- so how on earth can you be thinking of demanding an apology from your father in law?
posted by crazy with stars at 3:22 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Don't ever again ask for or accept help from your father-in-law. Prioritize the couple's therapy, and send an apology letter to both your father-in-law and your mother-in-law with no expectation of reciprocity of that act.
posted by HuronBob at 3:25 PM on September 21, 2014 [14 favorites]


Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?

Let's be gracious here and say that everyone has some shit to be ashamed of. I suggest that you model the behavior you want to experience yourself.

"I want to apologize to everyone. What I said to each of you was horrible and inexcusable. I am deeply ashamed and I am very sorry for it."

Then examine why you'd push a guy with a toothache, scream something terrible at your husband and treat him like a child, and expect your MIL to do anything except 'side' with her family.

When you invite relatives to work with you on the house, you're kind of stuck with their skill level and their way of doing things. You can ask someone to do it, or you can tell them HOW to do it, you can't do both.

Sometimes you have to pull the plug. "Dad, I know you mean well, but I'd rather have that done a different way. Tell you what, that tooth looks like it hurts like a motherfucker. Why don't you lay down in the den and watch the Dawgs, Simon and I can handle this later. Would you like a shot of bourbon?"

Or better yet, "Mom, things are getting really tense here, just take Dad home, he looks like he's in real pain."

To your husband, "Dude, I know this is a bitch. I promise, if I have to paint another baseboard, I'm going to lose my damn mind. We just need to keep our cool and power through this. Once the floors are installed and the cabinets arrive, we'll see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Can YOU be the change you want to see in your family? Or must you stand your ground and be right in every situation? Can you manipulate situations so that everyone can save face? Because at the end of the day, this is your family and they love your husband very much. If you are a good partner, you can bask in that love too. Want to know how I know? Because I am a blessing to my mother in law. I love her and I wouldn't hurt her for the world.

It's going to suck, but not as much as festering bad feelings.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:28 PM on September 21, 2014 [37 favorites]


Erm..... OP, are you still reading?

I have a slightly different take on all this.

Boy, this renovation sounds miserable. Is it really that necessary to make it that stressful? Can't any deadlines be pushed back to make this a sane & civil process??

Also

All of you sound terribly dysfunctional. This is not how happy adults interact with each other.

I'm not sure what the solution is. I probably would not stay married to this craziness.

And I disagree with other commenters. Your husband contributed greatly to the tension and subsequent blow up with his father. He threw you under the bus instead of backing both of you off of each other.

That is so many levels of fucked up game playing. He stayed for the show and poured fuel on the fire. I'm sorry.

Like I said, I would not stick it out in this type of dynamic. Life is short. Don't spend it with people like this.

Your problem is that you keep taking the bait, escalating arguments, and generally insuring bad outcomes by remaining connected to these damaged people.

Yes. You have self-work to do. Absolutely.

Step #1 is figuring out why you've chosen these people to be in your life.

You can't change them. You can change yourself. Good luck.


PS. The advice from bleep above to apologize as a form of investing in smoother relationships is EXCELLENT, and you should do so and be sincere.

I'm just telling you there's A LOT of baiting and sniping going on, so this is going to happen again. Next time descalate when you feel baited (work on techniques in therapy!!) or think about removing yourself from this family dynamic, permanently. If you can't figure out how to be peaceful in this group, it's OK to end it.

What's not OK is continuing to fight with the people closest to you.

posted by jbenben at 3:37 PM on September 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


Also, everything tel3path said.
posted by jbenben at 3:41 PM on September 21, 2014


You should accept that they are fundamentally on his side. They will decorate the way he wants them to, and they won't change to suit your desires unless he cares enough to ask them to. And so forth.

That's somewhat natural, but moreso after them witnessing their son "be mistreated." * In general, the level of respect I've given my friends' and family members' partners has had a lot to do with how well they treat them and how happy they make them. (* I'm not sure if your husband considers himself mistreated in that conversation, or if that's some way you guys talk to each other. Are you sure he's okay with that? If so, then I'd at least keep in mind that his parents can't handle it.)

For now, I'd give up on getting an apology. I'd spend some time trying to figure out whether you want to try to win back their respect and affection -- both by looking closely at the positive and negative aspects of your own behavior toward him and them (as comments above recommend), and also by thinking about what kind of people they are and why they might be upset with you. Good luck. This sounds really tough.
posted by salvia at 3:53 PM on September 21, 2014


This isn't how grown ups interact. But I would suggest trying to work out your issues with your husband, rather than your issues with his father.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:57 PM on September 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


You and your husband were exhausted and under stress. He did a dumb thing, you yelled that he was a f-ing idiot while his parents were in the house with you. The in-laws were shocked and embarrassed, and couldn't bring themselves to mind their own business. They blamed you. Everybody was wrong.

You should apologize to your husband. He's in the middle, and it's harder for him to get perspective. Just do your sincere apology, with no mention that you weren't the only one behaving badly. Be specific. "I'm sorry I got mad and yelled, that I swore and called you and idiot, that I did it within earshot of your parents. I wasn't handling the stress well, and I took it out on you." Tell him how you'll do things differently in the future.

You should apologize to your in-laws. You shouldn't have yelled at your husband and called him names. You're sorry that they had to hear it. And you're sorry that you were critical of your father-in-law's work; you weren't handling your stress well at all. You really appreciate their help, and you hope they can forgive how you acted.

I know you weren't the only one that made mistakes. But it's unlikely that your husband's parents are going to just forget about all the unpleasantness. And your husband is in a really difficult position now. Act from the best, most loving part of yourself, because you can make things a whole lot better by speaking a few sentences.
posted by wryly at 4:09 PM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


This is the second time in 4 years of marriage that his father has stepped in and nearly broken up our relationship.

I think your getting plenty of straight talk already, op. But your paying off the incident this way really leapt it at me. What happened here with your FIL could not really be described as stepping in and breaking your relationship. That's a very personalised and also adversarial way of ingrowing events. Could be worth thinking about why you are thinking of it this way, and what your marriage is like to think about it like this etc. Best of luck.
posted by smoke at 4:11 PM on September 21, 2014 [30 favorites]


It sounds like everyone was in a very stressful situation, nerves got frayed and people acted in a way that they wouldn't normally act that they probably (hopefully?) regret. Unlike those who are so quick to condemn your language in the argument with your husband, I think people sometimes say things in very stressful situations and everyone needs to take a deep breath and relax. For fuck's sake, if the worst thing you ever do in a lifetime of marriage is call your husband a "fucking idiot" in that situation, you should count yourselves among the very blessed.

That said, it never hurts in these situations to suck it up and be the first one to apologize, first to your husband and then with your husband to your FIL? If they're adults, they probably (hopefully?) regret their parts in this as well, and will appreciate you for taking the first step and allowing them to graciously apologize too. There is nothing to be gained in having your FIL be a wedge between you and your husband.
posted by slkinsey at 4:14 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


This "nearly [broke] up our relationship" and it is because the FIL lost his cool over you losing yours, and not because you... Really? That would be enough to seriously threaten your decade-long relationship? Why?
posted by kmennie at 5:25 PM on September 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


The backstory to the original fight between myself and my husband was that we had been working flat out at our place for weeks to get it ready. A new appliance had arrived and I was keeping it boxed so it would not be damaged. Husband kept picking it up and taking it out of the box, and eventually on the third try asked if he should stop doing it because I was getting fidgety about him touching it. He agreed to leave it alone. When his parents were around, he then started screaming that the appliance was smashed. I went to look and shouted that it was not broken, but he kept screaming and protesting. Eventually I pointed out that the thing he was upset about was a part of the design, and evidently I did call him a f*cking idiot because it was an entirely avoidable situation, but he had been pestering all day about it.

From this I take it that your husband doesn't necessarily always perform well under stress -- perhaps even has some issues -- and that you tend to run things.

If so, I don't see that as a big problem (my partner has better 'executive function' than I do, we both know it, and she tends to run things), but it looks as if your FIL might, and though I suspect he knows what's up with his son and may at some level be happy he married someone with complementary abilities, it's probably still galling to witness -- the more so if he's sexist -- and with the best will in the world he would be justifiably upset to see his son called a "fucking idiot" by someone he would like to be able to trust to love his son, rather than have contempt for him.

So I would like you to approach your FIL with a goal of reassuring him that you do indeed love and have respect for your husband, just as he loves and respects his son, that the marriage is solid and loving and that what he witnessed was an anomaly, and that once you thought about it you actually appreciate his willingness to stand up for his son, but you wish he could have handled it better, just as you wish you could have handled things better on your end.
posted by jamjam at 5:27 PM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Remember this-if you ever expect your husband to chose sides between his parents and you, he will always chose his parents. This is pretty much universal except for some cases. If you are wise, you will never put your husband in this position again.
It really sucks when in-laws do not know their boundaries well and interfere in their children's married lives. You insulted your husband before his parents, see his situation now. He lost face before them and if your in-laws had ever disliked you, this rings in their favor. So all in all you are the bad person here now, regardless of who was right.
You need to salvage this situation. Be nice to everyone and pretend it never happened. Apologize to your hubby (not his father). Whatever apology you think the father expects, give it to your hubby, not the father. That way your hubby feels good towards you (which is important). Take it from there.
posted by jellyjam at 5:33 PM on September 21, 2014


He had an abscess on his tooth and was taking painkillers for this the day before and day-of. I approached him about an hour after he arrived to ask if he could perhaps do the decorating he was taking care of in a different way. He responded by shouting at me that if that was what I wanted, he would just change into his normal clothes and go home.

My guess is he really, really wanted to do exactly that, and was hoping someone would tell him to do that, and if they couldn't do it out of compassion, he'd take it any way he could get it. Ruthless Bunny strikes exactly the right note:

"Dad, I know you mean well, but I'd rather have that done a different way. Tell you what, that tooth looks like it hurts like a motherfucker. Why don't you lay down in the den and watch the Dawgs, Simon and I can handle this later. Would you like a shot of bourbon?"


This is the voice you should be channeling from now on. Starting with Hermione Granger's plan of taking the in-laws out for a nice dinner and expressing loving sentiments, followed by a round of individual apologies initiated by you. Even if no one else reciprocates, it's important that you remain sincere about these apologies. (Tell yourself they probably feel bad too, but lack your communication skills.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 5:33 PM on September 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


If my husband called me "a f*cking idiot" our marriage would be in serious jeopardy. If he called me "an idiot" we'd also have a huge problem. I am not exaggerating. There is a level of respect for one another that does not allow for such language. I don't even know what to tell you beyond that. I think you have serious anger problems. You seem to care way more deeply about your appliances and how your house is decorated than about the people who are supposed to be closest to you and who are your allies in life. Step way back and think about what happened. Are you so sure you were justified in your behavior? Get some counseling and reassess your priorities. Your description of the events makes me sort of ill, honestly.
posted by Kangaroo at 5:41 PM on September 21, 2014 [34 favorites]


..."angry because I had called his son a 'f*cking idiot' the day before. I did not remember this but realised quickly that he had been quietly seething since seeing us have a fight. "

I'm sorry, I'm not clear on this. Did you or did you not call this man's son a fucking idiot?

If you did, you have no rights and no moral high ground. Doesn't matter, apologize, and for that matter, grovel, because that's low-down.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:56 PM on September 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


Wow, this is a pile-on. I actually think this expectation is totally reasonable:

Later I tried to explain to my husband that FIL had shouted at me and that I would like him to tell him this was not ok, and ask for an apology. Husband refused and I got very frustrated.

If the OP really were as self-centered and oblivious to her own failings as y'all seem to think, I doubt she would have included details like the "f*ing idiot" comment, or the fact that her FIL was on painkillers for toothache. It sounds like she gets that she wasn't perfect, and that her in-laws were doing them a favor. But the fact that somebody is helping you with home renovations doesn't give them license to scream at you till they are purple.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:00 PM on September 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


But the fact that somebody is helping you with home renovations doesn't give them license to scream at you till they are purple.

No, that isn't it. It's the fact that she called his son a 'fucking idiot'. No one is suggesting even remotely that this has anything to do with the renovation itself from what I can see, and whatever was done wrong or is in question is totally vague.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:04 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


But the fact that somebody is helping you with home renovations doesn't give them license to scream at you till they are purple.

The fact that you're married to someone doesn't give you the right to curse at them and force bystanders to witness your verbal abuse to their loved one, either. Not to mention OP cursed again about FIL's less-than-stellar (in her opinion) job on a task.

I'd do my best to apologize to everyone involved and steer very clear of ever expecting any help again in the future from the in-laws.
posted by SpecialSpaghettiBowl at 6:16 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Eventually I pointed out that the thing he was upset about was a part of the design, and evidently I did call him a f*cking idiot because it was an entirely avoidable situation, but he had been pestering all day about it.

&

He replied angrily that this was indeed the case, and I swore about it annoyed that we had wasted a day, being that we were very short on time to get the work finished.

It seems in both of these situations, you think the backstory justifies you swearing at people.

Your husband could've avoided the situation, so it's his fault you called him a f*cking idiot. That it intensely disrespectful, and a borderline abusive thing to say to a partner - particularly in front of his family.

Your FIL, working in pain for free it seems, didn't complete a project well and you swore about how it impacted your timelines. Again, intensely disrespectful.

I think your FIL will apologize for how he blew up at you the second you recognize what you did to his son was reprehensibly wrong, and how you acted about his work incredibly entitled, and you actually apologize for having swore at both of them. That, and you stop doing it in the future.
posted by buoys in the hood at 6:28 PM on September 21, 2014 [18 favorites]


Wow, what a pile-on! The OP mentions the husband was screaming well before she entered the room and may or may not have called him an idiot. Everyone seems very loud.

OP, you said that your in-laws had tried to break up your relationship before and been overtly hostile and passive aggressive to you for years. This is will not get better until your husband grows up and decides that being your husband is his primary role. I think you need a professional to sit him down and explain that he cannot tolerate his parents' behaviour towards you and expect a healthy relationship. Right now, he is repeatedly throwing you under the bus because he is more afraid of his parent's anger/rejection than he is of losing you. This is just going to get worse, and needs to be addressed.

I would not apologise to my in-laws about a fight I had with my husband, but I would expect them to apologise for the behaviour they exhibited in my own home. I would also not allow them back in my home until my husband had, with me silently by his side, explained that they must choose to respect him and his wife or else not have a close relationship.

If your husband is not seeing how disrespectful his parents are being to him (he probably interprets their actions as loving), again, a professional that has seen this same dysfunctional parenting style should be able to help him have some insight.
posted by saucysault at 7:00 PM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Invoking spousal unity in the same disagreement you called him a fucking idiot doesn't fly. You took the long way around of explaining it, but, yes, these two events are actually the same event: your in-laws are helping you with your place, while doing that you called their son a fucking idiot, and his dad got upset. Even in this question you try to separate these things (accusing your father in law of "changing his tune", as if he wasn't really mad about that if the first place). And you "evidently" called his a fucking idiot? Either you're trying to minimize a pretty bad thing you did, or it's such a matter of course for you to say things like that, it doesn't stand out.

You want these to be discrete events so you can ignore what you did, and make the problem your husband's lack of support in your contemptuous attitude for him. That's not going to fly with him. You cannot expect people to defend someone bullying them.

You have much bigger things to worry about then your in-laws and your husband defending you to them. See:

A new appliance had arrived and I was keeping it boxed so it would not be damaged. Husband kept picking it up and taking it out of the box, and eventually on the third try asked if he should stop doing it because I was getting fidgety about him touching it. He agreed to leave it alone. When his parents were around, he then started screaming that the appliance was smashed. I went to look and shouted that it was not broken, but he kept screaming and protesting. Eventually I pointed out that the thing he was upset about was a part of the design

This may even be what happened, but you wrote this in such a way to make him out to be an imbecile. Is it possible he could write a story about him wanting to look at this new appliance, but you kept being weird about it? And when he finally got a look at it, he was upset because he thought it was broken, but instead of explaining it was actually okay, you called him a fucking idiot?

This pretty obvious contempt for your husband is your real problem here.
posted by spaltavian at 7:10 PM on September 21, 2014 [12 favorites]


The FIL was helping you decorate, despite being in enough pain to warrant painkillers, and witnessed you call his son a fucking idiot, and YOU're the one holding out for an apology? Ohhhh boy.

Please reconsider everything that happened here. To answer your question, YES! You should definitely try to fix things. With the FIL, and also your husband!
posted by destructive cactus at 7:19 PM on September 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


Tell your father in law that you are sorry that you made him work with an abscess tooth, that you are sorry that he witnessed your ugly behavior towards his son, and that you are sorry for acting ugly to him. Tell him that you were very upset that he yelled at you and that next time, when he isn't feeling well and starts to get frustrated with you, to please just go home and let things cool down before talking.

If you cannot day these things without being ugly or argumentative, then you should write a nice note, have a drama free friend proof read it, and send it over with your husband and a bunt cake.

Here is the thing- your behavior through all of this has been so bad that, even if they all had horns and tails, you are still the bad guy.
posted by myselfasme at 7:41 PM on September 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


So many people on here ganging up on you for what sounds like you poorly worded what needed to be said which is "hey husband calm down." Seems to me that your in laws though they may mean well are pretty overbearing. Even though they're helping you decorate it doesn't mean you have to accept their choices. It's still you and your husband's place not their's. As for getting an apology from your fil...Unlikely. I would try to move on. Let your husband battle with his dad. Try not to have arguments in front of in laws. It never goes over well.
posted by ljs30 at 9:11 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


You might want to consider that this might be the way your FIL always treated your husband and you have stumbled into a pit that sets off all of your own unrecognized alarms.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:31 PM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


My perspective on this seems pretty different from most of the commenters here. Possibly because I have (under duress) undertaken home projects with my husband and in-laws simultaneously. Consequently this is long, sorry.

As most have noted, your husband owes you his loyalty when you fight with his folks, but not when your treatment of him is the subject of the fight. From his parents' perspective, you're the latecomer - they knew him before he could control his bowels. Never mind that you know him much better as an adult and autonomous human being than they do - that's recent history, and to them it barely counts.

Your fighting with (and swearing at) your husband is none of your in-laws' beeswax. But parents almost never mind their own beeswax when it comes to their kids, no matter how old the kid. And some people are very uptight about swearing and name-calling, too. So you fought with your husband in front of his folks, they took his side (presumably unasked), and then you asked your husband to take your side in the consequent fight with his dad. That was strategically doomed and nonsensical.

Your in-laws want to protect their kid when they think he's being attacked. If you and your husband love and respect each other but have a more rough-and-tumble marital culture than his family of origin, that probably doesn't translate to them. Together, you need to apologize to his parents for fighting in front of them. Don't try to justify how you fight to them, just apologize to them, promise to keep them out of it in future, and move on.

You are never going to get a sincere apology from your father-in-law about this, because his loyalty is to his child, and that's what he thinks this fight was about. You (alone) need to apologize to your father-in-law for bossing him around, for being insufficiently sympathetic about his tooth, for being impatient, and for cussing him out (even if you didn't want your in-laws' help, you can't yell at people who are helping you, it's a rule of society.) You definitely don't need to grovel as much as some commenters here seem to think (I doubt you can sell it anyway) and you very much don't need to apologize for how you treated your husband. But you need to say you're sorry you were kinda mean, without making reference to the many extenuating circumstances or to the history of passive aggression or any of that shit. You need to own your shit because you're a grown-up and it's good for your marriage, because this isn't typical of you, right? You don't really think your husband's an idiot, and you were remarking upon it - albeit loudly and with ample frustration - because he was behaving out of character by not using his brain.

If you ordinarily think your husband is the greatest thing going, and your marriage is solid and loving when you're not doing renovations, then, for pity's sake, figure out how to play nice with his family. You married into it and there's no way out of it now. Even after they're dead, there's no escape from the family you marry. Just ask my husband when I get weird at Christmas.

(If you don't mostly adore and respect him, then why on earth are you undertaking renos with him? Get a divorce and buy a recently rehabbed condo.)
posted by gingerest at 12:18 AM on September 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


Is all this yelling something to be expected from you, your husband and the in laws? Or did you all just freak out in unforseen ways because of the stressful circumstances? If the latter, I think you should let it go. There was just too much screaming craziness going around, none of which is worth untangling.

Take a page from your father in law's book. He said he's sorry for how He said things, not for what he said. The things he said are pretty reasonable: he doesn't like the way you've been micromanaging, being in a bad mood and cussing out his son and his own work, and he'd rather go home.
Similarly, you would probably prefer not to have screamed at anyone, and what you were trying to say in itself is not unreasonable: you wanted your husband to leave that thing alone and not freak out about nothing, you didn't want your fil to yell at you, you wanted him to do the work the successful way and not the one that didn't work, you were disappointed with the time wasted.
You could honestly tell him that you heard he'd apologised for his tone and that you, too, are sorry for the way you you said these things.

What I infer from your post is that you feel very much in charge, responsible, that you need to keep an eye on everything lest things go wrong. This is an incredibly stressful burden to take on. Your narrative seems to support this idea that once people stop doing as you say, things go wrong. But you know, you have to let this go. If you delegate things to volunteers, or share work with equals, they must do their shit their own way, make their own mistakes and work out their own emotions.

Your husband's freakout over the appliance is his own problem. Why let his mood overwhelm you? You could interfere gently without taking over his burden.
Your FIL made the decision, with your husband, to do things one way. It turned out to be the wrong way. This is annoying and disappointing, sure. But let it go, accept this as a pitfall of having other people work on your home. You are not in charge of every detail they do and do wrong.

Take a deep breath. Renovation is hell. Don't make or break relationships based on renovation drama.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:15 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've noticed that very defensive and self-righteous people refer to any expression of anger by anyone else as "screaming" to make it sound terrible. I seriously doubt this is true:

"When his parents were around, he then started screaming that the appliance was smashed. I went to look and shouted that it was not broken, but he kept screaming and protesting."

Screaming? Who "screams" repeatedly because an appliance might be damaged? Who was there to scream at? It would have been his fault, right? So either your husband and his family are hysterical people with major anger management issues, or you're exaggerating and hear any disagreement with your view as being "screaming."

Raising your voice in anger, while never nice, is not necessarily "screaming." That word implies a loss of control and a risk of violence. If your husband is actually *losing his shit* at you over an appliance he thought he might have broken, your marriage has bigger problems than your in laws.

But if you call every expression of annoyance or displeasure made by anyone else but you (including your FIL) "screaming" you might need to examine your own sensitivity level. Or your double standards for your own behavior.

And *you* of course merely "shouted" that the appliance wasn't broken, which is presumably because it was some distance away from the people you were shouting at? Or were you "screaming" exactly like your husband, but give yourself a pass on calling it that?
posted by spitbull at 1:51 AM on September 22, 2014 [18 favorites]


It sure as hell is not your father-in-law's position to be interfering or taking sides in fights between you and your husband.

First, you should of course, apologize to your husband for calling him a fucking idiot.

A marriage cannot work if one party allows their parents to intervene in disputes against the other partner. Your Father-in-law will have to apologize to you. It is up to your husband to inform him of that.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:18 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


"A new appliance had arrived and I was keeping it boxed so it would not be damaged. Husband kept picking it up and taking it out of the box, and eventually on the third try asked if he should stop doing it because I was getting fidgety about him touching it. He agreed to leave it alone."

The one good thing you have to say about your husband is that when you treated him like a child, he finally agreed to go along with that.

Also noted - how you gloss over leaving for about an hour which sounds more like stomping off in a huff that having, coincidentally, to run a previously planned errand at that time.

I'm joining what I hope is more of a reality check than a pile on. In your own story, you seem to be at fault.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:53 AM on September 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Sometimes the high road can be a lonely place, but I really think it is the best place when it comes to family disputes. My SO has always been very skittish around my mother, who truly did not merit the treatment. Finally, I told him how much it hurt me when he made it so miserable to be around her, and he realized that the bigger prize was the relationship with me, not with her.

A few weeks later, I was upset because his sister flaked out on something which was important to me. I told him how disappointed I was and asked him how I should handle his sister. His answer was that I should do nothing. I asked him not to make an issue about my mother because when he did, it bounced back onto me and so caused me harm. So I had to do the same for him and not make an issue about his sister, and so cause him harm. It stung a little, because I was RIGHT, you know :) But what finally happened was that someone else called his sister on her BS, she made it up to me and I used some positive reinforcement to tell her how much I appreciated it---and so set my expectations for next time without causing blowback to him.

For you? I think you could say something like 'FIL, I was upset at the way you treated me and the things that you said in your anger. But I do understand that my behaviour was not perfect either and I was at fault by [whatever you want to admit to]. I hope we can all try to do better next time, and I will certainly do my part to handle this a lot more maturely from now on.' This leaves an opening for him to apologize too, but if he chooses not to, then you've taken the high road, owned up to your own behaviour, and still set the expectation for how you want him to behave in the future.
posted by JoannaC at 6:06 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's alarming that you didn't even remember whether or not you called your husband a "fucking idiot," because it implies that it was an unremarkable thing for you to say - that it's not out of character for you to insult your husband like that. A lot of the answers here are focusing on that specific phrase because most people wouldn't talk to strangers like that, much less loved ones. Many people might blurt out that sort if thing in a moment of extreme frustration, but it's usually a record-scratch moment, immediately followed by "oh god, I did not mean that" or "this argument is getting way out of hand and I need to cool down." You even censored the word "fucking" in this question. You won't say it anonymously here, but you will say it to your husband's face.

There's so much screaming and shouting and yelling in your story, from all of you. All of you should have apologized to each other. If we're keeping score (which, really, we shouldn't), your father in law has the least to apologize for: he was unwell, he'd finished a day's worth of work that you then complained about, and he'd witnessed his son getting insulted by the one person who's supposed to be on his side. Doesn't mean his yelling was okay, and it doesn't mean you shouldn't feel hurt by it. But none of you is blameless here, and if you want to patch things up, you'll all need to work at it.

The stress of the renovation can't be helping. Do whatever you can to give yourselves a break: push back your deadline, hire someone (not family) to do some of the work, postpone any non-essential improvements (if the bathroom toilet isn't installed, work on that, but forget about anything that could be described as "decorating"). You and your husband need some rest, for yourselves and for your marriage. If you try to push through at full speed, while still upset and holding grudges, this will only escalate.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:17 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


From the OP:
Thank you to everyone for their response. I realise that I was in the wrong, and this may not have come across but this was a few weeks back and I have since then made good with my husband. This was not normal behaviour for any of us but occurred 4 weeks into a 6 week long renovation.

My husband and I will be starting counselling together soon and I intend to reassess my own anger, and work out ways that I do not feel compelled to control others' behaviour (esp my husband's). I feel that the more measured commenters hit the nail on the head more, but I accept that my actions were not measured and are not an appropriate way to continue.

I am going to write an apology letter to my in-laws without any qualifying statements, and also send flowers to thank them for their help.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:26 AM on September 22, 2014 [40 favorites]


I would apologize in person.
posted by kinetic at 11:06 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I agree, you're still being cowardly by not speaking with your in laws directly. You will not accomplish what you want in the long term if this is how you handle conflict and apologies in the short term.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:44 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


From the OP:
I sent the letter to my in-laws, and they both called me individually to tell me how much they appreciated my apology and that they wanted to move forward from what happened. My husband cried when he read what I sent them because he was so happy I had chosen to resolve this situation. I think things will be ok.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:43 AM on September 23, 2014 [20 favorites]


This is wonderful. Your family is in a good position now to go into counselling with open minds and open hearts. Keep making this kind of effort and you will go far. Good luck to you!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:20 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


That's wonderful. Keep moving forward. :)
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:43 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's really terrific to hear, good on you for taking the time to apologise, you must feel very happy with that outcome, and you should be proud that you did the right thing.
posted by smoke at 4:31 PM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


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