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Hello all! My family and I moved to a new state so that I could pursue my Ph.D. My wife's parents sold their house and moved with us to "help". However, they moved without telling us that my wife's mom had Stage 4 kidney failure. At this point, I make much less than I did in my previous job so my wife started working full time. She had to cut back her work hours to take care of her mom because her dad wouldn't help or acted like he didn't know what to do. Fast forward and my wife's mom passed away leaving her dad with us. Now, I understand the pain of loss and I would never leave him homeless. He is healthy and can function when he chooses to, but he is great at making my wife feel guilty. He's lazy, doesn't interact with my kids, and only talks when he needs something. He has no savings and will inevitably become ill.


Here's the issue...my wife thinks I'm wrong because I think that I and our kids should take priority. I'm contemplating leaving because I don't want any part of it knowing that my wife is trying to save him because she didn't save her mom (not logical, but that is what she thinks). Our relationship is different and she just expects me to accept it all because she can 'ignore' it all. I can't ignore it and I feel that she has basically chosen her dad over me even though I haven't asked for any choices to be made. I just want to talk about solutions, but she gets defensive and basically says that we're in it for the long haul. Our relationship is struggling, our kids are struggling, and he is as happy as a turtle in the sun because she is doing everything for him. We are both resentful of each other and it feels terrible knowing that our relationship has worsened as a result of her parents moving in.

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To get past your wife's defensiveness, I recommend you start the conversation by agreeing with your wife that you are in it for the long haul. This is her father and you children's grandfather; his "presence" in their lives and your own isn't going away ever - even after his death. I encourage you to give up your anger over past issues like her parents moving in without informing you of your MIL's health issue before hand. The past is in the past and expressing your anger or wasting time discussing the past just inhibits your discussion of the present and future and separates you and your wife emotionally. Although they moved to "help" your family, if you wife had known her mother had a terminal illness she would have likely wanted her mother to move with you anyway. How you got to this situation isn't as important as how you get out of it with your family intact.

Please consider that your FIL may have some depression and early dementia. Not being able to care for his wife during her illness may not have been laziness, it could have been the loss of executive function and inability to learn new things that denotes the onset of cognitive decline. Sometimes the elderly spouse just has difficulty learning new skills while under the pressure/distress of their LO's illness. My grandfather was very willing and physically capable but still struggled to learn some base housekeeping chores as my grandmother's health declined. Depression causes a lack of initiative that can be mistaken as laziness too.

Discuss how your FIL's constant presence in your home is impacting your wife's energy levels and her time/efforts with your children. Tell her you miss spending time with her and the kids doing something you used to do and haven't been able to for a while now. You are concerned over how much this is impacting her life and health. Please refrain from expressing your anger over the situation, express your concern for your family, including your FIL. Your wife may feel guilty for the things she isn't doing with/for your kids so be careful not to state things in any way that could be considered criticism. Your FIL is isolated living in your home and not interacting with the family or any peers. He may be depressed and enabling him to avoid others may actually be deepening his depression and/or preventing him from processing his grief. Getting out of the house would be in your FIL's best interest too.

In the short term, getting FIL into an adult day care or senior center program during the day would allow your wife to return to full time work and provide FIL with a chance to start building relationships with his peers.

I suggest you focus on getting FIL out of your house while acknowledging that when you move again, FIL will be moving with you just not back into your home. Check the area out for low income senior apartments. Acknowledge your wife will be spending time helping her father in his apartment. See what services FIL qualifies for - some services may be available in his apartment. Maybe FIL can afford some housekeeping services. Start the Medicaid qualification process and a full evaluation of FIL's physical and mental status. Your wife may take it better when a health care professional tells her your FIL needs AL or MC.

If FIL is depressed or in some form of early dementia, talking with him will probably not help. If you do talk with him, please try to refrain from an angry tone and try to be matter of fact over the changes that need to be made for his benefit.

Please remember that you can be 100% factually correct and still blow the conversation with the wrong emotional approach. Your number one goal needs to be getting to a point you can discuss FIL with your wife. Dealing with FIL is really a secondary goal that can be achieved when you two are working better together.

Good luck in this difficult journey.
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gmadorisylove Oct 26, 2018
Brilliant! You are spot on! Even when a logical review of a situation yields an obvious path forward, the wrong emotional approach can derail the conversation.
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Ugh! Your father in law is selfish, seld-centered jerk.

He is using his daughter as his woman and quite frankly, there is something far wrong in that.

If you leave, he gets exactly what he wants, her all to him self.

She has given you permission to speak freely to him, do it.

FIL you are applying for Medicaid and you are moving, period.

You made your choices and had your life and as THE MAN OF THE HOUSE I will not let you do this to my wife, my children or myself.

You sit on your lazy azz and expect everyone to jump to your tune, not here. You will be going into a facility in xx days and there, you can behave in any manner you choose.

I would also tell your wife to let him do for himself, that both her parents set you guys up shows there is no integrity and no respect.

Both her parents should be ashamed of doing what they did.

Time to cut the apron strings and put this narly old man in his place, as an unwanted guest in your home on his way to a facility.

I would also warn him about harassing your wife and kids before he leaves, that's a 5 minute drive to the homeless shelter.

From all you said, you are going to have to be strong and determined to get this deadbeat dad out the door.

Let us know what you do, we are all cheering you on to success.
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JStatus Oct 26, 2018
I agree with all of what you said. I feel like we were hustled by fil and I have no feelings any more other than disgust and resentment.
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"Here's the issue...my wife thinks I'm wrong because I think that I and our kids should take priority."

Nonsense. Do you think your wife would accept that as a fair summary of her thoughts on the issue? Of course she wouldn't! Her reluctance to chuck her father out is not the same as her disagreeing that your kids - though, by the way, I notice you put yourself ahead of them there - should take priority.

"he is as happy as a turtle in the sun because she is doing everything for him"

Nonsense. He may be content to blame everybody else for what is going on in the household, he may sit there like a frog in a pond taking everything he's offered, but given that conflict in the household makes his own position precarious he is NOT going to be happy.

Right, enough. You get the picture - the whole post is full of crooked thinking and false constructions.

You three adults are at loggerheads. Cue: you and lots of other people saying aha! the manipulative old bastard's got what he wanted, he's driven a wedge etc etc etc.

Again, nonsense. The old man is not in charge. You and your wife are the decision-makers in this household. But instead of linking arms to deal with a horrendous situation, you have fallen into the trap of a) blaming one another and b) thinking the other person should do something about it.

And because you're both under considerable strain and this has been so painful, it's very difficult for you each to trust the other to have your best interests at heart. But you must. And you must comfort one another, and support one another.

And for God's sake stop feeling so bloody sorry for yourself. I'm sorry, but honestly! Just you read back over what you've written and see how much of it is poor old you. You're not dead. You're not anyone's dependant. Your wife hasn't died. You're not even facing having to say no to your widowed father. Do count your blessings.

Where do you go from here? Mind-map time, I think. Just you and her, a big sheet of paper and some coloured pens. Can you get a sitter for the kids and grandpa and go away for a night or two?

Mmm. I see what you say about her getting defensive when you, oh Mr Rational Practicality, just want to talk about solutions.

It is possible that she has gone off you, a bit, over the last few months. Also that she is tired and depressed and not feeling any too romantic.

Flowers and "I'm sorry that I haven't understood and I haven't been kinder" might be a start.

Then you can move gradually, carefully, on to how to make the long haul tolerable for all concerned. Softly softly.
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JStatus Oct 31, 2018
Thank you for your judgmental opinion. It must be nice to sit on a pedestal and dictate what you consider to be nonsense.

First point...we should take priority in any and all cases. Without a strong marriage, the kids always suffer. You have to put each other first...

Second point...he has overtly said to my family that he needs to have his needs met and knows that he is causing strain, but he doesn't care.

Third...you are right. We do need to come together, but she needs to acknowledge her mental block on this issue. I guess you can say sorry old me, but if you were in my shoes you would feel the same.
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Wow, I feel so badly for you. I am by no means a marriage counselor. But it sounds like you want to approach this as a team effort, but your wife wants you and the turtle to work it out between you and dad, making you the bad guy? And you’ve said you tried that but he doesn’t care. So I think I would suggest clarifying in your own mind and then on paper what You feel are acceptable actionable items that you could live with.

These are just random options. I’m sure there’s more/better:
Hiring X hours of caregiving to help take the burden off your wife (who still works part time?)
Sending Dad to daycare X hours a week.
Investigating local Assisted living scenarios so he doesn’t have to “do it on his own”.
Cutting back or stopping any caregiving that you may currently do for him, and turning it over 100% to wife.
Get out of the house daily with your kids, doing Dad things, leaving wife to deal with her Dad.

I think you you need to decide what you can live with. And then present that to your wife, in those terms. She’s going to muddle along as long as you do.
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JStatus Oct 26, 2018
Excellent advice...thank you!
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You're getting a lot of well-meaning advice here suggesting that you tell your wife how to handle her dad. Speaking from personal experience, I can advise that you DON'T DO THAT. Please. My guess is she's already doing the best she can.

However, you're entitled to expect that the FIL situation be tolerable to you. Just keep in mind, despite her guilt and devotion, the situation is not tolerable for her either.

Sounds like the ideal situation for you is that FIL just moves out. Is that feasible? Have a calm (lay some ground rules first) discussion about it with your wife. What changes would make dad's presence in the house tolerable? Make a plan. Then, YOU go to FIL with the plan (she's too entrenched with dad's needs and expectations). Explain (CALMLY) that the current situation is not working for the whole family. And, good news!, here's a plan for how we can all live together successfully (Hint - he's got to take care of his own needs - if that can't happen, it's time to talk about him moving out to a community living situation or bringing in home care). Your wife can't continue to be the peace-maker, bread-winner, care-giver. it will kill her.

ps - If you're "contemplating leaving," then you two need counseling. Fast. Don't lay that on your wife. Without offering a solution, it's just a threat.
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OP - certainly a bad situation. I can recognise some of my own Dad here (fortunately, he doesn't live with us) where his attitude is that he knows hes causing hassle but pretty much puts himself first. Wifes mother also has these sort of traits at times. As other have said though, if you leave he may well get exactly what he wants. Your wife to himself without you in the way.

We've also had issues with wifes mother (not that bad) but I could see things from my wifes perspective and I think your wife might be thinking the same. Whatever he does, hes her Dad and she doesnt want to upset him. You on the other hand are the SIL.

If you upset him and he never speaks to you again so what? Sounds like your wife has given you free reign to be the "bad one". So go for it. If it works out then the end result may be him out of the house, you never speaking to him again (are you bothered?), but importantly for your wife shes still blameless (apart from, in his eyes, being married to an asshole!).

Its worked for us in the past. I get on OK with MIL generally but once or twice I've had to be "bad cop" rather than let wife fall out with her mother. She probably talks about me behind my back but so what - I dont care really.
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Call her bluff and have the hard conversation with your fil. Tell him he either makes himself a productive member of the household or he finds other accommodations. If he balks start making living in your home very uncomfortable for him. He stays because he has a cushy gig. Make it unpleasant for him.
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JStatus Oct 26, 2018
I love this answer. I feel the same way
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J, February 2017? So it has been 20 months?

Plenty of time for FIL to find balance with the loss.

Is your wife okay with being percieved as her dads woman, because that is the position he has put her in. My dad thought he was entitled to me becoming the woman in his life when his 3rd marriage failed and his choices left him more dead than alive, with no home, no money and all friends and family alianated. It was hard to put my foot down, there was a history, but no way am I going to let him disrespect me, my life or my family. If he wanted to be a guest in our home, he would need to step up, realize that my husband is the head of this house and contribute through doing everything he could and pay his way. Nope, he decided that AL being waited on hand and foot was better, then when he tired of that, he got his act together and moved to live with his stepdaughter that would let him be the man of the house.

Im sorry that others are pounding you for the decision to move, obviously it was a mutual agreement.

I understand how angry one can become when they are hustled, that your in laws neglected to give the family the facts of the situation adds fuel to the fire. I personally would like to be respected enough to be allowed to make decisions with the facts on the table. Maybe, the move would have waited, maybe there would have been a plan as to what the future will look like or ? But one never knows in the situation you are in, you weren't given the choice.

This is probably the hot point that needs to be dealt with, the beginning of the lies. FIL will be of no help understanding why they would not be honest about MILs condition. We can speculate that it is because he is and always has been a hustler and they fully intended for the current situation. But how to let go of years of resentment and move forward.

I am not a proponent of therapy, but you and your wife need to communicate or it will not work. So if she will not listen and visaversa, you guys need a mediator. Stuff gets better or it gets worse, it never stays the same. So find a mediator and talk.

You are going to have to be persistent until this happens, but do it in a gentle loving manner, maybe just schedule it and ask her if she will come.

She is in a tough position, she loves her dad and has some guilt over her mom, she needs to get over thinking she could have saved her mom. This thought alone tells you her head is screwed up. Be her advocate and let the crap with FIL slide until you guys talk. When you do, be honest in a loving, compassionate way, it must suck to have a dad like him and she feels stuck, help her get unstuck.

You have obviously been a loving, caring husband to have tolerated all of this for years. Just remember there is always two sides to the story and you are not sure what hers is at this point. Patience for a while longer.

I pray you find a really good mediator and you and your wife can find a path out of this mess.
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Jstatus; I understand your anger.

But you REALLY need to start by getting him looked at to see what his mental/cognitive/psychiatric impairments are at the present time.

He may have a lifelong personality disorder. If you wife has grown up with that. she is going to need long term counseling to undo that damage.

He may have a cognitive impairment. That will affect what placements he's eligible for.

Before you do another thing. please arrange for a thorough evaluation of his mental and cognitive health.
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I have to agree with what others have stated: please reconsider and like many have suggested: a kinder approach. To your credit and hers, your MIL did have your support until her death and your FIL is thinking about the same care for himself as your wife tries to “be all things to all people.”

It never works really, but I applaud her for trying as your FIL works through his grief (what you described sounds like him processing his grief through withdrawal and not wanting to do anything), so your wife’s attention mimic his late wife’s attention; which feels good to him.

i would encourage you to kindly get her back on the same page as you so you can work solutions as a unit, not he vs. she & dad. Leaving would compound a very strained, but temporary issue into something much more- a long term complication after his passing, and as a man who has done and sacrificed for her family, that’s not fair to you and your family or wife.

i am concerned for her, and like others, I’d see about some respite care and take some time away to relax and re-engage with each other. Assure her that you’re in it for the long haul (the marriage) but are also interested in solutions that crop up that’s inevitable (her losing her mom, her dad’s health). You don’t want her to feel like she has to choose but as a couple, you both should choose something that benefits the long term happiness of her Dad.

assure her ( and I’m sure you do) that you do love your FIL, but your FIL is still a healthy vibrant man and would enjoy having a place of his own nearby and you’ll support (and your kids) will support “the fun venture to make that occur.”

in the meantime, do your research on solutions ( assisted living facilities, respite care, adult activities) that reengage him in post-loss. As a “good daughter”, we can resist what that sounds like we are less than but if you word it like you’re not trying to overburden her plate, you’re trying to make her father’s years as fun and as independent as it can be, it may work out for you both.

please don’t resent her for trying to be “superwoman” ... it’s a very hard label to live under but worth trying to coax her out of her super suit into a very real, human, reality we all face.
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