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I’m thrilled my husband reduce his aged mother and father out our lives

For my husband’s 60th birthday, I decided to arrange a family holiday to the Cote d’Azur for 20 people. To make arrangements easier, I set up a WhatsApp group including all those invited. 

My in-laws wanted to know all the ins and outs, the cost, precisely where we were going. All fair enough but after the 20th message, I started to feel more than a little exasperated.

After my 77-year-old mother-in-law asked about the weather yet again, I snapped and texted back: ‘Google the location!’ I hadn’t quite anticipated the resulting fury.

On the actual day of his 60th, his parents phoned - not to wish their son a happy birthday but to demand he divorce his wife

On the actual day of his 60th, his parents phoned – not to wish their son a happy birthday but to demand he divorce his wife

For her husband's 60th birthday, the anonymous writer planned a trip to France with 20 people, including her in-laws

For her husband’s 60th birthday, the anonymous writer planned a trip to France with 20 people, including her in-laws

‘How dare you?’ came the response. Followed by, ‘Who the devil do you think you are telling me what to do?’ There was more, ‘I’m not going to bloody Google it!’ The conclusion? ‘You are a pushy rude woman.’ Ouch!

My mother-in-law and I had tolerated each other for 20 years but now, clearly, the gloves were off.

Incensed, I retorted, ‘I could say the same about you!’ And promptly closed down the WhatsApp group.

A week later, on my husband’s actual birthday — and a fortnight before the holiday — his parents phoned. Not to wish him happy returns but to demand he divorce me.

The in-laws spent an hour on the phone to their son outlining their daughter-in-laws crimes, including not holding a car door open for them

The in-laws spent an hour on the phone to their son outlining their daughter-in-laws crimes, including not holding a car door open for them

They spent a good hour carefully outlining my crimes across the years — including not holding a car door open for one of them and failing to compliment them on a new lick of paint on their garage door — and said he had to choose: them or me.

And I’m delighted to say he chose me. Furious with their character assassination of his wife, he hasn’t spoken to them since.

Needless to say they didn’t join us on the holiday. There probably were a few wistful moments for my husband, but he kept them to himself. As for me, I privately feel pangs of guilt whenever I think about the state of family affairs. How could I have let things get this far?

Because while many of us secretly loathe our in-laws, we’d never want to intentionally cut them off altogether… That said, I don’t see me being entirely to blame for this standoff either.

Since I met my husband in 2004, we have both, as the eldest children in our families, taken our parental responsibilities seriously. But while my parents, now in their mid-70s, don’t take advantage of this, my husband’s always have done.

The in-laws live within an hour of the couple in the Cotswolds, and rely on them for everything, from urgent hospital runs to picking them up when their car broke down

The in-laws live within an hour of the couple in the Cotswolds, and rely on them for everything, from urgent hospital runs to picking them up when their car broke down

We live within an hour of them here in the Cotswolds, and as we’re geographically closer than my husband’s two younger sisters, they have relied on us for everything. From urgent hospital runs to picking them up when their car has broken down.

At times, it has felt like I didn’t just marry my husband, I married my in-laws, too. They really are the definition of life’s takers.

When we told them we were going to try for a baby, the first words to tumble from my father-in-law’s lips were: ‘We don’t do babysitting or fetching and carrying.’ And they have been true to their word.

My husband and I didn’t end up having children, but I do have a stepdaughter, now 30, from his first marriage, who I helped raise and no, they never once attended a school production or helped out during the holidays.

And yet we have done everything in our power to help my husband’s grandmother, now in her late 90s and living in a care home — a duty that surely should have fallen to my parents-in-law.

We take her out, do weekly shops for her, make her feel loved. This comes out of our pocket, even though when she sold her four-bed detached home, she granted a six-figure sum to my father-in-law who does very little for her. We didn’t see a penny of it.

At reunions on birthdays and Christmases, my belligerent father-in-law likes to have a go at my husband in a ridiculous way, says the writer

At reunions on birthdays and Christmases, my belligerent father-in-law likes to have a go at my husband in a ridiculous way, says the writer

Not that we expected financial compensation — and nor have we ever received anything. But it’s hard to stomach the fact that while we have often bought my in-laws a winter’s supply of wood for their wood burner, they routinely top up the other two siblings’ mortgage repayments.

Given the number of times they’ve asked us for help, you’d be forgiven for assuming my in-laws are on their uppers, which they’re not. We have been roped in to do everything from building a kitchen extension to re-roofing their garage. We would never have expected a penny in return even though on both occasions we took holiday leave.

But it did stick in the craw rather when I discovered they paid my youngest sister-in-law’s partner to help get things finished. Was he a qualified roofer or builder? Of course not. He was between admin jobs and they felt sorry for him.

But please don’t think I’m bitter about money. It’s more about acknowledgement and recognition. The words ‘thank you’ wouldn’t go amiss.

There is a favourite in every family and my in-laws are no different. There is a decade between my husband and his youngest sister, now in her mid-40s. Given how much they have indulged the mum-of-two over the years, is it any wonder she has crashed from one life disaster to the next?

Each time she leaves a relationship, the parents request we help move her out and back to the family fold. Within a year she’s on to the next one and once again we’re expected to get bubble-wrapping her knick-knacks. At the last count, we have moved her five times. I’ve always got on with her in the past and yet because my in-laws financially prop her up is it any wonder she has sided with the money during this impasse?

But the favouritism has been evident for years. While my husband has privately complained about it to me, I would never get involved in his family politics.

At reunions on birthdays and Christmases, my belligerent father-in-law likes to have a go at my husband in a ridiculous way. If my husband says they drank one type of wine the previous year, then pa-in-law will swear blind it was another one.

On it goes, dominating the evening as though two silverbacks are circling one another. It will leave my husband upset and bewildered for days. Over the decades, it has dismayed me to see him cruelly cut down to size at family get-togethers. Why would someone do that?

I raised it with a girlfriend who sent me a book on narcissistic parents and how to look out for yourself around such people.

We have tried so hard with them but it’s always been a one-way street. Five years ago, we drove them to Cornwall for the weekend. They both knew we had to get back to work for Tuesday morning but on Monday late afternoon announced they were hungry and tired and needed to stop en route for a bite to eat. Does it surprise anyone that we didn’t get home until 4am?

Of course my husband gets cross, but he never says anything. Instead he doesn’t sleep after these episodes and usually gets an upset tummy.

Is that part of what has caused the problem over the years? I suspect the fact that they never have it out has contributed to the growing resentment on both sides. I have urged him to try to find a solution, but it is very much their way or no way.

A lot of these incidents I could put up with, chalk them up to eye-rolling moments with the in-laws. But my husband’s distress worries me. I try to be diplomatic ­ — one of life’s unspoken rules is that while we can slag off our families, our spouse cannot do the same. But I do wish I had been firmer because it feels like we’re at a point of no return.

So here we are, a year on, and he’s entirely estranged from them. I’ve suggested he visit, but he won’t. They have made it clear the door is open to him, but not me.

Does he miss them? I don’t think he does, but there is a lot of hurt and bewilderment bubbling under the surface. If anyone’s lost out here it’s them and it says so much that the siblings have tried to act as go-betweens, having seen their parents cut off other family members. But, their obstinate parents aren’t budging.

I understand why both daughters are unhappy about the status quo — not least because they’ve had to step up a lot more. As they have pointed out, the next time the family are likely to be in a room together, one of them will be missing, because it will be for a funeral.

As for me, though, I have no regrets about the fallout because to be honest, life is far sweeter (for me) without them.