Early on in our relationship, say three or four weeks in, NMIL wanted DH to house-sit for her while she was away. Now, with the power of hindsight, I see that I should have advised DH differently. My only solace is that this occurred so early on in our relationship, that I wasn't as hyper-aware as I am now. At the time, these are the events that I recall and how I feel about them:
As we had been doing since we began dating, DH and I were, naturally, attempting to make plans for the weekend. That is, after all, what dating couples do.
At some point during the week, NMIL called DH and expressed her request that DH house-sit for the weekend while she was on vacation. Sounds normal, right? Sure, except for several red flags that should be noted at this time. First, I am very hesitant to use the words "asked" or "requested" in relation to NMIL's expectation for DH to house-sit. I think there was no asking going on at all. Instead there was cajoling, guilt-tripping, and manipulation. The reason I felt this at the time (and am certain of it now) is due to the way his momster was behaving. Now, under normal circumstances (and I mistakenly assumed at the time that these were) it is perfectly acceptable to ask a family-member to house-sit, or dog-sit, or cat-sit, or fish-sit, etc. etc. My advice to DH at the time, who was rather uninterested in doing that sort of "favor" for his momster, was based on the assumption that he and his mother shared a basically healthy relationship. I told him that I would understand completely if he felt obligated to take care of his mother's house while she was away, that I could take a back seat that weekend. I told him I would definitely consider house-sitting for my mother if she asked. I also remember, quite clearly, saying something along the lines of "It doesn't seem like your mom asks you to do too much for her all the time." To this, DH said, "Yeah, that's what she said."
Red Flag number one was waving high in the sky at that point. I pictured his mother saying, "You know, I don't ask you to do very much for me" and it suddenly had a totally different meaning than when I had said it. For me, there were no strings attached. I understood that I might have to take a back seat if he had other obligations, particularly since we were just beginning our romance and I knew he would feel more obligations to his FOO than to me. I genuinely had not thought that his mother asked much of him, so I couldn't figure out why he would have such a problem with doing it. But then she used her manipulative tactics to make him feel guilty, to make him feel like a bad person and an ungrateful son, and I began to rethink my thoughts about how "healthy" his relationship with this woman was. Just like that, with ONE sentence. Judgmental? Who, me? In all seriousness though, I tend to really pay attention to how people behave, because I think their actions are the BEST way to understand what their real motives are. And I did not like the shit that was going down. Guilt is a very powerful tool when you are trying to motivate someone to do something they don't want to do.
I recall getting a general sense, from what DH was telling me about his conversation with NMIL, that she reacted several times during their conversation, with anger and a sense of entitlement, whenever DH expressed his feelings and objections to the "favor" about which he was being asked.
But now, let's take a moment to consider why DH had very valid reasons to object to NMIL's expectations of him...only some of them could be called "selfish", the rest are merely practical. Let's examine the fact that NMIL never offered information regarding her plans - not even the time of her departure or return, or where she was headed. Bizarre. First of all, how can anyone be expected to make plans to carry out said "favor" if he doesn't know those kinds of details? Secondly, you are not obligated to tell your neighbor or gardener where you are going. It is my feeling, however, that there is something very sneaky about not communicating that information to your son. What was she hiding? Deception is such a part of the game for her. It is important to note here, since I feel it gives us such a good look at this woman's character, that her own sister gossiped to us that NMIL was dating a married man. DH and I both had suspicions that she was taking a weekend hiatus to fandangle with her married lover-boy. We could be wrong...but I tend to think that anyone who doesn't share the details has something to hide.
So, these reasons here were good enough, in my book, to turn tail and run. Fast. Here are some more equally valid points - 1. DH was living about 45 minutes away from his Momster, and would have to sleep over in order to carry out the favor. 2. DH was already in the process of making his own plans for the weekend when his mother sprung this "request" on him, last minute, expecting him to drop everything and run to her aid. She even played her, "Don't you remember? I asked you about this weeks ago and you promised you would help me" bit. Gaslighting at it's finest. DH was so confused when he got off the phone and he kept saying "I think she might have really asked me, but I can't remember!" Whether she did or didn't, at that point, was irrelevant - if she did, I guarantee the details were so vague as to have rendered the request useless. Otherwise, it was a lie and she had never asked at all. Classic case of manipulation.
DH's feelings of guilt, frustration, and complete confusion over the details rendered a sad portrait of a person who had been manipulated his entire life. The whole thing made me think less of her...much less of her...and at that point, I had only known her for a few weeks.