I’m having trouble with my husband’s mother. She raised him and his sister on her own and has always been overly-dependent on him, as well as raising him to be very emotionally dependent on her. Her husband died a long time ago so she was faced with the responsibility of raising them alone. Right from when my husband brought me to his home while we were dating, she never particularly liked me.
My mother-in-law has always been against our marriage and has often tried to turn him against me, but since the birth of our second child, she has begun ringing him every day after he comes home from work, asking him if he is happy or why he is so tired or why his wife is not doing this or that for him.
My mother-in-law is constantly saying negative things about me, but my husband says nothing to defend me as, in his eyes, his mother can do no wrong. She is always asking him to do things for her and he does these without question.
At first I tried to ignore her, but lately my husband has begun snapping at me and echoing my mother-in-law’s criticism of me. He is over-worked and stressed out, with two young children, and I know he doesn’t mean it, but it seems like my mother-in-law is slowly poisoning him against me.
My mother-in-law now manipulates the situation between me and my husband. On her most recent visit, she was doing things she knew would annoy me. She shows very little interest in our kids but insists on hugging my husband frequently. I can survive these visits, but I cannot forgive my husband for not standing up to them when required. When she is here, he is focused on pleasing her. I think this situation will escalate and I do not know how to change it. I am very conflict-avoiding (and so is my husband) but I feel she walks right over me. This year it is our turn to host Christmas dinner again and I truly cannot see a way of continuing in the same manner. I’m so confused.
If your case is just like the above scenario, relax. We all know how unhealthy the relationship between your husband and his mother can be. I can see this is a potentially explosive and frustrating situation. One thing is certain – you and your husband must act united. Any hint of division and it sounds like your mother-in-law will exploit this, as you’ve seen. It’s clear there is a lot of guilt at play – your husband for reducing contact with them some years ago, your in-laws for your husband’s “difficult upbringing”. Guilt makes people over-compensate.
One way forward is to set reasonable boundaries agreed by both of you. This implies discussion between you about what constitutes ‘reasonable boundaries’ and how much flexibility there should be.
In a calm moment, try to talk to your husband. Don’t expect miraculous changes overnight but try really hard not to let your in-laws turn you against each other.In compromising, remember you will both have to modify your behaviour. Given that you cannot change your mother in law. All you can work on are your reactions and behavior.
Ignore her excesses and enjoy your family time this Christmas.