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My question for Dr. Apter is:
Before the birth of our baby, my husband and I maintained a healthy distance from his family.  However, ever since the birth of our baby in November, I feel like there are no boundaries.  My mother and father in law want to see the baby all of the time.  I understand that they are excited, but they are overbearing, and intrusive.  Just this morning, they called from the car asking if they could come over.  When I politely replied that I was still in my pajamas, my FIL said, "We are not coming over to see you!"  Comments like this hurt, and make me resent his family even more!  While I was pregnant, he would make jokes about my weight gain - which I am still upset about.  It seems like we must visit his family every weekend, and often times during the week.  My husband does not think that there is anything wrong with this.  I feel so helpless, and I feel like I have no say in who does what with my child.  I am very uncomfortable leaving my child with my MIL.  I can remember having the baby home from the hospital only a couple of days, and my MIL was calling and asking if she could come pick the baby up.  I must admit that her intrusiveness has lead to lots of built up anger inside of me.  I feel all alone, and completely helpless.  I have even contemplated divorce.  I wish she would back off, and understand that I need time to discover motherhood for myself.  I have thought about expressing my feelings to my MIL, but I know she would take it all the wrong way.  Also, I don't feel comfortable returning to work because I don't want my mother in law watching the baby full time -- And she assumes that if I go back to work that she will get the baby full time.  I would honestly rather have my child in day care, so that I could be assertive and active in the type of care that my child receives.  Is the problem with me or my MIL??  I am extremely saddened by the whole situation.  I long for a harmonious relationship with my MIL.  Please Help!!! - Feeling Stepped On in California

Dr Apter's reply:
The problem is not you, but perhaps you could work to address it.  What seems to happen is that you take one step towards asserting yourself with your in-laws, and then feel confused and overwhelmed when your in-laws ignore you.  So the next step is to learn what to do so that they cannot ignore you.  First, remember that you have every right to assert your own wishes, and to decide when they can and when they cannot visit.  Most people would understand that the remark "I'm still in my pajamas" means "Now is not a good time to visit."  But your in-laws do not hear that.  As a result (of this occasion and occasions like this) you feel helpless, and nothing makes us more angry than feeling helpless.  So try insisting on saying what you mean.  Keep saying ("I would rather you did not visit right now" or "This is not the right time to pick up the baby") until they do hear.  They may initially become angry themselves.  You could offer them sympathy: "I know this is disappointing for you, but it will have to be another time."  As you see yourself become more effective, you will feel less angry.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
I am a new mother of a three month old baby girl.  I have chosen to stay home with my new baby, (except for two graduate courses I am taking at night) and I am having a lot of trouble with my mother in law.  My mother in law quit her job to help me care for the baby.  The only problem is that she never asked if I wanted her constant assistance and advice.  She has all sorts of plans for my child, and just assumes that all her plans are fine with me.  Whenever she is around, she completely takes over all childcare duties - and this frustrates me.  Recently, she bought a car seat, -- and for some reason this really upset me.  After all, I told her that she could borrow my car seat if she needed to take the baby somewhere (I am not comfortable with her taking the baby anywhere at this point).  Since I have had my baby, I have developed much resentment towards my over aggressive mother in law.  I know she loves my child, but the whole situation makes me want to move far away from her!!  All of this tension is affecting my marriage -- My husband thinks that I am crazy for resenting his mom.  I would greatly appreciate any suggestion!!!  I am really at the end of my rope.

DR Apter's reply:
I think you feel resentful because you feel you have no control.  Your mother-in-law seems to be the one who decides how much input she is going to have with your child.  What I suggest will not be easy, but it is doable.  In a number of small ways, you could remind your mother-in-law who is the mother.  You could say, "I'm delighted you love my child so much, and I'm sure you and your granddaughter will have much to share over the years," but you could then go on to say, "I'll do that" when she takes over.  Set times for her visits, and make sure she does not exceed them.  Ask her to run all her plans by you, and if they do not fit in with you, then say firmly, but calmly (as many times as is necessary) "I'm afraid that's not possible."

My question for Dr. Apter is:
From the time I met my husband (over 20 years ago) until now, I have had a very confused relationship with my mother-in-law.  I sometimes feel like the ad for Jaws which says, "Just when you feel it's safe to go back into the water ..."  This is because she erupts over an "issue", and then everything is ok again, until the next time ...  My husband is an only child, and our relationship was the first and only serious one for both of us.  From the start, my mother-in-law would stop my husband from using the phone to call me, or stop him from using the car (they shared it).  She and her husband would invite me for a meal, and then create a scene, and abuse me about how I was doing various things that were upsetting them (I was never clear what they were, and my husband would rarely intervene.)  We went on holiday together at age 21, and they went through my husband's personal belongings, and didn't speak to us on our return, as they said he had used his savings and had a booked a double room with me.  They said they would tell my parents.  When we were 22 they followed us on holiday some 150 miles away.  This was to leave the results of my husband's college exams on the windscreen of his car.  I believe they had opened it and seen that he had failed. The reason for his failure became apparent on that holiday - not because of me, but his extreme thirst and tiredness was the result of having diabetes.  The consultant blamed a virus that would have taken hold during his exams!!  To cut a long story short, every time she has felt threatened that my husband is going to "leave her", e.g., when we got married - she caused a scene the day before our wedding, saying she hadn't been involved, or when I had an ectopic pregnancy and nearly died - she said she wouldn't be visiting me, as I had not told her I was pregnant.  When we announced I was pregnant again (after a miscarriage as well) her first words were, "Can you afford it?"  She didn't speak to us when I returned to work after having the baby, as she said she should look after it and not the nursery.  Then again, she didn't speak after she wanted to buy a house next door to us and we tactfully refused.  My husband recently was promoted to a very senior position.  My mother-in-law became depressed, and said it was because he would be mixing in different circles.  We tried desperately to support her through this period - having her and her husband to dinner nearly every week.  My husband telephoned every day, trying to suggest and encourage her to involve herself in activities that would build her self worth (she was also seeing a psychotherapist).  Then, my husband was able to take a partner on a business trip to Canada for 4 days (we live in UK).  I didn't want to go, so he invited a friend who enjoys traveling and would be quite able to be left to fend for himself for the 4 days my husband was at meetings, etc.  When the in-laws were told, they went crazy.  My mother-in-law rang my husband at work, ranting and raving that he had broken their hearts by not inviting one of them.  Later that day, he was called out of a meeting again by his mother, on the phone, who said her husband had "run away" as my husband had upset him so much.  This was the turning point for my husband.  He arranged to see a counselor to help him understand their actions towards him.  After a while of "not speaking" she suggested we invite the in-laws to my son's birthday party at an activity center.  We did.  They came - but pointedly ignored me - they continued accusing my husband of being terrible to them - then made a huge show of kissing him good-bye, and left without saying good-bye to me.  My temper became too much, and I chased after them and shouted, "Thanks for your good-bye, and I've had enough of your behavior."  I now want nothing to do with them.  But I do feel sorry for my husband, being stuck in the middle.  I really don't mind if he wants to see them, and also I do not wish to deny them access to my son.  I have told my husband this, but he says he doesn't want anything to do with them, also.  But, I'm not sure.  How can this whole terrible situation be resolved?  Thanks.

DR Apter's reply:
It does not sound as though your husband is stuck in the middle, but in the thick of problems with his parents.  Their animosity is directed towards him as much as towards you.  It may be time to accept their limitations.  Could you and your husband talk about this?  Could you explain to him how hurtful you find her remarks?  Perhaps you could assure him that he can admit her faults and be angry with her and yet remain basically loyal.  Together you could work out some way of accepting her limitations.  You could assure one another that you are behaving decently, even if she accuses you of behaving otherwise.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My aging mother-in-law is moving in with her daughter.  Neither of them are happy with my husband's lack of participation in all the work that needs to be done.  They are talking to me about it, and would like me to say (do?) something about his behavior.  I'm disappointed in my husband's behavior too, but I try not to tell him what he should be doing, particularly regarding his own family.  What, if anything, should I be saying to my husband and/or my in-laws?

DR Apter's reply:
It seems that you could focus on your choice.  You could stick with your policy of not trying to influence or interfere with your husband's behavior towards his family.  On the other hand, you could ask him whether he is interested in knowing how his family are responding to his disengagement with this process.  And then you could ask yourself whether you do have views about how much he should help.  In that case, you could speak to him directly, and say that his lack of involvement makes you uneasy.  Try to show that you want to discuss your feelings, and the possible remedy, rather than criticize him.  Perhaps he really does not see what he could do to help, and might be willing to take suggestions from you.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My husband recently took my mil on a business trip with him.  He asked if it was ok to ask her, and I said yes, but he never told me that he did and that they were going together.  The day before he left, I told him to call her to say good-bye, because she always seems to call after he leaves, and is then disappointed that she missed her chance to wish him well.  So my husband called his mother, NEVER mentioning that there was no reason to say good-bye since she was going with him!  When we discussed him even asking her to go, I didn't think it was a good idea for several reasons, but I did say it was ok to ask.  I feel betrayed that my husband had a chance to tell me that she was going and chose not to.  I spoke to my husband, while he was on the trip with my mil, every day, and he chose to wait and tell me after the trip.  He knew that, although I said yes, I really didn't like the idea, and I feel he chose to lie to me to avoid a fight.  He does not feel that not telling me is a lie, but we have come to an agreement on future issues.  However, his mother is a very outspoken person, always telling people how she feels, regardless of the outcome.  My husband told her, on the trip, that I did not know that she was going, and that I would be upset, so he was going to wait to tell me after the trip.  I feel, as a mother, she should have told him that he should not keep this from me.  If she was not as outspoken as she is, I could understand her choosing to stay out of it, but since she is far from it, I feel her silence was her permission for him to lie to me.  I feel that they both betrayed me.  To complicate things, I am having a baby next month, and my mil is still planning on coming.  However, I feel that my mil should call me and apologize for what happened before coming, or not come.  My husband expressed that I expected an apology, but she feels that, over the past ten years of our relationship, I have done things that I have not apologized for, and she does not feel like she has done anything wrong (his family has not told me that they have these past issues with me 'til now, including one from 10 yrs ago).  I feel that they have done things in the past, too, but the past is the past, and if they have let it go (or pretended to), and I have let things go, they should not be brought up now, because am finally standing up for myself.  In addition, my mil recently sent MY mother a Christmas Card with a photo of my husband, myself, and the children.  At the time, mil knew that I had not been speaking to my mother for almost a year due to personal issues.  My mil chose to tell my mother where I lived, where my husband worked, and that I was carrying another child.  She told my husband that she did not do anything wrong, that she was just proud of being a grandmother again, and thought she was helping!  I have told her in the past, when asked about my mother, to stay out of it, that she doesn't understand.  This is her way of staying out of it!  And I'm still waiting for her to apologize.  Any advice???

DR Apter's reply:
I think it is your husband who owes you an apology and an explanation.  He is clearly uneasy about balancing his feelings towards you with those he has towards his mother.  As a result, he feels guilty about his closeness to his mother.  That is the only explanation I can think of for his reluctance to tell you he took his mother on a business trip.  Perhaps your husband needs your assurance that he can love his mother without being disloyal to you - but in all probability it is his mother who makes him uneasy about loving you and also being loyal to her.  The issue of your mother-in-law communicating with your mother is, I believe, a very different one, and should be taken up directly with her.  Also, if you do not want your mother-in-law to come at the time of your child's birth, then you should state this clearly, and insist that your wishes be respected.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
Please, I am hoping you will be able to help us out.  My MIL is always depressed.  She has been placed on prozac, but rarely takes it, because financially it is not a priority.  She was an only child who has grown up to be a very self centered and uneducated person (she quit in 8TH grade to have DH).  She is now on her third marriage.  Here is our problem.  We were married in Aug. 1999.  There was no offer of help in any way for our wedding.  She made it clear that she did not want this wedding to take place.  I knew that our relationship was not the best, but had no idea she felt that strongly about it.  I had asked my future SIL'S to be hostesses.  All accepted.  Then, I found out my MIL had told all my future SIL'S that they were not to lift a hand at my wedding.  Mil left the reception mad because I did not treat her the way she thought I should (I did not praise her for being there, but I was in no way rude to her).  In our planning we had adjusted major decisions to accommodate them.  We moved the wedding to a different state so it would be closer.   Then, they wanted to come stay at our home the day after the wedding.  We also had my DH'S daughters.  That would be 8 people in a 1 BR house.  So, we altered our plans again.  We were letting them stay 2 of the 3 nights, and they would have to get a hotel for the 3rd.  She never asked to stay, but says, "This is what I'm doing."   So, as you can see, they didn't come at all.  Our wedding was a vacation for them.  Hence, we did not talk for 3 months.  DH finally called her, and we tried to work things out.  We agreed to disagree, and start over.  That lasted less than 24 hours.  SIL got married about a year after our wedding.  We attended.  We spent $1,200.00 (plane tickets, hotel, etc.) to be able to go.  Mil called to inform DH that we were picking up one of her friends from the airport to give a ride to the hotel.  OK, no problem.  We had her for the whole weekend, not just a ride to the hotel.  We also had not gotten to celebrate our 1st anniversary.  We were thinking , "We have a hotel??  Celebrate!"  After the reception, DH had to stay and help clean up.  I helped also, so we could leave and go out with some friends.  We did a lot, but not enough.  After about an hour more of DH doing this and that, I went up to him (with her right there) and said, "Ya know, we just had an anniversary that we haven't gotten to celebrate yet!"  So, of course, we left.  I called to apologize to MIL after we got home.  And she did not accept it.  She spent 2 hours telling me all the things she thinks I do.  Really off the wall stuff: I keep her son from her;  He promised her he would never let another woman come between him and his family;  I made him take a new job that paid $5.00 an hour more, because I spend too much money on beer and antiques;  I don't pay my half the bills;  on and on and on.  So I wrote her a letter and explained all the issues that she seems to have with me.  It was not a nasty letter at all.  We heard nothing from her.  So, after 2 months, DH called her, and nothing was ever mentioned about the letter.  So now, 3 months, and still, nothing.  Dh has a hard time standing up to her.  I feel as if the whole thing has been swept under the carpet, and is not being dealt with.  She sent him an Xmas package addressed to him only.  We sent gifts from both of us (which they received long before he received his).  I feel DH needs to at least stand behind me.  What do we do???  This is just the highlights.  Thank You.

DR Apter's reply:
Your husband is in a difficult position.  He is able to see how unreasonable his mother is, and yet he does not want to stop all contact with her.  Perhaps you could support him in this.  But you will also have to accept that your mother-in-law is unlikely ever to acknowledge your efforts.  If you can accept this, and work with your husband to tolerate her when she is tolerable, then interchanges with her may become less stressful.  However, I do not think she will make this easy for you.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My husband and I have been married for over 2 years now, and it seems like all we have had is problems with his mother, ever since the planning of our wedding.  But, since the birth of our daughter almost a year ago, it has gone from not talking here and there to not talking at all.  I had a planned C-section, and was very scared.  I only wanted my mother there, and we only called her to tell her when so she could drive home to be there with us, and not to tell anyone, not even my sisters or father.  Well, we had our daughter, and after, my mom called my sisters and they were a little upset with us for not calling, but they got over very fast.  But the trouble started when my husband called his parents.  He didn't call them until 3 hours after she was born.  Well, they wanted to come to the hospital right then, but we didn't want anyone there until the next day when I got cleaned up and rested, plus, I was not comfortable with them being there in my room in my condition -- I had a lot of ill feelings towards them -- they had not even showed any interest in the baby or me until my 8th month.  Well, the next night they showed up, and I still felt very awkward towards them -- it was like they didn't even care about the baby - just taking pictures -- no emotion ... My father is not an emotional person -- but when he saw his first granddaughter for the first time -- he just looked her over and stared at her.  He was very proud, you could tell.  My husband's parents showed no emotion.  Like they would have been happier with a boy.  Well, the day came for me to go home, and I awoke with my mother-in-law in the room.  That bothered me -- especially when I went to get up and she grabbed the baby from me.  Only four days later, my mother-in-law showed up at the door and looked mad.  My mother answered the door (I was bed ridden for high blood pressure, and the doctor had requested a note on the door for no visitors per doctor's orders).  I was sleeping back in my bedroom with my daughter at the time, and woke up hearing voices.  I heard my mother-in-law say, "What's this for?"  My mom answered by telling her that I had high blood pressure, and my MIL said back, very hatefully, "Since when?"  My mom explained that I had been very swelled up at the last of my pregnancy, and when I went to the hospital my blood-pressure was high then.  My mom explained that the doctor wanted the note put up just until my blood-pressure went down, or I could go into a coma or stroke-out, they said.  Well, my MIL got mad and said that no one would bother me, they just wanted to see the baby.  My mother got very upset, as she was talking about her daughter laying back in the bedroom.  My MIL walked out the door and said to my mom, "If XXXXXXXX doesn't let the family see the baby, then I'm done, I mean it, I'm done."  My mom then came into my room, and I asked what that was all about.  My mom was shaking ... I had never seen her so shaky ... she was in shock ... 'cause nothing was ever said about no one seeing our daughter ... just not until my pressure went down.  Well, the next day, my in-laws came over to tell us 'bye 'cause they were leaving for Florida, and acted like nothing ever happened.  While they were in Florida, and after my blood pressure went down, which was only 7 days after the big fit she threw, I wrote my MIL a letter explaining how I felt about what she had said that day to my mother, and why did she say the things she did.  Well, I got no response back.  When my daughter was a month old, my in-laws just showed up unexpectedly (as usual) and acted like nothing ever happened, pretty much kissing up -- like, "You look great" -- blah blah.  Well, I was shaking like a leaf, and didn't say two words to them -- especially since my MIL reeked of cigarette smoke, and she knows I didn't want the baby to be around it at all.  They didn't stay but 5 minutes, and left.  Nothing was said to one another at that time, and never has since.  That was the very last time I was around them, or they saw our daughter, and she's turning 1 in a few days.  Since then, all these rumors have been spreading around about us.  We live in a very small rural town that my husband grew up in, and very very close to my in-laws.  Almost a year has gone by, and they have never made one attempt to see our daughter, but my MIL occasionally leaves gifts in my husband's vehicle at work for our daughter.  They don't even hardly make any contact towards their son, either.  People are constantly talking about me, and how I supposedly won't let anyone see my daughter.  My husband has a very big family on both sides, and they have even become involved by showing up at my husband's job and trying to talk to him, and telling him he needs to fix this, or they tell him he needs to talk to people about me and how I really am.  I have even gotten into an argument with his grandmother about this -- she accused me of brainwashing him.  Well, if I was going to brainwash him, I'd do something to benefit myself, because this has not.  I've tried writing my MIL a few times, and she's written me back, and it's always turned around, and never answers me or explains.  My husband had tried a few times to talk to them, and she's lied twice to him about what was said that day she was here at my home.  But, the last time did it for him, when his father, mother and brother all ganged up on him, and tried to turn him on me.  My husband is a very quiet person, and it's hard for him to explain himself, and when they did that to him, it really hurt him, and made him very angry.  My husband has gotten much better, these past few months, about telling how he feels about the way his mother betrayed him by talking about me and turning this town against me.  I'm not exaggerating, either, when I say the whole town.  There are so many people involved, and of course they have no idea how this all got started.  About a week ago, my husband talked to his brother, and finally told him what was going on, and why and he had no idea -- which we figured.  This situation has become a nightmare for me.  My husband and I fight about it quite often.  My husband gets confronted quite often, and he's tired of it.  It's making him a very bitter man, and he's not that way at all.  He has a lot of hurt towards his family and the way they have behaved.  My MIL and I have had problems before, but nothing compared to this.  We have talked through it before -- not every time -- she just doesn't know how to keep things secret, and especially from her sister.  Her sister has played a big role in this.  She doesn't know how to keep her nose out of other people's problems.  How can we overcome this?  People have advised us to sit down and talk, but I feel it won't stay between us, and if we did overcome this, there are so many people around here that treat me so horribly now -- how would I handle that -- seeing how there a lot of my husband's family and friends of my in-laws?  We'd sat down before we got married and spoken about trust, and she broke that.  How can you trust when it's been broken so many times??  Please help us, we need some professional advice ... I'm at my last nerve with this -- almost 1 year now.  I feel as if my marriage has really dwindled to nothing, and we had a great relationship before this -- I don't want this to break it.  I feel it's very close to that.  Please help!!!!!

DR Apter's reply:
Sitting down and talking it all over may sound good, but in your case I can see that it would be difficult.  The responses you have in the presence of your in-laws are a kind of panic.  Perhaps that deep fear is caused by their apparent lack of awareness of your mental and physical state.  If you do decide to talk things over with them, then I suggest you have someone there (a friend, a sibling, a parent) who will support you. You and your husband may be able to help one another through this.  Perhaps you could find out what he really wants.  Does he want to find a way of relating to them, or does he want to avoid them?  Do you both feel able to handle the turmoil they seem to bring with them?  If you decide to seek professional help, then you could begin with just you and your husband.  A counselor or therapist could guide you as you discover one another's thoughts and needs and fears.  It seems to me that there is a good supply of mutual support which could make each of you stronger.

 


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