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My question for Dr. Apter is:
My mother-in-law jumps into the front seat, next to my husband, whenever her son and I are going somewhere.  I don't' know why I keep thinking it is somehow disrespectful of me; I know it might sound like a minor thing, but it bothers me a lot.  I am afraid that if I sit next to him next time, she will be upset.  What do you think I should do?  Thanks for your advice

Dr Apter's reply:
I think your mother-in-law's behavior makes you uneasy because you feel that she has taken control.  I suggest that before you head for the car, you say firmly and calmly that you are going to sit in the front this time.  Then take your place, and do what you can to ignore her complaints. (Answering them could escalate the tension.)

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My Soon to Be Mother-In-Law is being so mean to me.  She pushed me up on a wall and hit me.  She told me that every thing was fine until I got here.  A few days ago, my husband told me to call her.  He said she needed to talk with me.   So I got on the phone and she started telling me I was a lying about every thing I say.  I was raped when I was 16, and so much more stuff has happened to me in the past.  I had told my husband all this.  He thought it would be a good if he told her.  He thought it would make her understand me better.  WRONG!!!!!  She said I was making every thing up so that I can get pity from him.  She told me that she was not happy about us getting married, and that she thinks I'm a b*tch!  She even said she was trying to break us up.  My husband went over there and talked with her.  He yelled at her.  Help!!!!!!!!!!  How can I deal with this?  I know I will have to go over there.  Please, how can I get over this?

Dr Apter's reply:
For the time being, the most reasonable solution would be for you to ask your fiancé to accept that his mother does not seem willing to treat you with adequate respect, and that he should (until there is some sign of change) carry on his relationship with her independent of you.  Someone who hits you should not be given an opportunity to do it again.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My MIL, who I do not like at all, always uses me to criticize my husband.  It is not like they were best of friends before I came into the picture.  She tells my husband that I keep her away from him.  Also, she blames me for her financial status (believe me, she is not suffering).  She tells me that she is an "upfront, honest person", but she says all sorts of terrible things about me behind my back to my husband.  She is also emotionally VERY unstable, and she'll tell me that she can count on me one time, and the other time she will tell my husband that I'm a no good B*tch.  She will leave an insulting message on our machine saying, "you guys are thieves, and it ain't right.  You (meaning my husband) marry these people (which is me) and all of a sudden you treat me this way, blah blah, blah."  The following day, she'll call me up and ask for a favor.  My husband and I are still basically in our honeymoon stage, but this woman expects us to spend every single weekend with her, and tries to tag along to everything we do.  Once, she made us turn around and go home so she could come along too.  I just had a terrible day.  I am tired of this woman.  What should I do with this tiring situation of mine?  One thing, she made me really appreciate my parents.

Dr Apter's reply:
I'm glad that there is a positive side to this, and that you now appreciate your own parents more than ever.  Your mother-in-law is dealing with her own needs and fears.  When she insults you, she is probably trying to deal with her own fears of rejection.  However, you cannot be bullied by this fear.  The best thing you can do, in my view, is to set boundaries.  Mark out some weekends as your own.  This may be hard for your husband (who no doubt responds to his mother's needs), but the only way to effectively set boundaries is to keep a united front.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
(I'd love to hear what you have to say on this!!)  My question is, what do you think a daughter-in-law's basic obligations are to her mother-in-law?

Dr Apter's reply:
Our culture provides no set of rules for in-law behavior, and this may be one reason why it is such a difficult relationship.  I believe that a daughter-in-law's basic duty is to acknowledge the mother-in-law's role in the family and respect her for her love and care of family members.  However, the daughter-in-law also has to honor her own needs, and to secure her own status within the family.  This balance can be very difficult to find.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My MIL does not accept the fact that I am her son's wife.  She insists on seeing him alone without me, and she also insists that he go with her shopping.  Fortunately, my husband has not fallen into this situation yet, but he feels very bad because she calls him at work crying and blaming him.

I have tried to get close to her.  The last thing I did was offer to take her to the doctor.  She made me change the appointment several times, and finally to cancel it without telling me anything.

Other things that have hurt me are that she has NEVER invited me to her house, and that before we got married, she took him to the notary to put the papers (house and land) under her name, as if I would take advantage of them.

I do not know what to do.  My marriage is in danger.  She is a widow, and my husband is her only child, so he feel very committed to her.

Thank you very much for your advice.

Dr Apter's reply:
It is clearly painful for you not to have your mother-in-law's proper acknowledgement of you as her son's wife.  I suggest that your husband take a firm stand.  Without in any way criticizing his mother, he can simply tell her that you are now his wife and it is appropriate for you to visit with him.  Since he already seems inclined to do this, I think it is a matter of persisting and waiting.  When his mother complains, he can assure her that he still loves her, and that his wife is also willing to love her, but needs to be accepted.  I hope in time this situation will improve.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
I have endured my mil for 7 years now.  On the outside she appears to be extremely giving of material possessions.  She opens her home for parties, family events, etc.  The problem, however, is deep rooted.  Her mom didn't like her or my MIL's dad.  She would order them away.  She relays these childhood days to family members.  She has an extreme need to be needed.  She gives gifts in hopes of love in return.  She feels she must be in control.  She took over my wedding.  Yes, she paid tens of thousands for it, and it was just like she wanted.  I tried to make decisions, and she would call the florist, etc. behind my back and tell them the flowers that were to be ordered.  She paid for them and I didn't know.  All wedding arrangements were like that.  I didn't know she was changing things behind my back, or even doing certain things.  As I was departing the reception, my husband and I were handed doves to release.  If she wanted to release a dove then let her do it.  I didn't even know she was paying for all that she did.  I expected to get a bill from stores, but got a paid in full slip.  The day of my wedding, someone was singing that I didn't even know was going to be there!  With huge speakers behind him, too.  As I walked down the aisle, I noticed the flowers were not the ones I ordered -- she changed the order.  Unfortunately, when she receives love and attention, it's not enough.  She has been known to rearrange my house before.  She organizes all holidays for us.  If we ever go to visit my side of the family, she is enraged (so we hear through the grapevine).  No matter how delightful an occasion was, she views it as, "not enough".  She gossips about me and my husband.  She feels that she has given and given to her son, and he doesn't return the love.  As I said before, we see her often, tell her we love her, hug her, give her gifts, do many family things together with a sincere heart, but she is always dissatisfied.  She tells her sisters, husband, and friends this, but not us.  100% of the time, she is disappointed with us.

Dr Apter's reply:
It seems that you already understand your mother-in-law.  Her gifts are often attempts to control you.  By organizing all events, she appears generous, but her aim is to gain power.  If you are always in her debt, then it will be difficult to say no to her.  Because she gives you things without your permission or knowledge, it is difficult to take a stand against this.  However, you could find ways of declining at least some of her gifts, and therefore regaining control.  The wedding is over, but you can learn from it.  Her financial management of your lives should not be repeated.  This may mean that you organize things before telling her about them.  She may sulk.  She may complain.  She may accuse you of ingratitude.  But try to keep calm (because the real problem, after all, does not lie with you) and explain to her that while you appreciate her generous impulses, you and your husband really want to manage things yourselves.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My mother-in-law always tries to run my house when she visits.  Sunday, after church, we came home.  I took the ham out of the fridge, turned the oven on to preheat, and went upstairs to change clothes.  Came back downstairs to get the ham ready for the oven ... My mother-in-law was STILL in the kitchen from church, had dressed the ham, and was putting it in the oven!!!!!  I COULD NOT believe that she was doing that ... I was sooooooo upset that I went back to my bedroom to vent for about 15 minutes.  I knew that I could choose to cause a scene and (possibly) ruin Easter, or let it go (but still be upset).  I went back downstairs and started getting everything (else) ready.

During the dinner, my mother in law told me what a wonderful job I did w/ the meal.  I reminded her, and everyone, that she was the one who made the ham -- NOT I!!!

I spoke w/ my husband about it later, and he told me that his mom was just trying to help ....

OK -- your opinion ---

Don't we know that when we are in someone else's kitchen (house, at that), that we don't take over -- don't we ASK if there is anything that we could
do to help ...

Need your opinion ...

Dr Apter's reply:
Housework is a very heated issue between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.  Your mother-in-law is so used to taking control, that she does so without thinking or asking.  Yet she also seems to deny this, by thanking you for the meal (which she prepared in your home).  I suggest that you take evasive action, and when she visits, give her specific jobs to do so that you can do what you want.  It's a matter of reminding her that in your home, you are in charge.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
I married a man in his early 40s who had never had a long term relationship before.  He is the only male in a large family with all sisters, and we live 80 feet from his VERY POSSESSIVE mother.  He owns a large ranch, and his sisters have the attitude that they own him and his property, and that I am there only as his "whore", which they refer to me openly in public.  They also snipe at me behind my back;  they criticize everything I do;  they come between my husband and I at every opportunity, and continually undermine our trust, our love for each other, and my reasons for marrying him.  They have even encouraged him to "find another woman" while he is still married to me!  To make matters worse, he works with his oldest sister on the ranch, and she is the most manipulative, back-stabbing creature that I've ever met.  Yet, everyone in the family looks to her as the authority figure.  In reality, she is the most unhappy person I've ever met, and I don't know how to handle her screaming, vulgar fits of jealousy and rage.  I'm a professional, and can give advice to anyone coming into my office, but this situation has me stumped.  This big family holds themselves out to be "close" and "normal" and "happy," but in reality, it's a tangled mess of emotional abuse, control, greed, and jealousy.  My husband has little life-experience, and is ill equipped to go against his family by receiving help, or even admitting that something is wrong.  I have three questions: How can I insulate myself from their greed and insanity, while still maintaining my relationship with my husband?  How can I help my husband see through their control and manipulative tactics that keep him infantalized and emotionally abused?  And, how can I make my knowledge and feelings known to them without escalating the jealousy and hatred they feel towards me?

Dr Apter's reply:
The problem you are facing is very complex - especially if your husband is unable or unwilling to see that something is wrong with his own family's behavior.  See how far you can get with careful, calm explanation.  Start with the fact that no one has a right to abuse you verbally.  If he tries to excuse this or minimize this ("It's just their way" or "They don't really mean it"), persist in making your point: their abuse is upsetting and, indeed, should not be tolerated.  Insulating yourself from other family members is difficult, because people really are deeply affected by the views of those close to them.  You can try to take on the burden of being normal and sane, unruffled by the turmoil around you - but you will need a lot of support.  Sometimes friends can offer that support when family can't.  You need someone who can assure you that you are not as they see you.  I believe you have little chance of making your own feelings known to them without escalating the hostility.  They see themselves as good and normal.  They have one another to back up this view.  I believe you will have to live with their infuriating insightlessness for some time.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My father-in-law is most easily described as a real-life "Archie Bunker."  Although he would never physically harm someone, I find his racist, sexist, prejudiced remarks offensive and hurtful.  In addition, he continually insults and humiliates his wife.  My mother-in-law is an enabler who constantly makes apologies and excuses for his obnoxious behavior.  She relishes in the attention she receives when others pity her for living with such a difficult man.  I have discussed this problem at length with my husband, and his advice is to let it roll off my back.  So, for the past five years (our entire marriage) I have been unresponsive to their ignorance.  Now that I have a one year old daughter, I do not want to remain silent anymore.  My father-in-law is a belligerent, miserable person who could be a horrible influence on a young child.  I recently interrupted one of his ludicrous tirades, but our verbal exchange escalated, and I walked away before it became a heated argument.  Am I being overprotective if I prevent my daughter from spending a lot of time with these people?  I want to raise her with proper ethics and high moral standards.  Frankly, I'm tired of dealing with their antics myself.  Please let me know what you think is the best way to handle this situation.

Dr Apter's reply:
This is a difficult situation.  You do have the right to protect your child from prejudice, but grandparents also have a basic right to see their grandchildren.  So it's a matter of care and balance.  There is no simple rule to go by.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
Hi, I should be happy right now, I should be enjoying a relationship with my BF, but instead it gets clouded with my MIL's issues and insults.  My BF and I are going strong, we love and adore each other.  But I'm so miserable, I love him, I cannot get along with his mother.  He criticizes her constantly when we talk about her, but he doesn't seem to respond well if I do the same.  I can tell he's hurt by how childish she's acting.  I gave her your book, "Best Friends, Pleasures and Perils ..." and I'm pretty sure she threw it away.  I'm looking into therapy for my BF, but it may not be able to fit into our budget right now.  How can I help him while helping myself?

Dr Apter's reply:
It seems that your boyfriend is divided: he sees his mother's faults but feels uncomfortably disloyal when he listens to you voice them.  When you want to discuss problems concerning her, try to frame the problem as a practical one.  "How do we deal with this?" you can ask, and avoid any criticism of her.  You could explain that her behavior hurts you (rather than saying you find her so insulting), and that you want to find some way of getting on with her.  Ask him if he can suggest ways this could be done.  Then he might see himself as being helpful rather than critical.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
Greetings, Dr. Apter.  My husband, too, is an only child.  He loves his parents, and is a wonderful, kind person, but he describes his childhood as one during which he was "mollycoddled."  Although we are not close, and things my MIL says and does often rub me the wrong way, his mother is not a nightmare -- she makes an effort to be a good mother-in-law.  But my challenge is, she is a bored suburbanite, and often puts pressure on the two of us to go to events that would amuse her, but that we have no interest in.  (We are very busy, and aren't looking for extra things to do to "kill time.")  These also sometimes include family get-togethers -- we certainly go to some, but not as many as she would like.  She and I are usually on pretty polite terms -- no outright hostility.  Do you have any suggestions for me regarding how much I need to compromise on this?  Should I just follow my instincts (and continue to politely evade her pressure on me to do things I really don't want to do), or do you think maybe I owe her more than that?  I really wonder how to be fair -- both to her and to myself.  My husband has a hard time with this, too -- he doesn't want to hurt her feelings, yet he often doesn't want to do the activities she tries to set up for us.  I do compromise a little, otherwise I'd have VERY little, if anything, to do with her.

Dr Apter's reply:
You are describing the questions and pressures very common to people who are both considerate of their in-laws and who also value their independence.  Yes, go with your instincts, trying to honor both your own needs and your in-laws' feelings

My question for Dr. Apter is:
How do I deal with a mother in law who thinks her children should provide her with everything she wants?  My Mother in law has been a widow for many years.  My husband actually supported her for about fifteen of those years.  He did it in a pretty nice style, I must add.  She seemed to be happy with our getting married, and even lived with us for a time with a minimum of grief.  My problem is that she books expensive trips, and even bought a new car, and then came up short when bill time approached.  She has run up her charges, and now she and her sisters think all her kids (especially my husband, who was her "surrogate" husband for so long) should pay.  We can't.  That is, not without us and all our kids doing without.  I do not begrudge this woman a nice home or decent clothes and food, but is a trip every year to the islands and new clothes for each occasion really necessary?  I come off like a meany when I get the guts to speak of it.  My brother-in-law told me point-blank that if it wasn't for me marrying my husband, "Mommy" would be doing really good right now.  This happened when we bought our house, which we bought with money MY family gave to us.  I was so burned up!  My husband says I just don't have any idea of how "real" family helps and supports one another.  This makes me so mad, too, because my family is wonderful and hard working.  They concentrate on their own lives and business, instead of sucking money out of other's pockets or putting their noses in other's affairs.  They have always been there for me with a helping hand instead of looking for a hand-out.  Doctor, how do I deal with this within myself without destroying my relationship?  I know I can't change them, so what I need is a new outlook.  I just can't understand why the mother in law comes off as some kind of saint, and yet there is so little saintly behavior going on.  She comes on so sweet, but deep inside she is a master manipulator with a host of supporters.  Is there any way at all to fight this?

Dr Apter's reply:
It seems that your husband is very generous towards his mother.  To prevent her taking advantage of this, suggest that your husband offers her a budget to manage herself.  You could make this suggestion without criticizing her.  You could explain that you believe his mother is fully capable of this, and that it would be useful to everyone to know just how much would be given to her.  A husband's belief in the "saintliness" of his mother is hard on any wife.  But putting her on a pedestal may be his way of avoiding his own criticisms and hostility towards his mother.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
This is not the typical MIL question, compared to the others I have seen here.  My MIL does not harass me directly.  Instead, she drives my wife crazy with her antics.  Here are a just a few of the things she has gotten up to recently: She told us that she wanted to introduce us to her friend.  But then, because our newborn had stained my wife's clothes by spitting up, my MIL immediately changed her plans and we never did meet her friend.

She recently told my wife that she "used to be better looking " than she is now.  I'm sure this is what every 40-ish woman wants to hear.

Our daughter is having some behavioral problems.  My MIL has repeatedly suggested that her behavior is related to my wife's treatment of her, e.g. she accuses her of not being affectionate enough, etc., which is not true, and certainly not observable during the brief duration of her visits.  The constant theme to all this arm-chair diagnosis is that my daughter's behavior is my wife's fault.

She has said to my wife, "You are a good seamstress, but I am much better at embroidery than you are".

She will ask such insulting questions as "Did you wash your hands after touching a toilet?"  When my wife tells her that this is insulting, my MIL will say that she was just asking a question and she doesn't know why my wife is getting so upset.

She insults our home all the time.  She calls it small, and constantly suggests ways in which she feels it can be improved.  The nicest thing she has said about it is that it has a lot of potential.  When a close relative bought a big, new home recently, she was heard saying, "Finally, something to be proud of."

If my wife gets sick or has need of some dental work, etc., my MIL will tell her it is because she doesn't take care of herself, eat right, get enough sleep, etc.  It is always my wife's fault.

She has lied about my job title (inflated it), and when my wife changed careers a few years ago, she wouldn't tell anyone about it because it wasn't a move she approved of.

She has told my wife that she will baby-sit so that my wife can go shopping for new clothes (my wife never said anything about wanting new clothes).

She once told my wife that she looks better without, "those frizzy perms".

Can you give us some insight as to what is going on with a person who treats her child this way?  Any suggestions on what to say to a rude person like this?  My wife usually shrugs it off, and feels sorry for her mother that she just can't be happy for us the way we live our lives.  But, I know that deep down, it hurts her.  Any insight or advice would be much appreciated.

Dr Apter's reply:
I'm glad to have your question because indirect criticism from a mother-in-law is so common.  Sometimes implied criticism can be more infuriating than an outright complaint because the mother-in-law can then pretend she is not guilty of any hostility, yet she nonetheless gets her criticism across very clearly.  I think that your awareness of how your mother's criticisms hurt you wife must go a long way towards easing her pain.  But your wife's strategy of shrugging it off is really the best.  However, if you want to press home to your mother your awareness of her tactics, then you could challenge her.  When she implies criticism, you could say, "What are you really saying there, mom?" (For example, "Do you think she needs to change her hairstyle?" or "Are you telling us you think she needs new clothes?")  If your mother realizes how transparent she is, she may cut down on her criticisms.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
Dear Dr. Apter,
I live in the Netherlands;  I suppose we have the same kind of problems with in-laws here as people do anywhere in the world.  For clarity's sake, I will try to cut a long story short.  By the way, the story is not about my MIL, because I got along with her reasonably well, and she passed away some years ago, as did my FIL, so that is a closed chapter.  No, the problem mainly lies with her daughters, my so-called SIL's.  My husband's family now consists of ten persons: 5 brothers (of which he is the eldest), and 5 sisters.  Ever since the children were little, the sisters used to rule the household.  All brothers, including my husband, fear them somewhat because of their foul mouths, and so do the other brothers' wives.  I am the only one that ever spoke up against them, it seems.  My bad relationship, especially with the sisters, started off with small things, like them ignoring me in conversations, continually "forgetting" my name, although they saw me about once a month at family birthdays, and sending Christmas cards to our house addressed only to my husband, never to me; in fact, they didn't even send their regards.  In other words, they made it very clear they were not in the least bit interested in me.  I found this rude; they don't have to like me, but they can at least behave civilized!  Am I my husbands' housekeeper, or some casual acquaintance?  In the course of time, things didn't change for the better:  amongst other things, the sisters found it quite normal to poke their noses into our (my husband's and my) private affairs on a regular basis (as they also do with the other brothers and their wives); and thus our housing, our finances, our company, and our entire lifestyle were commented on loudly and publicly each time there was a family birthday or other occasion.  Needless to say, the sisters do NOT tolerate any intrusion whatsoever on THEIR affairs, private or otherwise.  For the first two years I didn't say very much about this, which, in hindsight, was probably wrong.  But, as a matter of fact, I wasn't sure how to deal with their rude and offensive behavior, as I was really quite baffled to experience this.  Never in my life had anything like it happened to me before.  (I was already in my mid-thirties when I met my present husband).  In the meantime, I did build up a lot of disgust and aggravation.  I tried to speak to my husband about it, but all I got was the usual, "That's just how they are, they don't know any better" - excuse.  He also said that, since I was the better educated, the more intelligent, and the more well-behaved, I should take responsibility for handling the situation.  I told him I didn't agree, that this wasn't fair on me, because ALL parties are responsible for keeping up a good relationship, no matter how intelligent, educated, etc., they are.

The business finally got completely out of hand when one of the sisters, at a time when her husband was nearly declared bankrupt (sister herself hasn't done a day's honest work in her life), "sold" my husband a life insurance policy, for which she made him pay the full amount, but then kept the policy to herself and never delivered it.  I had warned my husband in advance it was extremely risky to do business with any family-members in general, and these ones in particular, but of course he didn't listen.  When the case dragged on and on without any hope of coming to a solution, I had finally had it with them, and I mentioned to the sister in question that I considered the said transaction to be fraudulent, and found her attitude and behavior about the entire matter very rude and offensive.  Well, at this the sister went ballistic: Who the hell did I think I was to poke MY nose into a matter that concerned ONLY herself, her husband, and her brother!! (my HUSBAND, mind)  And, before we knew it she had mobilized as many of her family members against us as she could, feeding them the story how WE (both my husband and I) had tried to steal from HER, no less!  I find this horrible enough in itself, but the most surprising thing was that the greater part of the family swallowed this without any doubt or question (maybe I'm being naive, but neither my husband nor I ever did anything to them to justify this behavior).  The family did not even take the trouble to check her story with us to hear our side, but came to our house entirely uninvited with a grand delegation, to lecture us in our own home, and to warn us not to annoy their "little sister".  Even some of the brothers, with whom we hadn't had any trouble up till then, joined in.  By then, even my husband began to see them for the double-faced bastards that they are.  And, both he and I tried to talk to the worst "ringleaders", both together and separately, but to no avail.  On the contrary, one of those conversations never even got started, because one of the brothers found it necessary to punch me in the face several times, without any reasonable motive whatsoever.  My husband did nothing, I think partly because he was in the middle, and partly because he is not a violent man.  I, however, decided to report the beating to the local police, upon which the brother in question got a fine of 500 guilders (about 250 dollars) sometime later.  Needless to say that the in-laws also hold this against me, are of the opinion that I have "shamed" their "good" name, and that I carry on terribly about such an insignificant little slap in the face.  They were also not above harassing my husband regularly about this on the phone.

After this incident, about two years ago, I was so fed up I could not stand being near the in-laws anymore.  Their mere presence makes me feel physically sick, gives me a huge migraine, and actually a bright red rash all over my body (would you believe it?)  Almost all of them are rough, stupid as can be, double-faced, dishonest, hypocritical, insufferable, unable to solve a conflict, but creating plenty, and some of them are violent as well.  So I wrote a letter to every member of the family that partook of the "Grand Delegation", saying that they behaved horribly towards me and my husband, that they never showed any sign of regret either, and that for these reasons they were no longer welcome in our house, and under no circumstances did I want ever to lay eyes on them again.  I also added, however, that it was not for me to decide whether my husband wanted to visit them at their homes or not, and that he must work that one out for himself.

After this, the in-laws went ballistic AGAIN, phoned my husband for months at times when they knew I probably would not be home, and harassed him endlessly with their feudal views of how he should shut up his rebellious wife.  Whenever he tried to reason with them, they invariably sabotaged the conversation any way they could think of.  I wrote them one more letter, saying that if they had something against me, they should have it out with ME, and not bother my husband constantly.  Of course, that didn't help either.

My husband tried to visit a few of his a-little-less-stupid, double-faced, etc., relatives at some occasions since.  Invariably, he is treated with outright hostility, because the in-laws are of the unanimous opinion that he should fully take THEIR side against me, and preferably kick me out, so everybody can get on with their lives.  My husband does not like these visits, but hangs on to them because, "it is still family", and he does not have many social contacts outside his family.  Of course, I do want him to have a happy social life and good friends, which I know are very important to him, but I cannot magically conjure them up.  What I do, is take him to my own family-members, with whom he gets along, but, unlucky for him, there are not very many of them around though; and furthermore, I encourage him to become a member of local unions and clubs.  He tries to, but it is not easy to find really good acquaintances and friends.

Recently, my husbands family has decided that, since I don't allow them in our house, and he TOLERATES this instead of telling me to take a hike, they won't allow him in their houses anymore either.  At the last "family-occasion" my husband went to, about two months ago, they all insulted him for hours and played mind-games on him, as in the past they have tried doing to me.  He came home at three o'clock in the morning, instead of eleven, as he had said, virtually smelling of cold sweat a mile off.  When I asked him whatever had gone wrong now, he at first didn't want to tell me.  Next morning, it came out by bits and pieces, and he has been emotionally devastated ever since.  The worst thing is, that after his anger with THEM has subsided a little, he now sort of secretly starts blaming me for the situation as well.  I haven't been triumphant or anything like it over this latest development.  So, although I can understand a little where his anger stems from, I resent it.  Since he did not openly attack me, but you could sense his hostility in little things that were different, I asked him outright whether he did blame me or not (I don't like such things left to silently rot and poison our life together).  After ample hesitation, he said that both his family and I were to blame: they, he said had no morals, and I, while having a strong sense of righteousness, had no tact.  (Which to some extent, may be true, but I think I have been patient enough with these people, and they do not deserve tactful treatment anymore). I now have all these mixed feelings: I am sooo relieved to be finally rid of the in-laws completely, at the same time I pity my husband because he has lost his family.  I am also FURIOUS, a little at him, but mostly at the in-laws for hurting him AND me badly; and NO WAY am I ever going to let them into my life again.  Especially not if they use these malicious black-mailing methods.  I know for sure that the moment I would allow them in, the whole circus would start all over again, because there is no reasoning possible with them; they simply refuse to see their own faults.

Dr. Apter, do you perhaps see in all this darkness some light still?  Can you maybe explain to me why the in-laws behave the malicious way they do (it still baffles me), and what else can I do or avoid to improve the situation for my husband and me?  Thanks for reading this entire epistle, which has become longer than I intended, and I do hope you can give me an answer on your website sometime in the near future.

Dr Apter's reply:
Your story is tragic because I see no way the rift with your in-laws can be resolved.  Now you have to make sure the rift with your in-laws does not become a rift between you and your husband (if that indeed is what you want to prevent).  First, let me point out that there is no shame to you in admitting your husband's charge that while your in-laws have no morals, you have no tact.  Tact is not always appropriate, but morals always are. I cheered when you said that you reported your brother-in-law's assault to the police.  On a positive note, I think you and your husband can be stronger without them.  His family seems to drain him both emotionally and financially.  Perhaps he will come to see how lucky he is to have you protecting him from them.


The Sister Knot, Apter
The Sister Knot
Why We Fight, Why We're Jealous, and Why We'll Love Each Other No Matter What

Secret Paths: Women in the New Midlife
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Women in the New Midlife

Working Women Don't Have Wives, Dr. Terri Apter Working Women Don't Have Wives
Professional Success in the 1990'S

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