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My question for Dr. Apter is:
My inlaws are Baptist.  My wife and I are not.  They insist on holding hands in prayer at the table before every meal, even before digging into chicken wings and beer at a sports bar.  I don't want to offend them, but how do I tell them I'd rather not be a part of their mini-ceremony?

Dr Apter's reply:
Does your wife feel as you do?  If not, explain that you feel uncomfortable taking part in a ritual which clearly has a great deal of meaning for the others involved - which it doesn't have for you.  Explain that you feel this compromises your integrity, and smacks of hypocrisy, and while you respect others' wish to engage in this mini-ceremony, you would prefer not to take part in it.  Talk over the steps you might take to make your case, but also avoid offending your in-laws.  Perhaps the least obtrusive strategy is to wait until you see that the hand-holding is about to begin, then pull back and say something like, "I leave this to do yourselves."

My question for Dr. Apter is:
Hello ... I am having a horrible time with my mother in law.  First of all, she refused to talk to my husband and I for a whole year.  Then, when the baby was born, she finally wanted something to do with us.  But she would only say a few words to her son, nothing to me, and then she'd just take the baby and walk away.  We are both sick of her thinking she can have something to do with the baby and nothing to do with us.  She won't even talk to my mom, and completely ignores the baby when my mom has her.  As soon as she walks away it's, "Oh, give me that baby."  Now, it's to the point she only wants the baby at social functions and church.  She has admitted to not liking me.  She won't even speak to me.  One time, my husband and I got into an argument with her, and she looked at me and said, "I am not talking to you, nor do I concern myself with what you say."  Now, she has been told that we do not want anything to do with her, and she is not allowed to have anything to do with the baby.  The family is giving me so much grief about everything.  Its driving me nuts.  Should I let her have something to do with her grandchild when she won't even speak to her own son or me???

Dr Apter's reply:
You have every right to insist that your mother-in-law treats you with politeness and respect.  She clearly has problems sharing her son and grandson with you and your mother.  But people who can't share their children often lose them altogether.  Does your husband know anyone who might be able to speak to her and show her how destructive her coldness to you is?  Could your husband sit down with her to explain that he loves her and wants her to be part of his new family, but to do so, she has to accept that family?  Unless she can, she will remain cut off from you, and the family will be drawn further apart.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
I got married at a young age, and my husband is 7 years older than me.  Before we married, my MIL was the sweetest person to me.  After I got married, I found out how evil she can be.  She is very manipulative, two-faced,  her way is the only right way, and she has a very bad temper.  I have looked to her in the past for guidance since my own dear mother had fallen into a strange depression when I hit puberty and has not come out of it since.  She wasn't really there for me when I needed her.  My father is a very strict, hard headed man.  So, when I met my husband's mother, I looked towards her for guidance.  Recently she has been really mean, and inconsiderate.  We made plans to have her, my SIL, and me to get our nails done together, but today she and my SIL went ahead and had their nails done together, and they didn't bother telling me that our plans were canceled.  I wouldn't mind so much if they had called.  I know my MIL could have, 'cause she has a cell phone.  I feel very hurt, and I don't know what to do.

Dr Apter's reply:
One reason you feel so hurt is that you have high expectations of your mother-in-law.  You probably hoped that she would fill the emotional absence you experienced through your own mother's depression.  This makes her lack of consideration and affection even more painful than it would be otherwise. Your most important task is to take a realistic measure of the relationship with your mother-in-law.  The business about the manicure is like the behavior of a bad girlfriend: promising a bonding-type outing and then sneaking off with someone else and excluding you.  She herself may feel ambivalent about how close she wants to be with you - but that's her problem.  Try to find another woman who can be the sort of motherly friend you need.  If you expect less of your mother-in-law, you may find her faults more tolerable.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My Husband and I, due to credit problems, received help in purchasing a car.  They own the car, and we make payments to them.  I know that it was very stupid to do this, since I knew our relationship with them has always been VERY BAD!!!  However, we were in a bind, and I actually think the only reason they did it was to have control.  In fact, the second we walked out of the dealership, after they had just bought the car, they told us they had told BIL and SIL that they helped us buy a car.  I was in shock since my Mother never tells what she has done for my siblings.  It is personal.  I was, of course, mad, but in such shock that I said nothing.  Well, things with my in-laws have gotten much worse, and we don't know what to do, because we can't deal with them anymore.  We are thinking about ending our relationship with them.  We would loose the car, and can not yet go buy a new one on our own.  We have put forth a lot of money thus far on payments to the car, though.  Any suggestions on what to do?  Can we ask for the money we have put into it?  Also, how do you deal with in-laws that divulge personal info with BIL and SIL?  As well as they complain to BIL and SIL about us?  What do I do?

Dr Apter's reply:
Money is often exchanged freely within families, but when something goes wrong with this exchange, then all sorts of problems emerge.  You clearly feel insulted and betrayed.  You and your husband should think carefully before you approach your in-laws, and decide together what it is that you want: do you want to give them the car and have your payments returned?  Or do you want to keep the car, but explain that you have been upset by their behavior and suggest that you all find ways of managing personal information more sensitively?  Or, do you want to cut off the emotional aspect of the relationship and continue only the financial agreement already made?  When you yourself think about the outcome that is best for you, you can take steps to achieve it. 


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
Secret Paths
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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