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My question for Dr. Apter is:
I have a MIL that lives her life through her children's lives, and now mine.  She's so unhappy with her second marriage, and has no life of her own, that she wants to be in ours all the time, and I'm trying to figure out a way to ask her to back off without losing my temper.  I've always been a very head strong, confrontational person, so I'm trying to figure out a way to ask her to back off without saying something too harsh.  My husband and I were supposed to get married a year ago, but because she butted into our life so much, I got so very nervous about being her DIL that I caused enough problems to break off the engagement.  After a long 6 months of couple's therapy, my husband and I finally got re-engaged and married.  Now, we're well on our way to having our first child, and I know that she'll be in our lives, more now than ever.  I've read a lot of the questions from other DILs, and I was surprised at how much we all have in common.  I think these MILs are just so jealous of us they can't see straight.  How sad and pathetic.  My MIL calls at least once a day, and sends a constant stream of emails wanting to know what we're doing at all times.  It's like she wants to join in on every joyful moment we have, and I find it very intrusive.  When I argue with my husband about the things she does and says to me, he says that, because I never had a close family, I don't understand what a "real family" is supposed to be like.  I'm positive that, if this woman doesn't back out of our lives soon, that we'll end up in divorce court.  Should I sit down with her and talk to her?  My husband thinks I'm blowing all of this out of proportion, so I know he's no help.  To top it off, she always says rude things to me behind my husband's back and behind the family's back, so I look like the jerk to everyone else if I confront her.  Do you know that MIL on "Everybody Loves Raymond"... that's mine ... seems nice, but is very intrusive and manipulative!  Help!  Signed, About to Lose My Temper!

Dr. Apter's reply:
It might be helpful to make a list of very specific behaviors that disturb you the most and then sort out ways of dealing with them.  Try to find ways to set boundaries.  Ask her not to call at certain times, and refrain from opening her emails more than once every few days.  Also, you could explain to your husband that your feelings are genuine, and you are not "blowing them out of proportion".

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My fiancé and I have been dating for four years, and he moved in with me three months ago (from his parents' house).  Ever since he moved out, MIL has been horrible to me.  It was bad enough before when she would say and do mean things to me on occasion, when no one was looking, but now she makes up stories about me and tells them to everyone who will listen.  She's even turned SIL, whom I adore, against me.  My fiancé and his aunt (MIL's sister) think she's intimidated by me, because I'm working on my masters, own my own home, and have a job that I like.  On the other hand, she never finished high school, has a history of abusing prescription drugs, and does not work.  MIL and SIL no longer invite my fiancé to family events, and they say it's because of me.  It breaks my heart that it's come to this, and I have no idea what to do.  Please help.

Dr. Apter's reply:
Perhaps you could invite them, or write to them and explain how much you value maintaining contact with them.  You could also state outright that you find it painful that they criticize you, and that you hope they will engage in a genuine discussion with you.  It is never easy to counteract others' feelings of inferiority, but you will show respect towards them by confronting them.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My MIL is planning to visit my DH and I over Christmas.  Just this last spring, we moved about nine hours away, and this would be their first offer to visit us.  On one hand, this seems like a nice thing.  On the other hand, I am frustrated, because (1) my MIL is arranging this entirely through my DH, and has not even spoken to me since we moved here, and (2), she knows that, due to my work, I will not even be around over Christmas.  And, when I say I will not be around, I mean it almost literally -- I am in a residency program at a hospital, and that month, I am on call every four nights, which basically means I work two days straight without coming home, then work two more 12-hour days, and then do it all over again.  When I work months like that, I can barely stay awake through a dinner with my husband, let alone entertain guests!  When my husband informed her of my schedule, she apparently responded, "Well, we'll just have to see her before she goes to work and when she comes home from work."  So, basically I feel like I am in a lose-lose situation, no matter what I do.  On one hand, it seems rude of me to ask them to consider visiting on another date -- I have three days off around New Year's, and my husband also has New Year's off (the same number of days he has off for Christmas).  On the other hand, if I don't say anything at all, isn't it rude of HER to invite herself & her family over, when only my husband will be around?!  Do I just bite the bullet and let my husband arrange the whole thing, and deal with them when they get here, or should I say something?  Is there some compromise we can come to?  And, what is normally expected of in-laws as far as arranging visits -- should I expect my MIL to speak to me, as well as my DH, when planning a visit?

Dr. Apter's reply:
It is never rude to state your own needs.  If entertaining guests at a certain time is too much, then you should let others know this.  In-laws, like anyone else, should seek your permission when arranging visits.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
I am 34 years old, I have been married for 7 years.  My husband is a unique son.  His father left his mother when he was 15.  From that time, she began to treat him as if he was everything in her life.  When we knew each other, she tried many times to stop him from marrying me.  After marriage, she insisted that we had to live with her because she is very old (75 years).  I accepted to live with her, unfortunately.  I lived in hell for seven years.  She is dominant in our lives, and my husband always obeys her, as he is used to doing.  She even maltreated me and insulted me with bad words.  And, he always says that I should respect her as my mother.  I have to bear all of this, even though I have my own house.  When his aunt saw that, she also began to insult me, and he had the same response.  He doesn't like to hear a word about his family, and blames me for telling anything to mine.  I feel disrespected, and have lost my personality with his family.  A few months ago, I quarreled with my MIL, and she threw me out at midnight.  My husband agreed with her, because he is afraid that she will die, as she has high hypertension, and she mustn't be angry or upset.  I have two children, a girl (6) and a boy (13).  She threw us out in the middle of the night in winter.  She even told me that she's going to call the police.  My husband was negative in front of her.  Now, I am living in my house (a poor one), and my husband is living with me.  He doesn't like to hear me talking about her, and always shouts at me when I just mention her in my discussion with him.  She is always putting bad words about me in his head.  He always returns home angry with me.  I am upset because of the way I was treated, and I am still being treated unjustly.  I love my husband and he loves me, but I am second after his mother.  When I was living with her, I was supporting the home financially (and equally) with my husband, even though his mother is wealthy.  I was the one who cleaned, shopped, etc.  She did nothing, as she is old (even though she is in good health and strong).  She hated me from the beginning, but I bear it all for my husband.  Please tell me what to do, because she is still interfering in our life, and insists on doing everything for my husband and kids.  Every step is done after her consultation.  We always quarrel because of her.  When my husband takes my children to her, she always says bad words about me.  My daughter told me that she wants another mother because I am bad.  Please tell me what to do!!

Dr. Apter's reply:
The only way forward I can see is for your husband to acknowledge that he has a problem: it seems that he is at the mercy of his mother's wishes and whims.  You could ask him whether he is truly willing to have you spoken ill of in front of your daughter.  This may help him focus on the problem.  Also, you could assure him that you are not asking him to be disloyal to his mother, and that he can support you and see your point of view without actually rejecting her.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My FMIL is so nice to me, so why does she drive me crazy?  My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 years.  We live together.  We have plans to get married in a year, after we both finish our Master's Degrees.  He comes from a family of four.  He has a twin sister, and they are both 25 years old.  His family is from Europe.  His mother lives here in the Midwest, and his father commutes back and forth between Europe and the USA on business.  He stays in the USA where he lives for a week.  Then he flies to Europe on business for three weeks, where they also have a house.  His mother wants to keep the house here.  They have a dog, and she doesn't want to move.  So, she goes to Europe to visit her husband for two weeks out of the month.  She is here for two weeks, and there for two weeks.  Then, she is home for three weeks, and he is home for one of those weeks.  Then, the whole process starts over.  She complains that she is lonely and misses her husband.  Well, DF is like, "Then she should move to Europe with dad."  He will not tell her, of course, he tells me.  And, he gets upset that she is upset, but he will not hurt her or his dad's feelings.  I realize they are an extremely close knit family.  It has always been just the four of them, so they had to be close.  My family, on the other hand, is large.  I have a lot of cousins, a sister, a brother, and grandparents.  We are close, but I talk to my parents about three times a week.  I see them once a month.  He talks to his mom and dad two or three times a day.  Also, both his parents are extremely nice.  They both smile and hug and welcome me into their home, but sometimes they talk in their native language to him.  His mom smiles at me and says, "Oh, I am sorry, you have to learn our language."  "Well, this is America," I think to myself.  They can speak English.  They usually do.  But, if they tell a joke and I don't understand it, they say, "If we translated it, it wouldn't make sense in English."  They always cook big meals, and DF always says, "Oh, honey, we need to go over to my parent's house.  They want us over for a BBQ."  Well, I don't like a lot of things.  I am really picky.  I am sure his mother thinks I am, too.  I tell her I don't really like raw salmon, oysters, anchovies, or cow tongue.  They always have these weird meats that make me want to throw up.  I tell her that I am sorry.  She says, "Oh, well, what can I make you?", like she has to make something special.  I don't know.  Then, one time, she told me I should continue school after my Bachelor's degree.  She said, "Men respect us more if we keep learning."  She also give me "tips" on how to stack our coffee mugs for easy access, or whatever.  Just all these little things drive me nuts.  My boyfriend is absolutely wonderful.  I absolutely love him, but his family is so close and so important to him.  I don't want to hurt his feelings.  He said that, tomorrow, he was wondering if his mom and sister could come with us to a park.  What could I say?  See, I had wanted friends of our to meet us there, but I figured they could come too.  He said, "You sound upset, are you okay?"  As much as I try to hide it, he always knows when I am upset.  I have told him before that I don't like being at his parent's a lot.  He doesn't like to be at my parents either, so he understands.  His sister and dad are usually out of town.  So when they come in, its a huge party.  And, usually, one comes into town one weekend, and the other the next weekend.  It feels like we are always over there, even though we aren't there that much.  His sister goes to graduate school on the west coast.  So, I was thinking as I read through the articles on your web page, maybe I am feeling smothered because his mom is such a great cook (he loves her food).  She is so great and knows everything (or she thinks she does), that I am jealous.  I want to be the only woman in his life, and have him for myself.  I know that is extremely selfish.  What do you think DR Apter?

Dr. Apter's reply:
I think your fear that you are being selfish hampers your ability to speak out.  Your husband clearly wants to know how you feel, and there is nothing wrong with saying that on this occasion you would rather your in-laws did not join you.  You could also say that, on occasion, you do not wish to visit them.  Since you appreciate your husband's involvement with his family, you could suggest that sometimes he visit them alone.  I suppose you could avoid confrontation about the food your in-laws serve by simply choosing one thing you can eat and saying, "This is wonderful. This is all I need."  In that way, your mother-in-law will not ask what she can make for you.  A mother-in-law's offer to give her daughter-in-law tips about how to manage herself and household is often irritating.  I suppose one response is simply to thank her for her thoughtfulness in advising you, but then to ignore her advice.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My MIL is very manipulative and insecure.  As a child, she was abandoned by her mother and raised by her grandma.  When my husband was 7, my MIL met my husband's father while he was separated from my husband's birth mom.  Her jealousy turned what was an amicable separation into a bitter custody battle.  Eventually, she became his step-mom, forced them to call her mom, and has since done everything for the last 25 years to make my husband and his siblings feel abandoned by their own birth mother.  My husband's birth mom eventually moved away after remarrying.  They see her occasionally now, and it is always a huge ordeal where they are made to feel guilty.  Even after all this time, my MIL is irrationally jealous of this woman who has never said a bad word about her.  My problem is this: I have 3 children that I stay home with, and I have always let her take them when she asks.  But, now, they are getting older, and more involved in activities and school, and I have started having to say, "No," when she asks.  Weekends used to be open to her, but not anymore, now that my kids attend school and don't get home until dinner time.  The weekends are the only time for me to bond with them myself.  I am not willing to sacrifice my own time with my children, since we are a close family, and I enjoy them immensely.  I have always been close to my own mother, and visit her at least once a week with my children.  Usually, it is in the early evening, and we are home by 7pm.  We are all there together, so I don't have to leave my kids, and my mom only has them overnight maybe once a month.  When my MIL watches them, she has them by herself, and I lose that time with them.  Her idea of getting off work early to pick them up during the week is to arrive at my house at 7pm, which is disruptive to my kids' routine.  I am raising my kids, so who I see is who my kids see.  And, I don't feel like seeing my MIL all the time.  Well, now my MIL's insecurities are resurfacing with my kids.  She has a tendency to want to take over everything, and is calling all the time wanting to take them, or drive them to their activities.  This is the whole reason I am staying home myself - to raise my kids and do those things myself.  She is making me feel suffocated.  I have to have an excuse, it seems, just to keep my own kids home for the weekend (she checks up on me).  And, she seems to think that my kids' time with my mom should be equal to hers, even though I don't hang out with my friends very often, and my mother is pretty much my best friend.  I have ALWAYS seen my own mother more than her, just as my husband sees his own father more than he sees mine!  I am becoming resentful, since it feels like she wants to regulate who I spend my time with (since she feels threatened by anyone who sees my kids more than she does), and I should not have to defend or reveal to her who I spend MY time with.  My husband supports me on this, but I feel I am growing more and more resentful of this woman.  And, in many ways, it feels like she's trying to take away MY kids now.  What is the best way to deal with this?  I need some space from her.  My children know that, the more they are involved in activities, the less time they will have with her.  And, they are fine with that.  Now, my MIL is talking about retiring, and I am dreading finding her on my doorstop every day.  She has no hobbies except work, and my kids are her only grandchildren.  My husband works a lot, so it is usually me that has to deal with his parents.

Dr. Apter's reply:
The only solution is to be firm with your mother-in-law.  There may be no point in trying to explain yourself in the way you have, very clearly, in your question to me, but you do not need an excuse to organize your life as you see fit.  If your mother-in-law complains or sulks, you could simply say that you regret disappointing her, but that you hope she will accept what is best for the family.  Perhaps you could explain how your children's schedule is changing, and that as a good and loving grandmother you hope she will accommodate the children's changing needs.  You could also tell her how grateful you are for her patience.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
Prior to our marriage, I enjoyed my relationship with my in-laws.  In the past year, my husband and I have had our first child, and at the same time, his parents relationship (their marriage) has almost ended in divorce several times.  My husband comes from a large family, and my husband likes to get together with his family a lot, which is often too much for me to handle.  With the birth of our child, and the tension in my husband's family, these visits are anything but pleasant.  My FIL completely ignores me in a rude way, or makes sarcastic remarks that really hurt my feelings.  My MIL will smother the baby for hours and, for some reason this really irritates me!!  When we leave, I feel so angry inside at my in-laws, and at my husband, that I feel like I could explode.  I am confused at my feelings, and I wish to move away from all of their dysfunction.  I am tired of being hurt by their sarcasm and disrespect ... and I never know what to expect from my MIL.  One day she is warm to me, and the next she is making jokes that leave me feeling hurt and insecure.  And, to top it all off, my husband will never speak to his parents about their behavior.  My husband has told me that no one "steps on his Dad's feet".  PA-LEASE!!  What is the best way to handle this situation?  I feel that if I become confrontational that I will become the bitch of the family.

Dr. Apter's reply:
Your husband may be brusque with you when you speak about his parents because he himself is uncomfortable with his own unacknowledged criticism of them.  Perhaps you could explain how important it is to you for him to understand how you feel during these visits, what hurts you, and how the anger stays with you.  You could explain that you do not mean to criticize his family but to gain his understanding of your feelings.  Ask him whether he can suggest any way improving things.  You could insist that things do improve, however: so I would advise against any agreement which involved you having to tolerate your in-laws' insults.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My MIL is going through a really difficult time in her marriage.  I know she is very needy at this time in her life, and when she spends time with my infant daughter it really cheers my MIL up.  However, sometimes I don't feel like I should have to accommodate this need.  I am a stay at home mom, and my husband really likes me to drop my daughter off at my MIL for visits.  I don't need a baby-sitter, and feel that my MIL can come to our place for visits.  I always feel like I need to leave so my MIL can have time alone with her granddaughter.  However, I am recently feeling like everyone is just walking all over me.  I am tired of accommodating my husband and my MIL.  Perhaps I am being unreasonable.  Could you suggest some course of action that won't leave me feeling so resentful?  Thanks!!

Dr. Apter's reply:
The only way to avoid having people walk over you is to stand up for yourself.  You could simply declare that your mother-in-law will have to visit your daughter at your home.  You could soften this by saying that this time, or today, the visit will have to be in your home.  If you overcome the idea that you are being unreasonable, then you will be better equipped to say what it is you want.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
HOW DO I DEAL WITH THIS WOMAN????  I have been married for 2 1/2 years, and recently had a baby.  My husband and I clearly come from different cultural backgrounds (his parents were born in the same country, and moved to the US when they were kids) and my family is multi-cultured - my great-grandparents all coming from different countries.  Anyway - my MIL - she has 2 sons, my husband, and his brother who is mentally handicapped.  All she ever wanted was a daughter, and since she never had one, she just figured she'd be close to her son's wife (these are her exact words).  She is a very kind woman.  She would do anything for us.  She treats me like the "daughter she never had".  However, I do not want that!!  I am a very independent person.  I like my space and my complete privacy.  That's how I am.  I was raised that it was rude to show up at someone's house uninvited without calling first.  However, my husband's family is attached at the hip, and everyone stops by everyone's house all the time unannounced (including the several dozen cousins, etc.)  Everyone does know how I feel, and pretty much respects my wishes, although I know that I am considered the "witch".  The recent problem that I am having is that I feel as though my MIL is trying to force a relationship with me that I do not want.  She always says "I am not happy in my marriage, so I like a lot of people around - I just want to be one big happy family."  I feel as though, when my husband married me we became our own family, and she is trying to wedge her way into that.  I also have been feeling very possessive of the baby.  All of the hairs on my body stand on end when she holds the baby and says, "How's my baby!!"  I feel like she is trying to take the baby (you know, the girl she never had).  I am currently going to counseling because I do not know how to handle this woman.  I, typically, do not deal with emotionally needy people, but, unfortunately, she is not going anywhere.  She has a lot of baggage (molested as a child, unhappily married, but cannot get divorced as she might get looked down on, she has a handicapped son which she feels responsible for - she had to let her "prize" son go - this woman needs therapy!).  I know she takes some kind of antidepressant, as she has previously said that when she gets depressed, she needs to take her medicine (not quite sure what that means).  Her husband and she are both slightly illiterate (can barely read or write).  I sometimes feel like the adult in the relationship.  I know I can be harsh sometimes - but I am tired of apologizing for who I am.  After reading some of the other questions, I see that my situation is not as bad as some of the other women (you poor things), but I am really having a tough time with this.  It is causing some stress on my marriage.  My husband is a wonderful man, but I do feel that he caters to his mom a bit much.  He knows that his mother has some real issues, but he hates when I get so nasty and withdrawn (which is how I act when I don't want to be bothered).  I would complain to him, and my MIL would do so as well.  He does not want to be put in the middle anymore (which I will not do on my end).  My harshness with him does not seem to be working.  She just latches on and will not let go.  I don't want my marriage to go to pot, so please give me some advice.  I am feeling so anxious and unnerved - please advise. J

Dr. Apter's reply:
It is difficult to draw boundaries between you and your mother-in-law, and in all probability you will have to do this gradually.  You can do this without being nasty.  If you are consistently forthright, then you probably won't feel so angry.  You are right not to want to apologize for who you are, but you can state firmly and cheerfully what you do feel.  You might well be able to do this directly with your mother-in-law, rather than through your husband.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My FIL, and many times my MIL, often find joy in teasing me, making sarcastic remarks, and trying to undermine my ways of parenting - just to upset me.  Lately, every time I am around my FIL, he starts in saying very rude and hurtful things, the whole family will laugh - and I get angry and respond, to express that I will not tolerate hateful treatment and disrespectful remarks.  Recently, my FIL told me that when I am not around, he will do the exact opposite of what I would like my in-laws to do with my child!!  As you can imagine, this is extremely frustrating.  I told him that the comment was disrespectful, and that I would not leave my child in their care if his plans were to undermine my parenting!!  The next day, my MIL called me and apologized for my FIL's actions - explaining that they like to treat me like this because I am sensitive to the remarks!!  She went on to tell me that when I get older, I will become more resistant to the comments.  I responded by telling her that I refuse to communicate via sarcasm, because sarcasm tears people down, hurts people, and is rooted in hate.  I told her that I don't want my child to be in an environment where its o.k. to verbally hurt others, etc.  I think I got my point across, but I am wondering what will happen during my next encounter with my FIL.  The hardest part is that my husband does not support me.  I tried to explain to him how offended I was, and how hurt I was ... and my husband could only say that no one was "throwing stones at me".  There is no way that my husband would ever confront his father.  How do I react, when everyone seems to think that I am overreacting?  I have tried several times to ignore the obnoxious and inappropriate treatment, and so now, I would really like to set a boundary.  Help.  One Woman Campaign

Dr. Apter's reply:
You should not have to take insults from your in-laws.  I would confront them, and when they say something that hurts you, you could explain that what they have said is highly offensive.  Try to say this without accusing them of meaning to hurt them, and don't let them get away with saying they are only teasing, or that you will one day learn to take it.  Ask them whether they want to hurt you.  If so, then you shouldn't spend time with them.  If not, then they will have to learn to avoid hurting you.  You could also tell your husband that whatever his parents mean to do, they are in fact upsetting you.

 


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