Things only escalated from there. At one point, every time I saw her, I would bawl my eyes out on the way home afterwards. She made it painfully clear she did not like me and that I was never going to be good enough for her son–or for her family. At one point we did have a come-to-Jesus. She blamed me for things like not going to a baby shower for a mutual friend after she knew I had a horrendous miscarriage and things like “keeping her son from seeing her,” even though he continued to tell her he was busy with work.
After we got married, things settled down for a little bit. As long as we made an effort to try for a weekly dinner with her, I just shut my feelings up and bawled my eyes out on the way home, after whatever nasty venom she hurled at me. I had even held my tongue when she previously asked me to borrow my bed so that her other son and two daughters could use it for Christmas. Then when she literally moved my bed, damaging it, put my mattress on a different bed, put my sheets on another bed, and ruined my mattress pad, her response was, “You begged me to store it. I just wanted to make one nice bed.” My husband had to tell her that it was she who wanted it and asked, no begging from me, to store it. It felt so surreal; I now know what revisionist history is. She ruined my very nice, very expensive bed, mattress, sheets, the whole works.
At one point she asked to use my car. I wouldn’t have minded except they were going to use it to move the boat and it was in a very precarious position, and my car was brand new. I told them I wasn’t comfortable with that. Her response: “Well, you’re just gonna have to decide if you’re a part of the family or not.” As if my decision to not loan my car meant I didn’t support my family. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I made the decision last year to cut off all contact with her. I felt good about my position. I finally felt free and like the dark cloud that had hung over me had finally gone away. Unfortunately, I’m now the Jezebel of the family. Recently, my husband’s family threw a huge pool party. I declined to go because I heard it would make my MIL uncomfortable and it was at her house, which I would have felt uncomfortable about myself. I was thinking about going to the party just to see my SIL who lives very far away, but, after hearing how my MIL felt, I didn’t. So I let it be, only to find that everyone commented on my absence. My husband even got texts afterwards from family asking about it. Apparently, he got quite a bit of advice about it.
I feel outcast from my SO’s family, that my MIL still has intolerable behavior, and that no one has changed except me. Am I still doing the right thing? I worry I’m ostracizing us from the family and I’m already ostracized from gatherings. I fear this is a big strain on our marriage and I feel like my husband isn’t in my corner. What do I do? Do I make amends with my MIL or be happy that I’m away from her?
I should also mention that because of the way my husband was probably treated growing up (as I’ve seen), he doesn’t have the right tools, I feel, to handle this. He wants his mom and his wife in his life — rightfully so — but I can’t help but feel that his not sticking up for our marriage and not choosing a side is just as bad as a nail in the coffin for us.
Thanks for listening to me rant. A fresh perspective is just what I need. — The Jezebel Housewife
Your MIL sounds like a lot of drama. But so do you. Seriously, bawling your eyes out after every visit with your MIL for what sounds like two years?? Why don’t you just ignore what she says? You know she’s kind of crazy. Just excuse yourself to the bathroom when she starts up, or change the subject, or remind yourself she cray and nothing she says really matters that much. And if you decide to cut off all contact with your MIL, which you apparently did, you have to accept that there will be consequences to that decision. I mean, are you really that surprised that other family members have noticed you no longer come around? Are you really shocked that they apparently have opinions about that? And that your husband has an opinion about that? When you skipped the pool party where your out-of-own SIL was going to be, did you even reach out to her and apologize for missing her and suggest another time to get together, maybe even inviting her over to your place for a meal? Or did you passively “let it be,” as you say, and then act all shocked and bothered that your husband came home with reports of people talking about you?
You ask whether you should make amends with your MIL or be happy that she’s out of your life. But… you aren’t happy. And she’s not really out of your life, is she? She’s your husband’s mother. You live near her. You feel ostracized from all your in-laws and as though there’s a big strain on your marriage. This is a direct result of your cutting off all contact with your MIL. Is it worth it? It doesn’t seem like it. It seems as though you traded one kind of misery (listening to your MIL hurl insults at you) for another kind of misery (a strained marriage and feeling like an in-law outcast). You say you’re the only one who’s changed. Ok. Well, it seems your change didn’t do the trick, so pick another change to try.
Here are a few to consider:
Have another “come to Jesus” with your MIL in which you suck it up and apologize for cutting her off, explain that that decision came from a place of hurt, and ask if you can try to mend the relationship.
Go to couples counseling with your husband to work through the issues in your marriage.
Set some boundaries with your MIL should you decide to mend your relationship. Don’t go to every weekly dinner. Instead, shoot for once or twice a month, or go to just the big all-family get-togethers. Limit your time in her presence to two hours, max. Develop a signal or “safe word” you can use with your husband when in the company of his mother that signals you are feeling attacked. Create some methods of escape when you’re feeling attacked, like you leave immediately, you text a loved one to call your phone so you can excuse yourself to answer it, or you busy yourself with prepping or cleaning up after a meal so that you aren’t just sitting at a table waiting for your MIL to hurl insults at you. Do you have dogs? I bet you need to get home to let them out. Or, you would if you had one so consider getting one if you don’t. Brainstorm with your husband, and maybe with a therapist, some other strategies you could employ to safeguard yourself from your MIL’s verbal attacks and to summon some inner strength so that you aren’t reduced to a bawling mess every single time you see her.
But if you decide that not seeing her is worth the consequences of that decision — feeling ostracized from your in-laws and having a strained marriage — you need to accept the responsibility and weight of that. All of these things aren’t happening without your engagement (even inaction can be an action). You have a role in your relationships with your husband and his family. You have some responsibility here, and for the sake of your marriage you can’t ignore that. You can’t keep playing the victim. And you can’t expect your husband to cut off contact with his mother just because you decided to do so and then get mad and call it a “nail in the coffin” when he chooses to have a relationship with his mother. That’s really unfair and unloving.
You say he’s not “sticking up for your marriage,” and yet you cite multiple times he’s stood up to his mother in your defense. What more could he possibly do beyond simply dumping his mother? It really sounds like that’s what you’re advocating for, and that’s fucked up. You’ve already seen what your dumping her has done to your relationship with your in-laws. Is that really what you want for your husband, too? For him to be a family outcast? Come on, now.
You talk about the way your husband was raised and how he lacks the tools to “deal with this.” It would seem you lack some tools, too. And I don’t say that to pick on you. We all lack certain tools. Not a one of us was raised in a vacuum without influences on our understanding of the world and our ability to work through issues and relate to people. Your husband may — or may not! — have more, let’s call it “childhood baggage,” but that doesn’t mean you’re without any. You both could stand to have some extra tools added to your kit and some instruction on how and when to use them. And that’s why I think couples counseling would be really beneficial for you both — to get you on the same page and help you feel you’re on the same side when dealing with your in-laws. As much as you need to feel he’s on your side, he needs and deserves to feel that about you, too. And I can’t imagine that your making a unilateral decision to cut off contact with his mother and then skip every family function he’s invited to makes him feel very supported.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.