The main problem for the 26 years we have been married has been his parents – primarily his mother. We live out in the country and his parents live right next door to us (within 100 feet) and have for the entire time we’ve been married. My husband is also an only child and has never been able to stand up to his parents, especially his overbearing mother. She is very controlling, an extreme pathological liar, extremely narcissistic, nosy, and just a nasty person in general, although she works very hard to make herself out to be a saint to everyone else. Basically, it’s her way or no way at all, and she won’t hesitate to lie to get what she wants. Because of her chronic pathological lying, she has many times pit each of my two boys against me, making up lies to better herself and make me out to be the one who is lying, and she almost completely poisoned my 22-year-old son against me about three years ago when he believed her lies over my truths. And here is where the resentment comes in: When I’m in her wrath of mean behavior for sometimes no reason at all, my husband has never EVER stuck up for me, not once! He has never once confronted her to stop the lying and stop trying to cause problems between me and our boys — no attempts at all! He just lets her get away with anything.
Here’s a few examples of what this woman has pulled over the past 26 years so that you know what kind of person she is. When my first son was born and he was about three weeks old, she tried to give some unwanted advice that I did not wish to accept, so, since she did not like that, she decided to spread all over town that our son was not my husband’s child, basically to get even with me for not welcoming her unwanted advice. I might have never known about this had it not been for a woman who approached me one time in a grocery store and told me what my mother-in-law was saying! When I told my husband, his first reaction was to laugh, and then he said he didn’t believe it. He would not even confront her to ask her if she said it; he was just too scared of her as he has been for 26 years since we’ve been married, probably his entire life. One time she actually called our bank loan officer and asked him to give her private information about how much money we had in the bank, how much our loans were, etc. He declined but let us know that she did that. Again, even though our loan officer TOLD us she did this, my husband did not want to believe it.
But I think the worst behavior came at my mom’s funeral about 4 years ago. Instead of comforting and supporting me during the worst time of my life, she chose to fight with me at my mom’s funeral, shaking her finger in my face and meanly stating, “You back off Roger!” Meaning that she thought I was “forcing” my son to look at my mom lying in the casket when I was not. I was appalled that this woman would do this to anyone, especially her ONLY daughter-in-law, on the worst day of her life. Since she always pulls her stunts when no one is looking and since my husband never saw her do this at the funeral, again he believed her when she said she never did it, so he never stuck up for me and never confronted her, asking her why she would ever do such a terrible thing to me on the worst day of my life. I have never forgiven him for this, and I really haven’t forgiven my mother-in-law for that either because she chose that horrible behavior knowing how upset I was.
There have been 26 years of these kinds of instances, mostly all involving her causing problems with her lying and her mean-spirited behavior, and then my husband letting it happen and not sticking up for me when she does. I’m just SO tired of this and feel like I have served a 26-year prison sentence because of the problems she’s caused and because of the lack of action on my husband’s part. We never had enough money to move away which is why we are still here, and, since I don’t have a job after being laid off three years ago, I don’t have any money of my own to move out and get away from his family. His dad is going to be 89 next month and his mother is 86, both are still in relatively good health and, although I don’t want you to think, because I’m not a nasty person, that I’m just waiting for the ball to drop, sometimes I think that’s going to be the only way I’m ever going to have peace in my life, although the resentment will probably never disappear even after she’s gone because it will have never gotten resolved as to WHY my husband never stood up for me. Sometimes, as nasty as this woman is, I swear she’s going to live to at least 100 just to spite me! I know that’s not nice, but, trust me, it’s hard being nice when you’ve been put through the wringer as much as I have from her!
I have had so many fights over the years with my husband, with me telling him that he’s wrong for never sticking up for me, never putting me first, and letting her cause so much heartache for me, but he has never agreed. He still thinks there’s something wrong with me that I’m making too much out of it but it IS a big thing when your own spouse will let someone repeatedly treat you so badly and not speak up. I just want to know what’s wrong with a grown man who cannot stand up to his mother? I know it’s obvious she can get nasty, but is he just so timid that he is afraid to stand up at the expense of our marriage? Can you PLEASE help me and let me know what to do at this point? Like I said, I don’t have any money to move out, and I have only put up with what I have because of our boys. There is absolutely no love left between us – he won’t even wear his wedding ring and says it’s too tight when it fits him just fine. ANY advice would be so greatly appreciated! I’m at my wit’s end and don’t know what to do anymore! — No Love Left
You say you’ve stayed in this miserable marriage for 26 years partly “for your boys,” but I don’t buy that. They aren’t even little anymore. One is already in his 20s! The other will be done with high school soon. Do you think any scarring they might have from their parents splitting up is worse than they have from living with parents who hate each other? Please.
I think your main reason for staying put is, as you say, you don’t have the money to move out and you feel completely powerless, helpless, and hopeless. In short: you’re stuck. I wrote recently about how to get unstuck in an unhappy marriage. I suggest you read those tips very carefully because many of them apply to you. You need to quit giving everyone else the steering wheel to your life and start driving your own self. This is your life. Start making it count. Stop literally waiting for people to die until you can start living, and live now.
It’s clear you believe your marriage is beyond repair. And after 26 years, if you don’t have any fight left, then I won’t suggest you muster the energy for a battle you don’t even care about. Instead, I’ll suggest you move on to your next plan. Marriage isn’t working for you and hasn’t worked for a long, long while (if ever), so it’s time for Plan B. And if, in 26 years, you haven’t devised some sort of map for getting yourself out of your (honestly, self-imposed) prison, it’s high time, sister. Don’t have money? Get some. Don’t have a job? Get one. There aren’t any jobs where you live? Move somewhere where there ARE jobs. Or, make your own job. Babysit for money. You’ve raised two children, so you have experience with childcare. Do you have a car? Start a taxi business, shuttling older people to and from their doctor appointments. Do you cook or bake? Start a home-based catering business cooking meals for people who are unable to cook for themselves. Get creative. There are lots of ways to make some money. Channel all this despair and resentment you’ve felt for decades into something productive. If lack of money is the thing holding you in prison and keeping you miserable, figure out a way to make some dough. Enlist some of your support people and brainstorm. YOU have the power to break out of your prison. No one else is going to carve a tunnel for you like “Shawshank Redemption.” Honey, you’ve got to carve your own damn tunnel.
I know you want me to tell you how to make your husband change (or explain why he is the way he is). Maybe you’re hoping I have secret tips for getting even (or at least getting along) with your crazy mother-in-law. Actually, I’m not sure what you are looking for from me. You can’t change your husband, you can’t change your mother-in-law, and you really can’t change your marriage if you have no desire to stay in it. The only thing you have the power to change is your own behavior and your own attitude and your own actions (and reactions). You can set into motion your escape plan. Or, you can continue waiting around indefinitely for your in-laws to die so that your crappy marriage can be, what? A little less crappy? You’re still not going to love your husband after his parents die. You’re still going to resent the hell out of him. So, get out. Move on. Just…make it happen. Because no one else is going to make it happen for you. You’ve sat in prison long enough. Start carving that tunnel. Better now than never.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.