Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Whom Can I Vent to About My Crazy Mother-in-Law?”

Speaking of nightmare mothers-in-law, here’s another:

villtremaine

My mother-in-law is your stereotypical difficult MIL:

– She behaves badly when things are not about her or do not go her way. She had a wedding tantrum when she felt she was not being treated specially enough as MOTHER OF THE GROOM. In every photo of her she is scowling. Whenever she talks about the wedding week, she refers to her side trip to the Grand Canyon as the highlight of her trip.

– She is a manipulative crier and will start crying when she feels she is being “attacked” (i.e. anyone trying to speak to her about her behavior).

– She is incredibly self-absorbed and controlling.

– One day before the wedding, I was at a jewelry store with her and she was fawning over a necklace but it was more than she wanted to pay. I offered to buy it for her as a wedding gift. She happily accepted and seemed thrilled. She took it off halfway though the wedding and when my MOH asked her where her pretty necklace went, she said, “Oh, well Jane bought it for me but it’s not really my style so I took it off as soon as I thought no one would notice.” WTF?

There’s more, but to get to my question:

We live in close proximity to her and my FIL. She does a lot of things that make me angry, but I limit how much of it I share with my husband, because as much as he “knows how his mother is,” he will still go into defensive mode if I bring up too much stuff about her (I think he is also a bit embarrassed by her behavior).

So whom do I vent to when I need to talk about how I’m feeling? It feels like a betrayal to him when I vent to my friends about her, and yet I don’t want to be constantly talking about my issues with her to him. Getting a therapist just to vent about my MIL doesn’t seem healthy either.

Learn to just suck it up? My other concern is that we will be TTC soon, and after the very entitled “I AM MOTHER OF THE GROOM” behavior surrounding the wedding, I am already dreading “I AM THE GRANDMOTHER, I AM VERY IMPORTANT” routine. She already has baby rabies and is constantly talking about her future grandchildren.

If this is already causing an issue so early in your marriage, even before trying to conceive, let alone actually having a child, I don’t think the idea of seeing a therapist is unreasonable at all. I also don’t see why you feel it’s a betrayal to vent to your friends about your mother-in-law. Your husband would probably prefer you complain to someone other than him anyway. You could also vent — and seek advice — right here in the forums. Or write in a journal. Or get out some aggression through exercise or creative pursuits.

But if what you really need are some tools to help you create and stick to boundaries with your MIL, as well as some direction in communicating with your husband (like knowing what to bring up with him vs. what might be better to simply vent about with friends or an online community), a therapist can certainly help in that regard. There’s nothing “unhealthy” about getting guidance about family tension before it becomes a bigger drama than you can handle on your own. In fact, it’s actually healthy and proactive.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

15 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Vathena November 24, 2015, 2:19 pm

    “Baby rabies”!!! Ha ha ha! I’m totally adding that to my vocabulary.

    Sounds like your MIL has some narcissistic tendencies, eh? I agree with everything Wendy said, but also would add that it might help to really lower your expectations when it comes to her behavior. “Bemused detachment” is what you are going for here. Don’t share tons of details about your life with her (like, don’t tell her you’re trying to get pregnant, tell her when you ARE pregnant. Tell her when you’re due, but don’t tell her when you actually go into labor or she’ll storm the hospital. Etc.) She is probably never going to respond to you like a normal person. Don’t get too invested in having her act like one. Easier said than done, I know! And things will get more complicated when there are kids involved, so it really might be beneficial to talk to a professional about some strategies to contain the crazy. Good luck!

    Reply Link
    • MaterialsGirl

      MaterialsGirl November 24, 2015, 2:57 pm

      i thought that too. SOOOO GOOOD

      Reply Link
    • avatar

      The LW November 24, 2015, 3:28 pm

      “Bemused detachment” will be my battle cry from now on.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        SasLinna November 24, 2015, 3:42 pm

        It’s really funny to imagine that as a battle cry. Here we come, the bemused detached ones! Jokes aside, I think it’s exactly the right attitude to cultivate.

        Link
      • MaterialsGirl

        MaterialsGirl November 24, 2015, 4:23 pm

        I feel like Bea Arthur is the perfect example of what Bemused Detachment should look like

        http://images.hngn.com/data/images/full/98998/bea-arthurs-estate-16m.jpg

        Link
    • freckles

      freckles November 24, 2015, 4:18 pm

      “Baby rabies” is the greatest thing ever. I am so going to use that from now on.

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    TwoClicks November 24, 2015, 2:21 pm

    Great advice, Wendy! Is “baby rabies” a thing? I’ve never heard that, super funny.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    RedRoverRedRover November 24, 2015, 2:28 pm

    Who ARE these people??? Honestly, I know they exist and that a lot of LWs and members of this community have to deal with them, but I have never met anyone like this in my whole life. I can think of the two people who are the “worst people” I know, and they are nowhere near these levels of crazy. I guess I’ve been super lucky in that regard.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    SasLinna November 24, 2015, 2:38 pm

    I agree with Wendy, venting to your friends is fine!
    As you’re planning to start your own family, I think talking to your husband and deciding what boundaries you want to put in place once you have a child is necessary.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    ron November 24, 2015, 2:55 pm

    Talk to your husband about moving about a thousand miles farther away from his mother. What is it in today’s posts with men who are unable to stand up to their parents?

    Reply Link
  • Miss MJ

    Miss MJ November 24, 2015, 2:55 pm

    I am now officially going to figure out a way to work “baby rabies” into my conversations with relatives over Thanksgiving. Fantastic!
    .
    Also, it’s totally fine to vent to your friends about your MIL. But, I agree that getting with a therapist (probably with your husband at some point) to help you set some real boundaries is a great idea prior to having children. It’s not like this woman is going to magically stop being a nightmare on her own.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    S November 24, 2015, 8:04 pm

    Why can’t you vent about your MIL to your friends? I mean, don’t vent to his friends (at least not excessively), and don’t air your dirty laundry about your husband to your friends, but since when is venting about an obnoxious MIL not allowed? I’d keep the venting in check, so that you do talk to your friends about other things, and not just her, but there’s no reason to think you can’t vent to your friends!

    That being said, you and your husband need to get on the same page regarding her involvement in your life and that of future kids before those future kids exist. Every couple needs to know the boundaries for dealing with relatives, and when those relatives are obnoxious or horrible to deal with you need to come to an agreement between the two of you and then both of you (or the most related person) need to enforce those boundaries. You and your husband, and any future kiddos, are now priority #1, and she is (at best) #2. If she tries to put herself into the #1 slot, you two need to put her back in her place. But that means you need to talk to him about what that means, reach some sort of agreement that he is also comfortable with. Sure, it would be great if you didn’t have to do this (because in healthy relationships you don’t often get near the boundary), but it’s better to set up and enforce those boundary lines early if you realize there is a problem. I have a friend who’s going to have a baby in 2 months, and she doesn’t currently have a much-needed boundary line with her MIL, and I’m starting to get worried for her about what will happen then. (MIL and her husband want MIL to move in with them. My friend VERY much does not want this, but… I’m worried she’ll cave.) Set boundaries early!

    That being said, how much of her behavior can you just ignore or laugh off? Or take as a lesson learned? (ie, don’t buy her expensive gifts. Don’t expect much with respect to gratitude for gifts in the future.) I’m sure that there are some aspects of her behavior that you can actively chose to not let get to you (not that doing so may be easy, especially at first!). I mean, I’m sure there are things about your own family that drive you crazy, but that you’ve learned over time to just deal with. How much of her behavior is a problem, and how much is just annoying? Yes it sucks that she says the Grand Canyon was better than your wedding, but… so what? She’s scowling in the photos, but… aren’t the ones with just the two of you the most important anyway? Set boundaries for what’s important, and learn to ignore whatever is just merely annoying.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    dinoceros November 25, 2015, 10:04 am

    The fact that you have this much to vent about indicates that this is not sustainable. Like the bigger problem is that she’s causing so much disruption that you have to vent about all these things. I’d say that it means that you and your husband need to come up with a plan on how to deal with her, and likely it means distancing yourself from her. For you, I’d say interact with her only when necessary and in a superficial manner. As in, making small talk at an event, but not shopping with her, etc. You and your husband also need a plan where if she is throwing an actual tantrum, what do you do? Can you just remove yourselves? This is not going to get better, so you need to have a way of dealing with her that is manageable, before kids are involved.
    .
    I think you can vent to your friends, as long as it doesn’t become the only thing you talk about. My friends vent about their parents all the time (as do I). Also, a therapist isn’t there to vent to, necessarily, but they can help you figure out how to handle her. Like ways that might help you get less annoyed with her.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    _s_ November 25, 2015, 6:29 pm

    I can’t believe nobody’s ever heard of baby rabies. I thought it was in the common lexicon. Anyway, LW, sorry your MIL sounds like the worst.

    Reply Link
  • Monkeysmommy

    Monkeys mommy November 26, 2015, 5:40 pm

    Is this my sil writing in?? Kate, is that you??
    Lol I feel for you LW, I have one of these.

    Reply Link

Leave a Comment