“I Cut Off Contact with My MIL, and Now I’m An In-Law Outcast!”

I have married the absolute love of my life only to find myself at odds with his mother. It all started a couple years ago just as my husband and I started dating. His mom threw a pool party and I had my mom there. I was joking around with his mom and made a comment in jest, something like, “Oh, you know you love me.” Her deadpan reaction: “What are you talking about? I will NEVER love you.” I was horrified. And so was my mother who was sitting right next to her.

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.


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  1. Bittergaymark says:

    The constant sobbing and bawling your eyes out on the way home strikes me as beyond excessive… talk about a severe overreaction. This entire letter is one big overreaction.
    Your MIL sounds unpleasant, sure. But my! You are more than just a bit of a drama queen yourself…
    Caught between you two… Your poor husband must be just exhausted. Yikes.

  2. IDK, Wendy, some of this stuff the MIL pulled is a little extreme. Basically saying she’s not part of the family if she didn’t lend her brand new car? Blaming her for not going to a baby shower after a miscarriage? Blaming the LW for her husband being busy? And that bed story is bizarre and a little gaslighty. The LW wasn’t very specific about the “venom she hurled at” the LW, maybe that would shed some light on why she bawled her eyes out?

    As for the SIL, I agree that the LW should try to build her own relationship with her (and avoid badmouthing the MIL).

    1. Anon from LA says:

      The “you’re not a part of the family if you don’t let me borrow your car” thing is REALLY manipulative. That, along with the gaslighty bed story, makes me think that the MIL has a tendency to use people as she sees fit, without any thought for their feelings (or belongings). There’s not much you can do to foster a healthy relationship with a person like that.

      1. Right?? I’m not going to continually put myself in a shitty situation like that, even if they are family. I’ve gone low contact with family members who’ve acted like that (no one as close as parents or in-laws, though).

        I really want to know what types of things the MIL was saying to get at these dinners. If someone were cutting me down and my spouse was more defending me, I would cry afterwards – I’m not immune from insults!

  3. wobster109 says:

    I think Wendy was a little harsh on this one. If my mother blamed my SO for my work schedule, or blamed my SO for skipping a shower after a miscarriage, I’d “have to go” right away and take my SO with me. Later on my mother would hear all about how upsetting it was and how she’s never again to blame anyone else for my decisions. If I sat at dinner while my mother insulted my SO, it would be 2 strikes. Strike 1 is “that’s really rude, don’t say that to him”. Strike 2 is “we have to go”. It sounds like the husband could be a lot more active here in shutting down attacks and changing the topic.

    P.S. if MiL wants to use anything that LW and husband owns, she should be talking to the husband. He should instruct her to ask him directly. He should also make it clear that if she doesn’t like the decision she can take it up with him alone.

  4. anonymousse says:

    I totally disagree. I think I’d probably be upset and possibly cry if every time I saw my MIL she insulted me and my husband never said a thing.
    The issue isn’t solely with her, it’s also with him. He is as much to blame. He should have your back and set boundaries with his mother. You shouldn’t have to be verbally abused and degraded at any family function. Maybe cutting her off was not the right choice, but it doesn’t sound like that bad of a decision.
    I would have gone to that party. I would have reached out to the SIL separately. I would recommend going next time, hold your head high and grey rock the crap out of her and be polite and kind to everyone else.
    It’s easy for me to say that, though.

    You really should talk to your husband and go to counseling with him. He should respect you enough to tell his mother to stop attacking and abusing you. That’s not out of bounds in a marriage. It’s shockingly common. It’s not choosing a side to say, “stop abusing my wife.” It’s being s good partner and teammate.

    1. Juliecatharine says:

      I completely agree.

    2. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      The LW doesn’t say that her husband “never said a thing” about the MIL’s behavior? In fact, she says that he DID speak up and defend her:

      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.

      Then when she literally moved my bed, damaging it, put my mattress on a different bed, 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.

      1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        I’m not saying he couldn’t have said and done more. But it’s unfair to accuse him of doing nothing.

      2. anonymousse says:

        It sounds like he barely has her back, IMO.

      3. So he responded to his mother when there were factual inaccuracies (who asked for the bed, he’s busy). That all sounds to me like he spoke up and did literally the least he can do. (LW, please tell us if he’s defended you to his mom, like “stop blaming my wife for my absence.”)

      4. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        Yes, I’m curious to hear more from the LW about this, too. I mean, I do think that telling his mom he’s been busy with work IS kind of saying ‘stop blaming my wife for my absence,” but I wonder if that’s the extent of his defending his wife. I think it’s shitty if he didn’t say a word to his mother when she blamed the LW for skipping a baby shower shortly after her miscarriage. But I can’t fault him for not knowing exactly how to handle the comments from multiple family members when his wife didn’t come to the pool party. I think his repeating those comments to his wife was a passive way of telling her he really wanted her there. And I think that’s fair. They need to address this issue together. Is she going to forever be estranged from his family? How is that going to work? And if he doesn’t want that (and I don’t think she does either), how is he going to foster a better relationship for her with them.

      5. dinoceros says:

        She didn’t really go into much detail at all as to why she thinks he’s not supporting her. She listed some things he’s done, and that he’s received text messages, but that’s it. Not saying evidence doesn’t exist, but she hasn’t provided any to make a determination, IMO.

      6. anonymousse says:

        Don’t you think if he stood up for her, ever, or really set appropriate boundaries that the LW would be in this position or not detailing all his valiant efforts? The two paltry examples are really lame, they aren’t really in her defense all that much, more just benign factual statements.

      7. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        I think there are a lot of details left out of here about how the LW’s husband reacted and behaved. You’re arguing that he must not have been supportive or we would have heard more about what that looked like. I don’t necessarily disagree. But I’d also like to hear about how he reacted when his wife told him she was cutting off his mother. She says she felt free after making that decision, like a dark cloud had lifted. That seems like a strange description about something that she surely felt would cause some hint of anguish or hurt for her husband. And yet she doesn’t mention feeling concerned about his feelings at all. Not once. So, I don’t know. I don’t see this as being entirely the husband’s fault for not supporting his wife. Based on the details shared in this letter, they both seem pretty guilty of being passive and not showing a lot of concern or support for the other.

      8. dinoceros says:

        Well, I think you’re probably right that he may not be that supportive. However, I don’t know that he could solve the entire situation, short of cutting off his mom. We read a lot of letters where the spouse IS being helpful, but there’s still conflict.

        I think as much as someone might assume she’d tell us the good things if they happened, I would assume she’d tell us the bad things, too. For me, I’m not saying that he’s not at fault, just that it’d be easier to have an opinion if she had gone into more detail. A lot of LWs will tell us something their spouse said or that their spouse defended their parent or whatever, and that’s a lot easier to understand.

    3. Had Enough says:

      I am in the same boat as this woman. And it’s been going on now for 6 years. I had the first granddaughter and my MIL called me a slut. Really? Just because I married and had a kid. Wow. She has attacked and hurled abused at me from the very beginning and just like the writer, I would cry and cry because if you don’t attack the Fucken bitch back you have to let it out somehow.!
      I never want to fight her and she always wants to fight and even called me, ” some sort of spastic” because I wouldn’t fight her back.
      Anyways, my husband has coped alot from his family and they don’t talk to him and have outcasted him cause he is with me. I never cut them out. I asked him to tell him mum not to insult me and she went crazy and said she never has and that I’m “a bi polar and making shit up”. So when she called my daughter ugly and that she isn’t appart of her family, that she will be a slut like me, I told my husband straight away and he told her off and man did she attack me. She didn’t talk to us for months after that then calls one day and wants to come over and bullies me with my daughter demanding i let her have her to take home alone cause she doesn’t like my presence and that I should stopped breastfeeding cause it bothers her. Yeah right get fucked bitch. She can burn in hell. I don’t care about her or her shitty family. I just feel so very upset my husband has to suffer for his mental cunt of a mother.
      The only advice I can give, don’t bitch to him about his family. It really hurts him. Talk to a counselor or your own family. You don’t wanna push him away. The MIL sounds like a cunning demon like mine so she is a innocent church woman and never speaks bad about you. Don’t look like the bad one. I understand cutting her out. That sounds like music to my ears. I can’t wait till mine drops dead but just for your husband, hang in there and be there for him. With a cunt MIL like that, don’t leave him on his own with that witch to try and fill his head up with shit.
      Everytime I didn’t go to a function, my husband would come back fighting me saying I love the company of men bla bla bla and I don’t come to fuck around his back. Later he apologize saying his mum told him all this shit. And apparently I have the hots for my FIL.
      MIL has called me a slut to the entire family and BIL has grabbed my breast and bum at a family function cause According to his mum, i want him to.
      I told him off and haven’t spoken to him since. I sick to death of her controlling the family. Doing her work.
      I want to start fighting back. But honestly I don’t have the energy. I don’t want to fight. I’m not a nasty person. I get upset if I say something to hurt someone. I can’t believe some people can have so much hate and evil to try ruin someone’s life.
      I just pretend to be happy for my husband.
      I just wish that whore bag MIL of mine gets every bit of karma that bitch deserves.

  5. Battle of the Drama Queens!

    This is what happens when people grow up watching reality shows like the Real Housewives and think they’re a guide for how to behave.

    1. OK, that was too harsh. But I think the LW’s reaction has contributed massively to the situation. Obviously, MiL is a nasty piece of work, and obviously the LW’s husband should have shut her down. At some point, though, you have to stop feeding the situation. All she would have gotten out of me was a breezy “Sorry you feel that way, mom….” as I walked away to talk to someone else.

  6. LW – I agree with Wendy. You need to deal with this. I have found it really helpful to say, “What was your goal with that comment.” Then wait as long as it takes for an answer. In the case of the car, repeat what she says like, “You are telling me that if I do not lend you my car, I am no longer part of the family? Do you think that is a reasonable set of boundaries?” Then wait. As you say these things, it gives the person a chance to clarify. I also ask, “What kind of response are you hoping for?”

    Here is the thing, i had a rough round with my mother in law for years. We have been married 10 and it took a long time to find balance. I needed to feel comfortable with my place as a wife, and she needed to realize that I wasn’t stealing her son. Now we are in a good place and these questions really helped get us there. I think cutting off forever is harsh and unsustainable. Try and build a better relationship with this woman because you both love the same man.

    1. These are great, constructive suggestions! I’m going to use these when talking to this one crazy colleague I have.

      1. Thanks!

  7. Northern Star says:

    You weren’t “ostracized.” You chose not to show up. And now they assume you don’t want to be there.

    I have no idea why you didn’t consider the fact that cutting off your MIL would affect your husband and your in-laws. What did you THINK would happen? Is that how you approach life—focused so hard on yourself that you’re surprised when totally obvious consequences pop up?

    Your MIL sounds like a real piece of work. Maybe cutting her off is the solution (and as a consequence, your husband’s entire family, since she’ll be at family events. DUH). But you should be dealing with her as a team with your husband. Everything in this letter is “I” decided. I have no clue how your husband would like to handle this whole thing (besides sticking up for you regarding the bed and apparently not throwing you under the bus at the pool party), so it’s hard to say if he’s being reasonable or not.

    Marriage counseling. Your husband is used to being controlled by his mother. I hope he didn’t shift to being controlled by his wife.

  8. Your husband should have put an end to this a long time ago, but for some reason, he’s probably afraid to hurt his mom’s feelings so he would rather have yours hurt instead. Kind of shitty if you ask me. Your MIL sounds terrible, but only because your husband let her get that way. You need to work on your relationship with him first, and then start to mend things with this women. She isn’t going to try because she has the rest of the family behind her, and her son not stepping in to tell her to shut the fuck up.

    1. Yes yes! A major factor of me not wanting to marry my ex was his mother and how he just let it happen. I even had to spent 6 straight hours with her the other day and nearly hurled myself off the roof. His response “oh get over it just deal”. I told him he shouldn’t allow anyone to treat me that way, especially family. Ah a reminder after all those years why it didn’t work.

      She must work with her husband on this.

    2. Yeah, why the hell is he telling her that the family gossiped about her at the party? It sounds like he didn’t defend her not coming, or at least give some sort of reasonable excuse for her. There are a handful of times where he responded to his mother with the truth of a situation (LW didn’t initiate the bed thing, he keeps telling his mom that he’s busy), but not that he’s actually defending the LW in any way (did he tell her to stop blaming the LW about not seeing him?). This is looking more and more like a husband problem to me…

      1. Maybe people were just asking about her since she wasn’t there. That seems like a normal questions.

      2. “My husband even got texts afterwards from family asking about it. Apparently, he got quite a bit of advice about it.”

        That doesn’t sound to me like people just asking about her since she wasn’t there – not just asking about her at the party, but texts afterwards? And what kind of advice would they be giving?

      3. I was thinking that the texts came after he opened the conversation. Like “Where is LW?” and then being told that things are complicated and people trying to help. Not “I heard your wife hates your mom”

    3. Agreed. LW, your MIL sounds bad, but tbh, you sound pretty tedious yourself — I am with everyone else who has chimed in to say that the sobbing for hours after every time you see your MIL is excessive. That said, I really do think it sounds like your husband could’ve done more to help you end or navigate this, and it sounds like he fell short.
      Also, am I the only one who thinks the bed story is odd? Who loans someone a bed? Like, in the sense where the bed needs to by physically moved somewhere else? And, does putting your mattress and sheets on another bed really “ruin” them? All of this is perplexing to me, from her reaction to your agreeing to have your bed physically moved for someone else to “borrow” to the mere fact that someone would go through the hassle of moving what is a pain in the ass to move when you, y’know, actually have to move. Did I totally misunderstand/misread that? Have none of you ever heard of an air mattress? I’d think someone was so stupid if they suggested borrowing my bed as a viable solution to a bed shortage for guests.

      1. I did not understand the bed problem at all! I’m not going to break down my bed for somebody else to borrow at another location. If you can’t afford to have an extra bed, like you said get a damn air mattress. There are some comfy ones out there.

      2. ele4phant says:

        The bed thing super confused me.

        Was this the LW and her husband’s bed? Where did they sleep? Did three siblings sleep in it together? When it came back (damaged) where did it go if the MIL claimed she was storing it?
        Not back to the LW’s house?

        I mean I’d be pissed too if I lent out (my own? my spare?) bed and it was damaged and returned somewhere it did originally come from – but I’m not clear what happened at all.

      3. I think they were storing the bed at the MIL’s house (not begging) and she asked if she could assemble it for guests and used all her stuff on different beds and damaged things.

      4. ele4phant says:

        @csp – oh maybe.

        But then the MIL was right then that she was doing them a favor by storing some of their stuff for them.

        I mean, you still don’t damage people’s stuff you’ve been asked to store – or you are apologetic if it gets accidentally damaged on your watch, but if she didn’t call them up and ask them to be bring it over then later claim she was asked to store it, that’s less revisionist than the LW claims.

        Sounds mostly accurate – their stuff was in her house at their request, and then since it was there she asked to use it.

      5. Yeah, this bed situation is weird, I would also like to know what happened. My guess was that the mom asked to borrow the bed, LW+husband brought it over and set it up at mom’s house, mom decides it’s not set up right/not comfortable/whatever, does all this rearranging, new bed comes back damaged.

        Everyone should have an air mattress. We have two.

      6. ele4phant says:

        I just couldn’t imagine disassembling a bed (especially if it was MY bed), taking it somewhere else, and then hauling it back after a short stay.

        I really need/want more clarification.

    4. Morecoffeeplease says:

      YES. Your husband should shut his mom down each and every time she says something rude/inappropriate. (Stick up for you, state the truth loud and clear, call out mom saying no, mom that is FALSE, etc.)

  9. Anon from LA says:

    LW, why not try couples counseling with your husband? Don’t think of it as a way to “fix” your marriage–think of it as a chance to have a third party (the counselor) help you and your husband develop strategies to deal with MIL as a team.

  10. I agree with previous commenters. This isn’t a problem with your mother in law, it’s a problem with your husband. You’re not on the same team. Get yourselves to counseling and figure out how you can work together on this. All of these issues could have been stopped by your husband (and frankly, they SHOULD have been already!)

  11. Hey at least your MIL doesn’t passive aggressively give you her husbands art every time she sees you.

    1. Or plan your baby’s fist birthday party when you’re ill!

    2. BAHAHA!!!

      Maybe she turned the bed into abstract art.

    3. I can’t remember if it was on DW or not, but I remember a story where a woman’s mother in law took her child to an alternative medicine doctor (maybe in a parking lot or something?) because she was certain that the child wasn’t getting the care that it needed.

      1. Because parking lot medicine is so much safer than vaccines.

  12. I don’t think this is a problem with the husband. Maybe he could improve his reaction a little bit – like maybe address the thing with borrowing the car, but overall I think he’s done pretty well. She also doesn’t say that he didn’t defend her absence from the party, just that people commented on it. (Which is completely normal – I would ask my sister where her husband was if she showed up to a family event alone.)

    I think this is a problem of unrealistic expectations. Is it really surprising that you’re an outcast when you’ve decided to cut yourself off from the matriarch? It shouldn’t be. You can’t decide to cut someone off and then be offended that they don’t want you in their home. Btw – it sounds like she wasn’t forbidden from attending, she CHOSE not to go after hearing through the grape vine that her MIL would be uncomfortable. The MIL is definitely not behaving appropriately, but it’s completely over the top for the LW to expect her husband to cut out his mother. (She does say this explicitly, but it definitely seems like she’s headed in that direction.) The LW needs to develop some thicker skin if she wants to be part of the family – or accept that she’s chosen not to be part of it.

    1. No, LW does not need “thicker skin”. It sounds to me as if her MIL has narcissistic tendencies. She was ostracized and treated poorly before she decided to CO.

      When a man takes his vows, he agrees to cleave to his wife, forsaking all others. This includes his parents and other extended family. MIL has gone out of her way to show LW that she is not a welcome member of the extended family. She should not have to jump through hoops or be continuously disrespected for her husband’sake. This husband is choosing keeping the peace with his mother over his marriage. What he should be doing is telling his mother that he will not see her until she can treat his wife with some common decency and respect. If he’s going to just keep hanging out with his mom and saying that this is between LW and mom, his marriage is doomed.

  13. I just watched suite francaise this weekend and think your MIL must be a bit like Kristin Scott Thomas’s character. At least you don’t live with your MIL! While your MIL sounds horrible, I think we’ve gotten a little too “cut people out of our lives happy”. Prudie often advocates for this, and while it can be warranted, I don’t think this fits the bill. Your MIL is nasty, but this has gone on so long because she knows she can get to you, and you repeatedly engage with her when you shouldn’t. You KNOW she can’t be trusted with your stuff, so stop giving her your stuff! Vague completely detail void excuses are your friend. “I can’t do that that day” “I will be unable to lend you _____. And that is all you need to say. Your husband should field these requests as much as possible. I doubt your family members have missed how your treated, and you don’t elaborate but maybe she’s just as bad with others, and they just deal, hence them being out of sorts when you cut your MIL out. I’m inclined to cut your husband more slack than others, this is his mom. It sounds as if he’s stuck up for you…and I guess I don’t know what else you want.

    1. So I totally agree about the cutting people out thing. I mean, there is a middle ground. Why can’t the husband go to dinner once a week and the wife once a month.? I mean, if you love your husband, i feel like you can find a way to make this work.

  14. If you don’t have kids maybe think hard and work on your mariage before doing so. If you have an option to leave, might be worth it. You don’t mention your feelings about your husbands stance or if he’s said anything about his general take on this all.

    1. dinoceros says:

      Yeah, as much as she thinks he’s perfect, kids are going to turn this whole thing upside down. Likely she’d be watching him take their kids to his in-laws while she sits at home. If she’s fine with that, OK. But I doubt she will be.

  15. You won’t be part of my family unless I can borrow the car, I’ll never love you, you begged me to store your bed… she is something else. Again, if you plan to have kids I don’t know that it’s worth waiting around for your husband to make you happy about this by sticking up for you and/or some boundary. She is so extreme that she’s unlikely to change enough. Can you imagine leaving your kid with her when you’re not there? Will she talk about you behind your back to your kid like she did at the party that you didn’t attend? She was jealous that your husband didn’t visit her though he was working, how will that dynamic play out with her grandkids? If you haven’t, check out justnomil on Reddit and “dwil”on babycentre. Just for some examples of how bad it can get. I think you hit the nail on the head about how your husband was raised not giving him the right skills to solve this. Nobody’s perfect, but can he get those skills or not? It’s not easy at all to cut off your family or to gain skills to change the family dynamic.

  16. dinoceros says:

    One thing that confused me was that you’re saying you’re being ostracized, but what you described was just that you don’t attend some events and people comment on it. Are people actually deciding they don’t like you over it? Are they choosing not to invite you or avoiding you? Or do you just mean that by not going to things, you’re not seeing other in-laws and you’re worried it’ll create distance? Or are you just disappointed that no one else is shunning the MIL? Because I’d say, just make separate plans with the in-laws you want to keep up with. Invite them over for dinner, invite them out to go to an event together, whatever. Those people have either grown up with her or have been around her for years, so they have either gotten used to it or just have thick skin and can ignore her mature behavior. Doesn’t mean that they oppose you just because they are attending events and asking where you are.

    I also am not sure why you say your husband isn’t backing you up. You didn’t really say why. But counseling is probably a good idea if you feel like he’s not supporting you.

    I do feel for you because your MIL sounds like a terror. But there’s not much you can do. You married your husband knowing what she’s like, so surely you saw this coming. Every decision has consequences. You may do something that benefits you in some ways, but you have to deal with the negative results too. Choosing to not go to family events to avoid someone is going to mean that people learn about your drama and have opinions about it, and then may affect your relationships with them. It’s just sort of a fact of making a decision that there are other outcomes you can’t control. If you feel like it really is best for you to not see her anymore, then that’s something you have to accept to an extent. If it’s not worth it, then you have to learn to deal with her.

  17. Stillrunning says:

    Whoowee! Go to counseling with your husband and learn to set boundaries with his mother and figure out strategies to deal with her without cost to yourself.
    I have a SIL who is bossy, finishes my sentences, talks over me, says things about me that aren’t true, on and on. She does this to other people, too as your MIL probably does to other people in her family, so I know I’m not being singled out.
    My strategies are never to be alone with her, to leave the room when I’ve had enough of her loud, braying voice, to limit my contact with her as much as possible, and to say no (without guilt!) when I don’t want to do something,

  18. Are crazy MILs like the norm? Is this a thing? Older women being passive aggressive bitches because some evil young woman is stealing her precious son? We get so many crazy MIL stories on here. Is this what I have to look forward to when I get married?

    1. Not in my family – the MIL/DIL relationships are/were pretty solid, it’s the FILs that aren’t great.

    2. Morecoffeeplease says:

      My MIL is awesome. She is the sweetest woman and I’m lucky to have her friendship. She and my husband are very close too. It’s my mom who is the crazy one unfortunately!

    3. My soon to be MIL is pretty great. So is my soon to be FIL. Actually, my ex-fiance has a great family too, again, including his mom, dad, sister and brother.

    4. ele4phant says:

      No no not at all. My MIL is lovely. But why would I write in to Dear Wendy about her then? You only hear about the situations that are really off the rails; most people at minimum have a decent cordial relationship with their in-laws.

    5. dinoceros says:

      My BFF likes her MIL better than her own mom.

    6. Honestly, I think what happens is that you have a family that has negotiated with each other for decades. A child marries and the new spouse comes in and changes the dynamic with their own traditions, values, and expectations. That is where the conflict comes in. I know for me, my MIL and I had a rocky start. I thought her expectations were unreasonable and have realized over time that I would compare my relationship with my mom to the one with her. My mom and I have forged a relationship over decades and I was new to this family. Over time, I learned what was important to her and what she wanted out of our relationship. It really came down to communicating and understanding what she needed.

  19. LW- check out the book “Life Skills for Adults”. Good luck.

  20. Lots of good things in Wendy’s answer. Personally, I wouldn’t do anything though – no apology. Ignore her behaviour, free yourself of her presence, but don’t feel angry anymore. She is just nuts, she isn’t 100%, so let it be, shrug your shoulders when she says something stupid, or say OK and move on. Reduce her importance to zero. Let your husband see her when he wants, you don’t want to cut him off his family, right? Don’t cut yourself off either. Your in-law’s surprise at the pool party shows that you could come back. So join from time to time when you want on your terms, and forget about this crazy old woman. You are not rivals, you are not in the same league, you don’t have the same age and you aren’t at the same step in life. You win. Focus on your marriage, your wishes, your life, and let her make her pool parties. Decide never to become like her.

  21. I can sympathize with the LW, I have had MIL issues. She chilled out after we had been married for about 8 years. (her mother died and she became a lot easier to get along with after that, like she had an epiphany.) I still do not like going to family gatherings and we both skip a lot of them. (my husband sometimes has to work weekends and holidays, so we have an easy excuse to use) The difference in my situation is that my husband understands and backs me up. That makes it so much easier.
    Monster in law sounds awful. My Grandmother is like that too. Doubtful she will ever change. LW, You and your husband need to show a united front. I think you two need to work on your relationship BEFORE you have kids. This could cause other issues in your marriage. I agree with counseling. He should be more supportive of you. I understand that is his mother… I have a son and I get the dynamic, but he needs to step up and grow a set.

  22. Morecoffeeplease says:

    Your MIL is a manipulative witch. And you sound like a very sensitive person. You need to harden your heart and come up with a plan to deal with your very unpleasant mother in law. First, always be good about setting boundaries with her. She will say something nasty or have a fit every time…expect it. Expect it every time. Don’t let her get to you. (Read books on boundaries if you need to…don’t let her borrow things ever for example. Say no. Be firm). Definitely do marriage counseling with your husband do deal with this problem with a 3rd person who is trained to help. It is important that he stick up for you EVERY TIME with is mother and with his siblings. He needs to learn how to deal with his mom and set boundaries too. This is very important to do this. You husband can talk to his siblings about his mom’s terrible treatment of you which will help them to understand what is going on…but don’t expect anyone to be on your side. Remember they grew up in a very disfunctional home, so they probably all are a bit messed up. Most importantly – stop letting this woman get to you and make you cry! You have to give up on her…expect her to be a *itch and let the crappy things she says roll off your back.

    1. dirtorsoil says:

      ^^This. MIL is a textbook narcissist as others have pointed out. The other family members have fallen in line over the years as that is what a narcissist demands. Counseling for you and for you 2 as a couple. Husband needs to have your back. Also, as suggested above, steel yourself. Your MIL is a pathetic sick woman who lives to control other ppl. She is always going to take shots and you and try to take advantage of your soft spots to punish you if you do not fall in line. Once you know what she is it makes it easier to deal with. Don’t let her have what she wants: to control and demean you. Fish are gonna swim, birds are gonna fly and narcissists are going to do what comes naturally to them as well.

  23. I think the advice is too harsh. I get the feeling the LW and her husband are young (miscarriage/marriage within a couple of years of dating ? Hello). Also probably religious family (reference to Jezebel ?) .

    I think the MIL is a witch/bitch and the LW’s dream husband is either too young or too weak to stand up to her. He could have told his mom she has no right to ask for LWs car. He could have told his mom she needs to treat his wife civilly even if she does not love her. He could have told his relatives his Mom was the reason for his wife not attending the party. He did not do anything of the kind.

    LW I agree with those who said you don’t have a MIL problem. You do have a husband problem. But I guess you are still in the honeymoon phase and he could do no wrong in your eyes. You guys need to come up with a unified strategy to deal with his mom. He should not leave you to fend for yourself in these situations with his mom .

  24. Samantha McNamara says:

    I think this is horrible advice. I’ve dealt with literally the same thing. We went to 4 different marriage counselors and all of them said the same thing. Your marriage comes first. He chose you. He didn’t choose his family. If someone is toxic you have no responsibility to entertain bullshit in your life. Even if it were your own mother acting like that…cut them off! And your husband should back you up. 100% My husband hasn’t spoken to his mother in 6 years…his brother hasn’t in 4. It’s a pattern. We’re happy and she’s trying to control the youngest son now. Bless his heart.

  25. I have a lot of empathy for this woman with MIL issues. I’ve been there too and it’s far more complicated than dear Wendy seems to recognize. I think you should read the comments — there’s a lot of wisdom and compassion there! On the other hand, I found Wendy’s response to be encouraging of abusive codependent relationships — big no-no! Preserve your emotional health by setting strong boundaries — your marriage will thank you for it in the long run. Best of luck!

  26. This Wendy person has either never had to deal with a horrible MIL or is wants company in her own misery. Really bad advice. The person asking for advice has every right to not only remove toxic people from her life BUT expect her husband to back her up. Her husband not calling his mother out is giving her silent permission to continue her negative behavior towards his wife. It is his responsibility to protect his wife, even against his own family. When a MIL is disrespectful to any wife, she is also disrespecting the husband for it was the husband decision to marry his SO. It is each spouses responsibility to protect their marriage. I recently went through almost this exact situation except I bit my tongue for 20 years. Luckily my husband FINALLY woke up and stuck up for me . He also gave his blessing for me to confront her and call her out for her horrible behavior. It felt Great to confront my abuser. He eventually got so sick of listening to her venom and making excuses for it and sometimes just flat out blowing him off, that he kicked her out of our lives. It’s been a few months now and we both feel like a weight has been lifted and are both happier people. Yes Wendy, couples do indeed make “unilateral decisions to cut off his mother ” or Any toxic family member. It happens more often then you may think. To close, women need to STOP telling other women that they just have to put up with someone else’s abuse or change themselves to accommodate nasty people . Each of us have value and are worthy of respect and love. No one has been given the right to bully, manipulate or abuse anyone , regardless if you like them or not. If you are a human being then act like it. Treat others as you want to be treated. It’s pretty simple.

  27. Oh gosh. No. Wendy totally missed the mark on this one.

    As someone who has gone through a very similar situation, let me reassure you that it is OK to bawl your eyes out. It’s OK to feel what you feel! Isolation and alienation, as well as the gaslighting going on here is NOT ok. The writer did the right thing by securing boundaries for herself.

  28. The advice given here is dismissive and unhelpful. You have not only invalidated someone’s concerns over being bullied within the family unit, but also for feeling ostracised when clearly the MIL has gone out of her way to make it so.

    Nobody, for any reason, needs to stay in a toxic relationship whomever that may be with and regardless of your assumptions that crying is “dramatic” or an “overreaction”. Being undermined and embarrassed on a regular basis by someone you feel forced to accept into your life is no small thing, especially when all you want is the best for your husband and family.

    Quite frankly, Wendy, if you’re incapable of giving good advice don’t give advice at all.

  29. Worst advice ever given. You have no empathy that this mother in law is soul destroying bully. Seriously who cares, cut them out the whole bunch

  30. Nicola Cataldo says:

    You nailed it, Wendy. No question the MIL sounds like a hard one, but hell, some families have people with problems far more serious than hers. What if she is a narcissist (the favorite diagnosis these days of laymen). When did we decide it’s okay to punish the mentally ill? Would you punish someone with dementia or retardation? You might have to protect yourself (as you have enumerated ways to), but you have no right to punish. You find a way.
    There is currently an epidemic of “GNC” – going no contact – in this generation, and for reasons far flimsier than what this poster has to figure out . They are kidding themselves. They’re not solving anything. They are making excuses to commit emotional blackmail and they require that the rest of the family choose sides. And when their marriage and other relationships fall apart, they will blame the MIL.

    1. Sounds like someone has gone no contact on you.

    2. dirtorsoil says:

      Nicola Cataldo- What else do you expect from an advice blog RE (the favorite diagnosis these days of laymen)? A professional diagnosis? Everyone is telling her to see a therapist. You have a right to your opinion however your tirade on GNC is 1) going off subject and 2) predicting the future? So can you tell me what stock I should invest in? What is the going to happen with the coronavirus? When will the sun supernova? Please, I am waiting with baited breath for you to drop your knowledge Oracle!

  31. Mellowyellow says:

    You are not overreacting and please do not listen to anyone that tells you otherwise. Yes,
    You have to accept that you cut her off but it’s not a one and done deal emotionally. You just need to work on healing for yourself and your husband. Find some advocates and work from there in building a community of support for yourself. Don’t listen to people on her talking about your crying being excessive. They have never dealt with a toxic mother in law that seeks to destroy. Because the reality is that if she wasn’t doing this to you she’d be doing it to whatever other woman your husband could have married. Cut her off and better yourself. Educate yourself in her behavior. DO NOT EVER LET ANYONE TELL YOU THAT YOU SHOULD ENTERTAIN THIS TREATMENT FROM YOUR MIL. This is YOUR life that YOU have to live. That much you can take accountability for.

  32. Anonymous says:

    what a rude insensitive comment you gave this woman!

  33. Wendy’s advice is horrible for this poor woman, telling her she sounds like a lot of drama herself is really harsh and beyond rude. I know from experience with my MIL that constant negativity, belittling and trying to humiliate me is a form of bullying so I understand that after seeing her MIL she would leave crying.
    I would suggest to reach out to other members of the family and explain your side of the story and tell them you don’t want them to take sides but just understand why you have cut off your MIL. Don’t let your MIL use manipulation techniques to destroy you or your marriage.

    1. Yes, 100% this. While I enjoy Wendy’s advice, I’ve noticed before that she doesn’t seem to understand abusive and bullying dynamics well at all (I’m saying this as a domestic violence hotline advocate), and the advice given in clearly abusive situation often just further gaslights and shames the victim, or would put them into a dangerous or unhealthy positions. Not to give advice to an advice columnist, but maybe doing some reading and research on the subject of domestic violence wouldn’t hurt?

      1. Domestic violence? This was a letter — a 2+-year-old letter — from a woman who has a challenging relationship with her MIL. Who said anything about domestic violence? I don’t know, maybe you’re the one who needs to do some reading and research.

      2. So you are a proponent of domestic violence hotlines? Or are you trying to say you volunteer on one? Do you get a lot of calls on your hotline from people being bullied by their MIL? What advice do you give them? Find a shelter and make a plan to leave? Agree with your neighbors that if they see a certain object in your window they should call 911? Okay, crazy.

  34. Wow, that response was unkind and unnecessary. The mother in law sounds manipulative and, frankly, abusive — the gaslighting, name calling, isolation, and other clear attempts at control are obvious. Abusers have a way of getting under one’s skin, so calling the LW a drama queen for crying after being insulted for two hours is completely lacking in empathy. Cutting the mil out of the LWs life is a great decision, and asking her husband not to expose her to abusive behavior isn’t “unloving” or “unsupportive”, it’s setting a reasonable boundary. He should stand up to his mother, and yes, should immediately walk out of any conversation as soon as she demonstrates that she is not capable of being civil to his wife. He should not drag his wife along to weekly dinners with someone who abuses her and passively-aggressively repeat commentary from relatives on why she’s not there. She’s not there because she gets treated like crap; that should’ve been easy enough for him to explain.

  35. Holy moly, I think most of this advice is complete crap!

    You’ve clearly tried and it sounds like time and time again your MIL has proven who she is: a bully who likes to sling emotionally abusive remarks at you to manipulate you and her son’s marriage in a megative way.

    Go to couple’s counseling so your husband understands how to stand up for you. Now that you are married, your marriage is the priority, second is family as you two are your own family unit now.

    I do agree to maybe reaching out and meeting with your MIL, at a neutral place- ie a coffee shop, park, etc…just not her house where she’s comfortable slinging wild insults. Explain your feelings were hurt and you care about mending the relationship.

    After that, let it be. Be cordial, classy. Show up for the big family events, holidays but limit your time with her. 2 hours max, then have an appt, work, errands, whatever else you need to do. And if she slings an insult at you again. Remain calm, look at her and say: I dont appreciate that remark. Im not sure if you are trying to be funny but it comes across as an insult. Then get up and walk away or leave.

    Chin up my dear!

  36. Wow. Wendy you’re advice is so bad I can’t decide if you even read what this woman wrote. Being someone’s mother doesn’t give you the right to be abusive. This poor girl is being abused and attacked and gaslighted by her nasty mother in law. Her husband is pathetic for not cutting his mom off or putting up some serious boundaries. Imo this is a marriage ending situation. If my mother ever talked to my fiance like this she would get a dose of her own medicine right back and I’d put her in a time out . She would also be giving him an apology if she ever wanted to see me again. This girl had every right to remove herself from a toxic abusive situation. You’re out of your mind or very unqualified to give advice if you think otherwise.

    1. I totally agree w those who think Wendy is totally off on her advice to this poor girl. Actually to put it too nicely, I found Wendy’s response brash & devoid of any empathy…and of suggestions that will actually help the DIL. Having experienced a similar situation w my nightmare of a MIL, the MIL from this story appears like a jealous, insecure, game playing b%$&…which is NOT ok to have to deal w and suffer emotional abuse from all the time. I know how it feels to feel like a doormat. No one deserves that. The MIL..and Wendy imo need to be a little more sensitive to others feelings and supportive of her son’s marriage. For the DIL, I would recommend seeking couples counseling to help deal w this woman in a way that benefits you & your husband’s lives & relationship. That’s what matters most.

      1. Wait, so you would suggest couples counseling for this LW? You mean… just like I did? But I didn’t have any suggestions for the poor LW that would help? Hmm, okay, sounds legit.

  37. I think there is an option that Wendy did not consider. You, as the DIL, are in control of how this relationship goes. Since your husband is a wuss and unable or unwilling to defend you, leave his out of it. Never vent to him about your manipulative MIL. Instead, be as sweet as pie to your MIL. Send flowers on her birthday, a gift at Christmas and a hostess gift when you are invited to parties. Do not select the gift for her as much as for the people that she will complain to about it ie if she likes to cook get her a personalized apron from etsy that you know she won’t like, but others will compliment when she unwraps it. Defeating her vile attitude with sweet doe eyed “what do mean you don’t like my gift?” will leave you off to the side of family drama and frame her as an issue. No push and pull. Be smart, but act as if there is no issue. Your husband will be oblivious, you will get off the hook by bowing out of her manipulation and ignoring her insults by responding as if she complimented you ie MIL “you really can’t cook can you?” You “oh it is so sweet of you to notice. bless your heart.” Never speak ill of her to anyone so that she cannot put you in the trinagle of manipulation. When it comes to doing things or lending things like the car refuse without any explanation, just say “sorry, i can’t.” If she pushes say, “sorry i can’t do that, but i’m sure (blank) can help you. got to go. see you soon.” How you MIL feels is not important. You have the choice to appear sweet and reduce abuse. No doubt your MIL will complain about to your husband and others, but if you are sweet appearing and MIL continues some of those people will begin to dismiss her or pressure her to back off. Try it. It worked for me. After 3 years of flowers and slippers and lovely cards, my MIL knows that attacking me just gets her heat. Poor baby got outplayed by her younger DIL.

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