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Answers Posted 3/24/13
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My question for Dr. Apter is:
My MIL is from India.  She can be a nice person, but has some very typical behavior patterns which aren't nice.  One is to order me to do things around the house.  I'm sure that is what her own MIL did to her, and something she feels she is owed.  She will order me to make her tea; she drinks a cup of tea six times a day.  Then, she will order me to massage her or FIL's legs, make dinner, wash dishes, etc.  She often ends her orders by saying, in Hindi, "I am the MIL!"

She takes particular pleasure in doing this in front of others.  The implication is how much in control she is of me!  I help a lot, and am happy to oblige as much as I reasonably can.  But, I am a human being, and resent the slave role.

Additionally, she asks for a lot of expensive gifts.  I have purchased a gold and diamond jewelry set for her.  But, that wasn't enough.  She wants more and more.  The more she gets, the more she wants.

My DH, of course, sides with her.  He takes after his mother, in as much as he is very passive-aggressive.  Their typical behavior is to initially agree with me.  But, through constant bullying they break me down, and get their way.

How do I stop these things without destroying my family, and my peace of mind?

Dr. Apter's reply:
It seems that you understand that your mother-in-law may be exerting power over you to compensate for the humiliation she once felt in feeling that she was subject to her own mother-in-law.  It is important for you to convey to her that this is not acceptable to you.  Of course, your mother-in-law is unlikely to accept your message unless it is endorsed by your husband, her son.  So the first step is to seek his help, explain that you find her behavior inappropriate and humiliating, and also assure him that in standing up for you, his wife, he is not thereby being disloyal to his mother; he is merely helping her accept that he also has a wife to honor and respect.

You say she demands expensive gifts, and nothing is enough.  Here it is you who may be able to make a change.  If you try to satisfy her by giving her expensive gifts, she is likely to expect a repeat of such offerings, and you are more likely to adjust her expectations by refusing to meet her demands rather than by hoping to put an end to them by satisfying her.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
I have an impossible MIL who refuses to get along with me, or acknowledge my existence.  She keeps sticking her nose where it does not belong, and keeps telling my DH that she refuses to get along with me, or call me her DIL.

My DH and I are each living with our parents, an hour away from each other.  This is because of all the fights we have had, that she caused.  I am sick and tired of her talking behind my back; of her saying how I sleep around, which I never do; and, how my DH should move on without me.  She even told DH that he should take all my money from school and work, and give me an allowance.  I know that is economic abuse.

This woman has abused my DH since he was 11 years old.  Now, I feel as if she is mentally torturing him.  MIL is not allowing my DH to borrow her car to come and see me, HIS OWN WIFE.  This is because she just doesn't like me.  She has even offered to go pick up divorce papers for him, so he can sign them.

How can I get along with her, and have her calm down, and stop talking behind my back?  I do not want a divorce from my DH.  We are planning to move back in together in June.  Would you recommend seeing a family counselor?

Dr. Apter's reply:
I think it would be helpful for some professional to talk to you and your husband, to get different perspectives.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My MIL is too much in our life.  I feel she won't leave us alone.  We were living with her, and moved out of her house.  We did this because she was constantly interfering, and wouldn't leave us alone.

Now she sends text messages daily to her DS, my DH.  She gives him orders about what to do with our baby.  She says things such as, "Take the baby outside.  Do this, don't do that."  Living with her was unbearable.  I still don't feel free in my own house because of her constant orders.

She comes over without checking with us in advance.  She remarried, and has a 12 year old DSS that begs for her attention.  Her new DH begs too!  She is always coming over and bothering us.  Meanwhile, her DH and DSS are at their home, wanting her with them.

Please, please, give us your advice.  We already talked to her, and asked her to give us space.  And, we asked her to please call before she comes over.  That didn't work.  She ignored our wishes, and got very angry at us.  I am full of anger towards her, and I don't know what to do!

Dr. Apter's reply:
Of course it makes you angry when someone ignores your wishes.  It is an excellent sign that you have been able to talk to your mother-in-law about her visits and the behavior you find intrusive.  The next step would be to underline this when she ignores your wishes: for example, when she arrives unannounced you can tell her that it is not a convenient time to visit, that you would be happy to see her at another time, but that you cannot visit now.  You could decline to answer texts that give you instructions about what to do with the baby.

It is possible that your mother-in-law is so anxious about losing her influence that she is overdoing things.  The difficult balance is to set very firm boundaries while providing enough reassurance to ease the anxiety that may be underlying her controlling behavior.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
I have been married for 11 years.  My FIL is terminally ill, and my MIL has some serious anxiety issues involving abandonment.

I understand my DH should be there for her.  She needs to lean on him for emotional support.  But, she is already starting to ask him to take care of everyday problems that he should not have to deal with.  Problems such as, "My faucet is leaking," or, "I have a mouse in the house."

Of course, my DH runs to fix the problems.  How can I come up with boundaries to protect my marriage?  Please help us!

Dr. Apter's reply:
This is indeed a difficult situation.  I would imagine that your husband feels his mother is not strong enough to withstand boundary-setting, and he may also believe that her demands are temporary.  But, as you suggest, he may be establishing a pattern.  One way forward would be to tell him how much you admire his loyalty to his mother, but suggest that he also give her the opportunity to discover her own strength and independence.  You could also suggest that since her dependence on him might persist, that he takes stock of the urgency of her requests.  After all, giving her the message that some repair is not an emergency would calm her down.  You could suggest that regular visits are scheduled, so she will feel reassured; but at the same time, ask him to avoid unscheduled, on-demand visits.  It would be helpful to set up a pattern of boundary-setting at this stage.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My DS recently married a wonderful woman.  What are some guidelines for sharing holidays so neither family feels left out?

Dr. Apter's reply:
I am so pleased you have a wonderful daughter-in-law.  "Sharing" families can be difficult, because there are so many variables involved.  I suggest that you leave that to the couple and let them find their own way in this.  However, if you do have strong feelings about spending some holidays with them, voice these preferences, showing you understand there will be some compromise, some negotiation.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
I am living with my MIL, my DH, and my DH's son.  We've been together for a year and a half.  I moved in seven months ago.

My MIL is constantly in our face.  She comes through our entrance into the house, even though there are three other entrances.  This is awkward, because when you walk in that entrance, our bed is right in front of you.

Her freezer is in our kitchen area.  So, whenever she has groceries, she comes in our room, and puts her groceries on our bed.  Our area is an open space that isn't very large.  MIL won't let us move the freezer, even though there is a whole other room, that isn't being used, where it could go.

There are other problems as well.  She constantly comes between her DGS and me.  She picks him up from daycare before I get home.  DH has told her I am in charge when he is at work.  I don't know what to do.

We've tried talking to her, and even yelling at her.  We pay rent, but her motto is, "It's my house, you don't like it, there's the door."  I desperately want out, but, my DH wants to save money first, and pay off some debt.

I don't care, at this point, if we get an apartment, a house, or a box.  I need my independence.  I don't even have a stove to cook on.  If I want to cook, I have to go upstairs to use hers.  I don't want to be around her.  I am at the point that I wish her dead.  What do I do??

Dr. Apter's reply:
Your well-being is more important than saving money.  I think it would be helpful to speak to your husband and convey your distress, and your priorities.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
I don't hate MIL.  I hate what DH becomes when he is around her.  He will set no limits with her.  He will not validate me or my needs or the DC's needs in any way.  She will always be right, and I will be the bad one.

For example, we agreed she will come to visit us on Wednesday for two weeks.  She decided to arrive on Tuesday.  DH did not have the nerve to tell me until 30 minutes before she arrived.  If I complain, then he says that I'm always difficult.

I have a caring and loving DH, and father to our DC, until MIL comes for a visit.  During her previous visits, two different cleaning ladies quit working at my home rather than continue to deal with her.  When I point this out, he says that I'm always trying to put down his DM.  It infuriates me to the point of wanting to leave him, take the DC, and get a new home without him.

How can I get my DH to see his DM, for what she really is, and put our DC, and me, before her?

Dr. Apter's reply:
This disturbing pattern is all too common, and it shows how in-law problems can spread to marital problems.  I am unable to advise specifically how to tell your husband that you need him to show you loyalty and affection and to respect your feelings and needs (such advice has to be context specific, and this problem page format is very limited) but somehow the message has to be conveyed.  You might try assuring him that in supporting you he is not thereby being disloyal to his mother; you might assure him that his mother is strong enough to accept that he is bound to another woman, as husband to wife.  I hope this helps.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My MIL believes she should be invited, and attend, every single event in our lives.  I have three school-aged DC.  My MIL becomes furious if she is not invited to every single school program, recital, school art show, etc.  I mean everything.

You might say just don't let her know, and go without her.  We tried that.  She would always find out.  Then, we would get a call bright and early the next morning.  She would ask why, for instance, she wasn't invited to our DC's ice cream social at school!  I am also concerned that my MIL is stalking us.

Recently, I had a few friends over.  The next day, my MIL confronted my DH.  She wanted to know why we had people over, and why wasn't she invited.  You might think she is just lonely.  She is married, and her DH is alive and well.  My DH is one of six DC.  There are 15 DGC, and four DGGC!

I am not exaggerating the problem.  It is causing much stress in my home.  Sometimes, I just want to do something with just my DH and DC, or have friends over.  Do I always have to include my MIL?

Dr. Apter's reply:
You do not have to include your mother-in-law every time.  One way forward would be to say to your mother-in-law that you enjoy the time you spend with her, but that you do not intend for her to join you for every social occasion.  If she complains that she has been left out, you can remind her that this has been explained to her.  It is important not to feel guilty about preserving privacy, and to firmly, calmly assert your right to private time, as a person, and as a couple.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
Four years ago my MIL sold her house, and moved in with us.  She sold her house in order to pay off one of her other DC's house that was in foreclosure.  Since moving in, she has made my life a living hell.

MIL has COMPLETELY taken over as the woman of the house.  She rearranges everything in my kitchen cabinets.  I specifically asked her to leave certain areas of the house alone, and she ignored me.  She has put up her pictures, and taken mine down.

She acts extremely nice around my DH.  But, when it's just me, she is hateful and devious.  She is so nosy that I can't leave anything lying around.  When I get home from work, she is right there with my DH and me the entire night.  There is no private time for the two of us to talk and share, as normal married couples do.

I have had several conversations with my DH, and even blew up about the situation.  But, once my rant is over, nothing changes.  He is sympathetic, but does nothing.  I do NOT want to lose my marriage and the love of my life.  However, I am becoming resentful of him and feeling depressed.  I dread going home every day.  What do I do???

Dr. Apter's reply:
Perhaps you could draw up an action plan for privacy and ask your husband to sign up to it.  You could explain how important it is for you to feel that he is responsive to your needs.  (Feeling that no one is responsive to your needs may be a cause of your feelings of depression.)  You could also explain to your mother-in-law how important this is to both you and your husband; but the critical task is to get your husband's support.

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