||My question for Dr.
Before the birth of our baby, my husband and I maintained a healthy
distance from his family. However, ever since the birth of our
baby in November, I feel like there are no boundaries. My mother
and father in law want to see the baby all of the time. I understand
that they are excited, but they are overbearing, and intrusive.
Just this morning, they called from the car asking if they could come
over. When I politely replied that I was still in my pajamas,
my FIL said, "We are not coming over to see you!"
Comments like this hurt, and make me resent his family even more!
While I was pregnant, he would make jokes about my weight gain - which
I am still upset about. It seems like we must visit his family
every weekend, and often times during the week. My husband does
not think that there is anything wrong with this. I feel so
helpless, and I feel like I have no say in who does what with my child.
I am very uncomfortable leaving my child with my MIL. I can
remember having the baby home from the hospital only a couple of days,
and my MIL was calling and asking if she could come pick the baby
up. I must admit that her intrusiveness has lead to lots of
built up anger inside of me. I feel all alone, and completely
helpless. I have even contemplated divorce. I wish she
would back off, and understand that I need time to discover motherhood
for myself. I have thought about expressing my feelings to my
MIL, but I know she would take it all the wrong way. Also, I
don't feel comfortable returning to work because I don't want my mother
in law watching the baby full time -- And she assumes that if I go
back to work that she will get the baby full time. I would honestly
rather have my child in day care, so that I could be assertive and
active in the type of care that my child receives. Is the problem
with me or my MIL?? I am extremely saddened by the whole situation.
I long for a harmonious relationship with my MIL. Please Help!!!
- Feeling Stepped On in California
Dr Apter's reply:
The problem is not you, but perhaps you could work to address it.
What seems to happen is that you take one step towards asserting yourself
with your in-laws, and then feel confused and overwhelmed when your
in-laws ignore you. So the next step is to learn what to do
so that they cannot ignore you. First, remember that you have
every right to assert your own wishes, and to decide when they can
and when they cannot visit. Most people would understand that
the remark "I'm still in my pajamas" means "Now is
not a good time to visit." But your in-laws do not hear
that. As a result (of this occasion and occasions like this)
you feel helpless, and nothing makes us more angry than feeling helpless.
So try insisting on saying what you mean. Keep saying ("I
would rather you did not visit right now" or "This is not
the right time to pick up the baby") until they do hear.
They may initially become angry themselves. You could offer
them sympathy: "I know this is disappointing for you, but it
will have to be another time." As you see yourself become
more effective, you will feel less angry.
||My question for Dr.
I am a new mother of a three month old baby girl. I have chosen
to stay home with my new baby, (except for two graduate courses I
am taking at night) and I am having a lot of trouble with my mother
in law. My mother in law quit her job to help me care for the
baby. The only problem is that she never asked if I wanted her
constant assistance and advice. She has all sorts of plans for
my child, and just assumes that all her plans are fine with me.
Whenever she is around, she completely takes over all childcare duties
- and this frustrates me. Recently, she bought a car seat, --
and for some reason this really upset me. After all, I told
her that she could borrow my car seat if she needed to take the baby
somewhere (I am not comfortable with her taking the baby anywhere
at this point). Since I have had my baby, I have developed much
resentment towards my over aggressive mother in law. I know
she loves my child, but the whole situation makes me want to move
far away from her!! All of this tension is affecting my marriage
-- My husband thinks that I am crazy for resenting his mom.
I would greatly appreciate any suggestion!!! I am really at
the end of my rope.
DR Apter's reply:
I think you feel resentful because you feel you have no control.
Your mother-in-law seems to be the one who decides how much input
she is going to have with your child. What I suggest will not
be easy, but it is doable. In a number of small ways, you could
remind your mother-in-law who is the mother. You could say,
"I'm delighted you love my child so much, and I'm sure you and
your granddaughter will have much to share over the years," but
you could then go on to say, "I'll do that" when she takes
over. Set times for her visits, and make sure she does not exceed
them. Ask her to run all her plans by you, and if they do not
fit in with you, then say firmly, but calmly (as many times as is
necessary) "I'm afraid that's not possible."
||My question for Dr.
From the time I met my husband (over 20 years ago) until now, I have
had a very confused relationship with my mother-in-law. I sometimes
feel like the ad for Jaws which says, "Just when you feel it's
safe to go back into the water ..." This is because she
erupts over an "issue", and then everything is ok again,
until the next time ... My husband is an only child, and our
relationship was the first and only serious one for both of us.
From the start, my mother-in-law would stop my husband from using
the phone to call me, or stop him from using the car (they shared
it). She and her husband would invite me for a meal, and then
create a scene, and abuse me about how I was doing various things
that were upsetting them (I was never clear what they were, and my
husband would rarely intervene.) We went on holiday together
at age 21, and they went through my husband's personal belongings,
and didn't speak to us on our return, as they said he had used his
savings and had a booked a double room with me. They said they
would tell my parents. When we were 22 they followed us on holiday
some 150 miles away. This was to leave the results of my husband's
college exams on the windscreen of his car. I believe they had
opened it and seen that he had failed. The reason for his failure
became apparent on that holiday - not because of me, but his extreme
thirst and tiredness was the result of having diabetes. The
consultant blamed a virus that would have taken hold during his exams!!
To cut a long story short, every time she has felt threatened that
my husband is going to "leave her", e.g., when we got married
- she caused a scene the day before our wedding, saying she hadn't
been involved, or when I had an ectopic pregnancy and nearly died
- she said she wouldn't be visiting me, as I had not told her I was
pregnant. When we announced I was pregnant again (after a miscarriage
as well) her first words were, "Can you afford it?"
She didn't speak to us when I returned to work after having the baby,
as she said she should look after it and not the nursery. Then
again, she didn't speak after she wanted to buy a house next door
to us and we tactfully refused. My husband recently was promoted
to a very senior position. My mother-in-law became depressed,
and said it was because he would be mixing in different circles.
We tried desperately to support her through this period - having her
and her husband to dinner nearly every week. My husband telephoned
every day, trying to suggest and encourage her to involve herself
in activities that would build her self worth (she was also seeing
a psychotherapist). Then, my husband was able to take a partner
on a business trip to Canada for 4 days (we live in UK). I didn't
want to go, so he invited a friend who enjoys traveling and would
be quite able to be left to fend for himself for the 4 days my husband
was at meetings, etc. When the in-laws were told, they went
crazy. My mother-in-law rang my husband at work, ranting and
raving that he had broken their hearts by not inviting one of them.
Later that day, he was called out of a meeting again by his mother,
on the phone, who said her husband had "run away" as my
husband had upset him so much. This was the turning point for
my husband. He arranged to see a counselor to help him understand
their actions towards him. After a while of "not speaking"
she suggested we invite the in-laws to my son's birthday party at
an activity center. We did. They came - but pointedly
ignored me - they continued accusing my husband of being terrible
to them - then made a huge show of kissing him good-bye, and left
without saying good-bye to me. My temper became too much, and
I chased after them and shouted, "Thanks for your good-bye, and
I've had enough of your behavior." I now want nothing to
do with them. But I do feel sorry for my husband, being stuck
in the middle. I really don't mind if he wants to see them,
and also I do not wish to deny them access to my son. I have
told my husband this, but he says he doesn't want anything to do with
them, also. But, I'm not sure. How can this whole terrible
situation be resolved? Thanks.
DR Apter's reply:
It does not sound as though your husband is stuck in the middle, but
in the thick of problems with his parents. Their animosity is
directed towards him as much as towards you. It may be time
to accept their limitations. Could you and your husband talk
about this? Could you explain to him how hurtful you find her
remarks? Perhaps you could assure him that he can admit her
faults and be angry with her and yet remain basically loyal.
Together you could work out some way of accepting her limitations.
You could assure one another that you are behaving decently, even
if she accuses you of behaving otherwise.
||My question for Dr.
My aging mother-in-law is moving in with her daughter. Neither
of them are happy with my husband's lack of participation in all the
work that needs to be done. They are talking to me about it,
and would like me to say (do?) something about his behavior.
I'm disappointed in my husband's behavior too, but I try not to tell
him what he should be doing, particularly regarding his own family.
What, if anything, should I be saying to my husband and/or my in-laws?
DR Apter's reply:
It seems that you could focus on your choice. You could stick
with your policy of not trying to influence or interfere with your
husband's behavior towards his family. On the other hand, you
could ask him whether he is interested in knowing how his family are
responding to his disengagement with this process. And then
you could ask yourself whether you do have views about how much he
should help. In that case, you could speak to him directly,
and say that his lack of involvement makes you uneasy. Try to
show that you want to discuss your feelings, and the possible remedy,
rather than criticize him. Perhaps he really does not see what
he could do to help, and might be willing to take suggestions from
||My question for Dr.
My husband recently took my mil on a business trip with him.
He asked if it was ok to ask her, and I said yes, but he never told
me that he did and that they were going together. The day before
he left, I told him to call her to say good-bye, because she always
seems to call after he leaves, and is then disappointed that she missed
her chance to wish him well. So my husband called his mother,
NEVER mentioning that there was no reason to say good-bye since she
was going with him! When we discussed him even asking her to
go, I didn't think it was a good idea for several reasons, but I did
say it was ok to ask. I feel betrayed that my husband had a
chance to tell me that she was going and chose not to. I spoke
to my husband, while he was on the trip with my mil, every day, and
he chose to wait and tell me after the trip. He knew that, although
I said yes, I really didn't like the idea, and I feel he chose to
lie to me to avoid a fight. He does not feel that not telling
me is a lie, but we have come to an agreement on future issues.
However, his mother is a very outspoken person, always telling people
how she feels, regardless of the outcome. My husband told her,
on the trip, that I did not know that she was going, and that I would
be upset, so he was going to wait to tell me after the trip.
I feel, as a mother, she should have told him that he should not keep
this from me. If she was not as outspoken as she is, I could
understand her choosing to stay out of it, but since she is far from
it, I feel her silence was her permission for him to lie to me.
I feel that they both betrayed me. To complicate things, I am
having a baby next month, and my mil is still planning on coming.
However, I feel that my mil should call me and apologize for what
happened before coming, or not come. My husband expressed that
I expected an apology, but she feels that, over the past ten years
of our relationship, I have done things that I have not apologized
for, and she does not feel like she has done anything wrong (his family
has not told me that they have these past issues with me 'til now,
including one from 10 yrs ago). I feel that they have done things
in the past, too, but the past is the past, and if they have let it
go (or pretended to), and I have let things go, they should not be
brought up now, because am finally standing up for myself. In
addition, my mil recently sent MY mother a Christmas Card with a photo
of my husband, myself, and the children. At the time, mil knew
that I had not been speaking to my mother for almost a year due to
personal issues. My mil chose to tell my mother where I lived,
where my husband worked, and that I was carrying another child.
She told my husband that she did not do anything wrong, that she was
just proud of being a grandmother again, and thought she was helping!
I have told her in the past, when asked about my mother, to stay out
of it, that she doesn't understand. This is her way of staying
out of it! And I'm still waiting for her to apologize.
DR Apter's reply:
I think it is your husband who owes you an apology and an explanation.
He is clearly uneasy about balancing his feelings towards you with
those he has towards his mother. As a result, he feels guilty
about his closeness to his mother. That is the only explanation
I can think of for his reluctance to tell you he took his mother on
a business trip. Perhaps your husband needs your assurance that
he can love his mother without being disloyal to you - but in all
probability it is his mother who makes him uneasy about loving you
and also being loyal to her. The issue of your mother-in-law
communicating with your mother is, I believe, a very different one,
and should be taken up directly with her. Also, if you do not
want your mother-in-law to come at the time of your child's birth,
then you should state this clearly, and insist that your wishes be
||My question for Dr.
Please, I am hoping you will be able to help us out. My MIL
is always depressed. She has been placed on prozac, but rarely
takes it, because financially it is not a priority. She was
an only child who has grown up to be a very self centered and uneducated
person (she quit in 8TH grade to have DH). She is now on her
third marriage. Here is our problem. We were married in
Aug. 1999. There was no offer of help in any way for our wedding.
She made it clear that she did not want this wedding to take place.
I knew that our relationship was not the best, but had no idea she
felt that strongly about it. I had asked my future SIL'S to
be hostesses. All accepted. Then, I found out my MIL had
told all my future SIL'S that they were not to lift a hand at my wedding.
Mil left the reception mad because I did not treat her the way she
thought I should (I did not praise her for being there, but I was
in no way rude to her). In our planning we had adjusted major
decisions to accommodate them. We moved the wedding to a different
state so it would be closer. Then, they wanted to come
stay at our home the day after the wedding. We also had my DH'S
daughters. That would be 8 people in a 1 BR house. So,
we altered our plans again. We were letting them stay 2 of the
3 nights, and they would have to get a hotel for the 3rd. She
never asked to stay, but says, "This is what I'm doing."
So, as you can see, they didn't come at all. Our wedding was
a vacation for them. Hence, we did not talk for 3 months.
DH finally called her, and we tried to work things out. We agreed
to disagree, and start over. That lasted less than 24 hours.
SIL got married about a year after our wedding. We attended.
We spent $1,200.00 (plane tickets, hotel, etc.) to be able to go.
Mil called to inform DH that we were picking up one of her friends
from the airport to give a ride to the hotel. OK, no problem.
We had her for the whole weekend, not just a ride to the hotel.
We also had not gotten to celebrate our 1st anniversary. We
were thinking , "We have a hotel?? Celebrate!"
After the reception, DH had to stay and help clean up. I helped
also, so we could leave and go out with some friends. We did
a lot, but not enough. After about an hour more of DH doing
this and that, I went up to him (with her right there) and said, "Ya
know, we just had an anniversary that we haven't gotten to celebrate
yet!" So, of course, we left. I called to apologize
to MIL after we got home. And she did not accept it. She
spent 2 hours telling me all the things she thinks I do. Really
off the wall stuff: I keep her son from her; He promised her
he would never let another woman come between him and his family;
I made him take a new job that paid $5.00 an hour more, because I
spend too much money on beer and antiques; I don't pay my half
the bills; on and on and on. So I wrote her a letter and
explained all the issues that she seems to have with me. It
was not a nasty letter at all. We heard nothing from her.
So, after 2 months, DH called her, and nothing was ever mentioned
about the letter. So now, 3 months, and still, nothing.
Dh has a hard time standing up to her. I feel as if the whole
thing has been swept under the carpet, and is not being dealt with.
She sent him an Xmas package addressed to him only. We sent
gifts from both of us (which they received long before he received
his). I feel DH needs to at least stand behind me. What
do we do??? This is just the highlights. Thank You.
DR Apter's reply:
Your husband is in a difficult position. He is able to see how
unreasonable his mother is, and yet he does not want to stop all contact
with her. Perhaps you could support him in this. But you
will also have to accept that your mother-in-law is unlikely ever
to acknowledge your efforts. If you can accept this, and work
with your husband to tolerate her when she is tolerable, then interchanges
with her may become less stressful. However, I do not think
she will make this easy for you.
||My question for Dr.
My husband and I have been married for over 2 years now, and it seems
like all we have had is problems with his mother, ever since the planning
of our wedding. But, since the birth of our daughter almost
a year ago, it has gone from not talking here and there to not talking
at all. I had a planned C-section, and was very scared.
I only wanted my mother there, and we only called her to tell her
when so she could drive home to be there with us, and not to tell
anyone, not even my sisters or father. Well, we had our daughter,
and after, my mom called my sisters and they were a little upset with
us for not calling, but they got over very fast. But the trouble
started when my husband called his parents. He didn't call them
until 3 hours after she was born. Well, they wanted to come
to the hospital right then, but we didn't want anyone there until
the next day when I got cleaned up and rested, plus, I was not comfortable
with them being there in my room in my condition -- I had a lot of
ill feelings towards them -- they had not even showed any interest
in the baby or me until my 8th month. Well, the next night they
showed up, and I still felt very awkward towards them -- it was like
they didn't even care about the baby - just taking pictures -- no
emotion ... My father is not an emotional person -- but when he saw
his first granddaughter for the first time -- he just looked her over
and stared at her. He was very proud, you could tell.
My husband's parents showed no emotion. Like they would have
been happier with a boy. Well, the day came for me to go home,
and I awoke with my mother-in-law in the room. That bothered
me -- especially when I went to get up and she grabbed the baby from
me. Only four days later, my mother-in-law showed up at the
door and looked mad. My mother answered the door (I was bed
ridden for high blood pressure, and the doctor had requested a note
on the door for no visitors per doctor's orders). I was sleeping
back in my bedroom with my daughter at the time, and woke up hearing
voices. I heard my mother-in-law say, "What's this for?"
My mom answered by telling her that I had high blood pressure, and
my MIL said back, very hatefully, "Since when?" My
mom explained that I had been very swelled up at the last of my pregnancy,
and when I went to the hospital my blood-pressure was high then.
My mom explained that the doctor wanted the note put up just until
my blood-pressure went down, or I could go into a coma or stroke-out,
they said. Well, my MIL got mad and said that no one would bother
me, they just wanted to see the baby. My mother got very upset,
as she was talking about her daughter laying back in the bedroom.
My MIL walked out the door and said to my mom, "If XXXXXXXX doesn't
let the family see the baby, then I'm done, I mean it, I'm done."
My mom then came into my room, and I asked what that was all about.
My mom was shaking ... I had never seen her so shaky ... she was in
shock ... 'cause nothing was ever said about no one seeing our daughter
... just not until my pressure went down. Well, the next day,
my in-laws came over to tell us 'bye 'cause they were leaving for
Florida, and acted like nothing ever happened. While they were
in Florida, and after my blood pressure went down, which was only
7 days after the big fit she threw, I wrote my MIL a letter explaining
how I felt about what she had said that day to my mother, and why
did she say the things she did. Well, I got no response back.
When my daughter was a month old, my in-laws just showed up unexpectedly
(as usual) and acted like nothing ever happened, pretty much kissing
up -- like, "You look great" -- blah blah. Well, I
was shaking like a leaf, and didn't say two words to them -- especially
since my MIL reeked of cigarette smoke, and she knows I didn't want
the baby to be around it at all. They didn't stay but 5 minutes,
and left. Nothing was said to one another at that time, and
never has since. That was the very last time I was around them,
or they saw our daughter, and she's turning 1 in a few days.
Since then, all these rumors have been spreading around about us.
We live in a very small rural town that my husband grew up in, and
very very close to my in-laws. Almost a year has gone by, and
they have never made one attempt to see our daughter, but my MIL occasionally
leaves gifts in my husband's vehicle at work for our daughter.
They don't even hardly make any contact towards their son, either.
People are constantly talking about me, and how I supposedly won't
let anyone see my daughter. My husband has a very big family
on both sides, and they have even become involved by showing up at
my husband's job and trying to talk to him, and telling him he needs
to fix this, or they tell him he needs to talk to people about me
and how I really am. I have even gotten into an argument with
his grandmother about this -- she accused me of brainwashing him.
Well, if I was going to brainwash him, I'd do something to benefit
myself, because this has not. I've tried writing my MIL a few
times, and she's written me back, and it's always turned around, and
never answers me or explains. My husband had tried a few times
to talk to them, and she's lied twice to him about what was said that
day she was here at my home. But, the last time did it for him,
when his father, mother and brother all ganged up on him, and tried
to turn him on me. My husband is a very quiet person, and it's
hard for him to explain himself, and when they did that to him, it
really hurt him, and made him very angry. My husband has gotten
much better, these past few months, about telling how he feels about
the way his mother betrayed him by talking about me and turning this
town against me. I'm not exaggerating, either, when I say the
whole town. There are so many people involved, and of course
they have no idea how this all got started. About a week ago,
my husband talked to his brother, and finally told him what was going
on, and why and he had no idea -- which we figured. This situation
has become a nightmare for me. My husband and I fight about
it quite often. My husband gets confronted quite often, and
he's tired of it. It's making him a very bitter man, and he's
not that way at all. He has a lot of hurt towards his family
and the way they have behaved. My MIL and I have had problems
before, but nothing compared to this. We have talked through
it before -- not every time -- she just doesn't know how to keep things
secret, and especially from her sister. Her sister has played
a big role in this. She doesn't know how to keep her nose out
of other people's problems. How can we overcome this?
People have advised us to sit down and talk, but I feel it won't stay
between us, and if we did overcome this, there are so many people
around here that treat me so horribly now -- how would I handle that
-- seeing how there a lot of my husband's family and friends of my
in-laws? We'd sat down before we got married and spoken about
trust, and she broke that. How can you trust when it's been
broken so many times?? Please help us, we need some professional
advice ... I'm at my last nerve with this -- almost 1 year now.
I feel as if my marriage has really dwindled to nothing, and we had
a great relationship before this -- I don't want this to break it.
I feel it's very close to that. Please help!!!!!
DR Apter's reply:
Sitting down and talking it all over may sound good, but in your case
I can see that it would be difficult. The responses you have
in the presence of your in-laws are a kind of panic. Perhaps
that deep fear is caused by their apparent lack of awareness of your
mental and physical state. If you do decide to talk things over
with them, then I suggest you have someone there (a friend, a sibling,
a parent) who will support you. You and your husband may be able to
help one another through this. Perhaps you could find out what
he really wants. Does he want to find a way of relating to them,
or does he want to avoid them? Do you both feel able to handle
the turmoil they seem to bring with them? If you decide to seek
professional help, then you could begin with just you and your husband.
A counselor or therapist could guide you as you discover one another's
thoughts and needs and fears. It seems to me that there is a
good supply of mutual support which could make each of you stronger.