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4/15/01
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My question for Dr. Apter is:
This actually has to do with my FIL.  I get along wonderfully with both my MIL and step-MIL.  My FIL is the most inconsiderate man I've ever met.  He treats his current wife horribly, and this led to the divorce from the first.  Both wives have very low self esteem, and have trouble confronting him.  At Thanksgiving, when everyone arrived at the airport, he wanted his mother, who is 86 and has a bad knee, to walk from her gate to his gate and meet them, so he wouldn't have to walk himself.  Her flight came in, an hour and a half before his, and the gates were about a mile apart.  Needless to say, I picked the grandmother up myself so she wouldn't have to do this.  When I picked him and his new wife and children up at their gate, he didn't lift a finger to carry any of the bags, or load them in the car.  When I made a comment, his wife said that he didn't mind letting women do heavy work.  I could have spit.  Whenever my husband and I see them, I get so angry and frustrated I can't sleep at night.  I know I should stay out of their business, but I'm afraid I'm going to snap when his behavior is so out of line.  They are visiting this summer.  How can I get a decent night's sleep?

Dr Apter's reply:
You might feel better if you actually speak up.  There is probably little point in offering implied criticism.  Try speaking out and saying precisely what you expect your father-in-law to do.  When he makes plans that show lack of consideration, tell him so, and refuse to accommodate him.  This may allow you to sleep at night, for what keeps you awake is your frustrated anger and your sense of being powerless in face of his lack of consideration.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
Dear Dr. Apter, I just need some advice.  My MIL is extremely cute and sweet and EVERYBODY loves her.  Therefore, whenever she does something I believe to be rude, she is somehow excused.  My real issue exists with the fact that she seems to be invited to our house, WHENEVER!  She plays the game of, ... "I CAN stay at your house this weekend, right?"  How could my husband say no?  How could anyone????  She is extremely influential, and I believe somewhat ostentatious.  One weekend, while she was visiting, she stood in our living-room and did her workout in her t-shirt and underwear (um, this is uncomfortable for me).  Every time I broach the subject with my husband, that I do not want them staying the weekend every other week, or I say I do not want them there a particular weekend, he calls me selfish.  Furthermore, he feels he can invite them any time he chooses because they are HIS parents.  My parents live 6 hours away, his live 1 hour away.  It's not as if he doesn't ever see his parents.  So, my questions are as follows:  1. How do I deal with a MIL who feels it is okay to invite herself any weekend she feels it's fine with her?  2. How do I discuss this with my husband without him behaving as if I am personally attacking him?  Thank you.

DR Apter's reply:
I think the best thing to do is simply let her know that sometimes it is not all right for her to visit.  Repeat, calmly but firmly, that this is not a good time. As for your husband, he may need assurance that he can set boundaries between himself and his mother without rejecting her.  You could express appreciation for his generosity towards his mother, and assure him that you are happy to see his mother sometimes, but that sometimes, also, you need to be able to insist that she not visit.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
I have a problem that has been bothering me for some time.  I am engaged to a wonderful man, and his mother seems to be the only problem we have ever experienced together in almost 2 years.  His family is from another country, and they speak their native language fluently in their home.  My family is also from the same country, but not as recently as to be fluent to that extent.  He is very close to my family, and I, on the other hand, am somewhat unaccepted by his.  It is mainly my future mil that creates the problems at hand.  She frequently will not speak to me at all, and she always criticizes me - in a language that I do not understand!  He tries to translate, but that becomes quite difficult after awhile.  She ignores me, and this proves to be very frustrating to me, and to him.  Also, she tells him that he should be marrying someone of their descent, even though I am that person.  Just because I was never taught to speak their language does not mean that I have the plague.  She constantly invites other people over, and cooks for them, and has a grand time, while she NEVER invites me to do anything.  My family always invites him over for get-togethers and such.  They care about him, and they want to get to know who their daughter will be marrying.  Apparently, they do not care.  I am always nice to her when I am over, I go out of my way to be pleasant, because I am naturally a friendly person, but with her, this is a lose-lose situation.  She can speak my language.  It is broken, but I could still understand her if she chose to speak to me.  She also does things such as making him do things for her around the house, only when I come over, and not allowing him to see me on certain nights.  I do not think I should be treated this way, because I have done nothing wrong, and I treat her son very well.  She should be thankful that he met someone like me.  I would never hurt him.  What should I do?  Help?

DR Apter's reply:
It seems that you should lower your expectations about your mother-in-law's response.  Since you have done nothing to warrant her criticism, you probably can do nothing to stop it.  Of course it is painful to be so unfairly treated, but she is unlikely to see things from your point of view.  I suggest you stop inviting her or putting yourself out for her.  It's a matter of accepting that she does not want to be fair to you.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
Dr. Apter -- I have a slightly different scenario than some of your writers ... I actually enjoy a good relationship with my MIL.  It hasn't always been this way, but both of us have worked hard to get close and "be there" for each other.  (I made a lot of efforts early in my marriage to gain her trust, calling her routinely, sending her cards, expressing my admiration and affection for her, reassuring her that she'll always have a place in her son's life, etc.)  These efforts have paid off, and I consider her one of my closest friends, and think of her like a mom.  So, what's the problem?  Well, my husband's brother recently became married to a person my MIL does not like very much.  Some of her bias is valid, other parts are a bit over dramatized.  My SIL is a bit aloof, and I hardly know her.  But I'd like to have a good relationship with her, as my husband and his bro are super close.  At the same time, I adore my MIL, and don't want to end up in the middle of this sticky situation between them.  How do I handle this?  MY MIL tries not to bash my SIL, but she can't help but share some of her concerns with me.  However, I feel two-faced talking to my future SIL, knowing I've been hearing some negative stuff about her.  And I feel my SIL won't get close to me, since she sees me as aligned with the MIL.  Please advise!

DR Apter's reply:
One thing you might do is explain to your mother-in-law how lucky you feel you've been with her.  Perhaps you could say that her criticism would wound you.  You might start to discuss the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship in general.  Also, find out what she wants for her new daughter-in-law.  Does she want a good relationship?  If so, remind her how fragile this relationship can be.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
I am not married.  I have been dating a wonderful man for two years.  I have been avoiding talk of marriage because of his mother.  She is not mean spirited or outwardly controlling.  She is, however, unable to create a personal life without her son.  She divorced his father, and raised him alone.  She has had a successful career, and up until her gambling problem escalated, she enjoyed an active social life.  She has no ability to follow treatment for her gambling.  She started treatment when her son threatened not to bail her out, but continued, and in her manipulating style blames him for leaving her alone, and holds him emotional hostage by hinting at suicide.  Her relationships with her own siblings has deteriorated.  She latched on to me at the beginning, and for almost two years I put up with it.  I tried to be compassionate, but she managed to ruin Christmas and his birthday by throwing herself into a depression over not having gift money for the holidays.  She has verbalized that she would like us to get married so she can move in with us.  No amount of time we spend with her is enough.  She is like a young child.  I didn't mind it so much at first, except I realized that the time I spent with her was making me distressed and unhappy.  She never stops whining and complaining, even though her troubles are entirely self induced.  She never thinks of anyone except herself, and is always ungrateful.  I am at the point where I believe that if we were to have children she would be devastated, because the child would require attention that should be spent on her.  It seems it would be easier if she was outright mean to me, but she maintains how much she loves me, and I get the creeps.  She told me at Christmas, "I'm not jealous of you like I was of the other ones.  I always felt that they were in his house touching his things."  The reason I'm writing is, I'm afraid I'm going to lose it on her the next time she calls.  I have a bad temper, and I'm going to say some mean things I won't be able to take back.  I'm so upset, I'm thinking of ending the relationship.  Any advice will be appreciated, Thanks.

DR Apter's reply:
You are facing a difficult situation.  Only you can make the decision.  A compulsive gambler can cause anguish to all family members, and if you decide to become her daughter-in-law, you may well experience this.  But in the meantime, I suggest you let yourself lose your temper, or think about what you really want to say to her, and say it.  If you are going to be a family member, you should be allowed this luxury.  And a direct approach may be effective.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
Dr. Apter, My husband and I became engaged December 2000 and planned to marry in December 2001 after I had completed my BA (I was supposed to graduate in June of this year).  However, we found out we were expecting in January (celebrated our engagement by having unprotected sex and not considering the consequences) and decided to have a quick JP ceremony in Feb., and still have a religious ceremony in December as planned.  Before getting engaged, we'd broken up for about a month, because he believed that I had cheated on him with a longtime male friend of mine.  We had a joint birthday party in August (our birthdays are a day apart) and I invited my best friend down from another state for the occasion.  My best friend expressed years ago that he had feelings for me, but it was resolved then, and I hadn't really thought of it since.  Anyway, the party was great, but the night before my friend was scheduled to fly back home he told me that his feelings for me had not changed, that he didn't think my husband was the man for me, that I was making a mistake, and that he was the one I should be with.  The next day, after my friend left, I told my husband about this and he absolutely flipped.  The two previous serious relationships he had been in ended with the girls cheating on him, and he believed that I would do the same.  During our period apart, he, of course, spoke with his parents and grandparents (with whom he is very close) about the situation, and at the time they felt he had jumped to conclusions.  They loved me, and although they did not know me very well, found it hard to believe that I would be someone totally different from the person I had presented to them.  In time, he came to see that they were right, and began an all out campaign to apologize and explain, and basically regain the level of trust and respect that I believed was the basis of our relationship.  However, now that I am pregnant, and we have gotten married, I will not be graduating in June, because I had to drop two classes I needed due to exhaustion and sickness (I work a full time job, and was taking five classes at the time).  His grandmother is pissed.  She told his mother that she was upset that I had not called her since we got married, and his mother, in turn, told my husband, who told me, and so I called her just to say hello.  (before we got married, I had only called her on one other occasion, Mother's Day, and although I love her as I love my own grandmother, calling her was not something I did on a regular basis in the first place.)  Anyway, she said that she was very happy I called because she had some things to say to me.  First, she asked me if I didn't feel that I was moving in on her grandson too fast.  I was shocked.  I asked her to repeat what she'd said, because I just knew I had heard her wrong.  She repeated it, and so much more.  She said that she feels I am manipulative, pushy, married him only so that he can take care of me (he is a 1st lt in the military and makes close to the same amount I make at my job), and that it is crazy for me to expect a big wedding with a baby on the way, and how do I expect him to pay for that.  I explained to her as calmly as I could (I was very pissed at this point, but trying to remember that I needed to give her the same respect I would give my own grandmother, and cursing her out the way I wanted to, would definitely make things worse - play into her hand so to speak) that I did not push my husband into marrying me, that he suggested we marry sooner, definitely before the birth of our child, that my parents have been planning to give me a wedding (their dream since the day I was born) and that my husband or their family would not incur any expenses from that.  She then changed tactics and said that my husband never told them that we were getting married, and that was my fault.  And, also, that she knew I would hurt him, because I had hurt him before, and although she stood up for me then, she feels now that she made a mistake. And, lastly, that the child I am carrying is not his, and why would I hurt him like this. My husband has since contacted her and told her that she is wrong, he hasn't been pushed into anything, and that if there is any blame to be laid then they need to lay it at his feet and not mine.  But it has changed nothing.  She believes that I am evil incarnate, and he is nothing more than an innocent lamb being led to slaughter.  The whole situation has made me very upset, and now depressed.  My husband will be visiting in April (he is stationed in another state, and I am here until the end of the semester when I will move to his state as well) and although I believe my not visiting with his family at that time will only make things worse, I don't feel up to the stress of seeing them.  What do I do? I'm desperately sick and sad.

DR Apter's reply:
It seems to me as though your depression is more severe than the situations warrants.  Of course it is painful to be accused so unjustly.  But since no one else joins your husband's grandmother in these accusations, their impact will be limited.  Are you perhaps worried that your husband will "flip" again into groundless distrust (and subsequent rejection)?  Or perhaps you are overcome with the strains of pregnancy and disappointment that your graduation has to be postponed.  It might help you to focus on other reasons for your unhappiness.
 


The Sister Knot, Apter
The Sister Knot
Why We Fight, Why We're Jealous, and Why We'll Love Each Other No Matter What


Secret Paths: Women in the New Midlife
Secret Paths
Women in the New Midlife


Working Women Don't Have Wives, Dr. Terri Apter Working Women Don't Have Wives
Professional Success in the 1990'S


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Dr. Terri Apter
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