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My question for Dr. Apter is:
You stated in a previous post:

"Dr Apter's reply:  It is very hard to be blamed for being 'over sensitive' when you are in fact being badly treated.  It seems that you have tried to confront them fairly and openly, but they are unable to gain insight into what their behavior means to you.  When your son is old enough to visit them without you, then by all means stay away, if that is what you still want."

It sounds as if you are condoning that the DIL continues a relationship with the in-laws for the sake of the child (at least until the child is older and the DIL can avoid them).  If this is so, why?  How can someone have an unbiased relationship with a child if that person hates the mother of the child?  Isn't the child going to feel that, perhaps there is something wrong with his/her mother, and then him/herself, because they share many biological traits?  Will the child feel he or she has to hide certain habits or mannerisms when around this person or risk being treated like his or her mother?  Is this healthy?  I don't understand why an in-law's behavior can be ignored for the supposed sake of the child, when in reality, for the sake of the child, the in-laws should not have a relationship until they work out their problems with the parents.

Dr Apter's reply:
Grandparents do have some right to see their grandchildren.  The relationship between grandparent and grandchild is usually more simple, direct and warm than the in-law relationship.  A woman who is in conflict with her in-laws may nevertheless believe that her child should have a good relationship with them.  She need not hide her own feelings.  She can explain them to the child, but also encourage the child to appreciate them for different things.  Each case is individual, and each person has to assess her own situation.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My mother in law comes across as a sweet person.  However, she really annoys me.  I tell my husband, but he just responds, "Don't let her get to you."  I feel I am being made out to be "super sensitive".  For instance, I told her the names we had picked out for our upcoming first child.  She then told me that the names sounded "weird".  She quickly added it was up to us.  Then, with more swiftness, added that her "favorite" daughter in law (whom she talks about a lot!!) had picked a nice classical name.  I try to please this woman but just get stressed as a result.  I feel I am never good enough for her "Doctor" son.  What should I do?  Tell her off, or cut her off emotionally?

Dr Apter's reply:
It sounds as though your mother-in-law is aware of her lack of tact, but only after it is too late.  I suggest that you neither tell her off nor cut her off, but modify your own need to please her.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
My mil has a very bad temper.  Every time she wants something she throws a fit.  They will just give her whatever she wants to shut her up.  She expects to know what you do every minute of your life, and you can't make a decision without asking her first.  The bad thing is, everyone expects me to go along with this so that she won't get upset.  I have hated this woman ever since my wedding day.  She started a huge fight between my family and his.  She threw away the top of our cake and broke the head off of my cake topper (that is how the fight started).  I could go on and on and on.  We were married about 4 months and moved 850 miles away.  She recently came to visit, and my husband was planning to tell her that he had changed from her religion to mine (ours now).  Well, before he had a chance to tell her, she woke up early one morning, before anyone else, and proceeded to go through my things.  Under some bills and papers sitting on my microwave she found my husband's baptismal program.  She went nuts.  She packed her things and was leaving.  She didn't even let my FIL pack his stuff.  They turned around after he convinced her to go let him get his things.  She and I got into a huge screaming fight, in which I told her to go talk to her son, because I was leaving.  I went to the nearest pay phone and called my aunt, who had the same problem (religion) with her family.  Anyway, two hours later I came back home, calm.  The day passed, and she gave me the silent treatment.  The next day, she got on my computer and went through my e-mails where she found something my aunt had written to me (it arrived while I was at work).  By the time I got home she was gone (after saying a few choice words to my husband about me).  It really upset him.  What I want to know is, how do I cope with this without killing her first?  She is driving me crazy.  I'm ready to break all ties with her.

Dr Apter's reply:
Whether or not you decide to break all ties with your mother-in-law, it seems that you do have to set firm boundaries.  Your papers and correspondence are private.  No one should look at them without your permission.  If she cannot respect that rule, then she should not be welcome in your house.  If you want to continue to see her, then you could see her elsewhere.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
Dear Dr. Apter, I have been looking for advice for the past 10 years as far as my in laws are concerned.  I met my husband through his sister when he was a student and living in her home.  His mother and 2 other sisters lived out of state.  He had just moved in, and had no friends.  His sister introduced us.  Before we knew it, we were spending lots of time together and we fell in love.  All hell broke loose when they realized things were serious.  His sister became very possessive, controlling and jealous.  She demanded that he help around the house and spend time with her husband and family.  Because of our relationship, things became real sour between them.  Especially because she ignored me and pretended that I didn't exist.  She hated me, and I hated her.  Well, today, after 10 years, my sister-in-law and I never see each other, and don't have any type of relationship.  My mother-in-law resents me for this.  She is also rude to me, and does not like me along with the other sisters.  He is the baby of the family, and they love him and treat him well.  But they ignore me, and treat me like I am not part of their family.  It's a terrible feeling to not be included or respected for who you are.  My mother-in-law and I used to try to be diplomatic when she called, but now I don't even feel like talking.  I just want out.  But I love my husband, and he loves me.  How do I deal with the wicked mother-in-law and the three other witches?????

Dr Apter's reply:
It is indeed a terrible feeling not to be included and respected for who you are.  This indeed is a constant element in in-law battles: we feel we are significant only in virtue of who we married, not for who we are.  You seem to have come to some uneasy truce which prevents outright hostility, but which of course also prevents any ease and warmth in the relationship.  Perhaps this is the best you can achieve.  Would it help to arrange to see a close, warm friend when your in-laws visit?

My question for Dr. Apter is:
I am from another country/culture, where all elders are to be respected, no matter what.  After I got married, 5 1/2 years ago, I moved in with my in-laws, at my husband's request, to keep his mom happy, as she would be heart-broken to live her last years alone.  Little did I know what I got into: 
1. She ran my husband's life - arrogant, mannerless, controlling attitude.
2. She cooked, cleaned, did laundry, spent "quality time" with him every day.  She used to stop me from doing these things, saying she was the expert!
3. She gave us NO privacy (I had to go to his place of work to get 5 minutes with him!)
4. She ran his finances - she kept a joint account with him (I was not an accountholder!).  I was new to the city, so she could go to the bank and draw cash, etc., to HELP us out!  I had to ask HER if I needed cash to even buy undergarments!
5. She threw temper tantrums always - especially when, once a year, we had lunch/dinner with some relative of mine!
6. She said she was going to raise all our kids by herself (we never asked!).
7. She undermined my every action and my role and duties as my husband's wife.  She said, "You are kids.  You don't know anything."
8. She set my husband up in a local business, as she did not appreciate her son working for others.
9. She always pointed out how rich her family was (she said, "The women of MY family only wear silks and diamond jewelry: nothing else is good enough."  The point here is, my mom and I do not own diamonds!).
10. She kept her house stinking and filthy (bugs and roaches ran all over the place) - and never cooked clean food.
11. She said that she was smarter than everyone around, kinder, more caring, and the greatest cook in our community.
12. She played the martyr every minute - said she sacrificed her happiness to bring up her darling kids!
13. She never showed her bad side in front of her son!
14. She burst into tears all the time to get sympathy.
My life was pure hell.  I did not want to wake up in the morning and see her face again.  I even wished she would drop dead (I know it is a sin to think such things, but she was giving me such a hard time).  So, I got myself a job in the USA and walked out of her home and moved here alone, creating a scandal and humiliation for my in-laws!  My husband was in deep denial all the while.  She brainwashed him into thinking that all his decisions were made of his own free will, though she pushed him all the time.  So, my husband abandoned me.  He used to "visit" me every two months, and kept his residence at MIL's home.  I went through culture shock in a new culture, without a car, no credit history, etc., and survived through my own ability and some occasional help from some kind friends.  After a year, my husband realized I was not going to show up, and left his mom sneakily by telling her that both of us would return in a year to live with her.  He has since accepted that MIL is not angelic or pure hearted, as he may have thought, BUT still holds the greatest regard and respect for her and FIL.  After all the hell they put me through!  AND, he has undying family loyalty to them.  But, I stopped talking to them 3 years ago.  My ILs pretend nothing went wrong - and that they gave us "permission" to go to the USA for a "short while".  I can forgive, but never forget.  My parents don't like them after they saw me go through years of Hell.  So they do not socialize with them anymore.  So MIL and FIL go to family gatherings and foul-mouth my parents and call them mannerless, anti-social people! and many more such names.  To this day, none of my family has talked to the outside world about the kind of people they are.  My family is afraid that she will trouble me more if they did so, and also my husband would be hurt.  What should I do?

Dr Apter's reply:
You have much to be proud of in your battle to free yourself and your husband from your in-laws.  This battle should be much easier.  It will probably help to be as specific as possible.  So instead of saying, "You always bad-mouth my parents," wait until you hear your in-laws speak against your parents and say, "I really didn't like what you said about my folks.  I respect them and love them, and I have to ask you to treat them more fairly, and with more respect."

My question for Dr. Apter is:
What should I say to my MIL who just told me in front of a whole roomful of relatives that I need a facelift?  I am 31 years old.

Dr Apter's reply:
I would just laugh it off.  It is, after all, ridiculous.

My question for Dr. Apter is:
I just had a baby about 11 months ago, and my husband was taking all of these pictures of his brother and mother.  I'm looking back, and there are no pictures of me with the baby.  My husband always sides with his brother and mother against me, not to mention he goes out with them every Sunday.  Now, Thanksgiving is coming around and I will be spending it alone, because every year he spends it with his family.  I was never invited until recently because he said I was "just a girlfriend back then."  Well, when I became his wife I was invited, and I would go, but he would never want to come to my family functions.  I would spend every Christmas and Thanksgiving by myself.  Well, to make a long story short and 15 years later ... I'm divorcing him.  I know I have an 11 month old baby, but I would like to know if I have made the right decision?

Dr Apter's reply:
Your husband's behavior is unacceptable.  If it cannot be improved, then I believe the relationship is not right for you.  But only you can assess the relationship as a whole.  The important thing to remember is that as his wife, as a mother and as a person, anyone close to you should not systematically ignore you.

My question for Dr. Apter is: 
Dear Dr. Apter, My mother-in-law is coming to visit us in a month.  This is going to be the first time she will visit me and my husband, since we have been married for a little over a year.  I could see from the few times I spent in her house that she could be a very controlling person.  She has so many rules and restrictions in her house that her guests have to abide by.  She never bothered to ask me, this time, whether it would be a good time for us, if she visits around the time she is visiting.  I happen to be leaving for a conference around half of the time she will be visiting (she will be visiting for a week).  I am just concerned that she will be taking over my house in my absence, and that would set some bad patterns that I will have to endure during future visits.  I want to set up my rules to her around the house because of my religious traditions, such as that there should be no pork or alcohol in the house.  I already spoke to my husband about this, and he supports me, however, he is always afraid of hurting her feelings.  But I strongly believe that communicating this to her would be important prior to her visit, just to avoid any conflicts.  I thought of writing her a letter in which I apologize about not be at home for part of her stay, and that I would appreciate her not using any pork or alcohol in the house.  But I am also concerned that that might evoke a reaction.  I would very much appreciate your advice about this.  Many thanks.

Dr Apter's reply:
You could write the letter, but be careful to say lots of positive things,
too.  You could tell your mother-in-law how much you are looking forward to her visit, and that you hope she will be comfortable in your home.  You could then go on to say how important it is that you both feel comfortable - and then go on to explain the rules that people in your home must adhere to.
 


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


To See More Books By
Dr. Terri Apter
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