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mother-in-law advice


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Hi all,

Hoping you can point us in the direction of some decent advice on how to deal with a mother (in-law) anger issue.

Here's a (not-so-brief) synopsis:

My wife and I are both 48 and married almost 11 years with a 9 year old son.

Her Mom lives in another state and we see her about 4 or 5 times each year for holidays, vacations and our kid's birthday. When she is nice she is very nice, but when she's not....

The pattern seems to be that when we go to see her Mom at her house everything is relatively fine. Normal kind of bickering you might encounter at a close family gathering (he says). However, when her Mom comes to our house or on vacation all heck breaks loose. Minor, perceived or non-existent grievances become huge ordeals complete with screaming, insults and threats. These are usually directed at me but they have been increasingly directed at my wife also. Any attempt by me to defuse the situation is ignored by her Mom. Even my walking away isn't very useful as she continues to yell or follow me. All the way until the point that I'm pissed and then it becomes all about how I'm disrespectful. I do my best to ignore it, but it's very difficult. It's even more difficult to ignore when she lays into my wife.

This pattern started the very first time she visited for our wedding and has now progressed to a point that's beyond unacceptable. We just returned from vacation where I walked in on her Mom screaming at her in front of our 9 year old kid. I told them they needed to go in the other room so they weren't doing it in front of the kid. This caused her Mom to unleash a verbal can of whoop-as* on me. I explained that we don't argue in front of the kid. She said she was going to argue in front of the kid because she wanted him to know what kind of Dad he has...among other choice things...

My wife has slowly come around to attempting to defend herself (and me) and this only makes things worse. For quite some time my wife didn't want to get involved with calming down her Mom or stepping in when her Mom was out of line with me. It's a very awkward situation for her and I do understand.

My wife does believe that her Mom's attitude is better when I'm not around.

Because this last experience was so over the top we decided we needed to do something about it. We're just not quite sure how to go about it. Any discussion is immediately met with anger and denial of having ever done anything out of line.

Level of difficulty: My wife is an only child. Her Mother has lost her husband and her own Mother within the last 5 years. I can understand how all of those things can be factors.

We have discussed approaching her Mom about doing some family counseling together. We've also discussed a more "tough love" approach where we arrange it so her Mom doesn't come here. This means, for instance, wife, kid and I do Christmas here and then the 2 of them drive down to do Christmas with her Mom. This also means skipping vacations with her.

We're pretty much at a loss as to how to help the situation without masking it worse. Anybody successfully solve a similar situation?

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Welcome to our community, Dadisdone.

It isn't always easy interacting with elderly parents. I know that can be very stressful at times. I'm sorry you're going through this.

Has this behavior been typical for your mother-in-law for a very long time? I see you mentioned that it started right after you were married, but does your wife see any changes in her mom's response? I was wondering if there might be a physical cause for her behavior. I think your idea for family counseling is a good one. Would she consider individual therapy as well, do you think? Restricting her from your home makes sense too, especially if she is yelling and putting you down in front of your child.

I hope it helps to express yourself here.

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It's always been my experience that the longer you allow and accept negative behavior, the longer you'll have to endure it.

If your mother in law is incapable of behaving in a respectful manner in your home then simply do not extend further invitations until she can control herself.

This does not mean you and your family have to cut ties completely but setting boundaries until you can find a way to work through this is necessary for best interests of your immediate family.

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