Monster-in-Law

Dear Dr. Darcy:

My mother in law is ruining my life.  She tells my husband’s siblings terrible lies about me and all the women are turning against me.  She’s told them that I gossip about them to my side of the family which I’ve never done.  She tells them that I think I’m too good to be in their family. I’ve asked my husband to intervene and stick up for me but he doesn’t. He says he needs to stay out of it because if he gets involved it’ll make things worse. She is so disrespectful to me! She will make comments to me over holiday dinners and I feel powerless to respond. I don’t know what to do. I’ve never been treated like this before!

ANSWER

Your mother-in-law sounds like my worst nightmare, as does your husband.  Your husband is responsible for setting the boundary with his mother – not you.  It’s simply the chain of command. That said, you can set one with him, and since he seems to have difficulty finding his balls, it appears as though you’re going to have to if you want to see improvement with this issue. So here’s what you need to do:

Let him know that if he wants to spend time with his wife and his mother, he’s going to have to make some changes in his level of participation. He’s going to have to run interference when his mother is acting out, which is not going to be the level of interference you’d like but it will be better than his current passive behavior. If he does not run interference, you need to pick yourself up from wherever you are (your house or your mother-in-law’s) and leave. It’s that simple. Have a contingency plan. Go to a friend’s house. Go to a movie. Sit in the parking lot of your local Starbuck’s if that’s your only option. But follow through. If you want him to act differently, you have to act differently.

In the event that your husband says he’s not willing to get involved, the solution’s even simpler: Leave your house when his mother comes over and do not attend anything if she’s expected to attend.  Given what a pussy he behaves like, he probably won’t be able to tolerate that for long and eventually he’ll agree to be a man and control his mother. Good luck. I don’t envy you.

Writer's Stats: Female, heterosexual.