Teach Asked April 2011

How do I cope with the stress of living with my mother-in-law?

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My mother in law is financially secure, she has a retirement income, along with one house she rents, and another she is selling via land-contract (so she gets an income from both houses also). She has on occasion fallen and needed help up in the past, though not in the three years I've been here. She is taking anti-depressants, and does seem better when she is taking them consistently. At one time with my husband's encouragement I attempted to give her her meds daily to ensure she didnt forget or take to many. This didnt work out well and she became very angry and would frequently cuss at me. She frequently berates me and has told me I dont belong here and that my husband's ex actually belongs in the house. (for the record, I had nothing to do with their divorce, I didnt meet my husband till years after his divorce). She is always very angry with me and treats me badly. But usually not in front of her son. Until a couple weeks ago when she told him she doesnt like me and she will never like me. She admitted that I was very nice to her, I cooked for her and try to help her and offer to take her to social events. But in spite of all I have tried she just isnt going to like me (her words). She further said she gets angry when I invite co-workers or my own children to visit.
She gets involved in my husband's and my decisions with his adult children that live with us. She gives them money and lies to us about them in order for them to get out of trouble. In essence they run to her when they don't do their chores making things escalate and become an issue with the kids and in-law against me if I get angry or want a consequence for not helping around the house.
My health has suffered I'm on blood pressure medicine, which I've never had a problem with until last year. I'm also now suffering from depression and mild anxiety attacks. My whole personality has changed, I feel old and beat down.
My relationship with my husband has been strained, because his mom has filled so much of the essence of our life, our own relationship is full of stress. I know it is his mom, I try not to say how much this is hurting me, hurting us, but I also feel the wedge it has caused between us.
My own children dont like to visit, they have seen or heard his mom berate me and it hurts them that I have to live like this. I love my husband with all my heart, but I feel like I'm losing my soul. I am in counseling, but honestly I dont think it is helping me. I have no control over the environment I'm in....

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Debrah Apr 2011
I have firsthand knowledge of this very situation from someone very close to me. The mother-in-law was a terror, hard to please, demanding, and with the most critical spirit known to mankind! My friend's stomach stayed tied up in knots, resulting in her seeking medical help. She had to take anti-anxiety and anti-acid meds in order to stand being around this person. Thankfully, at least she didn't live with them, but she went with them everywhere, and called them all times of the day. It was not a good situation. My friend went out of her way to be nice to this mean person, trying to please her and keep her at bay.

SO! I would put forth an ultimatum to my husband: either she goes or I go. I don't mean divorce, but you have got to get this situation under control. When my friend finally put her foot down and started standing up to her mother-in-law and speaking her mind, she backed down and even her husband defended her in it. This woman, since she is financially able, needs to go somewhere else to live. I especially would not take her cursing me. That would be the bottom line. You must get her out of your house--- it is self-defense! Good luck!
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Please keep on trying to carve a sense of peace for yourself. I ended up having two silent heart attacks because I had tried to so hard to keep everyone together and happy. Once I realized I had the right to be cared about too, things started to change. They are so far from good that I know I have a long way to go, but at least I feel that my life is more under my control. Please take care of yourself and realized your health issues alone validate the stress you are under. We all want to value and take care of the older people in our lives, but they need to "work and play" nicely with us. My very Southern grandmother used to remind us that very few circumstances in life create the need for rude manners, and the older I get the more I understand. You continue to be in my prayers.
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Teach Apr 2011
I do want my husband to come with me to counseling. We had it set up so he would come last week, but it just didnt work out. Hopefully he can make it soon. I've avoided her for the past week, staying away from the areas she is in and it seems to have made things more peaceful. Right now I'm so busy at work, I am in the office or bedroom working anyway. I still feel anxious when I think I hear her come up, just because I'm not sure if I've done anything that may have upset her, or if the kids have perhaps said they are angry with me, which in turn gets her angry too.
I really appreciate your comments, suggestions and kind thoughts, it feel so good to know that I am not the only one who is in this situation. Thank you so much
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csaw Apr 2011
I feel so sorry for you and your situation, because I have been going through some of the same myself. My mother-in-law has been with us 3 months now. Some days she is so disagreeable to me that i think I will go find a "home" to live in. Just this week I had a melt-down and a long talk with my husband. There are just the 3 of us in our house, and he and I had been living alone together for almost 10 years (2 grown sons, out on their own). I got him to understand that I needed his support, and that, yes, sometimes he was going to have to be the heavy and tell her how to behave. She can't hear well, and misunderstands a great portion of what is said, and that's where the trouble usually starts. In fact, right after our discussion we had a problem with understanding what I said and she was really angry with me for what she imagined I said. I wasn't even talking to her, but to him about work. I was really proud of him. He got her understand that she had misheard, and then later, when I was not around, had a long talk with her and things have been better. It is vital to know that you and your spouse are on the same side, in this together. You must find ways to support each other and encourage each other. She is his mother, and that's a complicated relationship, but you're his wife, and that relationship is supposed to take precedence over any other. Talk with him about going with you to the counselor, at least once. And don't bottle up you feelings (my problem), don't nag either, but let him know, lovingly, what your concerns are.
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As so many people will tell you, your situation is one that so many of us have been through and we understand your pain. However I am worried about you. I think your husband has to come to the point where he understands that you are his priority and you deserve his protection from this type of stress. It is a tough place to be in, and you may have to end up making the best decisions for you. If your children avoid visiting, perhaps you can stay with one of them overnight or for a few days to get away from your mother-in-law. It is easier to face dragons when you know you have support. While you are gone, your husband may examine his own role in this situation. He does have power and should be using it kindly to protect you. His mother deserves his care, but you are his wife. The very fact that his mother admits that you are kind and that you look after him should make him want to make things better for you. You have probably tried this, but have the two of you had a good talk with your doctor about your health? He does not have the right to allow his mother to bully you. If nothing else, leave the answers you receive visible to him and perhaps he will wake up. Please look after yourself and talk to us often.
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