Last March, my 91-year-old mother-in-law who lives alone, had a heart attack and stroke. My husband and I drove down and stayed at her house for a week when she was coming out of rehab. My husband was on Spring break from teaching at a college. We were looking into assisted living places for her. All of that changed when my husband's school went to remote learning due to Covid-19. It made sense to stay at her house where he could teach online and take care of her. Plus, there is high risk of getting Covid-19 in care facilities. Prior to this, I was recovering from cancer treatments and was just starting to get back to work at a good job. My job could not be remote, so I stopped working. This situation caused me to become the primary caretaker to my husband, his mother and her home, her dog, and our two cats. In August, we moved out of our Chicago apartment permanently. My mother-in-law has remained weak and often feels sick, especially in the morning. She can dress and shower herself but often skips those things. She sits most of the day in front of the TV. At first, I wanted to be helpful, so I threw myself into the role, managing everything, making the meals, being in charge of pills and doc appointments, cleaning her cluttered house, doing yard work, feeding the birds, caring for the pets, etc. Over time, I couldn’t keep up and I became angry and sad. Sometimes I cry. I feel I have lost my life in order to keep hers going, and this was supposed to be my year of freedom and celebration from beating cancer and getting out of a toxic job (another story). Through the stress, my husband, and I have become distant. I am unhappy and he is fed up with me. The worst part is that his mother has a domineering personality. She can be sweet and loving but is often critical, controlling, and manipulative. My husband recognizes this and gets frustrated with her as well, but they are close, and he is an only child. We have completely isolated ourselves and stay strictly quarantined in the house to protect ourselves from the virus. We do not want to bring in workers for fear of the virus. I don’t see family or friends who live out of state. Anyway, I need my husband to help more even though he is working, and I am not. He doesn’t understand the heavy emotional and physical burdens he has put on me. He thinks I should be happy and like it here! When I tell him that I am unhappy and need help he gets mad and says he does help. He says I should just let everything go. He does jump in periodically to do some of the housework, but it is not consistent and is not enough. I worked on a chore list, but he only scoffed at it. I feel angry because this is not my house and not my mother! He sits at the computer all day and night. Or he works on side projects on the computer or inside/outside this house, which only distances us more. He contributes to the messes. It’s like a dump here and everything keeps breaking. How can I get my husband to really understand my plight, sympathize with me, and be my team partner to tackle the never-ending workload and responsibilities?

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Find Care & Housing
The burden of being an only child is unexplainable to one who is not an only child. Especially being the only child to a controlling, manipulative mother. It's hell on earth, to put it mildly.

You, my friend, have signed up for a very, very unmanageable situation out of the goodness of your heart. Not understanding the co-dependent relationship your husband has with his mother, who will continue to be 'sick' and 'needy' for the rest of her life so she can keep you right there with her, waiting on her hand & foot, and ruining YOUR life and YOUR marriage in the process. What's the difference? Her needs are being met. She's been able, so far, to lay on the FOG *Fear Obligation & Guilt* tactics thickly enough to where her son is perfectly comfortable staying put. Having YOU managing everyone's lives for them! And then he can get mad & remind you of all he 'does' to help YOU, while he's actually doing nothing!

You lose here, no matter what. If you complain, they get mad. The only way you win is if you give up your entire LIFE to doing everything for THEM. While they are two perfectly capable human beings, qualified to care for themselves! YOU are the one who's had and survived cancer.........who helped YOU? Did your MIL come over to wait on YOU hand and foot? What about hubby?

You're the backbone of this family. The guts of it. Without you, they fall apart.

Let them.

Move out for a while. Go get a nice hotel room on hubby's credit card and let the TWO of them see what it feels like to be alone. Let hubby see exactly what it feels like to be a momma's boy 24/7, without a dutiful wife to actually be DOING everything for BOTH of them.

After the hotel stay is over, THEN you can sit down and have a Come to Jesus meeting with hubby. Until then, he thinks your job is silly. You don't do much of anything to be complaining about to BEGIN with.

Show him the error of his ways.

And, if he STILL doesn't 'get it' when you come back home, leave for good.

Wishing you the best of luck moving on with YOUR life. You deserve to
Helpful Answer (9)

Chrismci, welcome.

There is ONE person whose behavior and emotions you have control over.


You will not convince your enmeshed husband of anything, I fear. He needs to be shown how much work is involved in his mother's care.

Can you take a trip for a week or two to (safely) visit family or friends, or just stay at a hotel? Rest and recharge and consider your options?

Let him see what his mom needs (and to be sure, they may find that the two of them together get along just fine) and you will have an answer one way or another.
Helpful Answer (8)

In a marriage already stressed by covid, job changes, and cancer you have chosen to add a change of living and taking on an elder. It is no surprise that you are where you are now. You say "I feel I have lost my life.." but the truth is that you gave it away. By jumping in all "Mrs Well and Able" you have convinced them that you can do it. Now you want to tell them you are breaking the contract, that actually you were only kidding, you CAN'T do it. That will be very difficult to do. It is why the government hates to give tax breaks for a limited period of time; because once you give something no one wants to hear that the gravy train is over; now you can't have it anymore.
I am afraid you are going to have to simply stop. It is about the only way at this point to be heard. As you said, your husband has already disengaged so he doesn't have to hear you.
I would sit my husband down and say "Dear, I take ALL the responsibility for doing this ALL WRONG. I thought I could do this. I thought I could beat cancer, give up a job, get a new one, move from my home and take care of your mother. The fact is, I was wrong. I can't. Now we are in a pickle, having given up our home and etc. We will have now to discuss a plan, to discuss what we can do about this. If we cannot do that, I am afraid I am just going to have to leave. I have been faced down with a real message, that my life can in fact be forfeit at any moment to any thing. I have beaten cancer for now. I am unwilling to give my life to you and your mother. I would hate to lose you. But I fear that I may have to. I am so sorry. I will give you a few days to consider all I have said to you. Then we can sit down and talk. We can either make plans together of getting our lives into a managible order, or we will may have to go our separate ways, understanding that while we do care about one another, sometimes that is just not enough".
Something like that. OR you can continue to sacrifice your own life and that of your family to mother in law. The fact that these moves are made is going to make this VERY VERY VERY difficult to uncomb. It will not be done without time, planning and suffering on the part of ALL involved. I am so very sorry for all you are all going through. Truly, it sounds utterly impossible.
Helpful Answer (8)

I would perhaps recommend that you plan a nice 2 week(or more)vacation just for yourself, and let hubby fend for himself and mom while you're away. Let's see if things don't change drastically when you get back. That is if you even want to return.
Helpful Answer (7)

Another vote for leave.

Give them notice.
Then take a week's absence (two even better).
Have a real think about the future you want.
Discuss what you want with your husband when you return. How does it align with his goals/plans? Is there a shared future or not?

Very best of luck.
Helpful Answer (6)

Covid is an utter cow. It has put so many individuals' and families' lives through a mincer.

I think... You had better dust off your resumé, land a job you like, and go to it. Make 2021 your year of freedom and recovery instead.

You do not need anyone else's permission to do this, by the way.
Helpful Answer (6)

I’d leave.
Helpful Answer (5)
JoAnn29 Dec 2020
Hard when she gave up a job and their apt.
What an untenable position. Just one bad thing after another. Now you're stuck in your MIL's house and she's calling the shots. Are you at a point where if you leave, and your hubby is fine muddling along with his mom, that you stay gone? Or, can you find MIL AL placement fairly soon? Vaccine should be coming along pretty quickly and places should be opening up. I would definitely take a sabbatical for a few weeks as recommended by others here. Go to Florida-that way, if you return, your hubby & MIL will insist you DON'T interact with them for two weeks!
Helpful Answer (5)

Someone in your own family out of state needs you & like in Feb or late next month... Or an old friend in Chicago if you kinda need to stay in state. There’s going to be someone back in Chi who would oh so love to have a housemate for this next year in the Time of Covid.

Find a plausible story, build on it and stick to it and start pack a winter & spring wardrobe, all your good jewelry. Keep it on the down low. Although Hubs sounds pretty self absorbed, he probably won’t notice. I’d probably pack a box or two or 5 and ship ahead of my drive out. Less stress. Take the cats.

Please please realize that she can move into a facility. Covid is not a total excuse on not doing this. The LTC residents and staff are going to be the most vaccinated group by late spring for the US.
Was money a factor in this? Did she ever pay for in home care?

I’m going to be way more pragmatic in my suggestions... Do you think if you went away for 3-5 weeks anything would change or would it only bind Sonny to mom even more? If he won’t change and get the situation restructured, like y’all rent a nearby apt his moms for a year lease, do have your own bank accounts? Your own income? Is hubs a signatory on any of these?. Or are all your funds commingled? Car in your name? If you don’t have your totally own stash, you need to do this. I’d clear out at least 6 mos of living costs, 50% of the remaining house sale $ and maybe an extra 5-10k for $ to have to get a good divorce atty. With $ into a new bank. Forget being equitable; his mom is going to poison that well.

Yeah he’ll be mad. But really Your in a better position to negotiate than he is. He’s not going to find another female to do all that you’ve done. I’d give him 3 months to have an epiphany. Or you file. Life’s too short to spend future years at his moms house with or without her. I bet it’s depressing interior design hellscape. Guys like this, I’m of the opinion you have to be no white flags on dealing with. He can retreat back to free living at Mommy’s & he will unless you get a pit bull divorce atty.

My hesitation on going this route would be over concerns about your health insurance. Is your policy portable to another State? Or do you need to stay in state? Or is it tied to hubs job? If there's health insurance issues, and you still have post cancer related care to deal with, I’d get that planned out & solid before leaving. Even if it adds a couple of months onto your timetable. Best of luck. You can do this!
Helpful Answer (5)

I strongly prefer to be as tactful and gently spoken asI can when I post here, but having married a wonderfully reformed “Mama’s Boy”, I can’t find a SINGLE THING in your story, OP, that can rehab the situation you find yourself in, nor can I see any sign that your husband has any reservations about his or hismother’s conduct.

My sainted MIL was an absolute wild woman, but I fell in love with my husband anyway, and finally loved him enough to tell him that it would be either HER or ME.

Your spouse has chosen her.

You can’t even have a cogent perspective about what you might POTENTIALLY do to address this swamp you’ve landed in until you walk away from it.

Your husband may or may not come to his senses if presented with an abrupt jolt, or he may not. But you are responsible for YOUR HAPPINESS or YOUR MISERY right now, and from what you say, he shows no sense of awareness of either.

Address your tangible assets, call an Uber or the Cavalry or the local Woman’s Shelter and evacuate.

Keep us in your loop. I’ve walked in your shoes and I hope YOU will stop walking in them as soon as you can arrange to do so.
Helpful Answer (5)

See All Answers
This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter