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My husband has 3 sisters and when his mom was nearing the end of her battle with cancer, they all stepped in; sisters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, etc.


He worked a job where he could take off work and take her to appointments when needed or work from home. His mother was loved by all of her family and had a great relationship with all children.


My mother and I on the other hand have had a strained relationship; for 14 years we had no relationship. She's manipulative, narcissistic, negative, feels entitled, expects to be treated like the matriarch but her behavior does not warrant it.


I've shared ALL of my frustrations with my husband over the years, and when I completely break down, he says that I'm not alone and that he will help out more, but he doesn't. When I asked him the other day to make a simple phone call to my mother so that I could take a nap, he said he would, then later when I woke up (6 hours later) he had not and it was too late to call. When I reminded him that 'he promised' he said, I forgot.


My mom is a handful and I am the only one of our immediate family left and she's the last of her siblings. I could go on and on but I think I've given enough information.


I'm not sure if I'm over-reacting, being over-sensitive or dealing with my own menopausal issues but he doesn't understand the stress of doing this alone since he had "a village" to assist...and he's male. Not trying to be sexist but I just don't think he can fully understand the dynamics of a mother daughter strained relationship.


I am great at disconnecting in order to protect my feelings or to keep from being disappointed and I don't want to do that with him. I also don't want to talk about it then have him respond as if I'm making a big deal out of nothing, that would only invalidate what I'm feeling and make me retreat even more.


Any ideas on how to approach the topic with him?

This is my experience and might not relate to yours so disregard if it does not resonate or is not helpful.

I no longer ask my husband to help with Mom for a couple of reasons.

Mom is incredibly disrespectful and even hateful towards my husband. When he does help or visit she treats him badly and his help was never enough. She does the same to my brother-in-law.

My standard of what "needs" to be done for Mom is quite different from his. My relationship with Mom is based on a lifetime of me catering to her neediness. Although I have gotten help and no longer am completely ruled by her manipulations, I still have an overblown sense of obligation to her. My husband does not share that and my trying to drag him into it causes him to be resentful.

I no longer ask for his help with Mom but I do ask him to be there for me in other ways which he is happy to do. If I sit down and count all the things my husband does for us it's a pretty long list, it just doesn't include catering to Mom. It took me a while but I'm ok with that and our marriage is much better for it.

Best of luck to you. This stuff is hard.
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anonymous6510 Apr 13, 2020
Thank you Tryingmybest, that is more helpful than you know. Yes, my husband is amazing to me. He knows of and sees through her manipulation attempts and narcissistic behavior throughout the years and has no patience for it. He's really amazing and I've decided that there are other ways to manage my frustrations with the situation and ruining my marriage is not one of them.

Thank you for sharing.
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I'm going to repeat what some of the others have said...your husband may have a hard time doing anything for your mom because of how she treats you. NOTHING made my husband more angry than when my mom would mistreat or criticize me, or run me ragged with her demands, even when she honestly couldn't help it *sometimes* (dementia). I learned not to use him as a venting board with my frustrations, because I would forgive her far more quickly than he would.

And also as some suggested, try making a list of SPECIFIC things he could help you with. My husband is smart, can easily figure out what to do with a million dollars at work, but at home/grocery store he can be lost as a goose over what he needs to do! Another thing, your husband might need a list of PHYSICAL things to do that don't involve emotions. A phone call to a mom, in my opinion, is very emotionally based. My husband would never, ever phone my mom but he would cut her grass in the heat of the day without one complaint. Your husband might be the complete opposite, so think about how he's wired.
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elaineSC Apr 16, 2020
Excellent response! Your suggestion of him doing something physical is exactly what my husband did. He would run an errand or even drive my parents to an appointment since Mom was in a wheelchair and Dad had a handicap van for her. But, he never wanted to call or do emotional type things. He told me he loved my parents but if I needed to vent frustrations, he did NOT want to hear it. But as I have had time to reflect, what you described fit him perfectly.
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I keep my husband out of my relationship with my mother. He knows the way she treats me. He’s tried to help her before and she doesn’t want any help so he stays out of it. Frankly, he doesn’t know why I still help her after the way she treats me. I talk to my therapist about it and I talk on here about it. I stopped dragging my husband into my relationship with my mother.
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anonymous6510 Apr 13, 2020
Elaine1962, that's where I am as well. My husband says the same thing and so I have resolved to doing what I need to do on my own, not sharing as much frustration with him as it is only adding to HIS frustration with my mother and coming here to share and receive feedback from others that are going through or have gone through similar things.

Your response let me know that I'm not alone in this and provided a way for me to minimize the friction between my husband and I, thanks again.
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Are you remembering how much your husband did for his mother, or are you remembering ‘the village’? Once upon a time, working from home occasionally was quite a pleasant option for a guy, and the women of the village often did a fair bit more. You don’t like your mother, neither does he. Are you trying to do as much for her as the the village did for MIL? Why? Perhaps it would be good to talk again about how much support is reasonable from both of you, to her and to you.
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anonymous6510 Apr 13, 2020
Hi MargaretMcKen, thanks for posting those questions. I took a minute to really ponder them before answering and my response is no, I'm not trying to do as much for her as the village did for MIL, that would be impossible; not only due to the emotional and mental dynamics, but the sheer number of people in that village vs. me is very disproportionate.

I've since decided to hire a home care worker to go by my Moms twice a week and I have pushed back on a few of her manipulative demands, so it's safe to say that the displaced anger I had towards my husband has been redirected into a more healthier combination of support. What I am unable to do I've hired help to do so. I think having this safe space to vent and get honest objective feedback has been truly helpful.

Thank you for responding.
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Why would you expect him to volunteer cheerfully for a job the very thought of which makes you want to go and lie down? For six hours.

You're comparing - not apples and oranges. Ice cream and cod liver oil. His family relationships and yours are poles apart.

He can't solve the difficult relationship you have with your mother. You're not making a big deal out of nothing. You're just trying to ignore the actual issue.
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Is this a one time thing, his forgetting to call your mom, or does this happen a lot?

Perhaps he really did forget. Perhaps he thinks your mother didnt "need" a phone call.

Why are you continuing to subject yourself to a narcissistic and manipulative person? Perhaps your husband is modeling how to get out of this trap of responding to your mom.
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anonymous6510 Apr 13, 2020
BrabBrooklyn, not sure what happened to my first response to you so I'm responding again.

It has happened before but no more than 5 times throughout our entire 13 years together, so it is possible that he simply forgot.

I am the only family member around to take care of my mom's affairs so I can't, in good conscious, just turn my back on her. No matter how manipulative and narcissistic she is, she's still my mom.

So, I've decided to hire outside help, set healthy boundaries and not expect my husband to do anything outside of what he wants to do; my mother's care is not worth putting a strain on my marriage.

Thank you so much for responding, it really helps to hear other perspectives.
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You should not expect him or his family to help with your mom.
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anonymous6510 Apr 13, 2020
Thanks gladimhere, understood.
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Not meaning to analyze or be offensive, but could it be that your frustrations with your mother are being directed at your husband? You know your mother has long term personality issues that aren’t going to change, she’s difficult for anyone to be around, and since that’s hard and can’t be changed, the frustration of that goes to someone who might bend or change. The answer might lie in finding other care for your mom and spending more time with your husband. I wish you the best, I know this must be a hard road
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anonymous6510 Apr 13, 2020
Thank you Daugtherof1930, no offense taken. I posted to do a "sanity check" to make sure I wasn't displacing my anger/frustration and so far the responses have been very insightful.

You are correct, I have hired a home care worker for twice a week with my mom and I have cleared my calendar and schedule my days so that I can spend more quality time with him, without the frustration or expectation of him being there for my mom. He has stated that it is hard for him not to say anything to her when he sees/hears something that he feels is disrespectful to me so I won't subject him to much of that anymore.

I'm going to be grateful for whatever he can provide and pass the "expectation" off to the individuals that are being paid to care for her. I know that I've done all that I can and will continue to love her and care for her just not to the detriment of my marriage.

Thank you so much for speaking directly; I appreciate it.
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Hi BarbBrooklyn,

Its happened on occasion but he really could have forgotten this time.

She's my mom and I'm the only family member that is around to look after her. Do know that I am setting and keeping healthy boundaries so that I can do for her without it being a detriment to myself.

Yes, I've been in this trap for quite a while but she's not changing so I plan to do the necessary work on me.

Thanks so much for the "straight talk," I really appreciate it.
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My mother drives me insane......and when I can't take her BS anymore, I ask my husband to call her so I can have a break from the histrionics. As an only child (at 62), I'm all she has........I'm her sounding board and scratching post, ALL of it, on a daily basis, and I get tired, as I'm sure you do. She lives in a Memory Care ALF, thank God, but still, all of the calls and finances and decisions and everything else falls on ME. And me alone. So after a particularly rough run of her behavioral difficulties, rather than continue to rant at DH about the situation, I simply ask for his help. A couple of times he's even stopped at her ALF on his way home from work and brought her a few cupcakes from Gigi's. He's happy to do it because he knows how much it helps me and I'm always VERY grateful to him for it.

The key is to just sit down at the kitchen table with him and tell him the truth; that mother is an Energy Vampire & sucking the life out of you. And that you need his help. Men generally WANT to help, they just don't know how unless they are told exactly how, when, where and why.

Men need to be TOLD what to do explicitly. And then reminded a few times, too. Don't feel badly about that, either. TELL him what you need, THANK him for his help, REMIND him to actually DO it, and then move on. After he makes the call, thank him profusely and tell him how much you appreciate being let off the hook and how much you needed the break from the brain damage.

Don't overthink it. Just do it. As instructed above. He'll live through it, trust me........but if you don't ask for and take help, YOU may not. Chronic stress from difficult mothers who we have strained relationships with will take their toll on us. HARD. Not worth it.

GOOD LUCK!
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annemculver Apr 16, 2020
I like what you have said: let your spouse or sibling know how they can help & be patient -for awhile. But we must move toward caregiving as everyone’s work, not just women’s. One person cannot do it all!
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