...lives next door to us (in a 3-bedroom house that we own) and is now 100 years old. We’ve both been caring for her for well over 25 years. Despite her advanced age, she’s in excellent physical health but has developed some dementia in recent years. As her needs increase, my wife has to spend more time with her; we do her shopping, take her for doctor visits, give her daily meds and my wife cooks most of her meals. I believe her mother will live many more years and my wife absolutely refuses to even consider putting her in an assisted living facility. As a result of caring for her mother, we can’t travel anywhere together (I take occasional trips by myself but we haven’t had a vacation together in over 10 years). My mother-in-law is a sweet lady and I sincerely hope she lives to be 110, but as I tell my wife, not in our 3-bedroom house with us caring for her every day. Our “golden years” are passing us by and I’m not proud to say that I’m becoming increasingly resentful toward both my wife and her mother. As many relatives and friends have told us, her mother belongs in an assisted living living facility and we should get on with our lives. In my wife’s defense, she has no siblings to share the responsibility with, but we have the resources to put her mother in assisted living, where she would be well cared for and have some social life. I’ve seriously considered leaving my wife over this- I think I’d be justified in doing this - but I just don’t have the heart to go through with it.

Her mother no longer has all her faculties and would never do this to us knowingly, but she’s slowly destroying our marriage. My brother died at age 62 a few years ago and I’m starting to think my mother-in-law will outlive me. After a very successful career, I’ve looked forward to enjoying my retirement with the woman I love but it looks like that’s not in my foreseeable future. Am I being selfish to want to enjoy my retirement years with my wife while we still have our health? I’m not a very religious person, but isn’t there something in the Bible about a married couple leaving their parents and “cleaving” to one another? In my view, my wife has broken one of our wedding vows (to “forsake all others”) by putting her mother’s needs above mine, for a long time. I’ve always been good to her mother, but how much more can reasonably be expected of me? As I’ve told my wife, I married her- not her mother. I’ve become depressed over this and I’m just about ready to pack my stuff and head south- with or without my wife. By the way, we’re 60 years old and I’ve been wanting to move from NJ to Florida for years- and I’ve even offered to bring my mother-in-law with us and find her an assisted living facility in whatever area we relocate to. Would I be a monster to force my wife to make a choice- her mother or me?

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Jack, I must point out that you're hardly going to get what you want - to enjoy your golden years with your lovely wife - by leaving your wife. You'll be sitting on the cruise ship thinking "I'm sure I've forgotten something..."

You would not be a monster to force your wife to make that choice, but you would be silly because it is a classic False Dichotomy. Your wife does not have to choose one or the other. She does not have to abandon her mother to make better use of her time with you. She does not have to lose her husband and her own life to take good care of her mother.

Do try to discard certain resentments, such as those that spring from the cleaving thing. And, by the way, it is men who leave their parents and cleave to their wives' families in the Mosaic traditions. In Eastern cultures women are given into their husbands' families. But in no major tradition that I know of do married couples get shot of their elders altogether.

Then, pick your battles and array your forces carefully and start small. Your ruby wedding is a bit long to wait; when is your or your wife's birthday? Book the nicest short break you can imagine. Then you need to put the caretaking structure in place. No other family - what about friends or neighbours? You don't live in a vacuum, there must be people who know all of you well.

You want:
a good respite place in a nice facility;
a volunteers' visiting rota, so that MIL sees familiar faces daily;
cheerleading friends, so that your wife is encouraged to take this small but crucial step by everyone around.

The key thing is to set a really positive precedent. Wait for your wife to change her mind and yes, you will be pushing up daisies long before it happens. So instead - do the work. Do the research, make the enquiries, consult the professionals, handle the assessments and reservations. Leave your wife with nothing to worry about because YOU have attended fully to MIL's wellbeing, and nothing to do but take your hand.

Then, God willing, once this is under your belt and you have a good experience to draw on, you'll be free to explore further options with a more open mind on the part of all of you.

You will be thinking "oh they'll never agree."


If you say: "let's look for respite care so that we can get away for a break" she'll never agree. You are proposing that she undertakes a challenging project for an uncertain reward. And she is tired and fretful and feeling torn. Of course she won't agree.

If you say - oo I dunno, I'll pretend it's for me :) -

"we are going to NY for the weekend. Here is our full itinerary. On Thursday evening, you and I and mother are going to have dinner at Dragons' Nest, where Mrs Bradshaw will then welcome mother for her five day stay. Here is mother's schedule for the weekend, which Selma and Bill will be reporting on daily. Say yes, then I will answer any questions you have."

- you may need to be a teensy tiny bit masterful about it, but you will get a yes.

And if your MIL really is a sweet old lady, and can keep a secret, you might even get her on board as a conspirator, eh?

So. Stop asking for permission. Make what you want to happen, happen.
Helpful Answer (33)
shad250 Feb 2019
What he wants to happen is going to FL with or without the wife, cant blame him since he would not have to deal much with cold and snow.
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You are not a monster. Not at all.
Your spouse may have made ' the promise' never to,put mom in a place.many of us made the same one but it became overwhelming and not doable. As it cost us job, health, relationships.

Jack, you matter here too. You do.

Yes, it's time for mil to go to facility.

Stick around sir. Please.
Helpful Answer (24)

So your MIL chose to wait until she was 40 to have a child, she got to live her life. Sounds like she hit the age we all realize that we won't be young forever and bore a little helper. But now it is you and your wife's turn.

Your wife is being selfish and self-centered by not considering you 1st. Sorry, but my husband comes 1st and if people don't like it they can lump it.

What is your wife's excuse for thinking that a 100 year old woman needs a 3 bedroom house? That is far to large and most likely costing you lost income. It sounds like she was trained to be moms independence, it seems reasonable since you have been doing this for 25 years. Which is again selfish on your MILs part.

I would not be surprised if my husband gave me an ultimatum in this situation. It would be a reasonable response to being treated like a 2nd class citizen.

It is completely unfair for any adult to steal someone's life to prop them up. Regardless of her condition, she Mil is being careless of everyone's feelings but her own. Your wife is probably guilt ridden and feels like if she doesn't give mom her life she won't survive. To common with only children, trained to be obedient for life.

I would first recommend that you and your wife see a marriage counselor. She needs to hear from you, exactly how you feel and visa versa, in a completely safe environment. Resentment doesn't just go away, it needs to be addressed.

Why can't MIL be put in a condo or senior apartment in Florida? They might be more open to moving if she will have a home of her own. Maybe?

I am sorry for everyone in this situation. It is so unfair for parents to do this to the kids. I personally don't think a loving parent would, but that's just my opinion.

I hope that you find a good counselor and that you can salvage your marriage and find happiness together again.
Helpful Answer (23)
Segoline Feb 2019
Jack, good advice from previous.
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I think our notion of caring for aging parents is based on a Walton family fantasy
of a large extended family living with a functioning grandparent that still contributes, or else a bed ridden grandparent that the whole family helps out with.
In a bygone era there were large tight knit communities that could lend a helping hand. Consider also the maiden aunts or daughters who had been groomed since childhood to become their parents care givers. Back in the good ole days, folks
recognized that providing care for the aged required a huge sacrifice of time and effort.

Those days are long gone,. I know both of my own parents moved as far away from their own parents as they could and left them to fend for themselves. In this day and age without extended families or tight communities, neighbors who are often strangers, and much smaller families, the whole burden for care usually falls on one or two individuals.

That is difficult enough without the added burden of ever increasing costs of living, medical care which is both costly and prolongs life by decades, and increasing competition for employment. We are now thrust into a much expanded care giving role. Think about all the extra medical appointments, shopping trips, decorating, entertainment, tricky finances, specialty equipment, expanded health care options that were unavailable when our grandparents were alive.

These options while great all cost time and money. We are not prepared for any of this. Yet many who have not been put in this situation, continue to think that it is all like a sunny replay of the Walton's. And those of us who become exhausted, sick, broke, isolated and . burnt out are just petulant complainers. Modern day
care for the elderly is an unprecedented experiment being played out in the lives
of boomers and their parents. People are now routinely losing decades of their
lives to care for their parents. I think everyone's lives should be considered when
care giving for parents becomes necessary.
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Great explanation of reality!
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Well, my dad's only 97 and my husband and I are 70 but we were in a similar situation. My husband has been a saint in dealing with my father but last year we finally got my dad to move to assisted living and such a burden was lifted off us both. He didn't want to make the move but we just couldn't continue caring for him and trying to keep up his house any longer. It was not a sustainable situation and wasn't ever going to get better, only worse. He has adjusted and I can now enjoy visiting him instead of trying to do home maintenance and upkeep constantly.

My husband was going to continue to work as long as my dad was alive as we would be in this city but he is now looking at retirement and a move to Florida. My plan is to move to Florida but to make trips back to our home in VA about every 2-3 weeks for a few days to see my dad in assisted living and to get him to doctor appointments, etc. I know we are lucky to be able to afford this but I also think that my marriage would be over if we had to stay here indefinitely. I know that my dad can't live forever but he, like your MIL, is actually in good health with just some short-term memory problems, and this could continue for years.

I also have no siblings to share the burden and the care and I think it makes us think we have to do it all. I have much sympathy for both you, who seems as saintly as my husband, and for your wife who may be as conflicted as I have been. Your wife may also be depressed at how all this is working out. I know I was. I wanted to please everyone and was pleasing no one. It's a very sad way to live.

If your MIL is in basically good health, and has good mental status she will make friends and enjoy the socialization that the assisted living situation provides. I love it when I call my dad and he doesn't answer the phone because he is downstairs in the lounge or eating lunch/dinner with other residents. It's a fuller life than waiting for me to visit.

Please be very honest with your wife. I've been that wife and it's wrenching but she needs the truth. She needs to know what she is doing to you and she needs to know that her mother would probably not want her to give up her opportunity for happiness in order to care for her when there are other options. There are solutions out there if you work together to find them.
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Jackcooper Feb 2019
Thank you so much! I believe my wife and I need to do exactly what you’ve done. I’ve told my wife (repeatedly) that she’s not doing her mother any favors by letting her live by herself in a fairly big house that I can no longer maintain. In addition, there are many hazards and it’s only a matter of time before we find her at the bottom of a staircase, or fallen getting out of the bathtub, etc. Moreover, we can never get these years back- they’re slip-sliding away from us and I know her mother would be so much better off in assisted living. I’ve been seeing a counselor every month (regrettably, without my wife’s knowledge), basically to vent to. At the end of each session, she (my counselor) tells me my wife should be the one seeing her. I doubt she’ll go voluntarily, so I’m soon going to bring her to a session with me and insist that she take my place as the patient- or I’ll be enjoying my retirement by myself about a thousand miles away. Thanks again for your encouraging words.
I am surprised you are even having any doubts as to what you should do. I know you love your wife and she loves her mother and you have gone above and beyond to do right by both of them. However, there comes a time when the people have to decide which way they are going to spend their lives. Will they live it in a normal way, with happiness, joy and fairly peaceful? Or will they live in circumstances of constant stress, upheaval, non-stop problems. Only those involved can make that decision. Here is what I personally think. If you have the personal resources to care for her (and don't forget your own care and that of your wife down the road), then I would put her into the nicest place you can find where she is cared for. If your wife absolutely, positively refuses this, there is not much you can do. However, rather than divorce my wife, assuming you really love her and don't want to do this, I would try to get caretakers to come in so you could both travel. If your wife still refuses even this, then for heaven's sake, go to the local travel agency and start planning every kind of a trip or adventure that you want and which you deserve and earned. Don't have any guilt trips - just go and enjoy. I always believed that either spouse should force the other one to travel to places if they just are not interested or don't want to - but by the same token, never stand in the way of the other spouse fulfilling their dreams to go places. I speak from experience and I assure you it works. My husband only wanted to play golf and I had a life-long dream to see the world. So I traveled 33 countries by myself and it was the best decision I ever made - and my husband appreciated me more when I came home. Go book your next That way you are not forcing the issue of wife vs. mother. Let her do her thing and you do your thing. That way you both win. Go to Florida if you want and then go home and visit with your wife. Her mother can't live forever and then maybe at last you two will get back together.
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A merciful God hides the future in misty darkness.
We do not know what a day may bring forth.
Don't leave your wife, but do convince her to tell mom that you and she are going on a vacation for 2 weeks and there will be a nice live-in assistant to stay with her the whole time. Get a cheap new cell phone with a new number...give the number to the caregiver...Do not give it to mom. Ask the caregiver to call you daily but not in the presence of mom. She will wail and complain and maybe even hold a grudge.
God's blessings to you and your wife and to mom.

Grace + Peace,
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Myownlife Mar 2019
Excellent suggestion, Bob!
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I don’t know how my husband hasn’t tossed me his set of house keys after all we’ve had to do for my old mother, but he hasn’t.

Regrettably sometimes as daughters we develop a codependent relationship with our mothers and we chase our tail our whole lives thinking that if we help mom she will love us/come around/ease our burden/thank us, you get my drift. And as a result, our husbands will ‘always be there’ because you are so reliable, love us unconditionally, and have patience the size of biblical proportions.

I’ve done that for many years but after enough counseling I finally got enough backbone to say, “Mr. Hotflash and I can’t do that today.” Or as is true now, “Mr. Hotflash’s spinal stenosis just wont allow him to do that anymore.” (He’s healthy and it’s being treated, but still...). It is only in an odd twist of fate as I care give for her she has actually started to say, “You need to be home with your husband.” But it took ME establishing that priority for her to know this.

If your wife has lost sight of you because mom “needs” this and “needs” that, she may be chasing her own tail to try and please her mother in an effort to assuage the anxiety her mother causes or has caused her for many years. “If I do just ONE more thing, she’ll say I don’t have to do any more.”

It is a tough dynamic and I feel for you both, but I even told my mom who I am caregiving for right now (but she’s hired private help) “No, Mr. Hotflash and I are tired, and we’ll be back tomorrow.” Your wife needs to see her mom as an independent person from her, not the enmeshed relationship that befalls so many of us.

Good luck my friend.
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Jackcooper Feb 2019
Thank you so much for taking the time to share those kind words. This may sound strange, but in a way it’s good to know I’m not the only one caught in this type of circumstance. I guess I’m just getting burnt out and seeing my retirement- which I’ve worked so hard for- being ruined. Thank you again.
Jack - speaking as a wife whose mother stayed in our home for over 2 years, I could tell you taking care of her put so much stress on me and my kids, and in turn my husband as well. He is a very kind and understanding person and never once complains about my mother living with us, but I could not let her consume all my time and energy and leave nothing for my husband and kids as they are my priority. Last month, I made other arrangement and moved my mom out. Our home becomes much more peaceful. I thanked my husband for putting up with my mother for those 2 years.

It's also worth mentioning that at my wedding, my mother who was of sound mind at the time, gave a toast which in part said that for me to honor her, I should take care of my family and put my husband first.

Doesn't your wife see that she doesn't have any time and attention for you? Doesn't she know you're unhappy? I agree 100% that she broke the wedding vow she made with you.

Will she be open to marriage counseling? If not, you should still go by yourself. In the end, if she doesn't want to see your point of view, then that means she makes her choice. The ball will be in your court to make your choice.

I really hope that she will come around.
Helpful Answer (19)
What an awesome toast! That would make a hard choice possible. What a gift your mother gave you.
So, have you thought about respite?

You could do this in one of two ways. You could hire caregivers to come in while you're away, or you can find as Assisted Living facility that offers respite stays, usually a few weeks to a month.

I think that your wife may be approaching burn out in this situation and needs to be rescued from her tunnel vision.
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