Friday, February 18, 2011

Your Wife’s Mother-In-Law and Your Relationship and Marriage

We’ve talked about handling her mother, but what about yours? She can have a major impact on your relationship, too, if you let her…

We talked yesterday about how to deal with a man’s mother-in-law, but what about a man’s mother? You’re about to see, if you haven’t already, how she can also have a major impact on your relationship, as many of you have found out, sometimes the hard way.

All too often, a tug-of-war between a man’s mother and his wife or girlfriend ends up forming, and while it may not always get as vicious as the situation in the movie “Monster-In-Law” (Jennifer Lopez, Michael Vartan, Jane Fonda, Wanda Sykes), it doesn’t have to get real vicious to cause a wife or girlfriend to decide that she doesn’t have to put up with the hassle, deliver you an ultimatum, and leave immediately when you say something lame like, “But Honey, she’s my mother,” as if that gives her license to be nasty to your partner or exert some sort of control over your household or marriage. Here’s one of many letters I’ve received on the subject; I chose it because it sums up a lot of the most common issues, and I have some tips for you after I answer her. Meet Jean:

Dear David,

I hope this note finds you well and happy since this is supposed to be one of the happiest times of the year for lovers. I know this will be a better day for some than others. What I am writing you about today is not a happy subject but one that I could use your advice on. It has to do with my mother in law, my husband and I are now what they call middle-aged and are for the most part happy and still very much in love.

However, there is one very difficult subject we can not get to the same decision on and I was hoping you might have some words of wisdom for us. We live a very short distance from my mother in law who still refuses to let us have our own life after 18 years of marriage. Every chance she gets she is always hanging around or calling my husband on his cell phone instead of the home phone so she can talk to him without the possibility of me overhearing what is being said. To be honest with you I could care less what she has to say about me but when she starts problems between me and my husband over nothing I do have a problem.

For instance, if he says he’s taking me out to dinner or shopping (or anything else come to think of it) she says something like, “But Donnie, I was wanting you to come over here for supper tonight.” If we make plans to go out of town, she either invites herself along or comes up with some dire emergency, like needing us to feed her dog while she is gone for the weekend. Just anything to try to foil our plans. She’s over here almost every day making snide comments about the way I cook, the way we I have differed from her in raising our kids, my housekeeping, and bringing up Don’s high school sweetheart every chance she gets.

Could you offer some advice as to how I can make my husband to see she is just out to cause us to get into a fight or cause a problem without me coming off as the witch? I have never been good enough for her since day one and the truth is when I married her son no other person would even go out with him much less marry him because she was such a witch to everyone and word got around the small town we live in. There is a lot more to the story, but I’m sure you get the idea, since you seem to “get it.” Please help.

Yours truly,
Jean


My reply:

Yikes! Jean, I don’t know how you’ve endured it for 18 years, but Don’s a lucky man, and you should start by telling him so. I notice that you’ve been subscribing for several months, so I’m sure by now you know that you need to be fairly blunt with him, but not accusatory or combative. Tell him that you would never try to come between him and his mother, but she needs to pay you that same respect too, and that either he can have a word with her, or you will.

Give him specific examples of what has happened; he’s already seen them, but you’re telling him to let him know that you know and that it bothers you. Don’t dramatize or focus solely on your emotions, and be factual and to the point; WHAT happened is going to do more to help him understand than how you feel about it. If he does wuss out and doesn’t want to talk to his mother, then you need to. Tell her that you have not in any way tried to come between her and her son, and that you demand and expect that she pay you the same respect, because you have been respectful of her and been loving and faithful to her son for 18 years, and it’s high time that she accepted it and started making some effort to try to get along instead of trying to antagonize you.

Take care, and keep in touch,
David C.


Gentlemen, there are a great many mistakes that men make with their wives and girlfriends that involve their mothers. The biggest is in comparing your wife to your mother in any way. Women HATE that! If your wife cooks something that you prefer the way your mother did it, chances are a thousand times better that she’ll do it the way you like it if you said, “I really like it done (however you like it done),” instead of saying, “That’s not how my mother does it,” or “I like it better the way Mom does it.”

That’s not your mother’s house you’re living in; it’s yours and your partner’s, or at least it better be. If your mother has come to live with you because you don’t want her in an elderly care home, that’s great, as long as you are still leading the household and your wife maintains the respect she should command as your wife and co-owner of the house, but if you and your wife are living in your mother’s house, every goal you have had better take second place to getting a place of your own, because your partner needs a place in which to nest, and you have no idea of the grief you’ll be inviting on yourself if you don’t facilitate one quickly.

Speaking of nesting, there is likely to be a bit of a conflict between your wife and mother, even if their tastes are similar. Women nest. Nesting is a primal drive, and no amount of logic or argument will suppress it. You can count on having to referee from time to time unless your mother is a very exceptional woman. When you have to referee, insist that your mother constrain her nesting activities to her quarters, and insist that your wife allow her to nest in her quarters on the condition that she doesn’t nest elsewhere in the house without your wife’s approval. She’s your mom, but she’s also a guest, even if permanently residing; your wife LIVES THERE, if you know what I mean.

Getting back to handling competition and conflict, as with your wife’s mother, your mother is above all else, a woman, and must be treated as such. If she is too involved in your household, it’s because you let her by failing to establish your authority as head of your household, leaving her room to think that SHE is and act accordingly. There must be boundaries established, and you are the one primarily responsible for establishing them, since you are not only the “man of the house,” but also the one in the middle of this potentially hazardous triangle.

You must lead her, gently but firmly, to the level of involvement that you and your partner are comfortable with. You don’t ask her to give you a break, you tell her that you love her as much as you always did, but you are an adult and you need to lead an adult life, which includes making and being responsible for your choices. You tell her that while she has always been and will remain an important part of your life, she must pay you the respect of letting you lead your own household and live your own life with your own family. You tell her that she did a good job raising you, and she needs to accept that and let you rise to the challenges she prepared you for, and give you and your wife the same respect that she expected in her own home when you were a child.

She may not like it at first, but she will at least respect you for saying it, and she’ll go along with it in the end in nearly all cases unless he has some control issues that won’t go away without therapy. There may be testing from time to time to see if you were serious or just trying to placate your wife, so you must be consistent. But in the end, no matter whose mother (or mother-in-law) you’re interacting with, if you can’t stand up to her, as far as she’s concerned you can’t stand up for yourself or anybody else she cares about. And if she refuses, you have to make a choice between your mother and your marriage, and fast, or you can bet that your wife will make that choice for you.

Men, women are not as difficult to talk with, get along with, understand and enjoy as we’ve been led to believe. Indeed, we’ve been programmed to think that it’s hard or impossible, just like they’ve been programmed to think that we’re insensitive jackasses who have no use for them except for sex. Our mothers were primarily the ones who programmed us, and their parents primarily were the ones who programmed them; there’s also been a lot of inappropriate reinforcement heaped on you from Hollywood and the politically correct media. But…

Deprogramming is a painless and fun process, and requires nothing but some good information about what women REALLY want, and what REALLY makes them tick. And contrary to what the world thinks (including Sigmund Freud, the renowned psychiatrist/psychologist, who is famous for saying, “The great question... which I have not been able to answer... is, ‘What does a woman want?’”), that information is available, thanks to some hard work and the input of a few hundred women, and it’s entirely affordable for every man. Indeed, compared to the cost of a divorce, it’s damned-near free!

Luckily for you, it’s in “THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage,” and you can download your copy right now at http://www.makingherhappy.com. You’ve spent your whole life wishing somebody had written a book to tell you what women want and what makes them tick, and now it’s here, and there you sit, not seeing that what you’ve wished for your whole life is a few mouse-clicks away. Open your eyes and start living a life with your partner that will be even better than either of you have ever dreamed. And if you think I’m kidding, visit our forum, http://forum.makingherhappy.com, and search for “Cyno” and “Thomas,” two guys who recently grabbed the bull by the horns and took their marriages and lives back.

In the meantime, live well, be well, and have a wonderful day!
David Cunningham

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