Sunday, April 24, 2011

Keeping Mothers (Your or Hers) from Wrecking Your Marriage or Relationship

A mother-in-law can be a wonderful ally or a destructive juggernaut, and unfortunately is even a significant factor in choosing a mate, as those who didn’t give the issue due consideration will now attest. What can you do to ensure that your mother-in-law – or hers – doesn’t wreck your marriage?

I’ve written several issues about interaction with your mother-in-law, and if you’ve not read them, now would be a good time to do so before advancing into this fairly delicate issue. See:

“Proper Care and Feeding of Your Mother-In-Law”:
http://forum.makingherhappy.com/showthread.php/591-Gentlemen-the-Proper-quot-Care-and-Feeding-quot-of-Your-Mother-In-Law-Is-Critical-to-a-Great-Marriage

“Your Wife’s Mother-in-Law and Your Marriage”:
http://forum.makingherhappy.com/showthread.php/594-Your-Wife’s-Mother-In-Law-and-Your-Relationship-and-Marriage

Today’s issue is a touchy one, one that many couples deal with, and much to their chagrin I’m sure: the issue of a pushy, bossy, over-protective, and/or just plain busy-body mother of the wife. Don’t get me wrong; men’s mothers can be a pain in the neck, too, but wives’ mothers have a little more room to be obnoxious and we men often don’t have nearly enough appreciation for how much stress their influence can cause, nor that we can do something about it. To wit, meet Hillary:

Hi David,

My mother has dominated me in every part of my life since childhood, and won’t stop. I’m now forty years old, and she continues to be the same overbearing and over-protective woman she was when I was in pigtails. I can’t even discipline my own children or have a serious discussion with my husband without her trying to push her agenda to the exclusion of my own. She calls me several times each day and literally interrogates me about what’s going on with everyone in my family, what I’m doing, what I’m thinking, and anything else that might give her an opportunity to force her values, priorities, and opinions, which often differ from my own, on me and my family.

There have been times when I could overcome the childhood fear of having her mad at me, but most of the time she upsets me to the point where I am reduced to that same emotional wreck I was as a small child, giving in to everything she says to seek her approval. I know that I need help with this, and I’m in counseling, but it is proving to be a long, slow battle, because the counselor says that the way she treated me is genuine emotional abuse, and was traumatizing. I don’t necessarily believe that my mother meant to hurt me, but I do know that she meant to control me and she knew that she hurt me frequently.

I’m sharing this with you because my husband of 22 years, Dirk, still refuses to get involved in this, in spite of me begging him repeatedly to do so. I’m not yet strong enough to get her off of me and keep her off, and apparently he’s not either, or else he just doesn’t care. Every time we try to talk about it, he ends up yelling at me for being weak and unable to control my mother. I need more from him than to just tolerate my mother’s abuse and leave me on my own to handle this. I need him to intervene because he should be able to be strong enough to protect me from her or anybody else who tries to abuse me. Is that too much to ask?

I don’t know what to think. I can’t get him to talk to me about this enough to know whether he really thinks my weakness is disgusting or whether he’s making a big show of being mad at me to hide the fact that he’s also afraid of her. I’ve asked him to come to just one counseling session with me so my counselor could help me sort this out, and he just gets angry about me asking and complains about the money and time I spend to go to counseling. How can I make him understand what I’m going through and why I need him to help me? I’m at the end of my rope, and I can’t get my husband to start relieving some of this stress instead of adding to it, I’m going to have to do something that we’re all going to regret, because I can’t take any more of this.

Thanks so much,
Hillary


Well Hillary, I’ll tell him for you. Have him read this, and hold an iron skillet in your hand aimed at his head when you suggest to him that he read it, just to make sure he understands the importance of the issue. ;-)

Dirk, and the rest of you, listen up. When there is a conflict between the woman in your life that even remotely involves you and is obviously not getting resolved, it’s your job and responsibility to step in and address your wife’s adversary directly, and it is imperative that you do so swiftly and firmly, but with an even hand. Why?

For starters, you’re built to fight and protect, and better suited for it, and doing so is part of what you offer in trade for the benefits of the nurturing nature of a woman – the marital contract, so to speak. It doesn’t matter if it’s your wife’s mother, your own mother, one of your daughters, somebody’s sister, or a busy-body friend who wants to stick their nose into family business; if somebody is stressing your wife to the point that she wants to talk to you about it, you need to offer to help, and if she comes out and asks you to help, you’re not a man if you don’t, let alone a husband.

Let’s clarify a thing or two before some of you get riled up and start sending nasty-grams. First, I am not implying that you should give your wife license to be a total screw-up and defend her stupidity. If she’s a substance abuser and her family is trying to talk her into straightening up, by all means you should be joining them, not protecting her from hearing the truth. That’s how you fulfill your responsibility to protect her life and well-being.

But if your mother-in-law (or your mother!) is trying to force her value system on your family as Hillary describes, or if your daughter is being an insufferable brat, or some single friend of your wife’s is relentlessly hassling her to leave her family at home and go out bar-hopping with her and won’t take “no” for an answer, some sister who has no children is trying to experience motherhood vicariously by trying to instruct your wife on how to raise your kids, or something like that, “it’s time for an intervention,” as the saying goes.

Also note that not all women will need help, and if you butt in when they are handling it they will resent your actions. You don’t need to ask permission, but you do need to verify that there is a need and that your assistance isn’t going to cause your wife to resent you for trying to help; one busy-body bullying their way into her life is more than enough without you becoming one as well. You also need to be fully informed about what’s going on and it never hurts to hear all sides of the story before drawing your sword and shield. Your objective is to be a hero protecting his wife, not a controlling bully. “Is there anything I can do to help?” will sound and be taken quite differently from “Do I need to handle this?”

Also be aware that women have been known to adhere to deceitful and abusive family members when it came down to a choice between them and their loving, supportive husband. Yes, that sounds crazy, but there is a sort of illogical logic behind it if you can follow it. An insecure woman, especially one with issues of not getting enough attention as a child or having been abandoned by one or both parents due to divorce or death, will see her family as her “fallback” position if something goes wrong with her marriage, even when there is nothing wrong with her marriage. When I have seen this in the past, it took a combination of a strong husband not giving in to the wife’s desire to seek the approval of her family and personal counseling to resolve the childhood issues that cause her insecurity.

This is all conditional, of course, on knowing that she really wants help for a real issue and it isn’t some sort of contrived drama-fest just looking for attention, which you will know by the nature of the issue in dispute; a mother trying to exert control over an adult child and your household is a far bigger deal than some girlfriend of hers having something snide to say about her choice in shoes. You’re not required to dive into “a tempest in a teapot” unless you’re just tired of listening to all the hoopla and are shutting it down for some peace and quiet. ;-)

Now for the good news, bad news element. If you do stand up and take the leadership role and tell whomever is making life hard for your wife that they will either stop or their contact with your wife will be stopped until they can behave themselves, one of two things will happen. If your wife wants your help in the matter, you will be seen as the strong, attractive knight in shining armor and you’ll quickly see her love, trust, and appreciation of you skyrocket, and her attraction switches will also be flipped on full power. You gotta love it when that happens…

However, if your wife is very emotionally damaged (provided that you have listened carefully and have appropriately stepped in to take appropriate action), she may in fact become enraged, defending those from whom you were protecting her! This is the worst of all possible scenarios, especially if she refuses to see that there is a problem, and is a sign that you in fact married the wrong woman, because she is too damaged or for some other reason just doesn’t choose to love you and be loyal to you as a wife should be to a husband, which is not one whit less than a husband should love and be loyal to his wife.

Unconditional love you say? Don’t get me started. If you think you can love someone and remain married and loyal to someone who does not love you and cannot remain loyal to you, then you deserve every ounce of pain you endure because of it. To love is to value. How can you value that which does not value you, disrespects you, and would act to steal or destroy your life? How can you remain loyal to that which would cheat you out of your life, or abuse you as you try to share your life? How can you even consider loving or remaining loyal to someone who has a reckless disregard for any life, especially theirs and yours?

There must be a condition for real love to exist: that it is offered in trade for your fair share of the same, otherwise you pour your life down the drain, offering it to those who would destroy it without regard for the fact that every second you give of your life is one that can never be recovered. Anyone who would have you believe otherwise is setting you up to steal a piece of you for himself or herself, just like those who would have you believe that money or the love of money is the root of all evil is looking to take your money from you for himself or herself. And no, that’s not my opinion, that’s the reality that surrounds us, and you ignore it at your own peril. If you want proof, all you need to do is open your eyes, but if you can’t see it, just ask.

So there it is, Gentlemen. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to be a man, protect your wife and family when necessary (all the way, and if you aren’t up to going all the way, I strongly suggest a trip to Front Sight Firearms Training Institute for at least a defensive handgun course, because when seconds count, the police are always just minutes away), and protect yourself in the process. That can be a tall order, especially if you don’t know how to communicate well with women, but if you do it right, with justice (the principle of getting exactly what one earns and therefore deserves, no more and no less) and reason as your sword and shield, your reward will be everything your wife can muster to love and nurture you. That’s a prize worth winning, for sure!

So how about it? Are you fit for duty? Do you have the communications skills, the understanding of women, and the “intestinal fortitude” to handle the job? If you do, I’m a bit curious as to why you are reading this, but if there is even the slightest question in your mind as to whether you could maneuver through this mine field successfully, including navigating through any possible aftermath, then you need to go to http://www.makingherhappy.com/ and download your copy of "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage" and go through Uncle David’s “boot camp in a book” before the situation arises. You can also join us at our forum, http://forum.makingherhappy.com/, as well, and tap the immense resources of minds who have already been where you are going and navigated safely through.

Or, if you really want, you can wait and try to learn how to do this when you’re already under fire and too stressed out to make good decisions. Do yourself a favor and do it now while you can do it the easy way; I’ve done it the hard way and in a nutshell, the hard way really sucks, more than you can imagine before you’ve lived through it.

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

No comments: