My husband and I have been married for nearly 17 years. We got married right after he graduated from college and was commissioned. We have had a good marriage. We have weathered the storm of a sick child, differing opinions on our operating budget, and many stressful separations. The number one thing that tears us apart, however, is his mother.
I should have known when my mom took me aside a few months before we were set to get married, after my mother-in-law no-showed to all of our bridal showers. She told me in no fewer words, “you are going to have issues with his mom.”
I naively thought that love could conquer all, even a mother-in-law from hell. At first it was little things here and there. She wanted to pin him on when he got commissioned. I obliged, after all, I was his fiance, and she was his mother. But then she started to have temper tantrums, make extremely passive-aggressive jabs, and even attempted in vain to set up my husband with a second cousin removed by some degree when we were having some marital problems.
The first temper tantrum came on the eve of our wedding, when she refused to sit in the same pews as anyone else. My mother-in-law and father-in-law are bitterly divorced, and she had decided that she didn’t want to sit anywhere near father-in-law’s family, so instead of sitting with my family, she and her family were going to occupy pews on the other side of the church. The priest interceded and she did end up sitting in the pew in front of her ex-husband.
The jabs were the worst. I would complain about them constantly to my husband, and he would just sort of ignore my complaints, or quietly tell her to knock it off. She took his silence as consent. It wasn’t just complaints about how I made house, cooked, or my parenting. One time after a large fight, she even called my mom, and told my mom that she should be ashamed of how I was raised. The jabs were horrible. When we first tried to have children, it took 3 years to conceive a child. My mother-in-law offered to freeze my husband’s sperm. We told her thanks, but no thanks. When we came home for a visit, she gave us a check for $12,000 the amount to freeze and house sperm for years. During one of our fights she offered the soon-to-be frozen sperm to the cousin.
When we did get pregnant and have our child, we took the money she gave us and put into an education fund. My son was diagnosed with developmental disabilities, and she had a fit that we had just “wasted the money on his education.” She also hinted that I had made up the diagnosis to get attention. While I was pregnant, she talked endlessly about miscarriages, and how she had hoped that she had miscarried all of her children-in front of her children. When my son was born, he didn’t look like either of us (my husband and I look very similar in appearance). My mother-in-law told all her brothers and sisters that I had cheated on my husband and demanded a paternity test. When he was sent to Iraq, she demanded to be put on his will. She loudly exclaimed that she couldn’t understand why I would need life insurance, and why my child needed so much money. She complained about me being a stay at home mom.
For 17 years, on his birthday, my husband would get his birthday card, and it always had money in it, and always said something about using the money on him, and not on “us” (meaning me or the kids). She always forgot my kids’ birthdays. She would mention in front of the children that they hated her, and loved my mom more. I was largely forgotten for Christmas, and when my brother-in-law got married and his wife was also forgotten, I finally felt vindicated. Sadly, I also learned after his marriage the awful stuff she would confide to someone about me. She started calling me and complaining about my new sister-in-law. How much money my sister-in-law spent, how she was mean to my brother-in-law, and how she ruined the relationship between herself and my brother-in-law. It was then that I knew she was probably saying the same things about me.
My husband was always disappointed that I did not have a good relationship with his mom. Last year he tried to force the relationship, and when it back-fired he realized how dysfunctional she was towards him. My husband had become an obsession for her. My father-in-law is a mean man, and they divorced when my husband was very young. She remarried another man, who passed away in 2001. After that, she became increasingly obsessed about my husband in a somewhat romantic way. I think my husband was what she wanted her husband to be. So I was treated like competition. At every opportunity she attempted to bring me down, and break us up. I don’t know exactly what she would have accomplished had we broken up, but we didn’t.
My husband finally realized what a disaster the relationship was on his last deployment. We had started going to marriage counseling to deal with the constant barrage my mother-in-law, the military, and my son’s condition was putting on our marriage. He and the marriage counselor ganged up on me, and got me to agree to have my mother-in-law come out and “help.” The jabs in recent years had subsided, and we were actually on friendly terms. I agreed, because I didn’t have much fight in me. The trip was a disaster. It culminated on my 16th wedding anniversary. I came home from a fitness class to find my daughter sitting in dog urine, dog poop, and dog puke screaming for help, and my mother-in-law in the upstairs guest room sound asleep, ignoring my daughter’s screams. He is still apologizing to this day for that episode.
It took my daughter being hurt for my husband to realize that my mother-in-law and I will never have the relationship he longed for us to have. It has also taken about a year of counseling for me to realize a few valuable lessons. I should not have put so much time and effort in trying to get someone to like me. I would have saved myself a lot of wasted emotions if I had just accepted the fact that my mother-in-law was not going like me. Further, I learned I should not allow someone who is this negative to me to live rent free in my head.
Unfortunately, we have one more battle left to fight. My husband wants to move close to my mother-in-law. I know in my heart of hearts what will happen if that does happen, in her failing health, we will be expected to take care of her. I can’t do it. I don’t have it in me to take care of someone who has not treated me well for 17 years. I am pushing to live a few states over when we finally decide on a forever home. Close enough to visit, far enough away to lessen drop-in visits. I have never been more happy that the state he chose doesn’t have good services for my son, and taxes military retirement pay. Looks like we will be keeping a safe distance after all.