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What would you do? (1 Viewer)

Book Cook

Senior Member
I have the following scenario for the men of these here forums (although I guess it could apply to women as well):


What would you do if your mother-in-law came to your house, her diddler accompanying her, and after a plethora of comments like:

"This house belongs to my daughter." (it belongs neither to your wife nor to you though, since you're renting it)

"This is my daughter's car." (you bought it together)

...and so on.

Then spends day after day and night after night trying to convince your wife that you are a junkie and that she should leave you.

Lies about being mortally ill in order to control her daughter (but your wife believes every lie that oozes out of her mouth).

Your wife sneaks about before you get up for work in order to take the car keys so your mother-in-law's diddler can drive them all around while you're at work the whole day. You can't force anyone to give you the keys back because you'll end up hurting someone and no one will believe your side of the story because you're a strong male and they're old and feeble. It's winter, and it's cold enough to freeze the snot running out your nose, yet you must trek the 6 km on foot in the predawn darkness while traffic whizzes dangerously close since there is no sidewalk. Then you need to spend 8 hrs doing physically demanding work, and trek back home through January twilight.

After a month or so of this, she and and your mother-in-law's diddler physically assault you when your wife is not there. You go to the police and tell the truth. They go to the police and lie. Your wife doesn't want to talk about it, because your wife is, as she claims, the real victim. Then when it pleases your mother-in-law, she goes home (which is in another country) and keeps feeding your wife venomous advice on how she should comport herself in marriage and what she should be doing and saying and thinking.

Eventually, after a couple of years and despite all of it, you get a kid, and your wife says that her mother is coming to visit. You're naturally against it. It happens anyway because, as per your wife's incredibly sound explanation that she has always been using: "She's my mother".

Your mother-in-law has arrived. She's handling your kid. Your stomach is churning. You avoid her completely so you don't risk seeing her mien (imagine a self-important, haughty, elongated equine face). You're helpless, because you're a man in a modern society and whatever you do will be condemned and whatever you say will be dismissed. The authorities cannot do anything as long as your wife allows her to stay. Your wife keeps saying: "She's my mother" as if it should be logical to the whole world that those words justify everything.

You have spent hours every day reading about all the minutiae of caring for a newborn, yet whatever you suggest to succour or soothe the crying babe is promptly dismissed with this provocative, rhetorical question: "How many children have you raised?" and the child gets taken to the other room where your wife and her mother forge decisions without you.

Your mother-in-law leaves yet again, and your wife spends 5 or 10 or 15 times a day with her on the phone, absorbing all the horrible guidelines to life. (Your mother-in-law can do everything in theory and is opinionated about every subject, although she's never actually done anything useful in her life nor is she actually capable of doing anything, and her opinions are stuff pulled out of her behind that have no merit whatsoever--sophistry without the clever part in the definition. She's always been relying on other people and twisted every form of help she had ever received to make it seem as if she's the resourceful one). Then you start noticing that your wife has started subtly alienating you from your kid, wanting to be the only one to feed him, and calling you only when she's tired or when some physical work needs doing. You feel it in your gut that your mother-in-law is responsible, since whenever you walk into the room, she's on a video call with her, drinking in the venom and showcasing your child to her. Your skin crawls because those eyes are pointed at your child. Then you remember that your child was in her arms and the contents of your last meal churn in your throat. Iridescent, painful hate roils in you, and you have no release.

You remember Raymond Carver and his story Little Things. You decide that you don't want to settle the matter in that way, so you're not contesting anything, since you cannot broach any subject with your wife without insults flying this way and that.

You're soon starting work, and your wife will stay at home, on leave from work, for about two years to care for the child. She wants to call her mother yet again to stay for an indefinite period of time, and you're, naturally, against it, but your being against it is not important.


What would you do in this situation? I'm asking for a friend.
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
I'd be divorced and sharing the kid every second weekend.

I'm watching something similar, it is a nightmare.

That kind of psychological warfare is impossible to beat. All you can do is walk away and offer help for when the wife/partner realises how toxic her parent is. Staying just adds fuel to the in-law's fire. Leave and she has nobody to act as a distraction from her behaviour.

'Honey, I love you. Always will, but I can't come between your mother and you.'

I'm not an expert. I am probably the last person you should ask for advice.
I would try a counsellor first.
Good luck to your friend.
 

SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
Book Cook. I read this book once :))) called Passages, by Gail Sheehy. It talks about the various and expected stages of life, all the way to the end, focusing on how we change as we move through a normal life span.

Of course, there are those who get “stuck.” Like the 60-year-old woman who still wears her hair the way she did in high school because someone told her it was her style. It happens all the time. As parents, we work hard to make sure our children leave home appropriately, and when they do, we are devastated. It’s a conundrum. We want our kids to be independent, successful, confident – all those good qualities. But we still want then to need us. We don’t want them to borrow money or to live with us into their forties, but we want them to seek us out for problems and issues, etc.

It’s possible that the woman you are speaking of, the wife, started out that way. Maybe she left home, got an apartment, met a boy and then talked to her parents about marriage – and they panicked. They wanted their little girl back and for whatever reason simply could not handle the idea that their child was going to be asking someone else to help her, to guide her, to be her confidant. They are stuck, just like the old woman with the hair, and just like that constant hair style, the parents came up with a plan that was mom’s job to implement to keep their child a little girl.

It’s cruel. I fear, however, there is no reversal available. They have disabled and dismantled the appropriate maturity of this woman; they have called her back to the womb and have made every attempt to simply cancel her growing up. And she is complicit because maybe she fears loosing them. Maybe she thinks if she picks her husband, her baby’s father, over her parents, she will be damned forever. She’s not going to change; it is just too late and she has already made her bed – so to speak.

I would suggest the “friend” express sadness and compassion for his wife, but I feel challenging her or threatening her (as in it’s me or your mom) will never work. Compassion because one day, this young woman will find herself alone. As Gail Sheehy pointed out – everyone dies. There’s an old phrase that says a son’s a son until he takes a wife; a daughter’s a daughter all of her life. That’s the way it usually works, but unfortunately, not when parents are stuck.

I don’t see how this marriage can survive.
 
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