My boyfriend I have lived together for 18 months. We’re both almost 30. His mother’s seriously interfering with our relationship. He lost his father when he was a teenager. Yet his mother still has his father’s things around - pictures, plaques, tools, etc. She remarried two years later to a man who’s not very nice and was a friend of my boyfriend’s father (upsetting many people). My boyfriend asked me to not tell his mother when we see his father’s family – including my boyfriend’s two half-siblings and their children, uncles, aunts, cousins. He said it hurts his mother’s feelings when we see them. We try to get together with his half-siblings every couple of months. On Christmas Eve at his mother’s house, he mentioned that we want to have a destination wedding. (At home, it’d be too large). She instantly snapped, "I've already told you, if you do that I'm not coming." He’s her only child. When asked, her first reason was that his dad’s side would be there – specifically, the half-siblings. I said they were his family too. She then said her husband wouldn't go, so she’d be on her own. I said that my family would hang out with her and her mother. She guilt-trips my boyfriend about his family and it breaks my heart. His half-brother had a destination wedding a couple of years ago. His mother, who hasn’t contacted them in eight years, said she was hurt that she wasn't invited. With a potential monster-in-law, I’ve lost all excitement about a wedding. I just want to go to the courthouse now. I’ve told my boyfriend that I won’t return to her house until she apologizes to both of us for what was said on Christmas Eve. It doesn't bother me if he goes over… but am I wrong for being so offended and broken-hearted? I've mentioned to my boyfriend about confronting her and possibly getting her help to get over his dad’s death, but he won't. I’ve seen this man in tears because his mother doesn't want him around his siblings and he's caught in the middle. Please tell me what to do. Fighting Back
Don’t put more pressure on your boyfriend. He needs you to be his ally, not his alternate good-Mama. His mother suffers some chronic grief related to her loss. She clearly had issues with his children (the half-siblings) from a previous marriage, and those issues may’ve involved rejection of her. She has a right to her feelings and to her keepsakes. BUT she does not have a right to rule the life of a 30-year-old son. It’s his challenge to help her realize that. Plan your wedding wherever and however you both want. He must stand up for the two of you and simply tell her that’s how and where it’ll be. Then, back off from your hard stance on her Christmas Eve comments. The wise way to announce wedding plans to a parent, whom you already know is reactionary, is to do so privately, explain your reasoning, and stick to your plan… unless you hear acceptable reasons for re-considering. She’s not a “monster” unless you react to her as one. She’s a complicated, unhappy woman trying to exert controls on her only son, and bound to lose. You can afford to be more generous of spirit, since you’re bound to win. It’s an important marital bond to try to improve in-law relationships, if possible. At least make that effort.
FEEDBACK Regarding the reader who didn’t know how to deal with her children over the impending loss of a close grandparent (January 10):
Reader - “As a retired Montessori teacher, I recommend a book called The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia, PhD. “It’s about life, death, renewal, and loss written for children, but can be appreciated by all ages. “We often read it in our school and the children loved it and were able to relate to it, especially if they’d lost someone near and dear. “It can be obtained from Amazon or big bookstores.”
Ellie – Thanks for reminding readers of this excellent resource. It’s a fable, originally published in 1982, which has sold more than 300,000 copies. It’s for anyone who has suffered a permanent loss, written by the late American author, professor, and motivational speaker known as “Dr. Love,” who decried human reticence on the subject of love.
Tip of the day:
In-law difficulties require the adult child to speak up and the spouse to be supportive.