My wife hates my mother because my mother’s self-absorbed and only wants to talk about herself (this is true).
She finds my mother infuriating and became enraged at a recent episode where she feels my mother was overly competitive with her and denigrating to her.
She’s vowed never to speak to her again.
My mother’s blissfully unaware and thinks she has a great relationship with my wife. My wife never makes her feelings known and prefers to fume and stew alone (or to me).
I don't want to get involved. The last time I brought one of my wife's complaints to my mother in the most delicate way possible, she became terribly offended and hurt.
I just can't step on that landmine again. My wife is right that some of my mother's behaviour is infuriating. But she isn't going to change, and also, my wife’s very sensitive.
I don't know what to do now. I hope my wife will forgive again but this current situation is causing me a lot of stress.
Side-Stepping The Landmine
It won’t work. You cannot be the innocent bystander in a major emotional rift between the two most important women in your life.
Yet you are right that it’s unlikely your mother will change much, even if she ever believes she’s done something wrong.
You need to be the best supporter possible of your wife, so she’ll be less upset by her mother-in-law.
Instead of telling your wife what you can’t do to help, reassure her that she’s correct in her assessment of your mother’s personality and its negative effects.
Suggest that you both need to learn how to understand and respond appropriately to the things she does that irritate and hurt your wife.
Go together (or if she prefers, suggest she goes on her own) to a professional counsellor to discuss how to handle the self-absorbed and infuriating behaviour from your mother.
Being sensitive, your wife needs bolstering from you that you fully understand the difficulties your mother presents.
When she knows that you truly respect her reactions, but also believe she has the wisdom and security to usually be able to handle it, she can then re-consider cutting contact and perhaps let some things pass.
However, know your wife’s limits. If your mother’s ways become intolerable to her, you’ll have to accept her cut-off and find your own reaction, such as only seeing your mother on your own.
After moving to the big city with the purpose of working hard to survive, things are surprisingly worse than before.
It seems like just having basic goals and good intentions aren’t good enough. Should I have more ambitious goals so that when they fail, I end up achieving my basic goal of survival?
What if I end up not even achieving basic survival? How do I deal with that?
Over-thinking a situation just sets your mind spinning in different directions with no solution.
Look at the basics of living somewhere new: Besides goals and intentions, you need “community” – acquaintances (from work/where you live), a friend, a local coffee or lunch spot where you feel comfortable.
Also, search meetup.com for a common-interest meetup group to get you out and talking to new people.
Survival is a process. If you have mental health issues such as anxiety or depression continuously interfering with the process, go to a hospital clinic to see a physician and start a treatment plan.
Reader’s Commentary “I wonder why a gentleman looking for a long-lasting relationship choose, a lady younger by 25 years (May 25):
“Gossips might say he’s a Don Juan looking for adventures. But to be empathetic, I’d say he’s looking for her innocence, honesty, and passion, as a "child" still has.
“Why would a young lady pay attention to an older matching guy? Gossips might say she’s looking for material advantages.
“Or, she’s seeing in him the moral and parental model of her father, or the wisdom and care which she’s missing from a father.
“Most people would give little chance for such a couple. What advice would you give them?”
Ellie - I’d tell them to follow both their hearts and minds, to be aware of how the age gap does affect their relationship, and consciously adapt at different stages (e.g. one spouse 80, the other 55).
If it works, ignore the critics.
Tip of the day:
You can’t be an innocent bystander to a serious rift between the two most important people in your life.