I’m a man of East Indian background, married for five years (10 years together, total).
I fear that I’m living with a narcissistic partner and don’t know how to manage with her.
She’s uncontrollable during a fight. Whatever argument I put forth, she brings only irrational points that are imaginary.
When we have issues that relate to my mother and her, I can’t support my mother based on behalf of her age and memory-loss issues, and my wife will still blame everything on my mother.
Even if I accept that something’s my mother’s fault, all I can do is ask my mother to correct the problem.
But she’s not able to correct it because of her memory loss and age issues.
My wife can’t tolerate this in an argument and still needs to resolve the matter.
I’m helpless on both sides - 1) her not understanding how my mother’s issues affect her; 2) my mother being unable to correct/halt the occurrence of the issues.
I have to resolve it all, but I can’t.
Caught Between Them
From what you’ve written it’s apparent that you and your wife live with your mother. This tradition from many cultures, can cause problems in the relationships, with the male son caught between wife and mother.
It’s often a particularly difficult situation for a daughter-in-law living in North America, where most other women outside that background, are the female head of their home, and full partners with their husbands.
Some mothers-in-law who live with a daughter-in-law, do understand when it’s time to accept a more back-seat role instead of trying to still run the house.
Your wife, however, is clearly not the female head of her household, and doesn’t get full support from her husband.
Yes, you are the man in the middle, and your mother’s aging and memory loss unfortunately contributes to misunderstandings and stress between the two women, both of whom expect you to resolve it.
When you don’t, or can’t, it leaves your wife feeling helpless, disrespected and alone, which is what causes her to sound irrational, as she tries every possible way to get your agreement and support.
Do not leap to a judgement of her being a narcissist.
She is as frustrated as you are, but you have your mother on your side. Who’s on your wife’s side?
She’s fighting for her identity, not inventing self-aggrandizing scenarios.
Your mother has had her years being fully in charge.
It’s time for you to be kind but firm with your mother, and ease her out of a position that is in constant conflict with her daughter-in-law.
Look to your community for places where your mother can spend time with other older women in programs for those with memory loss - not a nursing home, but rather a place where she can enjoy the help and activities offered there, along with other women needing company and some supervision.
That’ll give your wife some autonomy at home, which she needs.
And you’ll have a break from the conflict in the two women’s current situation which is no longer acceptable.
But neither you, your wife (nor other involved relatives) are looking for a creative, healthy response regarding a mother who’s in need of medical support from her doctor, and programs to provide her with comfort, company and ways to pass the time.
Do this as a couple. Look for solutions and enlist your wife’s help with suggestions, and researching the community for what services are available.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman, 38, who focused on career/saving for a house and never dated, now asking if there’s still hope of finding a partner, or it’s too late (March 2):
Reader – “Too late? It’s NEVER too late!
“I am originally from Europe (Austria) and came here in 1950, at age 20, (yes, I approach the age of 90 in May).
“For years, I lived as the "Happy Bachelor."
“And I got married (for the first time) in 1991, at age 61, to a widow.
“I had placed an ad in a newspaper, regarding seeking a partner, and I received 52 letters in responses.
“I met with every one of those ladies in 1988.
“My new wife and I honeymooned back then in Colombia, and celebrated our 29th anniversary this year. I’d chosen a good woman.
“Yes, you can do it!”
Ellie - Great success story!
Tip of the day:
When there’s ongoing stress between two generations of women with uncertain roles, seek solutions, not blame.