Needy mother-in-law - FamilyEducation
Needy mother-in-law
01/11/2008 at 10:52 AM

Hi.  I'm new to the site, but I'm in dire need of help.

I really like my MIL.  I have been with her son for 6 years through college, and we married in Sept, moved 3 hours away, and are planning our wedding ceremony for this July for back home.

My FIL passed away suddenly in May with an advanced form of leukemia.  He died 18 days after diagnosis, and was never well enough to receive treatment.  He was 54.  Obviously, the family has been pretty depressed, especially my husband.  He is 25 and was very close to his dad.  He lived with them the whole time he was in college.  We had parties with his parents there, and they were an avid part of our lives.

We moved 3 hours away for my husband to take a good paying job.  His mother has been for a visit a couple of times in the past 4 months we have been away.  When my husband talks with her on the phone, she talks about all the things in disrepair at her house and in her yard, and either purposefully or inadvertantly, makes my husband feel guilty to the point that he wants to go home once a month to help her out.  We are supposed to be spending the weekends with a realtor finding a house here before our lease is up in 2 months.

Well, I understand that my husband feels guilty because he and his father took care of everything.  Now, his mother is struggling to become independent, but every phone call makes her seem more dependent.  We are newlyweds!  We should be having a wonderful time learning how to live with one another, pick a house to start our life in, plan for our future family...yet we are arguing about his mother again.

Over Christmas, she stayed the Sunday before Christmas til the Friday after.  My husband and I both had to work every day but Christmas Day.  She said that would be okay, that she would go visit her friends that live in our area.  I spent extra money putting the guest bathroom in our apartment together so she would have a nice place to shower.  I bought extra shelving and had the maintenence guy put up a nice shower head. 

The MIL never showered while we were here.  She waited til we were gone, then used our master bath.  She also hung out in our bedroom while my husband was waking up from his nap.  Am I wrong to have this bother me?  I feel as if this was an invasion of our privacy, not just mine.  Was she using our shower because my husband told her how great our shower head was?  There was no other logical reason in my mind why a guest would not use the guest facilities.  I never said anything to my husband at the time.  I just let it go. 

Then, yesterday, I went to David's Bridal to buy a swatch for my bridesmaids dresses so I could do some matching.  I saw that Bed, Bath & Beyond was next door, and I had a gift card...and that's where I got the really nice shower head for the master bath.  I used a little of the cash he gave me to put in the bank, but I also used the gift card.  When my husband got home and saw it, he wanted to know why I would spend money on something like that that we didn't need.  And I told him the truth.  "So your mother won't use our shower."

I couldn't believe the look on his face.  He was furious, but he's the kind of guy that walks away.  He walked outside and slammed the door behind him.  A couple of minutes later, he sends me a text message that says he needs time to think and he would be home later.  That was at 7.  Dinner sat on the stove and got cold.  I
 thought I should go out too.  But being new to the area, and having a very minimum part time job, I knew no one to go visit.  So I stayed in.  At 9, the text "I'll be home soon" came.  At 10:30, I texted to see if he really was coming home.  He said he was waiting til the end of the movie at a friend's house.  I laid in bed wondering what would happen when he got home.  I heard him come in after 11, but he didn't come to bed until around 11:30.  I was awake, but laid with my back to his side of the bed.  He never spoke to me last night.  Nor this morning as he got ready for work.  Was it that huge of an offense?  All I got was "I love you" before he left.

Do I need to swallow my pride and have an "Everybody Loves Raymond" family fight scene?  I try to tell my husband things so maybe he could mention to his mother that something bothers me.  Do I need to write her a letter?  Or talk to her face to face and risk hurting her feelings?  I just don't want to hurt her more while the memories of her husband are still fresh.  I'm totally at a loss.  Please help!!

Just some random thoughts after reading your post---


Remember, your husband is still hurting from the sudden, shocking loss of his young father, too.


Has your dh helped his mom become more independent? If she has always depended on her husband and son to take care of everything, she may need help in learning how to get help from others now. I think lists are helpful. Make up a list of repair companies or handymen she can call when something needs to be done. Same goes for insurance agents, utility companies, doctors, and any other important numbers.


As far as the incident of using the master shower---I think the use of the master shower did not bother him like it did you, hence his reaction. Either, as you said, it could be the case that your dh told your mom she could use it. Or perhaps in your dh's home growing up, every room was open to every family member. This incident could just be a reflection of that, and no overstepping of privacy boundaries or disrespect was intended.


If this is the situation, when you talk to your dh about all this, I hope you'll both try to be flexible and willing to compromise, but point out that he will need to be patient with you because you have a different idea of personal space and boundaries, and considered your bedroom and bathroom your private space.


You are all going through an adjustment time with the loss of your FIL, but it will work out in time, I'm sure. Good luck!


I'm 51, my husband is 53.  I hope that I would be able to be less dependent and more respectful if I were in your MIL's place.  I heard a question a loooooong time ago that has helped me stay married 31 years.  Would you rather be right, or be married?  Since then, I have found ways to deal with the complex nature of family responsibilities and loyalties.  I think you are right.  But I think your husband is in a really difficult place, too.  His mom needs him, not to do the repairs, either she or you can afford to hire a handyman, they advertise in the paper.  His mom needs him.  She is displaced from her family.  She was part of what made it so that you could have the wonderful husband that you do.  If he could just walk away from his obligation to her, do you think it would be smart for you to trust him? 

     How's this.  You go out every weekend and look for houses, while hubby spends every weekend for the next 2 months with his mom, unless you find a good house.  Have him approve the house.  Buy the house.  DO NOT GET A HOUSE WITH ROOM FOR HIS MOTHER. 

    It will get better, especially if you let both of them deal with their loss naturally, together.  You can join them, too, from time to time. 

    I remember a friend of mine, her children were really struggling in school.  Their father had died the year before.  One of the teachers' actually said, "it's been a year, aren't they over it yet?"

    He's still dead.  What's to get over?


I can not even tell you how long I have been dealing with this very same issue only WORSE!!! My husband is now 35 and we have been togather for 4 years, married 1 and as of this moment we are on the verge of separation/divorce.  Our relationshi started out great until I met "the mother".  A few months into the relationship a few red flags came up when I found out that he had "never" lived away from home except for a one year tour he did in Bosnia while in the Navy Reserves and all of a sudden we did "everything" the mama.  It was like puling teeth to get any alone time and he couldn't understand why I would want that.  In an attempt to shorten the story, we broke up twice, the first time because we were always arguing about having to be with his mom whereever we go and the second time for two reasons; the first was because she told him that he had to go to Busch Garden and be with the "family" instead of be with me who was sick and it was my birthday and, because she started "stalking" us.  If we didn't invite her to go somewhere, she would just show up.  Then there was the argument about him discussing our sex life with her.  This was utterly disgusting to me given that she told him because I was a single mom he should not be staying overnight at my home.  Who the hell's business is that ????!!!!! Additionally, whenever we tried to confront her on the more important issues it always ended up in her crying about since his father died he was all she had. BOO freakin' WHOOO!!! He died 14 years ago now, get the hell over it!!!! People in his church and friends even said that "she lost one husband and turned her son into another".   For awhile, I was disgusted at how she could treat him and then disgusted that he was allowing himself to be led like a puppy dog.  Then it got to the point where she would say "what he wanted to hear".  For example, if we weren't getting along, she would say well I'll have to call my daughter-in-law for a lunch date and then never do it.  Just when we would think things were getting better they got worse.  She started saying things to me behind his back like, "well my son needs to take "me" out to dinner this week" (creepy!) or call us every time we were alone somewhere together.  Somehow, (because we do love eachother) we finally got married, at which point she got a hold of his arm after the ceremony and held on for dear life!! She is in like 90% of my wedding photos and I refuse to put those up in our house.  She NEVER comes over to our home when my husband won't be there.  If we make plans for her to come over for dinner or something and she finds out my husband won't be there she cancels.  Obviously because she is not coming to see me.  What makes all of this worse, is that my husband continuously takes her side, even after this issue was discussed in pre-marital counseling, because I wouldn't marry him without it. He doesn't even make her respect OUR home.  She is rude to other company and doesn't respect our rules, so it is one more thing we fight about.  We were supposed to be planning to have a baby this year but after her refusal to come to my son's birthday party I told him I refuse to bring a child into this mess.  I said that it is because of her ABUSE and his ALLOWING it to happen and putting her wants and needs ahead of mine that I can't take it anymore.  So he wants all THREE of us to go to counseling.  I want to do whatever it might take to fix this problem however, if he is just going to continue to be a part of the problem, it can't be fixed.

Let me just say that while, it is true that you should never forget your parents and should try to be there for them there is such a thing called "emotional incest" which 9 times out of 10 is caused by the death of one spouse and the parent making the available child the "make shift spouse".  This is a serious condition and while it may not be your case, it can turn into that if the signs are not taken seriously.  Having an unnatural affection for one of your children, sabatoging their relationships, controling their lives, making the child responsible for your emotional needs and doing things out of the ordinary for a parent is NOT healthy.  A parent has to learn healthy boundaries. So do some research for yourself but I will warn you of this, if your spouse has a parent who is acting this way, they will not want to hear what you have to say and they will have problems with this.  Many prayers for you....


Just in case that "emotional incest" thing got to you, realize that when I make up my statistics about it, I say that  227 times out of 230, people grieve normally, they learn to cope, they develop other relationships, and they love their in-laws. 


Let's not break down such a big problem for the posters by being pedantic about statistics.