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OK...I know this is going to sound really petty but....


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....I've noticed a continuing trend of my mother-in-law trying to influence my wife and I'm looking for advice. I'm not trying to come between my wife and her mother or anything, but two things tonight caught my attention and I'm wondering what you guys think.

 

First, we live about two hours away from my in-laws. We're currently in visiting for the holiday weekend. Both of my wife's parents have been trying to persuade us to move very close to them, which is something that I think my wife would love, but I really don't want it at all--I already feel like they smother us sometimes and I know that if we lived close, we would never have the privacy a married couple should have. Anyway, tonight, my wife's sister and her husband were supposed to join us for dinner, but declined at the last minute. My wife protested that her sister and her husband never keep their commitments to the family and my mother-in-law responded with "well, we don't put them under any obligation. Your grandparents always over-obligated us to the point of smothering us and we hated it. So we know what that feels like and we NEVER do that to your sister. We wouldn't do that to you either if you lived close."

 

To me, this was an obvious swipe at me. She knows I don't want us to live closer for the very reason she mentioned because I've talked about it with my wife and my wife tells her mother EVERYTHING. Was she just trying to get her point accross? Does she really think that will persuade me to change my stance on this? Are these kinds of comments appropriate? I mean, we are guests at her house, they were nice enough to let me marry their daughter and everything....I mean, I know their opinion counts for a lot, but I felt attacked....

 

Here's the petty thing that I thought I'd bring up. My mother-in-law owed my wife some money to even up after a shopping trip they had. She addressed the check using my wife's maiden name. She *ALWAYS* does this. In the past 2 years of our marriage, she has never sent her anything with her new name on it....be it a check, something in the mail, e-mail, whatever. My wife shrugs it off as being habit on her mom's part, but I can tell she's a little embarrassed that she still can't seem to get it right. I think this is on purpose, but I don't see what purpose it serves....

 

Any advice would be appreciated--especially from any of you folks who have had similar in-law situations...does this get better with time? What can I do in the meantime? Am I being over-analytical???

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I think you might be over-analyzing this. Maybe the comment wasn't so much a "swipe" directed at you, but rather the actual truth about how they feel, or trying to show you both that they would not be intrusive if you lived closer.

 

Your wife tells her mother everything that the two of you discuss? That is not appropriate. She is married to you, not her mother, and there are some things that are not meant to be discussed outside the marriage. Your wife is so close to her mother that she is used to sharing everything with her. So when you have certain topics that you would feel uncomfortable with your in-laws knowing, tell her to keep it between the two of you! Otherwise, she won't know what is ok to discuss and what is not.

 

And I can see why her using the maiden name all the time would bug you. It can almost be interpreted that she does not acknowledge the marriage, but if the M-I-L treats you well otherwise, get over it. It is not that big of a deal. You could ask your wife to remind her mother that she now has a different last name, but keep in mind that she might just say "Steelcitymstro doesn't like that you still write my maiden name"... THAT will not really help anything!

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I think you might be over-analyzing this. Maybe the comment wasn't so much a "swipe" directed at you, but rather the actual truth about how they feel, or trying to show you both that they would not be intrusive if you lived closer.

 

I agree with this.

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I think the mother in law is being petty. Why does she need you to live closer anyway?

 

I would just ignore the petty things she does. There is no point making an issue of it and letting it affect your marriage. Just let her get on with her snide little digs. Brush them off and act like you don't even notice.

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I think you're being careful in discussing this here, and that's wonderful. Always smart to avoid starting wars that don't really matter--if you think about it.

 

It's natural for a mother to want her children close, even when they're adults. It's also practical for mothers to accept that adult children will make choices that don't always cater to them. That's between your wife and her mom, and the less you involve yourself the better.

 

Your MIL's comment does not sound like a swipe at you. You are choosing the disadvantageous and disingenuous position of her adversary, and that's where you're causing yourself unnecessary angst and frustration.

 

Worst thing you can possibly do is position your wife in a tug-of-war between her mother and you. You can secretly resent the woman all you want, but in your shoes I'd examine what that buys you and how it only reinforces your knee-jerk response against any and all communication or dealings with your wife's family.

 

That's about you, not the MIL. You are making your MIL all the more attractive to your wife because you are giving off the message that she's verbotten. Think of the intensity of Romeo and Juliet, and understand why discouragement makes certain relationships all the more solid.

 

At what point do each of us start assuming the position of care for our parents that is subtle and demands little more than offering them kind words to give them some mental warmth and comfort? I'll bet you money--if you were to start forcing yourself to sound caring and generous toward the woman, you'd suddenly find your wife more open to your input and less defensive about her family. Just try it out for a while, and notice the changes you can affect just by humoring those who's only crime is offending your private sense of security. You can take control of that all by yourself, and you can charm the shorts off of everyone involved.

 

Put down your weapons and be smart instead. Work that thang, and you'll thank yourself later.

 

In your corner.

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Thank you all for the opinions. I really don't want to position myself against my MIL or anything and I'm definitely not trying to get my wife to take "sides" or whatever. I was just saying that, in general, my MIL always seems to be making little gestures or saying things in front of both my wife and I that she knows are hot-button issues in our marriage. It's always seemed like, on the issues that should really be none of her business, she waits for a situation where she can slip in her her opinions anyway. I guess I feel threatened by it because my wife is extremely close to her mom and I'm always afraid (and probably jealous if I'm being completely honest) that my opinions, thoughts and feelings come second to what the MIL has to say.

 

Alli....I do have to remind myself to tell my wife what to mention to her parents and what not to mention. Just yesterday I was out with my father-in-law and some of his friends and I texted my wife to tell her that I thought one of her dad's friends was kind of a creep. I thought she'd know not to run to her mother with that one, but she did and the topic came up at dinner. MIL kept pushing the issue with the FIL....very awkward.....As far as the maiden name thing goes, it's not that big of a deal and I won't mention it--I was just wondering how you guys would interpret those actions. She does treat me a little differently than my other brother-in-law I think. My in-laws have pretty decent money and they are constantly buying crap for us. Unlike my brother-in-law who is happy to be a leech on their finances, I don't like being the recipient of largesse. My wife doesn't like it either, but somehow it gets held against me. My mom has always said "if they want you to take their money and kiss their a**** to be happy, why don't you?" but it's not who I am and not who my wife is either.

 

theshoefairy....she's wants us to live closer because her daughter is basically her best friend. It's very strange...my FIL is very outgoing, has many friends and hobbies and is generally happy in life. My MIL is unhappy in her marriage, unhappy in her job, does not have any close friends and has no hobbies. All of this is puzzling btw....she does not have a bad husband, definitely doesn't have a bad job and nobody in the family has been able to explain why she has so few friends. In any case, my MIL puts INCREDIBLE guilt and pressure on my wife to live closer, spend more time, etc. I'm not a heartless jerk or anything--*obviously* their relationship is close and they should spend a lot of time together. But when it goes the extra step of my MIL having no life of her own so she has to adopt herself into ours, I get concerned for the privacy and space we have as our own couple. My wife actually agrees with most of this, but allows herself to feel guilty about not being there for her mom as much as my MIL would like (which is basically all the time).

 

catfeeder...excellent post, thank you. Deep down, I know this is what I have to do, but it's definitely the harder thing to do when you're feeling threatened. I disagree that this stuff is a knee-jerk response...if you were in my shoes, you might see it differently, but the overall sentiment of your post is well-taken.

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I admire your willingness to consider others' opinions. You don't need to buy into ignorance or provinciality as any threat to you whatsoever. Your MIL might treat you differently because on some level she senses your antennae is up and that gives her the platform she needs to mess with it. That's because she likely feels equally threatened by you. That's the whole reason for being the one who makes the shift in your way of thinking, because you can't control her--you can only control you.

 

MIL rings your chimes as often as possible because it works. If it had no affect, she'd be less interested--but she senses the power it gives her, and that's because you fork yours over by taking the bait, whether you openly respond or not.

 

When children manipulate, we can easily understand that it's because they have no power over adults. The problem with immature old people is that they're as manipulative as children, only they're better at it. They do it because they believe that they have no power, and so they try to create it around petty and minuscule things. So what? When you know a game is stupid and you can't even win it, don't play. Be cheerful, be stupid and discover how that can be your Teflon if you'll only use it properly.

 

At this time, you're not seeing that clearly enough to lift yourself above the fray and let the silly stuff drop. Instead you're primed for it, and you're finding it--and you're latching onto it and making it bigger than it needs to be. Other than making you cranky, what's in that for you, exactly?

 

For instance, why on earth would you feed a negative comment about FIL's friend to your wife? The guy might be a chump, but keep that kind of stuff to yourself and vent about it with your own friends. Think--would you really appreciate having your wife criticize your parents' choices of people? It's stuff like that which sets you up as the outsider, and then you wonder why you've been treated as such?

 

Everything about your mental position toward MIL is tangible and mirrored back to you. If you want to see a change, you need to change it at the level of your own thoughts. See the IL's as harmless old manipulative children, and muster up some compassion for them. Model for them the generosity they lack, and let your kindness be the thing they can't crack--no matter how hard they try. And sure, they'll ramp it up a bit when they sense that their mojo no longer works, but so what? Once you see their powerlessness for what it is, you're done with this.

 

In your corner.

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At this time, you're not seeing that clearly enough to lift yourself above the fray and let the silly stuff drop. Instead you're primed for it, and you're finding it--and you're latching onto it and making it bigger than it needs to be. Other than making you cranky, what's in that for you, exactly?

 

For instance, why on earth would you feed a negative comment about FIL's friend to your wife? The guy might be a chump, but keep that kind of stuff to yourself and vent about it with your own friends. Think--would you really appreciate having your wife criticize your parents' choices of people? It's stuff like that which sets you up as the outsider, and then you wonder why you've been treated as such?.

 

Good points again...I suppose other than making me cranky, the "what's in it for me?" question regarding finding these little petty things is just validation of the suspicions I have about how my MIL influences my wife. I mean, c'mon--who doesn't like to be right? Right!?

 

Seriously, there have been several situations in the past where my wife and I come to an agreement or consensus on some big issue and things are great between the two of us--until she talks to her mother. After an hour an a half on the phone, my wife is now doubting herself, doubting me and undoing all of the work we had just completed on whatever issue. My question in situations like that has always been "do we REALLY just disagree on everything or is this more like sabotage?"

 

As far as the FIL friend issue--I should give a little more background there. When all of the guys went out together the other day, my wife was like "watch out for ____________, I always thought he was a jerk..." So making convo with my best friend, I sent her a text later like "yeah, you're right he IS a jerk." Then, that turned into, "See, steelcitymstro agrees with me--_________is a jerk!" I should have known better--one of those cases of it's okay for them to criticize them, but not for me to criticize them.

 

As far as being an "outsider" you have no idea!...lol. You probably have a point in that I probably do things to make myself the outsider (unintentionally I would hope), but fact is, I will ALWAYS be an outsider to the in-laws. I grew up relatively poor in the country and never valued money that highly--they are quite wealthy and act like they can buy our love. It's just a whole different mentality and to be honest, it's tough to want to fit in sometimes. Their whole lifestyle is so different from the one we want....I guess they have a hard time believing that my wife chose to be with me.

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Hah! I understand. Why do think there are such negative stereotypes surrounding inlaws? Really not implying that your complaints aren't valid, only suggesting that best way to work them is to mentally minimize them and not build the kind of resentment that would have you amplifying affects on you and poising you as reactionary rather than tolerantly disinterested.

 

Thing is, it's easier to put this on MIL than your wife. If wife didn't take your matters to her, she wouldn't have the opportunity to give her opinion--and I wouldn't call it sabotage, I'd call it being inappropriately asked. That's the wife's lack of discretion, and not necessarily MIL trying to cause you harm.

 

This is where another poster's earlier advice comes in, where you can try specifying an issue that is private as it occurs and asking wife to keep it between the two of you. If she won't agree to that, then it's not an in-law issue, it's a marital issue. Working it from that angle is the only way to lessen your own concerns about getting clustered.

 

Your sense of humor is terrific, and no doubt you can work this. If the inlaws treat you as an outsider, then just be the finest outsider any family could own--and let them stew in their own juices.

 

In your corner, and my best,

Cat

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Easy,

1) get the point accross to your wife to stop snitching on you

2) never invite your sister and law and her husband to dinner again, show that you wont tolerate people not respecting your time

3) as for the mother in law not respecting you, dont go to her house anymore and dont accept checks that dont have her last name on it.

 

You shouldnt lock horns that will cause problems, just pretend that it doesnt bother you...say less

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I love my mother-in-law--she is a good woman, and she means well--but I also find her extremely irritating in any more than small doses.

 

She has never really worked outside the home, with the exception of a couple of part-time jobs, so she always wants to talk to me about housekeeping stuff. This is not a problem, really, except that I am by NO means the domestic type, so the conversations end up making me feel irritable and resentful. "Seriously? Is she talking to me about whites AGAIN?"

 

But this time before we visited for the long weekend (it's a 12-hour drive each way), I really thought deeply about her, and my relationship with her. I realized that it's not so much that she's trying to dig at me for not being a good housekeeper--it's just that it's what she knows, and she wants to feel needed. So on this visit, instead of getting defensive, I tried to focus on her need to feel validated and important. I asked her questions, thanked her for her input, etc. Not in a fake, smarmy way, but as a woman who knows how important it is to feel needed and important.

 

I felt a lot better, and not all keyed up and irritated like I normally am after a visit there.

 

Oh, and she plays the "it would sure be great if you two moved closer, especially once you have grandkids. Did I mention it would be great if you have kids soon?" card OFTEN.

 

I guess what I'm trying to say is--I completely sympathize, but it might help you to try to see it from her point of view. It may well be a power trip, and she may be doing it intentionally. But underneath it all is probably a woman who's sad that things have changed, and is having a very difficult time accepting it. Everyone has their own way of acting out and expressing things. Even if you can't change her behavior by trying to see things from her POV, it might help you to be more at peace with it.

 

One more thought--it sounds as though your wife is trying very hard to make you happy and build her relationship with you, while also making her mother happy and trying to maintain their relationship. Your wife sounds like a good woman.

 

Ultimately, as long as the two of you are able to discuss things and come to decisions that work for both of you, that's what's important.

 

An earlier poster is right--there is a reason they write country songs, jokes, and whole stand-up routines about MIL's....

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Thanks for this post. I know that my MIL is very sad that things have changed and has a difficult time accepting it. I don't think she blames me or my wife for this....I mean, I didn't exactly drag my wife from home kicking and screaming or anything, but she does take her frustrations out on me in not-so-subtle ways. Like you said, she's good in small doses, but for as much as we see my in-laws, it gets to be difficult to always think about my MIL's POV as my POV is so readily dismissed. But, you're right--as hard as it is, I have to keep doing it.

 

Thanks for the complement on my wife She is a very good woman and she is trying very hard to play both sides of the fence. Honestly, one of the things that gets under my skin about my MIL the most is the fact that she makes it so difficult for my wife to feel content with her decisions. I'm far from perfect, but I feel like I bend over backwards to support my wife, validate her opinions and feelings and compromise whenever needed. I resent the fact that my MIL doesn't do the same--maybe she feels like my wife "owes her" or something, but the guilt card is played waaaaaayy too often. Nothing infuriates me more than to see my usually-insecure wife gain confidence and maturity--only to lose it again with a simple phone conversation with her mother I've come very close to bringing this up in conversation with my MIL--I don't think I ever will because I'm sure it would open up a huge can of worms, but sometimes I'd love to pick up the phone and say "What did you just say to her? Do you know how what you say to her *actually* makes her feel sometimes?"

 

But I digress....thanks again for your post

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