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Direct Answers – The Grinch

My mother-in-law made my husband and my wedding process very difficult. But in the end the best thing that came out of it is we are more united and open with each other than ever.

I am a lucky girl to have my husband! We got married two summers ago and have been slowly trying to rebuild a relationship with his mom, although she often makes this difficult.

For example, our first Christmas together we chose a day to go to his parents’ house before Christmas and spend time with them. This resulted in nasty emails and phone calls, including one telling my husband he had a bad heart. She was mad we would not see them Christmas Day.

When we did come, she ignored us and stayed in a nearby room. Then she said she would not open our present until December 25th.

This year we decided to invite them to our home since they have not been here in awhile, though we often see them at their home and business. We said if the time we chose on Christmas did not work, they could pick another time and any day they wanted. We asked in person and my mother-in-law said nothing.

Days later she was again angry and yelled and cried to my husband on the phone. She was upset we were not eating dinner with them, yet she did not ask us to dinner nor did she choose a different time.

I am always polite and kind to her, but I am getting exasperated. Worst of all, my husband has been hurt deeply!

~ Joan

Joan, think about what you wrote. The best thing that came out of conflict with your mother-in-law is that you and your husband are even more united. Now is not the time to bring this woman deeper into your life. Now is the time to consolidate your victory.

Why are you trying to rebuild, or rather build, a relationship with her? How many times does she have to prove to you who she is?

The only chance she has to change is to have consequences for her actions, and that may mean her son and daughter-in-law are less in her life. She has a right to be who she is, and you have a right to protect your family from her.

To do that you have to give up the myth of the happy family and the Hallmark Moment. Too often people, to their detriment, seek the world of Leave It To Beaver, Ozzie And Harriet and The Cosby Show.

There is a fallacy that everything can be fixed and every relationship is worth preserving. By happenstance of his birth your husband is tied to this woman. If she were a stranger, how much would she be in your lives? That’s the question to ask.

You have a family without his mother in it. Accept that. Don’t think you always need to mend this fence. Her behavior is on her, not on you or your husband.

Your situation may seem unique to you, but to us it is commonplace. We often receive letters from women who tried to mollify an implacable family member, only to see their husband switch loyalties, or to see nonstop turmoil in the marriage.

Ask yourself, how often do I need to have my hand slapped, how many times do I need to be rebuked, how many times do I need to be emotionally threatened?

People claim blood is thicker than water, but actions are the true measure of a relationship. Actions are the true ties that bind.

Your mother-in-law’s mean spirited actions united you and your husband and brought you closer together. Why would you want to undo that? Trying to have it all can cause people to lose it all.

~ Wayne & Tamara

Column for the week of December 29, 2014

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