Not every mother-in-law is terrible; however, it seems way too common that they are. Who else can relate to fighting with or disowning their MIL? Did your experience turn out to be as ridiculous as these? Content edited for clarity.
Taking His Vows Seriously
“My mother-in-law was a fine woman, but she thought that she was only doing her job if she constantly told her daughter what to do. My wife did not share her views – on much of anything, really. This was the 1970s, and mother-daughter friction was even worse then than it is today.
So, ‘Jane’s’ mother would call her bright and early every Sunday morning. She would then explain to her everything she was doing wrong with her life. She did this to the point that Jane was often in tears by the end of the call.
This disturbed me greatly, but it was not my place to interfere. Now, I am a very nice guy, but when riled I do tend to the ‘macho male’ attitude. I can be downright fierce, to the point where I seem to have picked up the nickname of ‘Ghengis Jim.’
Having set the scene, there was one Sunday when my mother-in-law was both cruel and unrelenting. I’d had enough and popped a (figurative) gasket. I grabbed the phone from Jane’s hands and returned fire.
‘I don’t know who the hell you think you are, lady, but nobody speaks to my wife that way. She is a grown woman and deserves to be treated with respect. Which you are not doing,’ I said firmly,
‘I swore an oath to protect her, and I WILL hold to it. If you EVER talk to her like that again, you will never again be allowed to talk to her without going through me first. I do not allow people to treat my wife that way,’ I finished heatedly.
I think I put the fear of God in the poor woman. Life changed that day.”
Getting The Law Involved
“Towards the end of my marriage, my ex-wife and I were fighting. That was completely unremarkable at that time, we fought a ton. What was unusual is that my soon-to-be-ex mother-in-law came over and got in the middle of it, yelling at me in concert with my then-wife.
I honestly do not remember what the issue was (this was over 10 years ago); realistically it was probably stupid and overblown on both sides. As far as the arguing, I can’t claim anything in the neighborhood of the moral high ground. We were all pretty angry, there was yelling, and I was at least as much at fault as my wife. Neither of us were winning any good behavior points that night. I was angry at being yelled at in my own house by someone who didn’t live there, but that didn’t mean I was right.
After a half hour or so of arguing with my MIL, she said, ‘That’s it, I am taking xxxxx (my son) with me back to my place.’
That calmed me right down.
I replied, ‘You do not get to come to my house, yell at me for half an hour, and then *tell me* that you are leaving with my son. I am his father, you are not permitted to leave with my son.’
‘Your wife says I can, and you can’t do anything about it!’ she screamed.
Ugh. This was another in a long string of boundary violations, and I was sick of them.
‘I am that child’s father. If you leave this house with him without my permission, there are going to be problems. I am telling you that you do not have my permission to leave with him,’ I said calmly.
At that point, my mother-in-law left with my son anyway. The only way that I could have interfered was physically, and I had no desire to wind up in jail over a physical confrontation with a woman in her 70s.
I followed MIL to her house, and after we both arrived, phoned the local police. I asserted my rights: I am that child’s father, and that person knowingly has my son without my permission. When speaking to the police, I kept my voice even and calm. That took about five minutes. At some point, the responding officer retrieved my son and we went home for dinner, TV, and bed time.
My MIL and my ex-wife always thought they were in charge, and that they could dictate to me how things went in our house and with my son. That night marked the first time (but not the last) that I asserted my rights as my son’s father.
If you’re interested in how this all ended up: it ended with me having full-time custody of my son for 10 years due to my wife’s issues.”
“The biggest and worst argument I had with my mother-in-law, unfortunately, ended our relationship. We argued about whether or not I had the right to dictate/demand how she treated me while she was a guest in my home. My mother-in-law’s Eastern European culture allowed, and some would even say, expected, that a mother-in-law be able to say anything she wished to her daughter-in-law and treat her daughter-in-law in any way she wished.
At the time of our argument, I had been married for almost 15 years and had been with my husband for over 16 years. During this entire time, she had repeatedly, criticized me, demeaned me, humiliated me, embarrassed me, harassed me, and corrected me, nearly every time she was in my presence. She also tried to tell me how to parent my children, tried to make medical decisions for them, and even interfered in their education, going so far as to tell one of their teachers she didn’t know what she was doing. She even told a contractor I had hired to redesign my home, not to listen to me, and instead tried to give him directions she preferred over my choices. And nearly every single time she behaved badly, I would either politely and respectfully disagree with her, or else ignore her. More than anything I just wanted to keep the peace, for the sake of my kids and husband.
However, her behavior began to escalate when my oldest son turned 10 years old. The last time she visited, she became extremely impatient with me over my inability to wait on her as she liked. I had been working overtime, taking care of three kids, was simply exhausted, and couldn’t make her breakfast in under five minutes. She threw a tantrum, yelled at me, called me names, and even threw a bag of coffee at me.
Her behavior shocked and dismayed my son. My husband did not treat me this way and previously I had brought my son to work with me and he had witnessed how I managed my staff. He saw how they spoke to me, respected me, listened to me, and took direction from me. After my mother-in-law left he came to me and said that he didn’t understand why I didn’t allow anyone else in my life to treat me badly, but I did allow my mother-in-law to constantly disrespect me and abuse me. He said it hurt him to see his mother being hurt. His opinion of her treatment of me hit me like a ton of bricks. It made me realize that her behavior was deeply affecting my child, even worse than it was affecting me.
Therefore I wrote her a letter and confronted her. I detailed her treatment of me over the course of my entire marriage. I told her I loved her as the mother of my husband and the grandmother of my children, but she would no longer treat me badly or disrespectfully if she wanted to be allowed to come to our home. I laid out clearly and respectfully how I expected her to behave, while she was visiting and agreed that I would behave in the same way. I told her I wanted her to only say kind, nice things to me, to restrain herself from criticizing me, humiliating me, and demeaning me. I told her she could not ever again treat me badly in front of my children and I reminded her I had never treated her with anything other than love and respect and kindness every time I was a guest in her home. I explained to her that if she felt she could not adhere to the rules and boundaries I had requested then it would be best if she stayed in a hotel when she came to Denver, or else stayed home in Pittsburgh.
It did not go over well. The next time I saw her my mother-in-law yelled at me for nearly 4 hours. She told me she was a ‘hot-head’ who didn’t have a ‘filter’ and who ‘calls it like I see it.’ She said she was very confident in her opinions and feelings and assessment of situations and she would never change. She said she didn’t see anything wrong with the way she had treated me. She also said she was deeply offended by my requests and accused me of being mean and just trying to hurt her. She denied ever saying anything that was meant to be mean or hurtful toward me. She said she could never forgive me, she couldn’t trust me and we wouldn’t ever be able to have a relationship again.
As a result, my mother-in-law is not welcome in our home and she has a very limited relationship with two of her three grandchildren. This is her choice and her decision.”