No one is saying that people have to get along with their mother-in- in law. They just have to co exist. But sometimes, in these cases, that can be impossible to accomplish.
The Whole Family Was Awful
“I had caught my husband living a double life…while traveling (he was self-employed so his travel was completely self-imposed), he was busy cheating, becoming a hardcore drinking/substance addict, and spending what little savings we had accumulated over our 17-year marriage on his selfish escapades.
The last time he spent at our home, I gave birth to our 4th child almost 6 weeks early while my mother-in-law was visiting. I left the other 3 children in her care while I went to the hospital. It was my longest labor, and postpartum, I had serious complications that almost took my life. During this time I spent in the hospital alone while my husband was somewhere outside the building getting high and face timing with his latest girlfriend, my mother-in-law was at my home screaming at my children that I had no business getting myself pregnant with their new sibling and should have been focusing on getting a decent job so I could support them all financially. She told them they had no right being happy about the baby and she hoped I ‘learned my lesson’ by having a preemie.
All this time my children were not told anything about the baby’s condition (she was healthy) nor about when I would be coming home. When I finally did come home with the baby 3 days later, they did not know when she was born, why I spent extra time in the hospital, or that I was sent home on condition I would be on strict bed rest for 2 weeks or I may develop stroke complications because my blood pressure was so dangerously elevated. After greeting them, introducing the baby, and telling my then 14-year old what was going on, my husband rushed the kids out of the room to tell me he had purchased tickets for another trip and would be leaving within a few hours for ‘at least a week’. My mother-in-law’s flight back home was 2 days after this…and she very happily packed her bags and left after waking me up that morning to demand I call her a taxi if I wouldn’t be getting up to drive her to the airport.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I then told my husband not to bother coming back and haven’t spoken to my mother-in-law again. She emailed me a few months later saying, ‘I know that you think my son is a bad husband but I don’t want to talk about that. I want to still be friends with you and have a relationship with the children blah blah blah’. That blatant denial of leaving me alone to care for 3 children and a newborn by myself when in the middle of a medical emergency solidified my decision to never waste another word on her.”
She Knew The Whole Time
“My now ex-husband and I were going through a divorce and had amicably agreed to shared custody of our son. I had moved out of our home due to my ex becoming physically violent with me because he was angry that I wanted a divorce. He was a serial cheater, quit jobs on a whim, constantly depleted money needed to pay bills by partying at clubs with his friends. I was physically, emotionally and financially worn out and had enough. Needless to say he was a narcissist. One of my dear girlfriends allowed me and my son to share her studio apartment during that time. Thank god for dear friends.
In any event, the ex and I worked out a shared custody agreement although the divorce was not yet finalized. We used the daycare center as the ‘neutral zone’ for pickups and drop offs to avoid unnecessary drama. All went well for a few months and then it happened. My ex had our son for the days leading up to Christmas and was supposed to bring him back on Christmas Day. He called to let me know that he and his new girlfriend were taking her kids to Disney World and he wanted to take our son. They were going on the day after Christmas and he asked to keep our son for another two days. Although I really wanted to have my son home for Christmas I agreed to it knowing our son would enjoy Disney with his dad. So Christmas comes and goes and the day comes for me to pick our son up from daycare and he isn’t there. His dad had never dropped him off. I was annoyed but not too concerned as I thought his dad had changed plans and just not bothered to tell me. I called his phone, and left so many messages his voicemail filled up. Then I went to his work and found out he had quit his job the week before. Now I am trying to swallow the panic that is rising in the back of my throat. I go to our old home and his car is not there. I try to use my old key but he has changed the locks. I called a locksmith to let me in saying that I accidentally locked myself out. Since all of my ID still had the old address, they let me in. Once inside, my heart literally sank to the floor. Although the furniture was still there, all other personal items were gone. My son’s room had been cleaned out. My worst nightmare had come true. My ex had taken our son.
So I immediately call my MIL. She and my ex were extremely close and talked on the phone every day. I told her what was happening and asked if she had heard from him and if she knew what was going on. She assured me she had not spoken with him but would try to reach him and let me know. I then called the police and tried to file a missing persons report. The police stated that since custody was not finalized there was nothing they could do. Our agreement stipulated that neither of us could take our son out of state without the expressed consent of the other parent, but the police said I would need to prove our son was out of state before they could get involved.
Needless to say I was devastated, scared, angry and confused. There had been no argument or event that I was aware of that would trigger my ex’s decision. It was all very irrational. I didn’t know what frame of mind my ex was in and feared for our son’s safety. When this happened our son was only 18 months old.
So I hired a detective to find them. All they could tell me was where they had been based on credit and bank card usage (again from my bank accounts). I considered closing the accounts but was too afraid of what would happen to our son if his dad ran out of money.
This went on for 2 months. Every day I spoke with my MIL and each time she assured me that she had not heard from him but was still trying. And I stupidly believed her.
In the meantime I moved back into our old home as I was still paying the bills there and awaited news. I was on autopilot-forcing myself to get up, take a shower, go to work, do anything to keep it together. My mantra was DON’T BREAK DOWN. DON’T BREAK DOWN. DON’T BREAK DOWN.
At night I would lay awake in bed willing the phone to ring and practice what I would do and say if my ex called. I wanted to be calm. I wanted to stay calm enough to find out if they were okay and then where they were. I practiced this a million times in my head. I would not let my emotions get the best of me. I had a plan. And I would stick to it.
Then one night weeks later, it happened. At 3:00am my phone rang, I picked it up and heard my ex-husband on the line. ‘Are you awake?’ He asked somewhat nonchalantly. In my mind I answered him very calmly. I spoke to him exactly as I had practiced. In reality I let out a blood-curdling scream that was so loud my neighbors heard and banged on my front door to check on me. I dissolved into a heaving mass of anguish and hysteria. My neighbors broke open my door and found me on my bedroom floor. Phone still in my hand sobbing uncontrollably. My ex of course had hung up. And that’s when I lost it. Utterly and completely. I blamed myself for messing up my chance to finally know for sure that my son was alive and well. I was done. There was no more going through the motions after that. I just lay in bed and tried to remind myself to breathe. I called off from work and just lay in bed waiting. I was paralyzed with fear and anxiety. I was so angry at myself for not following the plan. For failing my son.
Later in the week the phone rang again. It was my ex. I dared not speak. He asked if I was calmer now, and I said yes. I silently listened on the phone as he tried to explain his reasons for taking off with our son. It basically came down to him having a problem with how I loved and took care of our son, but in the same breath wanted nothing to do with being his father. Did I forget to mention he was a narcissist?
I just hung onto that phone and listened. I asked no clarifications, I just listened for clues of where they were, and validations that our son was okay.
I was able to glean three things from that very one-sided conversation:
My son was alive and well.
His dad had indeed taken him out of state.
My MIL knew all along what was going on and was trying to assist my ex in getting sole custody.
I thanked my ex for calling back. I asked if he could put our son on the phone so that I could hear his voice. He was sleeping so we made arrangements for me to call back later that morning. I cannot tell you the relief and joy I felt when I heard that little voice in the phone. I asked if he was having fun and he said yes, but was ready to come home.
I made arrangements to fly out to get him the next day. Once home, the phone rings and it’s my MIL. Which was great because I had some misplaced anxiety that was looking for a home. She had the audacity to try to defend her actions. She knew her son had no interest in full custody of our son. He never even filed for it. He was quite content with our shared agreement especially since I never even bothered him about the child support payments he never made. Instead of chasing him for money I put that energy into working my way up the corporate ladder and making a good life for us. I never bad mouthed his dad to my son.
In the end my Monster In Law demanded to know if she would be allowed to see her grandson again. I said, absolutely! But you will need to see me first. And explain how as a human being and a mother you could lie to me the way you did. You could have at least let me know that you were in touch with his dad and that they were okay. You let me worry and wonder for three months if my child was alive or dead. And for that you will need to answer. So whenever you are ready, please come see us!
She never did. No cards, no calls, nothing. Her son followed in her path. He cut off all contact with the only child he ever had. The MIL died last January and within six months my ex died. Although I held out hope my son and his dad would reconcile one day, it was not meant to be.
Mercifully, thankfully and graciously life goes on.”
He Was Controlled By Her
“One of the meanest and hurtful things my mother-in-law did to me was when I’d just got engaged and she asked to see my ring. I held out my hand to show her my ring and at that point she just grabbed a hold of my hand and started pulling on my finger trying to pull off the ring. At first I wondered what the heck she was doing. Then she said, ‘Let me have a close look’ in a raised voice. She was angry that was plain to see.
I pulled my hand back and started to remove my ring and handed it over. Straight away she put the ring on her finger and held her hand out to admire it.
Then she went over to her husband and said ‘Look Harold, look at the ring we’ve bought her.’ She was very angry and she glanced over and smiled at me.
I couldn’t understand what was going on. I said ‘We’ve just bought it’ to which she shouted ‘No, you’ve not bought it. We’ve bought it.’ I looked over at my future husband for his reaction. He just carried on reading the newspaper.
I really couldn’t understand what was happening. ‘Why do your parents think they bought my ring?’ He looked up ‘I have no idea’. Then his mum started shouting ‘You still owe us £600 from when you were 21.’ She snapped at me.
Apparently my future husband borrowed £600 towards his first car when he was 21. But what hurt was that was over 15 years ago. They decided never to remind him before that point.
Then she threw the ring at me. Then she went upstairs and then came back down and said, ‘Here’s your engagement present’ and threw a box on my lap. I looked and it was an old dusty box. It had written on the lid ‘Tina’ (which was my partner’s ex.) I lifted the lid there was a set of three cheap sauce pans. I said ‘Thank you.’ She replied ‘It’s from his last engagement to Tina’. To which she added ‘Would you like to see that ring?’ I was gobsmacked. ‘When my son got the ring off her, he gave it to me.’ I thought that was very odd. Surely if you end your engagement, it’s better to sell the ring than give it your mother.
I made my excuses and said I had to leave. I honestly wanted to walk out, when she tried pulling my ring off.
Once outside I hit the roof. ‘How can you let your mother treat me like that?’ I screamed.
He then said ‘Do you remember before you met my parents I told you and warned you?’
I said ‘Yes, but you made it out they liked to impress by getting the silver out.’ I said ‘Why the heck haven’t you paid your parents back before now?’
‘I can’t even remember borrowing £600 from them.’
I said ‘You don’t forget about lending money.’ He told me they write it in a book and they constantly remind you when you borrow any money from them. He said ‘I know for a fact I owe them nothing’.
I told him to go up and sort this out. Then he told me something else which in a way explained it all.
A few months ago he’d been given a large sum of money from an insurance company for his injuries in a road traffic accident. The morning he got the check his mum told him never to tell me about the lump sum payment from the insurance company. She told him I’d only try to spend it. She made him promise not to tell me.
I was so hurt, I couldn’t believe my future husband thought that of me, let alone his parents. I said ‘Surely if you truly borrowed money from your mum, why wasn’t it paid back years ago or when you first got your lump sum? Why have they brought it up now?’
But then more truths came out. Every time my future husband took me out anywhere, he always told me not to mention it to his parents which I thought was strange, but I just thought he liked to keep it private.
But I found out the truth. No matter where we were going out on a date his parents expected to be invited and if he didn’t, they made his home life a nightmare. I was shocked to hear how controlling and nasty they were, but I knew they hated him having any life away from them. They liked him to be their chauffeur, without me hanging around. I said maybe it’s just me they hate. He said they are the same with every girlfriend he gets.
I thought surely he is joking.
But I got to know the family very well, and no, he wasn’t joking. In fact it was very creepy the control they had on my partner. I still can’t understand it now.
First thing I asked him to do is pay them the money back, which he did. Then I told him he’d got to stop hiding his life because it upsets them. I told him you’re not a little boy anymore. You’re a grown-up man.
I asked ‘Does your oldest brother hide his life?’
‘No, he keeps away.’ he replied.
I never got on with his family. They hated me no matter what I did or said. I did it all to try and get on with them, but there was no way I was going to let his parents rule us. In fact, I got so fed up of them trying to control our life and my son’s, we left.
When I used to refuse to go along with his mother’s plans he’d lose his temper and start punching things. In time the thing’s became me. I ended up moving out of my home of 24 years. I was given emergency housing for me and my son…it was awful. Going from owning your own home to having nothing.
The day I moved out he moved his mother in. Then she took him to try and get custody of our son. I told him he could keep everything just leave me our son. But that wasn’t enough, he wanted me to have nothing. His mother paid all his legal bills. They told so many lies, but truth will always come out. I was lucky it did. I still have my son.
The most important lesson some parents need to make is letting go of their children and letting them have a life and grow. Some parents damage their children. It’s so sad when a grown man still craves love from his parents, because he’s always felt like his older brother is loved more than he. So he constantly is trying to make them happy, but no matter what he does, they don’t care apart from their next day out that he takes them on.
He is like a scared little boy in a 54-year-old body. So sad.
I don’t think he’ll ever get away from their grip and will definitely not get the love he deserves from them for all he’s ever done for them.
I’ve never known a family that never hugs or kisses each other. The lack of affection is mind-blowing.
It’s so sad.”
She Told Him To Play Hockey Instead
“I had a terrible pregnancy that ended with me having my son a month and a half early. I had an emergency c section. It was a terrifying experience. I had to be put completely out because I was so scared I couldn’t stop shaking. When I came to a nurse was pulling an X-ray pad off of me. I was really confused. I was told my baby boy was doing fine and that I had pneumonia.
I spent almost a week in the hospital recovering. My son was in the neonatal intensive care in isolation. I was told my son would be there for at least another 4 weeks.
On the Friday my husband came to visit me. He was excited that his hockey team was to play the championship game on Sunday. That’s when I told him the doctor had come to see me and let me know I would be released on Sunday.
We ended up having a huge argument. I didn’t think I was being unreasonable expecting my husband to take me home from the hospital. I knew it was going to be really hard leaving my baby at the hospital when I went home and I needed support. My husband told me I was being selfish.
The next day in trooped my husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law. The men quickly excused themselves to go get coffee leaving me alone with my mother-in-law. As soon as they left she started on me about this stupid hockey game. I should also point out this was a ‘fun’ league, nothing serious. She went on to tell me how hard my pregnancy and the birth of our child was on her son and that he needed something for him. She told me everyone focuses on the mother and the father is on the side lines. She told me not to be selfish and to give him this little thing that was so important. She spent the better part of an hour attempting to convince me.
Quite a while later my husband and father-in-law came back in discussing this stupid frigging hockey game. I don’t know if I’ve ever been that angry in my whole life. The three of them sat there talking about it while I sit in the bed getting angrier by the second, I was on the verge of having a flip out. They were talking around me like I wasn’t even in the room.
Thankfully my mom and my sister showed up. The room was crowded so my in laws and husband decided to leave. Good riddance!
I told my mother what had just happened and she was furious! She told me not to worry that her and my step dad would be happy to take me home.
Later in the evening my husband came back to let me know he would in fact be playing hockey the next day. He told me again that I was being selfish and that his mother agreed with him and said he should do what was right for him regardless of how I felt.
My mother-in-law justified my husband’s awful behavior over and over but this is the one that hurt the most.”
My Terrible Mother-In-Law
“My husband is from Romania and his mother came to live with us for a year while waiting for her green card. The plan was she would then spend six months a year with us in America and six months a year in Romania. I knew she was the matriarch of the family, and my husband was her first boy.
But this woman hated me on sight. She said the most awful things to me. I was too young, too pretty to be with her son for anything other than his money (I told her ‘if you can say that, then you have no idea what a wonderful man your own son is’). She would do things like go through my purse when I wasn’t looking and throw out my $40 Chanel lipstick. One of the most hurtful things she would do was turn around the pictures I had in the house of my mom, who died at age 34 when I was 12. She pitted my husband against me- she made it out like I was setting her up and lying about it.
The final straw came when I came home from a long, stressful day at work. I sat down at the kitchen table to go through the mail. Over the course of the 10 months she was with us by then, downstairs became ‘her domain’. I would retreat immediately upstairs to our bedroom and watch TV or read until my husband came home. She made him dinner every night (which I wasn’t allowed to eat with them). He would sit with her and have dinner and eventually come upstairs to greet me. When she went to bed, we were free to go downstairs and watch TV, etc.
She was most unhappy that I had the nerve to sit at ‘her’ kitchen table. She picked up my sunglasses from where they were on the table and threw them against the wall; then she started berating me in Romanian. I ignored her and continued going through the mail, which infuriated her. She stood over me and continued yelling.
My dog, a little Yorkipoo who weighs all of eight pounds, was very upset about this. We went through a lot together during my previous marriage and she is still very sensitive to fighting or yelling of any kind. She stood next to my feet and started barking. As I reached down to calm her, my mother-in-law kicked her. Right in the face. My dog yelped and I could hear her teeth crack together.
I stood up so fast I knocked over the chair. I grabbed my dog and my purse and left in my car. I called my husband at work- slightly hysterical, I will admit. I told him ‘This is it. I am going to a hotel. Either she goes, or I go.’ She flew home to Romania three days later. I can handle a bully but I cannot handle abuse of my dog, and my husband couldn’t either.
When it came time for her to have to return to the US due to her green card, I absolutely refused. Her green card was invalidated because she stayed outside the US for too long. I don’t know if we will try to sponsor her again in the future but it hasn’t come up in discussion lately.”
We Just Had Different Personalities
“When she came to visit from Florida she brought her own towels and sheets. My house was never clean enough. Sometimes she’d leave them behind and say, ‘At least she has some nice new towels now.’ She would talk about me in front of me like that. For example, ‘That dog must love being scratched with those short little nails of hers.’
She expected me to sit in the back seat to let the men ride up front. Also, she watched the food at dinner and would put her hand up to block me from serving myself if one of her sons had not had their second portion yet. You’d think we were poor or struggling financially. We were not.
She had orange eyebrows! She had them tattooed on and over the years they had faded and had been re tattooed until it was pretty much all I could see on her face. I play recreational league softball and my teammates would chant, ‘Picture the eyebrows’ as I went up to bat. It helped my batting to picture orange eyebrows on the ball.
After two kids and ten married years I did what I wanted. I drove or leapt into the front seat whenever I had the chance, helped myself to whatever I wanted to eat at the dinner table and did my best not to let her get to me.
We were so different. She was pathologically clean and me, well not so much. I preferred my kids to be outside and getting dirty. She ran to the pharmacy for every ailment, and always got doctors to prescribe antibiotics, even if it meant switching doctors over and over. I agonize over the thought of taking one aspirin. Her sons suffer from autoimmune diseases and I once said to her: ‘That’s probably because they grew up in a sanitized house taking antibiotics for every little sniffle.’
It was probably the cruelest thing one mother could say to another, the idea that something you did caused your children years of unnecessary pain. Especially since I knew that her boys and grandchildren were what mattered most in life to her.
She died last month and I think about her all the time. It’s incredible to me how things can change. She got divorced about a year before I did. She developed brain cancer soon after her divorce was final, she attributed it to all the stress from the divorce. We began talking more, then having real conversations. She and I always had our biggest blowups when she visited for the kids’ birthdays, yet she said that when she looked back on everything those parties I threw were the best memories of her life. This is making me cry as I type it.
She regretted being afraid of living her own life for so many years, hiding behind her role as mother and that now it’s too late. I was able to say one thing I know is true: that many people have remarkable careers and accomplish amazing things yet become alienated from or mess up their kids — and that is a far graver regret. I said she will always be remembered as a devoted mother who put her family first, and that is a wonderful way to be remembered.
She said that her wish for me is to find the love I’m looking for.
The other crazy thing that happened — my 9-year-old daughter climbed into bed with me last month sobbing. She’s never been that inconsolable. I was at a loss so I just held her and listened. She finally blurted, ‘Grandma Carol is dying and I’m not ready to let her go.’ I kept saying that we will call grandma in the morning and that she can tell her how she feels. The next morning my ex called to say that his mother had died in the night.
My daughter was adopted from Kazakhstan and is not blood related, yet she is connected in more ways than I will ever understand.
Carol remembered me in her will alongside her boys and her grandchildren. I think about her and my grandmother Veryl all the time, reminded of the precious time I have left, and do my best not to let my ego interfere with what might really be going on with people like I’ve done so often. We follow our grandmothers into the future and take them along with us too.”