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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Relationship
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Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology helping with relationships
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I have a terrible time getting along with my mother-in-law

Customer Question

I have a terrible time getting along with my mother-in-law and I'm not sure how to handle the situation anymore. My husband does not talk to his mother outside of obligatory holiday calls and his father has never been in his life. I sort of felt bad for his mother when we first met because she seemed very lonely and I wanted to try to include her in our life. Unfortunately, after 6 years of marriage, I realize that she is not able to be a part of our lives in a positive way. She is terribly insulting, verbally abusive, and just a negative person to be around. My husband tells me that after her fourth marriage failed, she fell into a funk that she hasn't pulled herself out of for the past (almost) 15 years. She probably weighs close to 350 pounds, is an alcoholic, has a ton of health problems due to obesity and smoking, and does not have any close friends. None of the family members on my husband's side ever reach out to her due to the same reasons I am describing here. She does not understand or approve of our jobs, our traveling, or our opinions on anything. Whether it's a car, a hairstyle, a piece of furniture - she has something negative to say about all of it. This spreads to complete strangers also...she'll insult a server at a restaurant or a cashier behind a counter, it doesn't matter who they are. She takes any opportunity to be negative. My husband says she has a huge ego and a closed mind and I don't disagree with him, but there is obviously something underlying that she is not dealing with. She won't, however, have a conversation about any of it. For example, when my husband and I visit her on Christmas (or whenever), my husband will give her a hug goodbye and say "Bye mom, I love you". She always just stands there with her arms at her side, will not give him a hug and will not say "I love you, too". When my husband tried to talk to her about how hurt he is by it, she tells him he expects too much from people. Maybe we are expecting too much from her because she just can't contribute to the kind of positive lifestyle that we are trying to have. The funny thing is, she is rather pleasant via email. She sends me emails every other day that are quite long, detailing things like the weather, TV shows she has watched, her opinions of all sorts of things. I don't respond to most of them, but sometimes I'll respond with a few lines just to acknowledge her. I feel like she just sends them because she's lonely. My question is, are we supposed to suspend all contact with her? My husband seems to absolutely not care at all. I have to force him to sign a birthday card to her and send her a Christmas gift...I now wonder if I was wrong in forcing all this. I don't know why I feel such guilt when she is not my mother. I have a great relationship with my own mother, so I don't feel like I'm trying to fill a void there.
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 10 months ago.
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Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 10 months ago.
Hi. Was this approach to thinking about and dealing with your mother in law helpful? Or should we look at other approaches? Let me know,


Dr. Mark

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