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Anna, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1945
Experience:  Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 29 years in addictions and mental health.
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My husband and I have been married for a year. My

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My husband and I have been married for a year. My mother-in-law, a recent widow. My husband is doing everything he can to help her but she is very needy and blows off the support of others. I sometimes feel she has a need to be the center of attention-good and bad. Whenver my husband is stressed and overwhelmed, as he is right now, he has the tendency to loses weight. He is very tall and thin to begin with. He is also an only child. Yesterday in a typical conversation with my mother-in-law, she became very upset (normal daily occurance since my father-in-laws death six months ago) and literally yelled at me and accused me of not cooking meals and taking care of my husband. Where is this coming from and how do I handle it? She is 82 years old and has always felt she can say anything she wants to anyone. I am really beginning to disklike this woman. My own mother never yelled at me. But why is she insisting that I am not taking care of my husband a 50 yr old grown man?
Hello & Welcome to Just Answers.

She's going through the stages of grief & loss, which are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally Acceptance. A person goes up and down through them over the first year or so in a grand sweeping way, and then also in little ways as she goes through adjusting to her new life.

It's important for both of you to know that she needs to express this anger, but that you don't have to bear the brunt of it. You don't have to tolerate intolerable behavior for any reason. If she starts yelling at you again, leave the room or hang up the phone in a very calm & gentle way. Say, "I'll talk to you later when you're more like yourself." and then go. Keep doing it. If she wants attention, she'll have to face her anger and stop spraying it everywhere. Don't get into the content of the rant (how you cook, what his weight is, her right to discuss it). Just know what it is and when she crosses the line, she loses the support and the audience. It will make her face herself, which is what she needs to do: she has to face her anger at her new life.

Your husband can't carry her. He can carry his message of love and sympathy, but he can't carry her and the burden of her grief. He has his own to attend to, so he has to walk a line, but put himself first.

You're doing the right thing: keeping perspective and not getting into the drama or taking it personally. She'll get over this, but it will look ugly. Make sure that both you and your husband can handle her feeling pain so that she can move past her loss...don't interrupt that process by making 'nice nice'. Just give her the same 'generic' reassurances you have been and hold onto your sanity. This won't last forever unless it's indulged.

If you would, please fill out the feedback form after accepting. I appreciate this opportunity to help you out today. If I can be of further service to you, just put "for Anna" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it.



Anna and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Thank you for the feedback! It is helpful even though the issues we are dealing with still hurt. I know my husband is in the middle and in a lot of ways a coward. He actually drove her around doing errands taht ended up being a 150 mile trek ... she has no clue! But thank you again.
You're welcome. Take care and keep your sanity!

Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Hi Anna,

Wondering if you can help calm me down again? I've been continuing the approach discussed above and my mother-in-law is really getting worse. After the last ordeal I let a couple of weeks go by before initiating contact with her. She had another tantrum three days ago, yelling, crying and just plain in a pity party mode. She again yelled at me but this time she stated "I don't want anything to do with you and the way you spoke to me. We thought you were smarter than that to talk to me that way in my condition" and then hung up on me.

Well, I am not only hurt but furious because she has now spread things that are totally untrue throughout my husband's family. She claimed that I put her down when she was the one putting her self down with me trying to convince her otherwise. She has told people that I put her down... what a lie. I have never done such a thing and never would. I have never disrespected her or anything of the sort. She is constantly referring to herself as not being that smart, she can't do anything, etc... She even went so far as to tell me about some of the things her mother-in-law used to do and say to her, etc. So she figured that's the way she should be. My response is generally, it doesn't make it right and not to do it again... you're not your mother-in-law. But sadly, if she has always been this way I can see why her mother-in-law may have said and done certain things to her ... not that it is right.

So I had my own tantrum in the comfort of my own home in the basement... all my husband could do was sit on the stairs and listen to me rant my frustration. But the great thing is he listened, understood and stated, "Welcome to my world". I am so proud of my husband because he has actually started backing off ... realizing that he cannot carry her grief that it is hers ...he actually stated that. He has also been very sweet and attentive to me this week ... and not so preoccupied with his mother and her needs.

I told him that I felt like I had been placed on a shelf and he would get back to me after he took care of his mother but that I refused to be placed in that position. So, the two of us have come to agreement that he will spend every other Saturday to help her out and the alternate weeks he will visit her during an evening during that week. This is a lot better than his spending every Saturday with her. He also stated that she is stubborn and conveniently forgets or doesn't remember what she could have said that upset me or anyone else and that it is sometimes like talking to a wall.

Her other family members seem to facilitate her sadness by giving in ... for example, father's day, her brother's kids invited her to a family cookout at their house. After 20 minutes, she started crying and wanted to go home but it had to be her brother that drove her. This is a 20 minute trip one way... So her brother drove her home, dropped her off and returned to his party.

Both of my parents are gone so I think I've latched on to this woman but am beginning to rethink the type of relationship I want with her. My husband and I are both in our 50s and it's a second marriage for him but my first. We are an interracial couple and I'm beginning to wonder if there are other dynamics in play too.

With the exception of his parents, the majority of his family was against us getting married but has tolerated it and even attended the wedding.

Trying not to lose my mind. Please help.



You don't need to lose your mind over this woman who has already lost hers. Now that your husband is back at your side, just do what you can to foster that relationship and grow closer again. You're not going to change his mother and certainly can't control the lies she spreads. She's a drama queen, plain and simple. Try to understand that she lashes out from a place of pain, but that in no way means you have to stand in the road while she runs over you. Observe her pain from a distance, choose how much you want to help her out and let her rant on to one audience after another.

Rethink the relationship alot. :) And above all else, don't buy into the has no end.

Take care - you make perfect sense to me.

Anna and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Thank you so much for your response! It is really a huge help that your advise validates my thinking and my actions. Definitely rethinking the relationship. Thank you again and have a very nice holiday weekend!

Kind Regards,


You're welcome.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hello. Your previous advice was on target so thought I'd get your view on the latest ..

Last fall my mother in law suffered a hip injury that landed her in the hospital and rehab for a couple of weeks and its been down-hill ever since. It really got bad when the doctor's changed her meds and it became a storm that has not ended. Turns out she has been on Valium for 50 years...

So, after thinking she had really lost it my husband had her evaluated. Keep in mind that he lived there for two months and I got to see him maybe once a week when he returned home to get additional clothes and other items.

We had her evaluated by social services and county nurses. The diagnosis is General Anxiety Disorder, Adjustment Disorder with Anxious Mood, Depression and Bereavement.

We have since tried setting aside one weekend a month (marriage time) and she is crying about that. I feel like I am in a nightmare that will not quit.

And to add insult to injury, I just found out my husband also has General Anxiety Disorder and perhaps Aspergers. Which by the way, explains why he has no clue and defends his mother over me.

I am just about ready to throw in the town and tell him perhaps he will be better off living with his mother because we just don't seem to have a life.

Definitely ready to throw in the towel. Please help!