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Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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We are having marital problems with my husband, he refuses

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We are having marital problems with my husband, he refuses to address spanning over 7 years now. God - parents have not been willing or able to help. We went to see a psychologist but when the psychologist pointed out to him that it was his mother that was causing the problems and that it was not that I was disrespectful - he never wanted us to go again. In my frustration I told his sister about everything. Did I do the right thing?
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

You probably made a mistake by airing your personal family problems with his sister---unless your sister was intimately involved in the issue herself (i.e., could be part of the problem and solution herself). I can tell you that aside from sex, money and child-rearing problems, the problems caused directly by inlaws (often mother-in-law/daughter-in-law conflict) create more marital distress than just about anything else. (Well, substance abuse and verbal/physical abuse is right up there near the top of the list as well). So when I hear that mothers in law might be part of a marital problem, I often think that the husband is not standing up for his wife has he properly should (change that to nearly ALWAYS should), allowing his mother to interfere with child-rearing, etc.

I hope this information is helpful. Let me pause and allow you to react to my post.....feel free to share with your husband if you wish........
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Well, prior to all this my sister in law had directly told me that my situation was different to her's when she got married after 2 years of courting, and a future sister in - law - to - be that is so impatient and wants to get married to my brother in law, they have been going out for 5 years. She has become manipulative and controlling of the situation forcing my brother in law to marry her.

My husband popped the question to me on the 10th year of our courting, which was riddled with problems, 2 abortions due to him not being able to commit, hiding me from his family (never met any of them prior to our engagement which happened 6 months before the marriage, his reasoning was that it was taboo in his culture) cheating with other women, where he also impregnated another after which I separated from him, telling him he had to marry the girl and be a father to her baby. Something he was not prepared to do for me twice before.

This responce by her was when I implied that this girlfriend of my brother - in - law be patient, that I had waited 10 years not even knowing whether the man would marry me or not,, on the other hand the future sister in law has been promised marriage, the whole family knows her, she attends family gatherings etc. and has basically been accepted as part of the family.

I took offence to her statement as I had seen all of my problems with my mother in law to be baseless, I concluded that she most probably liked one of my husband's ex girlfriends and had basically seen me as a woman of loose sexual morals. That I concluded that she thought that I most probably stole him from the other. My father in law asked me directly after our marriage, whether I had done an HIV test - I was so embarrased and felt so humilliated, my husband was in the room and he said nothing.

I presumed that this was due to the fact that they had never met me or heard of me up to the point where my bride price was being discussed.

I believe you are communicating that your husband doesn't stand up for you when there are inappropriate comments directed toward you, when his mother attempts to contradict you regarding family matters, and that he seems to be accepting of this negative view his parents have of you as the 'immoral daughter in law'. So correct me, please, if I am misreading the key issue here.

If this is the key issue, the remedy is something your husband is responsible for doing on your behalf. What he is responsible for is to begin to go out of his way to make highly positive and complimentary comments about you whenever he is in the presence of his parents and other family members. These compliments can be fit into many different conversations e.g., about how kind your are, how patient you are, how you help solve problems, etc. Now, I'm going to stop here because I want to verify that I have understood what the main point of your post is and whether this suggestion then, makes sense in light of my understanding (of the problem). So I will wait for your feedback.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

You are right, it is not only things she says though, his mother meddled and was so controlling and openly showed dislike or no acknowledgement of me infront of my husband. Like we would be speaking and she would just interrupt without asking for any apology and my husband's attention would be drawn to her. Or move her sitting arrangement on the dinner table if she was placed next to me, as to be not close to me. Not greeting me, while visiting at our house.

A while back we decided to renovate our kitchen, when I learnt she was coming to visit us, I asked my husband to postpone the project until she left. He never heeded my request the project was on and my fears were realised. She basically did the kitchen the way she wanted.

While on holiday abroad she phoned some family members while we were visiting them and instructed them to talk to me as she felt that I was disrespectful, evil (that I was responsible for my parents divorce) and that I should be made aware that she is the mother - in - law. I had soken with my hostess already, telling her my problems and hoping that they could help us with our problems. So when my mother in law called she was aware of what was going on and she and her husband decided not to pass her message to us. The host only spoke with my husband. I was so disappointed as I thought that it was a perfect opportunity and that my husband would be shown by other people of what was really happening - as to him his mom was never wrong. Needless my holiday was spoilt.

I was pregnant at the time with my second child and I could not take it anymore. That was when we decided to see a psychologist. Actually he is the one that initiated it, having gone there to report how disrespectful I was towards his mom. When the psychologist saw me and got the gist of the problem and later we had a couple session and she explained to him what was happening he became so angry and decided that we would not be going back to the psychologist. My husband labeled me as hating his mom, telling lies about her and being the one with the problem. Two weeks later I went into labour and delivered at 26 weeks. Thanks to God my daughter is fine, a bit slow developmentally but fine.

My mother inlaw has recently apologised to me, when her daughter was gravely ill in hospital, telling me that she was ill and that is the reason she did the things she did, and I should forgive her and that she has now realised that I am different to the women of their culture - she had thought I was like them [I did not understand this statement]. I was so shocked by the telephone call, she stays in another country, that I just responded that I had already forgiven her. I was so hurt, I had already decided to ignore her and had put our problems behind me even going to visit and stay with her on my own - while nothing had been resolved/addressed. With the apology it made me realise that she was aware of what she was doing and did it deliberatly. This reversed my healing process and opened up my wounds and made me so angry that I could not even phone her or speak with her for a while. I informed my husband of her apology. He just kept quiet.

Your mother-in-law may have known what she was doing but her statement that she expected you to be like one of the women of her culture can be looked at several ways---either as insulting or even a bit complimentary. On the one hand, she could be saying she saw you as a woman of low morals and not worthy of her son because you weren't a member of her culture; on the other hand, she might actually be opening up her 'world view' of people a bit, and saying, "I am needing to be more accepting of the fact that not all women hold the same values and beliefs I do---not even women in my own culture necessarily, and certainly not women who are not part of my culture; I need to simply be more open-minded". Also, her apology, coming on the heels of how gravely ill her own daughter was, reminded her that serious illness and death can come at any time. She likely realized that her family is really all she has and she must admit her mistakes, must stop undermining and attacking you, and make peace. So her daughter's illness helped her realize that she was genuinely acting badly toward you and needed to accept you more as she would a daughter at this time. All in all, I would not have taken her apology to you as a further insult or put-down, but as a olive branch so to speak---an offer to bury the past and move toward better relations. Your reaction and response to your mother in law was of course, quite perfect at the time. In this position you are in, you have had to struggle to 'bite your tongue' at times and be as gracious as you could, because a single member of a family---outside of the culture, won't win a negative campaign launched against her by her mother in law. You MUST have allies to stop the attacks and this is where your husband has failed you badly.

Yes, at this time, I think that the main issue here continues to be your husband's poor behavior. His failure to not stand up for you, his unwillingness to contradict his mother's views of you, was in very poor form. He CONTRIBUTED to the conflicts you were having with your mother in law and extended family by his silence and failure to support you---which communicates agreement or consent. For example, during the time your kitchen was renovated, he should have politely listened to his mother's suggestions, but told her that HE AND YOU would take her ideas under advisement. She should not have been directly involved in any of the actual renovation plans or actions. So your husband has failed to be an appropriate ally in this conflict with his family. A proper husband, if he truly loves his wife and puts the marital relationship above all else, should counteract criticisms from his mother by complimenting his wife publicly to his family when there are family conversation, get togethers. I believe I suggested this point before, in a prior post. Your husband should have immediately called his mother after her apology to you and reinforced her action what she did. "Mother, I'm very pleased that you took the initiative here to try to draw the family closer together by apologizing to [my wife] the way you did. It strengthened my respect for you. It shows that you realize that even though someone isn't from your culture, you can find things to admire and respect about them; and I couldn't agree with your more on this. So, this was very good of you and I appreciate it."

I hope this information is helpful to you. Please feel free to share this post with your husband if you wish. Let me know if I have overlooked any aspect of your original question; I realize this was a long and complicated issue you attempted to present and I presumed a number of things in creating my response to you. Please hit the green Accept button at the bottom of this screen.
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