My mother in law has always had something against me because I had a child before I met my husband. I now also have another child with my husband. She cut me out of the family years ago and turned all relatives, neighbours and friends against me, even though I have done nothing wrong. She has told people I am nosey and lazy so people avoid me. I work 12hr shifts as a nurse and reared my children, I'm not lazy. The strange thing is my mother in law doesn't care about my husband at all. She treats him like a slave and favours her daughter and her kids over ours, constantly giving them money etc, whereas my kids don't even get a birthday card from her. I'm now lonely - what can I do? I live in a small, secluded area in the countryside.
The crucial issue which comes to mind here is boundaries. Putting clear boundaries in place when it comes to your mother in law will be the first step in managing how, and to what extent, she impacts yours and your family’s lives. It is clear from your message that you feel she is bringing negativity and toxicity to your life, but you can take responsibility and control of this by clearly defining emotional, physical and social boundaries.
Discuss these with your husband and agree on them as a team so you are on the same page and are comfortable with the way you handle this relationship moving forward. You need to be clear on how often you see your mother in law, where you see her and when you can say no to her. Having the support of your husband will only strengthen and unite you as a couple, giving you more confidence in handling this situation effectively.
You should consider exploring the role of your husband in this dynamic, and his relationship with your mother in law. Indeed, you say your mother in law ‘treats him like a slave’, but you need to explore why he allows this kind of treatment. Discover what you need from your husband in order to better this situation, whether that be for him to stand up for you, create distance from his mother or act as a mediator. Discussing your needs and the needs of your family openly and honestly is a crucial step towards bettering your situation.
It is also important to have a conversation with yourself. Your message gives the sense that your mother in law is affecting every aspect of your life. Ask yourself why does she affect you so much? Why are you giving her so much attention? Why do you react in this way? Why do you feel you need to prove yourself so badly? What do you need to prove? Why are you giving her so much power over your life?
You say you are lonely and that your mother in law has ‘turned all relatives, neighbours and friends against (you)’, but you must remember that you have the power to change this. We all have the power to make changes to our lives, and it only hinders our growth when we allow others more power than we allow ourselves. Join a club, pick up a new hobby or move to a new community if necessary. It’s important to consider what you want out of this situation and how you can be happier.
Reflect inwards and focus on yourself for a moment. Your message gives the impression that you are focusing far too much on others and not enough on yourself. Reach out for your own self and think about what you need. Do you need support from other people? Your husband or even, your own family? You could also benefit from advice from a professional mediator through individual therapy sessions if this is possible. This will help you build on your confidence, self-worth and self-esteem.
I get the impression that you haven’t spoken to your mother in law for some time now, since you say she ‘cut you out of the family’. It may be worthwhile opening that door once more and expressing your feelings to her first hand, honestly and not with blame. You could say ‘I feel unfairly treated by you’, or ‘I would like to create a better relationship with you’. If you are uncomfortable with the thought of speaking to her face to face, you could write a letter to her instead. It’s your choice whether you give it to her or not, but expressing your feelings on paper is an effective way to gather your emotions and will offer you a form of closure. However, making this step to reconnect with your mother in law should not come with any expectations. She may not want to speak to you, or the conversation may not go well, so be prepared for this before taking that step. Remember to put your feelings before anyone else’s and to trust your gut instinct.
Answer provided by Vasia Toxavidi, BACP accredited Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Interpersonal Coach, specialising in individual, couples and family counselling. Find more about Vasia on her website >>> www.vasiatoxavidi.com
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