Anonymous asks:

My mother in law's partner left her four weeks ago.

I was very understanding to start with but my husband stayed there the first week and since has been round every night after work until 8-9pm and she rings him constantly.

I’m still self isolating as I'm high risk so I am on my own all day and now we don't get to spend anytime together.

Am I being unreasonable? 

It's now making me feel so down.


Kate Nicolle says: This sounds like a difficult time for you all, your partner is trying to support his mother at a time when she is clearly distressed and relying on him for emotional support. You put your needs to one side as you recognised that his time and energy was needed by her in her time of crisis. Boundaries can easily shift and a new normal can quickly begin to form that is solving one problem but causing another. It is clearly taking it’s toll on you to be physically isolated at home and also emotionally neglected as you partner tries to provide support to his mother.

Agony Aunts on Female First

Agony Aunts on Female First

These kinds of times can be difficult as obviously you recognise that your partner is trying to do what he feels is right by his mother and at the beginning it was easier for you to have empathy for the situation. Now it has been a longer time and her dependence on your partner seems to have intensified and the sacrifice you are having to make is feeling less acceptable.

It is important to be sensitive to the new situation that has developed when you approach a conversation about this with your partner. The key to this conversation going well is you acknowledging his position. You can do this by recognising why he has accommodated his mother’s needs. Ask how this has been for him, so you understand his thoughts and feelings. Reveal to him how you are feeling, it may not have occurred to him that you have been affected in the way that you have. Paint the picture in a way that is not blaming him but explaining your experience and the impact it is having on you.

When you acknowledge his challenges try not to follow this with, but….as soon as you do it makes the other person feel like you are dismissing everything you just said for what you are about to say. Instead, make sure you speak using I rather than You. For example, “I am struggling at the moment as I am spending lots of time alone and I miss you and our evenings together.” Acknowledge his position and be clear that you are not being critical but are voicing your needs and would like to discuss how together you could handle a change going forward in how much time he is giving to his mother.

It will be good for you to find out how he is feeling about the time his mother is taking up, it’s easy to assume he’s happy with it, but maybe he feels overwhelmed by it too. Assuming we know how someone feels based on their actions is very unhelpful, it’s always better to ask than assume. If you approach the conversation with the goal of increasing the understanding between you both rather than to point out to your partner what they are doing wrong in your eyes then I’m sure you will find a solution.

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