Q: “My husband’s mother is the most obnoxious and meddlesome woman I’ve ever met. The longer we’re married, the more she involves herself in all of our affairs. I keep asking him to handle it, but he won’t. Can I confront his mother? Would I be out of line?” — Amber
A: Amber, I hate to give you a news flash, but I must: The problem is not with your mother-in-law; it’s with your husband. It sounds as if your mother-in-law being “obnoxious and meddlesome” did not start yesterday. It also sounds as if she has played an active role in your marriage from day one. Given this, you seem surprised that she is more involved in your marriage as the years go by.
The problem is, you and your husband have allowed her to be involved. You have given her a lot of power and control that she should not have been given in your relationship. Once power and control have been given, it is difficult to pull them back without offending her and/or your husband. While you are frustrated and angry with your mother-in-law, you must deal with your husband. I would suggest that you have a long, hard talk with him.
Given that the marriage is between you and him, you must decide what role your mother-in-law is going to continue to have in it. If your husband is a “momma’s boy,” it’s going to be quite difficult to wean him from her, especially given that she has been “nursing” him through the years. It is quite apparent that you have asked your husband to handle it, and he won’t. The problem is more likely that he can’t handle it, as opposed to him not wanting to handle it. He may not even see the problem, or if he sees it, he may not care given that this has gone on for years.
Is it really fair to blame your mother-in-law? I would suggest that you have a conversation with her to express some of your feelings. Remember that she is not the problem, only a symptom. I would caution you to avoid abruptly putting your husband in a position of choosing you over his mother, with whom he is still nursing. You must make some tough decisions regarding your marriage. I would suggest that you and your husband seek marital therapy to work issues out. This would allow the therapist to be the “bad guy” and bring out issues regarding your mother-in-law for your husband to address. This may be one way of saving your relationship with your husband as well as with your mother-in-law. — Dr. Sherry
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