Manipulative Mother (...In-Law)
Rob Danzman Says...
Sounds like a mess with no easy way out. If have read any of my previous responses to other questions or blogposts on our site, you'll know one of the big themes in our work is setting and maintaining boundaries. These boundaries are typically being set for loved-ones that do not respect or like boundaries (...or expectations or judgement or limits). There is no simple way to get her to give you all space. You can certainly be explicit..."I understand you need support but we to find a balance so please consider giving us some space" but we both know that will not work well at this point.
So what can you control if not her or your husband's behavior?
Yours. You can control what you do and say. For example: It's totally appropriate to use the "When you (blank) I feel (blank" approach. Let him know that your relationship is like a bank account that needs deposits (time with you) when ever withdrawals (responding to his mother) are made. Right now, too many withdrawals are being made which is emptying the account.
Another appropriate thing to share with him is that when he reinforces his mother's behavior (calling at all hours), he is making a decision on his and your behalf without you getting a vote. Basically, his choices impact you without you having control. He probably feels as out of control as you but does not know how to change or where to begin. One suggestion you could offer is that when his mother calls, he does not answer but returns her call the next morning. Since she probably leaves voicemails, he'll know whether there is a real emergency or just more drama.
Ultimately, what you all really need is outside help from a therapist to help identify your values, create boundaries and work towards prioritizing. Doing it alone will lead to years of arguing and hurt feelings with little progress. The mother-in-law will continue to monopolize your husband. She feels desperate and alone and clearly needs her own support structure outside of the family.
Hope this helps.
Page last updated Nov 08, 2013