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ShinyPenny

Marriage Counseling bc of MIL??

68 posts in this topic

My husband dreads saying no to his mom. He doesn't want to make her mad, he says. In the past, I know he has blamed little things on me bc he didn't want to tell his mom that he wasn't interested in attending this or that outing. Seems like not that big of a deal, but still -- I can say "no thanks" to anything, big or small, to most members of my family wo fear of making them mad at me!

A few months ago, my husband had agreed to have a friendly talk with his mom about our plans for labor & delivery and the week immediately following. Unfortunately, he avoided the task until it just "went away". He was worried she would be offended by our plans (bc we wanted the first week alone & he thought it sounded like we were being rude in not wanting her to visit right away).

Recently, his mom requested to visit for the umpteenth time this year, and with having a newborn we were both exhausted & needed a weekend to ourselves. But he didn't want to "hurt her feelings" and became agitated with me bc I didn't want to "give in" to her request. Frustrated, he said, "fine, but if she can't come visit, you have to be the one to tell her". Fine by me! (even though I know that goes against the typical advice that he should deal w his family, and me mine). So I texted his mom & (very warmly) told her that we were worn out & needed a weekend to ourselves to recuperate, but let's start planning the next visit. No acknowledgement, no response to either of us. We didn't hear from her for a few weeks after that.

Upon seeing my MIL cook over a hot stove with my 14-day-old newborn in her arms, I joked about having a heart attack bc that's how one of her sons burned his finger. When I first wanted to say something about her holding the baby at the stove, my husband tried to tell me not to. His mom later made fun of me in front of my neighbors, complete w an unflattering impression of me as an overprotective parent.

Overall, my MIL has become increasingly passive aggressive over the past few months. She talks negatively about other family members, and I don't doubt she's talking negatively about me now (although I don't know). She has always had issues w her own MIL & has spent a lot of energy pushing away her husband's family. Now I feel like she is pushing away me. Although my husband spends a lot of energy defending her to me, he has never defended me to her.

My husband agrees that his mom acts immaturely & passive-aggressively, but he doesn't want to confront it -- why rock the boat (even more)? Several times he has defended her, "just let her do what she wants", or "yeah, my mom's a b!tch, that's just how she is". And he truly does enjoy spending time w his mom; usually/mostly it's the rest of the family watching the two of them talk all day/night long.

We see his family about 13 times a year (which I would like to be the max number -- visits above that number I want to decline). When he doesn't want to say no to visits above & beyond that number (like I do), I have to wonder if he "needs" the visit for himself as opposed to it being "for her". I asked him about this; he said no he doesn't want the extra visits, he just doesn't want to tell her no.

I've come to a point where I will no longer budge, I don't have it in me anymore to compromise about this! I need my husband to be able to tell his mom no wo dumping it on me. I need him to be able to inform her of our plans wo worrying that she'll get mad. I've discussed this w him. He thinks I'm overreacting or being rigid. Unfortunately, my husband feels really strongly about not saying "no" to his mom. I say, "then how will you say no to your mom when it really, really matters?" I'm worried about raising our child & needing to set the normal boundaries -- how will she react?? I'm worried about her challenging our parenting decisions. I'm worried about her dominating our weekends, birthdays, & holidays. I'm worried about retaliation if she doesn't get her way w the baby.

My husband & I have been together 12 years & have never disagreed so strongly about something. Our relationship is very healthy otherwise. Is this a reason to get counseling? Is there a way to avoid counseling? Where do I go from here?

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Go to counseling....just go. Why avoid counseling? If you don't NEED counseling, there's no harm in just going to check it out. But it sounds like you definitely need marriage counseling. I'm in the same boat as you in many many ways, not least of which is a DH who is afraid of upsetting his mother in order to provide some boundaries. It's ugly and it's only gotten uglier as our kids have gotten older. Him not setting boundaries early on about visits and PA comments pre-kids meant that MIL especially has felt comfortable undermining how we handle our children now that we are parents. If he can't handle setting boundaries now means that as your child ages he won't get any better at it- probably even worse.

Marriage counseling (and his individual therapy) is the only thing that seems to have made much of an impact on how my husband handles his family- me begging him to stand up for us didn't do it- it wasn't until our counselor said he needed to do it that he realized I wasn't being unreasonable asking for some support. DH seems to finally "get it"when we are in the therapists office. I don't know if DH realizes it or not but I probably would have asked for a separation by now had it not been for his willingness to go to counseling with me. Good luck.

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msmamallama, did your DH agree to counseling right away, or did you have to persuade him?

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Agreed completely with Llama. Honestly, I don't know why people are so nervous about going to counseling. It doesn't mean that you are failing, just the opposite. It means you are willing to learn how to effectively communicate so that you have the best marriage you can. I've had several friends go to marriage counseling and some of them are still married. The ones who aren't say they wish they had gone sooner, that they hadn't made counseling as the very last bottom of the barrel effort. The ones who aren't say that they think they could have turned it around if they had gone in before it was to late. (NOT that I am saying this about you, I'm not.) The ones who are still married seem to have very healthy marriages.

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A thought....if you needed to go to the doctor for a headache would it matter if the headache was a migraine or a sinus infection so long as the pain went away?

Don't avoid therapy just because MiL is the cause, embrace it because it will lead you to a less painful place.

DH and I are presently in therapy focused on "undoing" some damage his family has done and leaving him equipt to handle them better-- and yes that includes saying NO. Some advice I have is getting a male therapist, doing some solo and some joint sessions, and seeing it as a process not an instant cure. Good luck!

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the way to avoid counseling is for your DH to nut up and say no to his mom.

She is putting her wants and needs over the safety and comfort of your son, and HE is letting her by not saying no and THEN when he does finally whisper no like a naughty child caught doing something he shouldn't be doing he throws you under the bus and makes YOU the bad guy.

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Eowyn: "a process not an instant cure".

One of our children went, the end results were great, the process was long.

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Definitely counseling. The fact that your husband expects you to just put up with his mom and doesn't defend you to her is not normal. He has a wife and child now and needs to realize that his primary alliance is to you and your child.

Also, since your DH does not seem to want to protect your child you need to step up. I cannot believe that your MIL thought it was a good idea to hold your newborn while she was cooking over a hot stove! Who in their right mind thinks that is a good idea?? Is she an idiot? To be so careless about a child is just wrong and shows that she has poor judgment. Why didn't you remove your child from your MIL when it appeared she was going to cook over a hot stove with him/her? I do not think it is a laughing or joking matter. If my MIL had tried something so dangerous with my child DH or I would have read her the riot act. Next time please protect your chid and do not allow your MIL, or anyone else for that matter to be so careless with your child. Also, it is clear that your MIL lacks good judgment. I would not trust her alone with my child. I hope you don't either.

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"Next time please protect your chid and do not allow your MIL, or anyone else for that matter to be so careless with your child." - britomart

Ouch. But I suppose I deserve that.

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I've made an inquiry about marriage counseling & was quoted $100 per session if my insurance doesn't provide coverage. Yikes. Like I need one more obstacle to keep counseling from happening...

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Get the counseling.

Here's how lovely things were for me-- early in our marriage, my DH suggested *I* get counseling, claiming my family was too "distant" from each other, and clearly I was having mental problems because I didn't know what it was like to be in a close, loving, CARING and INVOLVED family. Ha!

Now he recognizes the assets of having a "distant" family, a family that recognizes that one is now an adult who is living one's own life, and doesn't feel so threatened by "no" as to engage in guilt, manipulation, or bargaining tactics to keep the AC "in line." But it's taken a couple therapists to get to this point. It's worth it.

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What financial investment am I looking at?

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The one where you don't lose half (if you work) or all (if you don't) your income. That's your financial investment.

It's saving your kid therapy bills after the divorce (at best) or during an unhappy marriage (at worst).

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SP I'm sorry you're going through this. I'm also sorry if britomart's comments about your protecting your child stung a little. But I'm glad you appreciated them b/c, IMO, a mom/parent really needs to put their child's saftey first (and I know you know that).

About the cost of counseling - Ugh! I hate the way money/insurance can sometimes be an obstacle to getting the counseling one/a couple needs! But I sincerely hope that either your insurance will cover it or you decide that the "investment" that Oscar describes makes sense. B/c, IMO, no matter how healthy your marriage is, otherwise, you and DH need counseling in this area. Here's why:

1. DH, a grown man, "dreads saying no to his mom."

2. Right now, I'm sorry to say, he's worrying more about her feelings than yours/his DW's.

3. Even though he stubbornly refuses to/avoids saying no to her, he accuses you of being "rigid" when you don't want to see her more than about once-a-month (which is way more than many GPs/MILs get).

4. Brace yourself for this one - he's even more worried about MIL's feelings than he is about baby's safety ("... my husband tried to tell me not to" say something about MIL "holding the baby at the stove").

5. Brace yourself again - No doubt concerned about DH's and/or MIL's disapproval, you "joked" about the danger, rather than raking action! I'm truly sorry to harp on that, SP, but I think it's very important. B/c it suggests that MIL and DH have got you to the point where you're putting her/his/their (does it really matter whose?) feelings ahead of everything else, including the safety of your baby.

I'm not saying your a "bad" mom or anything like that. I'm sure your a great mom, in fact. What I'm saying is that MIL and DH are getting you confused about your role as a mom. Just as DH seems unsure of his role as a husband and a dad. You need the counseling to help you keep your heads clear and sort all this out.

As PPs have said, there's no harm in going to counseling "b/c of MIL." Even if this is the only problem in your marriage, as you indicate, it's a big one and needs to be dealt with. Otherwise, I fear (and you seem to fear, yourself), it will just get more complicated as time goes on.

Sorry if this came off a little harsh but, really, I'm here for you - we're here for you! Go for it!

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rosered, you're right.

after I read britomart's comments, I realized *I* was afraid to say no to MIL. That really makes me mad.

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ShinyPenny-

DH didn't need much convincing- he knew we were in a bad place and he knew that I would be leaving him and taking our son

if things didn't improve, fast. He knows I'll love him to the end of time, but I believe that you can love someone but not be able to

live with them. Also we (sadly) had the example of two couples we know- wife asked for counseling, husband refused or dragged his feet, wife decided to leave (in one case had an affair and left with the other guy)- THEN the husband begged and pleaded for another chance and for counseling but it was too late. When we heard these stories (ironically one through our ILs) I told him that you should only have to ask once for therapy- if you ignore a partner's request for it then you shouldn't be upset if you come home and find the locks changed one day.

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thank you for sharing, mama llama

should I start by having him read this?

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Not unhead of, not at all.

First, you need therapy for you. Separate from your husband, you seem awfully accepting of his awful treatment of you. And his general cowardice and refusal to stand up for your marriage.

Second, you can try to ask your husband to counseling, but I don't know that he'll attend. He may just go to go along, and you don't want that kind of counseling. See my first suggestion.

Three, this situation is going to end up one of two ways: Either you remain married to this man, or you divorce. There is no middle ground. You have to understand that the only way to be married to ANYONE is to be married healthfully. That means, you need to have some self esteem and self regard for yourself. Again, see my first suggestion.

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I've made an inquiry about marriage counseling & was quoted $100 per session if my insurance doesn't provide coverage. Yikes. Like I need one more obstacle to keep counseling from happening...

Call the telephone number on the back of your insurance card to find out if your plan covers counseling and if they have a list of specific providers. Some insurance companies only cover individual counseling, not "marriage counseling", so if you want insurance to cover treatment you may have to approach it as individual counseling. Such as how to treat your Anxiety about keeping your baby away from a hot stove. Or how to treat Anxiety about setting limits with your husband. (Anxiety which is reasonable given the way he treats you when you do). Then DH can be brought into some sessions. Or vice versa.

FWIW, how DH and I make desisions about parenting (and about a lot of stuff that directly affects us both - such as hosting houseguests, making trips, big purchases) is the "two yeses,one no" rule of thumb. If one of us says no, it doesn't happen. We both have to agree on parental/mututal decisions for them to happen. We can try to talk into each other it, communicate, explain, sweeten the deal, but in the end we still have to both feel right about it for it to happen. You two might have done that already without realizing it since you got along well for the last dozen years. No, she is not getting her ears pierced. No, your brother can't stay with us for a month. No, your mother can't babysit because I don't feel comfortable leaving her alone with my child. DH can tell MIL no or not, but whether he tells her or not she's still not babysitting. I think the hard part for you will be you telling your DH no. If you can respect when he says no, I hope the man respects you enough to respect your no.

"yeah, my mom's a b!tch, that's just how she is".

"Yeah, and i don't invite beaches to stay in my house any time they want, that's just how I am."

DH invites MIL to stay at your house more than a weekend a month. (Or he's fine with her inviting herself that often). So he's saying 25-30% of your days off together are supposed to be shared with a beach? You suspect he really wants to spend that much time with her because he likes it so much. Is that how much time he wanted with her for the first 12 years of your marriage? Or is that your reward for having his baby?

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the only way to be married to ANYONE is to be married healthfully.

Amen...this is more or less what DD said to me Saturday. I think the majority of the tears is for what she wish she had, not what she might be loosing

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shinypenny - I have been where you are. I have been married 22 years - and my DH was the same as yours - afraid to say "no" to his mother, or to "hurt her feelings." It didn't matter if his mother was rude to me or hurt my feelings - he spent most of his time and energy making sure his mother was not upset. If I had not made the decision to do something, we would not be married today. We have not been to "official" counseling - but I joined a support group for women in similar situations, and that showed me how to stand up for myself, my children and my marriage. And I let him know that he could man up and tell his mother "no" once in a while, or he could go live with her. Things are not perfect, I still think he cowtows to her a bit much - but things are significantly better than what they were.

What always struck me as odd is that my husband is a very capable, very smart, very successful man. He manages a large department at a major company - and is the ultimate professional. I always wondered what his co-workers would think of him if they saw him the day he was shaking (yes, shaking!) in our walk-in closet while saying to me, "What did you say to her? What did you say to her?!" This because I told his mother that she could not tell me how to raise MY children. He didn't care that she was trying to interfere with our parenting, or that this was absolutely none of her business, or that she had been told many times before to drop the subject - all he could see was that MIL was upset. And this scared him to death.

I remember looking at him and calmly saying, "Yes, your mother is upset. But the world is not going to stop turning just because she is angry and isn't getting her way. Life will go on, and the sun will come up tomorrow. I promise."

He just looked at me - and I could see the light dawn on his face. He honestly had never, ever looked at it this way before. He was 40 years old at the time of this conversation. He and his brothers had been raised this way - to do absolutely anything to avoid upsetting MIL. It is hard to get rid of that mindset when it is all you have known.

No matter what you decide regarding counselling - know that you will need to change your behavior in order to get him to change his. Don't buy the "you are being too sensitive", "that's just the way she is", or "she didn't mean it like that" comments. Start making sure that he knows that it is in his best interests to defend you and your child; and if he can't or won't, be prepared to take action - like making him live on his own for a while. If he realizes you mean business, he may try to change.

It is a process, and change won't happen overnight. Good luck!

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I agree that you should do therapy. It will save your marriage and possibly your sanity. Good luck!

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Is this a reason to get counseling? Is there a way to avoid counseling? Where do I go from here?

Why would you want to avoid counseling? Counseling is awesome, assuming you find the right counselor. Personally I think everyone should have a couple's counselor, a neutral 3rd party who over the years gets to know you and your husband and your pasts. Then you can seek him or her out for some help whenever there is a problem. Do you really *need* counseling? I don't know. I think you have to ask yourself if what your husband is doing is good for your marriage. You know that it's not. So then you need to ask yourself, can you show your husband that what he's doing is detrimental to your relationship and get him fully on board, without him feeling resentful of you? From everything you've said, that seems *really* doubtful.

My husband agrees that his mom acts immaturely & passive-aggressively, but he doesn't want to confront it -- why rock the boat (even more)? Several times he has defended her, "just let her do what she wants", or "yeah, my mom's a b!tch, that's just how she is".

Right there, your husband is damaging the fabric of your marriage. He is saying "what my mom wants (how my mom feels) is more important than what my wife wants (how my wife feels)". Not only is he damaging your marriage, but he's sabotaging any chance of you and your MIL ever having a good relationship. If he were to step up and tell her, "don't say that, that's rude" or enforced whatever boundary she's plowing through, not only would *you* feel less resentful of your husband, but you'd also feel less resentful of your MIL (assuming she listens to your husband). And since the message is coming from your husband, 1) she's more likely to really listen and 2) she's not going to be resenting you for it.

Your husband has the power to foster a decent relationship between his wife and his mother while maintaining a good marriage (win-win-win) but he has to actually put in the work to make this happen. He can't resort to however he's dealt with her for the past x amount of years. It seems that his go to behavior is, just ignore her and let her do what she wants then she won't bother me anymore. And you know what, if that's the way he wants to handle her in his own life, well then ok I suppose. But he can't expect you to be alright with that plan. You have a right to your feelings, you have a right to not be made fun of and disrespected. You have a right to raise, parent, and protect your child however you see fit.

I think it's pretty clear that if you try to bring all of this up to your husband, he's not going to really hear you. He's going to think you're just being a b*tch and you don't like his mom. This is where the neutral 3rd party comes in. Your husband is way more likely to really hear a therapist than he is to hear you.

I know you think your relationship is very strong "otherwise" but really think about it. When your husband is so blatantly disregarding your feelings and asking you to essentially "suck it up" just to make someone else happy, is your relationship really all that great?

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OP I'm sorry if I sounded overly harsh but I just wanted to get across to you how important it is for you to be your child's advocate. Your baby cannot speak for himself so it's important that you or your DH be the ones to speak for him. If you and your DH are so afraid of your MIL's reaction to a more than reasonable request (that she not cook over a hot stove while holding him) then I think that should tell you both that you need to get into counseling. As a parent you need to be able to speak up for your child and if you cannot then you need to find out why and fix it as soon as possible. You or a counselor need to open your DH's eyes so that he can see that he is putting his mother's feelings ahead of the safety and well-being of his child. One more thing that was troubling to me about the incident. You need to be secure in your marriage. If you are afraid that speaking up for the safety and well-being of your child will damage your marriage then your marriage needs some work.

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Well, my husband is finally agreeing that we need counseling, but for the reason that he thinks I'm overly emotional & that I'm not seeing things clearly. In the heat of the moment I said, "if you don't defend me, then you can go F your mom bc that's what it seems like you want!" I admitted I said that to be purposefully hurtful & it was very very wrong to say. He said that that comment is proof that I'm acting irrationally & that I've crossed a line, and that we need counseling bc of my irrational behavior. I will admit, I did cross a line, and for that I apologized.

In response to my recent pleas to address this last bout of her passive aggressiveness (purposefully ignoring me after telling her we weren't feeling up for a visit), my husband called her today and asked, "are you mad?" (Not how I would have addressed it). To which she answered, "I'm not *mad* at anyone, I'm just *hurt*". Hurt that she didn't get to see our son when she asked, or that she hasn't seen him as often as she'd wanted (he's 2 mos & she's spent time w him twice). So now my husband thinks I don't care about his mom's feelings or that I'm hurting his mom's feelings ("don't you care about my mom's feelings?"). My husband said he told her she was being passive aggressive & she admitted it. So I asked him, "and did you ask her to please stop treating your wife badly?" No, he didn't. I asked if he explained that we/he believe a dozen visits per year are what we feel comfortable with. He did not. He keeps saying he doesn't want to get in the middle of it, doesn't want to take sides. He thinks all three of us should talk together, but I suspect he just wants her & me to have it out while he sits back uninvolved.

My goals. I want:

1) my husband to put my feelings above his mom's. I want him to support me, to take my side

2) my husband to protect some weekends & holidays for our nuclear family & for our other family & friends. I want him to tell his mom that a dozen visits per year is more than enough, & I want him to believe that.

3) I want my husband to defend me. I want my husband to stand up for me when his mom (or anyone) treats me badly.

4) I want my husband to make his mom understand that her passive aggressive behavior will NOT help her get her way. I would like the opposite effect, and for him to communicate that to her & uphold that position

5) finally, I would like my husband to understand that all of these things can be communicated in a warm & friendly way, and that confronting his mom doesn't mean he's going to have to yell at her or say rude things

---

PLEASE, my husband needs to hear it from someone besides me! If you could say anything to my husband, what would you say??

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