4th commandment/trouble with in-laws


#1

Hello!

I’ve been married almost 11 years and we have one son who’s 8. We’ve come to realize that we probably shouldn’t have married, at least not as soon as we did. I don’t think either of us was prepared enough. But, with that being said, we do love each other, have worked at staying together and have both matured considerably. All in all, we have a good marriage.

The problem is that his mother is very manipulative and attacks backhandedly. I could go into detail, but I’d have to make sure you’re sitting down to hear it! The problem for us is that my husband doesn’t “see it” and it couldn’t be more obvious. I’ve tried to at first ignore it thinking that she was just getting used to the idea that her son had another woman in his life. Then I tried dropping ‘hints’ that this behavior was inappropriate and that I was offended. I spoke to my husband many, many times expecting him to deal with it (they are his parents after all!) to the point that he thought I ‘nagged’ him. So then I tried not to mention anything at all which only built my resentment and allowed her to continue. He’s told me to deal with ‘my own problems’ so I’ve confronted his mom several times. I spent over a year in counseling when our son was about 2 yrs. old. I recently spent time with my parish priest who suggested we seek counseling.

My husband’s very open and willing to seek help up to the point where our counselor said that he needed to deal with his parents and to stop allowing me to be the ‘bad’ guy. When I mentioned some of the problems I’ve had with his parents, she looked at me as if to say, “whoa!” Yes, it’s been that bad and again, very obvious. My husband really does want to work through our “marriage problems,” but cannot bring himself to admit (even to himself) that this is really what his parents are like. He’s an ‘only’ child and I believe that his parents control him with guilt. I have tried to just avoid them as much as possible to keep my own sanity, but he confronts me with “you never see my parents anymore.” It’s as if he’s two different people. He’ll attack in regard to his parents, but when I confront him about it, he’ll deny that he said it or that’s what he meant - and do the same with them. On the one side, we have a very normal relationship; we’ver earned respect and appreciation for each other even though we have very normal marrital problems: finances, time-management, communication. These we work on. But his parents are ‘untouchable.’ Our counselor told him that I have very good insight and that even though he didn’t see it, he needed to respect my insight; that I’m not telling lies. She even set up a meeting for him and his mom to visit with her where he would establish some ground rules. He couldn’t do it and he canceled the meeting telling the counselor that we had talked about it and would continue to talk about it; that we’d call her if we needed more advice. What I had told him was that I could see that he wasn’t ready to confront his mom (I feel it’s pointless to confront her when he isn’t even ready to admit to himself that she’s a problem)and that he should cancel the appointment with her (his mom), but that we still need counceling.

He said he feels like he’s disrespecting his parents (he’s refering to the 4th commandment - please keep in mind that he’s not a baptized christian and has recently told me that he’s not going with us to church anymore). I have prayed for him and myself, I’ve offered sacrifices and my sufferings. I know that I cannot change him, but this problem is going to tear us apart. I want to continue with counseling, but I’m afraid to push because he knows that I think the problem is his.

My husband and I have come a long way in our relationship and especially for our son’s sake, we don’t want to seperate. But we’re hurting and we need help. What should I do?


#2

Move as far away from his parents as possible. No kidding. If your husband won’t let go of his manipulative parents, you’ll have to physically distance yourselves from them. The Bible tells a man what he ought to do in such circumstances: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gn. 2:24, also quoted in Matt. 19:5 and Mark 10:7). Until he can truly do that, you need to be involved with his parents as little as possible, so if moving is the only way you can do that–then find a way to do it to save your marriage and keep a father for your child.


#3

I know that I cannot change him, but this problem is going to tear us apart.

Only if you allow it to, and you’ve already acknowledged you can’t change him (and you can’t change his mother).

That leaves changing you.

Moving as far away as possible would be nice, but in the end, even miles won’t change her presence in your household since she’s as manipulative as you noted and he considers it her ‘right’ as a parent to be so. The phone calls, the emails, the cards, the guilt trips of why you don’t fly home for the holidays, etc. get just as tiresome.

So what can you do?
Without your husband, you go back to your counselor and tell her:

Here’s the deal:

I want my husband to get on board here, but as you can see, he’s not ready to confront his mother, nor is he even ready to face the reality there is a problem here where she’s concerned. If I were to continue to press him to face that issue when he’s not open to it our marriage would get weaker. So that’s not an option.

I want to raise our son to be respectful of his elders even though some of them are difficult to understand or be around. I believe you can help me find a way to accomplish this.

I want our marriage to stop being torn apart because of this wedge the “elephant in the room” has on it. I believe you can help me find a way to accomplish this.

I am ready to approach this from an entirely different angle because it is the only option I have so please help me develop the behavioral changes needed that will help me no longer give power to my mother-in-law’s ways over my marriage. I know it can be done (the Popcak’s have proven it) but I need guidance, practice and feedback.

It is possible to change your perspective to appreciate your husband’s. Getting there will bring you closer to him and it will reduce many of the frustrations you’ve been used to feeling over his mother’s words and actions. There is a very valuable lesson you can teach your son down the line if you successfully learn how to turn the effect she has on you around so that it no longer is veiwed as a threat or insult. Your son will face people like this himself someday - it could be a teacher, a boss, a wife’s parents - so it’s a lesson worth investing time and energy into learning. It will make you a better person, it will reduce the strain on your marriage and perhaps even get her to tone it down a notch or two.

Now if this counselor is not willing or able to help you achieve your goals then call the Popcaks’ (they have tele-counseling services), or email them, and they’ll help you find someone who can.


#4

I agree with the above poster that it seems unlikely that your husband and MIL will change their behavior. That does leave it up to you.

My proposal (for whatever it’s worth):

First understand that no one can demean you without your permission.

Let me give you an example.

My daughter was picked on at school by bullies. She learned a terrific way to cope with it. Any time she was attacked, no matter how nasty the comment, she merely said, “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

When you say this, you’ve acknowledged what the other person said, but you refuse to get riled by it. Nothing irks a bully more than refusing to give her a reaction. It’s so irksome my daughter’s bullies left her alone.

Now, if she comes back with something like, “Well, if you’re so sorry, what are you going to do about it?” your reply should be, “Nothing. I don’t agree with you. But I am sorry you’re upset.”

Let her rantings, no matter how vile, slide off you like water off a duck. I’m not saying this will make her quit, but it should give you more peace of mind.


#5

Two fabulous replies.

A great way to deal with the resentments building up inside yourself is a way I learned in my 12 Step group. In that group it is called a God Box. I call it my Jesus Box.

Get an old shoe box, cut a hole in the top and tape the top back onto the box. Decorate it if you want, anyway you want.

Get several pieces of paper, a pen and then start writing. Do not worry about spelling, grammar, syntax or anything. Just spill it out onto a piece (or several) pieces of paper. It might look like this:

Why won’t he just confront her? He says he will but then suddenly Mr. Unbaptized Christian is quoting the 4th commandment who is he kidding this woman is going to ruin our marriage and I cannot take it from her any more and I will not and he won’t stand up to her but he is supposed to I thought he loved her I’d like to move away shoot I’d like to move her away or change our names or at least disconnect the phones but noooo he loves his mommy why can’t he see what a nutcase she is and even our shrink tells him I have good insight what is he blind?

Anyway, you get the idea…you just let 'er rip. Then, when you are done, you get on your knees and you offer it to Jesus. You might say a prayer like this:

Well, here it is Lord. This is what I am thinking and feeling. The real truth. No holding back, and no matter how I try, I cannot seem to change it. I try to be charitable, I try to offer up my sufferings but nothing changes. So I am giving it to you, Lord, just as it is…all of it. The good and the bad. Take it, Lord. And direct me to what I can do right now to help someone else. Thank you, Jesus. I trust in You.

Then fold the paper and put it in your Jesus Box. If you have to do it a couple of times a day, do it. Put the box somewhere only YOU have access to it. When it is full…THROW IT OUT AND MAKE ANOTHER ONE - do NOT put it somewhere your son or DH can open it and ‘accidentally’ read what you have been writing. Someone on this forum even suggested that, instead of putting the writings in a box you burn the writings and that is certainly an option if you do not trust yourself to adequately hide the Jesus Box.

Jesus told St. Faustina that the biggest mistake we all make is we do not go to Him with our entire selves, our doubts and our fears, our sins and our weaknesses, and just give it all to him. This exercise is a practical way to try and do that…it has really helped me during very difficult times.

You are in my prayers.


#6

Wow, your situation with your husband sounds like mine years ago. My in-laws are very manipulative. VERY. I would tell my husband things his parents (especially his mother) would say and do to me and he never believed me. He would say that he had no reason not to believe them. I told him that if he thought that he were married to an untrustworthy person, he may as well find him a new wife. It woke him up and he realized slowly that I was right about his parents. As of now, it has been 8 months since we have seen his parents (it’s a very very long story) and my life couldn’t be better!! He feels the same way. It irritates them so much that they can’t get to me anymore and they have two choices right now. That is to continue to act the same way and have a lonely life or accept me as their daughter in law and mother of their grandkids and be nice. They also throw the 4th commandment at us and I would like to share with you a phrase I got from someone on this website (sorry, I don’t remember who it is):
To honor your parents does not mean that you are obliged to accept whatever treatment they see fit to hand out to you. To give another person the respect and gratitude that is due to them does not mean you must mutely accept it when they give respect to neither you nor other people present in your home. In other words, it is not the prerogative of parents to abuse their position of respect
Your husband can still honor his parents by sending them birthday cards, Christmas cards, or whatever. He does not need to visit. My husband feels that we are married and if they can’t respect me, then they can’t respect him. We are one. That is why we choose to stay away. I hope this helps a little. :rolleyes:


#7

Only your husband can change his behavior. Keep him in counseling and keep confronting him & his denial.

I have heard that the books Toxic Inlaws and Toxic Parents are very good. Perhaps they can give you some insight or suggestions.


#8

Actually, we did move away. We used to live 1mile from them - way to close! We’re now 20 miles away. My husband has said that we should have moved out-of-state but I’m the one who says that it’s pointless because that doesn’t change his frame of mind. Besides, at least now they come over but can go home the same day. If we moved too far away, they’d just have an excuse to stay the night!!

I wanted to leave him years ago, before we had our son, but was afraid of what my family would say, didn’t quite understand the Church’s teaching, etc. Then our son was born, and I went to counseling as a last resort before I left him. Again, I was concerned about what it would do to my son, even at such a young age. Then there’s the fact that I’m a stay-at-home mom . . . I really wanted this to work out, so I’ve stuck it out. And I’ve always had this feeling that this is where I’m supposed to be for whatever reason. I did however, tell him the other night that I’m to the point where if I needed to leave, then I would. I’ve threatened this before and he’s just said that he doesn’t want that, but if I need too, then I should. (His mom used to threaten to leave his dad so I think he’s just too calloused to be affected by it.)

I honestly think at this point, that he’s just confused about what it really does mean to honor your parents. His have controlled him all his life (he’ll never see it that way) and claimed to be “so close.” He’s told me one story, then a complete opposite story later. This has happened several times. I think he really does need some professional help, but think that he’ll shut down completely if I approach it that way.

I’ve journaled off and on throught the years - up until my husband read it. It’s been a few years, but I did sit down a week ago and vented some of my frustration (in another journal as I burnt the first one). It does help for a while, but doesn’t solve the problem. His parents are very nice to me in person, but then they do these things behind my back or try to play our son in their game. I think this is also why my husband “can’t” see it. And believe me, I’ve offered all of this to God on many occasions!

I’ve limited the amount of time our son sees them and he’s only spent the night with them once or twice. They’ve used him in their manipulation too. In fact, it turned mean when we had him. They’re very jealous of my parents (who’ve befriended them) and go behind my back to get what they want. I’ve been told by my priest and our current counselor that since they haven’t physiclly abused him, I shouldn’t keep him from his grandparents. I just cannot bring myself to agree with them. These are people willing to damage my marriage! I’ve had two doctors tell me they have problems with their parents: one whose mother was nasty toward his wife and they stay away. I just wished my husband would do the same.

I appreciate your insight and your prayers!


#9

[quote=VAN]Hello!

I’ve been married almost 11 years and we have one son who’s 8. We’ve come to realize that we probably shouldn’t have married, at least not as soon as we did. I don’t think either of us was prepared enough. But, with that being said, we do love each other, have worked at staying together and have both matured considerably. All in all, we have a good marriage.

[/quote]

Your woes sound like what we’ve been thru exactly, in our marriage as well! For a bit longer than you. Please know friend, there is hope!!! YOU must know this first and foremost. God gave you each to each other for a big reason. Do not forget this friend.

It’s obvious your husband, like mine, has a very hard time cutting the “apron strings” for whatever reason. It is there, nonetheless, and it is NOT a good or healthy thing. I highly recommend the book “Boundaries in Marriage”. Buy it today.!!! YOU must set limits, and be the one to enforce what is right, what is not. It’s sad to say YOU have to be the one doing it, despite so many counselors who say, HE must be the one to “stand up to his mom”, etc., Sadly, many men will not see it, nor are able to do it. That is why they have us! IF we have kids, especially, as I also do have, 3 to be exact! Praise God!

Friend, You must lay down the rules in your home, in your marriage and your family. You and your husband are to leave and cleave,and this you must all do. Realize this now, before much resentment sets in. Love your parents, but be separate all the same. This is God’s Will. If you ever need any further advice, feel free to PM me anytime, OK? Or I’m sure you will get very good advice on here too!

Just remember, there is a reason behind why God gave you to each other. To bring the other out of bondage, and to create a glorious ground for a Godly, beautiful family. May God Bless you both with more children!!!

Love,


#10

[quote=stayathomemom]To honor your parents does not mean that you are obliged to accept whatever treatment they see fit to hand out to you. To give another person the respect and gratitude that is due to them does not mean you must mutely accept it when they give respect to neither you nor other people present in your home. In other words, it is not the prerogative of parents to abuse their position of respect
Your husband can still honor his parents by sending them birthday cards, Christmas cards, or whatever. He does not need to visit. My husband feels that we are married and if they can’t respect me, then they can’t respect him. We are one. That is why we choose to stay away. I hope this helps a little. :rolleyes:
[/quote]

I think what you have learned and what your H knows, in this regard is just amazing! You are so lucky to have such an amazing man, “stayathomemom” who sees and knows this. That IF they cannot respect you, they do not respect HIM. WOW! Your H is a gem! Let’s pray all ours might learn this!


#11

Can you say to your husband, “I don’t like the way your parents treat me and I can no longer be around them,” and then follow through? Is that possible? —KCT


#12

Would it help if you would email them etc; with your appreciation for all the good traits of dh , how much he cares about them
and how you would want your own son one day to be able to deeply respect you …

May be some common projects - a bible study via telephone ;asking them to help your son with some good project ( even a recipe ); you mentioned dh is a nonbaptised Christian - could you be the tool to bring the parents into a deeper relationship with the Lord ( and satan using all these divisive tactics to see that from happening ) ; a good book - like Tim Gray’s Mission of the Messiah might be a good simple present - topic for talk.

If all that seem difficult, hope you can always join their guardian angels in the prayers - esp. The Chaplet of Mercy ( www.the divinemercy.org) - looking ahead a 100 years ,seeing you all happy in heaven …


#13

I just realized that I said a non-baptized christian - I meant to say that he is not a christian, though he thinks he believes in God - maybe that makes him a christian.

My experience with his mom is that any time I open the door, she thinks everything’s ok and she can just walk on through. Her former boss is a friend of my mom and has told me “you give her an inch and she thinks she’s the ruler.” For that reason, I choose to keep her at arms length.

Again, I think the problem is that my husband has been brain-washed to believe that he is to ‘respect his elders’ to the point that they have the right to ‘run the show’ and he isn’t to say anything.

He says he wants to see the problem, but just doesn’t. Recently someone said of his mom’s father that he ‘always had to have things done his way’ (and he did!). My husband was there but when we discussed it later, he said that this person wasn’t talking about his grandfather, that he had my husband confused with someone else! This person called my husband’s grandfather by name! This is where the problem really is.


#14

According to my priest, you are not breaking the 4th commandment by not allowing a parent to ruin your life. My Mother-in-law is just as bad. Just as a start, she wore gray to my wedding. (And it got worse from there.) After a number of years, I went to confession because I felt bad about not letting her run my life and that of our family. Your husband left his mother to marry you. To honor his parents, he does not have to bow down to them. That straight from the confessional. You can have no nasty thoughts, no wishing bad things to happen, nothing like that. Telling them no, explaining your position and limiting their visits are all ok.

One thing I do, is when she does/says something nasty, I repeat it. If there are others around that didn’t hear her, they did now. Example, “your house is clean today”, I say," Thank you for telling me my house is clean, isn’t normally?’’ …“are you sure that will fit?” I say," Yes, a medium will fit, I wear a 12 and have since you have known me." :rolleyes:

We also moved about two years ago. We are now 850 miles away. It has helped in ways that are hard to believe. The family now sees her on our terms. :thumbsup:


#15

[quote=maryjk]According to my priest, you are not breaking the 4th commandment by not allowing a parent to ruin your life. :thumbsup:

[/quote]

Also, according to God, I think!!!

What I have mainly gotten is complete “stone-walling” from my MIL, as of late. She tried the nasty comments and now she’s thru with that and on to something else. She completely ignores me, after years of nastiness. Now it’s “oh can you guys come over”??? “Can you come for X-mas”??? Just to see her son and grandkids, not me, of course. They never once have inquired as to how I am, or anything, and all the times we’ve all been over, completely act like I don’t exist. I’ll sit in a corner all nite- wishing I was not there.:frowning: I used to ask endlessly about them, etc., how they’re feeling, what’s new, etc., they would shun me anyway giving me the “cold shoulder”. No more! Now I simply choose to not be around them any longer. H and kids are welcome to go over anytime they want, without my effort now is hardly at all. (I used to always try to get together’s, etc., try for family togetherness)----Now-- I’m more than happy to stay home and read. So now they’re asking about X-mas, haven’t decided what to say yet, but I do not plan on being over.

You live and learn right? With age and experience comes wisdom hopefully. Godly Wisdom we must all hope and pray for most of all.


#16

[quote=sparkle]Also, according to God, I think!!!

What I have mainly gotten is complete “stone-walling” from my MIL, as of late. She tried the nasty comments and now she’s thru with that and on to something else. She completely ignores me, after years of nastiness. Now it’s “oh can you guys come over”??? “Can you come for X-mas”??? Just to see her son and grandkids, not me, of course. They never once have inquired as to how I am, or anything, and all the times we’ve all been over, completely act like I don’t exist. I’ll sit in a corner all nite- wishing I was not there.:frowning: I used to ask endlessly about them, etc., how they’re feeling, what’s new, etc., they would shun me anyway giving me the “cold shoulder”. No more! Now I simply choose to not be around them any longer. H and kids are welcome to go over anytime they want, without my effort now is hardly at all. (I used to always try to get together’s, etc., try for family togetherness)----Now-- I’m more than happy to stay home and read. So now they’re asking about X-mas, haven’t decided what to say yet, but I do not plan on being over.

You live and learn right? With age and experience comes wisdom hopefully. Godly Wisdom we must all hope and pray for most of all.
[/quote]

Everything you have described here is EXACTLY what my MIL does (or used to now that she hasn’t seen us in 8 months). She will NEVER stop until your husband puts his foot down and says ENOUGH already. As long as he allows her to treat you that way, she will continue to do it. My MIL is still convinced after 8 months that my husband will “see me for who I really am”. I am a very nice, outgoing person (everyone says that about me and can’t beleive my MIL doesn’t like me). She is the one missing out on knowing me. I let them be a part of our lives since my oldest (5years old) was born. My husband and I agreed a long time ago that we would continue to visit until it started affecting the kids and it has started now. He doesn’t think that our children should see their mother being disrespected by anyone, especially their grandparents of all people. Just out of curiosity Sparkle, how old are you if you don’t mind me asking. I am 26 (yeap, I started my family on my honeymoon!!!) My husband is 28. I feel I am so lucky and blessed that we have gained this knowledge and my husband has put a stop to his parents disrespect early on. It will make for a longer, healthier life and marriage - If the Good Lord says the same!!!


#17

Be positive, yes I mean positive the (+) cross sign represent Jesus, his sacrifice, our salvation. Be positive means Jesus Christ is the center of all you do.

God is giving you a prevealedge to receprocate that sacrifice in-order for us to grow in love with Him. We are called to be his Desciple and that’s exactly what’s it’s all about. The more we sacrifice for his name the more we can love God. Be not afraid The Lord is our salvation to whom should you worry or afraid of.

If your Mother In law hates you love Her back. Give her a Christmass present the one that she really likes. And be sincere about it. Be really nice to her. Do not get insulted or get hurt or worry just take it as it is. Pray for her.

The best thing to do is to go to the Blessed Sacrament and just sit there and wait untill God talk to you. Be really quite.And then thank him for giving you time and preveledges to serve Him.

I don’t think anaything else will work except God’s way.


#18

Hi Van,

I’m struggling with dealing with my in-laws like you are. My husband doesn’t see it either. I feel it is important for me to stand up to the verbal abuse I’m recieving from my in-laws. I expect that the abuse will escalate when I do so but I hear that verbal abuse almost always escalates anyway. I think that the main thing is that I no longer feel confused and crazy about my feelings. I know what’s going on and I’m not o.k. with being mistreated. I don’t expect that they’ll change but I think I’ll have peace of mind when I stand up for myself. I already feel much better about the whole situation after receiving support from others like on this board.

I believe that respect is a basic human right and there is nothing anyone does to ever deserve to be abused. I hope this issue resolves for you soon and btw I learned alot about responding to verbally abusive people by doing searches on the web for verbal abuse. It was a Catholic priest who first used the phrase “verbal abuse” when he heard my story. I would never have thought of it that way if he hadn’t said that. I was amazed to see the profile of my FIL written about in books about verbal abuse.

I think learning to deal with this will help me in dealing with other difficult people in my life. It’s definitely a process and I’m here to learn.

Crystal


#19

Just might have to be careful that you don’t get infected with their germ !

The Lord gives us many weapons to conquer - that we may have the joy of taking on the neemy ; it is true that He even showed us there is some place for correction - as when He during His passion, questions the person who hit Him .

Still, all this might be also occasions to use The Word , the sword of The Spirit which can penetrate much better than our human wisdom and words !We Catholics might have neglected the scriptures much and may be at one time they were difficult to really understand , but these days plenty of help …even when we may not get all the meaning from a passage ( which is the beauty of it too, for it never grows ‘old’ …) we would have a lot more joy when we enthrone God in our hearts, as The Center ( the easiest gauge of this would be how much time do we think of Him, search and listen to His Word - where your heart is , there your treasure is! ) and many a times , mountains would just melt away !
When you are around the inlaws , see whether you can think of talking to their guardian angels and pray with those angels , esp. praise with them - power of praise , knowing the Lord loves each one of us, He has conquered …which bring down the walls !
Ask for the intercession of St. Monica - those saints in heaven woud love to help us !


#20

Hi Van,

I’m not advocating becoming like your in-laws. I believe that the most important thing to God is how we treat each other. I used to think that standing up for yourself meant becoming like the people who abuse you. Now I know there are ways to stand up for yourself that don’t mean you have to change your personality for the worse. I plan in letting my abusers know that I will not put up with being mistreated in a way that will still insure that I don’t compromise my principles.

Crystal


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