Difficult situation with family. Advice welcome and appreciated

Four years ago I met my husband and at the time I wasn’t Catholic. He was brought up Catholic and even though our relationship was unhealthy in many aspects, my husband was striving for holiness. He said he cared about me from the beginning and didn’t want to mess up. I was naive at the time and very young. He was my first boyfriend. He said things to me like “If you don’t convert to Catholicism, I don’t see a future for us”. So I went through RCIA because I was attracted to holiness and curious, and because a lot of pressure was put on me. I was so very reluctant because I was brought up protestant and confused about so many things. But I ended up converting in the end and am now happily practicing the faith with my husband.

My mother-in-law met me when I was going through RCIA and that was years ago. At the time I was very confused. I was always very kind to her but felt so very uncomfortable. She was being so pushy with the faith (more so than my husband), and I just wasn’t ready for it. Let’s just say they were going about it in all of the wrong ways and obviously not very kindly or lovingly. Just boisterous and arrogant when I didn’t understand things and very in my face. Naturally, I was put off by it and was more shy when she was around. I didn’t feel like I could be myself without getting judged harshly. She would act nice to my face, but behind my back would talk horribly to my husband (boyfriend at the time). The first couple years of our relationship sometimes she would be able to brainwash my husband with things that weren’t true or twisted and he would “attack” me with words. I cared about him and understood the situation, and got mad but also explained it to him nicely. For the last two years, thankfully my husband has realized how abusive and manipulative she can be and understands how he was abusive too.

My husband stopped talking to her for awhile because she would not acknowledge our relationship and called me his “friend”, even after we’ve been married almost a year. She continues to bring stuff up from the past that’s either twisted, plain out not true, etc. I can not tell you the number of times my husband and I have apologized to her (mostly in the beginning until we stopped putting up with the abusiveness) for misunderstandings in the past to just be kind and Christ-like but it has just not worked at all. Nothing makes her happy.

I haven’t seen her for over 3 years and my husband hasn’t seen her for about a year. She never came to our wedding. We’re making a trip back to his hometown. We haven’t been in contact with her in months because the conversations never start or end healthy. Since it has been awhile my husband sent her a casual email seeing if she’d like to meet up with us. We have no idea when we’ll be back to visit again. She writes an email saying she wouldn’t feel comfortable, is already feeling sick just thinking about sitting across the table from us, and thinks it would be a bad idea. My husband replied saying “No problem Mom. Just so you know we’ve been praying for you and our family every day and forgiven the situation. We don’t have any ill will or negative feelings and would like to see you if you change your mind”. I thought that was such a great reply but unfortunately she replied today bringing up stuff from the past, talking horribly about me and calling me his “friend”, and just being so abusive saying bad things about my husband. Obviously, this behavior from her was to be expected, but it had been awhile since we spoke to her so we thought we’d try to be Christ like and try again.

I am annoyed with my mother-in-law because at one point in time she had a great relationship with my husband, and I would like for that to happen again. Since my husband met me his relationship with her has been rocky, obviously. He hasn’t been perfect either, and has got into arguments that she holds grudges about, but that stopped at least 2 years ago and he has apologized to her. But she is making it impossible for us to have a healthy relationship with her and I know that hurts my husband a lot. Sure, she has been abusive and negative, but I have no problem moving on and forgiving her if she can be respectful to us, for my husband’s sake. Obviously, this is not the case, and sometimes situations just aren’t going to work out and people have to go their separate ways. We’ll continue to pray for her every day, but does anyone else have advice? Would you continue to check in on her every now and then on the phone or email, even though she won’t talk if she knows i’m there and won’t acknowledge our relationship? Should we just simply stop all contact? What if we are blessed with children one day? Given how she is treating us now, would you not trust your children to be seen by a lady who was very abusive to you?

Thank you for taking the time to come here and to share your story. I am so very sorry that you are going through this. You seem very frustrated and wrote that you are “annoyed.” Please, do all you can to take your feelings of frustration and turn them into compassion instead. Your mother-in-law is so consumed by whatever sordid desires that motivate her that she has not seen her son for a year. She is ruining her relationship with her child, by her own free will and this, dear one is a situation that needs your compassion.

Then there is the relationship with your husband. You did not ask this, but I want to encourage you to give your husband love, love and more love because he is hurting deeply. Do all you can to bite your tongue and say nothing negative about his mother, or if you do, keep it brief and kind. I speak from experience, it took me years to realize how I was hurting my husband. My mother-in-law was difficult and hurtful to my husband. Well not only did he get it from her, but then he would get an earful from me about each and every incident the poor man had no peace I would talk on and on about her. With God’s grace I was able to stop, and instead gently hug my husband after each encounter with her and tell him “I know that was hard, you are a great son you are doing a great job.” and let it go. I am not saying this is you, just sharing my own experience that is all so you don’t make my mistakes I did in case you find yourself tempted to do so.

Perhaps let your husband decide on how often he wants to reach out. If he occasionally wants to send a birthday or Christmas card that is fine. He is a great husband, it sounds as if you have not seen her in three years! He is a good man if he realizes she is toxic and so does not regularly expose you to her venom. Reaching out to her on occasion is okay. Remember that satan hates families and likes to destroy them. She could be tempted to her meanness or perhaps anger problems or other things. Whatever the reason I see no reason to contact her. I would concentrate on your marriage though because loss of a mother this way is heartbreaking to your husband even though he may not show it.

I think you’re both being very sensible. Your husband can choose an interval that works for him (Christmas, Mother’s Day, her birthday, etc.) and make a point of communicating with her then, right up until she starts being abusive, and then he can end the conversation. If she’s impossible by phone, it might need to be email or a card.

We also have a relative who stopped talking to both of us for about 10 years. We’d visit, he’d talk to the kids, he’d talk to his wife, he’d talk to his daughter, but 80% of the time, any message he had for my husband and mewould be first said to his wife, and then she’d “translate” it for us right in front of us. It was the weirdest thing. I urged my husband to make an effort to talk to him a little occasionally. It took 10 years and two kids to restore communications. What finally did it was that there was a disaster in the family, and the silent treatment relative finally started talking again. But what a waste!

Good luck!

I’m so sorry for this. But the only one who can remedy it is his mother.
She will have to come to see how this is destroying her family on her own. It takes so much effort to hold hatred in our hearts. This woman needs prayers.
I pray that your husband keeps up his marvelous attitude of reconciliation. In the meantime, keep loving your family…keep lifting him up, and keep praying for all involved.
May God shine His mercy upon you, and may you find comfort in the arms of Our Lady.

Your husband needs to be sure that he understand you come first as his wife, not his mother. He is better off keeping his distance from her if she has continued to be, or will continue to be abusive and he can’t call her on it.

I would not keep in touch with her anymore than needed. I would confront her when she lies, even if it is pubic. I would tell her point blank that she needs to stop living in the past and that do so is a sin against God. So is holding grudges.

If she can’t “make nice” it may do both you and your husband well to stay away completely. Go someplace else, and tell her why: That you don’t like her lies, the way she mistreats your husband and yourself. Then be done with it.

I suspect that your mother in law is jealous of you for taking her son away from her. That is what my grandmother had trouble with. All of her daughter in laws were mistreated by her as a result of this sin. You could always comment back to her, when she says something untrue or nasty, that “You are sorry her jealousy of you drives her to be so mean and untruthful.” Comment no further than that. Just walk away.

God bless you for your gracious and Christian attitudes and intentions, and for your wisdom.
I thank God your husband is also good and wise.
Your mother-in-law appears quite ill in a psychological and spiritual way.
She seems capable only of harming your family, so just as we need to protect ourselves from illness from serious infectious diseases, sometimes we need to stay away from certain people or we can become ill ourselves.
God alone can truly cure this ill woman, so adding my prayers to your husband and yours for your mother-in-law’s soul. May God guide you and your husband in all that you do.

Praying to the Holy Spirit to give you & your family guidance, direction, strength, fortitude & wisdom in your time of need. Praying for your family’s intentions.

I pray that God grants healing and compassion to your mother-in-law. God Bless you and your husband for choosing to act with compassion and understanding.

I can certainly understand your husband’s desire to continue his relationship with his mother despite the challenges she presents to you and him. You haven’t mentioned a father-in-law and I’m wondering if there is a reason or if that is a factor in this dynamic. I would like to urge your husband, if he is willing, to explore his role in more depth as your husband. In our current culture where male and female roles seem interchangeable, it’s really important for Catholic husbands to understand our Biblical roles and our obligation/duty to our wives and family lest we shirk our responsibilities.

If your wedding vows were like my wife and mine, you might remember swearing to “obey” your husband. You might also remember your husband swearing to “protect” you as his wife. Sorry I don’t have the exact book/chapter/verse (please help me, dear apologetics!) but a husband is charged with loving and protecting his wife like Jesus loves and protects His Church. A wife is placed under the protection of the husband and it’s his duty to fulfill that protection. I’m concerned that it doesn’t seem like your husband is taking his responsibility seriously; perhaps he is and I’m just reading too much in error. In any event, you are a faithful wife; stay your course. Continue to love your husband and pray for his mother and God will continue to give you strength, wisdom, and patience to face this challenge together as man and wife. God Bless you both.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.