Wife and mother-in-law


For some reason, the fact that my MIL calls my wife on a daily basis (sometimes more than an hour a day) and my wife seems to go over there socially bothers me.

Keep in mind, I had some conflict with MIL before we were married.

Is this just me being resentful or is it normal for a husband to feel a little uncomfortable about this? To be honest, I don’t even know why it bothers me.


You weren’t specific about what your previous conflict involved, but based on what little information you provided, I do not think that it is normal for a husband to be bothered by this. Do a good self-examine of your conscience and get to the bottom of why this bothers you so.

Peace be with you



The house my wife came from was a very ‘close’ family. Not in the sense that they shared their hearts with each other, but in the sense that it was very closed and inward looking and they only spent time with each other, visitors were not welcome and if anyone wanted to do anything else, or go off on their own (parties, friends, MARRIAGE) they were “breaking up the family”.


Your wife loves her mother. There is nothing unusual about that.

Every family dynamic is different and clearly your wife and her mother are close and talk freuqently.

If you’re over the conflict put it behind you.

If you’re not over the conflict, that is still no reason for your wife to curtail her interaction with her mother (unless her mother is actively subverting or bad-mouthing you… which doesn’t seem to be the case here).

Yes, it’s you being resentful.

Is your wife neglecting you, her duties to your family and home, or your children in order to spend time with her mother?

If not-- adjust your attitude. If she is, express it not in terms of her visiting with her mother but in terms of her fulfilling her obligations at home before doing so.


Yeah, I would say it might be you being resentful…but why would u be resentful? Do you have a good relationship with your family? I ask, because sometimes, that can happen…one or the other spouse doesn’t have a good relationship, and that can cause issues because the other spouse might have an envy of a relationship that they wish they had. Just throwing my 2 cents in.


Sounds like it’s an enmeshed situation which is not healthy for anyone involved.

If doing normal activities with friends and spouses constitutes ‘breaking up the family’ there is little to do but seek counseling and research on how to setup and enforce boundaries for YOUR family.

More likely than not, there will be no ‘convincing’ your in-laws that they don’t have healthy relationship choices. Your main problem is for your spouse to open up her eyes to this problem.

Get some books on toxic parent’s/inlaws and do research. Have your spouse read them too, and then head to counseling. You have issues that you need to speak about and you have a right to speak about them.

Good luck!


Oh, good grief! Before we start labelling people toxic we need more information. All we have here is that a husband doesn’t like the idea that his wife talks to her mother every day and hangs out socially with her family.

We need more information.

How long have they been married? If they are newly weds, it may take her longer to separate from her family than him. Is she a relatively new wife (under five years) who never lived away from home before she married? She may need more time than the husband to distance herself.

Do they have children? In a healthy mother/daughter relationship, the daughter will go to her mother for advice and story telling about the child. No one likes to hear all the boring details like a grandma!

How isolated is the wife? Is husband a workaholic who leaves her with no one to talk to for long periods except her mother?

I’ll tell you what WON’T work: Ranting and screaming for her to break the apron strings. Telling her her relationship with someone who may be her best friend is enmeshed or screwed up.

I know women who moved onto the same block as their mother and sister.

How many brothers and sisters does husband have? Does he even have any sisters to compare this relationship with? Has he seen other women and how their relationships with family function? And how many women does he know and how often do they talk to their mothers? The fact he’s asking us tells me he has limited experience for comparison.

Reality check: It’s a good sign of stability and loyalty that a woman can have a close and ongoing relationship with her family. Him standing on the sidelines glaring is his choice.

Not knowing the nature of his conflict with MIL makes it difficult to see what is really happening.

Maybe she didn’t like the way he glared at her and tried to tear her daughter away.

Just throwing that out there.

A son is a son till he takes a wife.
A daughter’s a daughter all her life.

I added a new verse:

And a husband is one till he smacks her around
Then mother will come and scrape her off of the ground.

Fact is, I’ll be honest. This sends red lights up for me because I was the wife who left home to marry a man and he had been away from home for almost a decade with a poor relationship with his mother. And he didn’t understand that I was close to mine. So he started attacking it and ranting. And it was a symbol of his control freak tendencies and his desire to remove from my life anyone who saw through him.

And yes, when he finally left, it was my mother and my family who helped me pick up the pieces. And he proved their point about him and the reason there was initial conflict.

I suggest the OP figure out why HE is so upset before he starts pinning labels on anyone else. A loving husband would be happy at anyone who made his wife’s life less lonely, easier, happier and more love-filled. Sometimes mothers see something in someone long before the scales fall from the daughter’s eyes.

Aren’t you glad you asked advice from strangers on a message board? I bet you hoped I’d tell you your wife was an immature little baby who needed to stop suckling at her mother’s teat and grow up and pay attention to THIS FAMILY!!! (Say it with foam flecking off your mouth. It’s much more effective that way.) (See? I know the lecture by heart!)

… and in case you think he had a legitimate gripe, I did put my family with him first and moved overseas to several countries, leaving my family and country to be with him and it still wasn’t enough. And he said the most horrible things all the time. He wouldn’t talk to me, but he resented that in my loneliness I talked to my mom. Be sure you aren’t doing the same thing. I had no one else to talk to and he resented that I’d pick up the phone and talk about the grandkids. Dog in the manger.


In truth I don’t know anything about their marriage more than this and I’m sorry but I don’t care what sort of other information there is in regards to this. If what he states is true (they say “breaking up the family” in responce to normal things like going to parties) then there is no excuse for it. None at all. Adult children should honor their parents but never allow themselves to be manipulated by this sort of talk.

As for "A son is a son till he takes a wife. A daughter’s a daughter all her life"
It doesn’t mesh with Catholic theology for me, husband and wife come first in marriage.

When people marry they leave their parents and cleave to their spouse. Granted they shouldn’t isolate themselves from their parents but there should always be priorities.

Liberanosamalo, it sounds like you do give a viewpoint that should be shared and taken heed of, but it also may color a bit your reaction to his situation (especially what I quoted above). Sounds like the situation I quoted above is the kind that your ex had put you in.


Wow, libersalo-whatever, lol… someone’s got issues!

Yeah, I think that this is somewhat my issue. I’ve been moved out for a long time and my wife never lived away from her home. We’ve only been married a couple of months.

It’s just that before we were married, her mother used to seriously psychologically manipulate her. I can’t go into details, it’s just too paniful those memories. MIL is much better since we’re married but she used to be very very toxic. I’ve never seen anyone manipulate another human being as well as MIL to my wife… just a word, or glance, would make my wife fall in a heap and go over how horrible of a person she was and how her mother was right about her. Seriously, ugh, I have to stop.

I’m just trying to figure out how much this is a me thing and how much this is a MIL thing.


Ok, as relative newlyweds, though you can’t do much about what happens while you are not around the house (off working, etc), what you can do is use this as a chance to establish things outside of the family for the two of you to do together, focusing on things that you think she enjoys that you could tolerate for several decades. Make an effort for the two of you to go out together, ideally in activities where you might get to know other couples, or just get her active in new but acceptable circles. For example, suggest taking a dance class together (like Intro Ballroom or Swing). Then in a separate but together kind of activity, there is Knights of Columbus & Catholic Daughters. As you build up a network together, outside of what both of you were involved in before, your wife will become less dependent on her mother and will most likely start to distance herself in favor of the more positive contacts all on her own.


I hear you on that one…I always felt that my ex’s mom was against me right from the start…my ex would frequently call me in the middle of the night with all of these “problems” that would just just come up after she had a convo with her mom.


I think we’re on the same page here. These “problems” would come up, then after a talk (and me feeling like my guts were being squeezed out) they’d disappear, only to come up again at the next manipulation session. In all seriousness, this MIL was so jealous of me taking her away “But God gave you to me! Not him!” I felt like she was more like an ex-boyfriend with feelings for her (and some in return) than a MIL.

Oh and Ray, thanks for your advice. I am seriously going to look into expanding our social circle. We need to do that as a couple. We’ve been too home-centered lately (we only moved to our first house on the 3rd of this month). I think she feels isolated and keeps going back to what she knows.


I used to not be so crazy about my inlaws. My wife came from a large close family. I felt like an outsider in the beginning.

Then I had my own daughter. Someday she will get married and start her own family. We are a tight family, we worship, strive to live our faith, work & play together. I know the kids are mine for a short time. I hope that when they grow up & get married that we can make their spouses feel welcome, accepted & connected to our family, without being intrusive on their union.

I don’t mind my in laws calls, coming and goings, or relationships with my kids, or my wife still being a close daughter to them anymore.


Probably so. For that matter, if you didn’t have other plans you can go hang out at home improvement and landscaping retailers making plans for how you are going to set up your home as funds permit. A complaint from your MIL that you are too willing to look at draperies and paint colors isn’t going to go very far with your wife’s natural female instinct to make her house her own.

I forgot to mention charity work earlier, there are things you could do together in that setting too.

If she’s at all open, I would really encourage the dance classes, even if you are less than excited about it. Dancing together does something with a couple to help form / strengthen the bond, and you’ll like it, I promise, especially when you start reaping the benefits of that feeling of closeness… :wink:


Yeah, dance is a good idea. I like to dance, my wife and I waltzed for our first dance. :slight_smile:


Yeah, mschrank, I have huge isses! :wink:

But it sounds from what you have written and your responses to others that the issue is the newness of your relationship and your adjustment to a wife and her mother.

You didn’t say whether she was an only child or whether this was the first child being married from the family or whether you have any sisters you have observed with their interactions with your own mother.

But you have been given very good advice here.

I’ll add some.

I have spoken on other posts about the “daughter is a daughter all her life” issue. Most women will agree with it. It isn’t about the bond with her family of origin coming first. Her relationship with your and her relationship with her family are apples and oranges,. It’s about the strength and necessity of that bond and the female psyche. Let’s face it, men die. Men leave. Men abandon. And in most areas and cultures throughout the history of humanity, that is a death sentence for the wife unless her own family is still a presence in her life. Unless you are a parent with a grown daughter of your own, or are a grown daughter yourself, you may not completely understand those words and what they really imply.

What doesn’t help with any new wife who is becoming independent from her family is any criticism of her mother. This isn’t about her mother. It’s about your wife’s feelings. If you make it about her mother, she will become defensive. If her mother is as beastly as you say, you have a cake walk in front of you, my friend. All you have to do is be nicer than that! And basic human psychology causes people to go where they feel loved and accepted. For every negative thing her mother says or does, you give her two positive things.

After her mother calls her and makes her feel two inches tall, instead of saying “Your mother is a troublemaking nag!” tell her “Well, I happen to think your mother is wrong about you. If you were that bad, I wouldn’t have married you. But you are wonderful, smart, blah blah blah…”

As time goes on, the bond with her mother will lessen PROVIDED YOU GIVE HER REASON TO TRUST AND CLING TO YOU! If she has been raised in a manipulative environment, she has trust issues with everyone. Don’t take it personally. You just have to be the new person she learns to trust above all else. Only you can do it.

If you use your MIL as a source of conflict and nagging and ranting and anger toward your wife and criticize how she handles her own family, then you will drive her right back into her mother’s waiting arms.

Take dance classes. Have lots of friends over. Be loving. Keep your wife too busy to be on the phone. Don’t leave her isolated and alone.

If you play your cards right, she will be able to have a relationship with both you and her family. NEVER issue an ultimatum and tell her “Them or me.” You may love her and be married to her, but right now, you are the new guy and that family has been her family all her life. Your resentment shines through. If that family is as insular as you say, you are their lesson in making way for an “outsider.” How you pave the way will affect everyone who marries her siblings. You can do it with charm and patience and someday listen to MIL tell people “I didn’t like him at first, but now I love him like a son!” Or you can blow it and have her say “See! I knew he was no good!” By being nice and winning them over, you validate your wife’s independent choice to marry you.

There are a million books on how to conceive, become a parent, raise kids and finance them. Not so many on how to let go of them, stop being a parent and hand them to someone else. If you respond with love and compassion to these parents instead of resentment, you will be a better husband and father yourself in the future.

Your challenge is to go from being an outsider there to becoming an insider. And helping your wife become independent without doing it in an unkind way. Patience and your love will make that easy and painless. If you rush it on your timetable or do it angrily, you will make your wife feel pulled in two directions. YOU will become the source of her stress instead of her mother.

You cannot expect her to be as immediately emotionally emancipated as you have become over several years. As you have children, her relationship with her parents will change also. She will become more confident. Her relationship with her mother will change from one of mother daughter to one of student/mentor as your wife sees the world from a mother’s perspective. She will either think “Wow, my mom was a genius” or “How screwed up was THAT household! I’ll NEVER be that way!”



You can’t control them or your wife’s relationship with them. You can only control your actions. The better you make your own home, the less inviting that environment will be for your wife.

So put down all labels, toxic, controlling, whatever… concentrate less on the labels you want to give her family. Concentrate on the labels you make for yourself. After all, they couldn’t have been so bad that they didn’t raise the one woman you found fit to make your wife. Keep focusing on that fact. And when you have children, understand that your child will be an insider also. Which will make you an insider too, if you play your cards right. Standing around and judging them won’t make them want to invite you in.

And yes, membership does have its priveleges. They begin to trust you and they put their guard down and don’t carp and criticize as much if they trust you. They view themselves as a pretty exclusive club. They don’t just let anybody in just because they walk through the door. When you are finally accepted by that kind of crowd, it does seem a bit more of a triumph than if it came easy. They may have pretty high standards, which your wife always feels like she is falling short of. I don’t know. Trust me when I say it’s better to have the challenge of being married into a family of high standards than a family without standards.

All you have to do is make sure your wife feels emotionally safer with you than with them. The rest will take care of itself. Eventually she will learn how to stand up to her mother and she will start deciding not to take every phone call. If you are condemnatory, she will not see you as a person she can trust to complain about her mother to. And she probably does need to complain. (Secret from the girl side: We ALL have complaints about our mothers.) She needs girlfriends her own age too. She needs a wider social circle. Make sure she has that.

In all seriousness, this MIL was so jealous of me taking her away “But God gave you to me! Not him!” I felt like she was more like an ex-boyfriend with feelings for her (and some in return) than a MIL.

That one got my attention and reminded me of my husband slapping me and accusing me of having an affair with my mother.
It didn’t do anything but make me think HE was crazy.

Obviously, that mother in law of yours took her mothering duties very seriously. Your wife may repeat a lot of those patterns when you have children. But as a father, you will find that fierce love of her/your children charming, no? Don’t go there with comparing the MIL to a boyfriend – Just a word to the wise! The love of a mother and her children is not something to be trifled with. The only think you can do is work to prove that her daughter is in good hands so she can move to the next step and not be mother, but be grandmother.
Up till now, your wife has trusted her mother for advice in everything. You will only stop that by being MORE trustworthy.

Then MIL can turn her attention to a sibling or the next son or daughter in law.

Your MIL is on a learning curve too. There are no books on how to make a person you have only known a few years on the same level of intimacy as your own children you gave birth to. You say she has made progress. She will continue to do so unless you let your attitude get in her way.

Let your answering machine take messages after hours. And love your wife. She isn’t a rope in a tug of war. You can view her like that and by the time you and your MIL are finished pulling her in half like the Thanksgiving wishbone, there won’t be much left of her. Or you can respect her and her feelings and she will put her mother in her new place on her own accord.

We women are all in the process of turning into our mothers. Sorry. Most of us even end up looking just like them. If you attack her mother, she will see it as an indirect attack on herself. You may not feel that way about your own mother, but you are a man. The best way to get rid of an enemy is to make her your friend!

Good luck.


Liberanosamalo’s last two posts were EXCELLENT advice. I am a daughter of a family that I sometimes compare to the family in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” loud, overbearing, but loving. However, outsiders do have a terrible time (heck, one of my cousin’s wife’s family had to change the day they celebrated Christmas so as not to interfere with my family’s celebration of Christmas). But, my family, no matter how overbearing, will be there at teh drop of a hat. When anyone is hospitalized there is almost always someone there with them for all the visiting hours, and if it is a member dying, then for all 24 hours there is someone with them (we all have grown to appreciate and recognize quality hospital food). I know that my family is extremely intimidating to outsiders. Inlaws aren’t always made to feel part of the family after years of being married into the family (their decision, not ours, when they pass judgement about how our family interacts).

Also, as a daughter who currently helps to care for her mother who can be emotionally manipulative (cries to me about things she doesn’t want me to do because she had a bad dream about it or something to that effect). I have a father who also wants things his way or the highway. If I do ever marry I would be very upset if my spouse added pressure onto me about my parents that I already place on myself (and that they place on me). A spouse should have known the baggage before entering the marriage and walked away if they couldn’t handle it. I guess that’s why I think Liberanosamalo’s advice was so good and well detailed. My spouse would come first but I wouldn’t want to be made to feel as if taking care of my sometimes overbearing parents on occassion is going to be a war. If either made me have to choose, I may be tempted to walk away from both.


Thanks for all the help, especially liberalo.

Any other guys want to put in their 2 cents though?


I’m a woman, but I thought I would put in my cents here because I got married recently, too.

My DH has a mother that is everything you described in this thread and more. If he was talking to her for an hour and going over there even once a week I would have truly negative feelings. (I doubt I could even convince him to do either, though, so I’m spared what you’re going through).

My feelings would be a mixture of concern for him, feeling left out, wondering how he could want to hang out with her and not me, worrying that his involvement might bring about more oppurtunities for drama, etc.

But, then I have to be fair by saying I feel what your wife must be going through as well. Now, my parents have always been my parents and not my “friends” but my mom has been the closest person to me other than my sister, especially in the years that I’ve entered the adult life of working and going to school. We share stories, go out to eat, shop at the mall, go to Mass together, take the kids to fun activities and just hang out.

When you have built a life of seeing a person daily, you can’t just drop that and say adios. In terms of priority, yes, there must be a change in priorities. Privacy and boundaries need to be created.

Our situation according to my DH is working out “great” in large part because he loves my family and has a ton of fun hanging out. I have several young adult/teen siblings who go out with us and the little kids are always a crazy blast. Hanging out with my family is something we both enjoy, thankfully.

All that being said, if my DH expressed unhappiness over a relationship with another person, it would warrant a serious conversation and game plan. Have you gently but clearly talked with your DW about your concerns? Maybe you guys can brainstorm for a good compromise, such as hanging out just once a week, or when you are at work.

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