Yeah, mschrank, I have huge isses!
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!”