Dear Stavroula: Advice for a Friend and His Mother-in-Law

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Dear Stavroula,

A friend of mine has been happily married for a few years now, but he always complains about his mother-in-law and how she sticks her nose into his business and his marriage and actually tried to split him up from his wife. My friend is a good person, a caring and thoughtful husband and father, and he even cooks since his wife works outside the home. I don’t know why his mother-in-law would want the couple to divorce simply because her son-in-law is not as wealthy as she imagined he would be. Many people are struggling with work and family life, and the rising cost of everything, but why would you break up a family over something that will pass? He is highly educated and is going to interviews and looking for work while taking care of his young son. When he asks for my advice, I can only think that he should just tell his mother-in-law to mind her own business. The father-in-law stays out of things, why can’t she? Does she think her daughter will have a better life as a single, working mother rather than with her husband? Please let me know what else I can say to help my friend with this situation.

Thank you!

Charalambos

 

Dear Charalambos,

You write to me that your friend has a bad relationship with his mother-in-law and that she is trying to split up the couple. I suppose the mother-in-law continually badmouths her son-in-law to her daughter and affects her negatively, so she has changed her behavior towards her husband and your friend. So, in my opinion, the real problem focuses on your friend’s relationship with his wife.

Problems exist in all couples, sometimes small and sometimes more serious, but if there is love, respect, and understanding between them, it is not easy to decide to divorce, let alone because a third person wants it, like the mother of one of the two. Of course, in this case, we are talking about mature individuals who have managed to cut the umbilical cord with their parents and are conscious of their role as partners and as parents.

But if one of the couple has not cut the cord, problems arise which are hard to solve, especially if the parent strengthens the child’s attachment to them.

For this, first of all, the advice you could give him is to visit a specialist, psychologist or marriage counselor together with his wife. It is important to realize where the problems start in their relationship and try to solve them together.

Naturally, the issue of unemployment also weighs into the situation.

You did not mention how long your friend has been unemployed. Is he out of work for a long time, cannot find a job, or finds jobs he does not like because, for example, it is inferior to his qualifications (you wrote that he is very well educated)?

In this case, it might be good to work temporarily in a position that would not be of his choice, so that the family can recover financially and at the same time look for the job he wants. This way his wife will feel more secure, because it makes sense to be very worried about the future of the family since they have a young child. But your friend will feel better, too. The man who is unemployed often feels unable to support his family and this has a psychologically negative impact, so his behavior changes, he closes himself off, and moves away emotionally from his partner. Perhaps if the problem of work is resolved, the couple’s relationship will also improve.

I do not know if it makes sense for your friend to engage in a confrontation with his mother-in-law, trying to put her in her place. This is something that will only work if the daughter confronts her mother herself.

He could perhaps talk to her and give her a sense of his real concern for his family and that he is fighting for the best, but only if he can keep the level of conversation in calm tones and he can withstand insults and criticism without falling to the same level. Otherwise, if he is drawn into a fight, there is a risk that things will get worse.

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