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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: My Future Mother-in-Law Puts on an Act in Front of My Fiancé

Dear Stavroula

I read an answer you gave about the mothers-in-law and I decided to write to you. I am also suffering. I am 29 and my fiancé is 32. His parents have been divorced since he was a baby. When my fiancé is present, my future mother-in-law pretends that she adores me, she is “unimaginably happy” that she is getting the daughter she never had, and the like. Of course, my future husband does not realize this is an act, with the result that when I point out the problems she creates, I always look bad. Because my mother-in-law always interferes in an insidious way. I got to the point of pretending, too, in order to endure. I know she will not change and my logic tells me that it does not make sense to be upset, but I am upset and I wonder why she behaves like this since I do not bother her. I always behave politely and I am always willing. I do not understand why she has this attitude. Is she afraid that after marriage she will not have the first say in her son's life? Because she constantly wants to point out her presence in his life in a sideways way, as if he does not know it himself, or as if he is neglecting it, which, of course, does not happen. I would very much like to hear your opinion. Thank you very much.

Kiko

Dear Kiko,

Many times in families where the father is absent from the couple's relationship (literally or figuratively) and the mother has not rebuilt her life and does not have a healthy relationship with a partner, it is often observed that she clings to her children and especially to the son. In some extreme cases, the mother treats the son as if he were responsible for her own happiness, using the mother-son relationship as a substitute for the deprived woman-man relationship.

So when the mother is attached to her son, any other important person in his life acts subconsciously as a threat. As he is the recipient of feelings and behaviors that should be addressed to a partner, the mother who suddenly feels that she ‘loses’ her son, may unconsciously experience it as another betrayal, especially if she believes that she has ‘sacrificed’ her life to raise her child.

She tries to hide or cover up the strong feelings of frustration, fear, and abandonment that overwhelm her, either because she subconsciously knows that she should not feel that way, or because she understands that her son has to make his own way in life, or because she herself feels that she has gotten old and has lost the opportunity to live. But because these feelings exist and push her, she lets them be expressed in a more ‘permissible’ form which is the aggression towards the bride, the

‘cause’ of all the new problems.

Maybe something similar applies in your case. And you are right that you think you cannot change your mother-in-law – thought this may happen in time, when she realizes that you have no intention of excluding her from her son's life.

But what really matters is whether you want and can change your focus. Because if your relationship with your future husband is a relationship of respect and love and you are happy with his behavior towards you, then it may be worthwhile to see your mother-in-law through the prism of this love. If you focus on the love you share with your man then, you may be able to continue to treat her with respect and understanding even if she ‘flees’ without suffering. And so, through this behavior you may be able to set your limits in your relationship with her, without putting on a show or pretending to be something other than who you are. And as the love for your husband and family grows, so the problem with your mother-in-law should decrease.

What you should probably avoid is competing with her and trying to convince your husband that his mother is not right. This tactic usually has no effect. His love for his mother is not the same as his love for you. But it is an equally strong love that you would do well to respect.

Stavroula Tsoutsa is a Certified Holistic Professional and Life Coach, Certified Heartmath Coach/Mentor, and Certified Points of You practitioner.

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