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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: You Have No Idea what a Bad Mother-in-Law Is

Dear Stavroula,

I have read your advice for brides and their mothers-in-law and I am sure you have no idea what a bad mother-in-law is. Otherwise you would not so readily advise these girls to be patient and respect their husband’s mother. Because sometimes it doesn’t matter how much patience you have, there is no resolution. Some are just terrible.

Like mine. Where do I start? From the very first moment I was not accepted because she was stuck on my husband’s ex-girlfriend, who was from a rich family and I was a poor Greek girl who ‘trapped him on his vacation.’ She even invited his ex and her parents to my first Christmas here, at a party she organized eagerly for me to get to know people and she introduced me to the ex just to make me feel bad about myself. “And she has this diploma and she works there and you know how many houses she has?” Because, of course, I don’t have houses or a job, because I quit so I could come here to be with her son. And there were many more incidents, but I don’t even want to think about it. She reached the point of trying to convince my husband not to give me his credit card to go shopping, but to give me cash, so I wouldn’t waste his money! I heard him on the phone trying to calm her down.

Not a day goes by that she doesn’t call her son and try to stir up trouble between us. Why don’t I invite her to our house for dinner, why don’t I call her to talk to her, why don’t I visit her at home? But why should I do all that? To listen to her negativity and then fight with my husband, who doesn’t understand that his mother is trying to come between us and pressuring me to have a relationship with her? And I ask you, how much patience can you have with such a mother-in-law?

Nasia

Dear Nasia,

I know full well how difficult life can be for a young married girl when her mother-in-law is manipulative and interventionist. And how much more difficult it is when the girl has left her supportive environment, her friends and relatives.

And surely patience is not enough to deal with this situation. Nor can it be improved when the son and husband does not recognize or does not want to admit what is happening. On the contrary, the problems grow and the situation will get worse.

The solution, however, is not direct confrontation with the mother-in-law, which can lead to harsh words and ugly conflicts. Obviously, this woman’s behavior shows a person who is at the very least immature, and there is no way she is going to change through an argument.

So the first thing you should do is talk to your husband openly. Is he aware of all these incidents with his mother? If not, you should talk to him honestly without resorting to harsh words or negative statements about your mother-in-law, because that way he will get into a defensive attitude toward you from the start (it is not easy to hear bad things about one’s parents). Focus instead on how you feel about it all, how hurt and frustrated you are.

If he does know about them and does nothing to improve the situation, you may need to set your boundaries more clearly. Remind him that he is your husband, that you have come here to be with him and that you need his support.

Explain to him that you do not in any way want to turn him against his mother or distance him from her, but you have no obligation to endure a situation that makes you feel bad or hurts you. Let him understand that all of this is affecting you and negatively affecting your relationship. Ask him what he would do in your place and ask him to suggest a solution.

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