Help! My Mother-in-Law Is Taking My Husband Away from Me
Dear Second Fiddle,
This is a classic in-law conundrum. Many spouses can feel torn between their responsibilities to their families of origin and the families they are creating. It feels like a no-win situation for everyone involved. The quick—and oversimplified—response is that your husband needs to choose which of those families is his top priority and set appropriate boundaries. In reality, however, the issue tends to be far more complex.
It sounds as if your husband (and perhaps his mother) believes him to be her sole source of physical and emotional support. Not responding to her needs is quite possibly laden with guilt and fear for your husband. It also sounds as if you have been incredibly accommodating (living with you for 14 months?) but that you are tired of being patient and feeling less important.
If you both can feel like you are on the same side, I suspect the pressure each of you feels will be reduced tremendously.
Fighting about it and competing with his mother for attention will only result in hurt feelings all around and a growing distance between you and your husband. When partners feel forced to choose, some will choose parents over partners; this can do irrevocable damage to relationships. I recommend that you seek out and work with a couples counselor to find ways to support each other as you navigate this dilemma together. Hear him when he says he feels “stuck.” He doesn’t see a viable solution, so working with someone who can offer a broader perspective and help you remain a team is very important.
It sounds as if your husband might also benefit from working on how to set workable boundaries with his mother without feeling the guilt he’s likely experiencing. Through that process, he will need empathy from you. When you feel (naturally) frustrated, try to imagine your husband stuck in the middle of a tug-of-war between wanting to meet your needs and wanting to meet his mother’s. Then imagine you and your husband pulling together in the same direction. If you both can feel like you are on the same side, I suspect the pressure each of you feels will be reduced tremendously.
Best of luck,
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jakeAugust 10th, 2015 at 4:16 AM
There are probably a lot of marriages out there that contend with this very same thing and i think that what has to happen for you and he to find any sort of happiness is for him to step up and put his foot down. He has to be willing to tell his mother no, that you and his family have to come first, that he loves her but this is unacceptable.
TerriAugust 13th, 2015 at 4:17 PM
Marriage should never feel like it is a competition with anyone.
TabithaAugust 15th, 2015 at 11:42 AM
Perhaps family therapy for all would be a good thought?
colemanAugust 22nd, 2015 at 8:16 AM
boundaries for the mom
difficult to implement
JoelAugust 30th, 2015 at 9:21 AM
If you could just for a minute try to see this from his point of view.
I too have a very strong willed wife as well as mother and I know that there have been some times when I have felt like I was being torn by the two of them. It is very hard for me to say to no to either of them but I want both of them to be happy. In his defense it is not an easy situation to be in at all.
LisaDecember 17th, 2015 at 10:39 PM
I agree with jake… When u r married ur sposed to leave ur mother and cleave to ur wife. Too many times men get put in the middle by controlive mothers who have overstepped their boundaries and the men haven’t learned healthy boundaries because they weren’t taught by their mothers and can’t say no to their mom. Which leaves us wives always uneasy about r mother in laws
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