When I first met my mother-in-law, she was so kind.
She welcomed me into the family, and she told me she loved me and was thankful my husband and I had met. I was relieved that it was going so well and we were getting along.
I had heard the horror stories of mothers who cling to their sons and despise any girl they bring around.
Stories of women who had been married for more than 30 years and their mother-in-law still did not like them and there was always tension.
At first, we used to talk on the phone. I could call her for anything, and she would be there when I needed her.
It all started out so well.
Until we learned of her drinking problem. One day it was just like a switch had flipped, and she decided I was the enemy.
She turned on me. She called me names. She blamed me for all of the problems my husband and I were facing at the time.
It got pretty nasty in all honesty.
I was in shock at first. Unsure of what was happening and what I did wrong. It was all going so smoothly. When did that change?
Over the next few months, it was a constant stream of text messages and voicemails on my husband’s phone about how awful she thought I was and how he should leave me.
Message after message full of rude, hurtful, and nasty comments that just did not seem to end. Eventually, her anger turned toward my husband, and he became the target of her verbal abuse.
Finally, my husband blocked her. But this was after years of enduring her unpredictable and manic behaviors. She put him in such a horrible position.
One where he felt he had to choose between his mother and his wife.
It was torture for everyone involved.
During the 10 years we have been together, she has played this game—she would get sober, apologize, play nice for a little bit, and then go full circle back around to drinking and toxicity.
It is a vicious cycle that does not seem to have an end.
We have tried to help her and be there for her through her struggles. She has been in and out of treatment programs, and we have done everything we can to be a support for her.
But if a person doesn’t want to get or accept help, there isn’t much you can do and you have to set boundaries to protect yourself.
It makes me sad that I don’t have a loving relationship with my mother-in-law.
And that my husband has had to deal with her constantly putting him down. I wanted so badly to be her friend, and believe me, I tried. I also tried to stay out of the feuds between my husband and her. I tried to never make him feel that he had to choose.
Until I realized the damage that was being done. Not just to me. But to my husband. The toll this was taking on his heart. How he became so worn down and depressed over the whole thing.
So we sat down and had a conversation about it. I let him know my feelings and that it wasn’t OK for his mother to be treating him that way and that what she was doing was a form of abuse.
She wanted to control him, and she would get angry whenever she couldn’t.
She cared only about my husband and because she didn’t like me she would call me “his wife” and refer to our kids as “his family,” not a part of hers.
She called regularly to talk to my husband but never asked about me or the kids and never asked to talk to any of us. She didn’t even call or send cards for the kids’ birthdays.
What kind of grandmother doesn’t care about her own grandchildren?
I made my feelings clear and left it at that. The rest was up to my husband. It wasn’t my place to tell him he couldn’t talk to his own mother. That was a decision he would have to make on his own. But I could at least make it known the pain and damage that was being inflicted by her.
It took years into our marriage for him to finally understand the “leave and cleave” as commanded in the Bible. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
Your birth family is important.
However, once you are married your spouse is your first priority.
Especially in situations such as this with a toxic family member who is only bringing misery to everyone involved.
My husband, though he meant well, did not understand this at first, and we had many years of hardship while he struggled with trying to love and honor both his toxic mother and me.
In a normal mother-son relationship this likely wouldn’t be an issue.
But with a mother who is an alcoholic and whose main goal seemed to be to tear apart our marriage, you can see how this would quickly turn into a problem.
I have nothing against my mother-in-law.
In fact, I really hope she gets the help she needs. I pray for her often. And I pray that one day she will truly get sober and find healing, and we can be a family again. For everyone’s sake.
In the meantime, we will continue to keep our distance and put our family’s well-being first.