Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Dismaying Story #60: As If the Loss Is Not Enough

Dear Andrew,

My mother-in-law and I don't get along well at all, especially now. I married my husband just over one year ago. We moved away and had a beautiful baby girl seven weeks ago. Our life seemed to be going well. Of course there are ups and downs but who doesn't have those.

Here is part of the problem. My mother in law didn't really seem to approve of her only child marrying me. My husband has had mental issues in the past and has become a fairly heavy drinker since high school. We would fight about it almost all the time, as I didn't want my child to have an alcoholic father. His mother thought I was just being a nag.

Now, when our child was only 3 weeks old, my husband and I had a fight. He took off drinking and driving (something he never ever did) and ended up totaling our vehicle, and hurting himself quite badly. He just woke up from a vegetative state in the last week. His mother blames me. She thinks I was on his case again for drinking. And, in this situation, is it any wonder why I always tried to get him to cut down? She still won't speak to me, and now as I am going for trusteeship and guardianship of my husband (so i can take care of our bills and our child) I worry that she will contest it in court and make it more difficult for me to take care of her only grandchild. I don't think she has even considered the fact that I loved my husband and now am raising his child on my own.

How do I deal with her? Why does she blame me for this when I even called the cops on him that night to try and stop him from getting hurt?

Signed, Hurting Over My Husband

Dear Hurting,

I'm very sorry to hear about your husband, and also about your troubles with his mother. It is challenging enough to be a new parent without all these other issues on top of it.

You and your mother-in-law are both grieving what happened to your husband / her son. The senselessness and bad luck involved are incredibly difficult to deal with, as are the consequences -- the impacts on you, your mother-in-law and your child.

Even strong relationships can break down under such stress. For instance, marriages sometimes do not survive when parents must try to cope with the death of a young child. Your relationship with your mother-in-law was not strong to begin with, so it is not surprising the two of you would struggle when under this additional pressure.

Grief often goes through several stages and one of them is anger. Your mother-in-law's ability to deal with everything, including you, is probably at an all time low, and she may be likely to think things and say things that she wouldn't if circumstances were different. With all you are going through, your ability to cope is undoubtedly diminished as well.

She doesn't want to blame her son. She must realize at some level that it was his decision to drink and drive. That is difficult emotional terrain for her right now, though. She is grieving what happened to her son and doesn't want to criticize him. It is easier for her if her son is blameless, so her mind casts around for someone else to take the blame. The next obvious choice would be you. It's not fair to you, but it might be one coping strategy that helps to mitigate her grief.

This has to be incredibly hard on you, to deal with this broken relationship on top of everything else. Unfortunately I know of no way for you to hurry your mother-in-law through her grief process. I suggest you wait it out; her grief will eventually evolve. She will move through other stages beyond anger, hopefully to coping and eventually acceptance. This will not necessarily change things between the two of you, but at least then you may have a fighting chance of mending fences. Yours would not be the first relationship to benefit from the passage of time.

That leaves you with the issue of how to deal with her in the meantime. You mentioned she is not speaking to you. In the short-term, a little distance between the two of you might not be a bad thing, knowing you will likely have an easier time bridging the gap in the future. (And this is something you should try to do so your daughter can enjoy her grandmother.) If she contests you in court, then you'll need a lawyer's advice.

I wish you the best of luck as you try to deal with every aspect of your difficult situation.

All the best,


  1. such a sad situation

    when the mother most needs help and support

    she rejects it and blames

    i would guess this mother is an enabler - who, like you said, never really saw who her son was becoming...

    if you're reading this - BIG HUGS!!!

  2. This is a terrible story and it’s not looking like its going to get better.
    I hope she finds some help and gets what she needs to raise her daughter.

    I wonder if the MIL just doesn’t want to blame herself for how her son turned out, or does.
    She says he has had mental issues from before, I am assuming from before they met.
    The MIL may be sitting there wondering what she did wrong for
    1. Him leaving her
    2. His mental state and drinking.
    She may think she is the failure.
    It’s easier to blame her daughter in law to forget her guilt.

    I hope there is a happy ending at the end of this road and the little girl brings them together for the best.

  3. thanks, i hope she does too

  4. I learned a long time ago you can't change other people, you can only change how you react to them. I'll be blunt, it sounds like your MIL is a major headcase, and that your husband chooses to drink in an attempt to escape his feelings.

    You are in a very complicated situation. Cut your ties with your MIL because you aren't going to change her, and if she ever gets it together, you can let her back into your life. And as for your husband, don't allow him to bring you down with his drinking. I advise you to seek professional help, and attend alonon meetings.

  5. He is a momma's boy. He can do whatever he wants and his mom will forgive him and blame his women.

    You are free to stand up to his mother because he will not.

    I went through this in my first and only marriage.

    It may give you comfort to hear this. After I divorced him, he went from bad to worse relationships and his family misses me. His sister started emailing a year ago after I was divorced from her brother for 11 years. Just when they thought I was the worse thing for him,,,,they found out wrong.

    Give yourself this comfort because his family will be looking you up too.


  6. i think it is the easiest thing to blame the wife for every thing that goes wrong in a son's doesn't matter that he has been drinking for the past many years and his wife came along a year ago.i know of a mother who'd claim to know astrology and suggest dates suited for gambling when he sttod a chance of winning.if he won it was due to her and if he lost it was his wife's nagging that sent negative vibes!this was 50 yrs.ago and things haven't improved even in this digital age