Mother-in-law triggering PTSD
February 17, 2012 2:21 PM Subscribe
How do I keep sane
when my mother-in-law does crazy things?
posted by mild deer to Human Relations (43 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My MIL didn't like me before she met me or knew my name. According to my husband, she doesn't know how to separate herself from her children.
I tried to hang out with her for the first 6 months of our relationship. Since day one, she kept asking me highly personal questions and tried to bring up touchy topics. For example, the second time we ever hung out -- in the first week of meeting -- she asked me what my religious beliefs were, told me she had googled my name, and told me when was an appropriate time to start having sex. I'm in my late 20s.
By the end of six months, she asked me if I was using her son as an "escape," demanded that I give a list of reasons why I love her son, gave me a list of personal goals, and told me not to marry her son anytime soon. She regularly tells me that she "loves me deeply and wishes for nothing more than [my] happiness."
She knows that I'm estranged from my parents and has tried sending them letters and cards. She continues to send them, even though my husband and I have both asked her to stop. She keeps telling us that they (my family) is now her family. She has never met my parents and doesn't know their names. I've told her that I feel uncomfortable when she asks me personal questions gives me religious lessons, or tells me that she loves me deeply. She takes my discomfort as a sign that I need lectures from her.
My husband and I have repeatedly told her that we feel like we're not being respected and that we would like her to stop sending my parents mail. She said that we are "stepping over her free speech rights" because we don't want to have conversations about her religion, that my husband is "turning his back on family," and that we are trying to change her beliefs.
These interactions have triggered panic attacks for me, so I called her to tell her I didn't want any more contact with her. She has now made surrounding family members guilty and they sometimes blow up at us with their stress. He is the first person in his family to set up boundaries with her. Our boundaries are taking the form of physical distance and less contact. We've been reading several books on in-laws and boundaries. We each have our own therapist. So far, these things seem to not be enough to dial down my anxiety. Recently, she bypassed her usual modes of communication (phone and postal mail), and sent my husband a letter questioning my morality, character, whether I am fit for marriage, said I was not selfless enough to be a parent like her, and much more. Although nothing in the letter was true, it really hurt.
First, was my response to cut off contact harsh or extreme? What else can I do or think when I am reminded of the MIL? What can I do in the future when/if she continues to find ways to bother us?
And finally, we'd like to have kids someday, and we don't want our kids to meet her until we can trust her. We used to be optimistic about her getting better, but we notice that she has become more reactive to our marriage. I am scared and think she will up the ante on crossing boundaries. How should I begin to think about how to deal with her when we tell her that she will not be meeting her grandkids?
I do not want advice on how to fix MILs feelings. If you think I'm obliged to have a relationship with my MIL, please feel free to keep responses to yourself. I'm looking for advice and stories from anyone with similar MILs or in-laws. How did you get through it?