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How do I fix this?
August 17, 2007 10:37 AM   Subscribe

My mom and my husband have become bitter enemies. Is there anything I can do to make it better? If so, what?

My husband and I got married in November 2006. It was a destination wedding, so only our immediate family attended. This summer, my mom decided to have a party at her house, a couple hours away from where my husband and I live. She invited her friends, people she works with, and a couple family friends from back in the day. My husband and I didn’t know most of the people invited. I knew from the beginning that the party was in large part to “show me off,” as my husband put it. In any case, it seemed like not a big deal—all we had to do was show up, mingle, and my mom would be totally happy.

My husband did not see it this way. From the very beginning, he was upset that my mom didn’t consult him or ask if he wanted a party. He referred to the party as a “command performance,” and insinuated that since my mom paid for our wedding, we were under some kind of obligation to do things we didn’t want to do. He also said that I was going along with the idea because I’m afraid of my mom’s anger. I will admit that my mom has a problem with anger, and that no, I don’t want to be on the receiving end of it. Also, I’m just kind of a passive, go-with-the-flow type person. Anyway, I tried to be sensitive to my husband’s feelings about the party, even though I thought he was overreacting.

The day of the party, my husband had a meeting for coaching my stepdaughter's soccer team in the morning. It was clear that attending the meeting meant that we would be cutting it really close as far as getting to the party in time. My husband agreed to leave the meeting early. We never actually discussed what time we were planning to get to the party. My mom wanted us there like, a day early, and my husband thought it wouldn’t be such a big deal if we were late to our own party. I should have known then that this would not end well. Anyway, the drive to my mom’s house normally takes about 2 1/2 hours, but there’s a lot of construction on the highway lately, so I figured it could easily end up taking 3 hours or more. Also we were losing an hour due to time zone change. I figured that we were leaving enough time to get there about half an hour early, which seemed like a reasonable compromise.

During the drive, my husband apparently made several remarks about how we were going to get there just in time, or how we were barely going to make it, or whatever. I don’t know because I was driving and apparently not paying much attention to the conversation in the car (we were driving up with my friend and her husband). I was sort of keyed up, and I was driving pretty fast. There wasn’t much traffic/construction, and we got there an hour early. At which point my husband accused me of purposely misrepresenting the actual start time of the party (i.e., “You said three eastern time! You lied!”). He thought we were going to get there right on time, in other words. It was an honest mistake, and I apologized, but my husband would not believe me. He was mad all day and went upstairs to brood a couple hours before the last party guests left. My mom was super pissed, and they got into a huge fight.

Now my husband no longer wants to see or talk to my mom, and my mom sent me an email last night about how my husband's behavior at the party was "abusive." I really wish they would both just calm the fuck down.

So do I have to take sides? Should I try to mend things or leave it alone? I feel like it's kind of my fault for getting the time wrong. Is it my responsibility to fix it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (61 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I hate to say this, but your husband seems to be acting like a tremendous baby in this situation. Don't blame yourself for graciously accepting a party that your mom decided to throw for you. You never need someone's permission to throw them a party - that's what surprise parties are all about.

I would seriously consider going to couple's therapy to figure out what his issues are with your mom and being involved in your parents' life. Lots of people aren't madly in love with their in-laws, but you have to show respect to your spouse's family, and sometimes suck it up and put on a happy face.

He referred to the party as a “command performance,” and insinuated that since my mom paid for our wedding, we were under some kind of obligation to do things we didn’t want to do.

If your mom paid for your wedding, well then, yeah, you kind of are obligated to do things you don't necessarily want to do. Next time, he should turn down the cash if he doesn't want any strings attached.
posted by tastybrains at 10:45 AM on August 17, 2007 [7 favorites]


I have to second tastybrains, here. Your husband is a baby and needs to learn to "suck it up".
posted by digiFramph at 10:48 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tell your loved ones to stop being children, they are both being selfish and dramatic.
posted by iamabot at 10:50 AM on August 17, 2007


Here's how it works in my family:

My (often overbearing, needy, temper-prone) mother makes an invitation. I decide whether it's a good idea to attend or not. (I usually decide to attend, because I'm go-with-the-flow type.) Then I discuss with my husband whether or not he wants to attend. If he decides to attend, he implicitly agrees to behave graciously and civilly and to go along with all of the plans for the day, just as though he was attending someone's wedding. If he decides not to attend, he graciously and civilly responds to the invitation with regrets (or I do so on his behalf).

That's it. You might want to examine why it didn't go down this way in your scenario. It sounds like more of the issue exists between you and your husband than between your husband and your mother.
posted by xo at 10:51 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hrmm, tastybrains already said everything I was going to say.
posted by foobario at 10:51 AM on August 17, 2007


Thirded. Sheesh, how old is this guy?
posted by browse at 10:52 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


From what you described, I would say your husband behaved like a simpering, pass-agressive brat. If I were observing from your mother's place, I would say he was being "abusive", or at least the start of abuse, where the abuser (strong word to use, I feel like I am jumping on the DTMFA type bandwagon) is putting your family into the bad category, and telling you why you should not associate with them. But this is my reaction, I am coming from a different place than you or your mother.

You should not try to mend things. It was not your fault in any way, shape or form. Furthermore, please make sure that you do not adjust your relationship with your mother/family due to your husband's behaviour.
posted by kellyblah at 10:52 AM on August 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


you say you're passive go with the flow type person, but you only seem to be going with one flow - your mothers.

i think your husband could have handled things a lot better, but i also think there's a much deeper problem here - that you are continuing to act like a submissive daughter rather than as one half of a marriage.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:56 AM on August 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think it's possible to not take sides in something like this (at least, I hope so, because I'm trying it right now with friends going through a divorce). Keep your interaction with each person separate- do not tell your mother what your husband said about her, and vice versa. You are not a telephone. You need to deal with each person separately- do not tell husband, My mother is upset with you. YOU are upset with him. When speaking with each person, you need to find out how they feel, and support their feelings. You don't have to support their actions, though. Your husband did not want to go to this party, for reasons you will hopefully get to the bottom of. That does not excuse his behavior at the party. I think it's possible to tell someone, I understand why you feel this, I support you, and now let's figure out a way for you to deal with the way you feel through actions that are appropriate. It's possible your husband and your mother will never get along, but if they can treat each other kindly, that's a great compromise.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:56 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Get them in a room and say "I really wish you would both calm the fuck down. I love you both, and you both love me, so please don't pull me in two directions. Either work out your problems together or at the very least pretend to, for my sake."

And that's it. No discussion. No "But she-!" "But he-!"

If either of them tries to talk to you about it, say that their problem is with the other person and because you love both of them you refuse to be put in the middle.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:56 AM on August 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


tastybrains has it. I can feel your husband's irritation, because my wife and I flew all the way across the country so her parents could throw us a party with all the extended east coast family. We were on display and I felt some annoyance at times, but sometimes that's the way these things play out. Everyone wants to be part of the celebration and your mother is proud of you -- it's no surprise she wants to show you off.

It sounds like your husband needs to relax a bit and that your mother could have discussed the party more with you (though really, if she wants to throw you a party, she can and should).

Good luck! Definitely try to build the bridge soon... it will only fester and get worse if they don't clear the air.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 11:00 AM on August 17, 2007


Don't feel for their guilt. Tell them to both just calm the fuck down.
posted by nilihm at 11:00 AM on August 17, 2007


I cannot understand your husband being angry your mother threw a party for you. Sure it might be annoying to spend the day with the in laws, but it is perfectly reasonable and whether she paid for the wedding or not, mothers get to show their daughters off now and then. It's nice that your mother is proud of you and it is really nothing more than an inconvenience to your husband.

I feel like your husband is trying to distance you from your family and make you choose him over your family, which is really not acceptable behavior for a mate, especially when your family seems to be generally nice and normal. I second the couples therapy, this sort of possessive jealousy is not a good sign for your relationship.
posted by whoaali at 11:03 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Everyone does things for their family they don't like - I will attend church for family weddings and christenings even though I'm vehemently anti-religious, attend the high school graduation parties of cousins I don't care for or whatever. I do these things not because I like them per se, but because sometimes as a mature adult I make the decision to show care and love for my family by doing what they want.

When you get married, I think implicitly you are promising to extend that kind of behavior to your new in-laws. It doesn't mean asking "How high?" every time Mummy-In-Law asks you to jump, but one should assume after getting married that a lifetime of once in awhile doing things one would rather not for one's spouse's family is going to follow.

(DUH)

I think this obligation is at its zenith just after you've gotten married and family experiences you for the first time as spouses and just after having children (when grandparents want time with new baby).

Your husband seems immature for failing to understand that in the first place, obnoxious for failing to support you in your prefernce to attend, selfish by only reluctanty attending and dragging his feet in a way to make your fulfillment of the obligation as difficult and unpleasant as he possibly could, and doubly immature, obnoxious and selfish by having a temper tantrum about it in public.

With that in play, I'd tell your Mom you regret how things are turned out, you are sad everyone didn't have a great time at the party she worked so hard to attend, but ask her to please put it behind her so you can all move on as a strong family. In time, I would explain to your husband that you understand how he felt about the party, but you take the vow to support and care for each other very seriously and with lots of love for him, you hope he can support you in future family events. THEN, emotioanlly and mentally, I would let it go as one crappy day where many people showed their worst sides.
posted by bunnycup at 11:04 AM on August 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure what you had to apologize for. Your husband sounds very angry and controlling. Your mom may also have her issues with anger, as you mentioned, but I don't see from your description that she did anything out of line here, other than throwing her daughter a party. It sounds like all she wanted to do was give people a chance to wish you well and meet your husband. I don't think she needed his permission for it. The only proper response from him should have been a gracious, "Thank you very much!"

Honestly he sounds a little scary to me. Your description of his anger sounds way out of proportion. I just don't see anything for him to be mad about. What exactly did you do wrong? I'm wondering if you find yourself apologizing to him often for things that aren't your fault. If this is the case please step back and try to take a good hard look at this relationship. You may be a passive go-with-the-flow type person but you shouldn't be a doormat. Don't let him cut you off from your mom. He's bullying you.

Good luck.
posted by Kangaroo at 11:08 AM on August 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


You should try to mend things, this is the rest of your life. But, you've done nothing wrong. Your husband has been and is being a jerk. I'd tell him to grow up and calm the fuck down and apologize to your mother. And before that he should apologize to you.

I'd also tell your mother that calling sulky behavior "abusive" is inane. I'd make clear to both of them that you expect them to get along.

You could go a whole touchy-feely therapist route, but it seems to me that this is early enough in the marriage and the fuckery to just up and (lightly) smack them each in the face and clearly explain the rules of adult behavior in a reasonably functioning family.

If he can't handle that then I'd really consider therapy. I'd be more concerned with your relationship at this point, as his jerkiness is disrespectful and shitty, and one should be able to count on their partner to be an adult in situations in which it is required.
posted by OmieWise at 11:09 AM on August 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


I think everyone has covered things pretty well so far, but one thing I really don't understand is your husband's reaction towards you.

He's blaming you for getting there an hour early? Really? He's accusing you of lying? And he won't believe that it wasn't some purposeful scheme to get there early?

That.. Doesn't seem right to me. Something seems very wrong with that. It isn't understandable behavior, and it does not seem healthy to me. And, to be honest, I can understand labeling it as abusive.

This part of the problem shouldn't actually involve your mother at all. It's something you and your husband need to work out, and that could very well mean counseling.

(Or, on preview, I second what Kangaroo said.)
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:14 AM on August 17, 2007 [3 favorites]


I ain't gonna dance around on this one, anonymous; from the details you've provided, it sounds like your husband is acting like a spoiled brat.

When you marry, you not only bind yourself to your spouse, but also to your spouse's family and friends. When the boisterous, slightly inebriated bro-in-law who was a linebacker in college slaps you on the back and welcomes you into the family, it's not just a figure of speech; you are expected to inherit your spouse's regard for them, just as they hopefully inherit a portion of your spouse's regard for you.

I suggest that you first review your perception of events to confirm its accuracy, then confront your husband with your perception of his childish behavior and hear his explanation.

Be gentle; your husband may be acting like a child, but you can't spank him and make it better. You'll be more likely to get a good result by leading him to perceive exactly how unreasonable his actions are.

If that doesn't work, you may want to look into marriage counseling.
posted by The Confessor at 11:21 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


It sounds like your mother and your husband are very similar people, and that you're letting both of them walk all over you.

What are your other interactions with your husband are like? You describe yourself as a "passive, go-with-the-flow type person." Does that mean you let him make all the decisions? Is it scary or difficult for you to disagree with or argue with him? Is it easier just to let him have his way?

Were you the same way with your mother? In this case, was it easier to just agree to the party rather than argue with her?

You see the problem that this creates: if you let your husband run your life and you let your mom run your life, then all hell will break loose whenever those two disagree about what direction they should be marching you. The only way to fix this is to start standing up for yourself and not letting either of them run your life. That could be difficult at this point, but maybe by easing into it you can make it work. Good luck!
posted by alms at 11:25 AM on August 17, 2007 [4 favorites]


It sounds like your husband behaved like an immature brat, but I do have to wonder about what was missing from this story.

I think when you marry, loyalty to your spouse should trump loyalty to your blood. However, marriage also requires compromise, and in this case, your husband should have shown loyalty to you by compromising in favor of your desire to let your mother show you both off.

Now step back, do you show loyalty to your husband on other occasions where he doesn't want to participate in something your mother has planned? If you typically do not, then I can understand why he was such a pill about this occasion, though I think he should have picked another battle.
posted by Good Brain at 11:27 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Your husband is behaving like a jack-ass. He needs to suck it up. Tough shit if he doesn't want to hang out with your mom - when you get married it's your responsibility to do all kinds of things, and that most certainly includes spending time with your in-laws and their friends. I would suggest years of rigorous psychotherapy and possibly mood altering drugs for your husband. He clearly has anger management problems.
posted by MythMaker at 11:28 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sounds to me like your mom is a bit worried about you. She may have very carefully chosen the word "abusive" in her email to you.

Adults don't get angry and accuse their spouses of lying for getting them to a party earlier than they expected. And adults typically don't stay mad all day and brood about such trivial things.

He's got some anger issues that he needs to resolve.
posted by hilby at 11:32 AM on August 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Lock them in a small room (like, a half-bath) together with instructions to work it the fuck out. He's being passive-aggressive, she's being, well, an overbearing mother, and you're being an enabler.
posted by notsnot at 11:32 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


well, i seem to be the exception here. i'll give it one last shot.

i think you're husband is behaving childishly because he's frustrated and feels "out of the loop". i suspect that there are issues to do with the wedding that you've not explained - perhaps he wanted a smaller ceremony that you paid for, rather than something big paid by your parents, but he compromised, as he has done every time your mother has wanted something that he's not comfortable with. and i guess you just went straight "on with the flow" and followed what your mother wanted, again, not even noticing the compromise he's making.

and he's looking at his new marriage now - what he thought was going to be two people deciding things together - and he just sees you "going with the flow" each time him and your mother disagree.

this isn't hard to fix. you just need to talk to him and make compromises both ways - that needn't have meant anything more than saying to your mother that the party she arranged without consulting you clashes with a previous engagement and might make you a bit late.

but instead, you post a slanted version of events, showing just one side of the story, to a bunch of strangers on the internet, with the sole intention of getting confirmation that you've done nothing wrong.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:33 AM on August 17, 2007 [7 favorites]


I agree with tastybrains, but I'll add this tidbit of advice:

Make a no e-mail rule now. Dealing with emotions via e-mail can make this much worse.
posted by 4ster at 11:48 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Okay, let me get this straight: he was upset that your mother didn't ask his permission before deciding to throw a party? (And was the party specifically a post-wedding bash for you, or was she having a party and wanted you to attend?) Then he gets pissed off because you got there early, and accuses you of lying and scheming? And goes off and sulks, which is incredibly rude, not to mention manipulative. And now he wants to never speak to your mother again? Wow, he's being a jerk.

It doesn't matter about the money for the wedding. What he doesn't seem to get is, when you get married, you gain a whole new set of family members, and sometimes, you're going to have to suck it up and go do things with them. My mother in law loves to have all of her kids visit, as often as possible, which means sometimes I have to go be social when I'd rather stay home. But I do it because, duh, she's family, and she loves us and wants to see us. And I don't sulk and act like a big baby about it.

Honestly, his reactions do sound, at the least, pretty controlling.
posted by sarcasticah at 11:50 AM on August 17, 2007


I think it takes a lot of imagination based on the info provided to make assumptions about why the husband is acting the way he is. And I have known enough guys who throw tantrums to believe that he might just be acting like a big douchebag.

That said, OP, he is your husband, and while this is an issue you very much need to resolve with him, you should not complain about him or his behavior to your mother. I think an important thing in marriage is to present a unified front. He didn't do this at your mom's party, leaving you out in the cold while he sulked all evening. Don't copy his behavior and complain to your mom about what he did or how he's acting. That's just going to make things worse. The two of you need to decide ahead of time when you are going to go to an event together, and once you both agree on going somewhere, you both agree to behave like civilized beings.

I do think it's ridiculous to throw a fit over someone's mom being a bit overbearing during after-wedding festivities. Seriously, whose mom isn't a bit overbearing when her daughter gets married? I'm sure a handful of moms stay cool and don't worry about showing off her beautiful bride daughter to her friends, but it's got to be less than half. And if you accepted money for the wedding, then you have an unspoken obligation to go slightly out of your way to make your mom happy.

Now, if your husband hadn't wanted to accept the money, or if there is more backstory we're not hearing, this may be more of an issue between the two of you and how you make decisions together.

But with the details given, it just sounds like the husband is being an anti-social crybaby. Seriously, someone's throwing me a PARTY that I have to GO to, omg, my life sucks!!!1
posted by tastybrains at 11:51 AM on August 17, 2007


Most commenters have already addressed the more important and broader points. Specifically for the events of that day, though, I wondered, based on the description of that day, if having to leave early from his step-daughter's coaching meeting and then getting there an hour early contributed to his anger/upset by making him feel that you placed a lot more importance on not ticking off your mom by being a little late than on his personal schedule. Not that such a party and a coaching meeting are events of equivalent importance.

But if you did that because you feared your mom's wrath more than his, maybe he will continue to amp it up until you fear his wrath just as much. Not a pleasant outcome to say the least. But I have been guilty of doing the same with "go with the flow" type people (including, shamefully, family members) when I realized that they wouldn't take my needs/concerns seriously otherwise.
posted by PY at 12:00 PM on August 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Your husband behaved inappropriately. It's clear there was already some friction between him and your mother—and for all we know, he was justified in wanting to minimize his contact with her.

But he let that feeling go completely overboard. Accusing you of intentionally getting there early? Ridiculous. Sulking? Childish.

You can tell your husband to behave more gracefully in the future. And you can tell your mother not to do whatever she's doing to get under the skin of your husband.
posted by adamrice at 12:01 PM on August 17, 2007


Husband = he's being a giant whiny baby. He's very self-centered. In fact, he seems so self-centered that I wonder what you might have left out of this question. There's gotta be more going on here.

Mom = manipulative, but (from what I can see here) not terribly so.

As suggested by nigh-everyone above me: you need to sit down with your husband and talk some serious sense into his thick head.
posted by aramaic at 12:02 PM on August 17, 2007


1. Your mom doesn't need to "calm...down", because your mom hasn't done ANYTHING.

2. Your husband has some pretty big control issues, I would say, based on your description. Since you're a "go-with-the-flow" person, I suspect he likes you in part because you "go-with-the-flow"; ie "do whatever he wants to do" generally. This affair with your mom (wherein she set up some constraints without consulting him, and which you tried to set up a compromise on) were a double whammy for him -- first, because she didn't consult, and second, because you tried to compromise. Neither of those were doing what he says, so they really pissed him off.

So let's be clear -- and I say this as someone who has experience dealing with my wife's mother-issues, and so you'd expect to be on your husband's side -- that your husband is absolutely and completely in the wrong on this. You can't fix it; there's no way to fix it, because it's all in his head. He's the only one who can work it out, because the only thing necessary to solve the problem is for him to get over it.

By the way, I second your mom's assessment of "abusive."

More importantly, I offer the following advice to you, to take or leave as you see fit:

1. Do not have children, buy a house, or make any other commitments to each other until you've worked these issues out;

2. If you can't work these issues out -- which is to say, if he can't change his ways -- cut your losses. This sounds like the kind of guy that shouldn't be married, and absolutely should never, ever be a father.
posted by davejay at 12:07 PM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm often obligated to do things involving my husband's family that my family would never, ever do. My husband's family also has a lot more . . . clingy, I suppose, idea of what it means to be related. I am often uncomfortable, feel like I'm up for judgement/display, and I have to pose for thousands of pictures I don't want to be in and that I have no interest in seeing. I am a pretty serious misanthrope in this regard and every second of it is really stressful and draining for me.

I might bitch to my husband (hey, he did sign on for that!) but I do not behave badly. If anything, I might appear to be tired (because I am) but I would not ever behave in the manner you describe. It's not acceptable. You and he need to work out what's going to happen next time he has to attend a congnitively painful event, and whatever that is, it has to be that he acts like an adult. If your mom is actually out of line a lot, then maybe you need to work out a strategy to deal with that - either with your husband or by talking to your mom, whatever, but his behavior? Not okay.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:09 PM on August 17, 2007


Is your husband, in any way, an introvert? Is any large gathering of sorts a big ordeal, that he has to psych himself up for--particularly if he doesn't know anyone? You said you didn't see it as a any big deal, but maybe he does.

That could be where some of the frustration is from. It it no way justifies what you've told us of his actions--I'm that kind of introvert, and I would either suck it up and deal with the discomfort or let my objections be known well before the fact.

I could be way off base here--but you don't seem very empathetic to your husband's anger, and I'm curious why that might be. Be certain you're not missing something.
posted by stevis23 at 12:12 PM on August 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


If I acted like that, and especially if I displayed a pattern of acting like that, my wife would leave me. And I wouldn't blame her.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:20 PM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


You aren't obligated to do anything even if your parents paid for your wedding. That's a gift, and gifts, by definition, come without strings. It isn't a bribe.

As for your husband, it seems his anger was misdirected, but I do know some people who are just not comfortable among crowds, and genuinely get psychically run down having to deal with large groups for extended periods of time (or longer than they can account for in advance and accept they can handle). So I do think that stevis23 could have a real point.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:35 PM on August 17, 2007


Do you maybe act like you agree with both of them, all of the time?

"I know, honey, I hate going to this stupid party, I wish we didn't have to!"
"Oh mom, what a wooonderful party! I'm so glad you're doing all of this for us!"

If so, I don't really blame one or both of them for feeling lied to, even if it is just a lie of convenience on your part it could leave one/both feeling like they thought you were on their side but then when they went to you for backup you bailed.

You don't have to chose sides, exactly, but don't act supportive in private when you're not going to be in public.
posted by anaelith at 12:54 PM on August 17, 2007


This isn't about the party.

This is about your husband.

There are many ways he could have dealt with this party. Sulking and acting like a two year old at the party? NOT COOL.

Go into marriage counselling immediately. I mean it. If this is how he reacts to things, I truly feel sorry for you.

(I'm leaving your mom out of this for now. Whether or not it was a "command performance", her actions were not at all out of line. Any control issue with her are separate and I can understand her being upset with your husband.)
posted by konolia at 1:09 PM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


And btw I am one who psychologically hates crowds of strangers, but there are times to suck up and deal, and this is one. Not to mention that picking a fight over a stupid HOUR is just plain asinine.
posted by konolia at 1:10 PM on August 17, 2007


Your description is giving me flashbacks to my marriage. I know that a few paragraphs on the internet cannot give the whole picture, so take this with a grain of salt, but maybe consider reading this: Are You Being Gaslighted?

I don't know how much you trust your mother as a person, and maybe she's prone to drama, but I know that if my mother used the word "abusive" I would have a hard time dismissing it out of hand.
posted by eileen at 1:13 PM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


You aren't obligated to do anything even if your parents paid for your wedding. That's a gift, and gifts, by definition, come without strings. It isn't a bribe.

It's not always a gift when parents pay for a wedding. They often feel it is their obligation, and traditionally when children accept money from their parents for a wedding, they let their parents host the party, and thus make at least a few decisions.

This is from someone who hates weddings (especially my own!) with a passion. I'm not saying it's the way it should be. But anyone with half a brain should realize that large sums of money pretty much *never* come without strings attached. And that if your parents are forking over thousands, then maybe it's really not the end of the world to smile, be nice, and just say thank you, rather than pitch a fit over having to go to a party in your honor.
posted by tastybrains at 1:16 PM on August 17, 2007


I agree with the people here who suggest that maybe you deserve some of the blame in this situation.

If your husband gets really stressed by social events, he deserves some empathy and understanding. No, he's not going to get out of every social event, but you have to cut him some slack and allow him to whine about the things he does go to.

I get the feeling that didn't really happen here, at least not in an honest way. When it's really important for your husband to go to a social event, he should go because you want him to go, not because your mom wants him to go. And you should use your judgment and allow him to stay home while you head out to some of these events.

You also need to be honest with your mom about how your husband is. If she's a huge extrovert, she probably won't get it. It took my extrovert mom 30 years of living with my introvert dad to finally get how miserable she was making him by forcing him to choose between a big social event and an angry wife.

It's hard for extroverts, who are made happy by social events, to understand introverts, who are made miserable by social events. Unfortunately, many extroverts never do understand and judge the introverts as having character flaws.

As the person who is between your mom and your husband, it's your job to bridge the gap: to try to help your mom understand how her idea of fun makes him miserable, to help buffer him from the "fun." In the end, however, you married him and he deserves and needs your support more than your mother does.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:26 PM on August 17, 2007


Some great comments here, I just want to point out that sometimes being a "passive, go-with-the-flow type person" actually means being a "passive-aggressive, refusing-to-make-a-decision, passing-the-buck" type person. While I agree that your description makes your husband sound like an immature whiner at best and a controlling, potentially abusive asshole at worst, I also wonder what you may not be telling us and/or what you may not even know about how your (in)actions affect others or appear to others, especially your husband. Statements like "apparently not paying much attention to the conversation" sometimes just mean "apparently not paying much attention to the conversation", but they can sometimes also mean "conveniently not hearing things I don't want to deal with". If your husband has regularly found himself in situations he wasn't fully and fairly apprised of beforehand, if you have consistently avoided dealing with problems by commission or omission, and if you would always rather avoid conflict rather than backing your husband up when you should...well...I don't blame him for being annoyed. His behaviour was shabby and infantile as described, but I know from experience that having a passive-aggressive SO can be soul-destroyingly wearing.

I agree you need couples therapy, but I also think you might want to do some thinking about your own behaviour to make sure that you aren't part of the problem here.
posted by biscotti at 1:59 PM on August 17, 2007


I do think your husband is acting like a bit of a butthead, but at least acknowledge that how he feels is kind of valid (or was initially with the parading around).

Tell him he needs to speak to your mother about this since he's got the problem and let them work it out. If they can't - well they both just ruined all your holidays and make things worse for everyone involved.
posted by heartquake at 2:07 PM on August 17, 2007


I don't think this is really a mom vs. husband issue. The way you tell your story sets off red flags for me. I know I'm reading between the lines here, and I realize I may be wrong, but I've just got a feeling. Let me try to explain why I find your story a little odd.

- You don't mention whether or not you wanted to go to the party. Your mom wants it; your husband doesn't want it; and you want ... what exactly? It's not clear.
- Although you guys never actually discussed what time you were going to get to the party, you say that the time that you left was "a reasonable compromise." A compromise? Between who? It sounds like it was a decision that you made yourself -- not a compromise that you came to after discussing it with your husband.
- You use phrases like "It was clear that" and "I should have known that this would not end well" -- which seem, again, to indicate that you're making judgements about the situation, but declining to speak those judgements out loud.
- And, the final red flag: in the car, your husband is talking to you about this contentious issue ("making remarks ... or whatever") and you decide to check out -- to withdraw from a conversation or possible argument. I've driven plenty of times -- not only is it possible to listen to conversation while driving (even fast, and "keyed up"), but it is in fact impossible to ignore someone who's talking right next to you in an enclosed space. You chose to ignore him, and you're not willing to admit it.

I think your husband behaved pretty immaturely. But I also think that you're not being honest with yourself, or him. In your question, you make it sound like you don't want anything -- it's just that other people want things from you, all the time, and it's up to you to make it work. But that's just not true. You want things. And it sounds like you're actively avoiding saying what you want -- avoiding clear communication -- so that your husband doesn't really get the chance to say "Yes" or "No" or "I'm willing to compromise."

You characterize yourself as being "a passive, go-with-the-flow type person" -- but sometimes, avoiding conflict can be a way of avoiding reality. In the worst case scenario, this can become a full-fledged martyr complex. The difficult truth is this -- you can't "fix this," because you can't change other people's behavior. You can only change your own behavior.

I'd like to imagine this situation as it could have been.

You say, "My mom's throwing us a party and I'd really like to go."

Your husband says, "I don't want to go. The very idea of going irritates me."

You say, "It's important to me. Are you willing to compromise?"

Now, this is the important part. If your husband is willing to compromise, then it's up to you to meet him halfway, being absolutely honest about what you are and aren't willing to give up. In the best case scenario, this becomes an opportunity for you both to treat each other with kindness and generosity. These old-fashioned virtues are extremely difficult and extremely satisfying -- and they are not to be confused with martyrdom, manipulation, or grudging gifts.

If your husband is not willing to compromise, then he'd better have a damn good reason. If he's not willing to compromise and he doesn't have a good reason, then -- why are you with this guy? He needs to be taking you into account in his decisions.

What if you didn't want to go to the party in the first place? In that case, you needed to have this conversation with your mom, not your husband. ("I don't want to go." "I want you to." "Are you willing to compromise?")

Here's the summary version: I think you need to learn to be extremely honest about what you want (both with your mom and your husband). That's my 2c. I hope it's of use to you.
posted by ourobouros at 2:10 PM on August 17, 2007 [7 favorites]


I'm less concerned about characterizing your husband's or mother's behavior than about you -- the way you are scrutinizing every minor detail of the disagreement, the way anxiety and self-doubt rings out so loud and clear from every word, the way you are striving so hard to make this your fault. So I'll be very direct: this kind of obsessive "what did I do wrong, how can I fix it" thinking is bad for you. If you spend a lot of time capitulating to other people's desires and negotiating between their conflicts it sets you up to take responsibilities for their happiness that aren't yours. It means your point of view and your desires get completely lost in the rush to preserve harmony and please everyone. It can also mean that you become unconsciously adept in getting what you really do want through negative, passive-aggressive means, as biscotti and others mentioned.

If you grew up using these strategies to cope with your mother and are now doing it with your husband, then counseling for you might be a good place to start. It can give you tools to overcome that panic you feel when disagreement and anger starts, and to keep some clearheaded perspective so that you're not so quick to rush in to try to fix everything for everyone. It's possible to consider everyone's point of view without getting caught up in the conflict, and just as important, to communicate that firmly but lovingly to your family. If you don't start learning to do that, this will be just one of thousands of little conflicts that will make you miserable trying to broker.

Concretely, for this situation: right now emotions are running hot and heavy, so let things cool down. If pressed, you can say something along the lines of: "I really don't know how to fix this. But I hope you can figure out how to coexist peacefully, because I love you both."

One last thing: a bedrock of trust and good faith between you and your husband is essential. The basic assumption in any healthy marriage is that even in conflict you are a team. If you find yourselves defaulting to such basic suspicion of each other's motives a lot, you have got to change that. He may have very good reasons for believing you aren't on his team, as may you. You've both got to address those, because nothing in a marriage works unless you both believe that you have each other's best interests at heart.
posted by melissa may at 2:46 PM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


There are probably some factors that you're not mentioning -- not because you want to hold back information, but because it seems like it's just background stuff. Like your mother's problems with anger -- that might have an important influence on how the whole family interacts with her, and how your husband feels. And more...

What's happinging is that each of you -- you, mom, and husband -- wants certain things and wants to avoid certain other things. And there's no way for all of you to get everything you want. Maybe your husband thinks your mother is bossy and he doesn't want to follow your lead in giving in so as not to set her off. But he hasn't come up with an alternate approach -- he's reacting out of frustration, and making things even worse. It's not that unusual for someone to act like a jerk when he feels like he's getting a bad deal and has no control over it. COme to think of it, you don't have an alternate approach either -- you seem to want him to help you keep your mother from boiling over. You may well have to learn to tolerate some of her fury.

You and your husband can make new habits in how you treat one another, and you two can become allies in dealing with your parents. You and he are now the family unit that has to take precedence, but you don't have much practice, and your mother is probably going to resist any changes and blame your husband for changing what was "perfectly fine" before he came along. You and he need to start making a practice of banding together and doing what's right for the two of you, even if other people don't like it. A therapist can be hugely important for something like this, and it doesn't have to take a lot of sessions.

Eventually, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how powerful it can be for you as a couple to say to a parent, "We have decided..." and then decline to argue futher.
posted by wryly at 3:06 PM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


damn, you married your mom
posted by Salvatorparadise at 3:31 PM on August 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Anonymous to Husband: I love you very much. I love my Mom. How can you and Mom resolve your issues? It's very important to me that you 2 be able to get along.

Anonymous to Mom: I love you very much. I love my husband. How can you and Husband resolve your issues? It's very important to me that you 2 be able to get along.

Husband's behavior accusing you of manipulation and deceit is overreacting. Leaving a party in your own honor is childish and bad manners. It sounds like your new stepdaughter was not at the party. Since she's part of your new family, I find that surprising. There may be a lot more to your husband's feelings here.

Your Mom is also overreacting. Abusive is a term that is really overused (abused , in fact : > ) and yelling at your son-in-law is also bad manners. Mom paid for the wedding by choice. It gives her no additional rights to tell you what to do, although attending a party in your honor, celebrating you and your new husband is reasonable, and you and Husband would be unreasonable to refuse the honor.

Screwing up the time by 1 hour is trivial. I recommend that you be pretty tough with Mom and Husband about being well-mannered to each other. Otherwise, you may be miserable every holiday for many years.
posted by theora55 at 3:42 PM on August 17, 2007


That.. Doesn't seem right to me. Something seems very wrong with that. It isn't understandable behavior, and it does not seem healthy to me.

He had another priority -- his meeting -- that he was pulled out of earlier than he had to be, due to incorrect information coming from his wife. A wife who apparently is submissive to her mother, and thus may not be completely truthful in dealings relating to her.

It's perfectly understandable, and healthy. I'd be surprised if he didn't get angry.

When someone -- even someone I trust -- gives me incorrect information the fallout of which will benefit them and harm or inconvenience me -- ten'll get you twenty that there's some dishonesty involved.
posted by solid-one-love at 4:03 PM on August 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Can I tell you a story? My sister married my brother in law some 10 years ago, and at the time, my Mom put her foot down and insisted that my sister complete her university degree before getting married. BIL was pissed, and convinced that Mom was manipulating my sister into doing whatever she asked. Truth be told, Mom only had sis's best interests at heart (better to have the education than not). Things got very nasty for a while, as my sister was caught in the push-me-pull-you of the argument between Mom and BIL. Eventually, BIL confronted Mom, and they hashed it out in a long, heated, but evenutally healing discussion. Mom made it clear she was not trying to be manipulative or horrible, and BIL made it clear he wasn't trying to drag my sister into a situation of dependence on him. It took a while to get over the raw emotions, but now, my Mom and my BIL get along famously.

Please, for everyone's sake, your Mom and your hubby need to have a heart-to-heart. I suspect that there are assumptions being made on both sides of that equation, which will be quickly put to rest if they just communicate.
posted by LN at 4:38 PM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Does your husband currently get to spend a lot of time with his daughter?

This may sound kind of random, but I can't help but wonder if his resentment at spending time with your family is perhaps rooted somewhat in a lack of time spent with his own?

I mean...your husband left an event early that had to do with his daughter, in order to attend an event with his new wife and her family.

I know that a person marrying a spouse with children can be a bit of a bumpy ride for everyone - the new step-parent, the parent and the child. I just wonder how everyone is adjusting in your situation.

Perhaps the child or her mother has expressed concern about your husband's involvement in the child's life, now that he has remarried.

Okay, I know I'm pulling these things out of nowhere. I just thought that the "stepdaughter" part of your post was significant, and no one (I think) had mentioned it yet.
posted by Squee at 7:40 PM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I hardly ever answer these kinds of questions, because I think in most cases not enough information is presented for strangers on the Internet to offer useful advice. And this is another one of those cases. But that said, I just wanted to say that, at least to my ear, both your description of your mom and your husband as "bitter enemies", and some answerers' warnings that "your husband is a control freak who will ruin your life" seem drastically premature. Everybody has crappy days, usually for reasons that don't have much to do with the superficial cause of complaint. You haven't said anything that makes it sound like your husband always acts this way. You ask: how do I fix this? I say: your first attempt should be to fix it by acting like there's nothing to fix. You and your husband (and maybe even your mom) might be laughing about this next month. You should help this along by being the first to laugh.
posted by escabeche at 8:49 PM on August 17, 2007


Print out this thread and give it to your husband.
posted by zardoz at 9:43 PM on August 17, 2007


In the U.S., there is a wide range of expectations on how much adult children will interact with their families. For some folks the phrase "marrying the family" means very little, for others, especially immigrants, the extended family is very important. Perhaps your husband has unrealistic expectations but have you been explicit on what you see as your duties to your side of the family?

I don't consider anyone to be entitled to my participation because they've decided to throw a party. Having to 'perform' in a given role is nothing for some (most?), but it's a considerable imposition for a few of us. I'm not saying that excuses him from family functions but if this is something he feels strongly about, then either recognize it and advocate on his behalf or be up front about how crucial they are in your family. Perhaps he would find a series of casual lunches with your parents and their friends preferable to a party displaying the two of you.

It also sounds like you blew him off in the car. Those comments were occasions for the two of you to get on the same page. He should have known early on that you weren't going to barely make it but that you would be there ahead of schedule instead.

If you are or have been up front with him about the above and he still won't meet you half way then you need to look at counseling. A lot of the fault may be his and you need to be sure you're being straightforward with him before you can determine that.

Basically I agree with ourobouros. However I will add that his desire to never see or talk to your mom again is completely ludicrous. I don't think the harsh criticism he's received in this thread is fair and I've given a pretty sympathetic view, but this is just unworkable. He must recognize that your mom is a permanent fixture in your life and that he needs to accommodate that relationship. Give it a couple of days and point this out to him, preferably without any blame for the party. He needs to take responsibility for repairing the relationship between the two of them. If he can do it without apologizing, more power to him. Keep talk of the party out of it, just focus on the fact that the two of them must be civil. If you can't get that from him, it's a big warning.
posted by BigSky at 11:15 PM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


The only thing I'm finding surprising here are the number of answers that refer to your mom as "controlling" or "overhearing" or "manipulative" and the ones that are creatively making all sorts of very likely fictitious assumptions that are in no way indicated by the question.

Seriously, the mom is overbearing and controlling because she wanted to throw a party in honor of her daughter and son-in-law(particularly considering there is no indication in the question that the mom was informed in any way that either the OP or her husband was against the idea of a party)? That's complete nonsense. If your husband is so incredibly anti-social and introverted that he absolutely can't stomach it to occasionally attend social functions, then he needs to go move deep into the mountains somewhere where he can stay in his cave and not be bothered by normal human being behavior. Otherwise, these thing do generally come with the territory of being married. (Note: I'm somewhat anti-social and introverted but do make many appearances throughout the year at my wife's family events because I'm not such a selfish prick as to assume my wife or her family must suffer because of my unique personality quirks)

And he was mad at your for..........................not being late to a party??????? Geez, the nerve of you.

My stepkids are 13 and 11. If either or them were to run upstairs to sulk and mope all day during a social gathering I would give them a stern lecture on behaving immaturely/learning to act their age. That your husband, theoretically a grown man did this is just inexcusable.

From the information that's been presented here, your husband acted like an immature, whiny baby. Hopefully it was an isolated incident.

But I find it interesting that the people who are finding fault with you or your mom are needing to imagine up all sorts of possibly fictitious information that isn't in any way presented in the question to make the incident here anyone's fault but your husband's alone.
posted by The Gooch at 7:00 AM on August 18, 2007


First Paragraph: "overhearing" = "overbearing"
posted by The Gooch at 7:43 AM on August 18, 2007


What would you say to someone who skipped out early from prior obligation (a non-reschedule-able prior obligation to their daughter, even) in order to be an hour early to a party?
posted by anaelith at 7:43 AM on August 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


What would call someone who skipped out early from prior obligation (a non-reschedule-able prior obligation to their daughter, even) in order to be an hour early to a party?

a tremendous baby, selfish and dramatic, simpering, pass-agressive brat, possessive jealousy, immature, selfish, very angry and controlling, a little scary, bullying, immature, obnoxious, jerk, spoiled brat, a child, immature brat, jack-ass, big baby, controlling, a big douchebag, ridiculous, anti-social crybaby, giant whiny baby, self-centerd, thick, a two year old, abusive, immature, whiny baby.

apparently.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:39 AM on August 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


If your mother has problems with anger, and you are a go-with-the-flow type person, I respectfully submit that you are almost certainly somewhat desensitized to your mother's anger and presumptuousness. Your husband isn't. My guess is that this business of commanding the presence of the two of you at her home was the last straw for him after a long series of irritations. That doesn't sound to me like the kind of thing that comes out of nowhere, though he may not have shared his feelings with you before.

Was it a command performance? Well, could he decline without causing drama? Apparently he didn't think so. Did he even have any significant input into the timing of it? Very doubtful, since it conflicted with an obligation to his child. I'd say he's right on this one. She snapped her fingers and you jumped.

He's handling it badly. Really badly. But that grouching and sulking, as awkward and tacky as that kind of behavior is, is not something I'm going to label abuse today. And let's face it: your mother has a strong interest in labelling it abusive. It's generally understood that it's bad form to meddle between spouses unless their relationship is abusive. If she can convince herself -- or worse yet, you -- that stomping upstairs in a huff is a clear form of abuse, she's got an open field to interfere as much as she pleases.

Here's the thing: you do need to pick sides. I am sorry to say it, but it's the case. The side to pick is your husband's, even though he's being a stupid clumsy ass. If you're a Christian, the operating phrase is "leave and cleave". (And in the long run, I'd say that the side to pick is your stepchildren's.) This is something I keep seeing come up time and again in new marriages, my own and others: somebody's parent, usually a mother, tests their kid's allegiances, subtly or otherwise. (If you want my story, my email address is in my profile.) They want to be reassured that the kid will still toe the line and that their relationship is still primary. If you can't be on your husband's side in a family conflict with your mother, you've got some problems that will be long-standing.

That doesn't mean you should let him walk all over you, but you do need to know where and with whom your priorities lie. You're the alpha female in your own household now. That comes with responsibilities.

If your husband no longer wishes to see or talk to your mother, that is his right, unfortunate and awkward though it is. And I strongly suspect that once everyone acknowledges that it's his right, he'll calm down about it. It sounds to me like this is a man who very much does not wish to be commanded by his mother-in-law, particularly when it means that his daughter gets the short end of the stick.
posted by sculpin at 1:12 PM on August 18, 2007


Also, your husband might want to read Toxic In-Laws. It has some common-sense advice for taking the high road and acting effectively when your inlaws are hostile or demanding, and it includes some advice about taking some pressure off your partner.
posted by sculpin at 2:35 PM on August 18, 2007


Or, uh, even Toxic In-Laws. Dangit.
posted by sculpin at 2:36 PM on August 18, 2007


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