keep me away from this crazy
June 7, 2012 10:52 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend's mother despises me and I feel the same towards her. She made some threats against me to my boyfriend that wass completely out of line. I want to be estranged from her, but my boyfriend doesn't want to. Help me navigate through this.

She and I butted heads since the very beginning, but threatening to "beat me up" the next time she sees me is the last straw. I don't want to make nice wiith this woman but to keep her out of my life because in addition to making threats, she's been a constant source of arguments between my boyfriend and I. However, my boyfriend does not want to be estranged from her himself despite doing a wonderful job defending and sticking up to me to his folks. That is fine, but now I don't know how to navigate through this with just one of us being estrangged from his mother. To make this worse, he has to live with his parents for three more months so he will have to put up with her. How do I keep my cool and stop arguing with him about his mom?
posted by squirtle to Human Relations (37 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
She is your bf mother. He can get another gf but not another mother. she will always be around, get used to it. It will only get worse with time and frankly you will have to adjust to having her in his life. See if you can live with this long term-marriage, kids etc. she will make it her business to butt into everything that you both do.

I don't see any upside to this situation especially if you are arguing about it now.
posted by pakora1 at 10:56 AM on June 7, 2012 [14 favorites]

Just take the high road. Never use her language or manner against her.
That will temporarily piss her off more than anything you can do, and it may change her attitude in the long run.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:01 AM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

How long have you guys been together? (Obviously her threats of physical violence are incredibly fucked up, no question. Just wondering how long this has been going on.)
posted by elizardbits at 11:01 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is breakup not an option? Because if it's that bad and he's living with her, I don't see how this can be a viable relationship.
posted by Think_Long at 11:03 AM on June 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

We've been together for a little over a year and aside from the problem I have with his mother, we are doing great.
posted by squirtle at 11:03 AM on June 7, 2012

Don't visit his parent's house.

Simple as that. He chooses not to dump them, but you can. Do anything you do together in another place that is not where she is.

If that's not possible, then you should breakup. You shouldn't put your safety on the line for any reason.
posted by inturnaround at 11:04 AM on June 7, 2012 [17 favorites]

If he's a part of your life, then so is she. It's time to start thinking what that means long-term. Are you going to avoid family gatherings? What happens at Christmas? Does he have siblings, are they going to take sides? If you plan to completely remove yourself from his mother's life, is he going to be ok with that? Is he going to still be ok with that 10 years from now? How is this dynamic going to affect the two of you if she dies? Will your boyfriend resent you?

If you can answer all those types of questions, maybe having a solid view of the future and how you will be relating to each other might calm the back of your mind so you can stop haranguing your bf about the situation. You feel the need to keep stirring the waters because you don't feel secure.
posted by Dynex at 11:04 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Threats of physical violence are never acceptable. Period.

Without knowing more about the situation, and with the detachment of someone who isn't emotionally involved, I'd say that the right response is to say to your boyfriend "this is not acceptable behavior, and I will not put myself in physical or emotional danger by exposing myself to her".

And then do whatever is necessary to carry through with that promise (to yourself and to him). You are important. Threats of physical violence are not something to be tolerated. Period. If that means you won't go to any place at which his parents may be present, at least until his mother honestly apologizes and changes her rhetoric in a way that makes you believe she's sincere, so be it.

Yes, that may mean she's getting her way, but if your boyfriend isn't willing to stand up for you on matters of basic physical safety (even if you don't believe she'll follow through with what she's saying, she's making the threat), you deserve someone better.
posted by straw at 11:08 AM on June 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

Is he really worth it?

No. Really. A grown woman said she would beat you up the next time she saw you. Please. Stop and think objectively about that. Really think.

I think you should remove yourself from this situation altogether. It's bizarre, unhealthy, immature, and absolutely unacceptable. It reflects poorly on your boyfriend that he'd rather go in circles defending you, rather than, also choosing to remove himself from this drama and danger.

Move on from this circus side show of a family right away. You don't need this. It sounds like the lead up to a bad segment on that reality show Cops.

Gather up your dignity and move on. You can't win except by steering clear of this messy entanglement entirely.

I'm sorry. This is my very best bottom-line advice.
posted by jbenben at 11:17 AM on June 7, 2012 [26 favorites]

That is fine, but now I don't know how to navigate through this with just one of us being estrangged from his mother. To make this worse, he has to live with his parents for three more months so he will have to put up with her. How do I keep my cool and stop arguing with him about his mom?

You are basically asking your boyfriend to choose between you and his mother. You are very young, you've only been dating a year, and you don't live together. You are not going to win here.

So how you deal with her is by not dealing with her. You don't go to their house, even for the next 3 months. You don't see her or talk to her or have anything to do with her. It actually isn't that hard.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:21 AM on June 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

That is fine, but now I don't know how to navigate through this with just one of us being estrangged from his mother.

You can't. You really can't. Even if you arrange it so that you never have to see her, she will still be present in your life through her interactions with her son, and it will be hell on him trying to live his life without choosing either you or her. This kind of relationship is not sustainable.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:30 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

In addition to the wonderful suggestions above to simply not deal with her and stay the hell away, I would add this:
Don't let your boyfriend defend you.

Tell him that you would much rather that he just ignore his mother's taunts and threats. When she starts ranting to him about you, he should just stand there and look off into the middle distance and let her go, and then say, "So, looks like it's going to rain."

The following is a total guess based on absolutely no psychiatric training but a fair amount of experience: His mother is terrified that you are about to replace her. She wants him to take sides without actually coming out and saying "It's your girlfriend or me," because she isn't sure which side he would take. But the thing is, he doesn't have to take a side.
posted by Etrigan at 11:33 AM on June 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

Assuming leaving him and getting away from the crazy is off the table as you've been together a year, the good part is that he defends you to her, if he didn't then I'd say that you should leave.

You don't have to go to family events where she will be. Just don't go, let him go and see his mother and you stay home and be safe and well away from all the crazy. Let him get fed up of spending all his time defending you to his mother. He'll either, be fine with this because he's used to her level of crazy, decide it's easier not to go and see her and start to avoid her too or she'll get him to leave you, which seems to be her goal. Don't make him pick sides, which is what this woman is trying to do, you will not "win" by sinking to her level and dissing the competition.
posted by wwax at 11:36 AM on June 7, 2012

My mother-in-law and I butt heads rather often, although since the wedding, it's been surprisingly civil. When we first started dating, however, she actually went on a hunger strike to protest us living in sin. So I know crazy.

How did we do it?

1) Unified front. My wife would tell her mother to stop the minute she started getting in on me, whether I was there or not.

2) Living 2000 miles away. I know that may not be an option, but there's a reason that I refuse to take a job within 300 miles of Orange County. I can't do it. Even 300 miles is close.

3) Limit your contact. While my wife goes out and visits every once in a while, I do the required Christmas bit, and that's it. We hug, we play nice, and we do all the pleasantries until we leave.

Now, we don't have kids yet, so I think this is just a lull in the action. Our issues are primarily religious, but she doesn't like the fact that I'm a no-good music teacher either. I understand that he's living with them and can't escape, but I'm giving you the future plan, if it makes it that far.

Only you know if he's worth it.
posted by SNWidget at 11:38 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

His mother is crazy, but you're only his girlfriend.

Don't go to his mother's house. When his family has events, don't go.

Eventually this will resolve itself - either you'll all accept the situation, or you and your boyfriend will break up. You can't make her un-crazy, so those are really your only options.
posted by Kololo at 11:41 AM on June 7, 2012

Do you plan to have children together? Have the two of you discussed what will happen then? If not, you have to. Do not bring children into this unless you are absolutely agreed on how it will be handled, or it will end your relationship (but your kids will still have a shitty grandma and split-up parents!).

Also, yes, not only should your boyfriend not defend you to her - which is just playing her game - he shouldn't even discuss you. My absolute rule would be that he may not speak of me in her presence.

She's not mentally stable. You get that, right? Stable adults do not threaten to beat people up. She's unlikely to get better unless it's a treatable condition that she chooses to treat.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:49 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that this needs a strategy of non-engagement. Every time she starts gong off on you, he says, "Mom, I love you, but those kinds of comments about Squirtle aren't acceptable. We're going to leave if you continue saying such hateful things." and then do. The thing is, he needs to keep this up even when you're not around so the idea that slagging on you in his presence equals son leaving the room. It's hard; good luck.
posted by smirkette at 11:58 AM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

How and why did your boyfriend tell you about the threat? Was he just relating the latest argument to you, or did he convey the information to you because he was worried for your safety?

I ask because if getting away from this situation entirely is off the table, than it might help you to understand what is fueling this drama so you can better avoid and disengage. You and your boyfriend don't want to unwittingly make things worse.
posted by jbenben at 12:09 PM on June 7, 2012

Ask him not to tell you any of the negative things she says about you. And I agree that you shouldn't go anywhere that you know she's going to be. Quit arguing with your boyfriend about her -- just state that you want not to see her, nor hear anything more about what she thinks of you. If he forgets, just quietly say, "Let's talk about something else," or just shift the conversation yourself.
posted by wryly at 12:11 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

There are 7 billion people on the planet. Find one that doesn't have a mother whose values include threatening physical violence against her son's girlfriend. Seriously.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, what are you up against given that's who raised the boy? And still living with Mom? RUN.

When you're older you'll look back on all the growth experiences you had to go through in order to find your eventual spouse. THIS is one of those experiences. Draw it to a close and move on.
posted by wkearney99 at 1:12 PM on June 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

I know married couples where one is estranged from their in-laws and the other is in limited contact with their parents, often for decades. People can manage this.

Yes, it's more complicated for you because your bf lives with his mother, but on the other hand it's less complicated because you're dating, not married. Don't go to her house, don't talk about her with your boyfriend, just pretend she doesn't exist as far as you're concerned.

Is her behavior absolutely shitty beyond words? Certainly. Are you right to be upset about it? Absolutely. If you make this an ultimatum where he has to choose sides, is your boyfriend going to break up with his mother, whom he lives with, or break up with you? I think you know the answer.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:12 PM on June 7, 2012

Etrigan: "In addition to the wonderful suggestions above to simply not deal with her and stay the hell away, I would add this:
Don't let your boyfriend defend you.

Etrigan, we're talking about a crazy woman who has threatened physical violence. This is not a matter of "sticking up for his girlfriend"; to tell him "don't defend me anymore" could have disastrous implications if the nutbag mother actually tried to carry out her threats.

He'd be put in the position of deciding whether to side with his mother, and not defend his girlfriend, or obey his girlfriend, and not defend her, or to butt in and stop the violence. Let's not discourage the latter, the only sane option!
posted by IAmBroom at 1:13 PM on June 7, 2012

Your boyfriend's mother sounds like a terrible, unstable person. However, if he is going to choose to limit or cut off contact with her, that is a decision he is going to need to make on his own.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:17 PM on June 7, 2012

I think knowing why she feels as she does and what kind of arguments it causes between you and your boyfriend might be helpful.

But generally, yes, you could just stop dealing with her, but this will get more complicated over time and puts your boyfriend in an awkward position that he may or may not wish to continue long term. It's also unlikely that just not having contact with her is going to resolve the issue or make the situation better. I'm not saying you have to "make nice" with someone who has physically threatened you, but if there is any chance for bare-bones civility, I'd take it.
posted by sm1tten at 1:48 PM on June 7, 2012

He'd be put in the position of deciding whether to side with his mother, and not defend his girlfriend, or obey his girlfriend, and not defend her, or to butt in and stop the violence. Let's not discourage the latter, the only sane option!

What I'm saying is that the mother wants the girlfriend to ask the boyfriend to butt in and stop the quote-violence-endquote. She's not going to seek out the OP and beat her up in front of her house, okay? I am as certain of that as I am that I'm going to wake up tomorrow.

Mom is being a drama queen and trying to force the girlfriend to either throw up her hands and break up with the boyfriend or stomp her foot and demand that he shut his mother up. That makes it a her-or-me situation, and it's not one that the mom demanded, so she gets to be the better person who didn't force her poor boy into an impossible decision.
posted by Etrigan at 1:54 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

First of all grown ups do not threaten each other with violence. So you're not dealing with a grown up.

Secondly, you do not have to spend one jot of time with her under any circumstance. So don't.

Her house is off limits, her BLOCK is off limits. If your BF wants to see you, he has to come to you, until he gets his own place.

Do not call her, not even to speak to him, do not look at her Facebook, do not email her, do not respond to her if she does any of these things to you. Disengage.

You're not going to family parties, holidays or any other event where it's likely she'll show up.

So, how is this relationship looking now? Personally, I'd break up, it's so not worth the heartache.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:06 PM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

#1: Tell the BF to stop acting as a conduit between the two of you. Don't bring up his Mom, don't talk about her if he brings her up.

#2: Your BF needs to move into his own place. Until that happens, have him come to your place or do things out together.

#3: His relationship with his Mom is his problem. Support him in whatever he decides, don't try to make it a "me or her" (ultimatums aren't great for relationships).
posted by arnicae at 2:30 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

You might want to check out to see where this is going.
posted by bq at 3:49 PM on June 7, 2012

My boyfriend offered to be estranged from her as well (it wasn't an ultimatum from me), but after a few weeks into it I could tell he missed his mother dearly. I didn't want to do that to him so I encouraged him to speak to her again. I suspect she's pissed off about the temporary estrangement and that is where all the threats are coming from. This woman is so toxic her behavior is making my boyfriend physically ill from emotional distress. Her behavior is making him want to distance himself too.

I really like the idea of non-engagement, moving far away from her and limiting contact. I will discuss this with my boyfriend to see if he's down. It sounds like a great compromise where I'm far away from her and he gets to talk to his mom once in a while.
posted by squirtle at 5:08 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you examined why she doesn't like you, and attempted to reach a resolution to the problems between you? You know, it's one thing if he's also like "Man, my mom's crazy" and is all about ditching her. But if he's really loving and missing your mom, then I don't know if you have a right to demand that he move far away from her and whatever unless he thinks that's a good decision for him independent of your influence.
posted by schroedinger at 5:20 PM on June 7, 2012

For various reasons I refuse to have my (permanent) boyfriend's mother be a part of my life. He bears slightly less animosity towards her than I do so I deal with it by:
- never going to his parents' house.
- being polite but not engaging at any functions we're together at - family weddings, work parties (he works at the same place as his dad), holiday parties with the rest of his family, etc.
- when he tells me something awful she's said about me, I tell him I'm angry but I don't rant to him about it.
- have a friend completely outside the situation - my best friend has never met his family, but because we're close knows the intimate details of our fights - when I'm super pissed about something that's come up regarding them - I talk to her. Anything you say to your boyfriend you can never take back - tell him if she says something awful and that you didn't like it but resist the urge to call her a heinous witch or anything else until you're out of his earshot. Even if she aggravates him she's still his mom, and family can make you very defensive - even if you're irked with them.
posted by abitha! at 8:00 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

- be honest with him about your willingness to meet halfway with his mother. I'm at the point where I've told him that outside group functions, even if we have six kids, she will not be a regular part of mine, or their, life. I highly recommend giving her another chance in a few months after you've both had some independent time to examine the situation but don't mislead him about your willingness to patch things up in case she doesn't become more reasonable.
posted by abitha! at 8:03 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

A friend has always created gigantic amounts of stress for her husband (also a friend) by inserting herself into his relationship with his Mother and making it all about her. When he went to visit his Mom, what it meant about priorities, whether she was willing to be around the Mom, whether she would pointedly sniff and turn her back, whether she would get angry and insist on counseling because she thought the husband had an unhealthy way of coping with his Mom.

His Mom is a bit challenging, but it is really the friend who makes it horrible. I love both of them dearly, but whenever I see her doing this I can't help but think how much more difficult she is making it than it has to be for her husband.

You've been dating this guy for what, a year? Don't engage with the woman, focus on your developing relationship with your boyfriend. Be cordial, ignore anything personal or anything mean - just let it roll off your back like a duck. If she says anything really mean or rude, tell her (politely, calmly) that if she continues, you will leave. If she continues, leave (with or without the bf, his call).
posted by arnicae at 4:22 AM on June 8, 2012

I dealt with the same situation. MIL hated me from the moment she saw me, (I was taking the chick away from the mother hen.) If you marry and have children, believe me, your life will be a living hell. Your husband will take the children to MIL and she will try and poison the children's minds against you. That is just one scenario that you will be facing. My most sincere advice to you is find another boyfriend. This will not turn out well in the long run. It's almost a guarantee.
posted by sybarite09 at 5:30 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Contrary to opinions that "you're only the girlfriend," there's a saying something like "he chose you, he didn't choose his parents," as a way of illustrating that your romantic partner should have your back.

You might also watch the movie, "Marty."
posted by rhizome at 12:30 PM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

My boyfriend is down to limit contact because he does not get along with his mother. We just have to survive the last few months while he's living there. Thanks!
posted by squirtle at 11:50 PM on June 8, 2012

Have him watch "Marty," with you. Keep a towel or two on hand in case his brain explodes. Mine did.
posted by rhizome at 7:39 PM on June 9, 2012

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