March, 18 2015
How to Deal with My Monster-in-Law

This week on Ask Madge: Is it wrong to not feel guilty about ignoring your dreadful mother-in-law?

by Magdalene
Lifestyle
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Dear Madge,
 
My mother-in-law is a widow from hell, no exaggeration. She has an explosive temperament on par with Metro Mini driver (or remember actress Kiki Fatmala’s mother? The resemblance is uncanny!). It’s always like walking on a wafer-thin ice with her. She never gets along with anybody – neighbor, maid, her own siblings.
 
Whenever she’s mad at me or my husband, which is often and sometimes over silly things, she would blow up and then sulk, cut any communication and refuse any attempt of apology and peace offering (except for bank transfer, but the sulking remains). Sometimes it takes two months of sulking, but one time it took two years. At first I always felt anxious and tried to put myself in her shoes, but I’m only human and lately just ignore her. Am I a bad person for not feeling guilty about it? What should I do instead?
 
Best,
Charlie Cantilini
 
 


Dear Charlie,
 
Oh, my! You do have a monster-in-law. My sympathy for you, woman.
 
I don’t know what kind of approach you have done to ease your relationship with her, but I have a feeling that no matter what you do, chances are she’s never going to be happy. Which is sad, because everyone deserves to be happy. However, I understand, that you can’t do much about it, because she is your husband’s mother and neglecting her is out of the question.
 
I’m sure there’s an interesting backstory to all this – people just don’t get that way  (at least the positive side of Madge believes so). Sometimes that is people’s way of seeking attention, to put up a façade of anger and outrage (though she may just be one of those people who think they have been unfairly denied of anything good in the world).  Taking into account the context of her perpetual bitterness may not directly improve your relationship with her, but it would create the space in you to “let go”, which is an important part of dealing with toxic relationship. 
 
Now when I say “let go”, I don’t mean to tell you to suck it up. It just means you accept things as they are, to acknowledge that some things are beyond your control and to know when not to engage. Understanding her back-story will also help grow your compassion, it makes it easier for you to accept her as she is, and move on.
 
That being said, there’s no reason for you to put up with things that make you feel bad all the time. When she’s being unreasonable, disengage and leave her be, though occasionally check with her to see whether she needs something. And, yeah, maybe keep that bank transfer going when she needs it. And never expect her to reciprocate in kindness. That’ll just drive you crazy if she doesn’t. In fact, see this as your way of giving back, not expecting even acknowledgement (like those anonymous donations by “hamba Allah”). It might make you feel good – perhaps. 

~ M

*Photo by Adán Sánchez de Pedro

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