Archive for ‘In-laws’

May 3, 2011

His mother gossips about me….

by Rod Smith

“I am happily married. My husband is an amazing man. We are Indian with both Western and Indian beliefs and tradition. Our problems stem from his family. His mother hates me. She constantly gossips about me and tells people I am a terrible person. She knows how much her son loves me. I think this upsets her. I cannot understand how a mother can be unhappy if her child is happy. Although I have accomplished a lot I feel inadequate. I need help to keep my sanity and feel loved and appreciated by my husband’s family. My parents have been married for many years and love their children equally. My mother is one of the most humble people I know – which makes it even more difficult to understand my mother in law.” (Edited)

Attraction is only enduringly poss

Get your focus off her

Hateful people will hate no matter what you do. Gossips attempt to fill up empty lives by trying to destroy others. Try not to feed her toxicity by allowing it to do its ugly work.

While it may be counter-cultural for you, I’d suggest you and your husband (together) lovingly confront her with your unwillingness to accommodate and ignore her damaging ways.

Confrontation is a powerful expression of love. This accomplished, get your focus off her, whether she continues or not.

March 22, 2011

Do I speak up or suffer in silence?

by Rod Smith

“My sister and her husband constantly belittle our lives. We, my husband and I, are not as wealthy, we are not as successful in our careers, but at least we are 100% honest. While they are not blatantly dishonest they do make their living in questionable ways that and it pays them very well. The point is that my husband is now disinclined to spend time with my extended family. Do I speak up or just suffer in silence? Do I insist my husband joins me at family events or do I go alone and make an excuse for him?”

Suffer in silence? Never. Speak up? Of course you speak up. I’d suggest you gently tell both your sister and her husband (together) your truth. Tell them whether they are able to hear you or not. Since their “questionable” pursuits are none of your business, I’d suggest they are not worth mentioning.

Attend any family event you want whether your husband wants to go or not. Don’t push him. Don’t determine his level of involvement with your family or allow him to determine yours. If anyone wants to know where he is or why he is not with you suggest that person ask your husband his or her questions directly.

August 24, 2010

It’s all connected – even across the generations

by Rod Smith

Open yourself to growth

I have met parents concerned about the degree of conflict experienced with their children, who then, during the conversation, will openly confess they have no time for a mother or father-in-law, their own parent, or are out of sorts with an adult sibling. When I gently point out that these conflicts are possibly connected, fueling each other, I am met with disbelief.

“You’re saying that my fights with my son over his homework (or irresponsibility, or drinking) are connected to the fact that my father-in-law is an impossible man to whom I have refused to talk for the past five years?”


“You’re saying that my ridiculously controlling mother who walks in here like a movie director telling us all where to stand and what to say is connected to my 12-year-old daughter mouthing off to me however she likes.”


When the adult takes the challenge of embracing the “impossible” father-in-law, or standing up to the “controlling” mother, the adult is taking personal responsibility for his or her pivotal relationships.

A parent who takes full responsibility for himself or herself when it comes to relating to members of their preceding generation, will see less anxious, less reactive, less rebellious behavior in the generation that follows.

Yes. It is all indeed connected.

August 15, 2010

Rage is never pretty…..

by Rod Smith

Call me....

Want wisely.....

Rage is never pretty – not in you, me, nor in the man in the moon. It has no upside. It produces nothing worth having. It reduces everyone in its environment to a victim. It scares children. There’s nothing redeeming about rage. It causes physiological distress, psychological pain, and accelerates physical exhaustion. It hurts relationships. Rage is always ugly, always destructive.

Rage is never helpful

I’ve witnessed rage erupt in clients during therapy where there’s a sudden burst of rage over a matter that might appear inconsequential to the observer. I’ve seen it while I am engaged in the give and take of life – a woman loses it with her child in public, a man yells uncontrollably in the traffic, a teenager storms off from a parent in the mall.

Regretfully, I’ve felt it in me. Forces collide, my world feels out of control, I resort to blaming others for whatever I perceive as having gone wrong. Something primal snaps. I’m momentarily blind, deaf to reason. Then, I breathe deeply. I hold onto myself. Reason returns. Logic prevails. I get my focus off others. I look at myself. I take responsibility for myself. Do I always catch it? Handle it well? Of course not.

How is a person to handle a moment of rage in a loved one? Keep a level head. Walk away. Try not to react. Don’t personalize it. It’s not about you. You may participate in the precipitating event, but you don’t cause the outburst. In the moment of his or her fury don’t try to reason, negotiate, or restrain.

This too shall pass.

August 8, 2010

Mother-in-law puts her down……

by Rod Smith

My mother-in-law is very subtle in the way she puts me down. I am just not good enough and she lets me know it through looks, gestures, and laced comments. I know you will tell me to talk to her about this face-to-face and not to triangle my husband into it. Well I don’t expect my husband to intervene and I have tried to talk to her and the conversation went nowhere. She was super-nice when we met face-to-face and it was impossible to bring up anything negative. It was as if she fought off what I wanted to say with being overly nice. We are both very strong women. It feels like a competition without anyone knowing what the prize is. My children love her and she is wonderful with them. I only get strong negative feelings about her relationship with the children is when I feel she is putting me down. I am a stay-at-home mother while she has always had a successful career. (Situation synthesized from conversation and used with permission)

Apparently the helpful, positive material between you outweighs the unhelpful. I’d suggest you embrace her and consider the “looks, gestures, and laced comments” a worthy price to pay for a wonderful grandmother’s involvement in your children’s lives.

July 28, 2010

I am completely invisible to her…..

by Rod Smith

“My husband’s sister treats me like I am completely invisible. When I have requested that we talk about it, my request is refused. My sister-in-law affirmation is not important to me. However what is important is that my husband does not speak up. This concerns and hurts me greatly. We have been married for 19 years. Only in the two years, since my sister-in-law got divorced, has my husband had much to do with her.”

Live fully anyway

Your husband is a wise man if he is opting to keep out of relationship problems that do not involve him. As an adult woman you do not need anyone, not even your husband, to run interference for you. I do not know how you will get the recognition you want, but do not need, from your sister-in-law. Efforts will fail if he tries to clear a path for you to his sister.

Live a full life anyway, despite your invisibility to her. The passive party in any relationship is the one who is in control (leading or determining the outcome) of the relationship.

I think it is your husband’s attention you crave. Address this with him without begging. Get his attention and, for good or for ill, his sister will surely begin to notice you.

July 22, 2010

My grandson breaks things in our home….

by Rod Smith

Fortify your boundaries and stay out of control

Clarify what you expect in your own home

“My grandson (7) has broken numerous electrical and other items whilst visiting at our home. My daughter and son-in-law think it is okay not to offer to compensate or repair the items. When I ask them what they intend to do about my damaged goods they are silent. I believe the father needs to set the example by attempting to repair the items. That way the boy learns by example. He learns that if we break other people’s item, then we are responsible for fixing them or making good.”

1. Supervise the child – this matter is about the adults, not the child. You, the grandparent, are empowered to make his visits a joy.
2. Gather old irons and toasters for the boy to work on while at your home.
3. Get him a set of tools to keep at your home.
4. Sit with the boy and request he teach you how things work as he dismantles used electrical items you have collected and set aside for him.
5. Place his usual targets, your valued items, out of his sight for a short time.
6. Pack everything already broken in a box and ask the family (as a group) what it intends to do to repair the damages.
7. Be prepared for some conflict as you articulate your expectations for what occurs in your home. Your intent appears to include “fixing” something about your son-in-law. Quit it. Focus on creating a fabulous (real, forthright, fun, flexible, and fascinating) experience for your grandchild every time he walks through your door.

November 10, 2009

In-laws spoil my children…

by Rod Smith

“My in-laws spoil my children. The kids don’t close their mouths after talking about something they want and off go grandma and grandpa to buy it. I did not grow up this way and I don’t want it for my children. Please help.” (Email not gender specific)


Timing is everything...

First: Although you have not hinted at the possibility, do not ask your spouse to be the messenger to his or her parents. You are the one feeling and expressing the frustration, and so this is an issue that is yours to directly handle.

Second: Speak up, and do so without alienating your in-laws. This requires great skill, an advanced sense of timing, and a great deal of poise on your part. Choose a time when anxiety is low – a time when you are all feeling good about life and each other.

Third: if you are successful, your in-laws will thank you for your insight and somewhat refrain from excessive shopping. You will need to remind them (playfully) of your chat several times over the course of a year.

Fourth: If you are unsuccessful, everyone will end up on bad terms, your in-laws won’t shop for the children again and your children and spouse will be as frustrated with you as you are with your in-laws.

May 9, 2009

My husband doesn’t get on with his mother….

by Rod Smith

“My mother-in-law and my husband are constantly at each others necks. We were having a prayer at home one night and he told her not to do something because he would do it later but she did it anyway. When he asked her about what she did she denied it but after some questioning she admitted it. Then things blew out of proportion and both said things they regret. I know that they must forgive each other but they are too stubborn. She tells me that it’s not my problem but she makes sarcastic remarks and seldom speaks to me. My husband is also short tempered when people do something wrong. He feels that she lied to him. I feel uneasy to be at her home. I told her if they can’t sort it out then we will move out. She says that if we are not happy living there then we should go.” (Edited)

Get out of the middle!

Get out of the middle!

Your mother-in-law is correct. It’s not your problem. Try to stay out of it. While staying out of it, I know, is easier said than done, getting yourself in the middle of an age old conflict will only ultimately render you “enemy” to both, and have you feeling even more helpless. I am willing to bet the two of them have been dancing this dance long before you married into the family.

Quite apart from this futile squabble I’d suggest it is time you and your husband establish your independence. But, watch out, if your husband does not grow up a little and get these petty tensions with his mother somewhat resolved, he will most certainly, once you are on your own, begin to wrestle with you in the very same way he now does with his mother. Yesterday’s unresolved issues unfailingly emerge in today’s relationships and thus we end up fighting ancient battles with those who were not even in our lives when the conflict began.

January 15, 2009

His brother would hate to see him happy…

by Rod Smith

My boyfriend of 10 years says he doesn’t love me anymore and is tired of pretending. I feel like I just lost my best friend. I don’t understand how a man can go out every night and drink while he has a beautiful woman at home? He’s not seeing anyone else. He claims he wants to be alone. I know he is getting brain washed by his brother who has had a failed marriage and who would hate to see his brother happy. His brother has always put me down and has gone as far to call me ugly. This is a sad situation because my boyfriend is letting his brother win. I know my boyfriend is a good man with good intentions who is throwing away our relationship to make his brother happy. Please give me some advice.

Order through link on the right

Order through link on the right

You are assigning more power to the brother than any brother can wield – except if your boyfriend was inclined to want to detach from you already. Mourn. Take stock of who you are and where you want to go with you life. Pick yourself up. If you work hard to stop him leaving, keeping him will require even harder work. Who could possibly want to live like that?