QUESTION FROM A GREEK TRAGEDY READER [Let’s call her Olivia]: Hey Stephanie….so I’m an avid reader of your blog. Your writing is so eloquent. You often hit on day to day real life issues and give great advice. Okay, so, not that I think you are a Dear Abby or anything, but I still wanted your take on a family issue I have:
I am married one year. Married later in life. I’m close to my mother, who did not take the marriage well, choosing to see it as me leaving her ( a wealth of issues there). Because of that, she decided she did not like my husband. Thus, many issues have ensued.
In turn, he reacts to how she treats him, and now nothing each of them do is good enough. He thinks she does not care and should reach out to him, while Mom thinks he is rude and disrespectful and that he should reach out to her. I am caught in the middle.
It has always been hard for me to stand up to my mom …again issues…so I stay neutral and this has solved nothing……..I am not sure what to do. I hope to be married forever and the thought of all these issues is daunting. I have not brought them together to talk because frankly I am afraid of that… They both have strong, aggressive personalities…God only knows what would happen, so instead I keep them apart. Except little things come up now and then.
For example it was my anniversary..mom sent a gift…now husband felt mom should have called and talked to him to say happy anniversary…..mom thought husband should have called to say thank you…as he should have…so neither did anything. Both have animosity…..HELP !!
Before I take a smack + crack at answering this (and I will), I’ll let others weigh in with their own words of wisdom. Floor’s all yours…
As promised, here’s my take:
I was your husband. Once upon a life ago, before my husband became The Wasband, I had a motherfucker-in-law. She refused every possible wedding date we offered, always an excuse why she couldn’t possibly attend her son’s wedding on that day. It eventually lead to a secretive wedding day (since she’d always have an excuse, we’d marry, tell no one, then act as if any day she chose, no matter how distant, would be just peachy.) We married on May 20. By August, she still refused to choose a wedding date that worked with her schedule, so I forced the boy to sack up and tell them we were, in fact, already married. He sat in their driveway for over an hour, panic-stricken. He didn’t know how he’d get the words out.
Fast forward to our 1 year wedding anniversary. All the cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents sent gifts, cards, called with warm wishes. Whereas motherfucker-in-law simply refused to acknowledge it. Her own mother apologized on her behalf. “I didn’t raise her to be like this.”
Point is, I get it. On one hand, I had to suck it up. This was the dynamic they co-created his entire life. His balls wouldn’t suddenly drop; it would take time for him to outgrow his pussy. As long as I believed he was working toward doing his part in changing that dynamic, I was willing to bite it. To recognize how hard it was for him to deal with confrontation, to acknowledge his efforts, however small. I tried to be patient. It sucked, but I tried. This is the part your husband must learn to play.
Your role in all this? You already know, don’t you? You chose him. When you marry, your new family comes first, period. You are the unit, a unified front against all others, including yo’ mama. Lady, you’ve got to sack up and set boundaries. You need to tell your mother, in no uncertain terms, that your husband must come first. If she doesn’t respect the boundaries you have set, she won’t be included in your lives. You, of course, don’t want it to come to that, but it will if she makes the choice to ignore the boundaries you’ve put in place. Yes, it’s a choice she’s making.
Assuming you’ll have yourselves a pack of chitlin’s, the sooner you establish these boundaries, the better. And let’s be clear, this is your job. You, and you alone, need to have this confrontation. And if your mother tries to throw it on your man, if she begins to make him the bad guy, it is 100% your responsibility to stand up and tell her she’s wrong. This is coming from the both of you. If she has a problem with him, she has a problem with you. I know it’s hard for you, but it’s essential to the health of your family.
As for this specific anniversary thing… the woman sent a gift. He should have called to say thank you. I honestly think in this isolated example, your mother is right, husband is wrong. Her sending the gift was wishing you a happy anniversary. That’s not really the point though. Here’s what is: YOU, madam, need to cowboy up. Let mama know that you don’t want unnecessary stress in your life; it’s bad for your health, and her power struggles with your honey need to end… because there’s no contest: he wins. Even when you disagree with him.
On a final note: I once told the Roman Empire that if she had a problem with me, she should come to me directly, not complain to Dr. Cock & Balls, sticking him in the middle. She had to learn how to go to the source because way too much was getting lost in translation (and built up bigger than it ought to have been). This helped, actually. Only, if your mother confronts your husband on something, and it’s really out of line, you do need to get involved and stand by your man, like that hideous song says.
GOT QUESTIONS? NEED ADVICE? If you have questions or need advice on anything from where to eat to how to get over the bastard, just email your question to my advice email address. Nope, I’m not a shrink, but since people keep asking for my opinion, I might as well share it and air it, so everyone else can weigh in too.