Testy Mother-in-Law Moves In, and Stays

By Wendy Belzberg

Published April 25, 2003, issue of April 25, 2003.

My mother-in-law became ill last September when she and her husband were visiting for the High Holidays. Though she has fully recovered, it has been eight months and my in-laws are still in our home. My mother-in-law is critical of everything and everybody save my husband, bickers nonstop with my father-in-law and meddles in everyone’s business. I have been polite and respectful to her all this time. If I say anything to my husband, he gets upset with me. I am ready to move out because I hate being home when she is around. Any advice? My husband will not go to counseling or speak with a rabbi about this.

— Invaded by in-laws

If your husband is unwilling to listen to a third party, you will have to do all of the talking. Let him know baldly that your in-laws are not the issue. It is your marriage that is at stake. Make it clear that if your in-laws were ill and required full-time care, or could not afford to live on their own, you would be delighted to welcome them into your household — assuming that a serious conversation preceded that move and that the decision was a joint one. The invasion was never discussed, and it’s time for it to end. If your husband doesn’t see your point, you may have to give him a taste of living alone with his parents. From what you report, you won’t need a hotel room for long.

* * *

Over a year ago we celebrated my son’s bar mitzvah. My brother-in-law’s son attends a military academy, and the parents had him wear his dress uniform. To make a long story short, my nephew became the center of attention rather than my son. I asked his parents why he wore the uniform, and they said that he didn’t have any other suit that fit. I think this was an opportunity for my brother-in-law to direct the spotlight to his son. Do I have the right to be upset?

— Angry auntie

Probably you did have the right to be upset — over a year ago. It is hard to imagine any adult so insecure that he would need to steal the attention from the bar mitzvah boy — especially assuming that your nephew had a bar mitzvah of his own, out of uniform. If he didn’t, the issues may be other than what you think. But the event — and your interpretation of it — are no longer the point. Your son has doubtless got on with his life, and it’s time you did too. Holding on for a full year to any slight — real or imagined — or grudge is not good for your physical or mental health. Especially since your brother-in-law is oblivious. Bury this one. And remember the bar mitzvah boy, who doesn’t sound to have felt one bit slighted on his important day.

Write to “Ask Wendy” at 954 Lexington Avenue #189, New York, N.Y. 10021 or at wendy@forward.com.



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