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My Future MIL Is Calling Me a “Practice Wife”

She lies about me to my partner

Q: I’ve had beef with my future in-laws for years, particularly with my future mother-in-law.

It all started when my fiancé’s family collectively found out that I do not ascribe to a religion, and they were very, VERY upset by that. To the point where they were telling my fiancé to leave me because they didn’t know what kind of person I was, and they questioned if I even had a moral compass. I also want to note that while my fiancé’s family claims to be Christian, they do not have any religious paraphernalia in their home and haven’t attended church in at least fifteen years because of a fight my father-in-law had with another parent over little league baseball (yes, really). Even though my fiancé stood up for me, the resentment on both sides has lingered and grown into something really, really ugly.

My mother-in-law is also a pathological liar (even her mother has called her a “fibber”). She is constantly trying to get me in trouble with my fiancé over stupid little things throughout the process of planning our wedding. When my fiancé confronts me with why his mother is upset, I always have to show him evidence that she’s lying to defend myself. If it weren’t for the fact that I screen shot almost every text exchange I have with her, it would be her word against mine. She always has to rope my fiancé into our disagreements; she never discusses anything with me directly even though I’M THE BRIDE.

I have been dealing with this woman for six and a half years, and since our engagement a year and a half ago she has been in rare form. After she told other members of my fiancé’s family that she “hoped I was just his practice wife,” I had just about all I can take. I understand that my relationship with her puts my fiancé in the middle, and I don’t want to do that, but I also don’t want to continue to turn the other cheek and just keep letting her get her digs in at me.

How can I put her in her place without letting it come between my fiancé and me?

—Anonymous

A:Dear Anonymous,

It sounds like it’s too late for that.

There’s something to be said for being objective and impartial, but yeesh. He doesn’t believe you unless you have evidence?

Your fiancé isn’t in the middle of anything. By marrying you, he’s agreeing to default to your side. That’s part of picking someone to be your closest family member. That’s part of trusting you. If he were doing that, this would be a very different question (and you’d be getting a very different answer). But the fact that you have to persuade your partner to be on your side every single time? Exhausting.

Difficult in-law relationships are tough, but they can be livable. People say cruel things and tell lies, and folks manage to scream into a pillow and get over it. But that’s only possible if your partner is on your side. In this case, it doesn’t sound like he is.

So, ask yourself: Is this something you really want to deal with for the rest of your life? You could easily ignore her, spend the bare minimum amount of time with her, and not put your partner in the middle of anything. But by trying to be objective, by treating you and your mother-in-law as equally trustworthy, as equally at fault, he’s putting himself right smack in the middle and choosing to stay there. There isn’t always guilt on “many sides”; sometimes you can pick one (hint: maybe the one your spouse is on). It would be very, very easy for him to shut this down. That’s not entirely up to you.

Is your partner willing to trust you? Willing to default to being on your side? If not, are you willing to deal with this for the rest of your life? Anyone can tolerate some in-law problems (I mean, join the club), but you’re talking about some really exhausting partner problems.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTION, PLEASE DON’T BE SHY

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