Q: Dear APW,
My future MIL is, to put it politely, a piece of work. Frankly, she is emotionally immature, narcissistic, and hyper-critical of her children. She clearly does not care about what her son or I actually want for our wedding. She wants us to have a formal black tie wedding because that’s what her friends’ children have had, but she complains when she sees the actual costs involved. We don’t want black tie and are working on ways to keep the wedding as affordable as possible. She has done nothing but make critical comments about our choices of vendors. She has body-shamed me and my fiancx multiple times since our engagement.
I refused to include her in wedding dress shopping and she complained to my fiancx about how I hurt her feelings. To try and help her feel a little included I showed her a picture of a dress I really loved. She told me it looked like lingerie and was inappropriate. The dress has spaghetti straps and a low back, it’s hardly risqué. That’s just a few of many examples, and when my fiancx tries to point out how she created a bad situation, she won’t listen. She says she doesn’t understand why she and I can’t have a close relationship, and then refuses to take responsibility for her completely inappropriate comments and actions. My fiancx is an incredibly kind man who is the first to admit his mom is bananas. He is working on creating new boundaries with his mom with mixed success. I know I’m going to have deal with her for the rest of my married life. Other than working forever with a therapist, please share any advice you may have about creating boundaries and establishing ground rules for dealing with a batshit MIL.
—Exhausted Bride to Be
On the bright side, you’re in a great place! You recognize that this is the way it’s going to be for the foreseeable future. Your partner shares your perspective. You guys are a team.
The downside is, that’s kind of… it. All you really can do is what you’re already doing (sorry). Set those boundaries, rely on one another, have each other’s backs. And maybe go to therapy.
When you’re talking about building these boundaries together, focus on what you can actually do. You know that you can’t control what she does, you can’t prevent it, in many cases you won’t even be able to predict it. But you can try to discuss what your response will be. Build a plan for how you’ll react. Under what circumstances will you opt out of family time? When will he need to step in and say something?
And while it’s awesome that you guys are on the same page, make sure you’re careful in how you vent to your partner about her. She’s still his mama. (Find a compassionate, trusted outsider for your snarkiest bits. A therapist counts, but so does a bestie.)
Godspeed, EBB, and I’m sorry. Having a difficult MIL is well… difficult. I’m glad you’re going into this with eyes wide open, and an amazing teammate on your side.
(And commenters who have been through this… and I know there are plenty of you… please weigh in with your best advice.)
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTION, PLEASE DON’T BE SHY! CLICK HERE TO SEND IN YOUR QUESTION. ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS ARE ALSO ACCEPTED. (THOUGH IT REALLY MAKES OUR DAY WHEN YOU COME UP WITH A CLEVER SIGN-OFF!)