Love Letters: Dealing With His Mother

I have been with my husband for almost seven years now, and we've been married for almost a year. We have always had a good relationship with minimal fighting (just the normal things here and there). His family is the problem, mostly his mother. In general, she is just not a very good person. She drinks and is bipolar. She goes through these phases where she hates me and pretty much does not allow me to come around. She has called me awful, awful names. I used to go months and months without speaking to her, and then all of a sudden she would come back around and pretend like nothing happened.

For the sake of my relationship with my husband, I would just continue to be cordial and put a smile on my face. But I can't do it anymore. This past winter, after we got married, I thought everything like that was finally over. I thought that she knew I was married to him and wouldn't treat me the way she used to anymore. I was wrong. She gets mad over the littlest things, and was upset we could not make it to a gathering that they were having. She called me and told me that I was the biggest mistake to ever happen to her son. She called me degrading names and said that I need to stay away from her and her family. I guess the biggest problem here is that when this happens, and it has happened over five times throughout our relationship, my husband does not stick up for me. He does not confront his mother and tell her that I am his wife.

He instead shuts down like he always does and won't talk about it. This past time she crossed the line and it was too much for me to get over. To be honest, the first thought in my head when it happened was, "I made a mistake marrying him." I also thought to myself that if we were still just dating or even just engaged, that I would have left him for not sticking up for me ONCE AGAIN. But we are married. I feel like it is now more complicated. I do not want to have anything to do with her for the rest of my life, I do not want her in my children's lives (we don't have kids yet), and I just want to pretend like she does not exist. The problem is, it is his mother.

He has not spoken to her recently as far as I know, but I know that it is coming because he mentioned going to a family gathering. I told him I would go with him, but that I will not even glance in her direction. But to be honest, I do not want to go, and I do not want him to go. I don't know what to do anymore. I feel like she is getting between us. She is ruining my marriage and I am resenting him for not being a man and sticking up for me.

What should I do? Is this going to ruin my marriage? We haven't even had sex in quite a while because I just resent how he handled the situation. I just really don't know what to do.

– In-Law Problems, Boston

It's time for couples therapy. You need to be able to talk about this in front of a third party, and your husband needs to learn more about his mother's illness. It doesn't sound like she's going to change, and you both need to agree on a plan for moving forward.

Your husband is probably so scared of sending his mother into another fit that he just avoids the situation and hopes it'll blow over. He's probably been doing that his whole life. But now he's married and that just does't work.

On some level you had to know that this was never going to get better with marriage. This woman didn't call you names because you weren't her son's wife. A wedding doesn’t change personalities. You must have thought that you and your husband could get through this together.

What got lost somewhere during the relationship was the sense that you and your husband are working as a team. At some point, it became the two of you floating alone without help.

So go get help. Tell your husband that it's necessary -- because the marriage only works if you learn how to move forward as a couple. You're allowed to skip all family events until the appointment is made.

Readers? Did she marry the wrong person? What should she do now? Should the husband be coming to her defense?

– Meredith