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Emotional/Verbal Abuse…and His Mother Makes it Worse!

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My husband suffers from depression which manifests as anger, and he is emotionally/verbally abusive. I am trying to help him work through everything, but his mother is making it harder. When I talk to her about our problems, she says stuff like “Well, he just has a short temper like his father,” or “Well, he wouldn’t ever talk to me that way.” Also, his parents are the main reason for his mental instability. It’s a long story, but he had a very rough childhood because of his parents’ choices. She acts like mom-of-the-year, while I am stuck trying to work through my husband’s and my problems without losing my sanity. How can I make her understand that a) she’s not helping, b) her son really DOES have a problem (beyond his depression), and c) that it’s serious, and not something to brush off? When I talk to her about my husband and my arguments, her first instinct is always to ask, “Should I call him?” No, that won’t help. Why would it? Its frustrating that she passive-aggressively blames me for his/our problems. Its frustrating that she thinks she can help him when I can’t. I’ve been with my husband for 5 years, going on 6 (married for almost 2). She doesn’t see the real side of him. Which brings up another question I’ve been struggling with – Why does he only verbally abuse me, and not his mother or anyone else in his family? Why do I get all of the anger and abuse, when I’m the one trying the hardest to help him and the one with the deepest connection to him? He tells me all the time it’s his mother’s fault for his problems and how she makes things worse, but of course he would never tell her that. So she gets to continue thinking she has nothing to do with his problems because it’s only me who he treats this way. I will also add that we have all been to see a therapist. My husband and I have gone together, but I don’t feel like he’s taking the treatments seriously yet, and his mother and brother went once together. His mother and brother spent their entire session talking about my husband and his problems…not their own problems or how is family has and is contributing to his problems.

Emotional/Verbal Abuse…and His Mother Makes it Worse!

Answered by on -


Thank you for sending us your question. From the sound of it the effort you are putting into your mother-in-law just isn’t worth it. She hasn’t been responsive and it comes back through your husband to hurt you. Stop trying to get her to change.

Let me take some phrases from your email and show them to you:

  • When I talk to her about our problems…
  • How can I make her understand…
  • When I talk to her about my husband..
  • Why does he only verbally abuse me…

You are caught in a triangle trying to repair the relationship between your husband and your mother-in-law. Get out of the triangle and stop engaging with her. Don’t talk to her about your marital problems, don’t try to make her understand, and don’t talk about your husband with her. These efforts haven’t worked and have made things worse. The effort now has to be between you and your husband while letting him deal (or not deal) with his relationship with his mother and brother. Get yourself out of the middle.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Emotional/Verbal Abuse…and His Mother Makes it Worse!

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Emotional/Verbal Abuse…and His Mother Makes it Worse!. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 8 Feb 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.