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Why Can’t My Husband Be on My Side?

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From a woman in the U.S.: My mother-in-law banned me from her home and life after I wrote a semi-anonymous post on blog on how to deal with toxic people, mentioning her as being one. My husband has vocalized time and again that he is “on my side” but regularly (every other week or so) continues to see and talks to his parents as if nothing happened.

I feel guilty if I asked him not to go, because they are his family and I don’t want to give an ultimatum, but I feel even worse when he does go and talks about the time they had afterward. More complicated, his brother lives with us and has been trying to get my husband to hang out with their parents more, without me.

Now, it feels like everyone is conspiring to push me away. And worse, I’m tired of having this conversation with my husband because he just gets upset and says I can’t let it go, when I am trying to be understanding by allowing him to continue to see his parents.

I spent 8 months working for his mother in which I was controlled, manipulated, disrespected behind closed doors but around everyone else she “loved” me. I feel like it doesn’t matter what I do, I’ve already lost, and they’ve won. I try not to think about it at all anymore because I don’t want to perpetuate the negativity in my mind, but my emotions keep betraying me.

I don’t know what to do, or how long this will continue. What happens when we have kids? I keep mentioning this to my husband, but he keeps saying, “It’ll take time”. I love him dearly, and I thoroughly enjoy the time we’re together, alone, but his parents are narcissistic and proud. I believe that they cling onto him because their marriage is uncomfortable to everyone and that their eldest son is the last thing they have to hold onto together.

That doesn’t mean though, that it’s right, what she’s doing. I’m scared that this is going to be forever. Why can’t she just let it go and let us live our lives? Why doesn’t my husband just cut his ties off with her when he told me that everything I said about her was right? Why can’t I let it go, even after all the times he tells me he’s on my side?

Why Can’t My Husband Be on My Side?

Answered by on -

A.

It’s not at all unusual for people who are related to have difficulty working together, especially when one is the “boss” of the other. A work relationship and a personal relationship are different. It’s hard for both parties to keep boundaries between the two roles clear. It is often difficult for the employee to voice any negative feelings about the work environment due to a combination of respect and fear they’ll be fired. It’s hard for the boss to treat the relative the same way he or she treats every other employee. Sometimes they err on the side of being too harsh or too lenient.¬† It is indeed possible that your mother-in-law loves you but didn’t love the way you were doing your job. It’s at least something to consider.

From what you wrote to us, it sounds to me like you made a serious error in judgment by writing your thoughts in a blog that was somewhat public. You don’t mention whether you tried to have reasonable discussions with her about the work relationship. You didn’t talk about whether the job itself was a good match for you or whether you kind of fell into working with your mother-in-law, instead of looking for something else. You make no mention of what you might have contributed to the problem.

I have to wonder: What was the point of blogging your negative feelings instead of talking adult to adult with her? Were you trying to get “even” with your mother-in-law for how you think she treated you? Were you trying to tarnish her reputation with others? Whatever the case, of course she had a negative reaction!

Your husband is in an impossible position: He is caught between his love and loyalty to you and his love for his family. He can’t take “sides” without losing someone important to him. To ask him to “cut ties” with the family he loves is immature and self-defeating. Your husband tries to manage his dilemma by both telling you he agrees with you but still seeing him family. This isn’t working for anyone and is bound to blow up.

The person in the best position to change the situation is you. If you love your husband as you say you do, it’s up to you to get him out of the middle and to do your best to heal things. You do owe your mother-in-law a genuine apology for acting out as you did. She was the boss. You were her employee. If you didn’t like how she did her job, you were free to leave. There was no one making you stay if you felt disrespected. Do think hard about what you might have contributed to the situation and what you might have done differently. Knowing that will help you deal with other problematic relationships more successfully.

So – Go to see her. Acknowledge that your comments came from frustration and your difficulty with being both an employee and a member of the family. Own your part in the problems. Do not tell her she should be a different kind of boss than she is. It won’t work. She’s lived a long time being who she is. You can’t change her and it is unreasonable for you to expect that you can. Take your lumps. Since you have been trying to cut her son out of her life, she may not take your apology gracefully at first. But if you don’t blame or shame her and talk to her politely she may come around.

Then do your best to resume being part of the family. Attend family events with your husband. Invite your in-laws over. Be a grown up about it and eventually it won’t feel like an act. If you can’t figure out how to manage this on your own, I encourage you to find a therapist who can talk it through with you and provide some support while you shift your relationships in this family.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Why Can’t My Husband Be on My Side?

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2019). Why Can’t My Husband Be on My Side?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/08/05/why-cant-my-husband-be-on-my-side/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 3 Aug 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 3 Aug 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.