Catharsis


I don’t like my mother-in-law.  And she doesn’t like me.  There.  I said it.

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I’ve been tap-dancing around that for 26 years.  Actually longer than that, for the discord between us began before I married her son.  She disapproved of me the first time she met me, and it has never changed.  For the life of me, I don’t know why.

I’ve used every tool in my belt to rationalize the behaviors that exist between us.  “She loves her son.”  “No one would be good enough for her boy.”  “It’s not me, it’s her.”  And all this time I’ve been trying to endear myself to her, trying to fit in, trying to change things to make her love me.

For many years, I acquiesced to keep the peace.  Resistance, I thought, would widen the chasm between us.  I dressed for her approval, bought gifts, and attended social events – all to gain her endorsement.  But it never came.

All I ever wanted from her was a smidgen of love.  But with love comes acceptance, and that’s something that just wasn’t possible.

My husband has had a very tough time through all of it.  Stuck between us, not wanting to alienate her, not wanting to forsake me, he walked a tightrope for a very long time.  Shaking off the lifetime of programming that ‘mama’s always right’ has been hard on him.  And I’m sorry he had to go through it.  But it had to happen.

My blog is full of affirmations about attitude that I try to embody every day.  But applying my own wisdom to this obstacle has been the greatest personal struggle I’ve ever faced.

Putting it in perspective became necessary.  So I boiled it all down.

I’m a good wife to her son.  I’m a good mother to her grandchildren.  I’m a good caregiver to her husband.  I’m a loyal caregiver to her.  I’ve never once had an outright confrontation with her.  If that isn’t enough for her, then she doesn’t deserve me.

I am enough.

I can’t mourn the loss of something I never had, but I do lament its void.  I won’t let go of the pain, because then the lessons would be lost.  I’ll hold on to it, to let it remind me what I don’t want to become.

It’s not in my nature to air such a thing, and then not find some meaning within it.  So here’s where I will make promises to myself, and a vow to keep them.

When my sons bring home mates some day, I will not lift the lid of the pot and say, “he likes it better this way.”  I will not ask if she’d like to borrow something to wear to the party we’ll both be attending.  I won’t give gifts with instructions on the manner in which they are to be used.  I will let them live their lives, and raise their children.  I will give advice when it’s asked for.  I will maintain my own life, so I don’t have to live vicariously through theirs.

And I will not judge them by arbitrary means. Their worth will be weighed by the love they give my sons.

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28 Comments

Filed under Crazy, The Lucky Mom, wandering thoughts

28 responses to “Catharsis

  1. deneen

    Lisha, thank you so much for such great advice … i just recently found your blog and its GREAT! My MIL has ALWAYS disliked me … i have been married to my DH for 13yrs and together for 16 and she STILL calls me his Ex-GF’s name (SHE was a DR … i, merely a gym teacher) … i have tried reapeatedly to get her to embrace me, my kids, our family but she chooses not to and i think i need to let it go. i cannot make her be who i want her to be and she doesnt like me, so obviously i cannot be the person she wants me to be … i have always been polite and i can continue THAT… but i definitly need to make peace with the fact that i won’t get from her what i always thought a MIL should be …

    anyway, glad i found your blog!
    cheers!
    deneen

    • Deneen, I’m so glad you’re here, because it’s a tough road to travel alone. You’re right, if it’s been that long, and you still don’t like each other, then it’s not going to change. Continue to be kind, and treat her the way you WANT to be treated, not the way you ARE treated. Returning animosity won’t get you anything but a bitter heart.

      I’m kind of sorry that you and I share this, because it’s not a happy thing. But I’m glad you’re here, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you again.

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  4. “I can’t mourn the loss of something I never had, but I do lament its void.”

    Wow, can I relate. I thought I was going to gain a family that would embrace me with open arms. What I got is a SIL who is cruel and judgmental. I actually think she has a clinical diagnosis with a borderline personality disorder. And I have a mother-in-law whose favoritism of her eldest son has created so much hurt between the sibling relationships that it has been painful to watch from the sidelines.

    If I had seen this more clearly, I don’t think I would have married my husband. I love him, but I would have seen the drama. Everyone put on their happy faces until AFTER the wedding. I wish I had known then what I know now.

    You are brave for putting this out there.

    • I didn’t feel brave when I did it. I felt scared. But I (obviously) needed to say what I needed to say.

      Oddly enough, since this post, I’ve adjusted my perspective, and a lot has changed. I’ve had a paradigm shift, enabling me to open myself to help her without expecting anything in return.

      I feel a great weight lifted. :-)

  5. CCK

    I’ve got a mother in law and step mother in law I dont like. I havent spoken with my husband’s stepmother aside from 2-3 times in the past 2 years and only because I’ve run into her. We dont see her or my FIL. My husband’s mom…is not stable. My husband doesnt want to just cut her off (although we have had periods of time where she is so unstable or infuriating we’ve had to) so I really only deal with her on an as needed basis, which is infrequent. He’s not even so much a “mama’s boy”, I guess he’s just worried about alienating the only parent he has that we mildly tolerate. We’ve had a few confrontations- she does a lot of things that are wrong, she isnt a good parent, she doesnt things she knows hurt her sons, and she isnt all that apologetic about it. I really really feel for you. I have 3 boys and I’ve always sworn I would try my HARDEST not to turn into the type of MIL’s I have been “blessed” with. I really hope I dont, I would hate for my son’s wives to dislike me the way I dislike my husband’s parents. But I hope for the best because I dont do, or understand, the crazy crap they do or the way they act…so I cant imagine myself behaving like they do.

    • I believe if you learn from a bad situation, then some good comes from it. The fact that you know what you don’t want to be means you’ll have a higher level of awareness, and will likely be more considerate of others than your MILs.

      Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be by to visit your page soon!

  6. I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award – the details are in my latest post. Hopefully there are many more who will appreciate you like I do!

  7. Lisha, this was written so perfectly. I would like to quote a hundred things you have said here. I have a very loving relationship with my Mother-In-Law, but your words of wisdom speak on so many levels.

    I want my step-daughter to ingrain ” I won’t let go of the pain, because then the lessons would be lost. I’ll hold on to it, to let it remind me what I don’t want to become.” because all too often she sweeps the pain of abuse under the rug.

    I want ME to remember “I. Am. Enough.”

    And your last two paragraphs…AMEN sister!

    Seriously…GREAT POST! <3

    • Thanks, Princess. It’s been quite therapeutic to get all that out. And oddly enough, my time with her has been much happier since I dropped the expectations. If what I give is one-way, that’s OK. I will be me, and I will allow her to be her.
      <3 back to you!

  8. I can’t mourn the loss of something I never had, but I do lament its void.

    Spot on. This applies to me in so many ways.

    Anyway, I admire you for trying for so many years and finally being able to express yourself. We all like to think that we can change people and the way they feel about us, but sometimes, it doesn’t happen. If it does happen, it’s not because of anything we said or did. The change happened in them, not us.

    Your future daughters-in-law would be lucky to have you as their MIL.

    • Thanks for the kind words. Getting out what’s been bottled up for over two decades has been a relief I can’t describe. Now that I no longer expect anything in return, I can give my love more freely,

  9. I know exactly how you feel – I’ve never been good enough for my MIL even after 23 years of marriage and I have come to the conclusion I never will be and now in my “old age” I really no longer care… But I will always be respectful because that is the right thing to do… I think your future daughters in law will be thankful to have you.
    I’ve Become My Mother
    I’ve Become My Mother facebook

    • Kelly, thanks for the comment. I’m so sorry you have to endure it, too.

      I will continue to be respectful, too. And I will continue to care for her. But I will concentrate on pleasing God instead of on pleasing her.

  10. You HAVE to feel so much better after writing this. I feel better FOR you!

  11. Anonymous

    Lisha,
    Remind your self again and again that your worth is not shown in her inability to see what a treasure you are and how blessed her son and grandboys are to have you, not to mention the care you give to her. Our Father reminds us that He is the One who rewards and that is eternal. You are a woman of great worth and grace. I am sorry for M-I-L that she has made a choice to miss all that you are and the great joy of knowing you. It is truly her loss and she is to be pitied.Your pragmatism is the first step to accepting that the irregularity is hers, not yours. Thank you for continuing to allow God to use you in our lives.

    • Thank you. I realized that I’ve been seeking validation from the wrong source. While it sounds strange to say, going through this process has given me what I need to take care of her now.

      You’re right. She has made a choice to close her heart. I’m going to make sure mine stays open. Thank you.

  12. OMG, Lisha, sorry I only know got around to reading this (today was a wild ride) but this is so excellent!! I am cheering for you!!
    “When my sons bring home mates some day, I will not lift the lid of the pot and say, “he likes it better this way.” I will not ask if she’d like to borrow something to wear to the party we’ll both be attending. I won’t give gifts with instructions on the manner in which they are to be used. I will let them live their lives, and raise their children. I will give advice when it’s asked for. I will maintain my own life, so I don’t have to live vicariously through theirs.
    And I will not judge them by arbitrary means. Their worth will be weighed by the love they give my sons.”
    –thank you, thank you for writing this excellent piece! And big hugs for that lump in your chest–mm, I hate those!

    • I hate them, too. But sometimes they’re theraputic.

      I definitely have a better perspective now. She’ll need a lot of care in the near future, and I’ll be there with a happy heart, and I’ll no longer take things personally.

  13. “I. Am. Enough.”– LOVE!

    Well done, Lisha. That took tremendous courage! Congratulations on taking care of you and owning your worth! (And, don’t forget to breathe. Sometimes I forget after I have faced down a “demon.”.) Your sons’ home mates will be lucky to have you as a MIL!
    Hugs!

    • I’ve had a lump in my chest all day. Mostly because I’m so unaccustomed to speaking my mind in such a direct manner. I hope after a good night’s sleep the lump will go away, and I’ll be left with peace.

      Thanks for the hug. :-)

  14. That must have been both sad and freeing to write. Very poignant. I hope writing it *was* cathartic for you. :-)

  15. Well said Lisha. If you know you have done everything to the best of your ability then that is all you can do. One day, hopefully before it is not to late, she will see just how amazing you are.

    Cheers,
    Louise

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