railparailSeptember 19, 2011


I have been following up with a few threads here and am impressed with the support and help from the community. A close friend of mine is going through some issues in her relationship and therefore I am posting on her behalf (upon her request).

So this person got married about 8 years back after ~1 year long courtship. The courtship and initial couple of years after marriage were blissful to the couple. Families were largely left out of the process by the couple. Both felt that the families would support their decisions, which they appeared to do. Both these are highly educated, in high profile careers and a typical urban city dwellers.

After having their first child, his family's visits suddenly increased in frequency and duration. Initially they were always under the pretext of "helping out". Since both are working, they welcomed the help. Slowly however, inlaws began to talk about how much they missed their grandkids and how the child missed them etc. and got themselves invited.

However, my friend (the mother, wife) realized soon that his mother and sister were basically constantly indulging in all kinds of character assassination towards her. Basically everything she did came under an attack and as a result, the relationship began to unravel.

The wife and the new mom in this case tried to rekindle the romance for some time with no avail, but finally gave up. She suggested counselling that the husband refused to participate in. She considered divorce and the couple have talked about the divorce several times.

The wife feels that if the extended family continue to rummage through her life unabated, divorce is certain, and has asked his family to not visit. The husband has reluctantly agreed to this, however never wastes a single chance to show his displeasure.

The wife now feels that she was manipulated into the whole situation. His family was kept out of the loop during dating for a reason.

Recently he has begun to talk about having a second child.His rationale is that it would be good to have a sibling for the older child. The wife feels that this is manipulation too; since having the second child would tie her down a bit and it would be hard for her to leave the marriage for some time at least. Also given how much the first child made her vulnerable to all the manipulations, she's reluctant to consider it.

The question that we wonder about it is, does this sound like manipulations? How common is it for men to put out the kid card to tie down the wife? She says that, for all along, she was the one who wanted a second child and he did not. Now after sorting out the issue of his family and successfully keeping them at the bay, suddenly he's been pleading to have a baby.

Any thoughts?

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Sounds to me like she's got her mind made up and is just fishing for justification to complete her logic. I suspect that's why she's talking to you and to us by way of you.

Except for the woman's attitude about it, you haven't described anything very unusual. If one were to accept every adjective used to describe the in-laws' behaviors, well, ok, but without more specifics I'm not convinced things are as bad as written. Maybe I'm missing it but without more specifics, the writing itself seems shaded to me.

"Manipulation"? Everybody manipulates everybody. It's the next most overused word after "vulnerable" and "judgmental".

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 8:24PM
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If the wife is contemplating divorce then another child would not be a good idea. Apart from the logistics of being a single parent with a youngster and an infant, it's setting up another child to grow up in a single parent family.
If she thinks the marriage can be saved and wants it to be, she could tell her husband that she will consider a second child only AFTER they BOTH go to counselling and get their relationship back on a more stable footing.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 11:43PM
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Are there two different cultures involved in this marriage ?

I think the wife's request that her in-laws never visit, although reluctantly agreed to by the husband, is unsustainable. I think this one situation will always drive a wedge between the two. It is not reasonable for the grandparents to never see their grandchild.

I think your friend does have some issues with the inlaws, that need to be resolved. I can understand her annoyance of their intrusion into her family life.

She needs to work out the sort of future she wants with her husband, and he has to be fully supportive of that future, otherwise it won't work, in my opinion.

And certainly do not bring another child into a rocky marriage, that is a really bad plan !

Good luck with it all.

Perhaps they should consider moving far away so the in-laws cannot visit !

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 10:10PM
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Thanks for the replies so far. The comment regarding bringing another child and potentially pushing him/her into a single parent family is very much valid and appreciated.

Asolo: I am a bit perplexed by your conclusion that the wife has made up her mind one way or the can you be so sure? Or are you merely trying to challenge this person to come up with more details?

Popi: no, there are not two cultures involved in the marriage. Also, the grandchild is not cut off from the grandparents; it's just that they are not welcome to stay with this family because they have consistently caused the marriage to derail each time they have visited. How would you sort out issues with a MIL who basically tells your husband that his wife is irresponsible, selfish and dysfunctional as a mother to her child?

The husband has agreed to keep them away and at least so far it's working -- they have found a way so he can continue to visit them (which is shorter duration since he has a job) -- but they do not come visit for weeks if not months any more.

By the way, the farther the families live, the longer they come stay with each other. I know some friends whose families from outside of the US (Europe or Asia) stay with them for months. In general, staying close by seems to be a better way to keep people from visiting for longer duration.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 11:53PM
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If my mother-in-law was critical of the way I was bringing up her grandchildren, I know my DH would have told her in no uncertain terms to NOT behave like that. She has only had praise !

I really think that some parents - your friend's in-laws- never stop behaving like parents. This causes lots of problems.

Lets face it, when any child reaches adulthood, the parent should adjust their relationship, and stop telling the child how to live their lives ! They must accept that the child is the way they are and don't criticize ! Be supportive in their decisions. These parents are being very unsupportive.

This is basically the problem here, the husband needs to defend his wife and tell his parents to cease the criticism. But he has got to mean it, and support his wife 100%. If he is just doing it, but not really meaning is doomed to failure.

Have they agreed to stop with their critical behavour ?

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 1:59AM
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"Asolo: I am a bit perplexed by your conclusion that the wife has made up her mind one way or the can you be so sure? Or are you merely trying to challenge this person to come up with more details?"

Certainly not "sure" of anything. Did I say that? Even said "maybe I'm missing it..." Nor am I interested in "challenging" anyone.

Seems clear to me we're not going to be able to communicate. Think I'll be gone.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 9:46AM
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Well -- in response to Popi:

Yes, that seems to be the problem. The parents did not stop having a heavy-handed approach in son's life and the son is not able to show the assertiveness to them, that they should leave him alone.

In a lot of relationships, parents (of both the parties) have taken sides with their biological child, thus messing things up. For example, when a couple argues, instead of trying to diffuse the tension, the family sides with one and makes the other one feel cornered. If they cannot diffuse the tension, then they should simply stay quiet -- but taking sides actually drives a wedge between the couple. Parents feel that they are doing their child a service, but in reality messing up his/her relationship is no service.

The wife suspects that this went on all the time; (just judging by the profound way in which it changed their relationship) -- and the only time the son resisted the brainwash was when the wife came back with a strong rebuttal. This meant that the wife had the option of either being at the receiving end, or constantly fighting a PR war.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 1:59PM
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Well I guess it is a good idea to do a lot of research into how your prospective beau relates to his or her family. If it does not feel right, then don't get married.

I feel sorry for your friend, she is in for a difficult ride in her life, until the parents depart the mortal coil.

Some parents are real pains.

I saw a grandmother yelling at her grandson, tiny boy around 3, "you f***ing hold my hand or else I will clobber you" heart went out to that little tike, this morning.

I wish your friend well, she has a good friend in you. I guess it is difficult for you to hear her tale, but if all you can do is listen, and comfort, then that will help in some way.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 10:33PM
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Could the son/father write a polite, short but assertive letter to his mother and sister explaining very clearly that any criticism of his wife will not be tolerated? That undermining his wife undermines his marriage, and that he is 100% committed to the health of his marriage. The conclusion being, that if Grandma and Auntie want to have a relationship with his children, then they had better be kind and supportive to his wife -- whether they agree with her or not.

Some things are easier to say in writing. You can make several drafts until you get the wording and tone right, and the other person can't interrupt. This can be much easier for a more mild-mannered person when confronting someone who tends to dominate.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 10:16AM
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Rail, your friend and her husband have discussed divorce several times. Did they get marriage counseling? Did she decide not to divorce him just because he is keeping his parents away from her? If he has never stood up to his parents when they criticized her, then he did not have her best interest at heart. Maybe he does love her and he is just weak, but I don't see a future for her in this marriage.

Your friend needs to go to marriage counseling - with husband if possible, but if he won't go, she can go alone. She needs to find a counselor who will help her decide whether to divorce this wimp. (Yes, a wimp can be controlling.) No one, including you, knows what is really going on. You've heard and seen just one side of it. That is why I suggest counseling.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 3:27PM
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Sweeby and colorcrazy, since you are new to the discussion, and raise some important points, I think I should clarify a few things.

According to the wife, the husband has not only not stood up for the wife, but in fact has been completely brainwashed by the inlaws.

For example, before the marriage, there were no issues with finances between the couple. Both of them are responsible money spenders and they both were comfortable with each other's habits.

After the mother in law visited, she continued to comment on how the wife was spending money on her own 'expensive' clothes whereas when she went to buy baby furniture for the baby, she was adamant about setting a budget. She also negotiated with the furniture store for an additional discount. Someone like you or me would admire this, but the mother in law commented that this "stinginess" was missing when buying a Banana Republic sweater for herself. The wife told me that her rationale had always been that the baby grew out of all her sizes - and so the wife was not comfortable buying really expensive accessories, whereas for herself she did not mind it.

After the inlaws left, the husband started to criticise each and every action of the wife and began to complain that she was selfish and had two standards etc.

Overall, according to her, the husband/son actually began to think with his mother's brain. He really seems to have no backbone and seems to be completely controlled by his mother. She feels bitter because she suspects that he purposely left them out of their dating phase and ushered them in when the child was born.

Also, the wife is a close friend of mine; I do know a lot of stuff -- but I refrain from writing about everything obviously because I feel I need to discuss it with her.

Regarding counselling, the husband has refused to seek counselling.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 7:22PM
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Also wanted to add:
To put the example of buying "Banana Republic sweater" I should clarify a few things. This is a couple in high technology careers, *both* are educated, urban, affluent residents in middle management type jobs.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 7:29PM
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The biggest problem, of course, is the fact that husband and wife aren't on the same page. When my dd was very young, we started getting 'suggestions' on how we were raising daughter from DH's family--they were really just criticisms. My husband was the one who laid down the law to his family, and told them she was our daughter, we were responsible for her, and they were to but out. Because the issue was handled promptly, specifically, and firmly, they got the message and we were able to allow dd to have a relationship with them, without worrying about dangerous interferance.

One point, though, that your friend may want to look into so she has all the facts, is grandparents' legal rights. They vary from state to state. It's always best to know what you're dealing with, and--hopefully--to avoid a long, expensive, emotionally-damaging legal battle over something like that.

Lastly? ANY marriage on shakey grounds is NOT the place to bring another child. Unless your friend and her husband work out their own and their extended family issues, and can envision themselves happily together for the next 2 decades, she needs to avoid having another child at all costs--another would only complicate matters.

And manipulation? Only works if the victim allows it to. I wouldn't even consider that as an issue--if she's the strong person you describe, she won't allow herself to be manipulated.

(and just for the record, her reasoning on shopping makes perfect sense to me, there's no point in overspending on clothes/furniture for an infant when it's not going to be used very long.)

    Bookmark   September 27, 2011 at 10:13AM
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This is not necessarily related to my friend's issue, but wanted to share this anyway, with an example of a couple A+B.

I think that a marriage that was once strong and based on solid trust can quickly unravel when a third party with sinister intentions or just plain lack of maturity and respect for one of the couple enters the fray.

Essentially, what this negative catalyst does is to destroy trust, and condition the thinking of the couple (A and B) to attach a motive to each other's actions. (e.g. an act of shopping got corrupted when the MIL attached a motive of selfishness to it). That systematically destroys the trust in the mind of whoever is being in direct communication with such catalyst, in this case, A. Eventually, the other person B loses patience with his/her partner as well, since nothing positive is coming from the partner. This sends B into a tailspin whereby he/she loses the trust and hope in the relationship and eventually begins to attach a motive to the actions of A (e.g. manipulations or control etc.).

This chain reaction is sufficient to destroy the very fabric of the relationship.

What is the solution on this? Counselling can help but basically the two people involved must be motivated to work through their issues. Also, a conduit to vent out their bitterness for each other needs to be provided.

One more comment: based on the stories I've heard, I imagine that a husband's mother has no stake in her son's marriage, in fact seems to only think of it as a conflict of interest. I've seen examples where the MIL continually kept on insisting to the son that he should divorce his wife. This kind of "guiding" amazes me! In my opinion, elders should take the role of trying to put off the fire, not add fuel to it.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2011 at 9:46PM
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