Using the in-laws for marriage counseling

freezetagDecember 17, 2007

Could asking my mother in law for marriage counseling be acceptable? I am completely frustrated with dh lately, and I've given up on dh and I's ability to work out our differences (mostly about finances and parenting). I've told dh that I think we need a mediator, and even said he could choose anyone he wants - I just think we need someone else in the room so that we are not constantly misinterpreting each other. He doesn't want any sort of counseling, so I am left thinking that if he won't go, I should. I thought of my mother in law because she understands dh well, and has been able to work through some rough times with dh's dad. I know she would have our best interests in mind, and trust her not to repeat the things we discuss. With a counselor, I feel like there would be so much history to tell before we can even begin, and having heard some counselor horror stories, I don't even know that I would be very trusting for awhile.

I worry about involving my mother in law in our troubles, but she is already involved enough in our lives that I'm sure she must already be aware that we're struggling. Any thoughts on this?

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Hum, at first I thought it sounded like a bad idea, then it seemed like an ok idea, now, I'm back at it being a bad idea. Although, I do believe there are some really great MIL's that will have everyone's best interest at heart...there is no way she could ever really be objective...that's not to say her objectivity wouldn't favor you; I'm just saying she can't be objective.

Another thing, sex is often part of, or at least discussed, in couseling and I highly doubt either of you would feel comfortable going near that subject with her. Regardless of how much you don't care if she knows your business; it's really not her place. A couple needs to have secrets between themselves that 'could' only be shared with professionals and the like, not relatives that they will see often for the rest of their lives. Last point, it's not really fair to put her in a position that could backfire for everyone. If one of you doesn't like a counselor, you can leave and never look back... what if you mother really says (or doesn't say) something and it really hurts you forever? Can you just write her off? You could be putting her in a possibly no win situation.

I would suggest you go ahead and see a counselor yourself. Or, at least plan a dinner night very often where just your husband and you can get out on your own and 'talk'. Personally, I think counseling is needed in some situtations, where it may be bad or even back fire with other marriage problems. And, of course, finding a good counselor isn't as easy as it should be. If you want to share your specific marriage problems, I would bet some people here may have some suggestions for you. Another thought would be to get some books on the problems you're having. Books may not be able to solve all your problems, but they may have a few points here or there that may help or enlighten you.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 3:21PM
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Go with the counselor (mediator?). Disinterested stranger. If you ever begin this with your MIL you will introduce a new dynamic to the situation that will likely compound everything that's already wrong and will be impossible to recover from.

You used the word "mediator" which can be a legal designation -- usually an alternative to action via the courts. Is that what you meant? I took it to mean more like a counselor but am wary of misinterpreting.

You may learn some useful things if you go alone but without your husband's acknowledgment and participation I am not optimistic about the outcome.

What kind of "differences" are we talking about?

    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 3:22PM
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I'm right there with Carla and Asolo - There's just so much potential for things to get really mucked up. Now if it were just you going to your MIL for advice, that *might* be OK if you and she are both very mature, understanding and forgiving. But for you both to use her as a counselor? That would take a very, very rare individual to be able to pull that off.

If money's one of your big problems, I would suspect that a book could be very helpful. IF you can find a book both you and hubby agree on, and agree to follow that book's advice. I'd suggest one of you go to the public library and leaf through the various books on personal finances. Then have that person choose no fewer than three books where the authors writing style and financial outlook are in sympathy with that spouse. Then bring those books home to the other spouse to choose which of the three the two of you will follow. OR, both go to the library or bookstore and each choose your favorite book. Compare the two approaches and select the best from each author.

On parenting, you can probably find an "expert" to support nearly any approach. What differences are you having there, and how far apart are you?

    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 6:04PM
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Like asking Dr. Kavorkian to take a look at your sore toe...

    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 8:11PM
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freeze -

I would avoid involving the MIL in this. Even if she was "great" at it. It is too risky. No matter how much she loves you, she is still DH's mom. As much as I would not want an MIL to know all my secrets, she can also find out things about her son which can hurt her also.

You seem to like and trust your MIL. She must be a good/nice person. If you mentioned this to her you might be able to enlist her help in getting her son your DH, to go for help. Maybe DH doesn't think he needs help. Phrasing it differently might work better. Example: We are going to acquire skills that will improve our children. We are going to learn how to communicate better with each other in terms of making joint decisions on spending.

You mention having difficulties with (finances/parenting). If money is an obstacle there are less costly ways to go.

Does your town/city have a community service bureau that offers counseling services? If so, and you do not have insurance, they may offer services on a sliding scale. (according to your income).

What about your place of worship? Pastors often counsel (and are certified to do so).

Try checking it out.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 2:11AM
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Yep, I agree with others, don't drag your MIL into your disputes. It would be okay to ask her advice about things, like parenting etc.

But not fair to lay that on her.

Good idea to get some person, who is objective, to observe you both. You need to convince hubbie that it will help you both. He probably thinks he will be blamed for everything.

Let us know what you decide to do.


    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 2:18AM
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OK, I see your point about it not being fair to dump everything on my MIL. It would probably be painful for her to listen to us discuss our problems, and maybe we would tend to overshare. I wouldn't want her to feel that she has chosen sides or been unsupportive of one of us.

And we would not have been discussing sex! that would definitely be awkward! But no problems there. And I wouldn't have considered it if there were any ugly secrets to be revealed (I always thought it was a mistake for dh's cousin to talk about her husband's affair. He seemed sincerely contrite, and wanted to try to work things out, but I think that everyone knowing the details made it harder for her to think of taking him back. Anyway, I digress..)

We have very different parenting styles - he is the authoritative type, and I am firm, but non-confrontational. One of our children is very stubborn, emotional and passive-resistive, and it's dealing with this child that brings out dh and my differences. I love the Love and Logic parenting books by Foster Cline, but that style is the polar opposite of what dh does. Although I asked dh to read these books, which I found very helpful, he just doesn't ever get around to it. I tried to explain/summarize, but even to my ears the message didn't come across as very convincing. I copied a few pages last week, and asked him to just read that much (hoping to pique his interest) but he hasn't got around to that either. I'm not sure how to convince dh to change, but I feel like my love and respect for him slipping away every time I hear him shouting at our son.

And finances - we are not in dire straits, but of course with four kids there is never enough money to buy all that we want. He has a hard time denying himself things he wants to buy, so he's working like crazy (sometimes 100+ hours per week) to make enough to keep us afloat. While I am grateful that he is not a deadbeat, I think we'd be stronger as a family with less money and more time together.

And he probably does feel that he will be blamed for everything. I am so unhappy and frustrated lately, and I can't imagine that he is not unhappy, too. He says that he has no complaints about me (I must be perfect, right??) but I wonder how that can be true. When we talk, he appears to listen, but nothing ever changes, so I feel like he doesn't really value my thoughts and feelings. I think our issues have been around for awhile, but it's just recently that our finances have been tight enough, and our children challenging enough, that I'm really bothered. I was listening to a radio show on the way to work last week, and the host said that sometime it is pointless to try to change your spouse, who probably has had the same habits for years. In that case, he said, it is better to change the way you feel. I just can't imagine feeling good about our relationship the way it is now.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 5:48AM
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The therapist was probably sort of right. It doesn't sound to me that either of you is really doing anything wrong...just that you have different styles of handling things. I actually think it is good in some cases that a husband and wife parent differently. I think if both parents are too strict, the children lack good emotion and if both are too easy, well, that can cause other problems. So instead of trying to be alike in parenting...grasp on the the concept of there being one good guy and one bad guy... or whatever it is you are different in. It's actually sort of good for kids to group up with more than one parenting style. I have to admit I wouldn't want my husband handing me a book of the month about the way he parents and wanting me to follow suite; I'm not him. Granted, if you think your husband is really being abusive or something, that's a whole different matter, but I would guess it just a different parenting style.

With the finances, well, have you worked out a budget? You guys can talk until you're blue in the face about who needs to work to bring in what, but it can really help to see what you are spending what on. He obviosuly would rather bring in more money than spend more time with the family. I think many/most men feel this way; they are brought up to be the supporters and may feel worthless if they can't/aren't able to. So, in reviewing your budget, maybe you both can see some worthless things you are spending money on, or figure a way to cut back where he can still support and not have to work as much. Or maybe you could pick up a side job. I'd have a serious talk to him about wanting him there more if you haven't already.

Bottom line, you have to accept the fact that he doesn't share you opinion on child discipline and how many hours he works. How easy would it be to change your opinion on those matters? Probably not going to happen, right? So, don't expect it to happen with him no matter how much you 'talk' to him, he will probably still have a different outlook than you. Accept that, and either try to work out some compromises (without trying to change opinions) or change the way you are thinking. You probably can't really change the way he thinks so thinking you can, no matter how much you want to, is only going to aggrevate you.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 9:30AM
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Dont drag your in laws into your problems. Because once you have settled your problem, and gone on to the rest of your life, your in laws will have a tough time forgetting.
As far as different parenting styles go--husbands are very different in how they discipline and what they expect of a child. Actually that balance between husband and wife can help a child grow and learn to behave themselves. Have you ever watched some of the kids running around stores or even restaurants these days completely out of control? Their parents feel they are doing a wonderful job and that they have some loving theory of raising kids. They happen to be wrong. I am old enough to have watched the kids of former neighbors grow up--and go into rehab. Those were the parents who would smile & say 4 times "now Bryan don't do that" when the kid was slapping a little playmate hard. Kids don't have more respect for the parent who never yells at them.
My point is--just because Foster Cline published a book doesn't mean the theory is correct. Books on raising kids are a lot like dieting books. There is always a new one which threatens to revolutionize the world.
Most in laws try very hard not to give child rearing advice even when its seriously needed. It is seldom appreciated and never followed.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 9:14PM
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Trust me from experience that this is not a good idea. My hubby has a drinking problem which has and is causing us major problems. I thought that I would ask my in-laws for help. I thought the same thing, they know him and will be able to talk to him, WRONG. Ticked him off because I told them our business and then I became the bad guy. My father-in-law told me that I was the reason that hubby drinks, that I should have been put in my place years ago, and that I should do what I'm told when I'm told. Mom-in-law agreed. They took his side said that I needed counseling to get MY head on straight before I ruined our marriage. I finally told them to forget it that I was asking for help with his drinking problem not for them to point fingers and make accusations. Please if it his parents they will always take the side of their own child and you will get hurt. If you need counseling there are many free clinics that can help you. You need someone that is a third party with no attachments.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 2:35PM
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I have a big problem me and my spouse are all ways fighting,and having major money problems, we just been married 2 years, and i don't know if we continue at this rate we will make it please help part of the problem is he does not like to budget, and i'm just the opposite i'm watching every dime. the next problem his ex- wife and his 2 kids live around the corner and allways begging plus he allready pays child support 600 a month. His pays the house note and a car note,split car insurance and i pay all the bills and food and gas my own cell phone bill ect. but he make way more money then i do. he never have money for anything i allways pay for dinner movies, gas his cell phone he behind on the house note i'm helping him and he's behind on his car note and insurance and don't seem to know were the money is going please help but now all my bills are being affected because i'm helping him i'm ready to leave please help.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 10:16AM
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In case you didn't notice, this thread's 3 1/2 years dead and your post has zero to do with poster's issues.

Start a new thread if you want....hopefully using actual sentences to describe what "help" might look like to you.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 10:38AM
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