I do not get along with my boyfriend’s mother, and it is admittedly obvious. In the past, for the sake of my relationship, I tried to find some way to get along, some thing in common, anything that would at least allow me to talk to her without immediately feeling defensive. Or wanting to walk into another room when her presence is near. Or turning into a crab-ass every time she looks in my direction. The negative reactions list does not end here.
I research constantly to try to find a way to approach the situation. I know I am not alone. There are thousands of results for people who are “trying to get along with their in-laws.” No, she is not my in-law, yet, but I have lived with her son for over a year-and-a-half, and we may soon be moving to another state for his upcoming career. Most of our friends call us “might-as-well-be-married.”
Through my research, I have pinpointed some of the situations that create the tension I can currently feel in my neck. The first situation is the meddling. Dave and I purchased a dog over a year ago and we have worked very hard to train her. We give her plenty of treats, toys, and love, but we also try to give her things in moderation. She is our little baby, and we treat her as if she were our child. In the same scene, Dave’s mom constantly tries to buy her things we do not want her to have because it promotes her destructive habits. We avoid giving Aries soft plastic or fabric toys because she rips them to shreds. Although her habit of doing this has recently waned, it is still prevalent. Also, at a past dog show, we purchased Aries a dog coat for long walks, if we even took any, during the winter. If she is simply going outside to “potty,” she does not need the coat. Her fur is long and she zips around the yard to keep warm. But as soon as the temperature drops near freezing, Dave’s mom wants her to put on her coat. Now, she wants to buy her dog boots. Neither are necessary, but we bought the coat at the dog show because it was cute and I have an incessant need to spend money. She definitely does not need the boots because she will tear them from her feet and rip them apart. We can barely get her to wear bandannas for special events because she tries to bite them, so the boots would surely suffer a worse fate. She does not need the doting, but Dave’s mom constantly worries about it. I admit that I do not ask, but tell her not to buy her the things we do not want her to have because she does not need them or it is not her responsibility. I look like the bad guy and Dave accuses me of being too protective of Aries.
The second situation is a mix of constant anxiety and competition for Dave. Dave’s mom vocalizes zero confidence in her son around me and often around him, too My usual reaction is that of indifference whenever she turns the pitch up in her voice because it means one thing: she wants to hear someone agree with her sentiments that her son is not capable of living on his own. She wants to hear that he needs her. I no longer want to hear the doubt and anxiety. Dave, who is one of the most successful people I know, is about to take an incredible position with a large company. This career offering may be the highest paid position a company offered a student from his university after receiving their MBA. He is incredibly responsible and intelligent, but she only sees him as the child of her memory. She would do just about anything for him, which is not unique among many parents, but sometimes takes the assistance too far. We really will not need her help in decorating our future apartment or house, though she seems to think her advice will be heralded. The scenario brings to mind a scene from “Sex and the City” where Charlotte visits Trey’s home in NYC, only to witness the insane amount of Tartan plaid and Mallard ducks. Of course, Charlotte is appalled. That would be our household if Dave’s mom decorated it, except with Longaberger baskets and chickens. Neither of which I like (Dave appears indifferent). I realize that having one child in life results in a lot of control over that child. All of her attention went into raising Dave, so it must be a tough situation to let go. But, there also comes a time when people need to let go and allow their children to thrive in their own lives. In the past, it only made her angry when I pointed out that her son is will not be her exact reflection (that is a long story over certified mail receipts). The rule of thumb in on chapter of Freaknomics is that how you raise a kid has almost zero correlation to how they will turn out. It should be no surprise that children are rarely the mirror image of their parents habits and personalities.
Her anxiety makes it difficult to want to talk to her. It turns her angry or needy, neither of which anyone in the house likes because the outcome is that she yells at everyone and slams things or she nags Dave or his dad. I cannot decide whether this is a habit brought on by a need for attention or something much deeper. It could be neither, but it could also be both. For me, when I have recognized that I have a problem, such as with my own bouts of depression, I go to a specialist. I visit a doctor or a psychologist, someone that will help me see the end to my problems. If I want to change something about myself, such as eating habits and weight issues, I actively pursue the end goal. I whine and complain about my discomfort for much of the time, but I try, even if the attempt results in failure. I do not know if it disappoints me or angers me more that this is not the same with Dave’s mom.
The biggest problem for me is that I do not want all of the above to plague my relationship with Dave and his family. For the past year, it has. I can see the disappointment with Dave and I know it affects his mother and father. They treat me kindly, much like a daughter they never had, and they provide a lot for Dave and I while he is in graduate school. It is not that I do not appreciate them, it is that I cannot seem to get around the tension I have for his mother, as much as I want to have some sort of working relationship with her. I do not want to feel like I have to retreat to another room. I do not like feeling like a crab all evening. I do not like avoiding conversations with her. But, at the same time, I do not think anyone understands how I feel, and since I do not vocalize these sentiments well and tend to internalize the anger and annoyance, I needed to write it out in hopes of someone having some advice or a similar situation to share.