Critical Mom

2 Oct

Dear LetterBalm: When my wife-to-be introduced me to her mother, she told my fiancée she shouldn’t marry me because she’d be marrying down. Despite that, we married and have been happy and successful. We both have good careers, and our two great kids are thriving in their own lives. We count our blessings – no thanks to my mother-in-law and her steady, pernicious criticism of our marriage. We spend a lot of time with our parents and have given money to my mother-in-law. Last summer, we took both mothers on a river cruise in Europe and bought them nice gifts. My wife’s mother complained to her that I was being ostentatious. Nothing I do is good enough, and she’s liberal with her sarcastic remarks. I’m pretty good at ignoring her (besides I’d just make it worse if I spoke up). But all this is taking its toll on my wife. She’s a good person, and she’s worn down by the judgment. After so many years of this, what can I say to help her?

–Supportive Hubby

It’s a good bet your marriage is a happy one because you and your wife are supportive of each other and concerned for your happiness as a couple. Ms. L.B. doesn’t have much to add except a good family counselor to help your wife deal with her toxic mother (and figure out whether or not to confront her). Continue to give your mate loving pep talks, get away for private time together as a couple and take family vacations without the grandparents. Bear in mind that your mother-in-law is financially strapped and probably jealous of the good life her daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren have. She won’t break stride to become kinder and gentler. Talk to your wife thusly:

Nina, I know you get so down about your mother. She’s a tough cookie, and I’d understand if you lose it sometimes. I know it’s hard to do this, but don’t let her comments get to you. Your mother will never change – I think some of it has to do with the fact that she is jealous of our marriage and financial stability. If you think it would help, I’m willing to go to couples counseling with you so we can deal with this better. I hope you always know that I love you, honey, and I’m happy we’re together, even with your mother in the picture.

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