DEAR AMY: After some 40 years of being emotionally bullied by my mother-in-law, my husband and I have drawn the line. We are polite and respectful to her during social gatherings — birthdays, weddings, holidays — but we decided it is in the best interest of our family to plan no more interaction than necessary. My husband checks in with her via phone or text throughout the week. Superficially she presents a gentle front but when we are alone with her, she is brazenly critical of my children and me to our faces. Our son, who struggles with depression, even chose to miss his brother’s wedding because of the anxiety caused by his grandmother’s presence (a choice that both we and his therapist agreed with). As a family, we’ve decided to limit our interaction with her. My new daughter-in-law, however, has not witnessed MIL in action. She only sees her as a grandmotherly woman who heaps much affection on her. I’ve never tried to drag DIL into our drama, but I know for a fact that MIL speaks disparagingly of us to her. I almost feel like they’ve formed an alliance, and it stings that MIL never offered healthy attention or affection toward my other children. I realize I can’t dictate MIL’s or DIL’s friendships, yet their relationship has put a wedge in our relationship with our son and DIL. How do I move forward?
DEAR STUNG: Here’s one way to move forward: With a hearty “woot woot” that you are maintaining a hard-won boundary with someone who mistreats you.
You should consider negotiating this dynamic the way divorced parents do with their children and other family members when they are high-functioning, engaged and appropriate.
You should not criticize your mother-in-law; nor should you allow your daughter-in-law to draw you into any drama (MIL might be pulling her strings). You just maintain a careful, neutral, noncommittal stance. You have not described how your DIL’s relationship with her husband’s grandmother is driving a wedge between all of you, but you should accept and respect the younger couple’s preferences, while also respecting your own.
For instance, if the younger couple prefers to hang with your MIL rather than be with you on a Friday night, tell them, “Sure thing. Enjoy yourselves.” And mean it.
DEAR AMY: Like many young girls, growing up I dreamed of a big wedding. Up until a few months ago, that’s what I thought I wanted. My boyfriend and I have been saving and planning to buy a home together and it is going well. However, he recently proposed and on top of saving for a home we began searching for venues, catering and everything that goes along with a wedding. Now, my dream of owning a home is quickly trumping the desire to have a big, expensive wedding. My fiance and I agree that, in the end, we just want to buy a home and begin married life together, and we’ll be happy if we elope or have a very small ceremony with just our core family members present. My dilemma is that I really want to have a gathering with our family, without the expense of a wedding. Now we are talking about having a big wedding shower before we go off and get married. We’d invite all of our family, have a big barbecue or meal of some sort, play some silly wedding shower games and enjoy our family. I’ve talked to a couple of family members who think inviting people to a wedding shower and not inviting them to a wedding is in poor taste. Is this a bad idea? Am I being selfish or insensitive?
DEAR CONFUSED: Your choice to call this a “wedding shower” makes it sound like what others (unkindly) call a “gift grab.”
Perhaps you should get married quietly — the way you want to — and then invite people to a big potluck party at your new home to celebrate your marriage.
If you want people to give you gifts (it sounds as if you do), you could call this a “housewarming” party and register for household items.
DEAR AMY: I am still laughing at your witty response to the gentleman who wrote to you and managed to “mansplain” to you the concept of “mansplaining.” It. Was. Awesome.
DEAR FAN: Thank you! I’ll be here all week.