DEAR AMY: My partner's mother is a very unreasonable person. She is very hard on her daughter. No matter what my partner does, she is not supportive and always criticizes her. Lately, she has given us a lot of ultimatums. The first one was because we were planning to adopt two cats to be companions for our little dog. We were told that if we got the cats, she would not come to the house for a visit. For Thanksgiving, we have invited friends to share the meal with us. My "mother-in-law" said that if we invited anybody for Thanksgiving, she would not come. Now the latest ultimatum is that if I invite any of my family over for dinner on Christmas, she will not come. I know this has been hurting my partner. She wants her mother to be with us for Christmas. Now my partner's mother is telling me that I have to make a decision as to whether I see my family for Christmas or I see her. My partner agrees that I should have my family for Christmas, but this is painful for her. How do I deal with this? What do I say to my mother-in-law? Help! Powerless PartnerDEAR PARTNER: Your partner's mother can lay down whatever ultimatums she likes, but you should know that this is a pathetic and mad grab for power and control. If you give in, the family terrorist wins.
You and your partner should do your best to run a peaceful, happy home with your pets, friends and family. I like the idea of continuing to invite your partner's mother to join you for holidays, but she doesn't get to control the pet count or guest list. It's that simple.
This behavior is designed to divide and conquer. Don't let this happen. If you give in to one unreasonable demand, you will encourage her to demand more. You and your partner should stay on the same page. You should always be respectful and kind to her, while working hard to maintain your own sense of calm. She will have to adjust to this, and if you stay firm she might come around.