What Can My MIL Be Thinking?

Question: Dear Luise: I am so happy that I found your website and hope you can give me some guidance. My problem is my MIL is extremely disloyal to her son and myself with his ex. For some years our way of dealing with this was to ignore it.  Then we moved to discussing it with her. At that point she began lying and betraying us behind our back. In the beginning, when we got engaged, we invited MIL to come live with us and felt good about it. Then she began doing things like bringing the ex into our home when we weren’t there and telling her private information about us.   The ex has a long history of bringing lawsuits against my husband to try and cause us trouble. Recently my stepson came to live with us. He is going on 18. The ex filed yet another lawsuit against my husband claiming falsehoods. We are not worried about the court outcome. What bothers me greatly is that even with yet another attack against her son, (whom she claims to love) my MIL had the audacity to spend the Christmas holiday with the ex!  Note that the children do not live with the ex.  What is going on in her mind?  How can a mother be this disloyal and such a back-stabber to her own child? I honestly don’t understand it. Our reaction to these betrayals was we made her leave our home and have limited our exposure and contact to her. Now she is complaining that we don’t talk to her or go around her enough. Why doesn’t she understand how much she continues to hurt her son by her actions? J.

Answer: Dear J.: This has to be tough for everyone involved and it isn’t easy to unravel, as you know. My Web-forum, www.motherinlawsunite.com may help. We look at both sides of these tough issues between parents and adult children.

Your MIL’s friendship with your husband’s ex is something that apparently matters a great deal to her. That’s her business. If she wants to spend Christmas with “that person,” that’s her business, too. She seems to be able to watch lawsuit after lawsuit be initiated against her own son and still revere the person who is plaguing him. However, her continued friendship with his ex is none of your business.

Conversely, when she accepted your offer to live in your home, she invaded your privacy by inviting the ex over and discussing you with her. How else could that be experienced except as betrayal? Your home is most definitely your business. Ground rules would have helped when she moved in. Without them, she probably assumed that since it was her home, too, she could proceed accordingly and invite anyone in that she chose…and you may have assumed that she would respect you and keep her friendship with the ex off the premises. Assumptions can be deadly.

You did the only thing you could do, in rescinding your offer of co-existence. Good for you. Beyond that, what is going on in her mind and what she bases her loyalties on is probably going to remain forever a mystery. Also, her picture of how continued warmth and closeness should look is pretty unrealistic. That can’t be dictated. In the meantime, I think you are seeking logic where you probably are never going to find it. Best to give it up and let it go. Blessings, Luise

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