Dear Annie: I'm at my wits' end. Yesterday my mother-in-law, "Alice," called my husband, "Gavin," to complain about how I am not nice to her and how she is tired of being pushed around. This is not the first or second or 22nd time that Alice has painted herself as the victim. She has a lot of issues, though she refuses to get counseling, which is why her first marriage fell apart, and most of the time, I just let her vent and try to not let her get to me. I'll play nice and then continue my life with Gavin and our 2-year-old daughter, "Vivian."
Gavin's been on my side through this entire thing, and he's told her many times to stop treating me this way. But I found out that she's been complaining about me to all of Gavin's siblings, too, trying to get them to agree with her on how my parenting style is all wrong and how I'm crazy for thinking she's judgmental.
Rather than let it go, again, I called her out. I let Alice know that if she has a problem, she should speak with me, not my husband or his siblings. She proceeded to attack me for more than an hour -- insulting my family, my parenting, my "secrecy," my work and everything else under the sun. I admitted that I haven't been very open with her about how things are going as Vivian continues to grow and said I will try to fill her in more. Yet she refused to admit that she has been doing anything wrong, saying she must be right because she's a mother of three. Also, she says I'm too sensitive for not being OK with her disparaging my abilities as a mom to my entire family.
I don't even know where to go from here. Annie, how do I resist getting into another argument with my stone wall of a mother-in-law? -- MIL Troubles
Dear MIL Troubles: You're right to want to resist arguing with your mother-in-law again. It would be as foolish as arguing with an actual stone wall. From the sound of it, she had issues long before she met you, and if you weren't around, she'd probably just be taking out her frustrations on somebody else. So accept that she has certain limitations, and try not to take any of this personally. That said, Gavin needs to step up and do all he can to help manage the situation and create healthy boundaries between your family and his mother. You might glean some insights from Susan Forward's "Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage." At the very least, reading it would make you feel less alone.
Dear Annie: Just a brief note about the chatty doctor described by "Enough Chatter." Good doctors can learn a lot about their patients by engaging them in conversation. The patient's tone, responsiveness, speech patterns, attitude, level of comprehension, etc., can often clue the physician in to issues that poking and prodding don't. This is an art that is rapidly fading in our digitized world. Just sayin'. -- Old-Time Doc
Dear Old-Time Doc: Great point, and one I hadn't considered. Thanks for writing, doc.