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Carolyn Hax: How to stay married yet avoid mother-in-law

Carolyn Hax is away. In her absence, we are offering columns from her archive.

DEAR CAROLYN: I have been happily married for three years. Because we live 30 minutes from my in-laws, we see them pretty much every week.

The problem is my mother-in-law. In addition to her frequently imposing her will on us (e.g., enlisting someone to build steps off our deck when we had no interest in doing so), she shares intimate, and almost always negative, info about her relatives and friends. Friend A doesn’t know how to raise her kids; Uncle B is a cheapskate, etc.

My husband understands my discomfort, and has occasionally made excuses for us to not see his parents. But it’s gotten to the point where I find his mother’s presence suffocating. Do I have to make up excuses for not seeing them for the rest of my life, or is there a better solution?

Jersey Girl

DEAR JERSEY: Sometimes, for difficult emotional situations, it can help to be nakedly practical.

Your husband knows you dislike his mom. You know he wants to see Mom regularly. She’s your tormentor; she’s his mommy. Both of these warrant respect.

And both of you, then, need to figure out how infrequently and how frequently, respectively, you can bear seeing her.

Is he willing not only to see Mom mostly solo, but also to stick up for you under the inevitable pressure he gets from his mom for your absence? Are you ready to incur and endure her wrath, smiling?

This really is less an in-law problem than a potential marital problem. You two agree, you’ll get through this; you don’t, you won’t – not unless you’re cool with lifelong excuses (her life, not yours).

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