Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand - Talk About Marriage
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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 12:21 AM Thread Starter
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Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand

Hi everyone,

This is my first post here, but I'm afraid I have to introduce myself with a heavy topic... I've read many related posts on this forum about wife-mother conflicts, but still could really use some advice for my own situation.

My wife and I have been married for 4 years, and during that time she and my mother have never really gotten along. But recently it's gotten worse, as family visits are constantly tense and quickly reach the point where everything one person says is interpreted as an insult by the other. Until now my wife and I have gotten along very well, but this is starting to affect our marriage. We also now have a one-year-old child with a second on the way, so that makes me even more worried about how this will turn out.

My wife's biggest compliant is that my mother is constantly talking. She comes from a culture where people wear their emotions on their sleeves, while my wife is from Asia and more reserved. On top of that, my mother has a habit of offering opinions on whatever my wife does. In her view it's friendly advice, but my wife feels like she is frequently being criticized/nagged. Before long she snaps and says something that my mother considers rude.

On my parent's side, part of their problem with my wife is that they don't completely trust her. When my wife talks about her family and culture, it often contradicts my parents' (largely inaccurate) stereotypes. The biggest issue was that for a long time my wife's parents were mad that she was dating me (a non-Asian), but my parents couldn't understand or fully believe this. To make things worse, my mother talked to an Asian co-worker (from a different country) who said my wife was not being honest. In the end my wife was proven right, but still she can't seem to get the benefit of the doubt.

The other part of the problem is that recently my parents have become very sensitive to any criticism. When I explain that my wife is upset about something, they react as if I'm attacking them. I'm starting to think that deep down they're scared about possibly losing access to their grandchildren.

During the last visit, my wife and mother had another fight, and afterward my parents called me to a meeting to explain why they're upset. I tried to defend my wife and told my parents they must stop criticizing her. Yet, my wife is furious because she feels they were complaining to me behind her back.

Now my wife and I disagree on how to proceed. I really want to find a way for everyone to tolerate each other, for my children's sake. My proposal is that wife treat my mother politely, and otherwise avoid interaction as much as possible. But my wife feels I'm asking her to act submissive. Instead, she wants me to confront my mother and tell her to stop nagging. She also said that unless my mother changes (which seems unlikely to me), then it will be too stressful for her to have my parents around after the new baby is born. I really want to support my wife, but I'm also worried about where this approach might lead. At the same time, she feels that I'm spending too much time trying to manage both sides, and should instead just support her.

By the way, in our case keeping visits short isn't an option; we currently live overseas so it's not feasible for my parents to come for just a few days.

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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 12:25 AM
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Re: Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand

She's right. You're wrong. Time to cut the cord, man up and put your mama in her place.
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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 02:04 AM
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Re: Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand

Yeah, your mom needs to back off. Did they ever apologize for wrongly mistrusting your wife?
You need to 100% be on your wife's side during this stressful time with new babies and all. You guys are a family unit now, your parents need to respect that. Your wife is not your mom's child to correct.
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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 02:27 AM
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Re: Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand

I've been in your situation. Every woman I've had a relationship with has has a very difficult time interacting with my mom. Same with all the women my brother has been in a relationship with. But the thing is it's always been difficult for me to see the cause for any feelings of conflict. My mother is very conflict avoidant (diplomatic) and my personality fell close to the tree, so when my partner's have accused my mom of attacking them I really don't understand how, which makes me automatically the bad guy for not picking sides, and when I explain that I do not understand and will not pick a side, or worse I suggest there is a misunderstanding, I am then accused of hurting my spouse. The thing is I'm not even really that close to my mom, we talk weekly over the phone but I haven't even lived within 1000 miles of my parents in 20 years, so it is very frustrating for me when my partners have this defensive attitude for the 4 or 5 days every year or every other year I get a chance to visit my parents. I wish my partners would just suck it up sometimes and realize my mother is not the same as their mother and that there is absolutely no threat from her, she has so little influence on my life anymore, and what influence my mom had on me is a large part of who I am now , which makes me question if my partner even understands who I am? It's a stupid no win situation, and I refuse to take sides particularly if I'm supposed to do like everyone on here suggests and just take my wife's side no matter if it means me having to treat my mother unfairly and unkindly.

So I'm not sure I can advise you, just sympathizing for the position you are in and have very little you can actually do about.
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Last edited by Lon; 09-24-2016 at 02:31 AM.
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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 04:19 AM
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Re: Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand

You won't be able to make everyone happy or at peace. At best, you'll just get all of them even more p'ed O with you the more you try to fix other people's problems.

You married your wife, not your mom.

Regardless of perceived FOO issues, you have said yourself your wife has been correct. Yet you're still listening to your parents tell you they're butthurt. TOO BAD.

Just because they're your parents, does not automatically give them a free pass to do whatever they want in your marriage, that includes giving empty advice to your wife and avoiding apology when it's due.

The best thing you can do is stand by the choice you already made, which is your wife. Right now she's likely feeling like second best, when she's already carried one and is carrying a second of your children. It's not a nice feeling when you're pregnant. It's not a nice feeling in a marriage.

You need to make a CHOICE and stand by it.

"If you deliberately plan on being less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you'll be unhappy for the rest of your life."

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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 06:23 AM
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Re: Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand

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Originally Posted by mattsull13 View Post
my mother has a habit of offering opinions on whatever my wife does. In her view it's friendly advice, but my wife feels like she is frequently being criticized/nagged.
Question is why you allow you mama to do this. They don't get along, it's not friendly advice at all, it's passive aggressive button pushing.

Look you're all adults acting like kids. Snide comments back and forth, using you, mainly as a shield/buffer in this argument.

This is a situation where there has to be some brutal truths laid down or just stop the visits and keep the two parties separated.
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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 07:52 AM
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Re: Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand

Your mother and wife remind me of a story I read a long time ago:

A man was constantly being nagged by his mother and his wife. His wife and mother hate each other with a passion. The only thing they have in common is the love for the man. The man tries everything to help but nothing works. One day, he bought a knife and came to his wife and pretend to be very angry "I AM SO TIRED OF MY F*ING MOTHER, SHE DRIVES ME CRAZY, SHE DRIVES YOU CRAZY, I WILL KILL HER!. DO YOU AGREE?". The wife got scared and told her husband to calm down and tried to explain to him that his mother is not that bad. He finally calmed down and promised not to do anything crazy. The man then came to his mother and acted the same "I AM SO TIRED OF MY WIFE, SHE ALWAYS MAKES YOU MAD, I WILL KILL HER!". The mom got scared too and told him that his wife seems like a good person. His mother and wife have gotten along very well ever since.

You have to talk to your mother but find words carefully to try to not hurt her. You can let your wife knows that you agree with her and think your mother is wrong, but you cannot choose who to be your mother. Tell your wife how hurt you feel when you have to see the conflicts between two women you love so much. Your wife has babies so she understands the mother's love for a child, it might not always be right but it's her way of loving her son and apologize to your wife and hopes your wife will forgive your mother. I am sure she will understand your point. My mother and my sister in law hate each other! My sister in law was being very rude and disrespectful to my mother, but my mother tolerates her and forgives her because she loves the grandchildren so much and she does not like to put my brother in a difficult position. You can use your children to help the relationship between your mother and your wife. Your mother will back out if she knows her actions and "advices" will eventually take away her access to the grand babies.

I cannot imagine how hard you must feel to be in between the two women you love. I hope the situation will be better. My mother in law is my best friend. I cannot bear the thought of losing her someday due to old age's diseases. It takes me over 8 years to learn about my MIL and love her as my own mother (I used to be so stressed and uncomfortable around her because she is bossy, but she has at the heart of gold that only time would prove). Just give your wife time. Good luck!
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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 11:51 AM
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Re: Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand

Stand up to your parents, don't be a wuss.

Tell them what will and will not be tolerated going forward and hold them to it.

Or, be a wuss and probably lose your wife.
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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 02:29 PM
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Re: Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand

Kindly inform your mom that unsolicited advice is unwanted advice. It can be perceived as criticism. Perhaps your wife can think of something that she can ask your mom for advice on just to warm the c0ckles of her heart. You might be able to get them to call a truce.

Last edited by Blondilocks; 09-24-2016 at 02:31 PM. Reason: bad language
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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 02:40 PM
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Re: Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand

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Originally Posted by WorkingOnMe View Post
She's right. You're wrong. Time to cut the cord, man up and put your mama in her place.


I agree fully. And do tell your parents they are risking reduced access to the grandkids.

Yes they are criticizing your wife.

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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 03:17 PM
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Re: Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand

I have a SIL like your mother. It took quite a few years of reinforced "I won't tolerate that behavior" to put her in her place.

When she gets passive aggressive (in the past) I've always been direct myself with "I'm not having this conversation with you, thank you" or straight up "not interested in your opinion", "I won't tolerate your behavior".

Finally after a few years she got the hint. It takes repetition for a bit but playing pass the bean dip eventually makes the behavior change or stop. We are very civil and tolerate each other in small amounts (once or twice a year family trips). These days she damn well knows without me having to say so that I won't tolerate bad behavior, unsolicited advice or bad attitudes. I also won't tolerate her incessant need to control every aspect of family get togethers or trips. I'll just go do whatever it is I wanted to do with my family. Be damned if I'm going to be told what to do and what not to do.

She's also a hysterionic narcissist. Loves drama, loves creating it. I'm not a drama type personality either. I deplore it.

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post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-24-2016, 05:09 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand

Thanks everyone for the advice so far. I really appreciate it.

@candle100: That story really gave me a laugh, not that I would try it myself. But to your broader point, I do still hope that there is some way to create a positive atmosphere that can slowly build into a functional relationship.

@CantePe: I think the situation got where it is partly because I didn't do enough reinforcing. When my mother complained to me in the past, I tried to argue in support of my wife. As you point out, I should have repeatedly said that I will not even listen to such things. However I've just recently started that approach, so I am years behind.

I recognize that I've been doing things wrong and need to better stand up for my wife. However, when it comes to cutting your parents out of your life, I do feel that is not something to be taken lightly. To me it's a last resort when nothing else can save the marriage.

My situation is not yet at that point (my wife agrees on this), but it's toxic enough that making threats to stop visits could quickly escalate. No matter how I put it, my parents would probably blame my wife for any such threat, and that would just increase resentment more.

What I'm trying to do is create a bit of positive momentum (e.g., a visit without a serious fight) because then everyone would calm down a bit, and it might be easier to tell my parents what they're doing wrong without it being perceived as a threat from my wife. Also, a bit more time would let me establish that I won't tolerate hearing any complaining.

Do you think this is the wrong idea? Any other advice on how to support my wife/stand up to my parents without going down the road to blocking visits?
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post #13 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-29-2016, 07:11 AM
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Re: Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand

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Originally Posted by candle100 View Post
The man then came to his mother and acted the same "I AM SO TIRED OF MY WIFE, SHE ALWAYS MAKES YOU MAD, I WILL KILL HER!".
If my husband went to his mother as above, she'd get excited and say "Do it!! Yes yes!!". She hates me

But seriously OP, as stressful as it is for you (my husband is in your position) imagine how it feels for your wife? For me, I've cut contact with my inlaws - I simply refuse to spend a minute of my precious time, with people who hate my guts and have accused me of despicable things to my husband.

My husband used to see them very rarely - his choice. He's decided for the moment, that he'd prefer to keep their relationship to phone calls and texts, because it's just too stressful for him.

I don't know what the answer is...but I do feel for both you and your wife.

You really need to tell your mother to keep her "advice" to herself.
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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-29-2016, 07:46 AM
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Re: Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand

All I can say is that as a wife, fathers in law can sometimes be much easier to get along with.
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post #15 of 23 (permalink) Old 09-29-2016, 08:06 AM
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Re: Conflict between wife and mother getting out of hand

Let your wife and mother figure out their own relationship. You want to find some way to make everything OK between them to make you feel better. It won't happen.

You don't want to choose sides but your wife won't allow you to ride the fence forever. Make your decision. Someone will be pissed. No escaping that. Your chance to affect this disappeared when you married a woman that you already knew would have conflict with your mother. If you choose to jump in the pool, you're getting wet no matter what you try to do to prevent it.
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