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Why Do I Still Feel Like My MIL Is Controlling Our Lives? (HELP....PLEASE)

lezparent2gether's picture

This is my first time posting on this site and I am very glad to find a group of people who share similar situations as myself.

(Get comfy, this is a long post!)


I am a 26 year old who married the love of my life in 2016. Our relationship began online and after a year of visits, I made the move from the east coast to Colorado to be with her and her two children. We gradually increased my interactions with the children until we felt comfortable moving into the same home. My wife has no relationship with the BF because of his dependency on drugs and his scattered involvement in the children's lives. My SS (7) has no recolection of his father, besides the information that my MIL has provided (we'll get to that later). My SD (9) has vague memories of him and has been affected by his absence. For example, around Father's Day she always seems a little down, in fact last Father's Day she broke down emotionally and asked my wife, "Why doesn't he love me?"

Before we moved in together, my wife was dependent on her mother finacially. She had always lived under the same roof as her and that translated into the relationships that she had with the children. My wife has told me that she has never felt like a parent to our children, because she felt that her mom always assumed that role. So, when she left the nest to our home, the transition was very sticky. We lived in Colorado a little shy of three years and for the most part things were good. I felt an immense amount of pressure to fill a role that I thought the children needed desperately in their lives, the provider. So, I took the three of them on my shoulders and I was the sole provider for the duration of our time in Colorado. Unfortunately, due to the economic climate and the lack of diversity for our LGBT family, we decided we needed to move.

My wife communicated to my MIL that we would be moving to Virginia a year before our departure date to ensure that she would be able to make the most of the holidays and the rest of the time that we would all be in the same state. She even offered her mother summers with the children (we would cover transportation costs), but that was not enough. Her mom became relentless with hateful social media posts about how my wife was choosing me over their family, she tarnished her name, and bashed her to family members and friends. It became so bad that her mother said I was no longer welcome to visit her home, (which made dropping off the children inconvenient due to having only one car at the time- which I used for work) she cut off communication with my wife and only spoke through my SD (7 at the time), and she threatened to take legal action. I became isolated from the family because her mom wanted to do things with the children like trick-or-treating, sunday dinners, or birthday events- but I couldn't attend to avoid conflict and was left alone for major events and memories.

My wife being a sensitive creature, this really affected her mentally. I suggested that she remove herself from the situation for her own sanity, but that concept was very tough for her. Her initial reasoning was that she needed to remain "friends" with her on Facebook to recieve updates on the children, because her mom refused to talk to her due to our move. For example, while the children were spending the summer with my MIL my SS had a severe asthma attack and instead of my MIL notifying my wife, she posted it on Facebook for everyone to find out when they decided to open the app.

Now that school has begun, the children are out here with us, but my wife still maintains the relationship on Facebook with her mom. She even has the children call her everynight before they go to sleep. Maybe you all won't understand my resistance to this until I finish. The kids don't want to call her, unless of course she is sending them a package in the mail with toys/candy (bribery, her favorite trick). My MIL has always shown favoritism to my SD. She would take both of the children out shopping and my SD would be the only one who was bought anything. She constantly calls her "The Love of Her Life", while she "jokingly" refers to my SS as stinky butt or fat man. She would invite my SD to come over and spend time with her, but that invitation didn't extend to my SS. Due to this behavior, my SS has developed a very poor self esteem and is currently in counseling to try and overcome it.

Beyond the favoritism, my MIL does not use discipline on the children. If they have a temper tantrum, she gives into whatever they are asking for or lets the behavior slide. Whenever they spent the weekend with my MIL, when they returned we would have to re-teach them how to behave and the rules of our house because they were able to get away with murder with grandma. This caused a lot of resentment in our house. When the kids were punished for something, they would immediately exclaim that they wanted to go to grandma's house.....I WONDER WHY?!

A few months before we moved, we noticed that my MIL began trying to corrupt our children. She would bring up their absent father and ensure the children knew that I wasn't their real parent. While this statement is somewhat true, she risked the mental health of our kids to try and put the children against me. She also told our children that when my wife wasn't working, she wasn't a "real mom" even though we were married and I signed up to provide for them. When my wife flew back to Colorado to retrieve the children after summer break was over, she said nothing to her, besides screaming, "I HATE YOU!" and of course the children were visibly upset about it. Now when my SS is being punished, he uses these things as ammunition.

We have been out here in Virginia, as a family, for about a month now and I still feel that my MIL has control over my wife. For example, my wife and I discussed the idea of a cell phone for my SD and we came to the agreement that she was too young for one and that she needs to stop lying about what she does before we can trust her enough with one. Besides the lying we decided that she needed to be overall more responsible before being allowed to have a cellphone. Somehow, my MIL has manipulated my SIL to buy a phone on her plan for my SD. She then told my SD about the phone and now we are the ones who have to continually explain why she cannot have one. It seems like my wife is ready to give into the cellphone rather than what we originally discussed.

I love my wife with all of my heart, but I am starting to feel like my MIL in undermining our marriage and is causing riffs between our family. I have been disrespected too many times by this woman and now there is 3,000 miles in between us, why do I still feel like she is controlling our lives?

Rags's picture

Because she is controlling your lives.  And you and your wife are facilitating it.

All kinds of questions on this one. All summed up by "WTF is your  bride doing serving up her children on a silver platter to the sacrificial alter of her toxic mother?"

No cell phone for a 9yo.  No contact with the toxic GrandHag without direct supervision by you or your bride.  ZERO!!!  If the GrandHag MIL can't be reasonable and comply completely with standards of reasonable behavior that you and your bride set together the she can FO and have ZERO contact with YOUR family.  MIL is not in the circle of trust and has proven herself unworthy.

While I recognize that she supported your bride and the kids prior to your entry into the family her behaviors are unacceptable and she has banished herself by her behavioral choices.

I would not tolerate her crap were I you and I would not tolerate anyone treating my bride that way... or my Skids for that matter.

Buh-bye granny!!!!!

Welcome by the way.  I hope that  you find this to be a good place to vent, contribute and to pick up some useful advice from others who are living the blended family adventure.

Survivingstephell's picture

Your MIL is a very toxic person and is acting like a toxic parent instead of Grandma.  You need to get into couple's therapy and figure out how to help your wife disconnect with her mother.  

You will have to understand the MIL has planted seeds in her daughter to keep her attached for life.  This will not be easy for your wife but if she wants to be free and live life on her terms, she will need to do this.  

If your wife can't imaging a life without her mother involved, then you might want to rethink this long term.  Your MIL will undermine and destroy your marriage and get her "family" back.  

What you are feeling is real and you did not mention that your wife defends you .  That must hurt.  In your wife's mind she will need to choose,  the family she made or  mommy dearest.  Distance is good if you can keep MIL away from the skids.  Research grandparent's right in your state.  Most don't have them but some do.  If she has none, then you can shut MIL down with that knowledge.  

tog redux's picture

Your wife needs to cut the apron strings and stand up to her mother. Yep, hell and fury will rain down on her head, so buckle your seat belt.  No kid needs to talk to their grandmother every day, no wonder they balk at that.

Until your wife realizes she's a grown-up who doesn't have to give in to her mother, this will continue. It's a hard road to get there, though for someone who has a mother like this.  She's been conditioned and programmed to give in and mother will make her pay dearly when she gets a backbone and stands up to her.

Thumper's picture

Because your wife allows it.

She plays victim role..there is a pay off for her somehow, somewhere there is a pay off emotionally for her. Was her ex in jail? CPS involved? OR are the just stories you heard from her?

Do you see a pattern here,I do. This is deeper than the surface.

Exjuliemccoy's picture

Ugh. This is what you get when you choose to get involved with a woman who's never successfully adulted. 

Because your wife has always been codependent with her toxic mother, it's going to take a lot of therapy to get her to the point where she's willing and able to step up and be an independent adult.  Also, you need to be very careful that your wife doesn't look to you to parent her. It's not your responsibility to support her and her children, and frankly it's not good for her mental health that you do so. She needs to be encouraged to make decisions, be a leader, pursue education and a career - all things that make an adult feel fulfilled and are part of being a parent.

It's going to be challenging for you to support her personal growth without indulging or infantilizing her. You sound like you are a bit of a rescuer, so you'll have to exercise self discipline as well as have strong boundaries. Therapy can really help both you and your wife individually and as a unit. Good luck , and please keep posting here.

Siemprematahari's picture

Your MIL and wife lived with the kids for so many years together that it seems now she doesn't know how to let go and allow her daughter to live her life independently. Your MIL has done a great disservice to your wife by not showing her to live and support her children on her own. MIL has control issues and wants your wife to depend on only her. She is undermining everything that you're doing and its very toxic. This woman has manipulated your wife so much that she feels obligated to maintain contact with her. Parent or not, anyone that is toxic should be removed from your life.

Look into therapy for your wife to figure out why she's so dependent on her mother and help heal that dysfunctional cycle.

amyburemt's picture

PAS -Parental alienation syndrome(even though she isn't the parent your MIL is doing this)




I am so sorry you are dealing with this. Your mother in law is a master manipulator and the only way to stop this is for your wife to get emotionally and mentally healthy enough to stop letting her. I think therapy would give her the tools for her to find her confidence to stand up to this woman. As for the facebook bashing etc, that's completely ridiculous. If she's being hateful,block the heck out of her. If she continues to bash you all to the kids and continues to involve the kids and is detrimental to their ongoing mental health I would have a lawyer send a cease and desist letter to her. And if she's completely crazy, an order of protection.

Thumper's picture


In clinical psychology, there is no such thing as “parental alienation.”  The correct clinical psychology term for this pathology is “pathogenic parenting” (patho=pathology; genic=genesis, creation).  Pathogenic parenting is the creation of significant psychopathology in the child as a result of aberrant and distorted parenting practices.

The construct of pathogenic parenting is an established construct in early childhood mental health and attachment-related pathology since the attachment system ONLY dysfunctions in response to pathogenic parenting (the term “pathogenic caregiving” was used in the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for a Reactive Attachment Disorder).

Diagnosis guides treatment:

Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality disorder pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3) in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the parent represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

*taken in part from,

**not all things are Pathogenic Parenting** what op described is nothing near Pathogenic Parenting.

Icy's picture

Because your wife is not remotely financially independent (what I got from your post is that either you or her mother has supported her) she will be highly reluctant to cut those ties. Not only does she feel obligated to mom for caring for all of them, she knows that if you leave her, she will once again have to rely on mom, she does not want to burn that bridge.

I think that your wife would have to probably make some major life changes to get the nerve up to know she does not need mom in her life. Those changes would include getting a job and/or career so that she is no longer dependent,  then she will hopefully have the confidence and finances to back any decisions. 

I think what is more likely to happen is that she continues the codependent weirdness with her mom,  while you suffer through. It may be better with the distance between you, but I think it will continue. Yes she needs to cut ties, yes mom is inappropriate...but it is not up to you, it is up to her. If I were you I would encourage her to take a good, long look at her life, and her dependence on others, and think about going to work or furthering her education with a career in mind. Her kids are old enough and she has your help. Being dependent on others is an awful feeling, I suspect that is behind much of this dysfunction, probably on both of their ends. The mom probably feels entitled to a degree because she was taking care of all of them. 

Kona_California's picture

First, the MIL has control over your wife because your wife depended on her, and is now manipulating her. Now MIL is trying to control and manipulate her kids because that's all she knows. Once she does all this "giving," she expects those who received to be eternally grateful and in her debt so she can make all the demands she wants. And your wife is enabling this.

The fact is, your wife does not know how to be an appropriate partner to you and have healthy boundaries with her mother. You two are MARRIED. You are NOT some shmo she's going on dates with, you are an equil contributor to her children and the shared household so she needs to hold you to a higher level of priority! YOU should be the one your wife makes holiday plans with, and the damn MIL can be told "you can come if you want" and NOT the other way around.

You and your wife need to have a serious talk about how you two will conduct yourselves as partners. Your wife needs to understand that it's you and her as the priority of this family, and you two are the sole decision-makers of your kids. MIL CHOSE to support your wife while she was unable to alone, because she was her mother. But you two do not owe her. 

Once your wife is on the same page as you and makes your shared opinions the top priority, the first thing to do to support this is to remove toxic connections with the MIL. No more Facebook. Either you block her, or you both delete your accounts. There are a million ways to send pictures and Facebook is not necessary. She can email them, and however MIL wants to go off on internet land will be off your radars. 

Next is for your wife to explicitely communicate boundaries to MIL. If MIL is still giving wife money, this should end because she's using it as a tactic to control her. You both should be financially independant so there's no way to be controlled. The next thing wife needs to say "absolutely no more bashing of my wife, no more manipulating, no more demands, otherwise you will not get to see the kids because you are creating a toxic environment for my family." And *when* MIL crosses this boundary, (she will at first because she's not used to boundaries), wife needs to follow through and say "ok. The kids are coming home with me and you will not see them until X date. Say your good-byes and have a good evening." Boom. MIL will realize that she no longer has control and if she wishes to have relationships with her grandkids, she needs to respect your wife and your wife's partner. Period.

I hope this helps. Good luck!