Mother-in-Law from hell

It took me a while to find the right man.  Tom is younger than me but doesn’t seem to mind.  He’s also seems to have totally accepted that at 38 my body clock is ticking fast. 

We are living together and he wants us to marry before we try for a baby.  My parents and brother like him and we both earn well, so there is no reason why we shouldn’t.  But there is one looming dark cloud, and that is his mother.


She is a nightmare.   She obviously wants to stay as the most important woman in his life and gives the impression I am a thief who wants to take him away from her.   I’ve met her three times so far, but, apart from telling me how wonderful Tom is, which I agree, on each occasion she's said  "only a very special woman" would be good enough to be his wife.   I’ve got the message that she doesn't believe I am that person.  Otherwise she largely ignores me and just talks to Tom.    

She won’t engage with anything to do with the wedding, or even meet my parents.  Tom has worked hard to persuade her to be part of a get together.  She’s twice said she will come and see them, then cancels at the last minute with really feeble excuses. 

When I’ve asked him about their relationship he says he feels sorry for her because she is a widow and believesshe is lonely.  He rings her twice a day and visits her two or three times a week, on his own.  That is obviously not enough for her as she keeps ringing to tell him  all sorts of things are not working in her flat and that only he can fix them.    

I’m rather fed up that he won’t take a stand or make me his priority.  He says it will all change after we marry, but will it?  I don’t know how I will take a mother-in-law from hell.

A selfish, self-obsessed mother-in-law can make married life very difficult.   Tom needs to take a step back and see his mother’s behaviour for what it is.  A way to keep him under control and fight off anyone who seems a threat.  The manipulation is so powerful that many sons in this position don’t commit themselves to a permanent relationship until after their mother’s death.

Tom sounds like a responsible supportive son and feels that since widowhood his mother is more isolated and dependent on him. This is kind but misguided.  His mother needs to develop a life for herself.  Don’t nag him or criticise his mother.  He may jump to her defence as he has probably been under her thumb for a long time. Instead speak to him honestly about how you feeland ask what changes he feels he can make.  These should start before your marriage.  You don’t need to go through a ceremony for them to happen. 

Meanwhile try in a sympathetic way to help him sort through how he can support both you and his mother. Perhaps help her build up a list of reliable workmen who can fix things for her.  And find a new hobby.  It is probably going to be a slow process so give him time to develop his ideas.

On the other hand he may accept his responsibility to you and loosen his ties to his mother, especially once he becomes a father. Talk things through with your own parents, if you get on well with them,  for their advice and support.