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Ask Dr. SchwartzAsk Dr. Schwartz:
Psychotherapy and Mental Health questions

Crazy Mother In Law Ruining Our Mental Health and Relationship

Mon, Apr 9th 2012

I met my bf just over 2 years ago, and our relationship has been mostly great, except for his nutty mother who is truly destroying our relationship and his mental health.

I first noticed that there was a major issue about 6 months into dating. My bf was constantly mediating his parents awful fights and having to go over to their home (regardless of what we were doing) to calm the situation down. His mother would then stop fighting with her husband and start in on him. These fights could last for days or up to a week. She has no respect for personal boundaries whatsoever, and when my BF bought his first home, she loaned him a large sum of money for the down payment. She used that financial loan as a way to control and constantly threatened to take his condo away if he did not do exactly as she asked.

She is extremely verbally abusive as well and constantly tells him what an awful son he is, and accuses him of not loving her and criticizes his weight (he needs to lose maybe 15lbs to be healthier, by no means obese). When he tried to pay her back the loan, she would refuse and calm down until the next big blow out (at this time, this was happening every 4-5 weeks). My bf’s dad passed away suddenly last year and at the same time, his sister was diagnosed with terminal cancer. After this, she went completely over the deep end. She started to hate me openly, and called me whore and slut behind my back.

She became extremely needy and controlling over her son and now visits every week and sleeps over for 2 days at a time. She comes over without asking permission and if you say it is not a bad time, she will get very angry and verbally abusive. She was this prior to her husbands death, but these tragedies have escalated her awful behaviour. I might also mention that she has absolutely no personal friendships and her daughter lives in another country. Her expectation is that her son play husband to her and if he resists, she throws a terrible fit. She talked my bf into letting her pay off his mortgage for him so he could make payments to her so she would have monthly income. This was a huge mistake as now she has demanded that he sign over his condo to her because he refused to break up with me. He signed it over to her and she expects him to pay her overly high rent every month. She leant him $350k (demanded that he take the money really) and the condo is worth aprox. $500k. He let her have it all despite that his own money has gone into the renovation and that he has been paying the mortgage for 5 years. She then took him out of her will.

The kicker is, the relationship is still the same and he still allows her control over his life, even after taking everything away from him. His sister is dying of a rare cancer, and every time my bf does not do what his mom wants, she calls her dying daughter to enlist her help in getting her way. It could be as simple as him not inviting her out to dinner after an appointment, and that is enough to set her off. His sister now does not speak to him as she thinks he is being a bad son, even though he does everything he can.

This past November, I had a routine surgery that ended up being more serious than thought. I had initially asked my bf to care for me after surgery, but he was starting a new job that week, so I asked my mom to come and get me to take me to her home 2 hrs away. My doctor did not want me to travel that long and said I had to stay in the city for 4 days after surgery to recover and to be close to him if there was any complication. My mother and I both stayed one night with him, but he asked us to leave because he was too afraid to tell his mother that she could not come. I was totally crushed. This was the first time I really needed him, and he was more worried about his mother’s reaction than anything else.

I almost ended the relationship there, but something held me back from doing it. A few months ago, I ended up having a big blow out with his mom. My bf canceled a weekend plan because his mom insisted on coming over (she knows I am there on weekends, so conveniently tries to come over so I cannot). We had a huge fight over it, but we decided to make the best of it and I offered to cook her dinner. She agreed. I asked my bf to tell her to come over at 4pm so we could clean and do the shopping. She showed up at 1pm crying and screaming that she should not be told what time she can or cant come over. I lost it and had a huge fight with her. I told her I thought her behaviour was awful and that no loving mother treats her child that way, especially when she needs him to every thing for her. The woman cant even put her own gas in the car! The fight was terrible.

My bf had generalized anxiety, psoriasis and now he becoming more and more paranoid. He is afraid that she will show up at home or work, and each time they fight, he freaks out that she is going to show up and walk in (she has a key of course). He also thinks people are talking behind his back, or that security guards are monitoring him and sending notes to his boss. He has irrational fears about everything! All of this stress has finally gotten the better of me. There is little time to recover from one awful weekend of fighting before the next fight starts.

I can’t seem to get my bearings back before the next fight starts. My bf talks of dying all of the time, and that he cant take her behaviour anymore, but won’t set boundaries. He calls it his curse and thinks he some how deserves this treatment and that he owes her everything because she did so much for him financially (he gave it all back, but doesn’t matter)

He has finally agreed to go to a psychotherapist, but I don’t know how much more I can take. Now I am angry all the time, and am having a hard time letting past events go. I think about her and her awfulness constantly and feel so mad at my bf for continually accepting this behaviour from her. She has him so manipulated and controlled! He once answered her call during sex! I want to support him in this, but I can’t seem to stop crying and being angry about the situation. Now I am taking it out on him, and cry and argue about it all the time.

I want to be nicer to him, but I still feel so hurt and mad about this. I hate this woman, and he feels like its his duty to make her happy (impossible) at all costs. I get mad that he does not see it my way, which I know is unreasonable. I am trying to evaluate this man as life partner, but I expect to be number 1 to him as he is to me.

Can we work through this? How can I support him without being so upset all the time? Am I right to be angry? Sorry for the long winded story. There is so much, I could probably write a book!

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