Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Time to let mother-in-law know marriage sabotage must stop
Wilmington, Del.: My mother-in-law doesn't like me because she thinks her son married me too young. This may be true, but it was his idea, and five years and three kids later, we are still doing really well.
She has always thought of me as a "starter wife." She thinks my husband will eventually come to his senses, leave me and our kids, go back to school, and marry someone better in his 30s. She talks about this openly with my husband, who vents about it to me.
I think those suggestions are positively toxic to our family, and it drives me crazy to know he can't just tune her out because she's his mother. I can't control my husband's behavior, but is there anything I should do?
Carolyn: Can you talk to your mother-in-law? "I'm here. I love your son. I love your grandchildren, and I want them to grow up in an intact home. For all of this, I would love to have your support. But if you don't feel you can support us, then I hope you at least will have the courage and decency not to undermine us. Your objections have been heard, and there's no need to repeat them anymore."
You'd need your husband to know you're doing this, but, otherwise, it's your family and it's your right to stand up in its defense.
Now, the whole "go back to school" thing got my attention.
If your mother-in-law thinks her son was destined for greatness, and blames you for his falling short, then you have to deal with that — or, more appropriately, her son has to — if you ever hope to get Mama off your family's back.
She probably won't listen to your brave opening speech anyway; the purpose isn't to convert her, it's to stand up for yourself. However, she's all but guaranteed to tune you out if she thinks you and the babies are the reason he doesn't have a degree.
If he never wanted to go to college, anyway, and if he's hiding from her by letting her blame you, then you've been set up.
If, instead, he did drop out in part because he found you, then he still needs to make it clear to his mother that you aren't the one who kept him out of college — he did that himself, because he did.
Or, if dropping out bugs him as it does his mother (one reason he can't tune her out, perhaps?), then that's something you and he need to talk about and, ideally, start planning to fix.
Regardless of the way he got on this path, he owes it to you — and, more important, to himself — to stand up to his mom and own his choice. You can't make him do that, but you can ask.
Anonymous: Re: Wilmington: Would it be possible for her to show her obviously strong character by having a chat with her mother-in-law about how they both want to see the husband/son (and his family) succeed in life?
She could take a stab at showing they share similar goals, even if they think there are different routes to getting there.
Carolyn: I like it, thanks.
It would make Wilmington harder for the mother-in-law to vilify.