Question: "I have been dating my boyfriend for three years. For the entirety of the last year, I did not speak to my potential mother-in-law. She has always been very judgmental of me and rude. For example, the first time I went over for a family dinner, she made me move seats at the table three times because the first three chairs belonged to people who weren’t in attendance. She has made me uncomfortable and crossed boundaries our whole relationship. In January 2021, she came over when my boyfriend wasn’t home. We visited and all seemed well. She went to the bathroom and little did I know, she was snooping around my home. She saw a pack of cigarettes in our bedroom. We don’t smoke regularly, but even if we did, it’s our concern. Well, when she found them she screamed at me in my home, called my boyfriend at work and berated him for having cigarettes in our house. This fight lasted a few weeks. Eventually, my boyfriend told her she wasn’t allowed to speak to us that way again.
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Since then, she has manipulated the situation. She now says we think she is “intimidating” and “a monster” and has said on numerous occasions that she does not want to be around me. Fast forward, a few holidays and birthdays have gone by. My boyfriend has gone to a handful of family events, but I am not invited or welcome. And she openly says “only you are invited” to my boyfriend. I would be happy if the rest of my life didn’t include her but it puts such a heavy strain on our relationship. Other than my monster-in-law, things are perfect. Our relationship is amazing, and he is my soulmate. I want to make him happy and not fight with his mother but this doesn’t seem to be my problem to fix? She has never apologized for her behavior and has kicked me out of the family. I just need some advice on how to handle the situation and what to say to her. Or do I not say anything? I want peace and I want my boyfriend to be happy, but I don’t know if I’m willing to jeopardize my happiness to be put in these situations with her again."
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Answer: "I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with such a tumultuous relationship with your boyfriend’s mom. We all react with emotions from time-to-time and may even yell, but to be verbally assaulted in your home over your personal choices is not OK. What makes this situation worse, is that she never apologized and has made herself out to be the victim. It seems your boyfriend’s mom is struggling with losing control over her son, and she definitely seems to be getting satisfaction by separating you from him as much as she can. This is something that your boyfriend shouldn’t let slide.
While your boyfriend did do a great job confronting her after the initial freak out, he hasn’t upheld any boundaries in regards to how she treats you. Excluding you from family events and holidays is her way of showing you she's the leading lady, and your boyfriend continuing to attend despite you being snubbed is essentially reinforcing her bad behavior. You see a future with this person. Is this something you’d want to deal with for years to come? What happens if you have children. Will he take the kids and go to holiday celebrations at grandma’s house without you?
The holidays are coming up soon, and I think it’s time to address this issue. Your boyfriend needs to take a stand and say you’re a package deal or he won’t be attending.
I know you don’t want to sacrifice your happiness to be around her, but at the end of the day this is your partner's mom. It’s apparent that your boyfriend has no intention of cutting her off, and so she’s going to be in your life.
This conflict isn’t sustainable for your relationship, and it’s already causing strain, so really sitting down and having a conversation about how the two of you will proceed is going to be necessary. I usually recommend letting partners handle their own family, but it may be time for a family meeting in your case or attending some family therapy together. In the meantime, look into positive coping strategies when you’re triggered by her. Have you heard of gray rocking? You can learn more about it here.
People like your boyfriend’s mom sometimes create this havoc for their own satisfaction, so don’t give her any.
Wishing you the best,
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Morgan Absher is an occupational therapist in Los Angeles who hosts the podcast, "Two Hot Takes" where she and her co-hosts dish out advice. She writes a weekly column, sharing her advice with USA TODAY's readers. Find her on TikTok @twohottakes and YouTube here. You can reach her by email at Mabsher@gannett.com or you can click here to share your story with her.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Boyfriend's toxic mother has banned me from the family. I need advice!