Dear Annie: My husband and his brother, “Sam,” are both in their 50s. My mother-in-law thinks Sam is “the golden child.” He and his wife receive the best gifts, and we get whatever trash she can put her hands on. She gives my sister-in-law all the best jewelry, and I get cheap junk.
I don’t know what to say to her when she does these things. My main concern is how it makes my husband feel. When he tries to visit, she tells him not to bother, that she doesn’t need to see him. But when Sam visits, she runs out and gets her hair and nails done and stocks the house with all of his favorite things.
My husband deals with it by lowering his expectations, but I find it more difficult to handle. We will no longer spend holidays with his family, because our last Christmas was so painful. My sister-in-law received enough sapphires and diamonds for a ring, bracelet and earrings. I got a used mood ring. She gave each of her sons a family memento, but she told my husband he could only look at his and then needed to give it to his brother.
I think she has a sick obsession with my brother-in-law, and of course, he doesn’t see the problem. My husband has told her he doesn’t appreciate how she treats us, but she doesn’t care. She has also made it clear that she’d like my husband to get back together with his ex-wife. (That will never happen.)
I don’t care if I never see my in-laws again, but I want my husband to feel loved by his mother. Is there anything I can say or do to make her understand how hurtful her behavior is? – Sad Wife
Dear Wife: Probably not. As much as it hurts, you need to let your husband handle this as he chooses. The best you can do is be supportive. Don’t harp on how unfair and unloving Mom is. That will only add to his pain. Instead, show him how much he is loved in his own home, and treat the rest with as light a touch as possible.