Dear Annie: I have been married to “Barry” for 20 years. Even though we live several hours from his mother, she controls many of our family’s decisions.
My mother-in-law is our only living parent. I have tried many times to please her, without success. I often have the family over to our home and invite them to our summer cottage. I plan outings and shop for gifts. She doesn’t drive, so I take her to the grocery and wherever else she needs to go. But in her eyes, I cannot do anything right.
Barry jumps when she asks him to do anything. She has always been his “boss” in terms of what he does, how he does it and when he does it. And she is his confidante when it comes to our marriage, which does not help.
For the past several years, Barry has been very uninterested in me. He’s angry all the time and blames me for everything that goes wrong in his life. I’ve been to counseling, but Barry (and his mother) feels this is nonsense and says there must be something wrong with me.
I have been an outsider in Barry’s family for my entire marriage and see no hope of changing it. Where do I go from here? Is divorce my only answer? I truly love my husband, but I don’t like our life with his family, and he is unwilling to make changes. – Sad in the North
Dear Sad: Your mother-in-law sounds difficult, but your real problem is Barry. If he would back you up, it would give you an opportunity to change the dynamics within the relationship. But his family doesn’t show you respect because Barry doesn’t demand it. And while his family deserves his consideration, as well, it shouldn’t come at your expense.
Tell Barry that your marriage is in serious trouble, not only because of the way his family treats you, but because he is angry and uninterested. If he refuses to go for counseling, go back on your own and figure out what’s best for you.