No brainer on this one - but it will be amusing if someone advocates that LW should try to bond with said annoying alcoholic future mother-in-law.


Time for a new abbreviation: DTMA (for the fiancé, of course).


Her fiancé also should get some therapy to learn some boundry lessons. His mom is manipulating him and doing everything she can to drive away everyone else in his life. The sooner he sees this, the better off he will be. Mom is emotionally abusive and even if he is her sole caregiver, that cannot be allowed to continue. He needs to learn to recognize the signs, and have the emotional tools to protect himself.


If future MIL refers to LW by those names, LW should have left the second time her fiance did not say STOP. He has let you know that he will NOT have your back when dealing with his family. And he has allowed his mother to drive away your family and friends.
New job and move, or no marriage. Because do you really want her babysitting...


No doubt about it, men should be able to control women, if they're a real man.


A common byproduct of bipolar is a narcissistic personality. This is an obvious diagnosis for the mom. The only remedy for toxic narcissists is to remove yourself from the situation. Get out and get out now. If he wants to start a new life somewhere else, great.

Both my mother and mother-in-law meet this description and the only way for our 30 year plus relationship to survive is estrangement from the toxicity.


Can we not with equating "shitty person" to "bipolar", LW? I know your (hopefully soon-to-be ex) fiance has a 'theory' or whatever, but unless he's a psychiatrist who is treating his mother, it's not his place to say and he shouldn't lump abusive shits like her in with those of us who simply live with a psychological disorder.

(For real LW, don't marry this man! You do not just marry one person: you marry everyone they are linked to. You will have lifelong connections to everyone harassing him - and you - right now. Do not have this woman's grandchildren! Break off the engagement, cancel the wedding, and move far away from your harassing, embarrassing neighbor of a potential mother-in-law).


@7 Why are you criticizing the LW for something the fiancé said? Also claiming a bad person has a disorder isn’t the same thing as saying everyone with a disorder is bad, so it doesn’t really matter if the diagnosis is completely wrong.


If you think it's bad now, wait until when (or if) you have kids. There will be a whole new horrible brand of crap to deal with


We don't know how much wealth this couple has to help them with the problem. An alternative to moving would be to have an apartment or house in another part of town where the wife could stay when she needed to, and where the couple could entertain away from the mom.

And yes, the grandad who owns the company needs to be involved at this point, his support would be needed if they're going to work out a livable solution.


Screw therapy for the fiance - why is this couple not in pre-marital counseling? A good idea for ANY couple, but a clear necessity here. They need to go now and address where the boundaries here should be. (And depending on the couple, this may be available from their place of worship or from their officiant.)

That therapist will help LW communicate this issue to her fiance and can help the fiance set boundaries with his mother.

And as that therapist is going to recommend, fiance should definitely talk to Grandpa about how he feels his daughter is doing and whether Grandpa is susceptible to sway by Mother. (It may be that Grandpa is very well aware that his daughter has just driven off her husband and making Mother mad will have no effect on Grandpa. LW may just not know this.)


The upcoming marriage is a perfect reason to "start a new life together" at a new location so a change of address should at least help, but I agree that the red flags make it look like a parade for Mao.
I hope LW has her own funds - maybe she could move out right now to start creating that new space for the two of them on her own, so her sweet but spineless intended could more slowly extract himself. He could even court her again, like old times, and they both would have a place to entertain without Godzilla dropping by unannounced.


It’s never going to get better. If you don’t create your independence from his familly now, it’s not going to happen in the future. And why are you, and your family, tolerating that name calling????


As great as he may be in other ways, LW has fallen for a man that hasn't set out on his own yet.

P.S. It's not clear what mom's role is at the company. What is stopping them from moving across town and minimizing contact with her? Is Gramps really going to fire him for not calling his mom back?


Jee-zus Plee-zus! Mother-in-law From Hell! Has the LW considered their putting Mrs.Marcus into a home, along with relocating and changing their phone number?
@2 Ricardo for the obvious WIN! Bravo!
@5 Still can't get any, huh, Sporty? Ever wonder why?


@9 678gryn: BINGO! I fully agree-----LW's and her fiance's adding kids to this already toxic situation is a recipe for bottomless disaster. I was in a toxic marriage for 9 years too long. His family was, in short, a total mess. I had to battle my ass off literally to remain child-free before finally calling it quits, cutting and running for dear life. It was the only thing I did right during that whole disastrous episode of my life.


Do you want this woman to be around to be grandmother to your children? That's all you need to ask yourself. Do you want your children living next to this woman. Ask your fiance this as well.... I had a toxic mother in law and never again would I deal with that. No matter how awesome the man. When I got pregnant she said I should abort and then when I didn't insisted everything go her way when interacting with our child. Nope nope nope! Dan's advice is good. Keep the man if he extracts himself from his mother. Otherwise Run!


@15 good point. real men get sex.


I feel for the son, though, being the only child of this horrible woman. Not that easy to make boundaries with a person who has manipulated you your whole life. He needs therapy so he can learn how to set boundaries.
I'm curious about the FIL? Is he still in the picture? Also, LW, you mentioned your own family, but not much. How does mom get along with MIL?


I really hope the LW's fiance ends up doing the three things Dan describes, but I seriously doubt it will happen. Doesn't mean LW can't give it shot. If and when they move, it really should be several hours (or states) away to make sure his mother isn't constantly around, and I doubt the fiance will want to do that. If LW gets the sense that his abusive mom is always going to come first, she needs to end this now, cut her losses, and find another great guy.


And DO NOT PROCREATE with this man! You think the MIL baggage sucks now? Wait until she tells you how to parent or, worse yet, that you suck as a parent.

Been There


@17 Anemone: Agreed and seconded.
@18: No, real men don't troll about the great sex they're not really getting. They usually don't have to. Oh....wait---you're not a real man, Sporty? Are you a blowup doll? No wonder you emulate so much hot air....
@19 portland scribe: I know. This horrible MIL and her poor, long-suffering son sound exactly like my oldest sister and nephew. She's on Call Block and there's mileage separating us for good reason.
@21 Rileycat1971: Spot on, agreed, and seconded. I was once there, too, and am damn glad I got out child-free while I still could.


Wtf is wrong with you, LW? You’ve been with this man for six years and you have let his mother and he has let his mother treat you with such disrespect. And now, with a wedding planned, now you get cold feet.
The longer one allows abuse to continue the worse it gets. This man is pathetic, and you should leave him ASAP. Move a long way away.
If he loves you, if he can tear himself away from Monster Mom, then he’ll come find you.


@23 That's pretty mean. It can take a while for someone to realize they are in a toxic relationship with their parents because it's all they have ever known. It doesn't mean he couldn't be convinced though.


@23 Ah yes - the problem between LW and her abusive mother in law is... that her fiance hasn't taken responsibility for it? We're really doubling down on this "women are incapable of agency" stance.


@Sporty @5: That chip on your shoulder is bumming me out.


What are you on about?
The woman is this man’s Mother, it’s up to him to re define his boundaries with her.
I called out the LW for letting this abuse continue, she can’t make him push his mother out. And yes, it’s his call first to tell Mom to shut it and stop abusing his gf and stop visiting their home whenever she wants and abusing people when she does.
I suggest to exercise her agency that she get the fuck away from both of them. Leave him to extricate himself from the sludgy mess he’s in with Mother.
What, you think the LW should be closing the door in Mom’s face, when Son is dependent on family jobs. And Mom wouldn’t hear her anyway. She doesn’t want Son to have a gf, she wants Son all to herself. It’s a sick relationship between Son and Mother and only he can change that.
The LW should save herself.


@27 is for @25.


Dear swamp-head, gold-digging, dog-hating spoiled princess,
Not without some hard decisions by you and your nice, but spineless boyfriend.
1) Move to another town or at least the far side of this one.
2) Put the wedding on hold until this shitshow with MIL completely stops, and call it off if it doesn’t.
3) Seriously evaluate your relationship and plans for the future and take a good hard look at your role in allowing this to go on FOR SIX YEARS. Get some counseling!
4) think about why my advice mirrors Dan’s and most of the commenters here.


@24, mean? It’s been six years. There has been enough time and neither the LW or her beau have had the skill or the will or the courage/ there’s a job in this story he doesn’t want to lose/ to tell Mother where to go.


Yeah, she needs to run. If he runs with her, so much the better, but either way, GTFO. This can only get worse. And Hax will tell you the same, because, really, what else is there to say?

Sometimes the apple falls right under the tree, and then rolls a good distance. One wonders how far the apple has gotten.


@LW: One word: RUN!!! If your man is still umbilically attached to his shamelessly overbearing monster mom after you've known them for six years (!!!), nothing is going to change for the better. I second Ricardo @2: DTMA, and for the sake of humanity DON'T have any children with him!


Everything Dan writes seems spot-on, except the word "toxic." I'm going to put in a word for the MIL, since no one else will. She has an alcohol problem, and other psychological problems, whether or not bipolarity enters into it. She is in the throes of a divorce, and is, surprise, emotionally needy. We don't have her side of the story as to why she would call LW these names, assuming she did—We are all assuming that LW is a blameless angel. The fiance LOVES his mother (How spineless!), and feels responsible to care for the mother who cared for him, and that no one else can stand. Using the word "toxic" and "toxic personality" is a convenient way to label someone as a person who DESERVES to be abandoned. Curiously, "toxic personality" is not in the PDR; there is no such syndrome. It's a really handy poisonous phrase to fling at someone to say they aren't worth compassion, though. LW needs help, the fiance needs help, the mother needs help. After 6 years, it's not an emergency, so long as the wedding and pregnancy are postponed, so take some time to help her, and help yourself in the process, LW. Follow the Golden Rule.


@30 Your second attempt left out the part where you call him pathetic and demand to know what's wrong with the LW, which makes you sound slightly less like a mean grandmother. Congratulations.


RCF, I could not help noticing that one person not mentioned in this family drama is your fiance's father. If he is alive, and is either a nonentity in this family drama or divorced from your potential mother-in-law, you may very well have all the answers you need to understand what your life will be like should you continue and get married. Even if he is deceased, you might want to check in with your fiance's father's family, they may well be able to fill-in some important details that will convince you that nothing will change within your fiance's family.

Since you love your fiance, you should try and follow through on the advice that you move and your fiance exits the family business, but if this business is valuable enough that your potential mother-in-law has described you as a "gold-digger," my guess is that if your fiance is in line to inherit control of the business when his grandfather passes away, if not sooner, than he is unlikely to agree to work somewhere else, and will chose his family over you.

While is sucks to have expended six years across part of your 20s and early 30s, only to end this otherwise great relationship, you are young, and can find someone else and start a family without 20 or 30 years of emotional abuse.


@34, I wasn’t being mean, I was giving her a kick up the arse. This man is pathetic, letting his mother talk to the LW like she does. And what is wrong with the LW that she has allowed herself to be treated this way.
Not here to pass your tests of what I can and can’t say.
I’m a loving and supportive grandmother and mother and would never ever interfere with my sons’ relationships like this, nor would they let me.


LW and/or fiance, if you are reading this, please read: The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder: New Tools and Techniques to Stop Walking on Eggshells, by Randi Kreger


Or.... maybe LW is in it for the money too? She's put up with this for six years already, after all.


Hello, RCF? Why did you hide the important issue in the PS? "My future mother-in-law calls me that swamp-head, gold-digging, dog-hating spoiled princess. And those are just the PG names!" THAT's the problem! That changes Mummy Dearest from a needy narcissist to an abusive asshole. Whatever Fiancé does regarding his mother, he needs to tell her that she cannot talk about the woman he loves that way. We should always cut abusive people out of our lives, and since cutting Mummy Dearest out of your life means cutting Fiancé out with her, it's time to run.


Ricardo @2: Nailed it.

Captandor @7: RCF literally said "my fiancé thinks she is bipolar AS WELL."

Portland @19: I feel sorry for this young man too. RCF can run but he can't. I agree he should get therapy and set some boundaries. At minimum he should move several blocks away and not answer his phone every time it rings. He's allowing her to abuse him, though. And Dad's role is divorcing this toxic woman. Son isn't patient, he's -- wait for it -- doormat-ish. If he doesn't want to change, he won't.

Sporty has overdosed on red pills today. Move along, nothing to see here.


And absolutely yes to Fiancé talking to Grandpa about Fiancé's role in the family business and his mother's behaviour. Grandpa should be helping her, prodding her towards alcohol treatment, bypassing her in order to help his grandson get a bit more independence (perhaps a loan so that he can move somewhere else). If Grandpa's attitude is that Mom is Fiancé's problem, then he's part of the problem and Fiancé should find a new family to work for.


'Bipolar' is weak on the fiancé's part. He's not had the strength to say, 'it's unconscionable you call my fiancee a gold-digger. Don't make it a choice between her and an emotionally incontinent, potty-mouthed drunkard; you might be surprised where I end up'. His mother's behavior could change quite quickly. Actually, there's a chink of light here: if there's a chance the older woman is genuinely bipolar, get a diagnosis, get a treatment plan, start--this is mainly to the son--making a genuine change in your circumstances. You've let your relationship with your mother slide; is it going to cost you your marriage?

@33. wordwizard. What's the Golden Rule?


Disagree with Dan if the family business worth multi-millions?

If so, then, fiancé should call a family business meeting and get grandpa to legally pass control NOW to the grandson, then move across town but STAY in the business if and only if legal ownership and control passes to the son entirely and legal ownership via an irrevocable trust that will pass down to him and his heirs upon grandpa's death and not to the mom. Golden egg jobs are rare in this life.

If grandpa/mom won't agree to that, then they may never give him control. In that case, Dan's right, LW should only stay if her beloved takes a job in a different CITY as well as a different company. She'd be doing him a favor - he may sacrifice years and still wind up with nothing - down the road grandpa dies, controlling evil mom sells to spite her now-daughter in law and cuts them out of her will.


If the letter-writer sees this, there's a great support subReddit called r/JustNoMIL that is a really supportive community to vent to and get advice from people who have dealt/are dealing with similar situations. Aside from MILs and future MILs, it's also a great place to vent about toxic/vexxing mothers, grandmothers, mother figures and the like, in-laws or not. I think Dan's advice is a great start though. Y'all should really move ASAP, that way you can better limit contact with this woman who has been verbally abusive to you, and maybe that extra distance will help you avoid her entirely if she's drinking and allow you to have friends over without her party crashing.


I may well be wrong, but I read the importance of the family business as suggesting the family may be Asian, or a similar ethnic background that values this sort of thing more than wypipo do.

Some great advice here for the fiancé, but as with the letter from the other partner-of-a-doormat, all the LW has control over is what SHE can do. She can make all these great suggestions to her partner but she can't force the horse to drink. It sounds like he can't see how abusive his mother is, so she should be prepared to walk.


@35 Sublime: "I could not help noticing that one person not mentioned in this family drama is your fiance's father. If he is alive, and is either a nonentity in this family drama or divorced from your potential mother-in-law..."

Third paragraph of RCF's letter: "He‘s (referring to fiancé) an only child, and his parents are getting divorced."

Your noticing skills seem to have failed you here.


I love that Dan chose this letter, but I fear that grandad patriarch won't support a change in responsibilities or a move and neither the fiance or the LW will walk away from the money. In other words, while there are great solutions, I fear that there is no solution that will be accepted by the LW and her fiance.



Could we change it to Dump the mother already?


Harriett @42: When I was a kid, the Golden Rule was “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”


This guy does sound really nice and decent. I sympathize as someone who has lost a parent after a difficult relationship. Dans advice is right on, especially about the intervention. If I were the LW I would ask my husband where he sees himself/us a year from now, 5 years from now, and then 10 years from now. His mom clearly needs help, but he is also likely enabling her to not get it.


Griz @ 15 - Thanks!

Jef @ 48 - Euh... what do you think I meant by removing the "fucker" from "drop the mother fucker already"?


Don't worry Ricardo @51, most of us got it!


Oops. I meant "dump", not "drop".

What's wrong with my brain? I keep substituting one word for another, lately.

BDF @ 52 - Thanks, I was getting worried there.


As someone who works in a family business (third generation) this kinda struck a nerve.

Family businesses can get dicey, and giving this poor guy an ultimatum in this situation is essentially like saying “it’s either me or your family, career, home, and inheritance”.

I think the LW needs to talk to the boyfriend about the future of the business. The current issues are bad but they pale in comparison to what might be coming down the road, and a bad family business is a ticking time bomb. The LW needs to know what’s in the Will. If the grandfather dies will her husband to be inherit the business or will the mother? If the mother is the only one in the will she might very well end up as her husband to be’s boss, and if she’s mentally unstable can and probably will wreck the business. What about the building? Is that family owned? Who is that going to? Even if her husband gets the business or safeguards are in place to prevent the mother from interfering in operations her future mother in law might end up as her husbands land lord. Are there other siblings invovled? They need to know what’s coming down the road, and if the family can’t have an honest conversation about succession then her husband needs to get out of that business as soon as possible.


@36 Okay, so you're going for the "tough love" thing. Maybe that works on some people but it's not likely to work on a victim of parental abuse. I believe you have good intentions but you're just throwing victims under the bus. Someone with a mother like this probably has low self esteem so they really need to be told the situation is not their fault. And yes of course he needs to set much better boundaries.

@44 I second the recommendation for r/JustNoMIL. It's a fantastic resource for understanding toxic behavior from maternal figures.


@54: I was not going for anything. I was not addressing the son. The abuser is not the LW’s mother. And it’s not about fault, it’s about action.
You do you hey, and I’ll do me. Ok.
With a mother like that it’s going to take a lot to disentangle the Son, and by the sound of it, money and a job are his priorities, not demanding that his partner is treated respectfully by his mother.


People are always confusing Borderline personality disorder (BPD) with bipolar. BPD is "A mental disorder characterized by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships." To me, his mom seems more BPD then bipolar.


If a man lets his woman be called names, have her home invaded, her family and friends dropping off because of his mother’s actions,
to me he is pathetic. Pathetic. If he too is in his early thirties, his behaviour is his responsibility and he needs to own that, do therapy, grow up and stand up to his mother. Or the future for the LW, like the present, is going to be grim.
The LW asks if abuse is the price of admission. That’s how downtrodden she is after six yrs around this family. She needs to get out and save herself. I don’t expect she’ll do it, because ‘Love’, it’s still my suggestion.
And you @54, re interpreting and defining my words, twice now, pisses me right off.
Please don’t do it again.


Make that three times @54. Pisses me off more.


Lava @ 57 (and earlier) - I'm with you.


Thanks Ricardo.


@57 I usually don't respond to your posts because you don't understand my perspective. I did this time because I take offense at your calling someone pathetic because they are being bullied by an alcoholic. If you don't want people to interpret your words negatively nobody is forcing you to call people names.


I want to know more about the "dog hating" part. I'm guessing the MIL has a poorly behaved dog on top of all this?


I'm a bit curious why the husband lives next to his mom in the first place. That would concern me. I second everyone saying that the fiance is not really helping the mother. Whether she actually has mental health issues or is a straightforward alcoholic bully, him enabling her isn't helping. Mental health issues can be helped with therapy and meds, alcoholism with treatment. Obviously no one has insisted she get help bc the son is just guessing that she is bipolar. I didn't read anything that suggested the mom actually needed regular help (health issues, etc). If she can show up and chase friends and family away she obviously doesn't have any serious mobility issues.
@62 I agree that no one should be called pathetic for "letting themselves" be abused. It's pretty rude and human beings adapt to their environment to where things don't seem as bad as they are. Since she really loves the fiance and he is otherwise caring, I can see where it would be easy to try to see the mom as a separate issue from the fiance. Really not only are they a package deal, but his inaction is a problem in and of itself.


@33 Wordwizard: "It's a really handy poisonous phrase to fling at someone to say they aren't worth compassion . . . the mother needs help . . . . so take some time to help her . . . Follow the Golden Rule."


Regardless of what one's assessment might be as to whether someone is worth compassion, sometimes someone simply cannot afford, for the sake of their own wellbeing, to show that compassion.

Even if the mother is worty or in need of compassion, it does not follow that her son and daughter in law owe it to her. Their own self-love and basic human dignity come first. Put your own oxygen mask on first.

Many people act as though they're aware, if not consciously, that going on needing help is an effective strategy to go on getting it from people with your mentality.

As long as this woman has access to her son, she will continue to abuse him. Enduring abuse does not help an abuser get better.

Compassion is to an abuser what blood is to a shark, or fear to a wolf. They will smell it and seize upon it without mercy.


@65 quite agreed! There are many, many people in this world who deserve our compassion, but are we gonna argue that once you find anyone who deserves your compassion you have to help them? Particularly at your own expense? Nobody has the capacity (time, money, emotion) to help everyone that deserves compassion or even everyone that could be helped. Plus the mother has shown no interest in being helped, so I don't know there's much anyone could do even if they chose to give up everything to help her.


Last comment @62: glad you don’t usually respond to my comments. Saves us both a lot of time wasting. You being so sensitive and all. Alcoholic or not, his mother is destroying his chance at happiness.
The LW might not leave now but there will be a time when she has had enough of the excuses for his lack of courage.
Being an alcoholic is not an excuse for shitty behaviour.
I should have qualified my words. His behaviour around dealing with his mother, is to me, pathetic.


@67 I didn't say it was an excuse? If anything it's the opposite of an excuse.


True @65; my chronically sick sister, who texts one an article every time she is diagnosed with a new affliction, and never gets out of bed, has driven her only daughter two states away.
This has been a ten plus yr attempt to make her child responsible for her, when over that time she did so little to maintain or tend to her health.
MIL is not suddenly acting out because of the divorce, and ex husband has obviously had enough despite of how much money is around. Granddad is the father of this woman, and probably stays way away from the child he helped create.
The Son is forced to continue supporting a woman who needs to face herself, get some professional help, and change.


@69 LavaGirl I agree it may help the LW to remember that this isn't some new or temporary situation resulting from the divorce. This abusive behavior isn't going to change just bc they get married or have kids (it'll get worse!). Not to mention fiance may be wonderful in all other ways, but would she ever let anyone in her family treat him this way? The price of admission to be with someone who prioritizes enabling his mother over his partner is not only dealing with the abusive mil, but being isolated as well. Unless fiance is willing to move and go into therapy, that is.


I think the content of my post has gotten twisted. I originally posted to call for some sympathy for a person who has likely suffered abuse from his mother for his entire life. I'm surprised that is so controversial. It's likely he has no idea how dependent he is on her and the rest of his family and how poorly they treat him. And this has somehow become about me making excuses for the behavior of the mother. It's the opposite, I think her behavior her responsibility and her son doesn't bear the blame for not fixing a broken family.


Without reading your last comments, Last Comment. One does get a little bored.
My mother was an alcoholic, and I left living around her coming up to thirty years ago. Went to a place where I had no support, reared our kids.
No thank you. I’d visit her, she’s now in a home and I see her when I can get down, commitments here with grandkids: she didn’t stop drinking til recently. That was her choice, she alienated her family in the process.
Each person has the choice.
Get to AA. Go to a live in therapeutic centre.


My father, was also an alcoholic, he gave it up thru AA. And was sober the last twenty years of his life. Darling man he was.
My mother covered hers better.


Almost makes you nostalgic for Victorian England. The soon-to-be-divorced father-in-law could have solved the LW’s problem and had Morher locked up in an asylum and forgotten about. And yet everyone’s angry at Charles Dickens for trying the same stunt.

But seriously, LW has two options - leave her fiancé, or find ways of dealing with Mother that don’t involve caving in to her every whim. (For example, if she wants to come over when friends or family are visiting, stand in the door and tell her she can’t come in). I expect this will be unpopular, but as a son and only child, the fiancé has an obligation to look after his mother, even if she is difficult to the point of insanity. Yeah, he could half-ass the situation and get social services to care for Mother with all the attention to detail and love the state brings to such services, or even ditch the Old Girl entirely and decide she’s not his problem. But really, isn’t that only one corrupt doctor and Dickensian madhouse away from what Charlie tried to do when he got bored with his missus?


@65 and @66—I am not suggesting that either LW or her fiancee should submit to abuse, but rather that it is unreasonable to suggest that a loving son should throw his mother away because others conveniently label her as "toxic." He DOES owe her compassion. She does need help rather than condemnation. Again, you are seeing her entirely through LW's eyes. @38 had an interesting suggestion that LW might actually be a gold digger after all, which might explain why she's taken this situation for six years already (waiting for the grandfather to die) better than the overwhelming love she claims she bears her fiance.


Xiao @65: I agree. The mother's entitlement to compassion from the LW ended when she called her all those awful names.


I do find it interesting to speculate on whether certain behaviors are due to someone's being bi-polar or alcoholic or a narcissist or from having some other borderline disorder or to just being a jerk. Luckily, it doesn't make much difference when it comes to what the LW should do about her mother-in-law. There's overlap in the symptoms, but more importantly, there's enough overlap in how family members can cope with the symptoms that a resource for one disorder applies neatly all around.

Even if M-in-law isn't an alcoholic, RCF can learn tons on how to deal with her from Al-Anon. RCF's fiance could gain a lot from reading up on adult children of alcoholics. There's Families Anonymous which has helped lots of people. Spend less time on exact diagnoses and more in reading books on narcissism. Will I Ever Be Good Enough is one title that comes to mind. Or just google on subjects like manipulation and boundaries.

On the compassion subject-- One of the wild things I've had to learn is that not capitulating to manipulation IS a form of compassion, just like not making excuses for an alcoholic, not enabling them, IS the kindest thing you can do.

If RCF is up to it, she can push back against her M-i-l and push back against her fiance. Or, there's no shame in dumping and running. From my own experience and my experience talking to many people I know, you always wonder if you made the right choice.


What does this LW think putting the mother above the spouse looks like if not this? Like, catering to a parent to the point where you can’t have friends or family over is the definition of that.


@48 jefmcg: I think that's what Ricardo (@2) initially suggested--Dump The Mother Already.
@51 & @53 Ricardo: No worries--we got it.
@63 Dougsf: MIL also has a poorly behaved dog? OMG---is the LW engaged to my oldest nephew?? RUN, dear maiden, RUN while there is still time!!!!


@Bi @76: I mean, unless the LW is all those things? (I doubt it, to be clear...but dog-hating gold-diggers do exist...)

@Fichu @77: "On the compassion subject--One of the wild things I've had to learn is that not capitulating to manipulation IS a form of compassion, just like not making excuses for an alcoholic, not enabling them, IS the kindest thing you can do."

Excellent comment, and completely correct. Thank you.


Sporty, when someone in a couple (triad, etc.) needs to set a boundary with a family member, the appropriate person to do it is the person who is related. This is to prevent triangulation and present a unified front for the family unit, not because of gender and agency. If it was the woman's toxic relative, she would be responsible for setting the boundary.


@74, why does the son have an obligation to look after his mother?
I don’t see that is true in western cultures and especially if the mother is such a destructive force.


RCF, you say, "When I ask my fiancé to prioritize me, he does. But how often do I need to put my foot down? It’s exhausting."

That's not something you should need to ask more than once - if you do, your partner is in fact NOT prioritizing you, but instead his mother, which is why you have to ask over and over. Partner setting and holding boundaries means you hardly ever have to deal with MIL drama, because partner has set and is holding that boundary. Whether you're moving or not, definitely make sustained improvement on this front - which means you not doing most of the logistical labor around enforcing boundaries - a precondition of marriage.


I would recommmend against JustNoMIL - from what I've seen, it's often nearly as toxic an environment as the commenters' families (which isn't terribly surprising, since the commenters have been socialized to see abusive behavior as normal), with more venting and reinforcing hostility than helpful advice setting and holding boundaries with abusive family members. It's probably good for validating people's suspicions that the abusive behavior to which they have been subjected isn't okay, but in terms of helpful advice on dealing with abusive or otherwise toxic family members, one is better off looking elsewhere (I'm personally a fan of Captain Awkward).


Great comment John @83.
Confusing comment John @84, can you re phrase it please as I don’t know what you mean.


@65 XiaoGui17; I second BiDanFan. Xiao wins the thread!! BRAVO! The LW's MIL-from-Hell sounds exactly like my ugly stepsisters, Druscilla and Anastasia Dear: exhaustively clingy, antagonizing, sanctimonious, and narcissistic as hell. NOBODY like that is worthy of compassion. They are on Call Block for good reason. No news is good news.
@69 LavaGirl: Congrats on scoring this thread's lucky @69 Award! May decadent riches shower upon you like never before.


Yes, LavaGirl, ideas like obligation and duty to our families have become rather unfashionable in western society, but I suspect that’s a fairly recent development. I can say with certainty that growing up in a very Anglo-Australian family in country NSW, loyalty to family and taking care of even the most difficult relations (mad maiden aunts were a family tradition) was considered to be an obligation. It was really the baby-boomers who thought self-actualisation and the neoliberal economy were better options than ‘taking care of your own’, as my grandmother would have phrased it.And I really dislike your characterisation of the mothe4 as a ‘destructive force’, as though she is some sort of soulless, chaotic, random disaster, like a tornado or a conservative government. She is, in fact, just a very unhappy woman who needs the people who care about her to help her (and that does include setting appropriate boundaries and not letting her get away with treating other people appallingly).


I am also left feeling a bit cold be the idea of being’worthy of compassion’. What criteria are we using to judge whether Mother is or isn’t worth our compassion in regards to her fairly obvious unhappiness? Is compassion in such limited supply that we must use it carefully and sparingly, lest we waste it and eventually run out? I am far from sure that I would be judged ‘worthy’ of compassion, but I am certain that compassion is something I frequently need other people have for me. I guess the same is true for others.


Lava @82: That's another reason I suspected these people may not be from a Western culture background.

John @84, that's exactly what I thought such a place would be -- venting and hostility, which can only increase ill will, not solve problems. Family counselling sounds a much better option if the mother will go.


A parent barging into your home and fighting with guests, alienating the LW’s family and friends, calling the LW names.. sounds like a destructive force to me, @87.
Unhappy she may be, destroying her son’s happiness will not make her happy. Happiness for a parent can come from seeing ones’ children happy and loved.
You from country Australia, or you assuming I am. Talking about how life was three generations ago is of no use, and many loving families look after their own now, as I see it.
If this man is in his early thirties, and an only child, his mother one assumes is say early fifties. . She may have another thirty years of life left, and you are suggesting son has to indulge her behaviour for this long? Must be fun at your house.
She is a grown woman, she needs to take responsibility for herself and her unhappiness, not strip her son and his partner of theirs.


Strip them of their happiness, I mean.
I don’t know Fan, the LW would have said they were Asian I think, if that were the case. Yes, some form of therapy must be insisted upon if any change will come. With money and business involved, it might not be so easy to get mother to join in. This is why perhaps, she has been allowed to get away with her toxic behaviour for so long, she has a hold over her son and the LW, via the business.


We are all worthy of compassion Pan Sapien@ 88, as we are all worthy of being treated with respect and consideration.
If one abuses others, as the mother does, generating compassion for her is useless if she continues with the abuse.


I should leave this alone, but I'm jumping in. First, thanks ciods, you got my point. Now I'm going to say the same thing again in a different way.

For all of you talking about when individuals deserve compassion, what someone has to do to have their right to compassion revoked, and whether all of us should be entitled to compassion no matter what, could we tweak the subject a little to get specific about what particular ACTIONS go into this show of compassion? Or ask whether any of this compassion is doing the m-i-l any good, ask whether it's making her happy?

RCF lets her drunk m-i-l into her house where she makes a scene and makes other visitors so uncomfortable they don't want to come anymore. My question isn't just how's that working for RCF. How's that working for m-i-l? Has m-i-l indicated in that she threw a drunken tantrum and that's all she needed and now she feels better? Because y'know, sometimes I call a friend with a bunch of complaints I want to cry about, and my friend comes over with a pint of Ben & Jerry's, and she listens, and when I'm done, I do feel better. Her treatment worked. I feel comforted because she showed enough compassion to help when I needed help. But that's not what's going on here. M-i-l lives next door and gets her every whim catered to, and maybe she has her reasons, but nothing Dutiful Son nor Fed-Up Daughter-in-law do is working.

So tell me what compassion would look like. Tell me what it should look like. For that matter, let's get nitty gritty about what boundaries would look like.


@93 Fichu
"...let's get nitty gritty about what boundaries would look like."

By all means! Though I'm not sure it'll be easy to draw those boundaries.

"what someone has to do to have their right to compassion revoked"

I agree with Fichu@77: "...not capitulating to manipulation IS a form of compassion, just like not making excuses for an alcoholic, not enabling them, IS the kindest thing you can do."

Agreed, it doesn't help someone to enable their dysfunctional behavior. Sometimes compassion is "tough love". Accordingly I think nothing anyone can do ever revokes anyone's right to compassion...but they're not necessarily gonna see me behave as they think they want me to, hell they're not necessarily gonna see me anymore at all.

Where to draw the boundary? For me that's a seat-of-the-pants calculation based upon factors like how much shit I can take and how much willingness and promise they demonstrate to making the situation healthy/functional.


94-- I'd say that seat of the pants calculation are what manipulative people thrive on. It's not nearly consistent enough. For me, the boundaries must be more along the lines of:

-If you haven't been expressly invited over, you may not come over. If you do come over uninvited, you will not be allowed in. No exceptions. If you are ill, you must call 9-1-1 from your own phone, no coming over and tricking us into believing you're ill so we'll call (and gain a makes-fake-calls reputation with the emergency service). If you see a party going on, feel anxious and left out, you still may not come over. If you make a scene, it will be from the porch because you will not be allowed in. If you do something illegal to gain entry, we will call the police, and we will press charges to the extent the police allow.

-We will pay attention to you with one phone call each day and one visit each week. We will initiate both of those, and they will be at the same scheduled time of our choosing. If you are drunk during that scheduled time, the call/visit will end, and we will try again the next day (or week)

-We will not tolerate name calling or insults. That includes those you believe are true and those said in jest. If you insult me (if you insult my fiancee/wife), the call is over, the visit is over, and we're skipping the next scheduled one.

-We are not responsible for your financial well being nor your emotional well being nor anything having to do with your divorce. If you try to borrow money or talk about the divorce getting us to take sides, we will change the subject once. Do it again, and we hang up the phone and try again at the next scheduled phone call.

(I'm afraid I've had way too much experience with this.)


@95 Fichu
"I'd say that seat of the pants calculation are what manipulative people thrive on."

Well that can be true. What I really meant is that the boundaries are a 'you know it when you see it' thing. We could construct an infinite number of paragraphs like you've listed(!) but I don't have time for infinite anything.

"If you haven't been expressly invited over, you may not come over."

Yes I've made the exact same rule.

A couple of the worst offenders have moved me to institute a policy WRT them of "no same day appointments". They would never commit to anything in advance, like they wait around thinking maybe something better like Lady Gaga or Barack Obama calling them out of the blue will come up and only when it doesn't at the last minute they expect people to drop everything because /they're/ free. Those people I won't even respond that day to messages to make same-day plans; I end up feeling insulted at the implication there's ever a moment I'm not in the middle of something and can easily drop everything at their whim.

Honestly, I'd've been better off with the simple policy of not having them in my life at all.


96-Curious-- Let me guess. When you said you'd no longer put up with making plans the day of, they switched to committing to plans in advance, then cancelling at the last minute with a non-last minute excuse. That way they still get to insult you with the my-time-is-more-important-than-yours message.

Nothing wrong with writing people out of your life if they manage to infuriate you every time you interact with them. As I said in my original post, there's no shame in dumping and running.

The trouble I note is that the worst of these offenders have good qualities too. The good qualities may even go together with the bad. These are the people who are terrific fun to be with. They might be smart and funny, larger than life personalities. I think of one such person who always made me feel like the most important person in his life whenever we did manage to get together. It was a heady, wonderful feeling that I craved enough to want to drop everything any time he called.

RCF doesn't mention her m-i-l's good qualities so it's easier to advise her to resist the manipulation, but sometimes it comes down to deciding whether the friendship with someone who's great-- if and when she shows up-- is worth it considering all the disappointments.


Firstly, @90 LavaGirl, I mentioned my own background simply to add some specificity to the discussion of cultural backgrounds - I find terms like 'western society' too broad to be particularly meaningful.. However, this is really my problem, and I accept that I will go to my grave muttering "What do you mean by 'Western Civilisation' anyway?"

On the question of what compassion would look like in this situation, I would suggest that we should not confuse compassion with enabling. Allowing Mother to behave in a way which perpetuates her unhappiness because it is easier is not compassion, it is cowardice. But, as I was thinking about my response, it struck me that, in the first instance, I felt compassion for the fiancee. Have a look at how the LW frames the issue - she talks about "putting her foot down", "competing for attention", and treats the problem as if it is a zero-sum calculation in which either she or Mother wins, and the other loses. But, with this is the framework, the son is faced with a no-win situation, and had to navigate his relationship with two difficult and demanding people instead of just one.

I would suggest that the LW ask her boyfriend "What can WE do to help Mother feel happier and more secure in her life?" That would certainly look like helping Mother learn how to socialise in a productive way, and I have no problem with rules such as no visiting without an invite, no gatecrashing social events to which she is not invited, and no drinking at the ones to which she is, but also making sure that it is easier for her to succeed at events to which she is invited (for example, brunch at a cafe with the LW's family could help reset that relationship, given that it is less socially acceptable to get plastered at 10am, and people are generally less likely to make a scene ion public." Perhaps encourage Mother to take a course or find a group activity she enjoys, so that she can make her own friends. And while being called nasty names is never pleasant, and it is axiomatic that we should never tolerate it, perhaps cultivating a degree of selective deafness and a dose of perspective might disarm the sting a little. I don't like dogs either, and it was one of the happiest days of my life that I realised I was OK with this and that, despite what all you dog-lovers say, this doesn't make me a bad person.


@97 Fichu
"When you said you'd no longer put up with making plans the day of, they switched to committing to plans in advance, then cancelling at the last minute with a non-last minute excuse."

Actually, the borderline functional one switched to confirming plans at the last possible moment I allowed. (They got to pretend this made sense and I got to not be inconvenienced.)

Another I actually caved; for too long I couldn't help myself; I'm surprised and embarrassed to admit this was only a decade ago (I guess giving advice is easier than taking it). They had, as you said, "good qualities too", and for too long I let them make same day plans. I don't know exactly how to diagnose them, but I pretty sure they are both a narcissist and high-functioning somewhere on the spectrum.


99-curious2-- Aw, don't be embarrassed. We've all been there. There's another part of the equation when thinking about annoying people. Part of it is how much you're willing to put up with. Part of it is whether their good qualities help make up for the bad. There's also considering what else you might be doing.

The times I've put up with the person who always came late, yes it was infuriating being stood up again and again, but deep down I knew that if I hadn't made plans with Infuriating Friend, I'd have been home by myself anyway. I imagine Infuriating Friend could sense that too. It was only after I was truly okay with everything else I had going on that those know-it-when-I-see-it boundaries come into play. If you're busy with a hundred other things, if you have other friends to see, if you feel like a million bucks without Infuriating Friend pouring on the compliments, then it's easy to know when to say NO.

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