Dr. Tracy's Advice Column

Cartoon Kiss

2/2/2003

Mother-In-Law Tales
Asking for Trouble
Online Relationship Games People Play



Mother-In-Law Tales

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I got married to a wonderful guy last year. Being basically from India we met here, had a little ceremony here and went back to India for an elaborate wedding. Of course meeting my mother in law was a complete disaster. I went with such an open heart, took gifts for everyone.. but she kept saying I was so short and that she’d have to put me on a stool etc. Let me add here that she has the tendency to say mean things in the sweetest way. Ex. She’ll say ‘you’re so short honey, I’d have to put you on a stool to see you”. She called me too short about 23 times in 2 hrs of our first meeting. When shopping for the wedding she tried to pass on my husband’s sister’s used ring as the engagement ring. Even after the wedding the few days (4 actually) that we were in India she was constantly complaining to him about me being westernized, about me shutting the bedroom door, the clothes I wore?? etc. I however took it in my stride cause I had only a few days to come back here.

After the wedding as per customs we were invited to my home for a ceremonial dinner but she did not attend under the pretext of being tired.

Even after we came back her bad behavior continued. She called my mom up and complained that we party too much. That I need to have a child and pay more attention to my home.

For a festival I sent some sweets to both my home and hers through a website but she complained that it was not good enough, that I had become too stingy. She also complained that my mother did not give her anything for the festival and that we dont want to keep any relations with her. She emailed my husband that her fear that we did not want to keep relations with her had come true and how badly me and my mother behave. I just lost my temper at that point and shot back at her with a reply for every complaint. At this, things got out of hand and she started to say things like I have a black heart and words I cant imagine. She kept emailing me with such stuff so I stopped communicating with her for a few months, at first she tried every trick in the book like complaining to my husband via emails etc then she just stopped. My husband did not react to her at all and then on my anniversary she called me on my phone. I spoke nicely to her and she seemed ok until she started complaining that I don’t call her, about how she gave her son to me and how badly I behave, that I should talk to her and how My behavior is so bad in the first year of marriage itself that how can she have any expectations of me. All this with a honey or a sweetie at the end of the sentence. This on my first wedding anniversary. I am so upset and hurt.

I am at my wits end. I get depressed thinking of it. Sometimes I am filled with so much anger over this. And I go over it in my mind over and over again and can’t seem to stop. My husband tells me not to talk to her or pass the phone to him when she complains. but everytime she tkaes me by surprise and I seem to sink in what she actually said only after the phone conversation. I think he should say something to her for her behavior but he does not. My family thinks I should ignore her but it’s hard because I get so hurt. I dont know if I am over-reacting or am just too sensitive but I just don’t know what to do.

Can you help me on how I can handle this?

Dear Daughter-in-Law,

Your story is so familiar. It reminds me of my own experiences with my mother-in-law. Like so many men’s mothers, my husband’s mother thought the woman her son married wasn’t good enough. It seemed that the harder I tried to be nice to her, the more she hated me. Just like your mother-in-law, mine criticized everything about me at every opportunity.

Like you, I didn’t want to come between my husband and his mother, but still, I didn’t want to be her victim all the time either. My husband was like yours and understood the problem. He was willing to try to stay in between us to keep me from getting hurt. Even after many years of marriage, my mother-in-law never understood how her son could love someone like me.

So, even though you are plenty good enough for her son, you may never live up to her fantasies and become the daughter-in-law of her dreams. I never did. Your mother-in-law is probably too old to change, and you shouldn’t expect her to suddenly become the loving mother-in-law you probably hoped you’d have.

But you can keep her from making you unhappy. The solution is what your husband suggested, and it was the one I used. Avoid her. Don’t talk to her. Don’t visit her. Don’t be alone in her company. When you have to be around her at family events, stay as far away from her as possible. Never let her trap you. If she says something mean to you, immediately walk away. If she calls you on the phone, tell her you have to answer the door now and hang up. Or give the phone to your husband.

Concentrate on the positive aspects of your relationship with your husband. Forget about how she criticized you and complained about you. Laugh at her attempts to ruin your wedding celebration and make you feel unattractive. Don’t think about living your life to make her happy. Instead, make your husband happy.

Don’t try to get your husband to intercede with her or talk to her about her behavior towards you. She’ll only deny her bad behavior and she still won’t change. Don’t give her the satisfaction of letting her get you depressed. The best revenge is living well and being happy. When she sees how happy her son is with you, she’ll realize that she’s not going to come between the two of you. Hold your head high and realize that you have her son and she doesn’t. The nastier she is to you, the more she’ll drive him away. You won’t have to do a thing.

Right now, she has nothing to lose by having you avoid her. However, when she realizes not seeing you means not seeing her son as often, she’ll get the message. Also, when you are the mother of her grandchildren and not seeing you means not seeing them, she’ll realize how much she’s lost by being such a witch.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



Asking for Trouble

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am 35 years old and have been in a relationship with a woman who is 28 now. We have been in this "exclusive" relationship for a little over 4 years now. Our relationship has always been one big honeymoon. We hardly argue and get along extremely well. I always try to communicate to make sure things are on track. The one hitch is that our relationship has been a long distance one but we are together at least 10 days each month if not more and always stay in touch when we are apart. I paid for the apartment she lived in and also consider it my home.

About 6 months ago my girlfriend and I were talking about marriage. Although I was a bit reluctant at first I had decided it should be the next step. During this I found out she was having an affair with another man. To make a long story short, I basically felt she was spending too much time with this male friend and eventually asked her a very direct question. She admitted to it but insists that she loves me and the other guy doesn't mean anything to her. I wanted to break-up immediately but she pleaded with me not to. I asked her why she did it and in the beginning she was saying she doesn't know why but finally saying something like she was imagining the guy was me..blah blah..blah.

Although I had suspicions in the past she may have had sexual affairs with other men, I can only say the evidence was either circumstantial or hear-say by reluctant "tell-all" people. I had also asked her about these "rumors" and she had denied them so I never pursued her for more answers.

She still desperately wants to get married. I know I still love her dearly but I also truly want to understand why she did it. I have tried to communicate with her about it but she doesn't seem to be letting me in on her true feelings. We no longer have a long-distance relationship and are now living together as a step to further our relationship and to rebuild the trust.

We still have that great relationship we had in the past and get along fine. However, I am deeply hurt by her affair (big ego buster) and it bothers me all the time. I feel I am on heightened alert every time she talks, looks and/or befriends another guy and especially when I am away on business. Should I keep the relationship and eventually still aim for marriage? Could she be a chronic cheater (a wanna-be swinger) and just leave her and move on with my life? Can I further communicate and understand her? What should i do??

Dear Deeply Hurt,

You may have been in an “exclusive” relationship for over 4 years, but your girlfriend has not. Being in an exclusive relationship doesn’t mean having an affair with another man. Exclusive means “Nobody else. Period.”

I don’t for a minute believe her story that she was imagining the other man was you. What a line! She cheated on you, plain and simple, and you’re not even really sure if that was the only time.

You have done so much for her, paid for her apartment, and given her your all - including, I imagine, lots of gifts and other goodies. You thought that by giving so much, you’d be certain to get fidelity and love. But those things can’t be bought. They have to be given.

Whatever you do, don’t rush into marriage with this woman. You have big issues, including your inability or her unwillingness to communicate openly and let you in on her true feelings.

If you want to keep this relationship and if you feel you can get past the problems of her infidelity, forgive and trust her again, then take your time and go for therapy together. Stop giving everything and paying for everything. You've given too much. See if she still loves you as much when she has to contribute financially and can’t just take without giving.

She could be a chronic cheater. Only time will tell. If you are willing to hang around and work on the relationship in therapy, then try that, but only if you’re also willing to forgive and forget.

If she is only willing to be in the relationship if you’ll agree to marriage right now, that’s a huge red flag. Let her know you’re not willing to get married for at least another year or two and then only if she’s more open about her feelings. See what she says. If she really loves you, she’ll be willing to wait while the two of you go for therapy and work toward a happy marriage. If not, then you should definitely move on.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy



Online Relationship Games People Play

Dear Dr. Tracy,

I am 54 and separated having been married just once, very late in life. I have been having an online relationship with a woman for about 3 months. She is 38 and single.

She says she loves me and wants to make love to me when we meet and I feel the same about her.

However each time we are about to meet in real life, something happens usually involving her family. When on YM web cam she was happy to expose her breasts and crotch area but not her face. She has never said where she works or given her address. She lives in a small town in New Zealand about 100 miles away from me. The last weekend we were going to spend a weekend with each other but then on the Wednesday she emailed me saying her sister had had a serious car accident in Brisbane, Australia and that she had to rush off there to be with her and to look after her 2 children. She says she will not be back to New Zealand for some time possibly not before Xmas. She refuses to give me her contact phone number in Brisbane or her address saying her brother in law does not want her to give them to me. The only way I have of talking to her is on her mobile which is expensive.

I am beginning to think she is playing a game and has no intention of ever meeting me.

What do you think?

Dear In Love,

You’re not in love, nor is she. Neither of you even knows the other one. A 3 month online relationship is a flirtation, not a relationship. For all you know, she’s married with five kids and a very large husband. Don’t be a fool.

A woman who will show her breasts and crotch and not her face isn’t a pretty picture, believe me. She won’t say where she works or lives and won’t meet you or give you her home phone number. Doesn’t that raise a danger signal in your eyes? It sure does in mine.

She’s going to have excuses galore, and you’ll never see her face, get her phone number, or find out where she really lives. You don’t even know who she really is. I’m sure that you’ll be waiting a long long time to meet her - maybe forever. She has absolutely no intentions of meeting you. Don’t wait for this one. She’s playing a game and you’re the game piece. Stop being her toy.

Go back online and find someone else, someone with a face they’ll show, someone who lives near you, and someone who’s willing to actually meet you in person.

Good luck,

Dr. Tracy




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(Featured art from cover of Letting Go, by Zev Wanderer and Tracy Cabot, published by "Bitan" Publishers, Tel-Aviv, Israel)
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