Dear Rosanna: I can't stand my mum-in-law

On a husband's mum who can't let go, Office rumours, under-age sex, and how to choose between an ex and a new man

Rosanna Davison

Dear Rosanna, I’m really starting to hate my new mum-in-law. I’ve been married to my husband for the past year but nothing I do ever seems to be good enough for his mum.

She is forever criticising me when my husband’s back is turned. She’s constantly getting sly digs in and telling me how to do things. She’s wrecking my head. I’ve tried having a quiet word with her, but it didn’t go well and she got very angry. I’ve tried bringing it up with my husband but he gets defensive and says that I’m over-reacting. I know he’s close to her but I really get the impression that she’s trying to undermine me. What should I do without causing a rift?

Rosanna says:

This is a sensitive situation. Firstly, realise that this is her problem and unlikely to be a reaction to anything you have done. It probably stems from jealousy that you are absorbing her son's attention and a belief that no other female will ever be capable of looking after him as well as she has.

Is she married or single? Maybe she’s a little lonely? I do feel sorry for her as she must be battling demons, but her treatment of you is unacceptable. Her son has chosen to marry you and she must accept that, offering you every support for your long-term marital happiness.

I recommend that you make a note of each incident; when, why and where it occurred. Allow her to read it all in her own time, then try once more to discuss it with her and your husband.

The feeling that she was being attacked, when you brought it up with her before, may have caused her to react so strongly, particularly if she's unaware of the extent of her treatment towards you.

For the sake of your marriage, I truly hope you manage to sort out the situation as soon as possible.

Dear Rosanna, I got pretty drunk at the office party and ended up spending the night with one of my colleagues. Since then someone has been spreading rumours about me and the word in the office is that I’m ‘easy’. I’ve taken the guy aside and said that I was unhappy and he denied all knowledge of spreading the rumours. While I don’t know if I should believe him or not, the fact that people are talking about me behind my back is making my life hell. So much so that I hate coming to work in the mornings and I can’t do anything about it.

Rosanna says:

I sympathise with you as the paranoia that comes with being the topic of unsubstantiated rumours can be incredibly stressful, and psychologically and emotionally damaging.

Keep in mind, however, that it is no more than mindless gossip, something to ease the banality of office work and the novelty will quickly wear off when something new comes along to whisper about. Who you choose to get intimate with is nobody else's business, and it's likely that none of your colleagues have a perfect track record either!

My advice is to rise above it, show that it doesn't bother you and soon it will lose its significance when others realise that you're not reacting. Do not be tempted to spread rumours about your colleague in revenge. It would create confusion and resentment, and make life at work even more difficult.

Be the bigger person and try to alter your view of the situation; feel secretly smug that people feel the need to talk about you. Finally, concentrate your energies on family and close friends who you know, love you and don't judge you.

Dear Rosanna, I’m really worried about my friend. She is 16 and has just started going out with a 30-year-old guy. She says that she met him at a friend’s party and she really likes him. She says that nothing has happened so far, but she’s talking about staying over with him. She said that she told him that she was older and he believed her, but I’m not so sure. I really don’t want her to get in trouble with her parents but I think there’s something sleazy about it. What would you advise?

Rosanna says:

You're absolutely correct to be concerned about your friend's relationship, because at 16 years old, she is a year below the lawful age for carnal contact in Ireland.

This man has been lied to about her age which, given the situation, could be extremely serious if their relationship develops sexually and he is found to be breaking the law with a minor.

Before anything is said to her parents, this man must be told her true age. I advise you to confront your friend and explain the seriousness of what could happen, and to urge her to come clean about her real age.

Can she be trusted to do this? It will undoubtedly cause embarrassment but she should never have lied in the first place. If she doesn't tell him herself, I feel that you would be doing the correct thing by either approaching him directly or else speaking to her parents who can contact him themselves.

Believe me, her parents will appreciate your concern as a friend, and you won't get into trouble, so please don't feel like you're interfering in other people's lives. You're simply protecting her and pre-empting a potentially illegal situation.

Dear Rosanna, When I discovered that my boyfriend was seeing someone else behind my back, I broke up with him. But there has always been a spark between us and when I met him at a party recently, we got together that night. Since then, he’s been bombarding me with calls and texts and telling me that he made a mistake when he cheated on me. However, I’ve been seeing a lovely guy for the past six months and I really like him. Now I’m completely torn between the two of them. I really don’t know what to do! Should I go with the guy who broke my heart or stay with my present boyfriend?

Rosanna says:

I do understand how you're feeling, as the familiarity of an old flame can be tempting. If you were single yet curious to discover whether the relationship could be reignited, I would encourage you to re-enter it, albeit with trepidation and some firm ground rules. I believe that in many circumstances, people deserve a second chance.

However, since you're currently seeing somebody else who you claim to have strong feelings for, I advise you to concentrate on this new relationship. If you were to end it and go back to your ex, you would cause your current partner a great deal of pain and confusion.

Moreover, it's likely that, once the initial novelty of rekindling the romance has faded, history would repeat itself and your ex would once again be unfaithful. So my advice is to put all your focus and energy into your current relationship. I would also tell your ex-boyfriend to stop contacting you. My final piece of advice is to make your decision as soon as possible and resolutely stick to it, because you risk hurting both guys. Good luck.