Monday 23 April 2018

Dear Mary: My fiance's mum hates me. How do I deal with her nastiness?

I live with my boyfriend. We are really happy and we plan to get married next year and, hopefully, start a family. But his mother doesn't seem to like me at all, and, as a result, I don't like her either.

It was fine when we started going out together at the beginning, she was really nice and invited me to her home for a meal and said all the right things. But as soon as he left home and moved in with me, things changed and she became downright nasty to me.

I know that he is her favourite son and she feels that he could have done much better for himself. His previous girlfriend came from a really wealthy family and she had gone to college and had a couple of degrees, whereas I didn't go to college at all and my family would be termed working class.

She takes every opportunity to tell me about his ex-girlfriend, even to the extent of showing me photographs of my boyfriend and her together and she makes me feel very uncomfortable every time we go to visit her.

He has told me all about that girlfriend and he was the one that finished it because he didn't want to settle down. Of course, she makes sure to say things to me when he is either out of the room or talking to somebody else so that he doesn't hear her, and when he is around she is all sweetness and light.

I've talked to my boyfriend about what is going on, but he says that I'm exaggerating and that she really likes me. But if I'm exaggerating why do I dread going to her house and why do I dread even more what will happen when we get to planning the wedding? I know that she will interfere and make me feel that anything I suggest won't be good enough.

If she makes any more remarks about my family background, even in a roundabout way, I think I will lose my cool and let her have it, and yet I know that is not the answer. She is spoiling what should be a very happy time for me -- I've found the man that I want to spend the rest of my life with, if only he didn't come with a mother attached.

His father is a pet and always welcomes me -- what you see is what you get with him -- and I know he has no hidden agenda and genuinely likes me. I don't know how he puts up with her being so two-faced. She goes to Mass every morning and takes every opportunity to tell me about that too. It's a pity she isn't a bit more Christian instead of being such a devout Catholic. She, of course, expects us to get married in a church even though I would be much happier with a civil ceremony, and so would my boyfriend. Have you any suggestions about how I should deal with her?

Mary replies:

I'm sure you feel better even having written all that down -- writing in itself is very therapeutic. You certainly are going through a lot with your future mother-in-law, particularly when your boyfriend doesn't really believe that she is making your life a misery.

Let's separate your concerns into two.

Firstly, there is the previous girlfriend and your feelings that your prospective mother-in-law thinks she is better than you. I would suggest that next time she does this you gently but firmly say to her that he has told you all about his ex and that he has assured you that he was very unhappy at the end of their relationship, and then emphasise to her how happy you and he are together.

You are not going to change what she feels, no matter what anybody says, so it is a question of you believing in yourself and not being intimidated by her. You know that he chose you because he loves you, not his ex, and this is what you have to keep reminding yourself.

Your second concern is regarding the wedding plans and I agree this should be a really joyful time for you, so try to do everything you can to ensure that it is.

When you and your boyfriend have decided what format the wedding is going to take I suggest that the two of you sit down with his parents and tell them what is going to happen. It is, after all, your day, and more than likely you will be paying for it yourselves, or perhaps with some help from both sets of parents.

If he is with you when the plans are discussed, then he can deal with any objections that she may have. It would be a good idea to ask for her thoughts on things that are not all that important to you, such as flowers, cake or invitations, so that she will feel included in the planning. Once again you will have to be firm in letting her know that you have decided on certain things and both you and your boyfriend are in agreement.

If neither of you are regular churchgoers then you will have to explain to her that a civil ceremony would be more meaningful for you, and be prepared to stand your ground in your explanations, as she is bound to query this.

But, above all, don't complain to your boyfriend about his mother -- he loves you both in different ways and wants the two of you to get on.

Your girlfriends or sisters, if you have them, would make far better listeners than your boyfriend who really doesn't want to hear what you want to say.

Submit your letters to Mary anonymously at dearmary.ie.

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