Relationship Advice

Old-school Bully

perplexed woman

I am from another country. I have a mother-in-law I believed accepted and liked me. My father-in-law is condescending and just plain rude. Over the years he made numerous comments I ignored. My mother-in-law was aware of the problem and always told him to stop. I believed she was supportive in her own way.

After 10 years it became too much.

I told my father-in-law to speak to me with respect. My husband got involved and explained to his parents how his father's behavior affected him over the years. He also said, though his father has people in his life who accept this behavior or brush it off, he needs to be aware of his mouth.

Days later, my mother-in-law turned on me and said, if I am not willing to "try," there is no point in continuing our relationship. This surprised me. We have children who love her and whom she supposedly loves, and I have been nothing but kind to her.

In the last few days she's been cold to my husband, her son, acting as though she does not care to know us. Today, when my husband called her, she was all sweet and nice, asking him how I am and acting as though nothing is wrong.

How do I deal with this woman? In two weeks she is giving a party for my youngest. I am expected to go there and be sweet and nice knowing she once said to my husband there were no issues in their family prior to the two of us getting married.


Lucia, an old sailing expression reminds us we can't change the wind, but we can adjust our sails. That's what your mother-in-law did. After you and your husband stood up for yourselves, she adjusted her sails based on the hot breeze blowing in her face.

She had a couple of bad days because of her husband. Then she readjusted her sails to get back in your good graces. When she said there were no issues in the family prior to your marriage, she made an unconscious admission. What she confessed was that everyone in the family has always kowtowed to the man with an unfiltered mouth.

Some people think they get to live by radical honesty while others need to hold their tongue. Your father-in-law can't believe you would stand up for yourself. He can dish it out but he can't take it.

Why people like him think they should be treated nice by those they treat nasty is a mystery. But it gives a clue to their primitive interior world. You're either for me or you're against me.

Grandpa thinks he can say mean things and get away with it. But he's not stupid. He's not senile. He can learn a new piece of technology. If he wanted, he could stop doing what he is doing. But he gets pleasure out of it, and when he gets away with it, his chest swells.

What's missing from your letter is the talk with your husband. The two of you need to make a plan. What do we do when grandpa says nasty things? How will we explain this to our children?

After you and your husband decide on a course of action, he needs to tell his mother what you intend to do. If you have qualms about acting, think about the impact your father-in-law's spite may have on your children. They can love their grandfather and at the same time not respect his bad behavior.

Wayne & Tamara