April 16, 2019 at 2:37 pm #289343
Hello, beautiful people!
Let me first give some backstory for context. My husband and I have been together for 7 years, married for 2. Early in our relationship, it became awfully apparent that his mom hated me, but it wasn’t ordinary MIL disdain…it was on another level. My then BF (now husband) and I went through therapy to figure out how to set boundaries. We went through a little over 2 years of therapy before we got married. It was routine- once per week every week for an hour individually for the two years. Additionally, our therapist was amazing, open-minded, and worked with us all the way through our own wedding day. She mentioned that the MIL hated me because I was bright and ‘different’ (we are not from the same culture), and she seemed to think MIL was a ‘dark lord’ type of energy. Our therapist’s husband tragically died unexpectedly right before our wedding, and she took her life a different route, so we haven’t been back since. We both felt this was a good time to stand on our own two feet as well. Anyway, the point is— we learned a lot, and we are great at setting boundaries and recognizing the MIL’s narcissistic patterns.
What I need specifically is advice on healing these wounds that the MIL dealt. They’re painful, and I don’t like carrying dread and hate in my heart. I literally have PTSD anxiety from the emotional abuse she caused early on. I focus on deep-breathing so that I can sit with the pain in order to let it go. I make very little progress. I *think* there must be a part of me that doesn’t want to heal this because ‘forgiving’ her somehow means she’s allowed to wreak havoc on my life again. It’s almost like every time I let down my guard, her evil steps in and does some damage. I’m still very angry at her. I know that some people are encouraged to go ‘no contact’ with narcissistic personality types, but my husband is not ready for that. He maintains some contact while I am low contact unless there’s a family event where I’m obligated to be. Those are so hard for me.
Fortunately, we don’t have kids. The MIL lives 20 minutes away from us. Our therapist once recommended moving out of state. Moving isn’t an option because my husband’s career relies on this geographic location. I know that’s a limiting belief, but so far our house renovations have been a great excuse to keep the family at bay— at least for now. How can I heal the wounds while still maintaining healthy boundaries? That’s the part I haven’t been able to answer yet.
Any guiding principles you can share are greatly appreciated!April 16, 2019 at 3:43 pm #289353
I wonder if your therapist has given you any tools to deal with your PTSD? You said you do deep breathing but it has not been too effective.
There are a variety of tools that help with PTSD, e.g. EFT, EMDR, meditation, etc. Have you looked into any of them? Google those techniques for they seem to be simple and effective.
Who said you have to forgive her? You can focus on healing yourself by focusing on loving yourself first.
Even if your husband does want contact with his mother, it does not mean you need to. Even with family events, there is no need to go since it affects your health. Experiencing PTSD trauma is nothing to fool around with. Mental health issues are not taken seriously in this society because it is invisible but at least your husband be the one who should understand how damaging it is to you. Begging out of contact of any kind with your mother-in-law is tantamount in protecting yourself, your health. Have your husband be your protector between you and his mother and the rest of his family.
MarkApril 17, 2019 at 7:51 am #289429
Surely the rest of the family doesn’t think she’s an angel. What I would do is to say to those people individually, “I’m going to miss the big family reunion/holiday, but I want to see YOU! Let’s get together!” You can be very honest with them. Tell them you literally cannot hand the evil MIL, that you have anxiety. (This will get back to her. Let it.) In fact, you can solicit THEIR help in dealing with her. They can be your backup and your buffer when you’re around her. Also ALWAYS have your own ride out so you’re never ever trapped at an event.
Your husband should have his own relationship with his mother and see her alone. He can be honest with her. “You stress my wife out.”
And, P.S. you CAN move! Half an hour in the opposite direction of his job from where she lives. Fifty minutes is a bigger pain in the azz for her than twenty when it comes to tormenting you.
InkyApril 17, 2019 at 9:29 am #289443
You wrote: “I literally have PTSD anxiety from the emotional abuse she caused early on”- If the T in your PTSD, that is the Trauma was caused by your MIL, then expecting to heal while still seeing her once in a while, is similar to expecting a soldier to heal from PTSD while still in the war zone, still under attack.
Got to remove the source of trauma first, take a deep breath, figuratively and many times, literally and get used to the idea that you are finally safe from her.
April 17, 2019 at 11:41 am #289471
- This reply was modified 5 months ago by anita.
Yes, I have these people in my life too. It’s especially hard when they are members of the family. It’s not so easy to walk away and get them out of your life entirely.
I agree with everything that’s been said above.
What I found that helped me a lot was ‘withdrawing mentally’ from the situation. I’m there at that event, part of me is there, and speaking and appearing as normal, but I have withdrawn mentally from any kind of hostility, emotional blackmail, the lot. It’s like I have an invisible brick wall there between us. I can only describe it in words as ‘I no longer give a monkey’s a$$ what you think about me, or anything you say about me’. All they get is a non-committal shrug from me. If they carry on, I get up and walk away, no explanation, no excuses. They are slowly learning that their behaviour will get them nowhere with me. I am a rock, a stone, a hard place when they start on me.
It has taken years for me to get to this point, and eventually I will remove myself entirely from these people in my family. At the moment that’s just not possible, so I just keep my distance mentally and let them get on with it, and ignore them completely when they try to needle me into some kind of reaction. I don’t feed their drama, or their lies, or react to anything they say. At social events I stay as far away as it is possible to be, on the opposite side of a room, or on a different table.
I pity them for what they are and what they cannot change about themselves. And pity is a very good defence. I would hate to be pitied myself, and to pity them gives me power and a defence against them. I feel ten feet tall when I use this technique against them.
How can I heal the wounds while still maintaining healthy boundaries? That’s the part I haven’t been able to answer yet.
This might help: You pity them for what they are not and will never be. Imagine a life where you cannot change yourself, and you deliberately and toxically upset others. Would you want that for yourself? Nope!
And they cannot change either, what an awful shame for them!
From pity comes understanding, and maybe a bit of forgiveness. Feel sorry for them, they will never be happy, like you.