Mailbag: What do I do with an enabling MIL?

Dear Divorce Minister,

….back in Feb. I discovered my husband of 20 years had been having a 2 year affair. About 2 weeks later I discovered that my MIL, who prides herself on being an ‘upstanding Christian woman’ who attends church twice a week, knew about the affair!

I caught my husband by using a hidden recorder in his car, & he uses Bluetooth, so not only did I hear him but also the other person. I got to hear my MIL ask all about what the adulterous got him for his birthday, oohing & aahing over the gifts….& when discussing a local restaurant she automatically ‘assumed’ that his lunch had been w’this other woman….not his wife or his teenage twins! She then later in the conversation told him all about a nurse at her Dr’s office, who attends the church that my MIL works at in the nursery, about how pretty she was…..& she’d LOVE for Brian to meet her!!

My husband of course denies that his mom was aware of his affair, saying that she was under the assumption that the adulterous was just a ‘business acquaintance’.

Me & my MIL have had many conversations about my husband’s business including all the different ‘co-workers’ that he does business with, but never once had my MIL talked about this woman to me! She knows that I’m aware (& upset) about her asking all about & having sweet conversations w’Brian about this woman, but has not acknowledged it in any way shape or form to me, despite the fact that I no longer speak to her nor does her 17 year old granddaughter.

She did send me a passive aggressive text shortly after I discovered this info, basically saying that she has unconditional love for her son & I will never change that (not that I would ever even try to do such a thing) & that she wanted to be kept completely OUT OF IT, she wanted to hear nothing. Her quote was ‘I don’t want you putting mean words in my brain to replay over & over’.

I was around her at Christmas, for the sake of my kids & husband. I was polite, didn’t cause a scene, but I didn’t even come close to acting w’her the way I did before all of this!

What blows me away as well is she was married for approx 25 years before divorcing Brian’s dad, & he cheated on her off & on throughout most of their marriage….so she knows the pain & heartache of infidelity firsthand!

I’ve typed an email to her, but not sent it because she’s basically told Brian (& myself in a round about way in her text back in March) that she will not read anything from me. Oh don’t get me wrong she’d love to talk to me now….IF I acted as if her son did nothing wrong & especially that she didn’t do anything wrong!

I have so much pent up hurt, anger, feelings of betrayal (by him AND her), & frustration of not being heard. I can’t talk about this w’my husband because he becomes very defensive of his mom on this subject! It will undoubtedly lead to a major argument.

I totally understand & have for my twins unconditional love, but I can’t imagine the day that I’d stand by knowing that one of them was committing such a sin, & the hurt & pain for my own grandchildren that would be created by this selfish sin! Not only am I trying to recover from discovering my husbands betrayal but my MIL’s betrayal as well.

Does anyone have any words of wisdom or advice?

Thank you all so much!

SC

Dear SC,

While your MIL is certainly enabling this wicked behavior, your primary problem is with your husband who is 100% responsible for cheating on you.

He is your problem!

His mother is merely a side-show to the main problem here. That does not mean what she is doing is okay. It is absolutely awful!

Let me dig into some of the particulars. You wrote,

I was around her [MIL] at Christmas, for the sake of my kids & husband. I was polite, didn’t cause a scene, but I didn’t even come close to acting w’her the way I did before all of this!

Some of your suffering is caused by not honoring your own values. You clearly have no desire to “play normal” around this disordered woman and your cheating husband. Then don’t. 

Who cares what he thinks or she says?! You know the truth. He is cheating, and she is essentially playing along as his wing “man” trying to help him pick up the latest flavor of skank.

Your children are almost adults. They can handle the truth. You are not going over to your mother-in-law’s because she is helping him cheat on you.

Please, stop playing along!

Next you write,

What blows me away as well is she was married for approx 25 years before divorcing Brian’s dad, & he cheated on her off & on throughout most of their marriage….so she knows the pain & heartache of infidelity firsthand!

Yes, that is bad. However, there is something actually worse than your MIL doing this:

Your husband grew up in a home where his father was a serial cheater and now he engaging in the same abusive behavior with you, his wife!

You are wasting precious energy on your nasty MIL when you could better channel that righteous anger to get free of your abusive husband whose behavior is the real root problem here.

You wrote,

I have so much pent up hurt, anger, feelings of betrayal (by him AND her), & frustration of not being heard. I can’t talk about this w’my husband because he becomes very defensive of his mom on this subject! It will undoubtedly lead to a major argument.

Once again, your problem is  not your MIL. It is your husband cheating. The fact he is responding the way he is says to me that he not sorry for cheating in the least and will continue.

Are you willing to accept such abuse from your husband? Is his ongoing cheating acceptable to you?

If not, then I suggest talking to stop talking to him and to start talking to a divorce lawyer.

You have power in the situation, SC. It is up to you to decide whether or not to remain in a marriage to a cheater who is being enabled by his mother.

My recommendation from what you have written is to quietly get your business in order and then drop the divorce bomb. Just because Brian’s mother tolerated 25 years of cheating abuse does not mean you have to!

Please, end the abuse cycle and teach your daughters that adulterous abuse is completely unacceptable!

Hugs,

-DM

3 thoughts on “Mailbag: What do I do with an enabling MIL?”

  1. That MIL is such a “nice/righteous” person…Treating her daughter in law with such disdain… unfortunately such MIL/FILs exist… we can not change them…

  2. One of God’s greatest gifts to me since my husband’s affair came to light is that I have been able to cut ties w/much of his immediate family w/o feeling like I’m bad or wrong to do so. For much of our 28 years together – almost 30, my MIL has been a thorn in my side. She’s not a warm or welcoming person or at least not to me. Despite providing her w/2 of her 3 grands, I’ve always been treated like a second class citizen in their family. Granted, I made my own contributions to the tension too. I am an ACOA – when I feel unwelcome, rejected and not like I truly belong – I’m combatative; marrying into a family with overpowering women (MIL, SIL and a slew of very competitive, angry extended AIL’s – aunts in law) was probably a mistake. I had a bad feeling in my gut as soon as I met her. I should have run then but I was pregnant already with my first child -now a young adult. So be it. When my husband’s affair came to light, four days later my SIL was marrying for the first time at almost age 60. I was a wreck from finding out my husband had been having an almost two year emotional (on line, texting) and then physical affair w/the same woman. I found out on a Sunday and that Friday I had to attend my SIL’s wedding. I was a basket case needless to say. My MIL, AIL, and SIL knew something very serious had gone down in my marriage at my SIL’s wedding day and my husband – their son, nephew and brother- was the cause of it. At the end of the reception… my MIL’s sister (the AIL) and MIL went on the attack to me… a minor infraction on my part that they jumped all over – verbally and physically attacking me. Everyone in their family enables each other w/their rage They don’t drink or drug or gamble to excess… instead they are rage-a-holics. That day I made a promise to myself and I told my husband. I vowed to have nothing to do w/his family – esp. his mom and sister and aunt ever again. And to make it even more crystal clear that I was doing the right thing for my own mental health, three days after her lovely wedding, my SIL wrote my husband in support of his affair saying, “While I don’t condone you having an affair… anyone who knows your wife and how selfish and self absorbed she is, can’t be surprised.” Nice, huh?? This from a woman who never married til age 58 and never had children of her own. This from a SIL who knew our son has a disability and our adult daughter (her nephew and niece) was diagnosed and treated for cancer while her brother was having the affair. My husband started the affair before our daughter’s diagnosis but didn’t stop continuing w/it either. There really are no words. Now 18 months after the affair coming to light, I barely spend any time w/my inlaws.I follow the suggestion of Al Anon thinking that we get, as ACOA’s, to choose who we put ourselves and around and choose to only be around those who bring out our best side of ourselves. My in-laws – esp. the women – definitely do not bring out my more admirable qualities. I don’t try to be mean to them or last out, I just don’t participate in family gatherings at their home (the sight of their attacks post the wedding) and I will not go there if my SIL is there-she’s now the worst to deal with. MY MIL has calmed down and slowed down a bit in her nasty ways as she ages into her mid 80s but my SIL has energy to spare w/her mean qualities. I know my FIL is baffled because he’s quite old and I don’t have anything against him but they are all a package deal. I don’t prevent or insist my husband not spend time w/them (along w/our children) – I just don’t participate in family gatherings for anything much. They were at my daughter’s wedding in the fall and I would never have prevented them from attending such a milestone. They are good to my kids as grands… just not so much stellar in-laws. They are like a private club you can never be admitted to. And honestly I don’t miss them at all. I’d like to spend time w/my FIL but he’s so dependent on my MIL and his daughter – it’s not realistic. I’m still very much in the thick of trying to recover from being cheated on by their son and some days I still don’t know what end is up or what my future plan are. If you have any insight into this… please write back. I truly believe the term: “Rejection is God’s protection.” Even though my husband rejected me and betrayed me and disrespected me by having an affair, God has provided sweet protection from the mean tone and angry attitudes of his family thru this event for me. It is a gift. I feel such a sense of relief. Thoughts welcome. Peace. MM

    1. MollyMagee,

      You’re in very bad and unsecure situation as is…

      you’re doing the right thing by cutting ties with anyone who is abusing you.

      I don’t blame you for your decision to stay married with you cheater husband… it’s your decision… but he is your problem…

      He alone can put a stop to InLaw treating you badly… yet he does not…

      Unfortunately, your husband is holding that door open for more abuse…and any time he goes to visit or InLaws coming over you will be exposed to more hurt…

      It will not get any better… you will act out as a self preservation reaction…

      I have been there… I know…

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