Can't Stand Her Mom-in-Law

Q: Jim and I are empty-nesters, relocated, re-energized, he in his own business and me with new creative outlets. We renewed our vows and feel pretty lucky. We dealt with life's hardships, came out the other end and are pretty self-aware. Yet after 36 years, would you believe, there are still in-law issues? His healthy and sharp 86-year-old mother still has the capacity to behave most selfishly and haughtily, and I'm only subject to her out of duty and devotion to my loving husband. I've tried to detach as best as I can. The good thing is that my husband agrees and is 100% aware of her shortcomings. The bad thing is that I have found it almost impossible to spend time with her. She feigns liking me and I'm tired of this charade. How do I protect myself and still be the kind of supportive wife I want to be? — Amy, 55

Dr. Susan: The main thing you can do is spend less time in a situation that drives you crazy. You can be supportive without having to be present every single time your husband visits his mother. For starters, plan something that will keep you from attending half of those visits. Surely your husband can visit his mom without you having to be at his side every time. Playing sham "loving daughter-in-law" can indeed be wearing, stressful, and unhealthful. Meanwhile, try not to take anything she says or does personally. If she's an unlovable person, I'll bet few people like being with her. Keep visits short, and ask your husband to help you find ways to get off the hook more often.

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