Bossy Elders Messing with His Marriage
Q: Five months ago I got married to a great girl, though I'm still recovering from the wedding. I will be the first to say that my mother can be somewhat controlling and ultra-involved. Well, I think she met her match with my mother-in-law. My wife and I were doing great before all this. Once we got engaged all hell broke loose, and we were in the crosshairs. It has put a huge strain on our relationship, and we're still fighting over our parents much more than I'd like. I am open to any suggestions to help us move past this for the sake of our marriage and to learn how to better handle these tough ladies! — Evan, 29
Dr. Susan: It's actually unbelievable how much pressure gets put on young couples by their moms and mothers-in-law at wedding time. As if the details of a wedding had any great significance in the long run! In your case, though, I do see one tiny benefit from your dueling elders: you've been shown early on that you must not let these women interfere in your marriage. They could do a lot of harm, as you're already seeing.
Sit that new wife of yours down and talk this out, perhaps with a glass of wine. No one is disrespecting anyone else's mother. But the two of you have to make your own decisions from here on out, and you absolutely must not take sides retroactively over anything wedding-related. You'll both know you've truly grown up when you can laugh over both older women's bossiness and not get annoyed with one another. Perhaps you could even make a little project out of trying to understand why they behave the way they do. I would guess there's very little of interest going on in their lives, causing them to invest way too much focus into your wedding.
What my own married son says to those who offer unasked-for advice: "Thank you for the suggestion. We'll consider it." Or, "Thank you for the advice, but we're not looking for any suggestions right now." Try it. It's good practice for taking a firm line with any kids you may have in the future.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.