Handling a Controlling Mother as a Team

From a wife who is learning so very much from God.  I love the way this wife is seeking her husband’s counsel and advice and taking it.  I love how she is placing herself under his covering, leadership and protection.  This is a much healthier way for her to handle situations with her husband, her mother and her daughter.  I believe this will bless you, ladies!
I’ve always suspected my 8 year old girl was ADHD, and after a referral by the school, she got tested by a psychologist and it was confirmed.   They referred us to a doctor to start medical treatment.  I phoned my mom to inform her (asking my husband if its ok first, due to her controlling nature and her history with interfering with my marriage), and told her about the situation.  She immediately offered to pay for her treatment, which he at first approved.  Until my mom started, in no uncertain terms, telling me how she would be able to care for my girl much better than us!   She started telling me I MUST bring my girl to live with her!
The audacity!
Before I would’ve tried feebly defending myself, and then cry and be frustrated afterwards, taking it out on my husband.  Her controlling always triggered me criticizing my husband a (heck) of a lot!  This time I told her
  • to back off
  • it’s my child and she was given (to me and my husband) as our responsibility
  • I appreciate her offer for help, but we will manage.

Instead of sulking on it, or having a whole-day discussion about my mom with my husband again, I approached him and told him what she said, and how I reacted.  

He immediately supported me, and asked that I let her know that we will pay for her treatment ourselves.

(From Peacefulwife – Great job to both this husband and wife.  It is fine to express love to a mom in this situation, and then also express healthy boundaries.  That is VERY necessary in order to change the relationship to be a functional relationship instead of a destructive one.)

I was worried since we are already struggling financially, but kept my tongue and let my mom know,  “Thanks, we’ll manage ourselves.”  The very next day she started nagging me
  • when are we taking my girl to fetch medications?
  • we should treat her ASAP!
  • its sooo important and we simply MUST take her.

So I told her as politely as possible:

  • I appreciate her concern
  • I  am concerned too
  • it is not a serious life-threatening disease
  • she won’t die if we wait a week or two (as my husband and I discussed).
  • During the whole exercise with my girl, it was also confirmed that I might have been (and might still be) ADD as well.  So when my mom kept insisting, I told her she never took me for treatment, and I still didn’t die, so I’m pretty sure my girl will be ok if she waits a week or two for her meds.
(From Peacefulwife – BEAUTIFUL way to handle this situation! )
The moment I stood up to my mom’s pushing, she acted severely offended and started sulking herself.  
(From Peacefulwife – this is an attempt on the mom’s part to control with guilt and manipulation.  But this is not her child.  She is no longer the authority over her daughter.  Her daughter is grown and married.  The husband is the God-given authority in this family, not the wife’s mom.  God has not given her authority to make decisions and lead in her children’s lives once they are grown adults.  This wife does not owe obedience to her mother now that she is an adult.  God commands us to honor our parents as adults.  But this wife answers to God and to her husband, not to her mother at this time in her life.  This mom appears not to have healthy boundaries.  It is up to this wife and husband to set healthy boundaries with her in order to properly  protect and care for their family.)

It felt good, but scary too, so I asked my husband what I should do.  He was proud of me for not letting my mom manipulate me, and said he will firmly back me up if she starts again.

(From Peacefulwife- EXCELLENT teamwork between this husband and wife.)

My husband and I ended up talking about respect and love, and we both realized that my mom never knew what respect really meant.  She often criticized my dad towards me (no they aren’t divorced) and would often hide shopping from him, until he discovered it months later, then she could say that she’s had it for ages.   I always experienced my dad as very unemotional, aloof, and not available to us at all.  It felt like I grew up much of my life without a dad, even though he was at home.  I’ve started to realise that he pulled away from my mom and us emotionally due to her constant need to be in control, to correct everyone (including him) and overall disrespect.

We were both able to forgive my dad for a lot of wrong, as well as my mom, and decided to start loving her, but to seriously keep her at a distance since she still tries to exert her control on us in any way she can.

She’d often talk to me about
  • what she thinks my husband should be doing
  • criticizing him
  • influencing me to look down on my husband.
  • the lack of order (in my home)
  • the dirty hand marks against the wall
  • how I’m doing my ironing.

A visit from my mother, even a very brief one, used to leave me completely insecure.

She would immediately grab a brush and proceed to retie my girl’s hair, because it wasn’t to her standard.
My girl isn’t good with personal hygiene, or order (being ADHD), and combined with that, she’s extremely sensitive to criticism, and I used to be very criticizing and condescending to her.  It seemed like the only way to get her to improve, was strict control, like my mom controlled me.

Learning about respect towards my husband, and putting it into practice, also helped me see that I don’t HAVE to be in control of everything, micro-managing my children’s lives, and that its ok for them to make mistakes, too.

So I started leaving her to brush her own hair, after a gentle reminder, and she doesn’t do it perfectly.  But she starts doing it more often on her own than when I yelled at her.  And then my mom came and redid her hair her way…

I immediately saw and felt what the impact of that was on myself, how it made me feel completely incompetent, and realized how incompetent and disempowered my little girl probably felt many times.  I thought being more strict, controlling more, I would get her to do more, but the exact opposite happened.  And just as I had to cut off from my mom to protect myself, my little girl had to start cutting off from me emotionally too.

When I fully realized that I’m NOT responsible FOR my husband, but TO him, that I have to respect him to make his own decisions and to lead us, and acting it, I felt much more calm, and less stressed.  It had an impact on the way I treat my children as well.  I would ask my girl if she’d like help with her hair, and she immediately softens towards me and accepts my help, where before it would’ve been quite a fight just to get her to brush her hair…
I feel so sad for the time I’ve lost with my children because of my bad attitude, and the 11 years I’ve missed out on the wonderful human being that my husband was in his own right, but I’ve also forgiven myself for it, and am already much more at peace.

Our home is more at peace.

  • My husband now takes charge of the children’s homework and organizes them to do chores in the afternoons, so when I get home, its not nearly as bad as it used to be anymore, plus I have less chores to do myself.
  • I don’t get impatient with him anymore when he doesn’t do what I need immediately, and he actually started helping me with requests more eagerly, giving us more time to chat (while cooking or folding laundry).  He started opening up to me about how my words have hurt him in the past, and most times I’m careful to watch my approach to him now.
  • I don’t criticize him for adding more tomato sauce to his food or “my cooking!” (Yes, I did that a lot!) and leave him to enjoy his meal the way he prefers.
  • Before, if i asked him what he thinks we should cook for dinner, he’d impatiently say he doesn’t care.  I realized I often criticized his ideas, and that’s why he stopped caring.
  • Now, I respectfully ask him if he has a preference, and if he suggested burgers in the middle of the week, I calmly oblige, or would tell him I would like to, but don’t have buns or patties in the home, or that dinner might be late, and he will immediately jump in to assist as far as he can, or offer to go to the shop for me.  Before, it felt like I had to move a mountain to get him to assist me!
April,  it’s a long road ahead of us still, there are still so many bad habits and bad ways of doing things I need to unlearn.

In her own way, my mom is a very good mom, but she doesn’t know and respect God, and I’ve learned all her ways.  Its not easy, but my husband is supporting me a lot in my effort, and God has brought so many teachings and people across our path, and He is slowly but surely conforming us more to His will.

By the way, I realized why I struggled with prayer so much.  I used to love praying, singing and worshiping before I got married.  Just before I got married, I fell into sexual sin, and felt condemned for it.  My church rejected me, and I felt rejected by God too.  I felt so imperfect.  Its been 11 long years since then, and

Only recently God showed me through Biblical preaching that NO SIN is EVER too big for His Grace!  He showed me that NO MATTER WHAT I DID, He’s completely forgiven me and I needed not keep chastising myself for a mistake 11 years ago.  I did not need to keep fretting about all the wrong I’ve done towards my children and husband, since that is forgiven too!  So yes, I MAY ABSOLUTELY approach His throne with boldness! and a new-found humility and joy.

I’ve asked Him to help me with this, and I have a sneaky suspicion that the way I viewed my dad growing up, has to do a lot with it as well.  But just as He is teaching me to trust Him more, to be a respectful wife, I’m pretty sure He’s capable of teaching me how He wants me to serve Him.
RESOURCE for toxic extended family relationships – www.leslievernick.com
RESOURCE for difficult marriages, Nina Roesner’s eCourse, “Becoming a Woman of Strength and Dignity.”