Advice column by Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC.
Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and "unusual" social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.
My Mother-in-Law has been causing lots of drama in our lives. I know how typical and cliché it must sound to complain about the mother-in-law but this woman is certifiable. She calls my husband and tells her how horrible her life is and how mistreated she is by her "boyfriend." She has asked to come live with us and my husband and I have agreed that this is not a possibility as we are in school, work full-time, and are still getting our life together as husband and wife.
She calls and continues to drop hints about coming to live with us without directly asking. He tries to divert the conversation elsewhere but then she tells he own son that "maybe I should just take a bunch of pills and go to sleep." I've asked him to stand up to her and not put up with that behavior but he doesn't feel it's worth it.
To finish it all off, we recently found out that she's been telling my husband's sister and her family how horrible I am with ridiculous lies. All of this is very troubling especially when I see my husband withdrawal and become depressed after these phone calls.
I want to be supportive in every way I can and my "mama bear" instincts are screaming at me to talk to her myself and call her out on her nonsense. Any advice you have would be very appreciated.
Like I always say, it is a cliché for a reason. Many folks have "monster-in-law" horror stories but it sounds like yours goes beyond anecdotes or joking. I do not hear you saying you have stated a clear "No" to her regarding the move. It would help for the three of you to meet, and address her needs openly so they may be met.
Safety comes first, even if it means a shelter. If your MIL is being abused, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline immediately to get some direction and help. Otherwise, I am not sure if she is bluffing, planning on coming to live with you in order to get out of an unhealthy situation permanently, or if she and her boyfriend do the exhausting break up/make up dance on a regular basis and you are being sucked into their drama. My gut tells me you might not know for sure, either. Make it clear that you cannot handle a roommate right now, so no more silly threats to appear in your home like Endora from Bewitched, but you can help her get the help she needs.
Her drama is likely nothing new, especially for your husband. Manipulative parents know just where to plant mental microchips while raising children; through withholding, conditioning, cognitive structuring and outright abuse. Conscious or not, they are investing, so that one day they can call adult Bobby or Susie and press a couple of buttons that regress him or her to a love-starved 5-year-old who will easily do their bidding. Make it clear that you know about the gossip without discussing it further. Any phone conversations, texts, or other such communication with your husband should have a time and content limit, i.e., no drama from Mama. Any serious things she needs to discuss at length must be face-to-face with both of you present for now.
Secondly, she definitely needs professional support now. Her relationship with the boyfriend and her son, cryptic threats to come live with you against your wills, and vague threats of self-harm suggest a type of clinical disorder that can only be effectively addressed in therapy and possibly with medication. She needs to be evaluated immediately and she can start by simply going to see her doctor for a psychiatric referral or check out the GET HELP section right here for therapists.
Whenever her lies about you come up, remind people "You can simply judge me by my actions." Fighting gossip is a foolish pursuit, and bait for manipulation; do not waste your time chasing and trying to correct it. Good for you, Mama Bear. You are protecting your man, and this seems to be taking a toll on him. He may benefit from counseling himself if he cannot work with you, together, and set healthy boundaries with his mother.
Problems for Pride
I am a gay man, 20 and recently came out to my parents and older sister. They were sweet and all fine with it, but my parents were possibly too fine with it. Now that's all they want to talk about! They tell everyone they encounter how proud they are of me, look to see if I am checking out guys in public, joke with me about dating and try to set me up with gay sons of their friends or coworkers, started watching LOGO and using gay slang, and nagging me to bring guys home that I have not even met yet!
I am trying to concentrate on school because I just transferred last fall to a university nearby after two years of junior college living at home, now I have my own apartment finally and I am on my own so what happens? They have invited themselves to pick me up and go together to the Pride Parade soon! They even said they would go to a gay bar with me and my friends afterward. They have always been the most protective and supportive parents but they are taking this too far. I have never even dated a guy yet, and I do not know how to even get started, in fact I thought about trying Grindr so that I can just go on a couple of dates and get the ball rolling! But it is hard to focus on a social life when I have school and my parents practically threatening to jump in the back seat for my first date!
Hi Baby Boy,
I don't know if you intended to ask two questions, but I will answer both.
First, take a breath and thank your folks for being so accommodating. So many families are not accepting of their boys and girls. You are truly blessed. Acknowledge their positivity. Let them know you appreciate it. They are excited, embracing this change and ready to celebrate who you are with you, apparently with no plans to wrap up the party anytime soon. Direct them to PFLAG, where they can connect and even hoot and holler and gyrate with the other beaming parents and allies right up there on their very own float at Pride.
There is another dynamic to consider; you are their baby, presumably the last and recently flown from the nest. The gay thing may just be incidental as they are accustomed to having you safe at home. Now, you are out in the world and they cannot hear you come in at night or check in with you anytime to feel reassured that you are safe and not hurting or upset or in trouble. But you can remember to reassure them by calling regularly, even video occasionally, and reminding them that you still need them sometimes.
Now, I am not sure if you know what Grindr is, but it is popularly used as a hook-up app that literally uses GPS to find a date or...whatever. With no dating experience, do not start there and whatever you do and whenever you do it, be safe! There are dating sites, but for now you could just put yourself out in this new community! Join like-minded student organizations, go to meetings and campus events, socialize and maybe you will meet a date the old-fashioned way while you settle in there. I would also not rule out the two caring matchmakers who want to set you up; you already have a dating service on call, why not knock out a couple of practice dates with these pre-screened sons of your parents' friends? You may be pleasantly surprised. Best of luck.
I am a 22 y/o gay guy. I volunteer for an organization that serves LGBT youth and another volunteer there is a man in his 60's. His partner died a few years ago, and he is lonely but he talks to me a lot. I have gone with him for coffee twice and he likes to talk. He is funny, I admit, but he talks about things that happened like 40 years before I was born, how different it is for gay kids today, problems he had growing up, coming out, etc. I don’t mean to say he is boring, he is actually humorous but what do we have in common? He has never made any advances but is that where this is headed? I am not sure why he wants to spend time together or if we need to keep doing it.
- Geezer Pleaser
Hi Geezer Pleaser,
You might want to change your nickname, it could definitely give your senior friends the wrong idea. An idea that this elderly gentleman apparently does not entertain. Not all older gay men are cruising or grooming young ones for sex and - brace yourself -some are not even attracted to you!
If you never agree to meet with him again, at least do me a favor and get one last look at him, very close-up and study him carefully. Because that is going to be you, and sooner than you would ever believe possible. That is what an old gay man looks like and you will be one. I know gay culture communicates an obsession with youth and appearance, a side effect of centuries of oppression, and the concept of "elders" is almost altogether absent. That is a shame.
Like the larger culture we belong to, seniors get little respect and they are such an undervalued resource, too. If you don't take the time to get to know elderly gay folks, who are usually wiser and more experienced and could save you so much grief if you only listened to them, it will be your loss. Real mentors are invaluable guides when you are trying to navigate your youth. One fine example is the It Gets Better Project. When we have no frame of reference to imagine our own aging, we are laying the groundwork for disappointment, depression and despair even well before arrival.
I think you enjoy this man's company on some level or you probably would not have taken the time to send me a letter about him. It could be that what you have stumbled upon was never sexual at all, and you have discovered what us oldies call friendship. Try being his friend and you will not only be kind to him, but you may eventually be smarter and more mature than any of your friends your own age.
26 year old woman here. I have a first cousin 7 years younger who could not be more distant. My mom insists that she "looks up to me," but we have never spent more than an hour together on rare occasions. She is a Facebook friend but we never talk and certainly are not close. She sent me a PM asking me to be the maid of honor at her wedding? I have no idea why and I can only guess that she does not have many friends and thinks I will be an easy fill-in. She is 4 hours away, we do not really socialize with that branch of the family, but my mom is going and is really pushing me to do it so I don't hurt her feelings and I need to turn her down soon ... but how?
- Desperately Detached
So, it would make Mom and cousin happy to get a quick fitting, buy a gift and make a simple four-hour drive and be a guest of a relative who considers you their personal hero, at a wedding where there may even be free dinner and booze. I do not hear you describing any heinous transgressions that earned her branch of the family personae non gratae status, and if your mother is urging you to comply she must not share these
Personally, I am calculating no big sacrifice on your part, and when you reconnect you may actually like some of these folks. I think you should maid-up and go; be uncomfortable if you need to for a couple of hours and hang out with Mom if it turns out to be unbearable, at least you seem to like her. Do it, Detached ... become the hero your cousin thinks you are!
Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author's alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.