Ask Amy: Mother-in-law’s questions go too deep
Dear Amy: My mother-in-law only reaches out to me when she is concerned about her son. He’s an only child and she constantly worries about him.
She calls or texts me to ask how he’s eating, exercising, his latest bowel movements ... you get my drift.
I want to think the best of her. I believe she is trying to be a good mom by being involved. However, it also makes me feel like she sees me as her spy or a vehicle to “fix” whatever is worrying her about him.
He’s not eating healthy? It’s up to me to force-feed him his greens.
He’s not exercising enough? I should dance sexy for him (her words, not mine) to get him moving.
I’m not my husband’s “fixer.” He’s a grown man and it’s up to him to eat and exercise well.
It’s also a little hurtful that she takes no interest in me other than a, “Hello, how’ve you been? Now, let’s talk about my son.”
I know it’s wrong, but lately I have been ignoring the inappropriate suggestions and delaying answering her other messages. How should I handle this?
— Not My Husband’s Fixer
Dear Not: Is your husband in a coma? Has he fallen down a well?
I ask because, unless he is voiceless, he should be talking to his mother about his toileting habits.
I assume your husband is ducking his mother because he is exhausted by these intrusive questions. He’s likely dealt with them for a lifetime. If you asked him, “How do you cope with these questions?” He’d probably answer, “I ignore her, or tell her to talk to you.”
This is a boundary issue. If your husband is in fact alive and nearby, you can tell your mother-in-law, “He’s right here. Let me hand him the phone,” or “I’ll make sure he knows you called,” or simply, “That’s pretty personal. You should ask him!”
Also say, “I know how much you care about how ‘Paul’ is doing, but he’s basically great. He and I are happy, but I’m not really in charge of him.” Then you pivot to ask her a question about how she is and what she is up to. And yes, ignore or delay answering texts you don’t want to answer.
Your mother-in-law will always care more for her son than for you. It’s doubtful that she will ever develop a sincere interest in your life. She may always be an annoying nudge. Be kind, be firm, and practice establishing healthy boundaries, and you won’t dread hearing from her quite so much.
Dear Amy: Our oldest daughter and her fiance were planning a wedding for this summer. Due to the pandemic they have decided to reschedule the ceremony for next summer. However, in actuality they were married over a year ago in secret, so their “wedding” will be held almost three years after being married in the first place.
The discussion now is whether they should announce that they are already married, and if so, how to make the announcement. What is your feeling?
— Perplexed Mom and Pop
Dear Perplexed: Over the years of writing this column, I’ve been surprised at how often couples get married privately or “secretly,” before they host their weddings - often many months later. I have heard from couples, family members, and clergy that this is fairly common and that it shouldn’t pose a problem for others.
However, I believe that honesty about this can prevent misunderstandings, gossip, or hard feelings later on.
The couple could say (not on the invitation, but as an addendum): “We were married privately at the courthouse last year, but now we are ready to take vows in front of friends and family in a public ceremony. We hope you will join us.”
Dear Amy: Responding to the question from “Let it Be,” who didn’t want to reach out to his estranged father - boy, could I relate.
I finally forced myself to reach out to the father who had abandoned me, and while I don’t think either of us were completely satisfied with our father/daughter relationship, as you said, “reconciliation is its own reward.”
Our relationship may have been a bit awkward or painful at times, but it was also rewarding. My dad was able to have a “baggage-free” relationship with my daughter that he greatly enjoyed. And for me, that was wonderful to watch.
I’m glad I chose to be the grown-up and reached out.
— Grateful Daughter
Dear Daughter: I had a similar experience with my own father.