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mzrella, talk about the Italian family, looking for perspective
June 13, 2007
12:04 pm
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Phoenix Girl
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Hi there!

I have been married to a man with an Italian-American mother, his father is Polish and he passed away a few months before we married, 6 years ago. I have had a troubled relationship with her from the get-go.

My husband is from the east coast, I am from the west. We met a a western university and moved to the midwest where we live now. Anyhow, she never like me, it has always been pretty transparent.

She wanted her son to marry an Italian girl or at least someone like her from the same area or town that she lives in. When I say like her, I am nothing like her. She grew up poor without a dad. She met my husband's father a married small town lawyer with 4 sons, they began an affair, he divorced and married her and had my husband. There is alot of baggage in the family in general, stuff that existed long before I came on the scene. She is materialistic but not educated or sophisticated

I am a quiet,west coast girl with an education. She has always made cutting remarks about everything, everything. I am not being singled out because she often acts arrogant, cold and aloof with other DILs, women her stepson's married. She was even cold and distant. An Italian-American girl was my matron of honor and she made over-the-top compliments about her, totally ignoring me. Clearly, this would have been a better person for my husband to marry.

Now that we have kids, she's even worse. She comes into our house, evaluating my housekeeping, making comparisons, cooking, parenting, what kind of wife I am. She goes back home and gossips about me. Its very unfair because those folks don't know me, they know her and likely take her word.

Several months ago, during one of her visits my 2 year old dtr., went upstair in her room and took most of the clothes out of her drawer. When I went to check on her she had made a big mess of her clothes. My MIL ran got her camera and started snapping photos. She sent these photos to my parents with a caption, "S trashes her room". My parents were offended and knew what she was trying to say with the photos. They promptly threw them in the trash.

She will be here next week for my son's birthday. She is unhappy that I "dont bring my kids to see her enough. They are 4 and 2 and we have driven the 8 hour trek, one way to see her 6 times. In the mean time my kids have been to see my parents in the west once. She cares very little if I ever see my own family. She isn't able or doesn't want to watch our kids which is fine. In the mean time expresses anger that my parents like to watch them.

I am so stressed about her visit that I can't sleep and I hit a parked car in a parking lot thinking about her being here. I am starting to loose my cool with her after being picked at and poked for many years. My husband doesn't get the situation because she treats him like he is Prince Charming.

I think that there is more than a cultural issue here. I am being bullied...

June 13, 2007
1:19 pm
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Matteo
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Sorry to break it to you, but it is a matter of dysfunction, not cultural differences. If your husband doesn't understand, you have hard times in front of you; perhaps deep down he feels that he still should be treated like a prince by you and feels deprived...

Been there, and we were all from the same nation, which doesn't consist of immigrants, we were living in the same country, spoke the same language and supposedly had the same culture. In reality we couldn't be farther from each other. I despised his parents and they hated my guts, because I refused to worship their son. I married "down", and I was gutsy enouh not to allow them to control me, although they always tried; in fact I always contradicted them and exposed their BS. Their other daughter-in-law married "up" and they treated her like dirt, because she had no tools to defend herself and was totally intimidated by them all. She was so lost and put down by them and their son, it was heartbreaking to watch. And of course their son had no fault whatsoever, ever.

I am sorry to be so gloom here, but it is not an easy situation and it takes a brilliant and open-minded person not to succumb to the parents and stand by the wife (or husband if the roles are reversed). Good luck to you.

June 13, 2007
2:53 pm
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Phoenix Girl
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I agree that its dysfunction. I know that I need to distance myself and face whatever consequences those will be. I will be guilt trip and my reputation will be under attack. Truly, I have nothing to loose. None of the family really are close to me anyway so it doesn't matter what they think of me. Its irrelavant. It will break down to allowing her to visit here every 8 weeks and my husband going alone to see her and the rest of the family.
You have spoke the truth, Matteo. Thanks for your honesty!

June 13, 2007
4:04 pm
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atalose
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It sounds like your husband stands on top of the fence not knowing which side at which time to fall on. If she treats him like a prince I'm sure he doesn't see what's really going on especially with her limited visits.

Limited visits are what you have on your side so take advantage of them. Have her spend as much time with her grand kids as possible while you enjoy the time to relax and get your hair cut or do some shopping, etc. etc. Let her cook and enjoy the fact you don't have to while she is there. If she wants to clean all the merrier!!!

The truth is those people she gossips to back at her home are fully aware of her and her behavior of now and I’m sure she gossips about them too. Who cares what she says about you it sounds like she’s not happy unless she is complaining about someone. The other people in your family are also fully aware of her and what she is really all about, it’s sad when you think about people like that and how miserable they truly are.

Since you can’t change her, change the way you think about her and this situation. Other wise you are always going to be heading up steam in a down stream flow.

Atalose

~~Hope has a place, but not above reality~~

June 13, 2007
4:25 pm
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Phoenix Girl
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atalose, great stuff, hit-the-nail-on-the head. I know what you said is the truth. Thanks so very much!! She loves my kids and I wouldn't do anything to poison that, no way but I am disconnecting from the b.s.

What you said about the gossip yes, they all know.

June 13, 2007
8:14 pm
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atalose
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It's a pretty good bet that who ever gossips to you will gossip about you.

Emotionaly detaching from her and her behaviors is your way to keeping your own sanity. Keep reminding yourself how truely sad and miserable she really is and how sad her life must be. Be thankful she doesn't live next door!!!!

Atalose

~~Hope has a place, but not above reality~~

June 13, 2007
8:33 pm
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Phoenix Girl-

It is more than a cultural issue. But in dysfunctional families of cultures that praise "mamisma" type of family dynamics- this is used as an excuse way too often. And I've heard the "Oh, is he ITALIAN" from my GRANDMOTHER when I was younger, much like they emphatically expressed their disappointment that my did not marry an Italian girl when they were dating (so I am told.) My grandmother was so overly concerned with whether or not my friends or boyfriends were Italian that I thought it was a unique personality quirk of hers and laughed at it. But I've seen it in other ethnicities, so yeah- certainly (like I stated in my threat) I believe that other people are capable of these family dynamics and predjudices.

In a family with an over controlling parent, like mother in law, if the son is of weak character (which is often the case if she raised him and he didn't get away soon enough)... mama gets her way all the time and no one will ever measure up to her. Remember, as abusive as such a woman seems... they give their precious sons unconditional love... their wives and girlfriends hopefully won't- if it involves putting up with bullshit.

My grandmother was seldom invited to visit. My mother is a pack rat and does very little house work, but even in the days when the house was relatively empty... she never wanted the woman there. In a way, my grandmother didn't need criticize my mother directly, though I'm sure she said things. I used to stay at her house and my grandparents would talk about my mother, when I was old enough to understand they spoke in Italian. My grandmother raised a man who did the job of criticizing my mom well enough himself that my grandmother didn't have to be present.

My grandmother was the old fashioned housewife type totally devoted and in love with her husband. And in those times that meant she did what he wanted her to (but vice versa because they did have the same values). You can be sure the comparisons were made all the time- I know I heard all about it so you can imagine he was a bastard to my mom (unlike my grandfather was to my grandmother).

I hope your husband is a better man to you than my father was to my mother. How much do you emphasize to your husband that you do NOT like her behavior and do you ask him to intervene? Maybe he would and doesnt realize the magnitude of this. Men are often oblivious. As stated above, HE is not the one taking the heat. I have hope for you because you didn't mention him being difficult, so maybe you guys can work together on this.

Please don't feel as if I am slighting my heritage by posting about the mamisma thing. It was only an example of exactly how COMMON this thing is in one country. It's there and it's real. But then again, I look at the diverse population of this country and I say- men in general have a way to go. Unfortunately, a lot of us women (me included) are responsible for allowing them to get away with a lot of the behaviors that end up hurting us in the end. We help perpetuate it. Fortunately, we are not our grandmothers, and have enlightenment and support.

Matteo-

Something ironic... a quote I often heard my father say to me "Women always are marrying DOWN, men always marry UP." You'd think he really respected women, I wish he behaved accordingly.

-ella

June 13, 2007
9:10 pm
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Matteo
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From my observation - only women with low self-esteem marry down. Most of the women I know married up or within the same class, and the rule was that women had less education than men did, especially in my parents' generation. Exception was my ex-husband's family where all his sisters took husbands with lower education than they had, and not only that - the guys just couldn't match anywhere near intellectually. But having a father like my ex father-in-law was and a mother who was his shadow affected them a lot. However, they were very "normal" otherwise, even nice, especially in comparison with their monster brothers.

June 13, 2007
9:22 pm
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fantas
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Phoenix...I have seen some crazy mothers and fathers in law out there. Ideally, the daughter or the son of the troublesome parent should deal with them and set their boundaries. However, most times they are oblivious to what is going on or they just don't have the backbone to stand up to their parents. Regardless of the culture, abuse and harrassment is hurtful to the one receiving it and I think that the one being harrassd should stand her ground and put an end to it. The fact that you got into a car accident indicates just how affected you are by this. Had anything happened to you,what would happen to your kids? I'd say let your husband know that he can chooses to speak to his mom or you will. I think it's strange for her to love her grandchildren but hate their mother. I don't feel that she has earned to be with them unsupervised. They sense her animosity towards you and it's hurtful to them emotionally and psychologically. It causes them to want to take sides between you and them. Besides, I do not trust the she doesn't badmouth you to them. She does it with everyone else. So it's no longer between her and you...the whole family is involved.
I think you, her and your husband should have a meeting where you outline what is acceptable in your house and infront of your children. This is what my mother,and her father had to with my dad and his father who was very abusive to her. My mum's dad threatened to have my her divorce my dad and he wasn't kidding. My father heard it loud and clear and his father was very careful with his behaviour after that... I wish you all the best. Keep posting

June 13, 2007
9:32 pm
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Matteo-

My father just meant that in most cases practically, men get the better end of the deal. It was a socialogical observation. I think it's true. Especially in his marriage. Too bad he blew it.

June 14, 2007
4:09 pm
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Phoenix Girl
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fantas, You raise excellent points. My husband did talk with her 2 years ago and she denied that she had any problem with me, blamed others and the became angry. His talking to her actually made things worse. I wrote her a letter,6 months ago after the "S trashes her room photos" were sent to my parents and certainly shown around the family, like some badge of honor.

I stated my case. I told her that I had gone above and beyond to be a part of this family. I told her that basically I didn't have a chance because I am different (not dysfunctional). I stated this in a vague way not to imply that she or the rest is dysfunctional.

She has visited at least once since this letter and pulls the same stuff. Basically, bullying behavior, trying to insult, humble and intimidate me. I haven't talked to her since April. She'll be here next week as stated.

The car accident is a big wake-up call. I am responsible for 2 very young kids and this stress compromises me emotionally to the point that my kids could suffer.

The point raised about gossiping about me, the mother of her grand kids, is excellent. When I see that in writing, it sinks in.

I am going to refuse to visit there. Again, have nothing to lose.

June 18, 2007
3:19 pm
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Phoenix Girl
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Update: I spoke to my husband and he is going to visit family incl. MIL alone this August. It feels good. Don't care whats gonna be said, the gossip about how I don't bring the kids on the 8 hour one-way trek to see her and this and that, blah, blah, blah... Thanks to everyone for your words and support, you helped me out!

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