Relationship Connection: My mother-in-law lied about me for years

Question

In the first year of our marriage, my mother-in-law hovered and thought she needed daily contact with us. She felt it was her right to know all of our personal affairs. After that first year, my husband and I moved away from our extended families for work purposes. We were actually looking forward to moving to start a new career and to being self-sufficient and away from her nosey intrusions.

As soon as we moved, she started telling family members and friends lies about me. It didn’t take long for things to become quite tense when we visited. We had no idea why we were being shunned by people we knew and loved our whole lives. Our move happened over 30 years ago. My mother-in-law passed away five years ago.

My father-in-law is still living, and he told my husband that there were several instances his wife had told him of things I had supposedly said to set his wife off over the years and that there were letters I had written that were hateful. My husband asked to see those letters and, of course, they are nonexistent.

I am heartbroken to think that one person could have disliked me so much that she lied and convinced people of things I never did. My father-in-law is 85 years old and he refuses to talk to me even though I have begged for a few minutes of his time to have him tell me what I am supposedly guilty of. Family members on that side love my children but they treat me horribly.

Will I ever get the satisfaction of knowing they know the truth and feel bad?

Answer

It’s too bad your mother-in-law missed out on building a relationship with you over the years. Instead, she chose a life of smallness and retaliation to your healthy need for space. I’m sorry to hear of your painful discovery as you wonder what could have been in all of these relationships. However, you don’t have to let her emotionally immature response hold you or your relationships hostage any longer.

It is natural to take inventory of your 30 years of relationships to try and determine who needs to hear the truth about you and your intentions. I believe this will be a complete waste of your time and energy.

If you feel inclined to approach specific individuals from your hometown, be clear about your motives. Do you want to form a relationship with them? Do you want to clear your name? What will change if they know your side of the story?

In most cases, these interactions will only create a loyalty split between you and your mother-in-law. Most people put the deceased on a pedestal and tend to sanitize their flaws out of respect.

You’ll be fighting against that dynamic in virtually every attempt to clear up the past.

Instead, I want you to look around you and take inventory of all of the people who know and love the real you. I’m certain you have lots of friends and loved ones who didn’t have access to your mother-in-law’s stories about you.

This is an important time to surrender something over which you have no control. I once heard that when a snake bites you, you could either chase after it or stop and suck out the venom. This is a good time to draw close to your husband, friends and loved ones who know and love the real you. As painful as it is to realize how misrepresented you have been all of these years, please realize that you’ve been able to build a life in spite of attempts to tear you down.

Part of your surrender is to fill that space with love for yourself and your mother-in-law. She obviously had serious emotional problems that prevented her from supporting her son and his wife. Now that you are older and wiser, you have the perspective to recognize that she was a troubled woman. I encourage you to try sending her your love as you begin to surrender the hurt.

Marianne Williamson said, “Something amazing happens when we surrender and just love. We melt into another world, a realm of power already within us. The world changes when we change. The world softens when we soften. The world loves us when we choose to love the world.”

Don’t let this discovery allow you to become bitter and resentful. You’ll risk depriving your own loved ones of the joy and peace they count on from you. There is nothing you need to do with this discovery, as you lived a healthy life the whole time you were being slandered. You don’t want to finish your own life trying to chase something that you’ll never catch.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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4 Comments

  • sagemoon October 21, 2015 at 8:36 am

    Good advice, Geoff.

  • Hataalii October 21, 2015 at 8:42 am

    I believe that this is the perfect time for you to use the Serenity Prayer, written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. It has been adopted by AA and other twelve step programs:

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can,
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    Obviously this is something that you can’t change. It is sad that your FIL has his mind made up, but at 85, there is no way you will change it.
    It is time to move on. Try not to be bitter of this, as the only one you will hurt is yourself.

  • anybody home October 22, 2015 at 10:05 am

    Sounds as if the people you’d like to persuade are as petty as your mother-in-law. Why else would old friends behave badly toward you when you visited on the basis of her word alone? If that’s the case, don’t waste a minute trying to get them to “understand.” On the other hand, if there’s any truth in what she said about you, own up to it and move on. I don’t think we’re getting the full picture here.

  • .... October 22, 2015 at 10:53 am

    anybody home…. You got that right.! We’re not getting the whole story here.. this whole article is ‘ out there. ‘

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