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Thread: Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

  1. #1
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    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    "Markus Gauier Henr <ThePredator_N@_spam_myexel.com>" wrote about
    an interfering sister-in-law. His suggested solution is to tell the
    sister-in-law she can run the marriage. I believe *doing* that would
    be a mistake which will lead to disaster.

    However, I believe *suggesting* it may be the right thing to do. It
    will one of several suggestions I have for you, but I'll start with
    the most obvious.

    Tell Karen the truth: Donna is the one who needs counselling. Donna
    needs help, and Karen is harming her:

    She's afraid of being alone, she's mad at me for taking away her
    drinking buddy, and she knows that you've outgrown her. I know you
    love her and you try to help her, but what she needs is the sort of
    "tough love" that alcoholics need when they won't get off the
    bottle.

    Every time you let her attack you -- and it is YOU she is attacking,
    when she belittles your choices and insults our children -- you are
    harming her. She can't form a normal relationship with a man, and
    she'll never have a healthy marriage, until she learns to be angry
    with the people who actually harmed her, instead of being angry at
    everybody who hasn't been harmed. When you let her indulge her
    anger, you are only harming her.

    The behaviour is bad for her, it's bad for you, and it's bad for our
    family.

    What your wife is doing now does not work. She needs to do something
    else.

    *

    Maybe you should tell Karen that you just can't take Donna's constant
    insults anymore. You hate the way Donna mistreats her, you hate the way
    Donna insults "us and our choices and our life". So she should make
    our choices for us:

    If you really believe that she's right when she does that, just ask
    her to make your choices for you.

    You should tell Donna that you recognise you don't know what's best
    for you. Unless you are prepared to disagree with Donna and tell
    her to stop, you should check every decision with her before you
    do it. Ask her what's wrong with our life and how we should fix
    it. Ask her what name would should have given our new baby, and
    we can go file the paperwork to change the name to whatever she
    thinks is best.

    I'm not going to leave the Church, you understand, but you can
    and I'll support whatever decision Donna makes for you. I'll help
    explain to the kids that Mommy isn't Catholic anymore, and when
    they take First Communion I'll explain why you're not there.

    If Donna is right about everything, then we must be wrong whenever
    we disagree with her. If it's what you want, we'll let her move
    in here with us and make all our decisions and run our lives. If
    that is what will make you happy, that's what we'll do.

    Of course, Donna has made clear she wants you to leave me. So it
    may well be that she'll want you to leave me. Have her pick out
    what things you'll take when you move in with her.


    With any luck, Karen will recoil in horror at the idea, and that will
    push her into doing something.

    *

    A less drastic and obvious version of the same is to implement it
    without giving it billing: if Donna starts to complain about something
    ("this neighborhood is a slum"), cut her off midsentence and say "So
    what do you think we should do?" If she says "move", say "Would you
    be willing to shop for a house you think is better than this one?"

    If Donna says "This screw is loose", you say "I never noticed. Could
    you go around the house and make a list of things that need mending?"

    If Karen says "Donna says...", stop her and say "I don't really care
    much about Donna's evaluation of the problem, unless she has a solution
    for it. Did she say what ought to be done to fix the problem?"

    *

    You're in the military. Get yourself transferred and move your family
    with you. If they're in New England, get yourself sent to San Diego,
    or Honolulu, or Okinawa.

    *

    React to Donna with boredom. When Karen starts on about something Donna
    said, say "Yeah, yeah, I'm awful, you're unhappy, our life is horrible.
    Did she say anything *new*?"

    *

    If Karen says she's unhappy, say: "Of course you're unhappy. Whenever
    you spend time with Donna, you come home unhappy. The problem isn't me,
    the problem is that you're addicted to someone bad for you, and you
    haven't given her up yet."

    Take this example:
    [T]onight she said, "You can't force me into an unhappy relationship, if I want to leave I have the right. Counsellors don't work, I'm making this decision alone!"
    Your response should have been, as calmly as possible, preferably with
    a touch of boredom:

    I'm not forcing you into an unhappy relationship. When you spend
    time with me, you smile and laugh. When you spend time with Donna,
    you're edgy and angry. Your only unhappy relationship is with
    Donna. And I'm not forcing you into it: you force it on yourself.

    *

    You say that Karen can't part from her family. So ask her the question
    backwards: "If you had been able to choose who would be in your family,
    would you have chosen Donna? Because if you leave me for her, that's
    the choice you'll be making."

    *

    Take control of the language. Whenever she says something such as "If
    we get divorced because of my family I will never forgive them.", you
    stop her mid-sentence and say "No, this is your family. If we get
    divorced because of your *sister*, you'll never forgive her. If we
    get divorced because of your *mother*, you'll never forgive her. But
    you can't get divorced because of your FAMILY, because THIS is your
    family. Your husband and your children are your family."

    *

    Be logical. I can think of two examples which illustrate what I mean.

    1) Somebody wrote to Ann Landers saying he wanted to go to med school,
    but was concerned that he'd be in his late 40s by the time he
    finished. She asked "And how old will you be in 8 years if you
    don't go to med school?"

    2) In "The Karate Kid", the title character joking suggests that he
    go talk to the teacher of the guys who keep beating him up, and ask
    the teacher to tell them to stop. Mr Miyagi approves of the idea,
    and they have this exchange:
    Daniel: Hey, I was just kidding about that.
    Miyagi: Why kidding?
    Daniel: Because I'd get killed if I go down there.
    Miyagi: Get killed anyway.

    How this applies to you is this sentence: "If we get divorced because of
    my family I will never forgive them." So you ask "Does that mean you
    wouldn't talk to Donna, or visit your parents? What does it mean that
    you would never forgive them?" If she answers in the affirmative, then
    your reply is:

    If you're going to break off contact with your family anyway, why
    not do it before they drive us to divorce? Because if you don't
    reduce contact with them, we'll probably end up splitting. So it
    looks like your choice isn't to stay with them, which you're not
    going to do no matter what. Your choice is whether you want to
    separate from them as a married woman or as a divorced woman.

    *

    Send Karen on a retreat. She's said she wants everybody else to fight
    this out without her, and just leave her alone. So give what she's
    asked for. (With a new baby, it may be hard to separate her from the
    family, especially if she's breast feeding, but maybe she really does
    need time to herself to figure things out.) So find some convent
    somewhere full of nuns who take a vow of silence, and which allows
    visits. Preferably some place which doesn't allow cell phones or even
    any electricity.

    Tell Karen you're sorry about all the trouble she has, but you can't be
    silent while Donna speaks. With the hubbub of the house, and taking
    care of her family while also dealing with her sister, she can't get
    five minutes to herself to think. So what she needs, in your view, is
    time to herself when nobody will talk to her, so she can think and read
    in peace. (A woman at our church reported that she got over a lot of
    the screwups in her old family from a book by John Bradshaw, _Bradshaw
    On: The Family_. I've never read it, so can't directly recommend it,
    but it probably can't hurt.)

    *

    Get her some reading that's not directly about families, exactly.
    Something like _Cordelia's Honor_, by Lois McMaster Bujold. The title
    character is inspirationally rational and capable.

    ***

    Incidentally, Karen is right about one thing: counselling doesn't work
    unless you're willing to (a) be honest with yourself about your
    problems, and (b) make changes in your life. If Karen is not willing to
    recognise that her controlling relatives are the problem, and she's not
    willing to make changes in her life that involve doing without them,
    then counselling is just a waste of time.


    You should also probably prepare for a split, as awful as that is.


    Darren Provine ! kilroy@elvis.rowan.edu ! http://www.rowan.edu/~kilroy
    "When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action."
    -- Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan

  2. #2

    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    This is a very insightful post, and eerily accurate to what my thinking was.

    Dr Nancy's Sweetie wrote:
    "Markus Gauier Henr <ThePredator_N@_spam_myexel.com>" wrote about an interfering sister-in-law. His suggested solution is to tell the sister-in-law she can run the marriage. I believe *doing* that would be a mistake which will lead to disaster. However, I believe *suggesting* it may be the right thing to do. It will one of several suggestions I have for you, but I'll start with the most obvious. Tell Karen the truth: Donna is the one who needs counselling. Donna needs help, and Karen is harming her: She's afraid of being alone, she's mad at me for taking away her drinking buddy, and she knows that you've outgrown her. I know you love her and you try to help her, but what she needs is the sort of "tough love" that alcoholics need when they won't get off the bottle.
    Strangely, those were my exact words 2 nights ago. It was a theme in
    our sermon Sunday about dealing with some people using tough love. Both
    Karen and I know exactly what this means. I think she agrees, but
    doesn't have the strength to apply it.
    Every time you let her attack you -- and it is YOU she is attacking, when she belittles your choices and insults our children -- you are harming her. She can't form a normal relationship with a man, and she'll never have a healthy marriage, until she learns to be angry with the people who actually harmed her, instead of being angry at everybody who hasn't been harmed. When you let her indulge her anger, you are only harming her. The behaviour is bad for her, it's bad for you, and it's bad for our family. What your wife is doing now does not work. She needs to do something else.
    All these have been said. Thanks.
    Maybe you should tell Karen that you just can't take Donna's constant insults anymore. You hate the way Donna mistreats her, you hate the way Donna insults "us and our choices and our life". So she should make our choices for us: If you really believe that she's right when she does that, just ask her to make your choices for you. You should tell Donna that you recognise you don't know what's best for you. Unless you are prepared to disagree with Donna and tell her to stop, you should check every decision with her before you do it. Ask her what's wrong with our life and how we should fix it. Ask her what name would should have given our new baby, and we can go file the paperwork to change the name to whatever she thinks is best. I'm not going to leave the Church, you understand, but you can and I'll support whatever decision Donna makes for you. I'll help explain to the kids that Mommy isn't Catholic anymore, and when they take First Communion I'll explain why you're not there. If Donna is right about everything, then we must be wrong whenever we disagree with her. If it's what you want, we'll let her move in here with us and make all our decisions and run our lives. If that is what will make you happy, that's what we'll do. Of course, Donna has made clear she wants you to leave me. So it may well be that she'll want you to leave me. Have her pick out what things you'll take when you move in with her.
    This was what I intended, but seeing you write it puts it in an outside
    perspective for me. I agree with Doug that this is passive aggressive,
    and the sarcastic tone can only be interpreted as condecending. I think
    we both know who's "right" whether we admit it or not.
    With any luck, Karen will recoil in horror at the idea, and that will push her into doing something. * A less drastic and obvious version of the same is to implement it without giving it billing: if Donna starts to complain about something ("this neighborhood is a slum"), cut her off midsentence and say "So what do you think we should do?" If she says "move", say "Would you be willing to shop for a house you think is better than this one?" If Donna says "This screw is loose", you say "I never noticed. Could you go around the house and make a list of things that need mending?" If Karen says "Donna says...", stop her and say "I don't really care much about Donna's evaluation of the problem, unless she has a solution for it. Did she say what ought to be done to fix the problem?"
    This is doable. I have to guard my emotions because some of the things
    she comes up with are just jaw-dropping inanities.
    You're in the military. Get yourself transferred and move your family with you. If they're in New England, get yourself sent to San Diego, or Honolulu, or Okinawa.
    By strange coincidence I am due to transfer next summer. We own this
    house and Karen has a wonderful career, however, and we had talked about
    doing the next four year tour as a geographic bachelor (she would stay
    with the house, I would fly back on long weekends and holidays). It's
    quite common in the military, and we know that staying here is not even
    an option (no jobs for my paygrade here once I finish school). we've
    planned this long before the D-word came up. But we've also been
    talking seriously about selling the house and taking a tour in Hawai'i.
    She says she is "not asking for a divorce, just setting parameters for
    one" and has said in the same discussion that she doesn't know what she
    will do, maybe she'll move to Hawai'i with me. I'm a bit scared to talk
    about something that should never happen in my mind. Death is
    inevitable, divorce is not. I'd be more comfortable talking about a will!
    React to Donna with boredom. When Karen starts on about something Donna said, say "Yeah, yeah, I'm awful, you're unhappy, our life is horrible. Did she say anything *new*?"
    That's my reaction, but I am also concerned - not bored - when she tells
    me the latest Donna news.
    If Karen says she's unhappy, say: "Of course you're unhappy. Whenever you spend time with Donna, you come home unhappy. The problem isn't me, the problem is that you're addicted to someone bad for you, and you haven't given her up yet." Take this example:
    [T]onight she said, "You can't force me into an unhappy relationship,if I want to leave I have the right. Counsellors don't work, I'mmaking this decision alone!"
    Your response should have been, as calmly as possible, preferably with a touch of boredom: I'm not forcing you into an unhappy relationship. When you spend time with me, you smile and laugh. When you spend time with Donna, you're edgy and angry. Your only unhappy relationship is with Donna. And I'm not forcing you into it: you force it on yourself.
    I do need to get my mind together and start reminiscing. I can't focus
    anymore. There are plenty of great memories to dwell on. Maybe I'll
    break out a scrapbook with her and the kids.
    * You say that Karen can't part from her family. So ask her the question backwards: "If you had been able to choose who would be in your family, would you have chosen Donna? Because if you leave me for her, that's the choice you'll be making."
    Seems a bit transparent, but I can think of similar analogies when she
    gets in a rational state of mind again.
    Take control of the language. Whenever she says something such as "If we get divorced because of my family I will never forgive them.", you stop her mid-sentence and say "No, this is your family. If we get divorced because of your *sister*, you'll never forgive her. If we get divorced because of your *mother*, you'll never forgive her. But you can't get divorced because of your FAMILY, because THIS is your family. Your husband and your children are your family."
    She has trouble with that definition of "family" vs. "extended family."
    Her sister says she should always be first in Karen's life because they
    are blood, and her mother says I didn't just marry Karen, I married into
    the family, so I have to deal with them. Karen would have to go against
    everything her culture calls family to accept that. This cultural
    anomaly puts a fundamental flaw in the very concept of marriage as a
    union of two people.
    Be logical. I can think of two examples which illustrate what I mean. 1) Somebody wrote to Ann Landers saying he wanted to go to med school, but was concerned that he'd be in his late 40s by the time he finished. She asked "And how old will you be in 8 years if you don't go to med school?" 2) In "The Karate Kid", the title character joking suggests that he go talk to the teacher of the guys who keep beating him up, and ask the teacher to tell them to stop. Mr Miyagi approves of the idea, and they have this exchange: Daniel: Hey, I was just kidding about that. Miyagi: Why kidding? Daniel: Because I'd get killed if I go down there. Miyagi: Get killed anyway. How this applies to you is this sentence: "If we get divorced because of my family I will never forgive them." So you ask "Does that mean you wouldn't talk to Donna, or visit your parents? What does it mean that you would never forgive them?" If she answers in the affirmative, then your reply is: If you're going to break off contact with your family anyway, why not do it before they drive us to divorce? Because if you don't reduce contact with them, we'll probably end up splitting. So it looks like your choice isn't to stay with them, which you're not going to do no matter what. Your choice is whether you want to separate from them as a married woman or as a divorced woman. * Send Karen on a retreat. She's said she wants everybody else to fight this out without her, and just leave her alone. So give what she's asked for. (With a new baby, it may be hard to separate her from the family, especially if she's breast feeding, but maybe she really does need time to herself to figure things out.) So find some convent somewhere full of nuns who take a vow of silence, and which allows visits. Preferably some place which doesn't allow cell phones or even any electricity.
    We've always enjoyed camping, but a 3-month old makes it difficult.
    Tell Karen you're sorry about all the trouble she has, but you can't be silent while Donna speaks. With the hubbub of the house, and taking care of her family while also dealing with her sister, she can't get five minutes to herself to think. So what she needs, in your view, is time to herself when nobody will talk to her, so she can think and read in peace. (A woman at our church reported that she got over a lot of the screwups in her old family from a book by John Bradshaw, _Bradshaw On: The Family_. I've never read it, so can't directly recommend it, but it probably can't hurt.)
    I can look into this, have a talk with her attorney (boss). It sounds
    like a great idea since I can watch the kids until the next semester
    starts up. Maybe only a weekend.
    Get her some reading that's not directly about families, exactly. Something like _Cordelia's Honor_, by Lois McMaster Bujold. The title character is inspirationally rational and capable.
    She's suspicious of anything I give her. She doesn't want outside
    influence (even if it's professional). Donna's doing, I assume. She
    told Karen I'd "play the God card" in an amazing display of astuteness.
    Well, it gave her credit in Karen's eyes.
    Incidentally, Karen is right about one thing: counselling doesn't work unless you're willing to (a) be honest with yourself about your problems, and (b) make changes in your life. If Karen is not willing to recognise that her controlling relatives are the problem, and she's not willing to make changes in her life that involve doing without them, then counselling is just a waste of time. You should also probably prepare for a split, as awful as that is.
    I have thought of this, and Donna has already "preempted it" for Karen
    turning it into a suggestion that I have no faith in Karen. Fortunately,
    when Karen brought it up (she said "I bet you were already preparing for
    divorce and figuring out how to get custody of the kids from me").
    Fortunately, I hadn't yet. But I knew Donna would play that one. It's
    quite hard to think like a malicious vengeful *****.


  3. #3

    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    This is a very insightful post, and eerily accurate to what my thinking was.

    Dr Nancy's Sweetie wrote:
    "Markus Gauier Henr <ThePredator_N@_spam_myexel.com>" wrote about an interfering sister-in-law. His suggested solution is to tell the sister-in-law she can run the marriage. I believe *doing* that would be a mistake which will lead to disaster. However, I believe *suggesting* it may be the right thing to do. It will one of several suggestions I have for you, but I'll start with the most obvious. Tell Karen the truth: Donna is the one who needs counselling. Donna needs help, and Karen is harming her: She's afraid of being alone, she's mad at me for taking away her drinking buddy, and she knows that you've outgrown her. I know you love her and you try to help her, but what she needs is the sort of "tough love" that alcoholics need when they won't get off the bottle.
    Strangely, those were my exact words 2 nights ago. It was a theme in
    our sermon Sunday about dealing with some people using tough love. Both
    Karen and I know exactly what this means. I think she agrees, but
    doesn't have the strength to apply it.
    Every time you let her attack you -- and it is YOU she is attacking, when she belittles your choices and insults our children -- you are harming her. She can't form a normal relationship with a man, and she'll never have a healthy marriage, until she learns to be angry with the people who actually harmed her, instead of being angry at everybody who hasn't been harmed. When you let her indulge her anger, you are only harming her. The behaviour is bad for her, it's bad for you, and it's bad for our family. What your wife is doing now does not work. She needs to do something else.
    All these have been said. Thanks.
    Maybe you should tell Karen that you just can't take Donna's constant insults anymore. You hate the way Donna mistreats her, you hate the way Donna insults "us and our choices and our life". So she should make our choices for us: If you really believe that she's right when she does that, just ask her to make your choices for you. You should tell Donna that you recognise you don't know what's best for you. Unless you are prepared to disagree with Donna and tell her to stop, you should check every decision with her before you do it. Ask her what's wrong with our life and how we should fix it. Ask her what name would should have given our new baby, and we can go file the paperwork to change the name to whatever she thinks is best. I'm not going to leave the Church, you understand, but you can and I'll support whatever decision Donna makes for you. I'll help explain to the kids that Mommy isn't Catholic anymore, and when they take First Communion I'll explain why you're not there. If Donna is right about everything, then we must be wrong whenever we disagree with her. If it's what you want, we'll let her move in here with us and make all our decisions and run our lives. If that is what will make you happy, that's what we'll do. Of course, Donna has made clear she wants you to leave me. So it may well be that she'll want you to leave me. Have her pick out what things you'll take when you move in with her.
    This was what I intended, but seeing you write it puts it in an outside
    perspective for me. I agree with Doug that this is passive aggressive,
    and the sarcastic tone can only be interpreted as condecending. I think
    we both know who's "right" whether we admit it or not.
    With any luck, Karen will recoil in horror at the idea, and that will push her into doing something. * A less drastic and obvious version of the same is to implement it without giving it billing: if Donna starts to complain about something ("this neighborhood is a slum"), cut her off midsentence and say "So what do you think we should do?" If she says "move", say "Would you be willing to shop for a house you think is better than this one?" If Donna says "This screw is loose", you say "I never noticed. Could you go around the house and make a list of things that need mending?" If Karen says "Donna says...", stop her and say "I don't really care much about Donna's evaluation of the problem, unless she has a solution for it. Did she say what ought to be done to fix the problem?"
    This is doable. I have to guard my emotions because some of the things
    she comes up with are just jaw-dropping inanities.
    You're in the military. Get yourself transferred and move your family with you. If they're in New England, get yourself sent to San Diego, or Honolulu, or Okinawa.
    By strange coincidence I am due to transfer next summer. We own this
    house and Karen has a wonderful career, however, and we had talked about
    doing the next four year tour as a geographic bachelor (she would stay
    with the house, I would fly back on long weekends and holidays). It's
    quite common in the military, and we know that staying here is not even
    an option (no jobs for my paygrade here once I finish school). we've
    planned this long before the D-word came up. But we've also been
    talking seriously about selling the house and taking a tour in Hawai'i.
    She says she is "not asking for a divorce, just setting parameters for
    one" and has said in the same discussion that she doesn't know what she
    will do, maybe she'll move to Hawai'i with me. I'm a bit scared to talk
    about something that should never happen in my mind. Death is
    inevitable, divorce is not. I'd be more comfortable talking about a will!
    React to Donna with boredom. When Karen starts on about something Donna said, say "Yeah, yeah, I'm awful, you're unhappy, our life is horrible. Did she say anything *new*?"
    That's my reaction, but I am also concerned - not bored - when she tells
    me the latest Donna news.
    If Karen says she's unhappy, say: "Of course you're unhappy. Whenever you spend time with Donna, you come home unhappy. The problem isn't me, the problem is that you're addicted to someone bad for you, and you haven't given her up yet." Take this example:
    [T]onight she said, "You can't force me into an unhappy relationship,if I want to leave I have the right. Counsellors don't work, I'mmaking this decision alone!"
    Your response should have been, as calmly as possible, preferably with a touch of boredom: I'm not forcing you into an unhappy relationship. When you spend time with me, you smile and laugh. When you spend time with Donna, you're edgy and angry. Your only unhappy relationship is with Donna. And I'm not forcing you into it: you force it on yourself.
    I do need to get my mind together and start reminiscing. I can't focus
    anymore. There are plenty of great memories to dwell on. Maybe I'll
    break out a scrapbook with her and the kids.
    * You say that Karen can't part from her family. So ask her the question backwards: "If you had been able to choose who would be in your family, would you have chosen Donna? Because if you leave me for her, that's the choice you'll be making."
    Seems a bit transparent, but I can think of similar analogies when she
    gets in a rational state of mind again.
    Take control of the language. Whenever she says something such as "If we get divorced because of my family I will never forgive them.", you stop her mid-sentence and say "No, this is your family. If we get divorced because of your *sister*, you'll never forgive her. If we get divorced because of your *mother*, you'll never forgive her. But you can't get divorced because of your FAMILY, because THIS is your family. Your husband and your children are your family."
    She has trouble with that definition of "family" vs. "extended family."
    Her sister says she should always be first in Karen's life because they
    are blood, and her mother says I didn't just marry Karen, I married into
    the family, so I have to deal with them. Karen would have to go against
    everything her culture calls family to accept that. This cultural
    anomaly puts a fundamental flaw in the very concept of marriage as a
    union of two people.
    Be logical. I can think of two examples which illustrate what I mean. 1) Somebody wrote to Ann Landers saying he wanted to go to med school, but was concerned that he'd be in his late 40s by the time he finished. She asked "And how old will you be in 8 years if you don't go to med school?" 2) In "The Karate Kid", the title character joking suggests that he go talk to the teacher of the guys who keep beating him up, and ask the teacher to tell them to stop. Mr Miyagi approves of the idea, and they have this exchange: Daniel: Hey, I was just kidding about that. Miyagi: Why kidding? Daniel: Because I'd get killed if I go down there. Miyagi: Get killed anyway. How this applies to you is this sentence: "If we get divorced because of my family I will never forgive them." So you ask "Does that mean you wouldn't talk to Donna, or visit your parents? What does it mean that you would never forgive them?" If she answers in the affirmative, then your reply is: If you're going to break off contact with your family anyway, why not do it before they drive us to divorce? Because if you don't reduce contact with them, we'll probably end up splitting. So it looks like your choice isn't to stay with them, which you're not going to do no matter what. Your choice is whether you want to separate from them as a married woman or as a divorced woman. * Send Karen on a retreat. She's said she wants everybody else to fight this out without her, and just leave her alone. So give what she's asked for. (With a new baby, it may be hard to separate her from the family, especially if she's breast feeding, but maybe she really does need time to herself to figure things out.) So find some convent somewhere full of nuns who take a vow of silence, and which allows visits. Preferably some place which doesn't allow cell phones or even any electricity.
    We've always enjoyed camping, but a 3-month old makes it difficult.
    Tell Karen you're sorry about all the trouble she has, but you can't be silent while Donna speaks. With the hubbub of the house, and taking care of her family while also dealing with her sister, she can't get five minutes to herself to think. So what she needs, in your view, is time to herself when nobody will talk to her, so she can think and read in peace. (A woman at our church reported that she got over a lot of the screwups in her old family from a book by John Bradshaw, _Bradshaw On: The Family_. I've never read it, so can't directly recommend it, but it probably can't hurt.)
    I can look into this, have a talk with her attorney (boss). It sounds
    like a great idea since I can watch the kids until the next semester
    starts up. Maybe only a weekend.
    Get her some reading that's not directly about families, exactly. Something like _Cordelia's Honor_, by Lois McMaster Bujold. The title character is inspirationally rational and capable.
    She's suspicious of anything I give her. She doesn't want outside
    influence (even if it's professional). Donna's doing, I assume. She
    told Karen I'd "play the God card" in an amazing display of astuteness.
    Well, it gave her credit in Karen's eyes.
    Incidentally, Karen is right about one thing: counselling doesn't work unless you're willing to (a) be honest with yourself about your problems, and (b) make changes in your life. If Karen is not willing to recognise that her controlling relatives are the problem, and she's not willing to make changes in her life that involve doing without them, then counselling is just a waste of time. You should also probably prepare for a split, as awful as that is.
    I have thought of this, and Donna has already "preempted it" for Karen
    turning it into a suggestion that I have no faith in Karen. Fortunately,
    when Karen brought it up (she said "I bet you were already preparing for
    divorce and figuring out how to get custody of the kids from me").
    Fortunately, I hadn't yet. But I knew Donna would play that one. It's
    quite hard to think like a malicious vengeful *****.


  4. #4
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    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    On Fri, 30 Jul 2004 07:15:32 GMT, Markus Gaušier HenrÝ
    <ThePredator_N@_SPAM_myexšel.com> wrote:
    This is a very insightful post, and eerily accurate to what my thinking was. Dr Nancy's Sweetie wrote:
    "Markus Gauier Henr <ThePredator_N@_spam_myexel.com>" wrote about an interfering sister-in-law. His suggested solution is to tell the sister-in-law she can run the marriage. I believe *doing* that would be a mistake which will lead to disaster. However, I believe *suggesting* it may be the right thing to do. It will one of several suggestions I have for you, but I'll start with the most obvious. Tell Karen the truth: Donna is the one who needs counselling. Donna needs help, and Karen is harming her: She's afraid of being alone, she's mad at me for taking away her drinking buddy, and she knows that you've outgrown her. I know you love her and you try to help her, but what she needs is the sort of "tough love" that alcoholics need when they won't get off the bottle.
    Strangely, those were my exact words 2 nights ago. It was a theme in our sermon Sunday about dealing with some people using tough love. Both Karen and I know exactly what this means. I think she agrees, but doesn't have the strength to apply it.
    Then she should let you be the hit man. That means you answer the door,
    you screen the calls when they come in (or have an answering machine do
    it).

    I think you need to move away from her family for the sake of your
    marriage.

    -Tony

    --
    "If the grass appears to be greener on the other side of the fence, it's time
    to fertilize your lawn!"
    Want to jump start your marriage? Consider a Marriage Encounter weekend.
    Check out http://www.wwme.org for more information.

  5. #5
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    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    On Fri, 30 Jul 2004 07:15:32 GMT, Markus Gaušier HenrÝ
    <ThePredator_N@_SPAM_myexšel.com> wrote:
    This is a very insightful post, and eerily accurate to what my thinking was. Dr Nancy's Sweetie wrote:
    "Markus Gauier Henr <ThePredator_N@_spam_myexel.com>" wrote about an interfering sister-in-law. His suggested solution is to tell the sister-in-law she can run the marriage. I believe *doing* that would be a mistake which will lead to disaster. However, I believe *suggesting* it may be the right thing to do. It will one of several suggestions I have for you, but I'll start with the most obvious. Tell Karen the truth: Donna is the one who needs counselling. Donna needs help, and Karen is harming her: She's afraid of being alone, she's mad at me for taking away her drinking buddy, and she knows that you've outgrown her. I know you love her and you try to help her, but what she needs is the sort of "tough love" that alcoholics need when they won't get off the bottle.
    Strangely, those were my exact words 2 nights ago. It was a theme in our sermon Sunday about dealing with some people using tough love. Both Karen and I know exactly what this means. I think she agrees, but doesn't have the strength to apply it.
    Then she should let you be the hit man. That means you answer the door,
    you screen the calls when they come in (or have an answering machine do
    it).

    I think you need to move away from her family for the sake of your
    marriage.

    -Tony

    --
    "If the grass appears to be greener on the other side of the fence, it's time
    to fertilize your lawn!"
    Want to jump start your marriage? Consider a Marriage Encounter weekend.
    Check out http://www.wwme.org for more information.

  6. #6
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    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    "Tony Miller" <tony@cigardiary.com> wrote in message
    news:slrncgkj4h.t1.tony@home.cigardiary.com...
    On Fri, 30 Jul 2004 07:15:32 GMT, Markus Gaušier HenrÝ <ThePredator_N@_SPAM_myexšel.com> wrote:
    This is a very insightful post, and eerily accurate to what my thinking
    was.
    Dr Nancy's Sweetie wrote:
    "Markus Gauier Henr <ThePredator_N@_spam_myexel.com>" wrote about an interfering sister-in-law. His suggested solution is to tell the sister-in-law she can run the marriage. I believe *doing* that would be a mistake which will lead to disaster. However, I believe *suggesting* it may be the right thing to do. It will one of several suggestions I have for you, but I'll start with the most obvious. Tell Karen the truth: Donna is the one who needs counselling. Donna needs help, and Karen is harming her: She's afraid of being alone, she's mad at me for taking away her drinking buddy, and she knows that you've outgrown her. I know you love her and you try to help her, but what she needs is the sort of "tough love" that alcoholics need when they won't get off the bottle.
    Strangely, those were my exact words 2 nights ago. It was a theme in our sermon Sunday about dealing with some people using tough love. Both Karen and I know exactly what this means. I think she agrees, but doesn't have the strength to apply it. Then she should let you be the hit man. That means you answer the door, you screen the calls when they come in (or have an answering machine do it). I think you need to move away from her family for the sake of your marriage.
    Totally agree - overbearing in-laws can be a very bad thing.



  7. #7
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    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    "Tony Miller" <tony@cigardiary.com> wrote in message
    news:slrncgkj4h.t1.tony@home.cigardiary.com...
    On Fri, 30 Jul 2004 07:15:32 GMT, Markus Gaušier HenrÝ <ThePredator_N@_SPAM_myexšel.com> wrote:
    This is a very insightful post, and eerily accurate to what my thinking
    was.
    Dr Nancy's Sweetie wrote:
    "Markus Gauier Henr <ThePredator_N@_spam_myexel.com>" wrote about an interfering sister-in-law. His suggested solution is to tell the sister-in-law she can run the marriage. I believe *doing* that would be a mistake which will lead to disaster. However, I believe *suggesting* it may be the right thing to do. It will one of several suggestions I have for you, but I'll start with the most obvious. Tell Karen the truth: Donna is the one who needs counselling. Donna needs help, and Karen is harming her: She's afraid of being alone, she's mad at me for taking away her drinking buddy, and she knows that you've outgrown her. I know you love her and you try to help her, but what she needs is the sort of "tough love" that alcoholics need when they won't get off the bottle.
    Strangely, those were my exact words 2 nights ago. It was a theme in our sermon Sunday about dealing with some people using tough love. Both Karen and I know exactly what this means. I think she agrees, but doesn't have the strength to apply it. Then she should let you be the hit man. That means you answer the door, you screen the calls when they come in (or have an answering machine do it). I think you need to move away from her family for the sake of your marriage.
    Totally agree - overbearing in-laws can be a very bad thing.



  8. #8
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    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    "JWB" <bigtommbtyjwb543@servo.com actually, my e-mail is jwb3333 at excite dot com> wrote in message news:<cmtOc.106165$a92.89359@twister.nyc.rr.com>.. .
    "Tony Miller" <tony@cigardiary.com> wrote in message news:slrncgkj4h.t1.tony@home.cigardiary.com...
    Then she should let you be the hit man. That means you answer the door, you screen the calls when they come in (or have an answering machine do it). I think you need to move away from her family for the sake of your marriage. Totally agree - overbearing in-laws can be a very bad thing.
    Yes, I agree, too, but don't you agree it's up to Karen to put a stop
    to her family, not the OP? He can only do so much. She's got to agree
    that her family needs to butt out.

    jen

  9. #9
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    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    "JWB" <bigtommbtyjwb543@servo.com actually, my e-mail is jwb3333 at excite dot com> wrote in message news:<cmtOc.106165$a92.89359@twister.nyc.rr.com>.. .
    "Tony Miller" <tony@cigardiary.com> wrote in message news:slrncgkj4h.t1.tony@home.cigardiary.com...
    Then she should let you be the hit man. That means you answer the door, you screen the calls when they come in (or have an answering machine do it). I think you need to move away from her family for the sake of your marriage. Totally agree - overbearing in-laws can be a very bad thing.
    Yes, I agree, too, but don't you agree it's up to Karen to put a stop
    to her family, not the OP? He can only do so much. She's got to agree
    that her family needs to butt out.

    jen

  10. #10
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    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    "shinypenny" <shinypenny0001@yahoo.com> wrote in message
    news:c8cb5319.0407301154.3e0c4ca3@posting.google.c om...
    "JWB" <bigtommbtyjwb543@servo.com actually, my e-mail is jwb3333 at excite
    dot com> wrote in message
    news:<cmtOc.106165$a92.89359@twister.nyc.rr.com>.. .
    "Tony Miller" <tony@cigardiary.com> wrote in message news:slrncgkj4h.t1.tony@home.cigardiary.com...
    Then she should let you be the hit man. That means you answer the
    door,
    you screen the calls when they come in (or have an answering machine
    do
    it). I think you need to move away from her family for the sake of your marriage. Totally agree - overbearing in-laws can be a very bad thing. Yes, I agree, too, but don't you agree it's up to Karen to put a stop to her family, not the OP? He can only do so much. She's got to agree that her family needs to butt out.
    yes, agreed - she has to cut the cord.



  11. #11
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    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    "shinypenny" <shinypenny0001@yahoo.com> wrote in message
    news:c8cb5319.0407301154.3e0c4ca3@posting.google.c om...
    "JWB" <bigtommbtyjwb543@servo.com actually, my e-mail is jwb3333 at excite
    dot com> wrote in message
    news:<cmtOc.106165$a92.89359@twister.nyc.rr.com>.. .
    "Tony Miller" <tony@cigardiary.com> wrote in message news:slrncgkj4h.t1.tony@home.cigardiary.com...
    Then she should let you be the hit man. That means you answer the
    door,
    you screen the calls when they come in (or have an answering machine
    do
    it). I think you need to move away from her family for the sake of your marriage. Totally agree - overbearing in-laws can be a very bad thing. Yes, I agree, too, but don't you agree it's up to Karen to put a stop to her family, not the OP? He can only do so much. She's got to agree that her family needs to butt out.
    yes, agreed - she has to cut the cord.



  12. #12

    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line



    Tony Miller wrote:
    On Fri, 30 Jul 2004 07:15:32 GMT, Markus Gaušier HenrÝ <ThePredator_N@_SPAM_myexšel.com> wrote:
    This is a very insightful post, and eerily accurate to what my thinking was.Dr Nancy's Sweetie wrote:
    "Markus Gauier Henr <ThePredator_N@_spam_myexel.com>" wrote aboutan interfering sister-in-law. His suggested solution is to tell thesister-in-law she can run the marriage. I believe *doing* that wouldbe a mistake which will lead to disaster.However, I believe *suggesting* it may be the right thing to do. Itwill one of several suggestions I have for you, but I'll start withthe most obvious.Tell Karen the truth: Donna is the one who needs counselling. Donnaneeds help, and Karen is harming her: She's afraid of being alone, she's mad at me for taking away her drinking buddy, and she knows that you've outgrown her. I know you love her and you try to help her, but what she needs is the sort of "tough love" that alcoholics need when they won't get off the bottle.
    Strangely, those were my exact words 2 nights ago. It was a theme inour sermon Sunday about dealing with some people using tough love. BothKaren and I know exactly what this means. I think she agrees, butdoesn't have the strength to apply it.
    Then she should let you be the hit man. That means you answer the door, you screen the calls when they come in (or have an answering machine do it).
    Karen has me answer the phone when she's in a good mood because she
    doesn't want to deal with it.
    I think you need to move away from her family for the sake of your marriage.
    The reason we moved here was to keep both families at a distance. Donna
    works for a national firm and transfered here to be with her sister
    shortly after we got here. She has no connection with this area that
    would stop her from following us again. Karen does have a strong
    connection to her law firm, house, church and neighborhood, and the
    school age kids have close friendships here. She has seriously
    considered not moving with me on my next transfer. This is not uncommon
    in the military, it's called a geographic bachelor. Sometimes military
    couples have no choice if the next duty station can't accommodate
    families, and the military pays handsomely for these jobs. Other times
    it's voluntary, such as when the family owns a house and wants to keep
    building equity. The service member does their 3 or 4 year tour, flying
    home for the holidays, then usually returns for the next tour of duty.
    The service doesn't compensate you for your separation when it's
    voluntary. So Karen was not implying a definite divorce when she said
    this, but it could destroy what's left of our bond. These jobs normally
    require a very strong marriage.


  13. #13

    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line



    Tony Miller wrote:
    On Fri, 30 Jul 2004 07:15:32 GMT, Markus Gaušier HenrÝ <ThePredator_N@_SPAM_myexšel.com> wrote:
    This is a very insightful post, and eerily accurate to what my thinking was.Dr Nancy's Sweetie wrote:
    "Markus Gauier Henr <ThePredator_N@_spam_myexel.com>" wrote aboutan interfering sister-in-law. His suggested solution is to tell thesister-in-law she can run the marriage. I believe *doing* that wouldbe a mistake which will lead to disaster.However, I believe *suggesting* it may be the right thing to do. Itwill one of several suggestions I have for you, but I'll start withthe most obvious.Tell Karen the truth: Donna is the one who needs counselling. Donnaneeds help, and Karen is harming her: She's afraid of being alone, she's mad at me for taking away her drinking buddy, and she knows that you've outgrown her. I know you love her and you try to help her, but what she needs is the sort of "tough love" that alcoholics need when they won't get off the bottle.
    Strangely, those were my exact words 2 nights ago. It was a theme inour sermon Sunday about dealing with some people using tough love. BothKaren and I know exactly what this means. I think she agrees, butdoesn't have the strength to apply it.
    Then she should let you be the hit man. That means you answer the door, you screen the calls when they come in (or have an answering machine do it).
    Karen has me answer the phone when she's in a good mood because she
    doesn't want to deal with it.
    I think you need to move away from her family for the sake of your marriage.
    The reason we moved here was to keep both families at a distance. Donna
    works for a national firm and transfered here to be with her sister
    shortly after we got here. She has no connection with this area that
    would stop her from following us again. Karen does have a strong
    connection to her law firm, house, church and neighborhood, and the
    school age kids have close friendships here. She has seriously
    considered not moving with me on my next transfer. This is not uncommon
    in the military, it's called a geographic bachelor. Sometimes military
    couples have no choice if the next duty station can't accommodate
    families, and the military pays handsomely for these jobs. Other times
    it's voluntary, such as when the family owns a house and wants to keep
    building equity. The service member does their 3 or 4 year tour, flying
    home for the holidays, then usually returns for the next tour of duty.
    The service doesn't compensate you for your separation when it's
    voluntary. So Karen was not implying a definite divorce when she said
    this, but it could destroy what's left of our bond. These jobs normally
    require a very strong marriage.


  14. #14
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    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    Markus Gaušier HenrÝ <ThePredator_N@_SPAM_myex┴el.com> wrote:
    By strange coincidence I am due to transfer next summer. We own this house and Karen has a wonderful career, however, and we had talked about doing the next four year tour as a geographic bachelor (she would stay with the house, I would fly back on long weekends and holidays).

    I think this is a truly awful idea.

  15. #15
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    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    Markus Gaušier HenrÝ <ThePredator_N@_SPAM_myex┴el.com> wrote:
    By strange coincidence I am due to transfer next summer. We own this house and Karen has a wonderful career, however, and we had talked about doing the next four year tour as a geographic bachelor (she would stay with the house, I would fly back on long weekends and holidays).

    I think this is a truly awful idea.

  16. #16

    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line



    Emma Anne wrote:
    Markus Gaušier HenrÝ <ThePredator_N@_SPAM_myex┴el.com> wrote:
    By strange coincidence I am due to transfer next summer. We own thishouse and Karen has a wonderful career, however, and we had talked aboutdoing the next four year tour as a geographic bachelor (she would staywith the house, I would fly back on long weekends and holidays).
    I think this is a truly awful idea.
    I don't think our marriage is up to that, but next year we'll find out.


  17. #17

    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line



    Emma Anne wrote:
    Markus Gaušier HenrÝ <ThePredator_N@_SPAM_myex┴el.com> wrote:
    By strange coincidence I am due to transfer next summer. We own thishouse and Karen has a wonderful career, however, and we had talked aboutdoing the next four year tour as a geographic bachelor (she would staywith the house, I would fly back on long weekends and holidays).
    I think this is a truly awful idea.
    I don't think our marriage is up to that, but next year we'll find out.


  18. #18
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    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    "Markus Gaucier Henri <ThePredator_N@_spam_myexel.com>" wrote more
    about his problematic in-laws, in response to some of my thoughts. My
    first thought is a strategic one: "Do what works".


    I suggested telling Karen that Donna is the one who needs counselling,
    and that she's angry because Karen has outgrown Donna and left her
    behind. His reply was:
    I think she agrees, but doesn't have the strength to apply it.
    If Karen agrees that Donna needs "tough love", but lacks the strength to
    apply it, that seems to me that you already know how to undercut Donna.
    So instead of searching about for a new strategy, keep applying that
    tactic. If your wife comes home all uptight about something awful Donna
    said, before it becomes about you, make it about Donna. Say:

    Honey, as hard as it is on me to hear all this stuff Donna says,
    it must be even harder on you. Your devotion to your family, as
    messed up as they are, is really amazing. Yes, it's got downsides,
    but it's clear to me that nobody ever loved Donna half as much as
    you do.

    Let's talk about what's bothering Donna today. Even if we can't
    figure out something you can say or do which might help her to settle
    down, you shouldn't have to carry all of her problems around by
    yourself. And maybe we'll come up with a gentle way for you to
    handle the same remarks if they come up again.

    So, every time Karen comes home from a visit with Donna, you and Karen
    should embark on a process of psychoanalysing Donna. If you aren't
    there when she comes home, when you catch up with her ask "So, what have
    you come up with so far?" This turns Donna into an object for study,
    and should really undermine her influence on Karen. What's more, Karen
    will start to do it on her own, even without your prompting, if she
    knows you expect her to start without you. If you make it a regular
    habit, "talk to Donna, try to figure out what's wrong with her", Karen
    will start doing it WHILE she's talking to Donna. (You might even say
    "It may be that she's just afraid of being alone. Sort of take mental
    notes during your next conversation, and see how many times she says
    things like "by myself", or "without help" or something." If Karen is
    doing this during the discussion, it'll be much harder to for her to
    take personally whatever Donna is talking about.)

    If Donna finds out you're doing this and complains, just say "We're just
    sorry that you're so unhappy ALL THE TIME. It's putting a strain on our
    marriage, and we figured that if we could identify why you're so
    unhappy, maybe we could help you get better and then you'd stop
    spreading misery everywhere you go. With a little luck, you might even
    grow into a person that someone might consider marrying one day."

    You need to be consistent in your approach to Donna: she needs help.
    One does not get angry with a person who has a fever and spews nonsense.
    So one should not be angry with an emotional train wreck who spews
    nonsense.


    I know a woman who really liked the book _Adult Children of Alcoholics_,
    because it helped her figure out what was wrong with her parents (it
    wasn't alcoholism, but many of the same dynamics applied). You might
    consider getting that book (or a similar one), on the reasoning that
    "Well, honey, if we're going to be the psychiatric counsellors for your
    entire family maybe we should read up on it."

    So Karen wouldn't be reading "unscrew your head" books for herself,
    she'd reading them to get insights into other people. If she happens to
    pick up a few tidbits along the way that apply to herself, great. But
    it sounds to me like she's the least crazy person in her entire extended
    family.

    What's driving her crazy is trying to make the rest of them happy. But
    they just aren't happy people. Donna is not happy. She cannot be happy
    for anyone else. She cannot stand it when other people are happy,
    because she isn't. It sounds like Karen is trying to kill herself
    making these other people happy, but it's a Sisyphean task. It can
    never be done. Never.


    That's probably an important thing for Karen to understand, and it's
    something she probably doesn't fully appreciate: Donna will never
    approve of her. Never.

    No matter what she does, how she changes her appearance or life, what
    degrees she earns, or what she accomplishes. Unless Karen moves in with
    Donna to live as a pet, Donna will never approve of her. Karen could
    get a PhD in nuclear physics, earn a black belt in Kung-Fu, win the
    Nobel Peace Prize, become a Supreme Court Justice, and write a
    bestselling book that settles the Israel-Palestine issue once and for
    all. Donna would still criticise Karen for poor taste in shoes, visit
    your house and say things like "I don't know; do you *like* these
    curtains?", say "You never were very good with numbers", or make any of
    a thousand other digs at her every single day.

    Some evening, when you're deconstructing Donna, work this in.

    So Donna said she doesn't like your fingernail polish (or whatever).
    Well, of course not. She'll always have something about you she
    doesn't like. If you rescued Bill Gates from drowning, and he gave
    you a billion dollars, and you bought a mansion with it, she'd say
    "I like Macs better than Windows", and visit the mansion and say "Do
    you really like this marble tile in the foyer? It seems tacky."

    It can be very liberating to realise the person whose approval you are
    trying to earn will never ever approve of you. Nothing you do will make
    matters better. So you might as well just do whatever you want instead
    of trying to please others.

    *

    Another thing you should consider is some rhetorical jiu-jitsu: some of
    what Donna says is true, after all. But instead of her making it into a
    reason to attack you, you should turn it into a defense. For example:
    [ Donna ] told Karen I'd "play the God card" in an amazing display of astuteness. Well, it gave her credit in Karen's eyes.
    Your reply to this should have been:

    Of course I brought up the Church's teachings on marriage and
    divorce. The Church is opposed to divorce because it's bad. It
    harms people. Ideally, everyone's emotions would be stable and
    rational all the time, but that's just not how the world is. So
    when your emotions are in turmoil, Church teachings are there to
    keep you from making mistakes and doing things wrong which you'll
    later regret.

    You seemed very upset to me. You were repeating Donna's accusations
    of abuse and other such things which we both know aren't true, and
    you were talking about leaving me -- which would make a wreck out
    of both of us, and our kids, for years. That's exactly what Church
    teachings are for: to give clear guidance in situations where you
    are temporarily distressed.

    I don't call that "playing the God card" -- I call that relying on
    a source of strength when one is weak. I'm not about to apologise
    for it. We got married in Church, we made vows before God, and we
    have raised our children in the faith all because we believe that
    the Church is one of God's ways of helping us find our way when we
    feel lost.

    In my view, Donna would do a whole lot better if she spent more
    time in Church and less time playing Tarot. When was the last time
    you looked at Donna and said "She really seems centered, and happy,
    and living a full and productive life." ?

    If Donna thinks it's a smart move to give up the source of strength
    which has gotten us this far, and trade it in for ideas which have
    made her into a train wreck, I have to say I disagree.


    If you and your wife belong to the same religion, and have stayed in it
    as adults because of your free choice to do so, then of course citing
    its teachings in support of your points is a reasonable and rational
    thing to do. Don't let Donna turn it into a negative.

    Should this come up again, you can introduce remarks such as the above
    by saying "You know, you mentioned that before, but I can't see what's
    so bad about it. Church teachings are there for when people are upset,
    so that don't do things they regret. . . . "


    The same applies to the subject of preparing for a split:
    I have thought of this, and Donna has already "preempted it" for Karen turning it into a suggestion that I have no faith in Karen. Fortunately, when Karen brought it up (she said "I bet you were already preparing for divorce and figuring out how to get custody of the kids from me").
    Again, this is Donna trying to negative spin something perfectly sane.

    Karen, you're the one who has talked about leaving me, and you're
    the one who talked about divorce. What was I supposed to think?
    Should I just wait around until Donna finally convinces you, and
    ignore all the warnings you've given me?

    If Donna messes you up so badly that you divorce me over abuse that
    happened only in her mind, should I really sit by and let her mess
    up our kids too? I'm their father. It's my job to protect them
    from emotional and psychological harm just as much as physical harm.
    Of course I would seek to keep custody of them, if only to limit
    how badly Donna can harm them the way she's trying to harm you.


    Not preparing yourself for a split, when your spouse talks about
    divorcing you, would be irresponsible. Letting Donna spin your being a
    responsible father into a negative is something you should never have
    done.

    *

    In your update, you noted that Karen has had a chance to see Donna from
    the other side. That plays really well into the "daily deconstruction"
    angle, as well as the "is never going to approve of you" angle. You
    definitely want to bring those up when they seem appropriate.


    Darren Provine ! kilroy@elvis.rowan.edu ! http://www.rowan.edu/~kilroy
    "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this
    campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my
    opponent's youth and inexperience."
    -- Ronald Reagan, during a 1984 presidential debate

  19. #19
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Posts
    262

    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    "Markus Gaucier Henri <ThePredator_N@_spam_myexel.com>" wrote more
    about his problematic in-laws, in response to some of my thoughts. My
    first thought is a strategic one: "Do what works".


    I suggested telling Karen that Donna is the one who needs counselling,
    and that she's angry because Karen has outgrown Donna and left her
    behind. His reply was:
    I think she agrees, but doesn't have the strength to apply it.
    If Karen agrees that Donna needs "tough love", but lacks the strength to
    apply it, that seems to me that you already know how to undercut Donna.
    So instead of searching about for a new strategy, keep applying that
    tactic. If your wife comes home all uptight about something awful Donna
    said, before it becomes about you, make it about Donna. Say:

    Honey, as hard as it is on me to hear all this stuff Donna says,
    it must be even harder on you. Your devotion to your family, as
    messed up as they are, is really amazing. Yes, it's got downsides,
    but it's clear to me that nobody ever loved Donna half as much as
    you do.

    Let's talk about what's bothering Donna today. Even if we can't
    figure out something you can say or do which might help her to settle
    down, you shouldn't have to carry all of her problems around by
    yourself. And maybe we'll come up with a gentle way for you to
    handle the same remarks if they come up again.

    So, every time Karen comes home from a visit with Donna, you and Karen
    should embark on a process of psychoanalysing Donna. If you aren't
    there when she comes home, when you catch up with her ask "So, what have
    you come up with so far?" This turns Donna into an object for study,
    and should really undermine her influence on Karen. What's more, Karen
    will start to do it on her own, even without your prompting, if she
    knows you expect her to start without you. If you make it a regular
    habit, "talk to Donna, try to figure out what's wrong with her", Karen
    will start doing it WHILE she's talking to Donna. (You might even say
    "It may be that she's just afraid of being alone. Sort of take mental
    notes during your next conversation, and see how many times she says
    things like "by myself", or "without help" or something." If Karen is
    doing this during the discussion, it'll be much harder to for her to
    take personally whatever Donna is talking about.)

    If Donna finds out you're doing this and complains, just say "We're just
    sorry that you're so unhappy ALL THE TIME. It's putting a strain on our
    marriage, and we figured that if we could identify why you're so
    unhappy, maybe we could help you get better and then you'd stop
    spreading misery everywhere you go. With a little luck, you might even
    grow into a person that someone might consider marrying one day."

    You need to be consistent in your approach to Donna: she needs help.
    One does not get angry with a person who has a fever and spews nonsense.
    So one should not be angry with an emotional train wreck who spews
    nonsense.


    I know a woman who really liked the book _Adult Children of Alcoholics_,
    because it helped her figure out what was wrong with her parents (it
    wasn't alcoholism, but many of the same dynamics applied). You might
    consider getting that book (or a similar one), on the reasoning that
    "Well, honey, if we're going to be the psychiatric counsellors for your
    entire family maybe we should read up on it."

    So Karen wouldn't be reading "unscrew your head" books for herself,
    she'd reading them to get insights into other people. If she happens to
    pick up a few tidbits along the way that apply to herself, great. But
    it sounds to me like she's the least crazy person in her entire extended
    family.

    What's driving her crazy is trying to make the rest of them happy. But
    they just aren't happy people. Donna is not happy. She cannot be happy
    for anyone else. She cannot stand it when other people are happy,
    because she isn't. It sounds like Karen is trying to kill herself
    making these other people happy, but it's a Sisyphean task. It can
    never be done. Never.


    That's probably an important thing for Karen to understand, and it's
    something she probably doesn't fully appreciate: Donna will never
    approve of her. Never.

    No matter what she does, how she changes her appearance or life, what
    degrees she earns, or what she accomplishes. Unless Karen moves in with
    Donna to live as a pet, Donna will never approve of her. Karen could
    get a PhD in nuclear physics, earn a black belt in Kung-Fu, win the
    Nobel Peace Prize, become a Supreme Court Justice, and write a
    bestselling book that settles the Israel-Palestine issue once and for
    all. Donna would still criticise Karen for poor taste in shoes, visit
    your house and say things like "I don't know; do you *like* these
    curtains?", say "You never were very good with numbers", or make any of
    a thousand other digs at her every single day.

    Some evening, when you're deconstructing Donna, work this in.

    So Donna said she doesn't like your fingernail polish (or whatever).
    Well, of course not. She'll always have something about you she
    doesn't like. If you rescued Bill Gates from drowning, and he gave
    you a billion dollars, and you bought a mansion with it, she'd say
    "I like Macs better than Windows", and visit the mansion and say "Do
    you really like this marble tile in the foyer? It seems tacky."

    It can be very liberating to realise the person whose approval you are
    trying to earn will never ever approve of you. Nothing you do will make
    matters better. So you might as well just do whatever you want instead
    of trying to please others.

    *

    Another thing you should consider is some rhetorical jiu-jitsu: some of
    what Donna says is true, after all. But instead of her making it into a
    reason to attack you, you should turn it into a defense. For example:
    [ Donna ] told Karen I'd "play the God card" in an amazing display of astuteness. Well, it gave her credit in Karen's eyes.
    Your reply to this should have been:

    Of course I brought up the Church's teachings on marriage and
    divorce. The Church is opposed to divorce because it's bad. It
    harms people. Ideally, everyone's emotions would be stable and
    rational all the time, but that's just not how the world is. So
    when your emotions are in turmoil, Church teachings are there to
    keep you from making mistakes and doing things wrong which you'll
    later regret.

    You seemed very upset to me. You were repeating Donna's accusations
    of abuse and other such things which we both know aren't true, and
    you were talking about leaving me -- which would make a wreck out
    of both of us, and our kids, for years. That's exactly what Church
    teachings are for: to give clear guidance in situations where you
    are temporarily distressed.

    I don't call that "playing the God card" -- I call that relying on
    a source of strength when one is weak. I'm not about to apologise
    for it. We got married in Church, we made vows before God, and we
    have raised our children in the faith all because we believe that
    the Church is one of God's ways of helping us find our way when we
    feel lost.

    In my view, Donna would do a whole lot better if she spent more
    time in Church and less time playing Tarot. When was the last time
    you looked at Donna and said "She really seems centered, and happy,
    and living a full and productive life." ?

    If Donna thinks it's a smart move to give up the source of strength
    which has gotten us this far, and trade it in for ideas which have
    made her into a train wreck, I have to say I disagree.


    If you and your wife belong to the same religion, and have stayed in it
    as adults because of your free choice to do so, then of course citing
    its teachings in support of your points is a reasonable and rational
    thing to do. Don't let Donna turn it into a negative.

    Should this come up again, you can introduce remarks such as the above
    by saying "You know, you mentioned that before, but I can't see what's
    so bad about it. Church teachings are there for when people are upset,
    so that don't do things they regret. . . . "


    The same applies to the subject of preparing for a split:
    I have thought of this, and Donna has already "preempted it" for Karen turning it into a suggestion that I have no faith in Karen. Fortunately, when Karen brought it up (she said "I bet you were already preparing for divorce and figuring out how to get custody of the kids from me").
    Again, this is Donna trying to negative spin something perfectly sane.

    Karen, you're the one who has talked about leaving me, and you're
    the one who talked about divorce. What was I supposed to think?
    Should I just wait around until Donna finally convinces you, and
    ignore all the warnings you've given me?

    If Donna messes you up so badly that you divorce me over abuse that
    happened only in her mind, should I really sit by and let her mess
    up our kids too? I'm their father. It's my job to protect them
    from emotional and psychological harm just as much as physical harm.
    Of course I would seek to keep custody of them, if only to limit
    how badly Donna can harm them the way she's trying to harm you.


    Not preparing yourself for a split, when your spouse talks about
    divorcing you, would be irresponsible. Letting Donna spin your being a
    responsible father into a negative is something you should never have
    done.

    *

    In your update, you noted that Karen has had a chance to see Donna from
    the other side. That plays really well into the "daily deconstruction"
    angle, as well as the "is never going to approve of you" angle. You
    definitely want to bring those up when they seem appropriate.


    Darren Provine ! kilroy@elvis.rowan.edu ! http://www.rowan.edu/~kilroy
    "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this
    campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my
    opponent's youth and inexperience."
    -- Ronald Reagan, during a 1984 presidential debate

  20. #20
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Posts
    1,307

    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    Dr Nancy's Sweetie <kilroy@elvis.rowan.edu> wrote:
    So, every time Karen comes home from a visit with Donna, you and Karen should embark on a process of psychoanalysing Donna. If you aren't there when she comes home, when you catch up with her ask "So, what have you come up with so far?" This turns Donna into an object for study, and should really undermine her influence on Karen. What's more, Karen will start to do it on her own, even without your prompting, if she knows you expect her to start without you. If you make it a regular habit, "talk to Donna, try to figure out what's wrong with her", Karen will start doing it WHILE she's talking to Donna.
    This is really clever. Nothing would drain the power from Donna quicker
    than to have them both analyzing and trying to help the poor thing. :-)

  21. #21
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Posts
    1,307

    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line

    Dr Nancy's Sweetie <kilroy@elvis.rowan.edu> wrote:
    So, every time Karen comes home from a visit with Donna, you and Karen should embark on a process of psychoanalysing Donna. If you aren't there when she comes home, when you catch up with her ask "So, what have you come up with so far?" This turns Donna into an object for study, and should really undermine her influence on Karen. What's more, Karen will start to do it on her own, even without your prompting, if she knows you expect her to start without you. If you make it a regular habit, "talk to Donna, try to figure out what's wrong with her", Karen will start doing it WHILE she's talking to Donna.
    This is really clever. Nothing would drain the power from Donna quicker
    than to have them both analyzing and trying to help the poor thing. :-)

  22. #22

    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line



    Emma Anne wrote:
    Dr Nancy's Sweetie <kilroy@elvis.rowan.edu> wrote:
    So, every time Karen comes home from a visit with Donna, you and Karenshould embark on a process of psychoanalysing Donna. If you aren'tthere when she comes home, when you catch up with her ask "So, what haveyou come up with so far?" This turns Donna into an object for study,and should really undermine her influence on Karen. What's more, Karenwill start to do it on her own, even without your prompting, if sheknows you expect her to start without you. If you make it a regularhabit, "talk to Donna, try to figure out what's wrong with her", Karenwill start doing it WHILE she's talking to Donna.
    This is really clever. Nothing would drain the power from Donna quicker than to have them both analyzing and trying to help the poor thing. :-)
    I agree. I have been doing this, remaining cautious not to appear as
    though I was criticizing or demeaning her sister. I think that is what
    led her to finally analyze her sister's interpretations of life when
    Donna started going on about her brother's 'problems.' Now Karen sees
    this alleged abuse is not something unique to our marriage, but seems to
    be the way Donna looks at life in general.


  23. #23

    Default Homewrecking in-laws: Laying it on the line



    Emma Anne wrote:
    Dr Nancy's Sweetie <kilroy@elvis.rowan.edu> wrote:
    So, every time Karen comes home from a visit with Donna, you and Karenshould embark on a process of psychoanalysing Donna. If you aren'tthere when she comes home, when you catch up with her ask "So, what haveyou come up with so far?" This turns Donna into an object for study,and should really undermine her influence on Karen. What's more, Karenwill start to do it on her own, even without your prompting, if sheknows you expect her to start without you. If you make it a regularhabit, "talk to Donna, try to figure out what's wrong with her", Karenwill start doing it WHILE she's talking to Donna.
    This is really clever. Nothing would drain the power from Donna quicker than to have them both analyzing and trying to help the poor thing. :-)
    I agree. I have been doing this, remaining cautious not to appear as
    though I was criticizing or demeaning her sister. I think that is what
    led her to finally analyze her sister's interpretations of life when
    Donna started going on about her brother's 'problems.' Now Karen sees
    this alleged abuse is not something unique to our marriage, but seems to
    be the way Donna looks at life in general.


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