I’m trapped at home with my horrid mother-in-law

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a part-time worker in my 40s, and my family and I live in a two-family house with my mother-in-law. Since I got married more than 25 years ago, I’ve been tortured by memories of abusive words she has said to me over and over again.

My mother-in-law has recently become less abusive, probably because she was told by my husband, his younger brother and some other relatives not to be so harsh with me. Nevertheless, I sometimes remember her words and feel terrible. Each time, I can’t help worrying whether she’ll say something horrible again.

When I’m on the second floor at home and hear her coming up the stairs, I find myself hiding in the storage room because I can’t bear to be in the same space as her.

My mother-in-law also sometimes tells my children nonsensical things.

When I see her acting friendly toward other people, I get chills seeing the big difference she shows when talking to me.

My husband said to me: “Just ignore all this. Let her say whatever she wants. She won’t change no matter how hard we try. All we can do is just leave her alone.”

I just want to be able to forget what I was told by her in the past so I can move forward.

J, Toyama Prefecture

Dear Ms. J:

I think every one of us has at least one thing that can make us furious as soon as we think about it. You may not want to hear your problem generalized like this, but for you, it is undoubtedly your mother-in-law, who can make you mad.

It’s easy for me to tell you not to worry about it, but you would have done it years ago if you could have. I also feel that, in reality, it’s difficult for you to face off against her regarding all this.

Living separately from her may be a good solution, but if you can’t do that, you should try something else.

As your husband and other relatives have basically given up on her, I suggest you stop worrying about her words and behavior and instead find your own countermeasures. For example, just obediently listen to her as a model daughter-in-law so everyone around you will feel for you. You can also look at her as a monster from another world or an alien from another planet. Whatever works. Why not look for some way to cope with her as if trying to discover answers to riddles, and then doing them as a part of your daily routine?

I think it’s difficult, but worth doing.

Taku Mayumura, writer

(from Nov. 6, 2017, issue)Speech

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