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Trying to support my husband with depression, but Mother in Law difficult

Community Member

Hi Everyone,

I would love to hear any advice anyone can give.

I have been supporting my husband through his depression and anxiety. I think he, and we, are doing well. He has opened up to me on many occasions about his childhood, and while he grew up in a loving family his mother has mental health issues and is manipulative beyond belief! My husband grew up among this influence and I think it is one of the main reasons why he suffers now himself. He has learned behaviours from her which I can see very clearly, and he has entrenched beliefs and emotions that all stem from her behaviour and manipulation through his childhood and adolescence.

In recent years (we are in our early 30's) our relationship with his parents is civil, but distant. We are by no means close. Keeping them at a distance works, because it is less strain on my husband (and me). This doesn't come without constant guilt treatments (being called selfish and forgetful, hopeless....), which we are doing well in ignoring, most of the time. As awful as it sounds, this is sadly what we need to do manage.

Now that we have a baby on the way, I think it's going to become difficult to keep the distance. I am worried that her greater presence will not help my husbands mental health. Heck... my mental health is at risk here too.

So I guess I'm looking for some advice for how to manage this relationship when we do want them in our lives and our children's lives, but we need to keep the distance at the same time. This will be there first grandchild, so naturally the excitement is high.

I would also like to know generally, if anyone has any advice for how to deal with a relationship like this with their parents/in-laws.

Thank you 🙂

3 Replies 3

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi Cat-iapl

This manipulation/domineering thing is right in my alley.

I too had a mother with a character that supressed me and my siblings. In the end after 54 years, my sister and l split from her. That was 6 years ago and we wont see her again. This is because she would not get professional help. Because help wasnt sought l had to investigate it myself and make general conclusions in order to move forward.

In my case l ended up googling- waif hermit witch queen

These are the 4 characters for some chronic bpd people (borderline personality disorder). This is written in Dr Christine Carsons book "walking on eggshells

If you read that you might get some insight into manipulation of some.

Then you can google - mental illnesses of children of borderline mothers. My sister and l have bipolar 2 and depression ...and so the problems manifest.

So here are some threads I've started on these topics. Use google.

Topic: emotional blackmail, likely extreme bpd- beyondblue

Topic: inlaws, the best approach- beyondblue

As your child grows older the problems can compound. My mother "promised" my daughter she'd buy them ice creams, in effect it was a quality time for manipulation...asking them about their mother (we were divorced). I pleaded with her just to enjoy her grandchildren and not interfere with relationships. She also criticised their mother. Totally out if line. Remember this is your child not hers.

Tony WK

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Cat_inapastlife,

Thanks for your post.

A couple of suggestions for you;

1) If you or your husband aren't seeing a psychologist already, I highly recommend one. Identifying some of those learned behaviours and how the relationship with our parents has shaped us is so important especially when becoming a parent.

Being called selfish, forgetful and hopeless can be awful to hear, but seeing his parents as people rather than parents can help create some emotional distance. This is something I've had to learn myself and it's been a painful process. As parents we naturally want to please them; so hearing insults from them and trying to manage that is quite difficult. Psychologists can help a lot with this.

2) Set some boundaries. There may be certain things that are off-topic or sensitive to talk about; so identify them and early. Finding out where that line is that cannot be overstepped is so important.

For me my parents live a few hours away so seeing them for a short time is not always possible. If it is, that could be a great option, or seeing them at their house rather than your own so that you can leave when you want to and also not feeling violated in your own space. Find topics that are a safe and happy space - maybe work, hobbies or the baby could all be topics that don't 'trigger a nerve' so to speak.

If something does upset or become difficult, find a strategy that can work between the both of you; maybe that's laughing it off, switching topics, distraction, or saying "I don't want to talk about that right now". For me personally, I try distraction and switching topics; and then afterwards I can leave the room and try to cope and talk about what's happened.

3) Debrief and cope in your own way. Processing things that's happened in childhood can be a long and painful process.

In terms of books I recommend 'Healing the Inner Child Within' by Charles Whitfield. It is not an easy book to read, but the more that your husband can accept and process what's happened the easier it will become to stay in the now as he becomes a parent.

It's also important for you as a partner of someone with mental illness to find your own way of self-care. As someone with depression and as a partner of someone with depression I have seen and felt both-sides. People cope in different ways and self-care is so important so that you can support yourself and support your husband. Being a parent is an exciting step; and it's one to enjoy together.

Community Member
hi Cat, it sounds as tho your partner acknowledges his issues- that's good. You support him - that's good too!!! Yay for you. And it sounds?? as though you both acknowledge that the MIL has the potential to create conflict and trouble? Not quite sure. I really like the idea of seeing a psychologist. Sometimes you need to try a couple before you get a good one. Can you go together? You may have a bit of family of origin stuff? to work through. Having a baby comes with its own stresses. I really like you are aware of the issues that going on. Some people say that having a baby "brings up stuff" about what their childhood was like. Again..it could be a really good time to find a good psychologist. Good luck with the baby!!! All the best 🙂