My mother-in-law did everything in her power to take my son from me and ensure that I would end up penniless and alone in a cage while she took my place. She mistook my kindness for weakness and continued to plot and scheme long after my divorce was final.
It was doomed from the start, that awkwardly forced intimacy between my ex’s mother and me. I knew the day I met her we’d never share a real family moment. We couldn’t have been more different, and not in a way that made us appreciate those glaring differences between us. What my ex told me about her on the drive to meet her for the first time at Christmas wasn’t exactly flattering, but he had trouble getting along with lots of people so I reserved my judgment.
I knew that thanks to her 3rd husband, she was wealthy and liked to make sure people knew it. I knew that her money and her help, when he was in bad enough shape to ask for it, always came at a high price and with multiple strings attached. He described their relationship as pretty strained, especially as he grew into an adult and she had less control over his life and the decisions he made.
I could physically feel her looking down on me from the moment we locked eyes that Christmas Day in 2001, although I’m at least 2 inches taller than her. She checked me up and down. No kidding, she didn’t even try to hide her disapproval. Things did not get much better over the years.
When we got married in 2003, she quickly took control of things and our wedding preparation became much more about her than my husband or myself. She loved to throw parties but didn’t really care for the input of the bride and groom. Still, we were grateful, and we went along with her plans and let her have her way, rarely if ever voicing our objections to her ideas or suggesting our own.
I followed my husband’s lead, letting her make our wedding, and eventually even our marriage, about her. After she threw us a wedding shower, she handed me a list of the people that had helped to set up the party, including what tasks they did, what food they brought, and what their financial contribution was. Her name was prominently at the top of the list. “Here you go, for your thank-you notes,” she said. My jaw almost hit the floor. “Thanks,” I replied. I went home that night and wrote her a detailed thank you note. I was 22.
Today I’m 36 and wired a little differently. Today, I don’t tolerate disrespect from anyone and my desires and opinions aren’t kept to myself out of a fear of conflict. I was a 22-year-old people pleaser and I was miserable. Now I’m a 36-year-old woman that knows if I don’t stand up for myself, if I never offend anyone or if I make decisions solely designed to get everyone to like me, I will always be a nobody who accomplishes nothing. Today I get respect because I demand it.
At the exact moment when I should have stood up to that women, I fell back. She exploited that weakness in me. I allowed her to think that she could disrespect me and interfere in my life without consequences, and when I asked my husband for a divorce, she did exactly that. She used her money and influence to help him get me locked up in jail on a decade-old bench warrant while she got to work buying her revenge.
“My mother-in-law must be the probation officer I got for the crime I committed of marrying my husband.” –Phyllis Diller
She lied to social workers and judges and made false claims. She hacked my bank accounts and email accounts and changed the passwords. She attempted to coerce a public official to have my charges upgraded and lobbied my judge for a harsher sentence. She called my personal physician and my psychiatrist and told them I would be in jail for 10 years on drug charges and tried to gain access to my medical records. She refused to let me or my family see my son for 6 months.
She did everything in her power to take my son from me and ensure that I would end up penniless and alone in a cage while she took my place. She mistook my kindness for weakness and continued to plot and scheme long after my legal situation was taken care of.
She and my ex ended up costing me my job and I felt like giving up every day. Instead, I let that anger and frustration fuel my fight. She sought to destroy me and failed miserably. People like her feel entitled to destroy their enemies by any means necessary, never mind if it takes a 3-year-old little boy away from the only mother he’s ever known. Collateral damage is how they see it. I underestimated her and my ex.
I projected humanity and compassion where there was none. I see her for what she really is now and while she may continue to plot and scheme behind my back, she’s too much of a coward to confront me. I’m not afraid of her anymore, she’s no threat to me. When your weapon is the truth, the battle is always winnable. While I would never stoop to her level, I won’t tolerate being lied about or disrespected by her again without ensuring that she finally faces the consequences for her behavior. And if I were her, I’d be wary of judging other people’s parenting. I lived with her son for many, many years, and he needs a lot of improvement.