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aspie_and_proud's avatar

Advice for a woman with Aspergers dealing with monster-in-law?

Asked by aspie_and_proud (19 points ) December 11th, 2012

I need some insight into the matter at hand, due to my inability to understand/get through it. I apologize in advance for its length.

I have Aspeger’s Syndrome (so people with knowledge of it will probably give me better advice), undiagnosed due to lack of money and I am severely agoraphobic (disabled from working, rarely leave the house).

When I first met my fiance, I wasn’t myself. I was drinking and doing stupid things in an attempt to cope with my horrible family. My parents are both addicts, who mentally abuse, manipulate, neglect and walk all over people – including their kids. This led to a lot of stupid things that I was doing while also being treated very poorly by my own father, who was also trying to con me into “taking care of him for the rest of my life.” I was getting drunk, attempting suicide, cutting and just making an idiot out of myself. Ironic, because this was the first time I had ever done really dabbled in alcohol and it made me very different from how I really am.

When I first met his mother, I had a bad feeling it wasn’t going to go well, probably because of my sensitivity to my grandmother (almost a clone of his mother) and my own manipulative mother. His mother is like the perfect mix of them both (minus the addiction and only the addiction). His mother is passive-aggressive, controlling (tried to steer our relationship how she wanted), manipulative, judgmental, nosy (has listened to our conversation and arguments), fake and above-all does not approve of me. With her son, on the other hand, she plays the religious angel, spoils him and thinks he can do no wrong. Any fault to her lies in someone else, besides him. Growing up, she controlled what he believed in, who his friends were, what he wore, and even chased him around a desert to stop him when she learned he wanted to have sex for the first time. This was NOT the first relationship she tried to control, she did it with his past few girlfriends, even going behind his back to control whether or not he talked to them. She manipulated him into spying on his father to see if she was being cheated on. And when it went sour, he got all the blame and it messed up his relationship with his father. After that he ended up looking for friendship in the wrong people, and without sharing too many details, was turned on after a mistake and went to prison. While in prison, his mother was literally the only person he talked to. When he got out after extremely good behavior, he found out that she lied about where he was for 2 years and no one knew he was even in prison. His own sister only visited him TWICE those whole two years, even though she lived almost next to the prison he was in.

When I met him, he had been out for only a few months. We moved into a house that they (his parents) owned that is next door to theirs (still currently here). Last year there was an incident where I didn’t say hi to her a few times, she waited for me to be alone and then came barging into the house yelling, ”(My name)!! I need to speak with you!” If you know anything about Asperger’s, you know that anything spontaneous can easily send our brains into a whirlwind. This was spontaneous AND intruding on boundaries, so I started laughing. Whether it was out of nervousness, fear or the fact that I immediately had a panic attack doesn’t really matter, because this only pissed her off more. She immediately launched herself into a lecture at me on how she didn’t approve of me, indirectly calling me a slut (her son was my FIRST), accusing me of only being with her son for money (he had just lost his job), you name it. At one point, when I mentioned married, she scoffed, laughed and said, “that isn’t going to happen.” Honestly, I don’t remember the whole thing, but it wasn’t pretty. This continued for at least a half an hour before he returned. Immediately when he returned, she tried to get him to go outside to talk to only her. I can only assume this was in an attempt to control him even further and make me out to be the “bad one.” That did not happen and they launched into a shouting battle. It ended, she left and we decided that living there wasn’t going to work. The next day when he was running errands, he visited his sister and his mother showed up and they both attacked him about me. His mother said I would “hold him back.”

From there we moved away and were staying with my father. This did not work out, we went through a short period of homelessness and ended up back here due to his probation and having no choice. We came back with the agreement that she would be respectful of boundaries, and also stay away from me. Let’s just say that that was working out for a year, but she has pulled a few tactics to “get him back” (I really don’t know how else to phrase it). I have caught her on a few occasions listening outside the house to our conversations, snooping around the house, or listening to our arguments. He tried to have a conversation with her last Christmas, suggesting that an apology letter would help to ease the tension. She said she would, but that obviously didn’t happen. She “explained” that the reason why treated me the way she did was because she “felt bad” that I didn’t have a mother, prayed for me every night, and just wanted to buy me stuff. Does that even make sense? How can you talk about praying and materialism while trying to project the blame onto someone else?

I try not to let it all bother me, but can’t help but find myself obsessing over it. It even bothers me when she buys him clothes; or when he goes to do his laundry and she folds it for him. I am very conflicted on whether or not it SHOULD bother me. She will randomly get him clothes and even before he met me, he asked her many times not to. Even going as far as to getting him boxers.. And she KNOWS I take care of putting away and organizing his laundry. I feel like it’s a power play. But my fiance hasn’t been able to say much, because she says she needed the washer and dryer and that’s why she folded them. They recently did work on the house we live in (kitchen, bathroom) and she even went so far as to picking out the rug she liked for the kitchen, the curtains for the shower and drapes for the windows! All things I think she should have no say over. The carpenter even said she was using him as an excuse to come-and-go in the house whenever she pleased. :/

Again, I am sorry for the extremely long passage, but thank you for taking the time and any advice is needed. I will try to take it without getting sensitive.

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12 Answers

bookish1's avatar

Hi, welcome to Fluther. I was in a long term relationship with someone with Asperger’s so I do have some experience.

It does indeed sound like you have a monster-in-law. You gave lots of details about her behavior and it sounds like a lifelong pattern of manipulation and judgment. And it certainly does sound to me like she’s continuing to make a power play.

Caveat: I’ve never been married so I do not know what any of those dynamics are like. But aside from this being a question of your relationship with your monster-in-law, this sounds foremost like a question of the relationship between your fiance and his mother, and then your fiance and you.

You (I’m assuming both you and your fiance) and your MIL “came to an agreement” about respecting boundaries, which she obviously felt free to break afterwards. He tried to ask her to write an apology letter to ease tensions, but she was unwilling to do that. Does your fiance buy her justification that she’s “worried” about you? That sounds like total BS to me.

How old is he? Will he ever be able to stand up to his mother and tell her to get out of his life? How could he possibly have learned about boundaries, having been raised by someone like her? Does he even realize that he needs to assert himself and get her out of your lives?

tedd's avatar

I have tutored an autistic boy for the past 3 years, so I am somewhat versed in a syndrome such as yours….

Honestly I think your aspergers doesn’t play into this that much. What you have here is an overcontrolling mother, who happens to be a touch crazy. In a perfect world, your fiance would need to stand up to her and lay it all out on the line. Point blank he needs to tell her this is his life and your life, and if she wants to be a part of it she needs to stop trying to control it. Make it known you are both incredibly grateful for the help she has provided, and the place to stay… but if it will ruin your relationship you would rather be homeless. Essentially he needs to put her in her place.

Alternatively you could attempt to do this. But at the end of the day she very obviously doesn’t take you as seriously, or respect you. I also suspect your condition would make such a conflict very difficult for you to manage.

At the end of the day, she is a person too. For whatever reason she has a major need of an overly-close relationship with her son, and you are a threat to that (any woman would be a threat to that for her). She needs to understand that her son will still be there for her, but that his mother cannot be the primary woman in his life. He is really the only person who can tell her that.

marinelife's avatar

As long as you are living in a house she owns next door to her, you will have problems. You need to move out and move away from her. Otherwise, why should she change?

As you have recounted things here, it sounds like you are holding on to past incidents and past hurts. Let them go, and pick your battles as long as you are so near to her.

tedd's avatar

@marinelife There is truth to that. Moving away could ease your problems with her. But keep in mind that that is a temporary easing of problems. Sooner or later she is going to have to play a part in your lives, even if it’s just visiting for the holidays.

geeky_mama's avatar

Hi there. I’m prob. somewhere on the spectrum (extreme introvert, probably would be diagnosed Aspie, have worked with a lot of diagnosed adult Aspie folks in my IT career, and the next door neighbor boy is also diagnosed Aspergers)—so I do know where you’re coming from to an extent..
It sounds to me like you have several different but interwoven problems here. For clarity, I’m going to list them as:
1. You have a manipulative (and controlling and, well, other things..) future mother-in-law
2. You are living in a home owned by said manipulative future mother-in-law
3. You are feeling both conflicted and yet somewhat obsessed over her behavior and how it impacts your life.
4. You may also have your own difficult past history to overcome which may:
a) somewhat have colored her initial opinion of you (right or wrong)
b) make you extra sensitive to people who behave like your own abusive family

As other folks have pointed out above..because the only behavior you can control is your own, and because this woman (your future MIL) appears to be toxic, the best possible course of action is for you & your fiance to actively look for ways out of living next to them.

As @tedd points out – this won’t entirely remove her from your life..but a move (as difficult as it may be) of some distance away from her (cross country would be best!) would definitely improve your & your fiance’s lives and relationship.

Try to shift your energies away from feeling conflicted—because you have a RIGHT to feel however you feel —and focus them on “next steps” to achieve the goal of MOVING.
It may need to wait until the terms of his probation permit a move (or perhaps you can move elsewhere in the same town), it may take some planning & saving…but focus your mental energy on solving the problem rather than how you feel about the past. (As valid as your feelings may be…it doesn’t help to dwell on what she did and said.)

In the meantime, while you are working on moving away she will continue to do things that bother you. Give yourself permission to “get it out”—tell your Fiance (just try to tell him only once). Example: she buys him new boxers and let’s herself in and leaves them on your (shared) bed.
If you see her, remind her of the boundaries she agreed to—but try to do so civilly:
“How, that’s nice of you to buy him more boxers. Next time could you please call ahead or leave them on the doorstep? Thanks.”

Then, when she’s not in earshot you can turn to him and say: “I don’t know why exactly—but if kind of bothers me that she’s buying you underwear. Does that weird you out like it does me? And, really I wish she’d knock or call ahead..” Say it ONLY once. Write it down and vent online, vent to others or vent to a journal all you need/want…but don’t dwell on it with him.

KNOWITALL's avatar

OMG, this reminds me so much of my first few years of relationship-marriage with my husband. He was his mama’s 3rd son, so he was her baby…it got pretty bad, so nothing you wrote above is surprising to me.

She feels you are a threat to her relationship with her son, just as you feel the same about her, and you are battling for control, leaving your husband in a horrible position. Once you realize that, you have to come to terms with it, that she is his mother and you are his lady.

You need to work it out somehow with your mother-in-law so you can get along…not saying be besties or hang out, but just to make your HUSBAND feel happier and keep the peace.

My mother-in-law was so bad she was coming over every Sat and Sun morning for coffee, when we first moved in together….like she was jealous of our only time together (since we work Mon-Fri)....so I threw a fit and he talked to her, she cried and got mad, then stopped coming over. Then I felt bad, invited her over for coffee and told her that occasionally it was a good thing but to call first, that sometimes the morning was for lovers and hanging out naked, you know, I kind of shocked her into being reminded he was an adult, not a baby.

Now we get along fine and she knows he will choose me if forced to, and I know that he loves his mom which is a wonderful thing, and I stay out of their relationship and she does the same for me. Good luck sister, it’s not easy forging a new bond and getting over a rocky start.

jerv's avatar

Well, this Aspie solved the issue by avoiding all contact. That is made easier since my wife wanted to escape the BPD Momster as well. Of course, it helps that we moved cross-country without leaving an address or phone number….

tranquilsea's avatar

I am 18 years into a marriage with a man whose mother sounds a LOT like your future MIL. She’s been toxic to our family that whole time. We finally ended up moving 1000km away from her and limiting her contact to the kids as she was bashing me to them which caused emotional trouble for them. We tried going the route of just giving her time to adjust. Of me being polite constantly to her. Of trying to ignore her shenanigans. Of trying to talk and reason with her. Nothing worked.

We are currently DONE with her. She pulled my 15 year old daughter to one-side this summer and launched into a litany of what an awful person I was. When my daughter started to cry she told her, “I’m just trying to give you MY perspective”. When we approached her later to let her know just how much she upset my daughter she replied with, “Riiight”. Oh and this was the day before my daughter’s birthday! My daughter is still traumatized by that experience.

I have to say that that aspect of my marriage to my husband has been hard. I love my husband dearly but I don’t know that I would have signed up for this had I known that she’d never change and that she’d work overtime trying to poison every relationship I have with common relatives. The saving grace has been my husband. He’s stood up to her so many times and he’s been clear that he loves me and he’s never going away.

A woman like this needs boundaries, boundaries, BOUNDARIES. Move out of her house asap. When she gets out of line leave. If it keeps getting bad or no better then consider moving as far away as you can. You can’t make her better. She has to do that work herself. And if she thinks she is fine then there’s little hope of change.

YARNLADY's avatar

There is only one person in this life that you have control over, and that is yourself. You cannot hope to change another person, no matter how hard you try. Your ONLY course of action is to change your attitude towards these things that bother you.

You may have to fake it for awhile, force yourself to be happy with the things that happen instead of resentful. It takes a lot of effort, but is worth it in the long run.

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aspie_and_proud's avatar

Thank you to everyone who replied. A lot of this is stuff I already know, but like a lot of Aspies I am socially isolated and don’t have any friends (or family), so your words bring encouragement that I can’t get otherwise.

After writing such a long question, I FORGOT to mention that said fiance has indeed stuck up for me on many occasions and he always takes my side. But as a lot of you can imagine, said mother-in-law acts as though I have manipulated him into going against her. And though she has not said this, I picked up on it (after awhile) from the way she looks at me and speaks to me or about me (she is condescending), or even the way she avoids talking about me now (which is fine by me). I have spoken to my fiance about this several times (a lot of them were arguments), and generally when I am not being obsessive and driving him crazy, he says that he got sick of the way she was acting and that he won’t leave me for his mother (I have said many times that I am afraid of this).

I really wish moving was an option, but it is not. We just simply don’t have the money and me not working isn’t helpful either. But not only that, when you’re on probation, even if it was a nonviolent offense, the chances of getting leased an apartment are slim to none. He has a coworker in the same position, except that he has the money to put down on an apartment and more and they STILL reject him. The fact that we live in a small town area with lots of country side and very few apartments doesn’t help either. It also took him a very long time to find a job (also because of his past offense), but he finally found one with a very good company and he is working his way up, so it just isn’t possible to move from this area.

I have mostly come to terms with the probability of having to live here for some years ahead, so I try to think of the positives of residing here, instead of the negatives.

Thanks @jerv I agree. I just can’t handle the stress related to his mother, so limited contact is best. I figure that if she changes I am open to talking things out, but I don’t have high hopes for that.

I know when I read everyone’s comments that you are right: I am the only one I can control. Sometimes it is just much harder to remember this in the moment. I will come back and read this page whenever I am feeling in doubt.

Thanks everyone.

tranquilsea's avatar

@aspie_and_proud I have long been blamed for twisting my husband’s mind. Once we had children I got blamed for brain washing them too.

One of my brother-in-laws recently met and married a wonderful woman. When we first met her and she got to know us she confided in me that she was expecting to meet an awful woman and a marriage on the rocks. She was shocked to see that our lives are great. That’s what ends up happening: reality disproves fantasy.

Good luck to you. If you can both stand strong then you’ll eventually work it out.

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