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Dear Abby: Mother in Law Trouble

by Jo Ferguson (follow)
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Dear Abby

peach rose
I Can't Trust Her

What do you do when you can't trust your mother-in-law? We are friends, despite being very different people with totally different outlooks on life. And I understand that in a dispute she is always going to take my husband's side, but that just leaves me feeling like, how can I be friends with her? I can't trust her to keep my confidence?

I am not expecting her to keep secrets from her son, but at the same time if I tell her something that is bothering me and I would rather just keep it between the two of us, she will not respect my wishes. What should I do?


Dear Anonymous

This is a tough one and there is no easy solution. It sounds like your mother in law is a caring person who is trying to be everything to everyone but given her divided loyalties this is impossible.

My advice to you is, try putting yourself in her shoes. She loves her son and would put his needs first every time and never betray his trust. Yet she obviously also cares about his happiness and so despite your differences as you put it, has made a real effort to become genuine friends with you.

Being a mum is a tricky business sometimes, especially when your children grow up and other people become close to them. If you have children of your own, think about how you would feel in her shoes?

Would you put the friendship with his wife above your loyalty to your son? I think this would be pretty difficult. Even when it may not concern him, your asking her to keep something from your husband may make her feel uncomfortable and disloyal.

Red Sunset over the Ocean
Cut Her Some Slack

Try to cut her some slack and appreciate that she obviously is trying her best to keep you both happy but her son will always come first as I know you appreciate that he should.

It sounds like you feel the need to bond with her and unfortunately you are unwittingly putting her in a difficult situation. I’m sure this is not your intention as you mention you don’t expect her to keep secrets from her son, and it sounds like you genuinely care for her too.

We all need to appreciate that all relationships are different and in some cases a person is too close to be a confidante. This does not mean you cannot be friends. All friendships provide different needs in different ways; they cannot, and should not, be everything you need all in one relationship.

I think you need to choose another confidante, someone who is not so close to the family centre, to discuss any concerns that you would rather not share with your husband.

Just because you can’t confide in your mother in law about these things does not make it any less a special and meaningful friendship that can nurture you both in other ways.

Who knows, by taking the burden of feeling ‘caught in the middle’ from her, it may just bring the two of you closer.

I hope it all goes well for you.

Warmest Regards


#dear abby
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Wonderful advice Jo and I am sure that will give our anonymous reader something to think on and hopefully help the situation. I can relate to her situation given that my own mother (who I was very close with) is no longer with us, and sometimes we subconsciously try to replace that close mother-daughter bond with the next best thing.
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