"He's a Mama's Boy"
Her Turn, Continued
"After high school I got a clerical job at a law firm, eventually becoming the executive assistant to one of the senior partners. At 22 I married Tom, a 24-year-old policeman, and I was happy until he had an affair right after Mark was born. I tried to forgive him and move on, but he cheated again while I was pregnant with Patty. After our divorce he married his girlfriend, started a new family, and basically deserted our children, just as my father had done to me.
"A year or so after my divorce a coworker invited me for drinks with her bowling team. Bill, the team captain, was a courteous, handsome man of 40 who worked as a supervisor in the city's parks department. We had similar interests in movies, music, and football, and I felt a strong chemistry. It struck me as odd that Bill had never married and still lived in his parents' house (though in a separate apartment), but I tried not to judge. Before we closed the bar at 2 a.m., he invited me to a Super Bowl party at his place the following week. I had a great time and even met his parents when they came by with appetizers. They didn't linger, so I thought nothing of it.
"Soon Bill and I were madly in love, trying new restaurants, renting movies, going to concerts, and sharing our hopes and dreams. Mark and Patty, then 6 and 3, yearned for a father, and I was ecstatic when the three of them hit it off. I didn't want more children, and Bill was fine with being a stepfather. Occasionally we'd all have Sunday dinner with his parents, and everything seemed normal. It never occurred to me to discuss what role his parents would play in our new life -- or what boundaries we should set -- because their behavior raised no red flags.
"My wake-up call came when we bought a fixer-upper about 20 minutes away from them, just weeks after our wedding. Bill was eager to do the renovation himself, but if he called his dad, who's very handy, with a question, the next thing you knew, the two of them would be at our house and John would be doing the work! John isn't bossy the way Ruth is, but he can be just as overprotective. And since Ruth pushes him around, too, he goes along with everything she wants. It upset me to see Bill treated as an incompetent child, but he shrugged it off, saying, 'That's just how they are.'
"Before I knew it, my in-laws were taking us out to dinner three nights a week. If we declined an invitation, Ruth would show up unannounced, casserole in hand. 'I thought you might be too tired to fix dinner,' she'd say, making herself at home in my kitchen. To this day, despite my constant pleas to Bill to cut back, we still have dinner with them twice a week. And twice a year they take all of us on a luxury vacation. We've gone to Europe, Alaska, the Caribbean, and Mexico -- places we could never afford. I enjoy these trips, but I'm being perfectly honest when I say I'd be happier to take a modest vacation by ourselves. I hate feeling so beholden to them, but Bill and the kids love these extravaganzas, so I've kept quiet.
"Believe it or not, I actually like my mother-in-law. She truly cares for us, and she's a lot of fun at times. And I still love Bill. He's kind and good-natured and a fabulous stepfather to my kids. But I can't take Ruth's meddling anymore and I'm sick of being number two in Bill's affections."