"His Mother Is Tearing Us Apart"

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Her Turn, continued

"Six months after we started dating, Barbara married Frank, her long-time boyfriend, and John reconciled with her. I quickly saw the irrational behavior he had warned me about. When John showed her the pearl earrings he had bought for me, Barbara whined that he loved me more than he loved her. A week later she berated him for not spending enough time with her. After she calmed down, things were fine for a few months until she exploded again -- this time because it took John two weeks to return her call. We were relieved when Frank got transferred to Seattle. 

"Our marriage was conflict-free during the three years she was away. John and I played tennis, spent weekends in the country, fixed up the house, and started a family. The troubles resumed just over a year ago, when Frank's job brought them back to our area. Barbara started calling every few days, dropping by unannounced, and pressuring us to get together.

"I feel guilty that John ignores her, so I call her once a week and go shopping with her twice a month. I'm on edge the whole time, though, because I never know whether she'll explode over some trivial matter. And she never misses a chance to probe for information about our marriage. I try to dodge her questions, but once I accidentally mentioned that money was tight. Barbara told John what I'd said, and he got upset that I'd divulged our personal business.

"Then there are Barbara and Frank's monthly visits, which I dread. She insists on bringing Cuddles, her frisky Jack Russell terrier, who once nipped Julia's nose. It didn't break the skin, thank goodness, but I don't want Cuddles around the girls. John says I'm overreacting, but I suspect his real reason for not supporting me is that he doesn't want to tell Barbara that Cuddles can't come over. We tried once -- and she flew into a rage. 

"We Speak to Each Other in Clipped Tones"

"Last Christmas John and I had a huge argument because Barbara and Frank invited themselves to dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 'They can come one day, not two, and Cuddles stays home,' I said. John disagreed, saying he felt sorry for his mother. I was furious he wouldn't back me up and was a nervous wreck from worrying that Cuddles might hurt our daughters.

"Barbara's behavior and John's indifference to my feelings have taken such a toll that we speak to each other only in clipped tones or raised voices. We used to snuggle on the sofa; now we avoid each other when we're both home. Every time the phone rings I worry that it's Barbara. The stress has given me migraines and insomnia, but John couldn't care less. 

"Last week, after yet another blow-up, John punched a hole in the kitchen wall. That's when I decided I'd had enough. I love my husband, but I will not stay married to a man who can't stand up to his mother or control his temper." 

Continued on page 3:  His Turn


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