Ask Amy: Combative mother-in-law wants a second chance

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Sep 2, 2021, 10:33:40 PM9/2/21
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Ask Amy: Combative mother-in-law wants a second chance

Updated: Sep. 01, 2021, 7:05 p.m. | Published: Sep. 01, 2021, 12:04 a.m.
Picture of columnist Amy Dickinson
Amy Dickinson writes the syndicated Ask Amy column.Tribune Content Agency

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By Amy Dickinson
Dear Amy: For years, my mother-in-law, “Theresa,” and I have not gotten
along.

I grew up with my husband (her son) and we have been happily together
for eight years.

About two years ago, right before our wedding, Theresa started to call
me all sorts of horrible things, called my husband even worse things,
disowned him, and tried to physically hurt me at the end of the night.

I have no desire to forget the things she has done to both of us, or to
reconnect with her. That particular night was just one of several
terrible things she’s done.


She has physically and emotionally hurt us. She has manipulated my
husband for several years, and now that he has finally started to heal
after this event, Theresa reached out to him, asking if she could visit
us and try to reconnect.

My husband is willing to give her another chance, but I have no desire to.

I’ve told him that he is welcome to try, despite it upsetting me, but
that I will not attempt to reconnect.

However, he wants both of us to come to the same conclusion.

Am I being cruel by refusing to give her another chance?

I’d really appreciate your advice.

– On the Fence

Dear On the Fence: I’m of the general opinion that when someone humbly
asks for a second chance, they should be offered that chance – with some
conditions attached to protect the emotional safety of all involved.

You don’t mention whether your mother-in-law has done this before. A
master manipulator will go back to the “second chance” storyline
repeatedly. This is all part of the destabilizing process.

Recipients of this manipulative treatment eventually realize that while
hope springs eternal, emotional wells do run dry.

The benefit of approaching this as a couple is that you and your husband
can both have this experience with his mother at the same time, and
while you will likely have different takes on what has transpired after
the fact, you will at least have the opportunity to gauge your
mother-in-law’s intent, her sincerity, and her prospects for success.


It is wise to put up some walls during this encounter, but don’t put up
your dukes.

Children of disruptors face perennial challenges. Even if you choose to
completely disengage, don’t prevent your husband from trying to have a
relationship with his troublesome mother. If he does, he will need a
gentle partner in his corner.
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