Some people feel forced to parent their parents
Q: Why is it that whenever I have an issue with my mother-in-law, my wife always defends her? My mother-in-law is and always will be an alcoholic. She meddles in our affairs and never has anything good to say.
A: It is likely that growing up wasn’t easy for your wife if her mother was also alcoholic during your wife’s childhood. In such situations, it is not uncommon for the child to in a sense, have to parent the parent. This is an outcome of the real parent unable to take care of family life. This teaches the child to always be responsible for that parent. As the child ages, that sense of responsibility doesn’t just go away. It follows the child into their adulthood.
To add, if the child never really felt valued by that parent, there is the faint hope that in continuing to care and protect the parent, the parent may one day come to appreciate the now adult child. It is as if we never grow out of needing to feel valued by our parents. So when you take issue with your mother-in-law, your wife is only doing what comes naturally to her. It may not be healthy, but it is her normal and she may still be seeking maternal validation.
It may also be that in your upset with your mother-in-law, you may be too expressive of your anger and upset. If your anger and upset comes across aggressively or disproportionate to the triggering event, you may be overwhelming and even frightening to your wife. She may view you as abusive in your response. If so, then she may be reasonably protective of the target of abusive behavior, her mother.
Issues such as you describe don’t necessarily resolve naturally on their own. These kinds of issues can undermine and ruin a marriage.
Couple counselling for you and your wife may be necessary then to address the impact of maternal alcoholism on your wife and her boundaries with her mother as well as your behaviour in the situation.
To take some steam out of the situation consider talking to your wife about your behaviour, not hers. Seek to manage your anger and upset and invite your wife to counselling to improve your relationship with her.