Dis­tance am­pli­fies is­sues with in-law

Times Standard (Eureka) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - Amy Dick­in­son You can con­tact Amy Dick­in­son via email: askamy@amy­dick­in­son.com and fol­low her on Twit­ter @ask­ingamy.

DEAR AMY » My hus­band and I live in a dif­fer­ent coun­try than our fam­i­lies. Our only source of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with our moth­ers is through FaceTime/FB Mes­sen­ger.

While I have a great re­la­tion­ship with my mom and call her al­most daily, my hus­band’s re­la­tion­ship with his mom has al­ways been rocky.

She likes lec­tur­ing him on how he should live his life, what to do, what job to get, etc. She’s also a very reli­gious woman, while we def­i­nitely are not.

My hus­band had a big ar­gu­ment with her about the fact that he doesn’t at­tend church, and she was ques­tion­ing whether it was my in­flu­ence!

I’m an athe­ist, but if my hus­band wanted to go to church, that would be ab­so­lutely fine with me.

My mother-in-law keeps push­ing him about it. She was in­cred­i­bly an­gry when he told her that he doesn’t share her strong faith. These ar­gu­ments get him re­ally de­pressed and dis­cour­aged.

He said that if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s the only child (and his mom is di­vorced), he would dis­tance him­self, or stop con­tact­ing her al­to­gether.

While I wouldn’t want her to lose her son (my mom is also di­vorced, so I feel for her), it pains me to see him go­ing through all that un­called-for pres­sure.

How can we keep the re­la­tion­ship with my mother-in-law, but also firmly tell her to stop dic­tat­ing to us how to live our lives and what to be­lieve in?

— Enough of Dic­ta­tor­ship

DEAR ENOUGH » If be­ing reli­gious is a core value for your mother-in-law, she will quite nat­u­rally visit and re­visit this topic with her son.

Be­cause you two live over­seas and are com­mu­ni­cat­ing via video­con­fer­enc­ing and tele­phone, some of her clutch­ing and at­tempts to con­trol will be am­pli­fied. This might be be­cause she is anx­ious and lonely, but I have also no­ticed that one as­pect of long-dis­tance com­mu­ni­cat­ing is that it can be chal­leng­ing to come up with things to talk about.

You two should come up with top­ics to dis­cuss with her; keep a list on a notepad near your lap­top. Think of sto­ries and recipes to share, and let her help you make lit­tle de­ci­sions — “We’re look­ing at these two kinds of tile for the bath­room — which do you like best?”

Your hus­band should pon­der and prac­tice some re­sponses that might re­as­sure his mother, with­out en­cour­ag­ing her to­ward dis­cus­sions he does not want to have. “OK, Mom, I re­al­ize this is im­por­tant to you. I’ll let you know if any­thing changes for me. Let’s talk about some­thing else, OK?”

He should also be brave enough to dis­ap­point his anx­ious mother: “Mom, you did a great job rais­ing me, but from here on out, I’m in charge of my own life.”

I think it’s OK to cre­ate a lit­tle dis­tance, and to be hon­est about the rea­son.

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