JJ Vincent wonders why so many men dislike their mothers-in-law, and admits that he actually likes his…even though she doesn’t seem to know he exists.
I’m not a Mama’s boy. Not by a long shot. My guy partner, well, the apron strings from his mother to him are short. I’m not even sure that my mom and I had apron strings.
I don’t know who invented the semi-rule that men are supposed to hate their mothers-in-law. I know that this relationship is the butt of lots of old, tired, clichéd jokes, and that mothers-in-law are the whipping boys for problems in relationships, but really, they’re not so bad.
My guy partner’s mother and I have had an interesting relationship. J and I have been together for 9+ years. His mother is nice to me. I’m included in family events, welcomed and gifted during the holidays, called when he doesn’t pick up his phone fast enough, called when he doesn’t return a call fast enough, fed and watered, and generally treated like one of the family. I’d hugged, worried after, occasionally asked for advice.
But I am not acknowledged for the person that I am. She’s never once acknowledged me as his partner. At best, I’m a friend. Usually, I’m not acknowledged at all, even if I am standing with the two of them in a public place. She has lunch with him, not us. She visits him, not us. If she’s asked about me, I’m just JJ, and she changes the subject. If she’s caring for our dog, they are his dogs.
As he’s explained it to me, it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with her and how she is afraid of what people think of her in her small town. A gay child is bad enough. A gay child with a significant other might be a little too much. A gay child openly, publically out is just a plain embarrassment.
But I don’t hate her. I don’t even dislike her. She is a good person. She gets righteously indignant when she sees people being hurt or discriminated against. She hates hate. She just wants people to get along. She’s good to her dogs and ours, and never crabs about grand children. She raised a wonderful person.
My mother is an interesting character. She’s sweet but somewhat unpredictable, and her memory is…lacking at best. She does a lot for us, from checking on our dogs to washing dishes if she sees them to picking up unsweet tea if we run out. She’s been out here for two years, lives down the street, and is a minimal bother. She’s also deeply religious in a faith that does not look kindly on homosexuals.
But she acknowledges us. To her friends, her faith Brothers and Sisters, her remaining brother. Because to her, we are people and her children before anything else.
J does not do well with unpredictable people, and my mother has random spells of rage, confusion, and memory loss. This makes him nervous. He tries not to spend to much time alone with her, and I try not to let him.
But he doesn’t hate her. He takes her at face value. He appreciates her and that she acknowledges him, helps us, and earnestly cares about him and his well being. She doesn’t cross personal or home boundaries. She’s open-minded, says thank you, and never crabs about grand children.
The Moms have caused more than a little bit of friction in our relationship. His mom would like our company all day, every Sunday. And she had this for a long time. I did not like this. I wanted one weekend day for us. Thanks to our girl partner, he has gotten some more backbone and we’ve gained more time together. My mom pressures less about time, but is more emotionally stressful to deal with. She calls at random hours of the day and night, often about the same things, repeatedly. When she’s in a temper, there is no reasoning with her. But we don’t dislike either Mom. They are part of our lives, regardless of how they are acting. When we chose each other, it was a package deal. We got the Moms.
I know there are a lot of mothers-in-law that are meddlesome, mean, unpleasant, and just plain horrible. They can be abusive, cruel, unfriendly, and bring a whole family down. But there are a lot of them that are wonderful, kind, helpful, or at least tolerable people.
But how many men are willing to say, out loud, to their friends, that they love their mother-in-law? That they want to spend time with them, that they enjoy their company, that they welcome them into their homes and holidays? Mother-in-law bashing is a male-bonding event, a supposed commonality that invites small talk. But what for the guys who get along with her? What do they do?
Hopefully, smile and tell the other guys that now they have two moms.