Learning to say “no” is a lesson that many people sadly never learn. Usually born from manipulation or a lack of self-confidence, being coerced into things can absolutely ruin a relationship. It can ruin a family. Learning to say “enough!” is something that we all need to work on. This skill could save a lot of families the grief and hassle of doing things that aren’t good for them out of obligation, and even learning to recognize when a situation is more harmful than helpful can be enough!
This man realized that lesson just a bit too late, but he hopes that by spreading his story, he can encourage others to take a stand and defend themselves from equally toxic situations.
My mother-in-law is a borderline. She was very abusive when my wife was a kid, both physically and emotionally. I’m talking about stuff like kicking her 10-year-old daughter out of the house in the snow and calling her a slut because she changed her shirt in front of her dad, or trying to cut her lips off with scissors for talking back to her. Crazy stuff. Really crazy stuff.
But in spite of all that crazy, my wife loved her mom and wanted her to be an active part of her life. Such is the story with borderline parents; they’re both the best parents ever and the worst. So we maintained a relationship with her mom, albeit a volatile one that would consist of months where she’s visit us every day followed by a year where she’d cut us out of her life for the stupidest little reason. It sucked, but we learned to manage.
Then she got cancer and my wife, the only child, felt obligated to take care of her mom. So she moved in with us while she underwent surgery and chemo. That’s when everything went to hell.
My mother-in-law insisted my wife be her sole care giver, take her to every appointment, clean up after her, change her colostomy bag, cook every meal from scratch, etc. This all while my wife was completing a 4o hour a week practicum plus taking her final semester of courses for her master’s degree. Of course I wasn’t permitted to help because I was a man and it was her “daughter’s job to care for her mother.” And so my wife would have to leave classes, work, and study sessions to come and make her mom a sandwich. I wish I was exaggerating.
On top of this, we have three kids. The oldest looks like me (white, blond), the middle looks like my wife (asian, adorable), and our third actually looks a LOT like my wife’s dad, who was living in another country. My mother-in-law would treat our kids accordingly, our first she ignored (as she did me), our middle she put through the borderline roller-coaster of love and hate, and our youngest she took over completely, never letting my wife so much as hold the little guy, even though he was only one year old. It began to get to the point where he was calling my mother-in-law “mama.” She loved that.
Meanwhile, my wife is having to deal with all the mind games her mom played on her while she was cleaning her, cooking for her, etc. My best friend is a girl, we grew up together, and she’s literally like a sister to me. My mother-in-law was convinced we were having an affair, that my friend was intentionally using my mother-in-law’s cancer as a distraction to have her way with me, and that my friend was plotting to murder my wife and kids so she could be with me. It got so bad, if I was ever even in the same room with my friend, my wife would hear about it for days. And even though my wife isn’t crazy, her mom was so manipulative, it began to put a cloud of suspicion over our marriage and almost completely ended my relationship with my friend.
Now, before you ask why the heck I didn’t do anything about all this, I wanted to do something terribly, but I knew that the level of pain and torment it would cause my wife would be too much to bear. So I stayed quiet and supported her behind closed doors. I did whatever I could to ease the burden.
And then it hit the fan.
I came home to hear my mother-in-law berating my oldest over something stupid. My middle was crying, having already gotten her own verbal assault. My wife was trying to get her mom to go into the restroom so they could change her colostomy bag. My mother-in-law hit my wife, slammed her into the door, shut the door on my wife’s head, and then ran into get room and threw herself on the bed.
And then my wife said the three words I’d been waiting for:
“Please do something.”
I marched into the bedroom and stood at the foot of her bed. My mother-in-law glared at me, daring me to make a move.
“Get out,” I said.
“Get out of my house.”
“You’d kick a woman with cancer out on the streets?”
“I’m kicking the cancer out of my house. I’ll find you a place to stay and I’ll get you set up with a nurse, but you’re no longer welcome in this house.”
She was filled with anger. “If you kick me out, you will never hear from me again. I will never talk to your children again. I will never talk to my daughter again. Is that what you want?”
“If that’s your choice, then yes.”
There wasn’t another word between us. I helped her pack her stuff up, I called and got her into an apartment provided by the hospital, and I made sure she was to be taken care of.
Once she was gone, I went to find my wife in our room. I was honestly terrified that she wouldn’t forgive me for kicking out her mother.
She looked at me, tears in her eyes and said, “Thank you. I’ve waited my whole life for someone to do that for me.” And then she began to cry all the tears she’d been storing for all the times she’d needed someone to rescue her. She cried all night.
We haven’t spoken to her mom since.”
Since that time, the family and children have undergone therapy and are recovering from the entire ordeal. While this husband’s story is chilling, it is also a story that is much too common. When toxic relationships are allowed to continue, it can be hard to “kick the cancer out” and do what is best for everyone involved. Learning from this man’s decisions might help someone in the future, and sharing his story might just help someone else “kick the cancer out” before it is too late.
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