DEAR HARRIETTE: I don’t get along with my mother-in-law. She is too judgmental. Whenever I see her, she immediately picks something about me to criticize. It could be my outfit, especially if it’s new and pretty, or my body — she notices every pound that I put on. When I talk, she often accuses me of trying to talk over her, so she starts to talk over me instead. And on and on. I usually ignore her, but this is getting old. I don’t know if she is jealous of me, but I try hard to get on her good side. Still, nothing is ever enough. When I mention it to my husband, he just says that’s how she is. — At Odds
DEAR AT ODDS: What if you approached her directly and asked her what you can do to have a better relationship with her? She may be surprised by your directness, but perhaps that will get her to be real with you. Remind her that you love her son and chose to marry him. You are going to be in each other’s lives, and you want to have a better relationship with her. If she acts like she doesn’t know what you are talking about, give her a few examples of things she has said or done and how they made you feel. Describe how uncomfortable it is when she disparages your outfits or points out your weight gain. Ask her to be kinder to you.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One day he is screaming at me and telling me all the things I do wrong. He can be so mean and nasty. Then the next day, it’s like that never happened. He acts so nice and sweet and thoughtful. I never know which version of my husband is going to show up. This is getting old now.
I feel like I am always on guard. If he is in a good mood, we will have a good day. If he is grouchy or if he has been drinking, he is guaranteed to be nasty. I’m tired of trying to walk around his landmines, but when I bring it up, he just shrugs it off. What can I do? — Human Grenade
DEAR HUMAN GRENADE: Your husband’s behavior sounds like emotional abuse. You are reacting to a roller coaster of emotional ups and downs based on how he treats you. This is unhealthy. Sure, drinking could be a big part of the problem. When he is sober, you can mention that you think it would be good for him and your relationship if he were to curb his alcohol intake. Give him examples of how he behaves when he is drunk and how disruptive that can be to you. Ask him to stop.
You should also consider counseling for yourself and the two of you (if he will go). A professional can help you sort through your feelings and experiences to assess where you are and what you need to be safe and content.