in law confusion

by Kasey
(keene, nh, usa)

Hello, My name is Kasey and I am 61 years old. I have a problem with my son's wife, she is a very negative person. She has some health issues and has no money sense. My son works night shift and has trouble sleeping during the day and she has no sympathy for him. He is so tired and worn out and all she does is spend money she shouldn't and complain about everything. My 2 grandkids are growing up to be just like her, they are 12 and 8 and very demanding and greedy and disrespectful just like their mom. I know I should not help them out with money as it does not teach her anything but to use me as a crutch. I have been having anxiety and panic attacks because I don't know how to cope with her anymore. I don't think my son knows how she acts. She phones me at least once a day with complaints. I have tried to tell her that it is hard to listen to and she is good for a little while, then it starts over again. Sorry this is so long. Thank you.

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Aug 25, 2010
What's behind it?
by: Catherine

Hi Kasey,

There's two different sides to your question.

The first is what do you think her intention is by calling you every day?
- Is it because she wants money and you end up giving it to her if she bugs you enough?
- is it because she's bored and wants someone to talk to?
- Is she trying to get sympathy?
- Is she trying to get you to solve her problems?
- Is she a drama queen and likes to constantly tell people about her problems?

Her intention is important to understand because then that will give you a better idea on how to respond to her. For example, if she just wants money, then you could try things like, "I'm sorry your car needs repairs. Any ideas on what you're going to do?" and then that would put the responsibility for solving the issue back on her. Or you could try something like, "I heard Joe's Local Company is accepting resumes right now" or you could just say, "I'm sorry to hear that" and not say anything else. If you don't encourage her to continue she'll quickly run out of things to say and then you can change the topic to something more positive, "I just saw a movie you might like".

If she's the type of person that complains simply because they think that's the way you bond with other people then you would need to handle that differently.

So, do you think you know the real intention behind her calling you? Does she talk about the same negative things to everybody or just you? That would help to figure out the best response.

The other part of this is what's the emotion happening behind your anxiety? For example,
- Do you feel guilty for not giving her money?
- Are you worried she'll turn your son and grandkids against you if you don't give her money?
- Are you worried she's going to get mad at you?
- Do you just find it hard to say no to people?
- Do you want her to like you and you don't want to upset her?
- Do you want to give her the money but you know you can't afford it?

Just like the first part, it's important to understand why you're feeling anxious. Once you know that, then you'll be able to deal with it far more effectively. If you feel guilty, read my article here, Deal With Feeling Guilty for some info which might help.

But, you need to know what's going on behind it to really get to the heart of the matter and solve the issue.

Also, what do you think your son would think if he did know? Is that part of your anxiety too, him finding out?

Anyway, hope that helps a little. We can go through this in more detail if you'd like.

Sep 08, 2010
in law confusion part 2
by: Kasey

Hi Catherine, First of all, thank you for your words of wisdom. I am not sure of her motivation, sometimes it feels like she wants me to solve her problems, sometimes not. She is just so negative about so many things, I just do not understand her. I have never met anyone who can complain about so much, so often. I think a great deal of her attitude comes from her very chaotic childhood, father committed suicide when her mother was pregnant (in front of mom), she was sexually abused by family member, and her mother has paranoid schitzophrenia. Plus she is alone so much with the children with hubby working nights and sleeping days they don't get a great deal of quality time together. Thank you again. Kasey

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