Since I’m working on a book about narcissistic in-laws, it’s certainly gotten me to thinking about them. Not exactly a fun topic since I’ve been through a LOT at the hands of narcissistic in-laws, but it’s also a topic that needs to be addressed. I’ll share a blog post when it’s published as well as add the link to my website at: www.CynthiaBaileyRug.com
One thing that recently has come to mind about these dreadful people is how they are with exes. I’ve heard of & read so many stories of narcissistic in-laws who keep in touch with their son’s or brother’s ex, even after he has moved on to another woman & there were no children created in the relationship. They may even have the ex’s picture hanging up in their home or a picture of him with her when they were together. They may invite her to family functions, whether or not the new lady is present.
I’ve been down this road. A woman my husband broke up with in 1991 is still a bigger part of my in-law’s family than I ever have been. In 1997 at an in-law family party, my two sisters in-law spoke a LOT about her (when it was just the three of us together, no witnesses, of course), talking about what a great person she was & how they should hang out with her soon. They never wanted to hang out with me, mind you. Not long after we were married in 1998, my mother in-law told me how disappointed she & my father in-law were that my husband married me instead of this person. Over the years, I learned that at least one of the sisters in-law not only kept in close contact with this ex, but kept my husband abreast of what was going on in her life. Then, when we ran into her in a store two months to the day after my husband’s father died, I saw how comfortable & friendly she was with my husband. It was painfully obvious she’d seen him recently, so I later asked what was going on with her. Turns out not only had she been to my father in-law’s funeral, but also my mother in-law’s & took one of her sons to visit my mother in-law in the hospital. She also lives only a few miles from my late in-laws’ home & attends the church they attended.
As if all of this isn’t awful enough, I also realized when we saw this woman that she obviously is still very attracted to my husband.
This whole situation got me to thinking about these types of situations. If you’re in it, you’re going to need a lot of wisdom on how to cope with it.
I’m not saying all friendships between people & their exes or even their family & their exes are bad. Sometimes they work out just fine or are necessary because of children or other ties to each other such as owning a business together. When narcissistic in-laws are involved though, it’s a whole different situation. This relationship isn’t because these people were genuinely fond of each other. Like everything else, there is a self-serving purpose in it. Never ever doubt that! Your spouse may think his family’s behavior is normal but it isn’t!
If you wonder, watch how this relationship is handled. Your feelings should be considered. Your in-laws should not flaunt this person to you. This person shouldn’t be frequently discussed fondly in front of you or her picture shouldn’t be in a predominant space in the in-law home (especially if it also includes your spouse).
How do they handle this relationship regarding your spouse? Do they keep your spouse up to date on his ex’s life? If your spouse wants no parts of the details of that ex, do they force him to listen anyway? Do they forward her emails to him so he not only knows but has her email address as well?
These behaviors are all red flags, & you are going to need a lot of wisdom on how to handle this situation.
As always, I recommend prayer as the best place to start. Luke 12:12 says, “For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” (KJV) & James 1:5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (KJV) Seems to me prayer is the best place you can start!
Also never give your spouse an ultimatum. People who do this almost always end up losing because no one wants to feel controlled or manipulated.
Stay calm when you must discuss the situation. If you act angry or hurt, chances are your spouse will discuss the conversation with someone in his family. From there, it would be very easy for your in-laws to convince your spouse that you’re unreasonable, paranoid, even crazy. And, no doubt if he sees his ex, she is on good behavior. She will look even better to him & you even worse. So stay calm during the discussion for the sake of your marriage!
Do NOT tell him what you think his family is up to. Coming from a narcissistic family does quite the number on a person’s psyche as most people know. One thing I’ve noticed is men in these situations have a lot more trouble facing the truth about their family than women. (No guys, I don’t hate you or think you’re stupid. It’s just an observation.) If you’re in this position with your spouse, I know it can be frustrating. You see the truth so clearly but your spouse doesn’t. Don’t work hard trying to convince him of the truth. You telling the truth will come across to him as you criticizing his family, which in turn will make him very protective of them & angry at you. It will drive a huge wedge between you two.
You can, however, gently, let your spouse know that you are very uncomfortable with this situation. Tell him how you feel, & don’t be afraid of being vulnerable. Better for your spouse to see that side of you than the angry side, because it won’t make him defensive. He will be more willing to listen to you & relate to your perspective if you aren’t angry.
Also, what about the ex? Is she obviously still attracted to your husband? This is tough, I know. I really feel your pain. The best I know to do with this is to focus on your spouse. Make sure you don’t stop doing things that he loves or finds attractive about you. Do nice little gestures for him to show him you love him, like slipping love notes into his lunch box, sock drawer, coat pocket or even taping them to his steering wheel while he’s in the shower. If you tell him what a terrible person his ex is instead, you’re only making him defensive of her & angry at you. Yes, I know this one is HARD. After seeing my husband’s ex, every fiber in me wanted to say exactly what I think of her & his family. But, I knew that he wouldn’t believe what I said & would end up passionately defending them while simultaneously being very angry with me.
Lastly remember, all of this isn’t about you. It’s about some pretty dysfunctional people doing what dysfunctional people do. If the ex is still interested, well, she should have tried harder to keep him & is being foolish for not giving up. He moved on & she should too. As for your in-laws, they are getting something out of this relationship. They probably want to split you & your spouse up or at the very least cause trouble between you two. Maybe they think because she’s wealthy or in some sort of position in society, she makes them look good. Who knows? But you can be sure of one thing… whatever sick mess is happening in this relationship, it has nothing to do with you.
I wish you the absolute best in this situation! xoxo