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An open letter to my narcissistic mother-in-law.

Dear Mother-in-Law, 

My psychologist suggested that I write a letter to you but never send it. I need to explore all of my feelings about the situation we now find ourselves in and how we got to this point. 

I'm not ignorant of the fact that I have been cast as the villain of this saga.

I might as well say from the outset that my opinion of mothers in general was based on my own experiences, and I regret forcing my own ideals upon my husband. As you would know, Ben* isn’t much of a talker. In the first year of our relationship he didn't speak of you very much. I hadn’t heard a single thing about you until that day when you announced you were coming through town. When Ben asked me to leave, I jumped to the wrong conclusion and thought he was ashamed of me. How could I have known at that stage that it was his fractious relationship with you that was the problem and he was trying to spare me from it! When I first met you, I thought you were entertaining and charming. You thoroughly won me over. 

As the years passed, Ben sometimes spoke of your turbulent relationship. Again, I was unsympathetic. "But she’s your mother," I would say, as though that should forgive all manners of transgressions. The first real dust-up we had was when you told me you believed your ex-husband had 'interfered' with your daughter. I couldn't believe how unbothered your two children were when I told them what you had said. It was greeted with resigned shrugs and comments like, "That’s Mum, she’s always saying stuff like that."

Most perplexing to me was the failure of most people to call you out when you behaved badly. I no longer find it so. I understand why people just let things go and move past it. Your reaction when you are challenged is so dramatic, so hateful, so utterly exhausting that most of us simply decide it's not worth the angst. An open letter to my narcissistic mother-in-law. 

As time went on, it began to occur to me that there was something about you that rang some bells. And I’ve gradually come to conclude that I believe you have Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Now I can’t just make a statement like that without providing examples.

Watch: MM Confessions: When I met the parents. Post continues after the video.

Video via Mamamia.

First, there is your need to be the centre of attention. This is why you do things like jump in the pool fully clothed at your child’s swimming carnival or loudly tell people about university degrees you haven’t acquired.

Then there is your constant name-dropping. I swear, you’ve met more famous people that any person living in Hollywood. Now I don't doubt you met some on them. You're certainly confident enough to barrel up and talk to them. But all of them? There's no way. 

You also lie. Remember when I was pregnant with my second daughter? Your new husband’s family gave me several baby gifts and everything was blue and green. They told me you had said I was having a boy, but we hadn’t found out the sex. When I asked why you thought we were having a boy, you said, "I know you really want a boy." Again, untrue. I felt embarrassed and confused. 

Now we come to your lack of maternal feeling. You accompanied me to the hospital near Penrith when Lily* was a baby. She had to be hooked up to a medication for several hours to see if she had a reaction to it. I was settling myself in a chair to hold her while this was administered, and you wanted me to go to lunch with you. When I said I was staying with my baby, you laughed and said, "You’re a better mother than I." I laughed at the time, but all these years later I have heard and seen example after example of how you let your children down. I know you didn’t accompany Ben when he had to go to hospital several times as a teenager. When your daughter had a major medical episode, you left the care of her to others.

Another example of your narcissism is your failure to maintain relationships. As time went on, I realised that you had fallen out with dozens of people in your life. More than dozens, in fact. Of course, we all have conflicts but when I started to list yours, it seemed perhaps the common link in all this was you. 

You also project. Narcissists are like a mirror – they try to project their own bad behaviour onto others. The most recent example is when you wrote a text to Ben telling him you were too old for my histrionics. 

Narcissists are always demanding respect, whilst often being disrespectful. They shout things like, "I'm your mother! You will respect me!" Sound familiar?

You want me to go back to the person I was. But I can’t. I know you now. The blinkers are off. Our clash was inevitable. 

I've come to realise that I have choices. I can choose to read your letters, emails and texts. I can choose to speak to you on the phone or listen to your messages. But I do not have to listen. I do not have to read or engage. I do not have to meet with you or allow you to hurt my family.

And I choose not to. Rage away. Hate me. Scream that I am evil and that I have no respect. Tell everyone I have brainwashed your son. 

I am at peace with my choices. 

Feature Image: Canva.

*Names have been changed. 

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