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'She had the bridesmaids' dresses made behind my back.' My mother-in-law ruined my wedding.

When I met my mother-in-law for the first time, I was blown away by her infectious energy. She was so different to my own mum. In fact, she was different to any woman I had ever met.

I thought the world of her. 

She was full of fun; she was hilarious and adventurous, brave and unapologetic. She was interested and interesting; she was involved and invested. She made me feel welcome right away, and we fell easily into a great friendship.

She could be intense but at the time, it was part of her charm and she doted on me. It's slightly embarrassing to admit but her interest in me made me feel loved and seen.

Watch: The worst thing I ever said to my mother-in-law. Post continues below.


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In the first couple of years of my relationship with my now husband, my relationship with my mother-in-law went from strength to strength. I loved her dearly. 

I went along with almost everything she suggested when we were with her, thrilled to have such a close bond with my partner’s mother.

But soon after my husband and I got engaged, things slowly started to unravel. 

The first red flag was when she contributed financially to our wedding. I was thrilled. My husband had his reservations, but we went ahead.

Like any newly engaged young woman, I was over the moon and beyond excited to plan our big day. I had dreamed of my wedding day for years and couldn’t wait to bring my ideas to life.

I had gone shopping for material one afternoon to make the bridesmaids' dresses. 

Excited when I laid my eyes on the beautiful chiffon material the exact shade of blue I wanted, I rang my mother-in-law only to be told she had already bought purple satin material for my bridesmaids and was already getting the dresses made. 

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I was slightly offended but put it down to her eagerness to help.

Surely, this was a one off? I shrugged it off and continued planning the rest of the wedding, swallowing my unease.

The next red flag came when I walked into her living room one night and found the seating arrangements and guest list for our wedding all done to her wishes. 

Perplexed, I asked her why she hadn't included me or my partner in the process and why the guests I had included in our list were replaced by her own friends.

She ignored my probes and tried to distract me with the party favours she had ordered. They were lovely but again, without my or my partner's input. I felt confused, anxious and angry.

That night I told my partner everything that had happened. 

He had been working away, and I hadn't yet told him about these run-ins. 

"I told you her financial input wouldn’t be without strings," he said. 

"Just let her do what she wants, it's mostly her money and all I want is to be married to you, everything else is second to that."

Looking back, his response turns my stomach. 

But at the time, I was so blinded by love that I pushed any uncomfortable feelings aside. 

I couldn’t wait to be married to this wonderful man, so why was I complaining about not getting my way? I reasoned that perhaps I was being selfish and spoiled, so I backed off.

In the end, our entire wedding was planned by her except for the wedding dress I had bought myself. I had let her take the reins and convinced myself it would be for the best and that it would still be a beautiful day, full of love.

To be honest, I hated conflict and felt a strange duty to keep her happy, which in turn kept my partner happy.

But these off-putting experiences started coming thick and fast after that. 

On another occasion she had asked about our plans to start a family. I felt it was a bit forward but such was her character. I told her we were just excited to be getting married.

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She told me that if I wanted a baby and her son didn’t, that I was a "smart girl" and could get pregnant on purpose. 

"Just stop taking the pill, he doesn’t need to know," she said. 

This made me deeply uncomfortable but my partner brushed it off again. 

"Had she had a wine or two? She was probably drunk," he said.

She wasn’t.

On the morning of our wedding, my mum, our bridesmaids and my mother-in-law went to the salon to get their hair and makeup done. 

While getting my own hair done by the salon owner in my hotel room, I received a flurry of texts from my mother-in-law. 

"My hair is a mess."

"I look ridiculous."

"This salon is a joke."

My wedding day buzz disappeared, replaced by anxiety.

Half an hour later, she appeared in my hotel room, demanding the salon owner fix her hair. 

I was mortified. My best friend consoled me while the salon owner made an attempt at appeasing my mother-in-law. But it was too late, she stormed out of my room leaving us in shock. 

My makeup streaming, I needed my face fixed before gathering myself to face all the guests who had arrived to see a shiny, happy bride.

I quickly texted my partner about what had occurred, hoping to find some comfort. 

Instead, he said his mother denied it all and only went to my room to make mention that she felt the service at the salon was not up to par. 

Apparently she felt I was overreacting and over emotional due to wedding jitters. I was told to stop being such a baby. I nearly called off the wedding there and then. 

But, I didn’t. I composed myself and reminded myself how much I loved my partner. Ignoring all the unacceptable behaviour I had witnessed over the past few months, I walked down the aisle. 

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The rest of the day went off without a hitch. I was finally married to the man I loved.

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When we retired to our wedding suite for the night, my new husband received a call from his mother. She had gone out on the town with her friends from the wedding and needed him to pick her up, rather than get a lift or a taxi home.

I thought it was laughable that she expected he would leave his new bride on our wedding night. No way, right!? Wrong.

Like some sort of strange dutiful zombie, my husband grabbed his keys and left me in tears in our hotel room to pick his mother up.

Our wedding was the beginning of the end of what was once a loving relationship between me and my mother-in-law. The start of my marriage was rife with discord due to her overbearing, incessant interference.

My love for her turned into disappointment, loss and soon after resentment and anger, even rage at times.

On one other occasion, she called me a bitch for refusing to stay with her and her grandson who had suspected German measles. 

I was pregnant at the time, and the risk to my unborn child was far too big. My husband called me 'difficult' for my decision. It broke my heart, again.

At every turn, if she was not happy, our marriage suffered.

There were many other instances where she kicked up a fuss if she didn’t get her way, where she would play the victim and manipulate my husband or me, or downright lie to gain control over situations.

I left him multiple times in the first year. The last time I left I was heavily pregnant, and he begged me to see a marriage counsellor.

I had a newfound sense of fire being pregnant, knowing for certain I did not want my child to grow up in her grasp. So I resisted at first, believing he would never be able to break free from his mother’s toxic hold.

But I thought my unborn baby deserved a chance at an unbroken home so reluctantly went along. This decision would be what saved our marriage.

The therapist called my husband out on all the unhealthy co-dependencies his mother was using to manipulate him and our family. 

It was the wake up call he needed in order to begin the difficult process of untangling himself from his mother.

To him it had been a battle between his mother and me. He thought we were both were trying to assert our will over him. This control factor in relationships was all he had ever known. But therapy helped him to see that our partnership was the equal joining of two lives, whereas his relationship with his mother was reliant on his compliance and completely one sided.

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We saw this therapist for nearly a year, helping us to unpick and rebuild our relationship without her interference.

Ten years on and many 'refresher' trips back to the therapist later, we are still married and sadly, but vitally, we no longer have a close relationship with my mother-in-law. We don’t even live in the same state as her.

To be perfectly honest, I am not sure our marriage would have survived if we had ended up living in close proximity to her. 

The physical distance gave us not only the literal space but also the mental and emotional space to create a marriage and family that was solely ours and not some extension of her will. 

This fact alone has seen her withhold his inheritance, every so often offering us financial rewards if we were to move closer to her.

She still attempts to have a say in our and our children's lives, and tries to manipulate situations to gain the upper hand. 

Any trips to see her revolve around what she wants to do, and she is still able to guilt my husband into agreeing with her most of the time. 

I make peace with this for the few weeks we see her, after all I am a decent person. But we keep a firm grasp on our reality, never letting our guard down with her.

Looking back, there were always tiny signs of her narcissistic ways. 

I was too dazzled by her many masks to take any real notice back then. But as soon as I broke away from that hold and attempted to take my husband with me, the nature of the narcissist is to gaslight and attack in an attempt to regain that control.

It has been painful to have this void in our lives, the place we had hoped she would fill is now empty. While she no doubt loves her son and her grandchildren, some people’s love just isn’t healthy, no matter how much they try to dress it up as so.

Feature Image: Canva.

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