Your “Dear Esther” column has been such a blessing, thank you for everything you do.
I am reaching out with something I have been struggling with as a Christian. While raised Catholic, I became born-again while a teenager (I’m now nearing 30-years-old) and attend a non-denominational, biblical-driven church.
I moved to Chicago after graduating college and met my now-husband who is originally from there. We relocated to my home state (in Florida) and both love our new home.
After visiting for the first time, my mother-in-law informed us she is moving here after retirement. This has me concerned. She has a very strong, dominating personality and can be overwhelming.
She visits a couple of times a year and her trips wipe us out; she has an abundance of energy and once she arrives, she has us going non-stop telling us where she wants to go/eat/see. When we try, to establish compromise, she gets upset and acts very childlike.
She has on occasion started yelling and getting nasty when she doesn’t get her way (toward my husband, never me). My husband is very patient — loving and level headed and stays above the fray when she lashes out. I have a calm, reserved demeanor so her loudness and abrasive manner is difficult for me to handle. I am always respectful and nice but it’s a challenge to say the least.
She is also a devout Catholic who regularly says she is going to convert us back to the Catholic Church and snatch our kids and baptize them once we have them. She insists on always going to her Catholic Church and makes us feel guilty and refuses to come to ours.
We have had (while my husband was present) several conversations about Christianity, and most recently about Israel and their claim to the land. She was saying that most Jews that now live there do not have true Jewish roots and are “pretenders” if you will. And, they are “hard/tough” people.
I quoted Scripture saying how Israel is their God-given land and they are His chosen people and as Christians we should be their biggest supporters and advocates. She then said (much to my surprise) that “The Bible is just a collection of stories compiled by men.”
I couldn’t believe that and said, “It’s God’s living Word and it would be impossible for the prophets in the Bible to 100 percent accurately predict the birth, life and death of Jesus, among numerous other examples that are continuing today, if it wasn’t the truth.
My husband does establish boundaries but she tends to bulldoze them and push and push until she gets (enough of) her way. She has been divorced for 25 years and has no desire to meet anyone else. I find it very difficult to be around her for an extended amount of time. We went on vacation together; it was exhausting and my nerves were shot.
I’m worried our marriage will struggle if she moves; she’ll have no support system as she has in Texas and will be a constant presence. My husband and I have a wonderful marriage and get along great. But navigating her demands is taxing and causes stress.
Is it wrong to not encourage her to move here? It’s not like she consulted us in the first place. My husband has said she could help us out once we have kids but I’ve never seen her function in a supporting, helpful manner. She always takes full control and it’s her way or the highway. She can be very sweet and generous but she’s a force to reckon with. She is always welcome to visit, but I am not sure I could handle her full time.
I pray for strength and grace and would greatly appreciate your third-party opinion. I fully believe we are in the end-times and part of me thinks we may not have many years left, but nonetheless I would love your advice. I don’t want to blindly walk into a situation without first thinking through what it could mean for everyone involved.
Thank you for the kind sentiments. I am glad you are blessed by the column. You sound like a very considerate, fair and thoughtful person and no matter how things evolve, it will be all right.
In the secular world it is said that money and in-laws can be the biggest problems in a marriage. Since we have Jesus those matters can be dealt with in a way that goes beyond our natural thinking.
I feel for you. Are you saying that your mother-in-law wants to move in with you and your husband or move to Florida into her own residence very near the two of you?
If at all possible it would best if she had her own home if she does move to your area. From what you are telling me it sounds like the lady is very domineering and this is where your husband will have to “handle” her (even more than he is now). I know you already know this but remember, we are talking about HIS mother. He is never going to see it completely the way you do.
From reading your letter, I think your biggest leverage with your husband and your mother-in-law is your Christian faith. I have one suggestion that would be very non-threatening to your marriage relationship. (I would not mention why you are doing this.)
First, you can say you want to understand more about the Catholic deception for yourself. You don’t have to announce this — simply start reading and learning more about the Catholic Church. Share with your husband what you are reading. I pray your husband will take an interest in learning more, and then from understanding more about the serious problems with that religion, he might come to the realization that his mother needs to be delivered from her false religion. The Catholic religion has many like her—I am afraid, and it is all pomp and circumstance; ritual upon ritual. Lie upon lie!
Your description of what your mother-in-law thinks of Israel, the Jewish people and how she considers the Bible only a collection of stories written by men and not inspired by God—shows she is in deep spiritual trouble.
Not only is she involved in a false religion, she is clueless about the truths of God’s Word. Hopefully in time you and your husband can enlighten her. The Lord wishes for no one to perish and it sounds like your mother-in-law needs a lot of prayer.
If you and your husband together would do an in-depth study on the serious problems with the Catholic Church to reinforce the fact that his mother is a very lost and confused soul, the seriousness of his mother’s lost condition might sink in (sink into your husband’s mind).
As the spiritual leader of your family it is his obligation to keep your family in a sound and authentic relationship with the Lord and reject ALL other doctrines. How would his mother’s false beliefs affect your children? That is something to seriously consider.
It sounds like you have a little bit of time. You are certainly in a tough position because it is always difficult for a mother/son relationship to be challenged. He can still have a close relationship with her but he needs to lay down the law regarding her Catholic faith.
You can also turn the tables on her (the guilt you mention) by pointing out clear abominations to the Lord, which she most certainly embraces as a Catholic. One of them is praying to Mary. This is a start to try to deal with your situation.
We always want to honor our parents, and the most respectful thing children can do for their parents, is share the true gospel when their parents are lost. Once your mother-in-law realizes that you and your husband are very serious about your Christian faith, that might make her back off considerably all the way around. The guilt should be on her for being involved in a very dangerously deceptive and false religion.
I agree with you that we are very close to the Rapture, especially according to Psalm 90 when we calculate generations. But we can’t be sure. We could be here longer than we want to be. Regardless of your mother-in-law’s overbearing personality, the first best approach is to go right to the heart of the matter where it really counts—the eternal life and death situation of true salvation.
Let me know if this approach might bring your husband to realize how he must be more, strict with her (in a loving way of course). If not, we will try another approach. And as I always say, prayer is the most effective tool. Please pray for the Lord to intervene in this dilemma and for your mother-in-law’s salvation.
If she really gets saved, then she might actually become a lady that you can cope with. If she rejects the salvation message and clings to her false doctrines then perhaps your husband will realize that her increased presence could be a detriment to your marriage.
You sound like a delightful young woman and your husband sounds like a special blessing. I hope you are praying together. The more time you share in the Word of God, the stronger your relationship will be. We live at a time when families are being attacked. Don’t let the devil get a stronghold in your marriage. Reaching out as you have shows you are very conscientious and trying to avoid just that.
The devil always uses weak vessels to try to undermine believers. I see your mother as that weak vessel. But keep giving your concerns over to the Lord and He surely will make a way for all of this to be resolved in a peaceful and satisfactory manner.
And as far as being concerned about her not having a support system other than you and your husband if she does move, many support groups exist for retired folks. It sounds like she can manipulate things to suit her, and that would include finding a support system and new friends in Florida—where a lot of elderly folks are retired.
Jennifer, trust that the Lord will help you with all of this. I am only an email away. Please reach out whenever you need to and I will do my best to get back to you in a timely fashion. Also, please get back to me if you have any questions about what I have said here.
Be confident that with the Lord we always have a way to resolve conflicts.
In God’s love,
“Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).