Advice: “My Mother-in-law-to-be Is Making Me Crazy!”
BY Steven Petrow
November 14 2011 4:00 AM ET
Question: My boyfriend and I are planning a civil partnership ceremony — a simple affair. (Neither of us wants a big "traditional" wedding, and we are limited by a strict budget in any case.) We have gotten the ball rolling on everything that needs doing — registry office, hotel, suits, a photographer, etc. My main problem is my future mother-in-law. Up to now I’ve always had a great relationship with her, but suddenly she’s become a Bridezilla. She insists on being kept up to date on every little detail and wants regular briefings on our progress. She finds fault in everything we do, too. (The hotel isn't “nice enough” and the menu “sounds awful,” for starters.) She keeps asking us to give her jobs to do. I have tried appeasing her with small tasks, but I'm running out of jobs to invent. I have spoken to my boyfriend about her but he doesn't see it as a big deal. He thinks we should just ignore her. But, I can’t!
Answer: Hello equality! Yes, you’ve gotten what you asked for — and more. Think of all those caricatures of meddling mothers-in-law: Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond continued a long tradition of TV MILs that stretches back to Kaye Ballard and Eve Arden (if you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember them as the dueling MILs in the 1960s TV sitcom, The Mothers-In-Law). And ask Kris Humphries what he thinks of his soon-to-be ex-MIL, Kris Jenner (stepmother to Kim Kardashian) who’s been peddling her own book of late and trash talking the poor groom.
If this weren’t so difficult for you, I’d continue to laugh (with you, not at you, of course), because Bridezilla mothers-in-law are such a cult classic — with straight brides (and grooms) having had to tolerate them for eons. Fortunately, gay and lesbian couples are generally encountering less of the kind of interference you’re describing, if only because we usually cover the costs of our own nuptials (when parents don’t pay, they don’t get a vote) and because we often partner later in life (when presumably they’ve become accustomed to us making our own decisions).
But to paraphrase Gertrude Stein: “A mother-in-law is a mother-in-law is a mother-in-law.”
Honestly, you’ve done just about everything that you can do (the idea of small tasks to keep her busy and engaged is brilliant). It’s now up to your boyfriend to take on his mother and set some limits — even if he doesn’t see her meddling as a big deal. Remind him that he’s marrying you and that no one wants to be a momma’s boy. He needs to do this for you — to establish the right boundaries with your MIL for the wedding ahead and all the years to come. He should be clear on what he’s asking: back off on the offers of “help” and keep her opinions to herself if she doesn’t agree with your choices. It is, after all, your wedding.
Or do what many straight couples end up doing: Elope. Just get married at city hall. It’ll save you a pretty penny, too.
TALK BACK: Have you had any luck redirecting your mother-in-law’s energy?
STEVEN PETROW is the author of Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners and can be found online at www.gaymanners.com. Got a question? Email him at [email protected] or contact him on Facebook and Twitter.