Updated: July 19, 2013 3:26PM
Melanie has had trouble with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law before, but everything came to a head four weeks ago when her husband Brian, a surgeon, broke his ankle.
“He slipped on our icy driveway. He had to have surgery to put in four screws and a plate. There’s no dietary reason why his bones would be prone to breaking. He watches what he eats and exercises daily. He doesn’t have ‘fragile bones’ due to drinking of soda pop.”
But according to her in-laws, his diet caused him to break his ankle and that’s her fault. “One is a retired nurse and the other is a dental hygienist, so they obviously know more than my husband, the surgeon, or so I was told the day of his surgery — for eight hours!”
Despite the friction between Melanie and her in-laws, she’s always tried to keep them informed about her family, especially about health issues.
“They’ve never been helpful or even nice. One of our children is disabled, and when we were going through the diagnosis process, they told me and anyone who would listen that the disability was my fault. Another child has a chronic, life-threatening illness. Again, my fault for not recognizing how serious the situation was. Remember, my husband — their son and brother — is a physician!
“They criticize but never help. They’ve never taken a child to therapy or stayed with a child in the hospital for a few hours so I could run home and take a shower.”
Melanie knows she should have kept the surgery to herself. “You would think I would have learned my lessons as far as sharing but, no, I didn’t.” She told her mother-in-law, who insisted on being in the hospital the day of the surgery.
“She was late and then upset when he was prepped for surgery without her. She couldn’t understand why the nurses, techs and volunteers talked to me, not her. She made a stink about me having his medical power of attorney.”
It didn’t end at the hospital. When they got back to Melanie’s house, her mother-in-law reprimand her kids — who had moved back, temporarily, to help out — for not doing enough to prepare the house.
“One of the kids picked up Brian’s prescriptions and the other picked up some take out for dinner, all while helping out with their disabled brother while we were at the hospital.”
The criticism has continued. “I shouldn’t have let him go back to work so soon. I should do more for him. I shouldn’t sleep in our bed because I’m not letting him really rest.
“I’m afraid to leave him alone at night, since he occasionally needs pain medication or help getting in and out of bed and needs his ankle elevated with pillows. I sleep only a few hours a night; at the very least I should be able to sleep in my own bed.
“I’ve tried to do the right thing as far as his family is concerned, but no longer. It’s not part of my job description to be a punching bag. My husband’s accident was not the first time I’ve had to go through a gauntlet of criticism, but it will be the last.”
In the next column: How does Brian feel about his family’s treatment of Melanie?
Do your in-laws interfere in your relationship? Send your tale to firstname.lastname@example.org.