The evils of disownership

My husband came downstairs after going to be to show me something. His brother was renting his family’s beach house. Correction – his brother was renting his beach house. Somewhere in the mix of all of the things my hubby and I have done to fail my mother-in-law,she has disowned my hubby and given the house and likely all of the rest of the assets to his brother. His incredibly irresponsible brother who still owes us over $6000 that he needed for legal fees but then spent on a trip to Greece. I’ve never been to Greece – I’ve heard it’s lovely.

BIL (brother-in-law) and MIL are very close since my beloved FIL died of cancer a few years ago. In MIL’s grief, she imagined not only FIL coming and leaving cookies for her in her bathrobe, but my putting my hair in her sink and food to mark my place like a dog marks bushes. There were other accusations as well – that I put my children at risk when I let them climb stairs or sleep without bedrails, that I once met FIL & MIL in a teddy at the door (I’ve never owned a teddy – with my eating disorder? I think not!). That I once asked her to just give me $10,000 dollars (I won’t even go into the explanation for that one, but suffice it to say, I’m a tax professor and she was asking me about gift tax because she wanted to shelter money from Medicaid).

But the “evidence” is rather silly. In the interim, I found out that she had been gossiping about me to friends and family for years, although she always told me that she was a “lockbox.” My husband blames himself – good man that he is – because he didn’t tell me sooner. I could have protected myself. Bah.

It is not about money. The house is not worth a great deal, and while we could use the funds for college for our kids, we are very frugal people and have saved and worked for decades to pay for a modest retirement and a college fund. It is the principle of the thing. It is changing your will after your husband dies to cut out one of your sons because he refuses to accept your make-believe cruelties about his wife that had suddenly appeared after 12 years of marriage. It is inviting your son to dinner to reconcile… and mentioning there were some papers for him to sign at the lawyers’ office, and the papers were removing him as executor and trustee – roles he took at no compensation at the request of his parents because he was the only one they trusted to follow their wishes.

It’s about a woman who turns her back on her own blood and has done so from a young age. It’s about a son – the nicest, kindest man I know – who doubts himself and his worthiness because his own mother disowned him. It is about a daughter-in-law who was so close to MIL that she share deep, sad secrets, her own mother having died suddenly as a child. But mostly it is about two precious boys – MIL’s only grandchildren – who don’t understand why their grandmother isn’t quite right in the head.

I can talk about depression, OCD, and anxiety. I can talk about grief and blame and anger that must be expressed. I can even explain to my beautiful, innocent boys that their grandmother is not well. And I have sheltered myself from her. At the depths of my eating disorder, which she will never know about, I have to protect my heart. Otherwise she would stab it with cruel, pointed words that would devastate me. She tried to do that to my husband and has succeeded many times, but being a kind and giving soul, he took it. It wasn’t until she turned on me and our children that he cut off ties with her until she pulled herself together.

And now we realize, it was all planned. MIL felt guilty over her treatment of BIL and thus has left him everything, in spite of her husband’s wishes. We have nothing. Our children barely know her – because how could we trust her with the innocence of a child when she can mortally wound an adult? Words are her weapon, and she is a maestro at manipulating them.

I pray for her. I pray for me, for my husband, for BIL, for my kids. I pray for my FIL in heaven. But I don’t pray for resolution because it won’t come. I pray that we may all find peace. That I can give up this anger that I feel toward her and instead of directing it to hurting myself, I can pass it over to God. I pray this is the final point that pushes my husband into recovery from depression. I pray that this strengthens our family so that we can withstand her vitriol together. I pray that she may find peace and stop trying to compensate for perceived failures 50 years ago. I pray that things will be set right.

I want to be angry, I want to self harm, or purge. I’m trying not to but I’m so hurt it takes my breath away. My husband is sad and angry and hurt, and I don’t know what to do for him but to comfort and love him. I don’t hate MIL – I pity her. She is so wrapped up in her own pain, her own narcissism, that she fails to see how others are hurting too. We should be gathering together in our pain, instead of blaming each other for ridiculous made-up things. Yet she will play the saint, and I will be portrayed the sinner, and my husband is cast as the ignorant husband who chose his wife over his grieving mother, and my BIL will be the savior. Once again, BIL will play Jesus Christ Superstar, and all will come from miles and miles to see him perform. He will be spectacular in his glory, while those of us who trudge through the daily life of family, house, responsibilities, marriage, commitment, and healing fall at his knees.

The difference is that I am asking God to help me on my knees, to help my husband on his, to help us be simple, humble, poor. To live the life God would have us to live. To give up this anger and jealousy and pettiness. I wish my BIL well. I hope MIL gets the professional help she needs. But most of all, I pray my DH seizes this opportunity to understand and communicate the anger and abandonment he’s felt for the past 40 years.


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