Reality Check


    This week I was watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey and I had an epiphany.  Now, don’t judge me for being a reality TV fan because it is a great escape from the stresses of daily life and I am not going to be apologetic about it.  Everyone has some guilty pleasure that they engage in to wind down from work and life.  In any case, let me get back to some of the things that this show made me realize about family dynamics and relationships…

    It’s important that I give you a brief overview of what happened on the show in order for you to follow my train of thought.  A brother and sister who used to be close found themselves involved in a now strained relationship due to the fact that they each did not get along with the others’ spouses.  Throughout the episode, one could see how the spouses influenced the reactions of the siblings by making innuendos and deliberately creating conflict.  Believe it or not, it was interesting to me to watch this situation from the outside in and to be able to reflect on my own relationships with my in laws and my family.

    Years ago, I had a conversation with my Mother In Law in which she accused me of influencing my husband to have a bad relationship with her because I was his wife and all women have the power to persuade their husbands to agree with their point of view.  At that time, I felt very insulted by her insinuation because I prided myself on keeping my disdain about her from my husband in order not to create problems within their relationship.  Although I still feel that I tried very hard to not get involved between them, watching this show made me realize that we all contribute to family controversy to some degree.

    I’m sure that most of the time, couples don’t deliberately set out to involve their spouses in conflicts that exist with other family members.  The problem is that one’s spouse is probably the closest person to them and it is natural that people confide and air out their grievances to their partners without any consideration for the fact that doing so might totally alienate the two people from one another due to an intense feeling of loyalty to their husband or wife.  This is exactly how these family feuds end up spiraling completely out of control with extended family members getting involved who have absolutely nothing to do with the original problem that began with only two members of the family.

    In my case, I would like to think that my husband’s relationship with his mother is strained due to personal differences between both of them.  While this may be true, it is also quite possible that her poor treatment of me over the years has not helped and has actually compounded their previous disagreements.  I’m not sure if this is something that I should actually feel badly about because it stands to reason that my husband be loyal and supportive of me and that he reject others who do not treat me respectfully regardless of whether they are family or not. 

    I suppose, at the end of the day, it is logical that couples stand united against anyone who offends only one of the couple’s members.  Isn’t that what marriage is all about?  Your husband or your wife is the one person who is supposed to be there for you through it all and who will defend and support you no matter what the situation is.  Unfortunately, it seems that these alliances sometimes end up having a negative impact on sibling relationships, parent and child relationships, and other types of family bonds.  For example, should two sisters who were once inseparable suddenly sever ties because one of them cannot get along with the other’s husband?  The obvious answer is no however, we all know that very often they will stop being close as time goes on.

    It seems that reality television might mirror life more than we think.  Human nature will always show itself no matter how sensational the situation is or whether people are just acting in order to provide the show’s viewers with entertainment.  No matter how rich you are or how famous you are, you cannot escape family drama.  We all have a story to tell about an argument during the holidays or two family members who are not speaking to one another.  Once we realize and accept that we are all contributing to these problems within our families, we can begin to move towards healing these wounds.

© 2011, Tough Cookie Mommy. All rights reserved.


  1. ohcuteflipflops says

    When I was married my in-laws disliked me to the point where they would only speak with my exhusband while he was at work.  When I had children they insisted that I was keeping them away yet they never once considered their own input.
    Soon after our divorce they were sooo happy!  They got exactly what they wanted, control.  My exhusband ended up moving back in with mom.. which meant the kids were there every other weekend.
    I have been divorced for many wonderful years (LOL) and every single woman that my exhusband has been with they hated.  Now he is married and they hate her.  They treat her the same exact way they treated me, except this time my ex-husband does not take their side.
    I know when I become someones “mother in law” i will never act THAT way.  Such disfunction, maniuplation and control.. and I blame her for the reason why I was divorced in under four years.  We would fight about her!

    • I went through a similar experience with my in-laws in my first marriage. They were extremely manipulative and controlling too and they dominated my ex. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck in the MIL department the second time around either. This time, it seems that I wasn’t her first choice due to religious differences. Luckily, my husband doesn’t put up with any of her nonsense and always takes up for me when the need arises.

  2. Lady Estrogen says

    It’s so sad/frustrating/annoying/maddening when family members get all funky. I don’t particularly like my sister-in-law but it’s not going to affect my relationship with my brother – i won’t let it. Besides, I’m not the one that has to live with her!

  3. Family drama is always the hardest to deal with in my opinion.  I hope things go a little smoother for you all in the future.  Thanks for joining the Spotlight Saturday Blog Hop again!  I’m already following you.  Have a great Sunday!

  4. I don’t watch reality tv, but you’re right, family drama is universal. It’s sad when the dislike of a family member’s spouse causes tension. Granted, there are probably valid reasons at least some of the time, but I wish people would work harder to find a way to separate that from their relationship with their family. It’s not always possible, but not enough people even try. Family is too important to just throw away.

    The other comment I wanted to make is regarding what you said about how discussing family issues with your spouse may bias your spouse against that family member. This is undoubtedly true because your spouse’s first loyalty is to you, and that’s how it should be. But what people often forget is that the reverse is true. Some people have the bad habit (in my opinion) of venting to their family members when they are fighting with their spouse. Then long after they have made up, their family still harbors resentment against the spouse. And then the family drama starts…

    • Chela, I completely agree with you. My Grandmother from Spain has always told me to keep my problems with any man to myself because it will turn the family against him if I share the information with them. She said, “remember, even after you take him back and forgive him, the family will always remember and hold on to what he did and never forgive him.” Luckily I have a great husband and have never had to put this advice to good use. I have, however, seen it happen with some of my friends…

  5. Maria, your writing is wonderful.  I loved reading this post because I also have issues with the in-laws. I wish we would all get along but it’s their choice to stay away and not speak to me because of my opinions of my own children.  To make a long story super short, it was b/c I didn’t allow my daughter to sleep over my SIL’s house b/c  my husband and I did not agree on the sleeping arrangements, which was sleeping in the middle of her brother and male cousin when she was 9 (she is now 12 – so you see how long it’s been)-years-old.  She said I was disgusting for even thinking such a thing and how dare i make assumptions the way she parents. WHAT?! I said no such thing.  Also, it was my husband’s decision but since his sister loves confrontation and he didn’t feel like “hearing her mouth” he didn’t say a word to her – so I did the dirty work and that’s how I get treated for expressing my opinions. And this is coming from a person who can say whatever she feels like saying, no matter if she hurts someone’s feelings or not – which has happened with me tons of times but I forgave her each and every time b/c I can be very forgiving and I understand that people can’t all be the same. Terrible uh? Also my MIL hates me too. She insists I’m keeping her son away from her and keeping her grandchildren away from their titi so I’m the biggest bitch there is. She even wished her son would divorce me. Now what kind of person would wish that? Only an evil one so that’s why my DH stays away from his own mother which is sad to me. Oh well. Shit happens.

    • Thank you so much for the compliment about my writing, Lisa. It is amazing how similar your story is to mine with my Mother In Law. Nothing that I have ever done has ever been good enough for her. She has always hated the fact that I am not Pentecostal like she is and she is always trying to convert me. She blames me for the bad relationship that she has with her son but refuses to see that they had problems that stemmed from his childhood and the kind of parent that she was. Also, she is a terrible grandmother to my children and they hardly even know her. She lives in South Carolina and has taken trips here to New York where she visited her church friends but never came to see her grandkids. The icing on the cake was last Spring when she tried to fix my husband up with one of the women at her church. Thank goodness I have a good husband who supports me and stands up to his mother when she is being abusive and inappropriate. It’s unfortunate that good women like you and I have to put up with this kind of treatment. I wonder what these women would have done if their sons had truly married “bad” women. The way I see it, she is the one who is losing out because she has alienated her son and has hardly any relationship with her only grandchildren. She is the one who has to live with that…

      • You’re so right.  What if we were abusive to their sons? Would they appreciate that? It’s funny, my MIL lives in North Carolina. LOL But she moved down there two yrs ago to be closer to her favorite daughter.  My husband has many issues from his childhood b/c she swears she was THE perfect mother and he along with his siblings say otherwise. Hmmm. Now who’s the one with the problem? Not us! But it is sad b/c she is getting older and is having more health issues every few years.  We’re all getting older and time is going by fast. People are just so into themselves, they think the world revolves around them. Whatever!

  6. Anonymous says

    What a great post for people to relate too. Like most people I too have trouble with the inlaws. For a long time I thought that it was just me and I was feeling pretty guilty because I could tell my husband was upset that he wasnt seeing his family a lot but also wasn’t going to stand for how they were treating me. Long story short, I too have come to realize that inlaw trouble seems to be pretty universal!

    Following you from the IHM Blog Hop

    Brandii @

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