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Psychiatry & Psychology--General/in laws, paranoia, what to do


I am married and have had a strained relationship with my in laws though not from the start. My mother in law is very very pushy and doesn't back down from unpleasant dialogue when I sort of feel it should end. People can agree to disagree. I can't say she isn't normal. I think she has poor conflict resolution skills which may not be entirely her fault. My husband says his parents fought viciously his entire life but they are together and committed. My father in law, oddly enough, is more easy for me to speak to in terms of telling stories, he's an interesting guy but he has serious problems. He caused a -huge- family rift by intervening in our lives with our child, with all kinds of paranoid worries and not backing down when we said its our child and our child's fine and we don't want the negativity and that it's our choice what to do. He couldn't handle that. The more annoying thing about it was that he actually has not helped us at all in raising the kids. WE don't live close by. I think sometimes people invite over participation by in laws when they use them for care which we don't. It's very difficult to explain to someone that a person can suffer terribly psychologically but still function. It is entirely clear to everyone in the family that our father in law suffers from paranoia. I advised other people not to indulge it with long dialogues about it. Everyone seems to me to be egging it on instead of being a reality check by keeping it brief and not indulging it. It's difficult to treat because obviously someone has to want to be better.  The underlying stress is what kills us all. My husband has not done what he needs to do for me and I cannot have someone intervening in my life with such negativity all the time they are here with me. There are NO boundaries, he doesn't recognize them. He also has backwards ideas about a man's role in a marriage versus a woman's and doesn't hesitate to share them.  If he had a thriving marriage, I might actually listen! What can I do? My mother in law tells us to turn the other cheek but she never does that, ever (hence the continued fighting in the marriage) I do think my FIL needs medication, something like an SSRI at least to just chill out. The other aspect- I told my husband to stop chasing his dad when he's horrendous to us, to let him leave, but that he NEEDS to leave when he does not recognize our boundaries. It's surreal because he will intervene where almost no one would and then we as parents push back and say to butt out first politely and then not so politely and he freaks out insisting that he has -every right- to do this. What can I do? Where can we go? I've given up on him being a mentor for my kids in any way but family is HUGELY important to me and I'm at a total loss. I love my husband but he's been pretty bad here because frankly, his parents intimidate him terribly. Any advice would be greatly greatly appreciated. Thanks.

What can I do? Where can we go?

You probably want to seek some counseling/psychotherapy for yourself for help in this situation.  Clearly, you have to set the boundaries and stop engaging your in-laws in this type of behavior, and it does not sound like your husband is going to stop.  Of course, best would be your husband seek counseling for his need to set boundaries, but only you know if that is possible.  Give up on the idea your in-laws will change.

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Daniel S. Harrop, M.D.


Dr. Daniel S. Harrop received his B.A. and his M.D., both from Brown, and his M.B.A. from the Edinburgh Business School, Scotland. Board-certified in adult and geriatric psychiatry, he is a past president of the R.I. Psychiatric Society and a member of the Committee on Medical Quality of the American Psychiatric Association and the Committee on Continuing Medical Education of the R.I Medical Society. He serves as a consultant to four of the top five major medical management companies, including OptumHealth/United Healthcare, Magellan Behavioral Health Services, ValueOptions and APS Healthcare, and maintains a private practice in Providence, R.I. He also serves as chief psychiatric consultant on the Medical Advisory Board at the R.I. Workers Compensation Court. He was formerly on the faculty at the medical schools at both Brown University and Harvard University.

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