My Mother-in-Law Called Me Damaged Goods

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I always thought my mother-in-law was a perfectly nice woman. Sure, she had her opinions and often asked too many questions, but for the most part, we’ve always gotten along. I felt lucky in that regard, lucky that my MIL wasn’t a raging b*tch. In the last couple of years though, her true colors are starting to show more and more. As it turns out, she’s not a raging b*tch, but she is a self-righteous, judgmental one. She’s also incredibly passive aggressive, slyly dropping insults and opinions that I’ve only recently gotten hip to.

A couple of weeks ago though, she said something so insulting and offensive, even my normally mother-protective husband did like the “ew, ouch” face wince. We were having a conversation about a family friend of theirs, who has trouble with relationships. She then said, “Well, the reality is that children of divorce can’t really have healthy relationships because they’ve never seen a good model of it.” Well, I’m a child of divorce. Yes, me, the woman married to her son!

So, I took a deep breath and said, “Actually, I think your son and I have one of the healthier relationships among the people that I know.” Her face flushed and she looked like she’d swallowed a rat, before sputtering, “Oh, I didn’t mean…I wasn’t saying…I wasn’t thinking…” Rather than watch this pitiful display, I interrupted her, and began to educate this small-minded woman on why children of divorce often have even healthier relationships.

Yep, I went on for a good 10 minutes, because I couldn’t let her continue to have this antiquated viewpoint. First of all, as I’ve read, often children of divorce work even harder to have a healthy marriage because they know how important it is to put in the effort. They don’t allow for apathy in their marriages, they seek counseling when they need it, and they refuse to get lazy. They’ve often learned from their parents’ mistakes and hope to avoid them, so they choose partners that are more suited to them, a better match. Also, experts say that an amicable divorce is way more healthy to a child than witnessing a volatile marriage or loveless relationship. In my case, my parents stayed very good friends. We had dinner every Sunday, and went on family vacations together for years. We were always a family. And they also went on to have very healthy relationships, with other people they were better matched with, and those marriages became our model.

While she listened and nodded her head, not once did she say, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t meant to imply that of you,” or even, “I shouldn’t have said that.” She didn’t even say something flippant like, “Well, you’re the exception to the rule.” She didn’t say, “You and my son clearly have a healthy marriage.” Mainly, what bothered me the most, is that she didn’t even acknowledge how hurtful she had been, AT ALL. God forbid she take any ownership of her mistake, or just simply apologize.

Later, my husband tried to defend her, explaining that she just stuck her foot in her mouth, and clearly she didn’t mean me. The thing is though, of course she meant me. If this is what she thinks, then at some point, she has laid in bed worrying if her husband can possibly have a healthy relationship with a child of divorce. She seemed pretty firm in her belief that we’re all screwed for life, eternally damaged by our parents’ divorce, destined to repeat the same mistakes. I wonder if her son’s marriage to me keeps her up at night? I wonder if she thinks it’s only a matter of time until our marriage disintegrates like my parents’ marriage did?

In the end though, I don’t actually care what she thinks. Sure, I was angry as hell, but I think the whole incident said so much more about her than it did about me. I can’t change what happened between my parents — all I can do is learn from it. Meanwhile, she is a judgmental, petty person, who is incapable of apologizing or taking ownership for her own mistakes. I think I would much rather be a child of divorce, than someone who spends far too much time thinking about what everyone else is doing wrong. Clearly, she’s not perfect either.

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