Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about Ex-Mother-In-Law and He Thought He Knew.Support the show
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Hello and welcome to episode #77 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about Ex-Mother-In-Law and He Thought He Knew.
Reading a short story about a mother-in-law, I was amused, and it reminded me of my ex-mother-in-law. The story started looking like a horror movie but had a surprise ending. To my astonishment, I found correlations to my real-life story with my ex-mother-in-law. Amazingly, fiction seemed to mimic reality.
As I recall, the story was about a married lady who had to live with her husband and mother-in-law in the same house. She constantly argued and bickered with her mother-in-law. It caused her so much distress that she decided to go to an herbalist to ask for some poison to kill her mother-in-law. Reading this part made me chuckle. I never got some poison nor tried to kill my mother-in-law, but the thought sure entered my mind.
Before getting married, I had a distaste for my mother-in-law already. Let's call her Witchita instead of me repeatedly saying mother-in-law. Witchita was upset that Anson and I got engaged without inviting her to our two-party occasion. I had told Anson to tell her about it beforehand, but apparently, there was some miscommunication between them, and it ended up with a furious Witchita. She was so angry that we could not set a wedding date. Anson said she was too angry and he couldn't discuss wedding plans with her. He said, "Let's just wait until she cools down." Now I was furious. I thought, "Am I going to marry a spineless man?" He will let his mom decide when we will get married?" My head burned like fire. I didn't know who I despised more, him or his mother.
Soon I felt like Anson was a mama's boy still attached to the apron strings. It disgusted me. Then I thought I had discovered a controlling mother and had better run before it was too late. I didn't want to give her more opportunities to control us. Anson said he already had a house next door to his mother. He said I didn't know her well and should give her a chance. Before dismissing the idea, I should also try living in his renovated house and see what it would be like. I had already announced my impending nuptials to all my family members; I thought it wouldn't look good to back out. Maybe I overreacted. I wasn't even married yet and was already disliking my future mother-in-law.
Right or not, I was persuaded to proceed with the wedding by relatives and my fiancé. After the honeymoon, we were back to work and starting married life together. Soon Witchita would cook dinner for us and deliver it as soon as she saw us returning home from work. That was one bad thing about living next door to her. Before I could open the car door, she was by my car door waiting to give me dinner. Some would say I was lucky to have such a mother-in-law. I did not feel fortunate. I felt angry that she was deciding what I would eat and would not eat. Fuming, I felt like I was being controlled. Anson couldn't understand because he was used to his mother cooking dinner for him until he was married. I was used to deciding what I was going to eat. I got no sympathy from Anson.
One time, I got home early from work with a friend who wanted to come to see my new house since I got married. Afterward, Witchita rushed over to ask me the identity of my visitor. Apparently, she had looked out the window to learn of my comings and goings. What happened to my freedom? Was marriage a life sentence? Freedom was one of my most prized possessions, and was I losing it by getting married? I wondered.
Soon I had arguments with my husband. If it was in the bathroom with the window open, Witchita could hear it through her opened kitchen window. That was how close mom-in-law's house was to our house. Houses were only inches apart in the big city. This could sound like a horror scene of an invasion of privacy for a girl who loved the freedom she once had. But it was a turning point in my relationship with my mom-in-law.
When Wichita heard Anson screaming at me in our bathroom and through her kitchen window, she dashed over, knocking on the door. Anson opened the door. Witchita, in low tones, told her son to simmer down. He started to explain or defend himself for why he needed to yell at me. She immediately shushed him and said, "Do you want the neighbors to hear you?" He still tried to say something, and her eyes bulged and glared at him. Someone was finally able to shut Anson's mouth. Anson loved to yell and proclaim his self-righteousness in any matter because it made him feel powerful, but only Witchita could shut down his rampages.
In the next moment, Witchita asked if I feared Anson's screaming. She said if I were, I could stay at her house when I needed. She said she didn't know how she gave birth to such a monster but would protect me if he mistreated me. Suddenly, I had a mother I never had and an ally in my corner. Witchita, the witch, was now my savior. I was lucky to have her living next door to me.
The lady who wanted to poison her mother-in-law thought she got poison to kill her. Luckily, the herbalist gave her herbs instead. He also said to treat her mother-in-law well, so she would not be suspicious. The lady did as advised, and her heart changed from that of hate to love for her mother-in-law. I, too, changed my feelings for my mother-in-law. She was no longer Witchita; she was Angelita.
Angelita went on to shower me with gifts when she traveled. She cooked for me and treated me like a princess. She cared for and protected me like her own daughter.
One day, Anson noticed that new houses were being built near his workplace, and a new neighborhood was forming. Taking a one-hour drive, we looked and decided to buy one of the houses. Before moving, it occurred to me that I would leave Angelita, my protector and angel. Who would protect me when Anson's temper raged? Who else would understand the monster that was inside Anson? The Witchita I once knew had disappeared, and now I was sad to part ways with my Angelita. A few years after leaving, Anson and I divorced. I miss my Angelita, who became my ex-mother-in-law, but will always be my guardian angel.
He Thought He Knew
He thought he knew me well; he said he did. I never thought he did. I always enjoyed deep conversations, but Anson was not the type to engage in them for long. I was sad that he didn’t know or understand me because he was my husband. Though Anson did not know my inner workings as I wished he did, I came to see my strength more than I ever realized from our relationship.
I was a school teacher, and Anson assumed I loved kids and would love to have a family with children. Yes, I was a school teacher, and yes, I loved children. I wanted a family but was not ready to have children with Anson. I rationalized that he had a horrible temper, and I refused to subject my future children to his temper tantrums. How children were treated was too important to me. Who didn’t know that? I was an elementary school teacher with a degree in child psychology! How could I not care and let such important matters slide?
My friends said that if I loved someone, I would want to have kids with that person. It did occur to me that I did not love him to the extent that I would like to have children with him. Besides, I deemed him unqualified to be the father of my children. He was anal, temperamental, and too nitpicky. How could any child have a happy childhood with him? If my future daughter, my little Emilee, spilled some milk on the carpet, he would go ballistic! A child could not be a child with him. I did not want to have children with him.
Poor Anson did not know what went through my mind, but he was never interested in having pleasant sit-down conversations, even talking about our future together. He assumed he knew how it was going to happen. Get married, and kids would follow. There was nothing to discuss. He never understood the trauma in my childhood of being abandoned by my mother and had no sympathy or empathy. How could he sympathize with all the growing pains our future children would have? He came from a family that pampered and spoiled him; could he understand? He assumed something about me from my profession; he was wrong and never knew it. I was not going to fit into the stereotypical mode he wanted to fit me in.
As a teacher, he thought I was a “good girl.” I was a “good girl,” more or less. But I was not an obedient subordinate as he wished. Like him, I was born in the USA but grew up with traditional values from immigrant parents. Even so, I was independent and had a mind of my own. I had my own opinions. I didn’t know he wanted me to have the same beliefs or viewpoints as he did. He tried to force them on me. And I was not going to have any of that. This caused conflicts and brought forth fiery flares in his temper. His roaring voice was supposed to bring me down into submission and say that I had the wrong perspective. I learned that I was my own person with my own thoughts and feelings, and I was not going to bow down to him or anyone for that matter.
Anson could barely speak his mother’s native language. I could speak her language, so he assumed we would get along well. From the moment we got engaged, the tension began. I told Anson to inform his mother; he insisted he did, but his mother said Anson did not tell her we planned to get married. I gathered that communication was unclear because Anson did not know her language well enough. He knew that, so he was glad to have a fiancé that could communicate with his mother, and then he thought all would be well.
Anson’s mother and I could communicate clearly with each other. However, I felt that many things needed to come from him to discuss with his mother because he was her son. It didn’t seem right to come straight from me. Since the communication between mother and son often turned into miscommunication, I got caught in the crossfire, and my relationship with my mother-in-law was not as great as it could have been. However, in Anson’s view, my mom-in-law adored me, so he thought we had a good relationship. I should have spoken with her more to clarify the misunderstandings between mother and son. I learned that I thought I would be imposing, but I could have helped and made a difference.
As a teacher, I thought I earned a decent salary as I could pay for all my expenses, but Anson thought I was below him because he made more money as an engineer. Like many people, he judged me based on my income. Anson thought he had the upper hand or more rights than I did in our marriage because he earned more than me. He wanted to assert his status as head of the household, and I gave room for his ego. But I had my limits when he presumed himself by putting me down or criticizing me. I felt he had no right to cut me down and demean me. He did not need to put me down because I earned less than him. A person’s self-worth should not be judged by income alone. I disagreed with his viewpoint and was not going to bow down to it.
I had a Master’s degree, and Anson didn’t. He assumed I should have all the answers to his questions because I had a higher degree. When I did not provide answers to his questions or problems, attacks on my degree and profession knifed through me without killing me. It was like having a knife in your heart; if you removed it, you would die. So, I did not pull it out, but I would live with continuous pain. I worked hard, juggling a full-time career while studying for a Master’s degree. How dare he put me down for the Master’s degree I had! He assumed teachers and graduate degree holders should know everything. I did not, nor did I think I must. I learned that I owned all my achievements, and no one had a right to take them away from me or attempt to strip me of their value.
My relationship with Anson taught me a number of things. Though I endured seven years of emotional pain, it strengthened me and made me realize there was more grit in me than I ever knew. Knocked down for my achievements, I stood up to own and be proud of them. Demeaned and shamed for not having all the answers, I rejoiced that there was much to learn and that I did not need to know everything. While the world wanted perfection, I determined greatness in imperfections. Wronged for my viewpoints, I stood up to claim my right to have my own opinions and thoughts. More than anything: Attempts to make me perfect or fit me into a mode someone else wants are not for me. Knocked down, I will stand back up each time. And every time I stand back up, I get stronger.
Anson thought I would never leave him. He thought he was a great catch because he made more money than me. Anson concluded that an engineer was a more prestigious occupation than a teacher. He had a house and three cars, and I had none of those things before marriage, so he thought he was better than me and had more to offer in the union. You could say Anson was right, materialistically speaking. Despite all that he had to contribute to our marriage, he was gravely mistaken about one big thing. Anson thought he knew me and assumed many things about me, but he didn’t know me. He thought I would never leave him, but I left him. Respect, communication, and understanding are more important than anything Anson could buy for me. I wish he knew that money could not buy love and care. Fortunately, I learned my value and what I value.
Key Takeaways: Though I hated my mother-in-law because I deemed her controlling, I learned that she was a very caring person and came to love her like the mother I never had.
Though Anson thought that I would never leave him because of his income and the material things he had, I learned that my freedom and self-worth were more important than anything he could give me.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called How to Turn Sadness into Smiles and My Heroes. If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please share it with others, subscribe, support the show by clicking on the link in the description, or go to www.inspiremereads.com and leave a message. Thank you for listening!