Recently my wife and I learned that she has a teenaged half-sister by her father. Her parents are still married and have hidden this information from my wife. She found this out after being contacted by her sister's grandmother. Ever since my mother-in-law learned that we know about the new sister and that we are going to attempt to have a relationship with her, my mother-in-law has become verbally hostile toward us and has been very irrational about the situation. Her behavior has come to the point that I have changed our locks. I am now to the point that I am done with her harassment and I am also done with her. However, this is causing a problem between myself and my wife. She wants me to "play nice," but I have played nice for several years after other situations and now I am done. I am tired of seeing my wife suffer these verbal attacks. I want my mother-in-law out of our lives if she can't be civil, but my wife says I am being irrational. All I want is for my wife to not have to deal with this. My wife recently gave birth to our third child, so I am even more protective of her because she is post-partum. I told my mother-in-law that she is no longer welcome at my home unless she can be civil and that she can only come if my father-in-law also comes with her because she acts differently when he is around. However, she came to our house yesterday while I was at work and started verbally attacking my wife again. I want to file a restraining order against her, but my wife does not want me to do that. I want to protect my family, but in doing so it will cause conflict between myself and my wife. I have turned the other cheek so many times. I don't know what to do now.
Fed Up Husband
You love your wife and you want to protect her from harm, including emotional and verbal abuse. That is the normal and rational response for a husband, and you are not being irrational in wanting to protect your family. “Playing nice” by turning the other cheek does not mean that you have to allow abuse to continue. God never expects us to remain in a situation where abuse occurs and continues or in a situation where we may be in danger. Jesus Himself took measures to avoid physical harm (John 8:59), and on numerous occasions He avoided getting involved in the Pharisee’s attempts to verbally trap Him.
It sounds as if your mother-in-law is angry because the family secret has been discovered and exposed. It’s apparent from what you said that this girl was born as the result of your father-in-law’s infidelity while married to your mother-in-law. This would have been a very difficult thing for your mother-in-law to have experienced and likely would have resulted in a marital crisis for them at the time. While you and your wife view this younger half-sister as an addition to your family, your mother-in-law sees her as a threat to the family and a reminder of things she’d rather forget. Your mother-in-law feels threatened, and the natural tendency when threatened is to defend oneself by attacking back. Unfortunately, she has chosen to attack you and your wife. It also sounds as if this is just the current side issue of a much wider problem involving your mother-in-law’s behavior. Does your father-in-law know that your mother-in-law is harassing you and your wife? If not, he needs to be told. It’s not healthy for your children to witness their grandmother verbally abusing their mother, and this needs to stop.
You are within your right to set limits, rules and boundaries with your mother-in-law, and your wife needs to be on board with enforcing them. Nobody should be subjected to verbal abuse, especially in one's own home. As a family, you should set clear limits that your mother-in-law’s visits will be restricted if she cannot be civil. The family needs to understand that your mother-in-law will be required to leave your home if she begins to verbally abuse you or your wife. This includes phone calls! Your wife should be instructed to end a visit or phone call if her mother becomes verbally abusive. I would NOT recommend taking out a restraining order against your mother-in-law. That would only give fuel to the fire and make the situation worse. Do not take revenge! Continue to pray for your mother-in-law and treat her kindly (Romans 12:17-21, 1 Peter 2:19-23, Matthew 5:43-48).
You should affirm your mother-in-law’s fear and assure her that the girl does not have to be a part of her life and she will not have to see or talk to the girl. When she brings up the subject in the future, remind her that she does not need to see or talk to the girl, but you and your wife do plan to have her in your lives whether she approves or not.
God bless,Aunt Dara