‘In Waiting’ Asked:
As my husband and I dive deep into our 6th year of infertility we continue to struggle with an insensitive, narcissistic mother/mother-in-law. Going forward how do we not only manage our heartbreak, but our broken relationship with her as well?
Dr. Zoe Answered:
These are two very big issues! Your narcissistic mother-in-law is a continual part of your relationship and family life. Your infertility is a journey. You mentioned that your relationship with your mother-in-law is broken. I’m not surprised. It’s very hard to have an intact, healthy relationship with someone who is truly narcissistic.
So for the purpose of the question, I will address your relationship with your mother-in-law in the context of your infertility. It’s often disappointing trying to get the support you need, expect and desire from family members when you are going through a dark time in your life.
Sometimes your expectations are spoken, sometimes they are unspoken, but they’re always there. When infertility strikes, it can feel like all your friends and family kept going on the merry go round of life and you were pushed off. You might have expected them to be with you, but instead, they stayed and their life went on.
They may check in with you, but there are super few and far between who are both willing and able to jump off and sit with you in the dark when that’s where life has put you. And just so you know, this is not a reflection of their love for you, it’s the limitation of their humanity.
But, when you are in relationship with a narcissist and you are going through hard times… forget about it! Her ability to empathize with you and your husband’s pain and sadness is significantly reduced, possibly non-existent.
She has her own feelings and fears about your infertility and she is not emotionally healthy or aware enough to keep them to herself. Remember, it’s all about her and how this is affecting her—not how it’s affecting you.
6 years is a long time. Dealing with the pain, disappointment and fear of infertility is one of the hardest blows! You may feel like your body has let you down. When your people let you down too, it’s almost too much to bear.
My best advice to you is that you continue to expect your mother-in-law to be exactly who she is. The biggest challenges we have in relationships are that we expect people to be who we want them to be instead of who they are. When you can accept her as she is, then you can relate to the healthy parts of her and learn how to separate yourself from the unhealthy parts.
When it comes to dealing with difficult things in your life, a little tip I give to most of my clients is to go ahead and let your mind go to the worst-case scenario. For you, the worst-case scenario is that you will never have a biological child from your body—and on top of that, your family will not be what you need in this process.
Feel that fear, anger and sadness. Now, imagine how you will still live a good life, even without a biological child and a supportive mother-in-law. What do you have control over and what can’t you control? Write down what you will do if those worst fears happen. How will you still live a fulfilling and content life?
When you allow yourself to honestly face your worst fears and figure out how to conquer them, they lose much of their power over your present life.
Stop going to the future in your head, but instead, put those thoughts up on a shelf to deal with if that happens. You can enjoy your present, even while tackling difficult situations because you no longer need to live in fear. You have already addressed it and conquered it.
You’ve got this. It just takes a little grit and grace!
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