Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Carolyn: A few years ago I was fired from a job. I was young and foolish and did something I am not proud of, and paid the price. I truly feel sorry for my actions. I spent time in therapy, and I am in a much better place now.
I told people I wasn't close to that I was let go, including my in-laws. But my mother-in-law needed to know more. She called my former boss (whom she had never met), forced the story out of him, then told her gossipy prayer-circle group and anyone else who'd listen. She also petitioned to my husband what a horrible liar I was, and that if he wanted out of this marriage, all he had to say was "yes."
My husband, who knew the true story, told her he was happy in his marriage, and that was that. He's shocked at what his mother did, but doesn't seem very angry, and says it's just her nature to be in the middle of everything.
I can barely look her in the face. Yes, I lied. I'm not proud of it. Was it my duty to tell every person I know the reasons behind my firing? I've never confronted her about this; should I?
I count two problems.
(1) Your mother-in-law is a hydra.
(2) Your husband is a wuss (a common hydra byproduct).
Your mother-in-law had no business digging, much less sharing what she unearthed.
Start with No. 2 and air to your husband your frustration that his mom crossed several boundaries, yet everyone's back to business as usual. If he's not as annoyed as you are about this, then be prepared to say why you want more of his support. Actions this egregious against a child's spouse often cost parents their relationship with said child; will he issue her that warning in your defense? Enforce it?
If you're going to face the hydra, let your husband know first. Explain that you're giving him a chance to say whether he supports your doing that and why/why not.
If you talk to her, stick to a simple argument: You make no excuses for your mistake, but you find her snooping into your business, then sharing it to be a decency violation of its own.
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