#915: All In The Family Politics

Oh captain, my captain!

I have been with my partner for 5 years and our families get on well. For the past year we have been living in his parents house, but up until about two weeks ago his parents were living abroad and we were looking after the house while trying to save money. Now we’ve found a home and are moving in very shortly.

My partner says his parents love me and for the most part they have been great to us, helping give us a head start in our adult lives.

There is however, one point where me and his mother really butt heads; she was raised in a predominantly catholic country with anti-choice laws and is anti-choice/pro-life, I am pro-choice and work for an abortion provider.

We have gotten into some hot debates about this before (all initiated by her) and I have purposely dodged the subject and not bought into it when this subject has come up. When I first started working where I work I told my partner not to tell her where I work, and was perfectly prepared to never tell her as I was worried about her reaction, somehow she figured out where I worked and hasn’t made an issue of it though(until tonight).

But just a couple of hours before writing this email we had a pretty bad one.

It started with us having a nice chat about general topics including family. She bought her pro-life views up a couple of times and I either ignored it or moved us to a slightly different subject because I could feel the topic moving in that direction and desperately didn’t want it to. At one point she said ‘we wont get into a debate again’. Guess what happened.

She accused me of having no emotion about the issue, of not having the facts, of misunderstanding the women I’m trying to help, of not providing the sort of help they really need, of buying into propaganda, of being passive aggressive, continually interrupted me, firing questions while not answering mine, raising her voice, continually said “your lot” and “you people”, insinuated that the post-partum depression my friend suffered from was due to an abortion she had 10 years earlier, telling me she’s done her research on the issue and knows what she’s talking about whereas I haven’t (ironically when I suggested asking one of our nurses a question on development on her behalf she said that they would just tell me what I wanted to hear) and basically just telling me she’s right, I’m bad at my job and don’t know what I’m talking about.

She at one point pointed out that I was “getting nervous” because I was being faced with “the facts” I told her I don’t like confrontation and she insisted this wasn’t a confrontation. (Actually the reason I was shaking is the outside door right next to me was open and I find it noteworthy that she didn’t back off despite noticing nervousness in me).

At another point I said, somewhat lightheartedly hoping to salvage the conversation, “you said we weren’t going to have a debate” and she accused me of back pedaling because I was being faced with questions I couldn’t answer.

It ended after a particularly hot point in the argument where she refused to accept the answer I gave, she went quiet for a moment and it seemed to end so I said “can I go to bed now I have work tomorrow” and she said “there you go, passive aggressive, you lot are always so persecuted aren’t you, I wasn’t keeping you here love” and left the room.

I think in many ways my possible-future-MIL is a tremendous woman and I respect her very much. But I don’t ever want to have this sort of conversation with her again. I am fine with accepting that we will never agree on this issue, i’m not the sort of person who needs everyone to agree with me. I do not like confrontation and up to a certain point someone having a different stance on an issue is something I can deal with just fine. But tonight it felt like she hates me. Once I got upstairs I felt angry, sick and kind of like I was going to cry. It felt like sheer contempt. I have an anxiety disorder which doesn’t help the whole confrontation thing and I feel like i cant bare going downstairs tomorrow. Because I was raised to respect my elders and she’s possibly-my-future-MIL i’m sorta scared of her (p.s. this is the same woman who told me if I got pregnant with ‘her grandchild’ she would “let” me have an abortion or put it up for adoption) and don’t know how to/want to bring this issue up with her.

Do you have any scripts/survival tactics for my situation?

Thanks,
Not up for a debate

Dear Not Up For A Debate,

You do important work, thank you for what you do.

I think you did a good job trying to avoid engaging with this topic when you knew your partner’s mom and you so hotly disagree.

If there’s an upside to be had here, look at it this way: Even if the conversation made you anxious and upset, even if it was under duress, you’ve heard your future MIL out once on this topic, and you’re not obligated to ever do it again.You don’t have to out-debate her or “win” the argument in her mind in order to hold your beliefs. You don’t have to offer fact for fact or counter her insults or personal attacks, though you are certainly within rights to say, “I heard you out, now hear me out” and present your case for why you believe as you do if & when you have the energy & desire to do so. You can also say, “I heard you out when you brought this up before, there’s no need to have this discussion again. I completely disagree, I have my reasons for it that are just as good as your reasons, I have feelings that are not up for debate or critique by you. My work is not up for debate, I’m not interested in convincing you, and I’m ending this conversation.”

See also:

  • “My work isn’t up for discussion.”
  • You can believe as you like. So can I.
  • “I don’t accept your arguments.”
  • You are not the decider of what my feelings are.
  • This isn’t a debate I can have with you.”
  • Respectfully, I disagree. Time for a subject change.
  • Let’s pick this up another day.

And then, you leave the conversation. If necessary, you leave the room. If she follows you out of the room, leave the building.

This is VERY hard to do. You’re “disrespecting your elder.” It feels like you’re the one escalating the conflict when you enforce a boundary, especially if you are a younger and/or female-presenting person, and the world backs up that message every chance it can get. It will go against everything you’ve been raised to do – be grateful, be respectful, listen, engage, argue reasonably. You’re in her house (ugh) and maybe putting your living situation in jeopardy (though it looks like plans are in place for you to no longer be under her roof, which is great timing here). The first time you say, “I’m sorry, (Name), I love you very much, but I’m not having this conversation with you ever again” and then leave the room, it is going to feel like the world is ending.

The world won’t end, though. It won’t. She will be upset and angry and have a bunch of tirade saved up that she wants to tell you about and no place to put it, but she is an adult who has survived this long on the earth and she will deal with it somehow. She just will. You don’t have to manage her feelings about it, and you are allowed to defend yourself and preserve your own dignity.

To help the world feel a little less like it’s ending, try this:

Make sure your partner is on the same page and will back you up. Better yet, tell your partner how he can back you up (nobody really gets training in this). “If your mom comes at me with this again, I need to be able to leave the room, even if it looks ‘rude’ and I need you to back me up – tell her to back off, remind her my job isn’t up for debate/ remind her that it’s not ‘rude’ to try to change the subject/ agree to enforce a no religion-no politics rule at the dinner table/ ask her directly not to start in on me/ remind her that all adults get to have their own views on topics, even very contentious topics, and that I have my own reasons for believing as I do.” If your partner can come in strongly on your side and you can present a united front, it might go a long way toward shutting down future ambushes. Future M-I-L might be much more willing to pick a fight with you than to potentially alienate her son.

When she is the kind person you love and admire, tell her so. Bond over the safe topics that you have in common. Be polite, kind, considerate, loving. Give her positive attention and reinforcement.

When/if she makes passive-aggressive comments & barbs to try to draw you into another “debate,” resist. Change the subject once. Change the subject twice. The third time, be explicit about it. “Did you see there, when I changed the subject? I did that on purpose, since I’m enjoying spending time with you and I want to keep doing that.” If she won’t take your olive branch, as I said before, LEAVE the conversation. “Okay, good night!” Tomorrow is another day. No subject change = no attention from you. Remind yourself that by continually bringing this up when she knows that you hate talking about it with her, she is choosing the kinds of interactions she wants to have with you.

If you have a counselor or therapist treating your anxiety disorder, or a good friend who is willing, practice scripts and confrontations with that person. Do your coworkers also have to handle situations like this? You’ll be more relaxed if you have a safe environment to talk all this out in. The ability to handle conflict directly is a skill that you can work on over time.

Give it all lots of time, patience, and love both for her and for yourself. You do important work that you believe in. Your morals and feelings are just as important as anyone else’s – they aren’t second-best to hers, and you don’t deserve to have her harangue you about them.

By the way, your reproductive choices are 100% your own. If she can’t be trusted to support them, she can’t be trusted to know about them. “I won’t let you have an abortion or give a baby up for adoption…” = she can say that all she likes, but it’s bullshit, she has no power or control there, and you don’t owe her information about any of it if she’s made it clear that she doesn’t think that you really get a choice.

 

MODERATOR NOTE: This blog is a 100% pro-choice space, and a person’s right to choose reproductive healthcare is not up for debate in this comments section, ever. If you don’t personally believe in abortion, a) don’t have one, b) post about those feelings on your website, because I don’t want to know.

 

 

 

154 comments
  1. slfisher said:

    I cannot imagine how living in that household is going to be tenable, even if it’s only for a short time until your house is finished. What other living options do you have? It might be wise to line up an alternative, just in case.

  2. TyphoidMary said:

    LW, thank you for the work you do.

    • Seconded! Enough people feel contentiously about this issue that just going to your work is an act of bravery so THANK YOU!

    • B. said:

      I’d also like to say thank you, LW. Your work helps a lot of people. It’s necessary and important and not “bad” in any sense of the word.

    • roramich said:

      Agreed! thank you!

    • ashbet said:

      I became a mother at 16, but there was a huge reason that I didn’t feel trapped or pressured into parenthood — the hard work that people like LW did, which allowed me a full range of options.

      Safe, legal, accessible abortion can create *better parents*, because it ensures that every child is a wanted child.(1)

      I’m grateful for the work you do, LW — not least because I want my daughter to have the same choices that I did.

      (1) Accessability/affordability is still a big issue right now, but I’m glad that people are working to change that.

      • Safe, legal, accessible abortion can create *better parents*, because it ensures that every child is a wanted child.(1)

        This! I read a really lovely article a while ago (I wish I could find it again) about adopted children of same-sex couples and one of the kids said (I don’t remember her exact words but this was the gist of it) that it was awesome being adopted because she knew her parents really, REALLY wanted her.

        I want that for every child, which is why I’m so firmly pro-choice.

        • Plus I have pretty strong feelings about whether people with uteruses are, you know, *people*. Just wanted to be clear 🙂

    • Beth said:

      YES! YES! Yes!!! Thank you!!

    • Maia said:

      Thank you for your work!!! And good luck with the MIL situation.

    • Polychrome said:

      Yes. Thank you very much for your work, LW. The amount of sheer denial and dishonesty around women’s reproductive health, argh. People like you who do the quiet work are truly unsung heroes.

    • slythwolf said:

      Thank you, LW. I haven’t needed the help that you and the people you work with provide, but someday I might, and knowing there are people doing this work is immensely comforting to me as someone who can get pregnant and never wants to be a parent.

  3. I would leave and never come back, so kudos to you LW for wanting to at least try to find a way for this to be a salvageable relationship. I agree 100% with the Captain’s suggestions, and I hope that your partner is 100% on your side and willing to support you in this. She is being an unreasonable jerk and you have every right to keep shutting it down until she gets the message (or until you cut her off, whichever comes first).

  4. Jake said:

    I think this is a really excellent answer. There’s just one thing the LW said that I think the Captain may have missed:

    LW repeatedly talked about their MIL saying something to the effect of “you just don’t want to talk because you’re facing questions/facts you can’t answer.” I think it’s these sorts of statements that make it really hard to shut down the discussion because LW may well feel that by ending the discussion they are admitting that this is true.

    So I want to just say, LW, you have permission to end the discussion _even if_ your MIL will take that as “evidence” that you can’t support your argument. If she says “you just don’t have a good answer to that” you can say “it’s okay with me if you think that” or “I don’t need to convince you” or just “I don’t want to discuss this right now” and then LET HER THINK THAT.

    It’s okay. Your not there to change her mind. Let her keep believing you just don’t have good responses and don’t let that belief of hers touch you.

    • JenniferP said:

      Yes, great point! You don’t have to “win” the argument on points with her, or keep engaging. Thanks for amplifying this.

    • Nebet said:

      I’m not the LW, but this was really important for me to hear, thank you.

    • redpen said:

      on. point.

    • kat said:

      Yes, so much this. I think mil has made it pretty clear there is NO WAY to win this, she sounds like she’s in that state where if you tell her the sky is blue she’ll argue ’till she’s blue in the face that it’s not, and also you’re an idiot for thinking it is.

      Meaning, she’ll only accept evidence that supports her own beliefs. You can’t get anywhere with that in place. Just make it a no fly zone, cause here be dragons.

    • S said:

      Yes This so much. My father is a raging republican. He has bought into the whole fox news mumbo jumbo. (Most Ironic quote, one day after I asked him to stop sending me links to fox news he said “You know S, someday you’re going to have to learn to live in the real world.” oh the lulz)

      You cannot win. You cannot prove to them that you are not how they are characterizing you. Literally the only acceptable response to someone like your MIL would be you turning all wide eyed and saying “OMG I’ve seen the light, you are so right, I’m going to go quit my job right now and join the picket line.”

      And obviously you are not going to do that.

      Any attempt to defend yourself against being one of “Those” people with their weird beliefs is going to drag you into a morass of justification. And here is why:

      Your MIL respects you.

      I know that seems counter intuitive, but hear me out.

      Your MIL deep down knows that you are not stupid, or passive aggressive and that you and your partner are good together. BUT she is rampantly pro life, and you, someone she likes is, not. In fact you actually work actively against her beliefs.

      So this means that EITHER not all pro choice people are evil brainwashed machines of the devil, OR you are actually a lot of bad things.

      So when she’s digging at you or mis characterizing you, she’s doing it not because she sees those things in you, but because she HAS to see those things in you to protect her own worldview. She has to see you as passive aggressive or rude or unable to justify your opinions, because all she really has to justify hers is years of brainwashing, years of emotional manipulation and lies from the church. (I say this as the former president of her school’s Pro Life organization, SO much the lies. I wish I had kept the materials they gave me that were essentially all false.)

      You can acknowledge how important these beliefs are to her, without agreeing with her. “I know that being pro life is very important to you, and I respect that, but helping women be safe and healthy and make their own choices is important to me, and I hope you can respect that as well.”

      And maybe over time your continued awesomeness will help her see a way around all of the propaganda she has been exposed to, and she will be more open to letting women make their own choices, even if they are not choices she would make for herself. But if not hopefully she will at least respect your choices as you respect hers.

      Stay strong, you are doing amazing work and I am so grateful for you.

      • Jadelyn said:

        This is so important. My dad used to use that exact same line on me about “the real world”, even. The irony was that he was pelting me with Glenn Beck videos and that sort of thing literally *while I was a social/political issues blogger*, meaning I was voluntarily on my own time going through that kind of dreck to get material for my blog! I even pointed that out once, saying “Dad, I literally already watched that because I’m addressing some of the claims made in it. I’m probably better-informed than you are on what your side is saying, since my entire job is literally to rebut your side’s BS!”

        Unfortunately it did nothing to stop him. Eventually I had to do what this post suggests, literally informing him that I was not going to engage on political topics anymore, and if that meant I would need to simply walk away from the conversation or stop responding and ignore him (in captive audience situations) so be it. He was furious, but that’s because he’s an abuser with no sense of boundaries and the idea of my not allowing him to unilaterally set the terms of every conversation was a direct challenge to his presumed authority. Hopefully OP’s MIL is more reasonable than that.

      • Jules said:

        LW, thank you VERY much for the work you do. It *matters*.

        Yes, your MIL respects you and wants you to agree with her because of that. The most intense fights are those between people who *almost* agree. On abortion, you can’t win and you can’t change her mind. The best you can do is non-engagement / non-discussion. This is all good advice, I just want to second it and send you a (((((hug)))))), if you consent.

      • diloolie said:

        I love this comment

    • Because humor often helps us learn and remember lessons better, keep in mind this joke:

      The oldest person in the county is being interviewed, and the reporter is testy because he considers this assignment a puff piece that is beneath him. So he is clearly cranky and unhappy as he goes through the opening of the interview, asking the woman her full name name and age, then gets to the cliche question his editor insisted he must ask.

      The reporter asks how she managed to live to be so old.
      The woman replies, “I just don’t argue with stupid people.”
      The reporter blurts out, “That’s ridiculous.”
      The old woman replies with, “Yes, you’re right.”

    • Seconded! LW, you are not obligated to spend your time arguing with a jerk (and your maybe-future-MIL here is acting like a real jerk) any more than you’re obligated to spend your money on causes you don’t care for. It’s your time, not MILs and only you get to decide what to spend it on. Not letting MIL waste your time doesn’t make her right, it makes you a reasonable human being who doesn’t enjoy wasting perfectly good time they could have spent doing something they enjoy.

    • monologue said:

      This is how I’ve learned to deal with these kinds of interactions. It’s easier said than done, but you can say stuff like “we don’t actually need to agree on this,” or “I don’t owe you answers/citations/facts/proof.”

    • Spc. Agent Bluejay said:

      My husband has very effectively used, “I know you think that,” on me. *cough* It’s a good one to repeat as a broken record to make someone stop arguing at you.

    • Temperance said:

      YEP. I’m an ex-evangelical, and we were taught how to circularly argue like this.

    • Flash Bristow said:

      This stood out to me too.

      Id be tempted to reply “no, it’s not that I don’t have answers. It’s that I’m comfortable with people having their own opinions, without feeling the need to convert them”.

      This might be a little incendiary however. But it’s true.

      Probably best to leave the room directly after saying it, tho, or have a damn good subject change. Tho I know I couldn’t let it go, so I’d stick to it with “look, you’ve obviously thought about it and made your decision. That’s fine! It’s not my business! I’ve thought and made my decision too.” (implicit “and that’s not YOUR business either.)

      I have this kind of debate with people who want to challenge my vegetarianism, I just say that look – I fine it wrong for me personally to eat meat, but it would be just as wrong for me to stop someone eating meat if that’s their choice”. Theyre usually confused as to why I don’t engage in trying to “convert” them.

      Saying politely that although your views differ, you respect the other person’s right to their opinion – and not being shifted from repeating that (rather than engaging in discussing the opinion) will get boring for the other party eventually. Along with “Yes, so you have said. Could you pass the carrots?” “Yes, you mentioned that before. More gravy, anyone?”

      Good luck, OP. And thank you for your work. As someone who has needed your services, despite never thinking I would, I’m glad you’re there.

  5. I wonder how much of this is to do with the soon-to-happen move. Could possible-future-MIL be in a tizzy because of incoming lack of control or some suchlike thing?
    Not that it helps with the issue per se, other than it could all die down again once the move has happened and everyone is settled down in their new locations and situations. But I do wonder about the timing.

    • shantih said:

      I also wonder about the timing. LW, you said that your partner’s parents were living abroad until two weeks ago; I wonder if part of what fuelled this encounter on his mother’s part is a territorial feeling, trying to (subconsciously) reclaim her space and establish dominance over the challenger to that space. Fundamentally, that doesn’t make a difference to what you do. I think the advice from the good Captain and in the comments is excellent! But it might be that your getting your own space with your partner will deescalate the hostility on her side to the point that this just won’t happen again. I do want to tell you that you handled yourself with extraordinary grace in a difficult situation and that you should be proud of yourself for that!

  6. Anon it up said:

    Oh LW, my dad sounds exactly like your MIL. Abortion isn’t the thing he is passionate about, but he has some very strong political views that conflict with some of my very strong political views, and he very much likes to argue about it. He uses a lot of similar rhetoric to your MIL “you people”, “feminists” and “you liberals” kind of stuff, which makes me crazy because it totally diverts the conversation from empirical facts and specific differences in values to generalizations about the beliefs and behaviors of large groups of people. It’s a nasty tactic because it puts you in a position of having to defend every action ever of a huge group of people instead of defending your specific beliefs.

    Despite this, I love my dad and I think all in all he was a good parent. I have no desire to cut off contact. But years and years of fighting with him has been unpleasant and unfruitful.

    So I set HARD boundaries around political conversations. If he starts trying to provoke me I will literally get up and leave the room. It helps that I have the support of the rest of the family on this (they don’t leave, but they don’t give me a hard time for leaving, even if it’s leaving the dinner table). It has, ultimately, worked well. I’m sure he tells himself I do it because I can’t face hard facts or whatever, but I don’t care because it’s worked. He almost never brings up politics around me any more. Our relationship is 100% better for it.

    • B. said:

      Kudos to you for setting and enforcing your boundaries, and getting your family to help! I’m glad it has worked 🙂

      LW, going with what the Captain said about enlisting your partner’s help (which is a great idea): if there are more people you can ask to be on your side about this, don’t hesitate to ask them for their support. More help on your side can only make things easier for you and the people helping you, right?

      They don’t even have to be on your side re:abortion, just re:no fights with partner’s Mom. In case you’re looking for scripts:
      – I hate to fight with [partner’s Mom]. It seriously upsets me, because I admire and respect her very much. Could you help me change the topic?/Could you cover for me if I have to leave a conversation?/Could you help me distract her from this topic?

      Best of luck!

      PS: I don’t know if you’re a fan of quotes, but if she’s in full Catholic swing with (what she thinks is) The Rage Of The Lord on her side, maybe a choice piece of scripture would stop her in her tracks? Like, deviate her from the script of “I shout, LW makes excuses, I shout some more”? You only need a few seconds of confusion to make your scape.

      Some ideas: John 8:1-7 (“Let the person among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”), Matthew 7:1-6 (“Do not judge, or you too will be judged”; “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”), James 4:11-12 (“Do not criticize each other, brothers. […] There is only one Lawgiver and Judge—the one who can save and destroy. So who are you to judge your neighbor?”)…

      Or you could just throw the reference at her feet like a smoke bomb and let her look the citation up in her own time.

      • I think this depends on how much the LW wants to engage. I know it doesn’t necessarily sound like it, but for some people a scripture quote like that would be throwing down a gauntlet. It can be interpreted as an accusation (“How DARE you call me a sinner just like those [insert choice terms for women who get abortions]!”), or the MIL could get territorial about religion and declare that the LW has no right to use scripture against her or that they don’t know what they’re talking about. If the LW is just trying to get out of the conversation, this is something that could potentially backfire very badly.

      • Maybe Exodus 21:22-25, or Numbers 5. But I am petty like that. =)

    • S said:

      I did this with my Dad as well. Though our biggest screaming match was the day I told him I didn’t want to talk about politics anymore. (Hilariously the day he discovered what % of households in the US had cable, he though it was like him and 3 rebels watching Fox News. Oy.)

      Unfortunately I’m NOT good at this boundary because when someone is wrong in my vicinity it is VERY hard for me to just let it go. So I applaud you for doing so well and not getting involved.

      I think what I find most frustrating is having my position and opinions miss characterized in an attempt to lure me into conversation. I’ve gotten better at that, but my Sister hasn’t and sometimes I get pulled in with her. So much screaming, we are not good debaters.

      • Anon it up said:

        Honestly, it can be really hard not to respond, especially when he says something that is wrong and easily fact-checkable. But I know from experience that even if I get him to admit that specific thing is wrong, he’ll either claim to not trust the source or immediately pivot to something less concrete (and thus less easily fact-checkable) and we’re back to square 1.

        There are people with different political opinions than me who I can have civil politics conversations/debates with, but my dad is not intellectually honest enough with politics to do that. He doesn’t want to discuss one issue in depth so that we can get to the root of our disagreement, he wants to throw has many separate issues out there as quickly as possibly to see which one he can get the most traction with so he can Win the debate. It sucks.

    • B said:

      Yeah I grew up listening to Rush Limbaugh (because dad did) although thankfully he’s an engineer and will usually have logical arguments. When I don’t feel up to politics I just say, hardline “no I do not want to talk about politics” and refuse to engage – it doesn’t feel rude to me to do that though I get how some people might perceive it that way but I think it’s rude to browbeat someone on something they don’t want to discuss? Usually my dad respects that though.
      When I do choose to engage, I specifically only address my views and don’t try to speak for all [groups of people] or defend [groups of people]. I actually think I’ve made some ground; I appeal to the libertarian aspect on abortion “government shouldn’t tell folks what is morally right or medically necessary to do with their own body”.

      But regarding the LW, arguing about abortion probably won’t track with LW’s MIL though since it sounds like it’s more on religious/emotional grounds which is pretty much gonna be what it’s gonna be, not something one can really argue with. My dad is not religious and an engineer so generally logic works. I agree with the captain to just refuse to engage and /physically leave/ if MIL won’t stop.

  7. DropTable~DropsMic said:

    Can I just say thanks, Captain, for the moderator’s note? It’s really clear that this is one of those letters where giving “equal time” to “the other side” in any way is going to translate to “endlessly derailing the actual topic of discussion.” So thanks for preemptively drawing that line–I’m sure you’re going to have to delete a bunch of comments and I just want to let you know that I appreciate the way you run your blog even if some people aren’t going to be happy about it.

    • DropTable~DropsMic said:

      Thanks also to LW for the important work you do!

    • JenniferP said:

      Thanks. People have a right to their views, always. They don’t necessarily have a right to my space or my bandwidth or attention for those views at any given moment. Trying to a) save my own mental resources and b) set an example for the LW that you don’t have to endlessly discuss things on someone else’s schedule.

      • turquoises said:

        A++, thank you for this example of leadership 🙂

    • roramich said:

      Agreed!

    • Anne On said:

      Yes, yes, I so appreciate this.
      Also, posting this on November 8th is pure brilliance. Thank you, Captain.

  8. gryphon said:

    Seconding the Captain’s remarks about not sharing any info on your own reproductive choices. Someone who’s this heavily invested in trying to control the choices of women she’s never met is not going to be chill when it comes to “her grandchild(ren)”. That’s another area where you really need your partner’s support and a shared decision to set boundaries and keep silent about your plans.

    • B. said:

      Yes. To me, “if you get pregnant with my grandchild, I’ll let you have an abortion or put it up for adoption” (because I’m oh-so-generous) sounds like a ruse to try and get you to confide in her. Seeing what she did with your career information (and how did she find out about that? Did you partner tell her? If they did, this is not (and will not be) the only private thing she could learn from them), I shudder to think the scenes she will make with the information about your reproductive choices.

      • I wonder if she actually said “I’ll let you” or if that was a typo for “I WON’T let you”? Either way, it’s a completely inappropriate way to talk about someone else’s choices that are very much not your business.

        • Halpful said:

          is it just me, or has there been an unusually high amount of that typo lately? I must have seen at least 3 comments on AAM yesterday that were missing a “not” or “won’t” or other negative.

        • Redgirl said:

          She probably did say “I’ll let you.” I’ve found that manipulators often like to give you “permission” to do things that they actually have no right to give or withhold permission for as a way of seeming to have more control over you than they really do.

          • slythwolf said:

            I remember when a college friend found out I was pro-choice and told me that if I ever got pregnant, it was okay to have an abortion, as long as i just told her I miscarried or something. Like. I am DEFINITELY going to tell you if I get pregnant after THAT conversation.

      • Cor! said:

        Oh man, that part right there. I’ll confess, I still enjoy Seth McFarlane cartoons as a guilty pleasure of sorts, and that last part of the letter reminded me of an episode of American Dad where Stan (über conservajerk) is running for some local office or something like that, and through some weird alien reproductive thing, Steve ends up pregnant. So Stan says he’s dropping out of the race to spare their dignity and is going to focus on family. Cut to him driving with Steve across the border to “get that thing out”.
        So apparently, some people think getting an abortion on the sly (paid for, illegally!) is excusable if you’re trying to protect you reputation and social standing, but fuck you if you’re underprivileged person who needs a subsidized abortion for your wellbeing.
        No kidding, the people with the most resources and who would most likely be able to take care of an unintended pregnancy and the subsequent child/children, are also the people with the money to pay for an illegal abortion, so in a lot of places, those with higher income may think they don’t need to care about abortion policy, because to them it’s just a dirty expense they can sweep under the rug; not a necessary, at times life saving/preserving, medical procedure that can help thousands, especially women in poverty.

        • Big Pink Box said:

          Stan’s behaviour in that episode reminds me of ‘The only moral abortion is MY abortion’. It’s about the experiences of doctors who’ve found themselves performing abortions for anti-choicers.

          Here’s a link – http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/articles/anti-tales.shtml

          Hope that’s OK to post Cap’, I understand if you need to delete it!

          • S said:

            I actually paid for the abortion of a friend of mine, who was very ill due to the pregnancy. And after that I knew I couldn’t/shouldn’t/wouldn’t be pro life any more. I do not understand how people can rationalize that level of hypocrisy.

          • B said:

            OK those are interesting stories but I’m a little grossed out at the physician who asked a woman how this would affect her anti-abortion position /during her abortion procedure/ ew ew ew sorry as a physician I think that is really poor form.

  9. Nanani said:

    I’d go even further than the Captain, and say that LW’s opinions are, in fact, MORE important than maybe-MILs, especially with that creepy-controlling stuff about “letting” LW have an abortion or trying to control their work.
    Just, nope.

    LW, your opinion on your body and your career are THE most important opinion on those topics.
    You can listen to other people’s opinions, but you NEVER have to have to consider another person’s opinion on -your- life to have the same weight as your own. It may help to practice thinking of your opinion on YOUR life as the correct one, in your own head. You are the boss of you 100%.

    • B. said:

      +1
      That’s a really smart way to think about the issue, I think.

    • JenniferP said:

      100% agree.

    • LW, if you never plan on having children, you may wish to seek sterilization. Cases of birth control sabotage have been reported, as we all know. If the MIL is rampantly pro-life, there may be pressure on the partner to produce grandchildren. This, in turn, may cause the partner to either not use birth control consistently and correctly and/or sabotage the LW’s birth control (if LW uses it).

      • B. said:

        That’s… a bit extreme, don’t you think? I mean, sterilization is a pretty invasive and final medical procedure, I don’t think this is a good place to recommend it.

        • RSVP said:

          If a person NEVER plans to have children, it isn’t extreme at all. Why be on synthetic hormones for 30 years if you can have a safe permanent solution? In any case, I don’t see anything in the letter that suggests LW doesn’t want to have children at some point, so it’s moot and not relevant to the discussion.
          Also, sabotaging birth control really is a thing – for both men and women.

          • B. said:

            Yes, of course it is, I never said it wasn’t. But going from “I want to stop debating my beliefs with my partner’s Mom” to “consider getting sterilised”? Recommending surgery to someone who has not asked about it? Doesn’t seem very relevant or helpful in this particular case.

          • thecynicalromantic said:

            If LW’s partner tries to sabotage her birth control, she doesn’t need sterilization, she needs to dump her partner ASAP.

            Honestly, if I ever, ever, ever had the tiniest bit of suspicion that someone I was with was capable of that, the last thing I would try to do is remove my ability to find out if it were true or not.

      • espritdecorps said:

        If LW knows she definitely doesn’t want kids ever, then sterilization is a good option.

        If LW definitely knows she doesn’t want kids in the next few years, a less oops-prone, long-term, birth control like an IUD is a great option.

        If LW is afraid her BF might use reproductive coercion on her, breaking up and moving out is an excellent option.

        Given LW’s occupation she’s probably very aware of her reproductive options.

        But none of her reproductive choices should have anything to do with BF’s mother’s opinions, especially something as irreversible as sterilization.
        Unless of course, it’s the choice to wash her hands of this mess.

        • Oort Cloud said:

          Dear LW, thank you – thank you a thousand times for the work you do. You certainly don’t need me to tell you, but you’re a life-saver. And the same goes for our wonderful Captain.

          Minor point re IUDs: it’s rare, but occasionally a person (maybe with a slightly odd-shaped uterus??? idk) can find they don’t work for them personally, even when expertly and correctly inserted and still in situ. Yeah, ask me how I know this … twice, yet! Luckily for me I live in a country (and in a part of that country) where the law and the way it is interpreted are OK, and healthcare is free-at-the-point-of-access. What a relief beyond worlds.

          Wishing you all the best, LW. In this instance your MIL-alike is behaving extremely badly and being unbelievably disrespectful and rude to you, and I hope you are able to NOPE this in the bud (especially before there’s any chance of future, larger-scale interference re your own potential future choices).

      • hbc said:

        But she’s pro LW-getting-an-abortion. as in, one of those people who claim to have absolutist views until their own personal convenience comes into contact with those views.

        She doesn’t want her son to have a kid with LW, either because it’d be out-of-wedlock or because then her son wouldn’t be able to sever ties with the evil abortioning girlfriend. I seriously doubt she’ll be poking holes in the condoms.

        • hbc said:

          Sorry if “son” and “girlfriend” were presumptuous, but I just can’t imagine a situation where this is anything but a cis-het relationship, or at least presenting that way to the MIL. I don’t know any religious pro lifers who would be so cool with anything on the LGBTQ spectrum going on under their roof to the point that abortion views are the only point of contention. And even if such a person existed, I doubt they would understand/expect a baby to result from such a relationship.

        • I was referring to the partner possibly accidentally-on-purpose forgetting the condom or otherwise sabotaging the LW’s birth control. If the LW gets pregnant and the partner proposes marriage, then they could be a “respectable”, MIL-pleasing, conventional family. Of course, I don’t think that’s likely, just a possible scenario.

  10. Turtle Candle said:

    One of the most insidious ways to get someone who doesn’t want to keep arguing with you to keep arguing is to pull the “you just don’t want to talk about it because deep down, you know you’re wrong” argument. Your MIL is doing that in a few different ways, with the accusations of backpedaling because you “couldn’t” give her an answer, with the claim that you were “getting nervous” because she was presenting you with undeniable facts or something, etc.

    This is a common tactic. It’s a tactic because for some people, if they can’t get you to agree with them, then forcing you to justify yourself over and over and over and over and over is the next best thing. If they can’t convict, they want to at least keep you on trial for the rest of ever. (Even otherwise good people do this, sometimes. I saw it years ago between two housemates who were lovely people, but one was vegetarian and one was vegan and the debate was never. allowed. to. end, because the pushier of the two saw letting it go as ‘conceding.’)

    So the thing is, the only way out of that trap is to just accept it. Yes, she’s going to take your silence as some kind of acknowledgement that she’s right. Yes, when you say, “I don’t want to talk about this,” or “I heard you and I disagree, but this is going nowhere, so let’s stop,” or “I’m not interested in justifying my job to you” or “let’s not talk about this; we usually get along great and I want to keep it that way” or WHATEVER script you have, she is going to take that as a victory. She is probably going to tell you that it’s a victory. She is probably going to tell you that you have de facto acknowledged that she’s right and you’re wrong, and she may cap it off with a “but you’re just too stubborn/naive/selfish/whatever to see/acknowledge it.”

    Let her.

    You can’t stop her from doing that. Your gut feeling that you ought to stop her from doing that is the bait that she’s using to keep you hooked on this argument.

    But I mean. You know she’s wrong. You know that you aren’t ceasing the argument because you were dazzled by the power and truth of her argumetns and are just too [whatever] to admit it. You know that. Your partner, presumably, knows that. Your coworkers would know that, if they were privy to this whole brouhaha.

    It’s galling to let her go off feeling like she’s scored a point, I know. Boy do I know, boy have I been there. But it’s much, much better than letting her use that little piece of specious rhetoric to reel you in again and again.

    • redpen said:

      this is just the truth.

      • I have apologized to people for offending them as a way to stop potential arguments before they start. This way, they get the ritual display of submission they require, and I get to go on with my business and maintain a peaceful relationship.

    • Big Pink Box said:

      This. My mother uses it as her primary tactic. Learning to let myself say “OK, whatever, we’re done here” was a gift to the rational part of my brain, even if the rest of it wants to reply with “But… But… BUT!”.

      LW – thank you for the service you provide.

    • Thank you for posting this. I’m in a similar situation with my brother right now over political talk, which I always try to opt out of peacefully. But there is an anger in him about my not having the arguments that I can’t understand. He uses these tactics and worse. At this point he has stopped speaking to me, and forbade his wife and child from seeing me at all.

      • RSVP said:

        Wow, that’s pretty controlling, to prevent his child from seeing his/her aunt because of HIS political views.

    • Yes.

      She didn’t actually win, and you get some time away from the fight.

    • Redgirl said:

      This comment is brilliant and I’m going to read it multiple times!

      My husband is a master of this and it’s a huge part of why I’m finally leaving. He will lob accusations at me and suddenly I’m on the defensive (even if the discussion was about something he did that hurt me). If I don’t fight him tooth and nail he assumes I agree with him, and even tells other people I agree with him. Even if I don’t respond in any way at all.

      You can have a debate with reasonable people. But this isn’t a reasonable debate. It’s a manipulation tactic. She’s going to believe what she believes about you regardless of what you say. Refusing to engage is REALLY hard when you are being goaded (it’s taken me 23 years to learn how not to, and even now sometimes I cave in) but it’s really good for your sanity. Find a few key phrases, like, “I disagree, but I’m not going to argue with you,” and repeat over and over and over.

      Hang in there, and thanks for the work you do.

  11. Clarry said:

    Where is Partner when these attacks take place? If Partner is anywhere nearby, it might be helpful to say “Partner appreciates the work I do.” If Partner doesn’t back you up, or if Partner is taking the no-conflict path of least resistance thus leaving you open to the attack with consent that starts to look like complicity, that’s a bigger problem than just the mother-in-law.

    • BigdogLittlecat said:

      THIS. LW, if Partner isn’t on your side for this, your right to choose and your right to not be attacked, you might want to look at your relationship very closely.

    • Service Advisory said:

      Partner has chosen LW, a person whose views on reproduction are directly opposed to Partner’s Mother. Partner is the glue holding LW and Mother together, yet Partner’s support of LW, and their actions defending the love relationship don’t have a single mention?

      The attacks on LW sound to me like the Mother trying to control Partner through LW. Meanwhile, LW is treating this conflict as if they are solely responsible for resolving it.

      My suggestion is that this situation needs to be a place where “opposite action” is invoked. LW, step out of the triangle and let Partner and Partner’s Mother hash this conflict of theirs out.

  12. Parental said:

    Just a note that women are not the only people who get pregnant. All pregnant people should have the right to choose.

    • JenniferP said:

      Good note.

  13. Elizabeth said:

    I think Captain’s advice is very solid here. It will feel rude and it will feel wrong but you are allowed to stand up for yourself.

    I had a similar round and round with my dad about abortion and it resulted in a badly damaged relationship. And I finally said to him that I will NEVER talk about this topic with him again. Not once. If he brings it up I will leave. And if he can’t stop then I won’t talk to him at all anymore because I couldn’t have a relationship with someone who couldn’t treat me with respect. We had some false starts but he has not brought up the topic even once in eight years. Not even during election season. But I had to be very firm and it felt awful.

  14. Sheelzebub said:

    I find that people who get that shouty and don’t let you get a word in edgewise tend to be completely ignorant of the subject they’re arguing about and waaaayyyy too confident in their expertise on it.

    Is partner in your corner?

  15. Inspector Spacetime said:

    This is a very timely letter considering that just last night I had a fight with my mom about politics. I didn’t want to discuss it yet again and was trying to work on my resume, so I said that we were never going to see eye to eye on this subject and can we not fight about it. Apparently it was “disrespectful” because I was “cutting her off” and telling her what she was and was not allowed to talk about.

    It’s not disrespectful to have boundaries! You’re both adults and have an equal right to not talk about something you don’t want to talk about.

    • Cor! said:

      To that sort of retort, my best answer would be “you can say whatever you want, but you can’t tell me I have to listen to it” *puts on headphones, continues eating ramen*.
      Also, you could add:
      -Being in a discussion is a choice, you are choosing to start one, I am choosing not to have one. *turns page of book/magazine/just continues reading on phone or tablet*

      • B. said:

        That reminded me of a saying: “dos no riñen si uno no quiere” (two can’t fight if one doesn’t want to). If there’s a similar fixed-expression in English (or whatever language the LW uses to communicate with the partner’s Mom), maybe it’s worth a try.

        • PollyQ said:

          “It take two to tango”?

          • B. said:

            That’s a good translation for the meaning 🙂 Only you native speakers know if it would sound natural in this context, though.

    • That’s a hard one to counter – my dad got angry for that same reason when I stopped talking politics with him. And I agree with Cor’s response below, to just say “I’m not telling you you can’t talk about it. I’m telling you I’m not listening to you talk about it and not responding to it. Those are my own actions and I have every right to control my own words.”

      Some people feel entitled to not only say whatever they want, but have the conversation they want to have, ignoring or forgetting that they are then the ones telling other people what they have to talk about. Don’t let them get away with that.

  16. Danielle said:

    I’m on the opposite end of the political spectrum from many of my family members. I’ve had a lot of luck with “We disagree. Neither of us is going to change the other’s opinion. Let’s not discuss this anymore. Who made these brownies over here? They’re delicious!/Other topic change.”

    • piny1 said:

      Yeah, same – and I think it’s worth pointing out that MIL has already gone way, WAY over this line. She has ignored signals and explicit requests to end the discussion. I mean, seriously, referring to, “Can I go to bed now?” as “passive-aggression?” I think CA’s advice to change the subject is solid, but LW is being treated really, really disrespectfully right now, and she shouldn’t feel bad about being fed up, or about being direct and firm.

  17. consolare Garcia said:

    This may not be the only conflict you have with MIL (Where is FIL in all this?) The thing to keep in mind is that you don’t ever have to prove you’re right on these kind of opinions. The only important thing is to get away. People are going to believe what they believe about you.

  18. Guava said:

    I have a sibling who loves to argue, and has very different politics than mine when it comes to several key issues. Our parents are in Sibling’s court. Sibling will bring up an issue in front of the parents, won’t let it drop, and then if I finally take the bait, the parents will jump in and Surprise! It’s an ambush!

    I agree with all of the wonderful boundary-setting advice reiterated by the other posters, but wanted to add one more thing that has worked really well for me – when I change the subject, I change it to a topic that Sibling and I are both passionate about. In my family, that happens to be professional sports, and a certain professional sports team that we both like and follow. It makes the conversation change stickier when I throw out a topic that we’re both happy to engage on, and makes the derail much, much easier. If there’s a joint interest that you have with MIL – something she’s almost always eager to discuss and something YOU enjoy talking about with her – try using that for the subject change.

    • Nanani said:

      This works in my family too!
      Especially since there’s usually a way to tie it together like their political argument REALLY GENUINELY reminded you of that bad call by the ref last week or whatever works.

      • Cactus said:

        That’s how it was in my family for a long time.
        When I started dating the man who is now my husband, one of my mom’s questions was “what do you like about him?” Among other things, I listed our similar political beliefs. She grimaced and said something like, “well, we’ll have to fix that.” Which, no. My husband is possibly even more progressive than me. But anyway, now he has my back on these issues. Which hasn’t necessarily gone over well.

    • MT said:

      This is genuinely how I’ve survived my family since preteen years.
      I can’t “out” that I’m not 100% on the same political page since they’ll take it as evidence that I’m taken by Worldly Satanic Influence and redouble their efforts to save me from hell. Yes, politics = religious belief. Inseperable.

      I know it sounds funny to people who don’t live that life and walk that line.

      It’s not funny. People who love me, who I love, legitimately believe that it is their duty to prevent me from eternal damnation. That is a hell of an emotional burden and I honestly do *not* want to live the rest of my life fighting that battle.

      Survival? Every time they bring up an overly-animated political discussion, I immediately swivel to something we are equally passionate about (thanks, Snowden! Your revelations have saved my family dynamic for years to come!)

  19. Don't Shoot the Messenger said:

    LW, it reeeeeaaaaalllllllllyyyyyy sucks that your future MIL is making this awful and awkward. I’m glad you and your partner have your exit plan. The Captain’s advice is gold, along with the commenters’ supplements. I just wanted to say a hearty THANK YOU, THANK YOU for the important and porbably difficult at times work you do helping women. THANK YOU AGAIN. And I’d also like to thank the Captain for this website. Count me among those who has found this website absolutely life-changing in the best way. Jedi hugs, if wanted.

  20. Jill said:

    I would pay close attention to how your SO reacts to all of these arguments. How did SO react when you came upstairs from this fight all upset? How does he respond when you vent/cry about/get angry about these types of interactions with mom?

    LW, if your SO doesn’t have your back now, marrying him won’t magically make him stand up for you. Methinks you need to have a serious conversation, maybe more than once, with SO to make it clear that if he’s your spouse and the “two become one” as the vows go, then you need to know he’ll have your back, even if it means he’s gotta stand up to Mama.

    I’m Catholic myself, but pro-choice (god, please don’t tell my relatives that, though!). It is startling sometimes how many Catholics make “pro-life-ness” their religion. You have my sympathy!

    • viva said:

      Yes, this was my first thought when I read the letter.

      LW, how does your SO respond/react to these arguments? Does he 100% have your back (meaning he will publicly defend or support you?), or does he try to stay neutral to keep the peace because he doesn’t want to choose sides?

      My ex-husband never had my back. It would have been totally okay if he didn’t agree with me about something privately or told me privately that I was being a schmuck, but publicly I wanted and needed support just as I always publicly supported him even if I disagreed with him privately. I think he tried convincing himself that he was being a good feminist by letting me fight my own battles when it was actually that he disliked confrontation of any kind and his idea of a partnership was different from mine.

      I also witnessed friends of mine eventually divorce because the husband would never, ever, have his wife’s back even when his mother was being humiliatingly cruel to his wife. He felt he since he loved both his mother and his wife he had to stay right out of it. His ‘neutrality’ cost him his family.

      LW, if your partner is supportive of you then that is awesome and I wish you both the best. If he is not supportive of you….I urge you to consider how his attitude will play out over time regarding all sorts of issues.

      And THANK YOU a million times for the work you do. Sending you good vibes.

      • Service Advisory said:

        Time to interject “Not choosing a side, IS choosing a side,” a battle cry of the Awkward Army.

    • espritdecorps said:

      Yeah, these last couple weeks in his parents home are an excellent opportunity for him to firmly and openly support LW and her boundaries with his mother.
      If he’s just hiding, quietly grinding it out until they leave, and letting LW bear his mother’s abuse, that says a lot about what she can expect from him as a partner.

  21. emmaclaire said:

    My mother pulled tactics like the: “You have nothing to say because you KNOW you’re wrong.” After years of this sh!t one day I just said:

    “Ok” With a shoulder shrug.

    *commence her trying multiple ways to reiterate the same line (screaming increasingly louder) in an attempt to incite me*

    “alright, then”
    “yeah, maybe”
    “Sure”
    *I bend over to look for remote or something else inane to signal how NOT IMPORTANT this conversation is*

    After seeing how quickly the wind got sucked out of her sails, saying things like this actually felt LIKE A VICTORY, not at all like a defeat. Here’s why: a) *I* took control of the conversation and shut it down. b) I was very clearly the calm one and remained calm, not allowing her to affect me. c) By contrast she looked like the outrageous, argumentative idiot she was being, and became aware of it. d) With no way to argue, she shut up d) since I didn’t engage AT ALL there was nothing she could even claim to have won. e) after a couple conversations going this way she dropped an issue.

    My point is that while you’re worried about how you’ll feel if you push back against an elder, you can do some passive things that will end a conversation and provide you with a feeling of control and empowerment. I mean, you could literally just silently walk out of a room and go read a book if she ever brings this up again. If she follows, just silently leave the house. I promise you, if she doesn’t get anything out of it, she’ll stop.

    • B. said:

      Beware, thought, that she’ll probably escalate when you employ this tactic (people who are trying to bully you into a discussion don’t like it when you show them how little their anger matters). I don’t know how much she will escalate, that depends on a lot of factors, but she’ll probably up her levels of confrontation a lot before leaving you alone.

      Context: I once tried this tactic with my mother and, in her attempts to get me to respond to her, she ripped off my headphones and almost broke my computer screen *and* my desk. So take care of yourself while doing this, ok?

    • crooked bird said:

      I agree, this is my personal favorite tactic. There are different sorts of political imposers, I suppose, but the ones I know respond best to this treatment. My brother continually reads conservative blogs and thinks of political debate as a contact sport, and used to infuriate me because “here’s an example of how stupid these stupid liberals are” was his favorite thing. But when I started responding to that and every other political argument of his with barely-polite, disinterested grunts and no eye contact, we finally established the “we don’t talk about politics” rule (or rather reality) that has brought me so much sanity.

    • She-Ra for President said:

      De-lurking finally to support emmaclaire’s described approach. This behavior by your MIL is a variation on what Gavin de Becker calls “typecasting,” a predatory tactic of labeling or insulting you, against which you feel must defend yourself and thus the engagement continues when all you want is for it to stop. This is a more escalated version of it, but the purpose is the same – to keep you engaged.
      It’s hard. It’s deeply unsatisfying to let attacks like that go unnoticed. “But since it is the response itself the typecaster seeks, the defense is silence, acting as if the words weren’t even spoken.” (survival signals section in the GoF)

  22. Cora said:

    I agree that the best tactic is to leave the room and let her think what she thinks; but I really wonder what might happen if, when told that you can’t give an answer, you respectfully asked, “What is the answer I’m supposed to give?” I mean, genuinely curious, not sarcastic or defensive.

    Maybe that’s feeding the demon, where it would be better to disengage; but if I were feeling up to it I might try it, just to see what happens.

  23. resili0 said:

    I have had arguments with my MIL and it feels horrible. She isn’t a fair fighter and has some issues of her own that mean at times, I can see that her veracity on a subject is actually just her rehearsing old traumas at me. We love each other and I guess she sees me as someone safe who will set a boundary and forgive her. In MILs world everything is very emotional and huge and dramatic and I am one of a few who haven’t cut her off. She has said hurtful things and I react with calm self protection. Sometimes after she admits she acted like an ass.

    My advice would be to grant yourself permission not to tough these lectures out. You are not responsible for her venting her feelings about abortion and even if she genuinely wanted an adult debate where her dearly held beliefs were challenged, you would be too close to do much good. It’s ok to excuse yourself.

    I’d echo the advice to get your partner on side. Do soothing things, maybe debrief with an understanding friend/colleague who you trust. When your mind lingers on what MILs deal is, remind yourself that only she knows why this topic angers her and only she can fix it. It’s your right to protect yourself and your work. What if you could experimemt with the cincept that it’s a kind act to her not to let her vent at you?

    I grew up in a home where conflict exploded any closeness and trust. It was the end of the world to fight. It has taken me time to learn that my MIL loves me and hates the idea of upsetting me. She lacks the maturity to manage her emotions and she does lob feelingsbombs occasionally. I look at my boundaries as part of our family life. She might test them but we need those boundaries there.

  24. AtomicCowgirl said:

    While my dad was still alive, he was upset with me about a particular situation. Before I got good about setting and keeping boundaries, I would try not to engage, then end up trying to defend myself, which always ended with both of us furious and me in tears. Everything changed between us the day that he again brought up this contentious point of conversation and I was able to set a boundary: “Dad, there isn’t any need to talk about this further.” He pushed back: “Well, I think you did such and such and thought such and such and (etc),” raising his voice slightly. Boundary exceeded: “Ok, then. I’m not going to argue with you. I’m going to go ahead and head home for now. I’ll come by tomorrow to visit. I’m not mad at you and I love you.” Trying not to reveal my pounding heart and sweaty palms, I give him a brief hug and do just what I said I’d do.

    My relationship with my dad changed after that. For the last four years of his life we were able to grow closer, I was able to learn to be with him and not have to fight with him and he got better at not trying to pick fights. I loved my dad so much, fighting with him always made me feel horrible and unsafe and unstable in the world. Being able to have good boundaries helped me love him better.

    LW, I wish you health and safety, especially as you’re in a line of work which unfortunately puts you in the position of being a target for certain types of folks. You’re doing a very important job. I’m sorry your future MIL is so fixated on trying to have this battle with you. I hope that the Captain’s advice and the other input here is helpful to you.

    • crooked bird said:

      This is beautiful.

  25. Minister of Smartassery said:

    I’m so sorry. What the hell?

    Your MIL to be isn’t a “Tremendous woman.” She sucks. She really, really sucks. She calls you “you people.” She thinks she has the right to tell you what to do with your body. She ignores social cues and anxiety markers so she can wear you down in an argument. It is more important for her to win than to maintain an appropriate relationship with you.

    I agree with the above posters who say the only way to “win” with people like this is to not engage or debate. They believe it’s their job to “convert” you. We have an uncle-by-marriage on my husband’s side of the family who is like this and over the years, it went from being kind of fun to debate with him to him literally yelling at every holiday family gathering. Which is not exactly how I want my children to remember holidays. And he has a particular tendency to go after me because I’m the most liberal person in the family.

    I know I will not change his mind. I cannot argue or logic him out of his beliefs. Me being an actual qualified expert in one of the areas he’s railing about does nothing to support my opinion in his mind. He NEEDS to believe what he believes because otherwise he has to admit he’s responsible for his own life choices and the consequences for those choices. So I bean dip the hell out of him. “That’s interesting, would you like some bean dip?” or “It’s fascinating that you think that way, have I mentioned that DD just started playing clarinet?”

    If he tries to escalate or demands I engage, I tell him, “I won’t talk about this subject with you because you get hostile and nasty. I refuse to spend my family time in this way. Either you stop now, or I leave.”

    And I have left. It makes things awkward as balls, but I leave. Even if it’s in the middle of dinner, if the birthday candles have just been blown out on my own cake, presents haven’t been opened yet, I take my kids and leave. Fortunately, my ILs know I’m mean enough not to give in and play nice, so they put social pressure on uncle to shut up, rather than trying to tell me to put up with it.

    I have very little hope for your marriage if your husband-to-be doesn’t see this behavior as shitty and wrong.

    • I’m totally with you on this one… the LW did not describe a “tremendous person” in this letter; they described a bully. It’s an emotive topic but that’s really no excuse for behaving that way.

      LW – Are you sure you “don’t like confrontation” or is it that you don’t like being yelled at, called emotionless and told you’re bad at your job? Because that’s totally normal!

      • Hollis said:

        Wow, I think you’ve manage to sum up why I don’t like confrontation in a nutshell: confrontation was synonymous to being yelled at, called emotionless and disrespectful, and just generally treated like I was a terrible human being when I was growing up (still is, with my mom tbh. Somehow me coming out as trans would up with me apologizing for making her feel like “[I] never really loved her” when she refused (and still refuses) to use the correct pronouns and gendered language for me).

        Like seriously this is a profound revelation in my life and I’m gonna go sit and mull this over a bit more.

        • Big Pink Box said:

          I’m sorry you’re being treated that way, you deserve better. I have a huge pile of Jedi hugs, should you want them.

          As awful and as disrespectful as this may sound and feel – you come first, you’re the important one, and you never have to justify your existence, or apologise for who you are. If your mother cannot love and respect her child, then she doesn’t deserve to take up your time and energy.

          It almost killed me to say the same thing to my mother, that inner shame of “disrespecting an elder” for wanting my boundaries untrampled , it did a number on me. However, once I forced myself to: draw those boundaries, to demand that they not be breached, and to deploy my verbal nukes when they were threatened – it felt like being freed from a cage.

          You are worthy of love and respect, and I hope you have a ‘Team Hollis’ who can help with that.

          • you come first, you’re the important one, and you never have to justify your existence, or apologise for who you are.

            This! To expand on your excellent point, a good person who cares about you even the tiniest bit would never in a million years so much as imply you should justify your existence or apologise for who you are. No one worth respecting would ever, EVER make you feel that way.

    • anotherfieryredhead said:

      Really agree with you – MIL’s behavior sounds awful, and she’s not simply disagreeing with you, she’s bullying you. I also find it concerning that she was more consumed with winning than with your wellbeing – she observed your anxiety markers and doubled down. IMO not the mark of a ‘tremendous person’.

      LW, is there something else behind this, something more than the issue itself? Might MIL be trying to provoke a confrontation for other reasons?

  26. aebhel said:

    LW, seconding (thirding and fourthing) the advice to just end the conversation if it happens again. You don’t need to ask permission or try to convince her of anything, just say “I’m not having this conversation with you again,” and if she won’t change the subject, leave.

    It will feel SO DISRESPECTFUL, but I promise you, the world won’t end. If she ends up hating you over it (unlikely), then the problem is entirely with her. She’s not entitled to use you as a verbal punching bag just because she feels passionate about this topic.

  27. I know you are on your way out – get out sooner. You should have money saved – get into an extended stay hotel or and AirB&B. It’s really hard to stand up to someone who is in charge of your housing situation.

    I love the Captain’s advice, but honestly you should always have an exit strategy and use it. For example: you always have the car keys and your car is parked where you can drive off. You need to leave Every Single Time this topic is brought up. If you hear even a whiff of this conversation. Just say, I don’t want to debate this with you and leave. You basically have to train her to never bring it up. If she sees that you’re serious about never engaging in this conversation then maybe she will knock it off. You are never going to find common ground on this issue.

    You don’t have a good relationship with your (maybe) future MIL, she is disrespectful of you and what you do. That is not a good relationship. Please be aware of how your partner reacts to these things now before you get more serious. Why isn’t he shutting their mom down? It is his responsibility to be on your side and protect you from his family? If this becomes a pattern of him leaving you to twist in the pro-life wrath of his Mom, that would be a huge red flag for this relationship.

    • biscuits said:

      Yeah, on the DWIL forums, which I love passionately, the advice is NEVER LIVE WITH FAMILY if there is some sort of issue, and this is an issue. If you want to preserve the chance of a relationship with your mother-in-law you can’t live with her. (You also may not be able to save the relationship, and if that’s the case, it is not your fault.

      Actually, now that I think of it, the DWIL forums would tell you that this woman treats you pretty badly and maybe you should just stop seeing her so much.

      • Love, Love, Love DWIL!! I have learned so much. I am single, no inlaws but just advice on how to deal with difficult people has been so helpful.

  28. thebewilderness said:

    It is frustrating when what you view as polite is viewed as others as passive aggressive.
    “I said “can I go to bed now I have work tomorrow” and she said “there you go, passive aggressive, you lot are always so persecuted aren’t you, I wasn’t keeping you here love” and left the room.”
    For future reference you now know this person is one with whom you make statement as suggested by the captain rather than asking permission to withdraw.

    • thebewilderness said:

      Is it just me who thinks five years into the relationship seems an odd time for this sort of verbal abuse to suddenly start, although being under their roof may mean at their mercy.

      • The Aphid said:

        Eh, that kind of thing can “start” – or rather, escalate into a place where it can be noticed, so maybe not really suddenly – at all kinds of times. I mean, presumably some of these “hot debates” that have already happened laid the groundwork for this and may well have been pretty damn abusive in their own right. But five years in, when partner and LW have saved up enough to embark on the next step of their adult lives together, may also be the point where MIL is a. starting to realize that this relationship is actually serious and not necessarily going to break itself up or turn out to be a phase, and/or b. becoming comfortable enough with LW to take the gloves off.

        I don’t know what’s going on with LW’s possibly-future-MIL, but my own verbally-abusive MIL was pretty nice to me for the first years that I knew her and I thought she was a really cool person – maybe even a tremendous one. I had a lot of respect and admiration for her. Though she always seemed to have a lot of tumultuous relationships and dramatic friend breakups going on. And looking back, I see little ways that she was grooming me to take her future verbal abuse. But it really did take years before she started to show her nasty side to me, after I was already invested in our relationship and willing to write her behavior off as an exception and give her another chance. (And then another. And then maybe another. Hmm, OK, now we are onto ethnic slurs, how odd. Oh well, maybe there’s another chance left in the bottom of the barrel? And another one? Until eventually my wife and I had a brand-new baby to protect, and then there were no more chances. Ever. The day when there are truly no chances left can be very sweet.) I hope the LW’s possibly-future-MIL really is upset about the pro-life issue and not about the possibly-future-in-law thing. A single issue could maybe get all boundaried up and the rest of the relationship carry on fine. If it’s something deeper, there may be nowhere to go from here but away. Good luck, LW.

  29. sorcyress said:

    I just wanted to say a massive thank you to the Captain for your moderation note!

  30. alw_ays said:

    May I suggest taking the edge off any further encounters with her by printing out a sheet of Logical Fallacy Bingo? (easily found via google) You don’t have to use it; you can keep it in your pocket. Her strategies in this discussion are nearly all going to be there.

    The point is not why she’s arguing with you, but that she can’t actually make a case. If she wanted to convince you, she would make a case. She would be careful, concise, well-informed, and present to you a reasoned case. She is not. She is just simply telling you that you are wrong, and there is no way this is ever the right way to change someone’s mind. On that same note, you may not be able to present any information to her.

    The exact right tactic is to avoid the discussion in the ways that the Cap has outlined. Be direct, be firm, and don’t get sucked in. If she offers any of these things that are off-topic and personal, you will already know they are considered logical fallacies and you won’t have to accept them. This is how to abate your anxiety.

  31. RSVP said:

    This may seem a bit extreme, but whenever heated debates about this come up online, I frequently post a link about that Irish dentist who died of septicaemia after being refused an abortion when her fetus started dying inside her. Nobody has ever tried to justify that particular decision.
    Won’t post the link here, but the keywords are: Savita Halappanavar, Ireland, septicaemia

  32. gemmaem said:

    One possible script for sticking to your guns about not arguing:

    You: I don’t want to argue with you.
    Them: That’s because you know I’m right.
    You: I also don’t want to argue with you about why I am not arguing with you. (Change the subject/leave the room).

    or:

    You: I don’t want to argue with you.
    Them: This isn’t going to turn into an argument.
    You: I also don’t want to argue with you about whether this is an argument. (Change the subject/leave the room).

    emmaclaire’s tactic, above, of just neutrally agreeing also looks good, if you’d prefer to be less confrontational.

    • Nineveh_uk said:

      One I’ve sometimes seen employed successfully to the person who is going on about you’re only leaving because you can’t stand the truth etc. “You’re being ridiculous/Don’t be silly”, and basically laughing at them. Of course, it isn’t suitable in every situation (like with people who get violent), but with a person who is otherwise reasonable, “You’re being ridiculous, I’m [removing self from the situation]” can give you a last statement that isn’t conceding. It’s not necessarily the last word, but you don’t need the last word and they can yell it after you. Because people like your MIL are being completely ridiculous and childish, and you are being much nicer in pointing that out than that they are a screaming bigot.

  33. Light37 said:

    Something to keep in mind- respect is a two-way street. It’s not your job to suck it up and let her harangue and attack you in the name of “respecting your elders.” If she isn’t willing to respect you enough to stop when you ask her to, then there’s a problem here, and it’s not you.

    • BigdogLittlecat said:

      yep. Fuck “respecting the elders.” Respect isn’t a prize everyone wins if they just live long enough.

      • Respect isn’t a prize everyone wins if they just live long enough.

        I love that and plan to use it everywhere 😀

        • JenniferP said:

          Me too. GREAT QUOTE.

  34. cin said:

    delurking to say how much i love love love the moderator note. on this precarious day i needed that and didn’t even know it till my heart swelled at reading it. oh and excellent advice as always from our amazing wonderful captain.

  35. right now my name is Lucille Nagl, but that will be changing said:

    My reaction was a version of “Yeah, sure whatever.” My dad liked starting political fights with others. When he tried to get me wound up, I accidently shut him down by changing the angle. He tried to pin me down to a black and white opinion, but I started talking about it academically. I pointed out how it was a shame that there was so much dissension about the subject and basically bored him to death by talking around the subject and focusing on communication failures in general and how it was sad that people couldn’t get along.

    He was so disappointed in my reaction, that he never tried to provoke me again, for fear that I would bore him to death. I wish I could say I did it on purpose, but I’m just so clueless that I didn’t even realize he was trying to start a fight.

    He did continue to start fights with the rest of the family. Someone finally told me what he was doing and I could finally recognize it.

    “Refusing to recognize” that someone wants to fight has made my life easier and drives them crazy.

  36. Hollis said:

    I don’t have advice but from the bottom of my heart thank you for the work you do LW. It is important.

  37. Claire said:

    You already do something really great LW and you’re not also responsible for persuading every anti choice person that it’s the right thing to do. You can save your energy for the day job and even if she feels like she’s won and it doesn’t mean you have accepted her case or are bad at your job.

  38. The ‘your lot’ and ‘you people’ are very telling, I think. She can’t get at the whole infrastructure of abortion providers, so she’s making you stand in for them and venting her frustration at a whole situation on a single person. No wonder you find it stressful: she’s only half talking to you. The rest is political objectification.

    This isn’t to say she’s uniquely bad. Rather the contrary: I think we’re all prone to do this a bit. And if you feel guilty about shutting down conversations, remember this: that effigy-making is a psychologically dark place for her to be sucked into, and if she’s basically a nice person, she’s probably not feeling entirely healthy or happy when she’s in there either. It’s not fun, just compelling – and habit-forming, if someone doesn’t make an effort. If you can establish that these conversations are just going to end whenever she tries to start them, you’re probably doing her a favour as well.

    So yeah, n-thing the advice to just not go there. I’d end in as unimpeachable and mild a tone as possible: ‘I love you, but having this conversation again isn’t going to benefit either of us.’ ‘I respect you very much, but I’m not having this conversation again.’ Affirm, refuse, rinse and repeat.

    And also: ‘Let’s not quarrel, eh?’ Doing this to you once was, possibly, caring deeply about the issue and getting a bit carried away. Doing it repeatedly is picking a fight, and you may need to make sure third parties hear you say that. Possibly next moves to anticipate:

    ‘I’m not quarrelling, I just want to discuss it!’
    ‘Well, I don’t, so let’s not quarrel about that. How’s Cousin So-and-So?’

    ‘I’m not quarrelling, you just don’t want to talk about it!’
    ‘You’re right, I don’t. Thanks for understanding.’

    ‘I’m not quarrelling, you just know you’re wrong.’
    ‘See, that’s the kind of quarrel I don’t want to have. Let’s change the subject. Have you ever tried raspberry and rosewater flavouring together? They’re really great.’

    If she jabs at you with the ‘your lot’ business and you don’t have the option to ignore her – which would probably be the best move – you might also try, ‘I’m not “your lot”, I’m your son’s loving partner. Let’s be friends, yes?’

    It seems quite likely that her go-to for all of these will be to accuse you of being ‘passive-aggressive.’ That’s one that you really can’t win, so probably the only thing to say there is, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way. I certainly don’t mean to upset you. Shall we change the subject, or would you rather I left?’ This is one of those times where ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’ is justified, so put it on repeat.

    Another point: her saying ‘I wasn’t keeping you here love.’ She doesn’t want to be seen as the person who’s insisting on having this conversation – so if you don’t want to have it, you can use that. The US nonprofit Flex Your RIghts advises the following phrase if police are hassling you: ‘Officer, are you detaining me, or am I free to go?’ (The legal point being that if the officer isn’t officially detaining you, they have to tell you that if asked directly.) So if she’s really pushing the issue, find your own version of that:

    ‘I’d like to get out of this conversation. I hope you won’t mind if I leave now.’
    ‘Don’t be so passive-aggressive, I wasn’t keeping you here!’
    ‘Thanks, I appreciate that. See you later.’

    Ignore the tone and go for the substance: if she says she won’t keep you in the conversation, you don’t have to stay in the conversation.

    All of this needs to be kept in reserve: when the only way to win is not to play, you have to wait and see if she’s going to start something, which is doubtless going to be hard on your nerves. So I’d also strongly advise you to talk to your partner and make sure he’s got your back on this. The best thing in this situation would be for him to be able to back you up with a mild, ‘Mom, leave Partner alone, will you?’ or a subject change of his own – the latter of which he can probably do better than you can, knowing the family interests better. If he’s not willing to do that … well, then you’ve got a relationship situation that you probably need to address before you tie any knots.

    Best of luck!

  39. Clarry said:

    Anyone who would accuse you of having no emotion and of being passive-aggressive, of not having the facts, of misunderstanding what you do, anyone who continually interrupts you, who raises her voice, who calls you “your lot” and “you people”, anyone who would insinuate that post-partum depression is due to an earlier abortion (wtf? birth does that, not abortion), THAT IS NOT A NICE PERSON. That is not someone who loves you and has been for the most part great to you. This is not a tremendous woman who deserves respect. I get it that people can be many things at once and that no one is all good or all bad, but it may help you to see what’s going on if you put aside the voice in you that says you have to put up with what this woman is doing because she helped you out when you needed a place to stay.

    This business of approving an abortion if you got pregnant with her grandchild? That is not being nice to you. That is saying that she doesn’t want you and you personally to have children. At the very least, that is saying that she doesn’t want you to have children with her son as the father. (At first I read the letter as I always do with the idea in mind that the partner could be a man or woman, but that line makes it clear that this is a relationship with the mother-in-law’s son.) I cannot think that this is a disagreement only about abortion. I don’t even think that this is a disagreement about fair fighting tactics. (It is possible to get into heated debates in which each side listens respectfully, presents facts and arguments, and go away still disagreeing.) This is playing pigeon chess (craps all over the board and claims victory). If anything, I think that saying that deep down you know she’s right is her way of saying that she knows she’s wrong.

    At this point I’ll reiterate what I said above. The questions you should be asking yourself are ones having to do with your partner. Does he support you in your work? Does he know how to argue respectfully in a fair fight, or has he learned conflict resolution from his mother? Would he go to bat for you against his mother? Can you talk about any of this with him? Take note that there’s a reason she doesn’t start these fights when he’s around.

  40. R said:

    Legal access to abortion keeps women out of property status and prevents more abuse and poverty. A woman has ownership over her womb because it is her womb and a part of her that no one has the right to control nor reside in against her wishes. No man or outsider shares an equal burden so they get no equal say. The pro life side is all a knee jerk emotional reaction and they do not think deeply into the consequences of removing those rights for women as they go far deeper than simply and increased birth rate.

  41. One useful thing to keep in mind… whatever she wants to call it, what you have going with her isn’t a debate, and calling it that is an underhanded tactic. In real debate, there’s an exchange of ideas, and both people have to listen to the other side. In formal debate, it ends when a moderator ends it.

    In informal circles, a debate isn’t really legitimate unless both parties are open to changing their minds. There is literally nothing that you can say to make her change her mind, so she isn’t operating in good faith. You know that you’re not open to changing your mind, either, which is why you, as a good person, want to avoid the conversation. You’re trying to act in good faith. She’s not letting you.

    I have found that for my own sanity, a statement like, “I don’t like to participate in political conversations with friends and family unless both sides are open to changing their mind, and I’m not,” is a way I can feel better about disengaging.

  42. Sonja Coppenbarg said:

    Drop the rope, dear LW. Cultivate the neutral uh-huh, the one that means “I hear you and that’s all you’re getting from me right now.”
    Thank you for your work. It sucks that you’re under this pressure in your living space, but at least you can count the days.
    Nod your head, give a Mona Lisa smile, unfocused your eyes, and say uh-huh.

  43. Turtle Candle said:

    Other people have delved into whether the LW’s partner has their back, and I wanted to dig into it a little bit, because this can be a complex issue too.

    It’s possible that the LW’s partner is right in there defending them/backing them up. If so, great!

    It’s possible that the LW’s partner is hanging them out to dry, letting MIL attack and goad without doing anything. If so, not great, and there is an issue in the partnership that needs to be addressed, separate from the MIL issue.

    One other thing that’s possible, though, is that the LW’s partner has long since taken CA’s advice, and is trying to steer LW in that direction.

    Let me give an example: I love my brother dearly, but there are some political topics on which we do not, will never, agree. Gun control is one of them, there are others. The method of avoiding arguments on those topics and having a pleasant visit that I had long since developed was basically CA’s script: “Huh, well, that’s your opinion. So, how bout them local sports team?” or “You know I don’t like to talk politics over a nice meal, right?” or other deflections. At first he had an extinction burst-type behavior of attempting to ramp up, but now, though he does occasionally toss out some debate-bait, all I have to do is shrug and roll my eyes and ask him to pass the potato salad, and it’s over.

    Enter my partner, who started getting really invested in these debates. Which my brother loved, since what he’d wanted was someone to argue with the whole time (it’s like a sport to him), and out of a sense of spousal loyalty, I backed up partner the first couple of times. But then I was like, no, honey, I’m done. I love you, but I can’t keep sitting in these emotionally exhausting debates. Here is a way that you can not have these debates with my brother. If you stick to it, he will stop, and we will go back to having peaceful family barbecues that do not involve lengthy dueling Googles over gun violence stats. If having those debates is fun for you… then that’s fine, but I’m going to go Elsewhere, because I can’t keep listening to it, and I really want to maintain a friendly relationship with my brother even if we vehemently disagree. I love you, I want to support you, but I cannot with this particular thing.

    Turns out my partner didn’t actually want to have those debates either! He just didn’t want to be disrespectful by blatantly changing the topic or walking away on my brother, when he was a guest in the family house. So he put the “Huh, well I see you feel strongly about that. Remind me what time the game starts?” tactic into play, and sure enough, it worked for him too.

    But in between, I felt really bad, like I was being the ‘unsupportive spouse’ in not continuing to back my husband up on his rounds of Let’s Repeat the Gun Violence Talking Points (Again and Again Forever), that I was leaving him to bear the brunt of my brother.

    In that case, the important thing is that my partner and I had a talk about it. I didn’t just assume that he knew how I was handling my brother, I told him. And he, who had been assuming something entirely different (that I wanted him to stick up for my beliefs) I think found it kind of a relief to be told “yeah, just don’t engage him on that.”

    • The Aphid said:

      Good points. There are ways and ways of being a supportive spouse/partner/thingy.

      My wife didn’t always have my back with her mother at first – her parents knew how to push all her buttons, having installed most of them, especially the button marked “Guilt”. She also tried to steer me into not-engaging with her mother, which I attempted unsuccessfully to do. While I was trying to figure out how to do that, my wife got tired of being put in the middle between her mother and me, and told us both to stop complaining to her about the other one. Not Recommended Partner Behavior, I know, but it actually worked out great for us. Because I respected that boundary. I didn’t gloss over the fact that her mother and I were still not getting along, but she didn’t get the blow-by-blow of fights from me anymore. Her mother ignored that boundary, then whined, complained, and eventually shouted about it, then tried many tactics to sneak around the boundary. (That was where the ethnic slurs came in, because of course she wasn’t actually talking about me! Haha, why would we think that?) It took about six months, but it was a really stunning demonstration of who exactly the missing stair was, and my wife has had my back solidly ever since.

  44. Dear LW,

    1) Thank you for doing such important work.
    2) The Captain’s advice is brilliant and kind

    I nth the suggestion that you bow out of this harangue whenever she starts it. I also believe that it’s a good thing for your partner to take some of the flak.

    You see, I suspect that part of what’s going on here is a parent blaming a child’s partner for their unhappiness with the child. So not only do I think your partner should have your back, I think the real fight is between partner and their parent. You are perhaps a scapegoat.

    Again, thank you for your work. Jedi hugs if you want them.

  45. ZG said:

    LW here! I just want to confirm that she said she ‘wouldnt’ let me have an abortion or give ‘her grandchild’ away. Darn you autocorrect!

    I also want to thank captain awkward for the great advice, and the advice of all the commentors. And I really want to thank everyone for the kind words of support for what I do. The occasional arguments and awkward ‘so what do you do?’ questions at dinner parties are worth it when I can give a woman the support she needs, even if it’s in some small way and I’m so glad you guys have reminded me that the world isn’t as closed minded as it sometimes looks 🙂

    • “I just want to confirm that she said she ‘wouldnt’ let me have an abortion or give ‘her grandchild’ away.”

      Translated into useful information: “Make sure you don’t share any intimate information with me, preferably on any subject, because boundaries are not my strong suit.”

      You hang in there. xxx

    • B. said:

      It’s really nice of you to check in 🙂 I’m glad you found useful advice here, take care and stay strong ♡

  46. Don't Shoot the Messenger said:

    Thank you Captain Awkward and the Awkward Army for your useful, kind, strategic, and EFFECTIVE suggestions. Thanks to the Captain and this community, I had the right ammo when I needed it today. My hubby was being a jerk and tried to pick a fight with me over something both political and MONUMENTALLY STUPID. I gave him 2 strikes — “Huh. What do you want for dinner?” and “We disagree on this, and I don’t want to talk about it anymore, so let’s just leave it there.” He accused me of shutting him down, not listening to him (heard ya fine the first 2 times, babe!) and being close-minded. So I physically left the room. It drove him nuts!!

  47. M Smith said:

    Letter writer, thank you for your work in this incredibly important area of health. Captain, thank you for your words supporting it.

  48. Greg M. said:

    She wants to argue, she wants to fight, she wants to win. You don’t win by debating people like this. Basically it’s time for a boundary to be laid down. Just like the captain said you need to leave the discussion. Make it clear you’re not even going to entertain the notion of a debate on this. Never ever debate it again with her. She starts to steer the conversation that way make it clear you’re not discussing it and you will leave. When she says “you just can’t handle blah blah blah” repeat that you’re not discussing it, by addressing her specific arguments you’re giving her validity so don’t do it. adopt a 3 strikes policy or something similar. Topic is brought up you say you’re not discussing it, she pushes back and you repeat, she hits strike 3 then you’re out, as in you leave.

  49. RVA Cat said:

    Letter writer, thank you so much for literally putting your life on the line to work for women’s health.

    I think a lot of us will be putting these scripts to use during the Most Awkward Thanksgiving Ever (the holiday as we know it originated during the Civil War so it’s not like people invited their Confederate relatives over).

    Any scripts for trying to smooth things over with your smug Hillary-hating husband (who voted for Johnson in a state that went blue)? Tomorrow is our fourth anniversary. We have a two year old. I am gearing up in activist mode again and I really don’t care what he thinks about it. Doing something rather than sitting on the sidelines to avoid conflict should help (which I did and that’s why I took the loss so personally). In theory he encourages this, but I’m not sure he is prepared for Nasty RVA Cat 2017 edition.

    • Service Advisory said:

      It sounds like you’re asking for advice that you’ve already decided you want to blow past “I am gearing up in activist mode again and I really don’t care what he thinks about it” It also sounds like the rift between you, has to do with values that are deeper than just what this terrible election reveals.
      I’m always deeply envious of people who tell stories about their mothers that run, “She didn’t take crap from anyone…” because I wish they were my stories.

  50. I just wanted to say thank you so much for doing what you do. That sounds exhausting and stressful, but you are changing peoples lives, and saving lives as well. We support you here, and we know you’re right.

  51. Redgirl said:

    Something a therapist told me that was very, very helpful is, “you don’t actually have to respond at all.”

    It’s really, really hard when someone is goading you to just remain silent, but it IS actually an option. You can give an initial, “You know, I really don’t want to talk about this so I’m not going to.” If she persists, you can actually say nothing. She can ask a question, and you can simply not answer.

    It’s not easy by any means, but it can be effective. Sometimes just remembering that NOT responding is a valid choice can be empowering.

  52. Rosie the Riveter said:

    Thank you LW for the work you do.

    I am going to be having to use a lot of these techniques over the next few months after this election result. I was talking to one of my friends and just thinking out loud that if I ran for political office I can think of only 2 relatives that would vote for me. Oh, the fun the holidays will be!

    • Lynda said:

      “But… Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamily”…. 😉

  53. Iris said:

    Just to add to the excellent advice that you have received so far in case it is useful. When people take my refusal to engage in an argument as a concession of defeat, or if they spout a ridiculous opinion that I just don’t have the time or energy to deal with I have a go-to phrase that works (for me) every time.

    “If you need to believe that, I’m ok with that”

    You can vary it at will “If you need to believe that to be happy, then go right ahead” etc

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