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Ask Ellie: Fear of losing son fuels mother-in-law's hurtful taunts

Don’t let your aging matriarch's apparent fears and meanness to you break up your relationship with your fiancé

Dear Ellie: I’m a woman, 50, divorced, and in a new relationship with a divorced man who’s 58. I’m fortunate to have him in my life. He loves, respects and takes care of me. I do the same for him.

But our relationship is strained because of his mother. My fiancée lives with his parents who are both quite old.

His mother’s attitude and behaviour to me shows that she doesn’t accept me. Instead, she taunts me in front of her husband and son. Her husband stays quiet but my fiancée has started responding back. She considers me her rival and competitor.

My fiancé doesn’t want to end our relationship just because of her bad attitude. Any suggestions to save our relationship would be greatly appreciated.

Taunted by his Mother

Your fiancé is obviously on your side. Now, he must firmly state that he’s not putting up with her attempts to push the woman he loves out of his life.

Start seeking a move into your own place together rather than remain living in this tense situation. Even a short-term rental makes the statement that you’re committed to each other, period.

Meanwhile, you’re already aware that his aging mother fears she’s losing her role as head of her own household.

By showing clear intent to continue your union, plus maintaining some family ties, reassurance by both her son and you may end her hurtful taunts.

If not, keep standing strong as a couple.

Dear Ellie: My friend and I are both single parents of teenagers. She has two daughters, 15 and 13; I have two sons who are 16 and 14. For several years, since we met through our children’s school, we’ve taken our kids on a week’s holiday together.

This past year we jointly rented a cottage.

The accommodations, natural surroundings and available activities were great — lakeside cottage, water-sports, plenty of nearby activities. My boys were ecstatic.

But to my surprise, the two girls, previously very active on these getaways, stayed on their phones. Their mother ignored their unsocial behaviour and preoccupied herself with reading.

In previous years, all four kids had chatted and enjoyed whatever was available, and we moms joined in the fun. This change in the girls — avoiding their long-time friends — dampened the entire atmosphere. I’m now hesitant about considering vacationing again with this friend and her daughters. Your thoughts, please.

Summer Letdown

I appreciate your disappointment in having anticipated a more spirited summer treat for your two families. But, reflecting on my own experiences/surprises when my son and daughter were at similar ages, it’s a time of their experiencing differing signs of maturing including hormonal changes and adaptations within gender-inclusive choices.

Looking back, these adolescent/teenage phases are a child’s “growth” period, affecting their self-image and confidence vs. any mental health concerns.

Parents should listen, encourage, and accept this phase as a passing, albeit significant time in their child’s development.

While this vacation brought out the girls’ immersion in social media (and perhaps shyness with the boys), it affected the boys differently.

Hopefully, your friend recognizes that her daughters were less confident as “pals” with the boys than they were pre-puberty.

When you consider sharing next year’s summer vacation week with your friend and her daughters, first get together in town a few times — a barbeque/picnic/the latest hot movie. Then decide whether to go as a group, or not.

Readers Commentary regarding your past request to your readers that they respond to a young woman who’d written you her sad experiences as a young child of divorce, her own poor choices, and her still-difficult life getting the needed break to finding a decent job (June 13/July 11):

“In the future, you might suggest that anyone can reach out to Toastmasters International where they’ll find a diverse group of people learning to communicate effectively.

“In Toastmaster Ontario clubs, I’ve watched as shy men and women find their voice and gain self-confidence. At that point, many take on leadership roles. Once someone starts to blossom, their lives are changed and their personal growth cannot be stymied.

“More information can be found at, or There are 16,000+ clubs around the world where much more than “public speaking” is learned.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Don’t let your aging mother-in-law’s apparent fears and meanness to you over losing her head-of-family status, break up your love relationship with your fiancé.

Send relationship questions to [email protected].