Monday, November 19, 2007

Mother-in-law redux

So. We're back from Germany. The plane touched down in DC at about 7:15 last night, and we arrived at our apartment at about 10:30. The three hours in the interim were spent waiting for a tram to take us from our arrival gate to customs, waiting in two separate, very long customs lines (and yes, it so so sucks that we have to go through separate customs lines), waiting for the bus to take us to the Metro, riding the bus to the Metro, taking the Metro and changing lines and waiting a very long time for both trains, then dragging our three suitcases up the street to our apartment. Oh, and it probably took me about ten minutes to wrench our mail out of the mailbox, because it was beyond full and close to turning into a black hole.

But. We are back. Thank god.

Not that the trip was bad, because it wasn't. It was fun, it was interesting, and it was necessary. But oh my god, was it ever not relaxing. Torsten and I are both seriously looking forward to heading down to my parents' for Thanksgiving later this week and spending four days collapsed at their house, recovering from our vacation. My god.

It wasn't really any one thing, except obviously Torsten's dad's fall and subsequent surgery (which went well) and hospital stay (which should be over in a day or two). His mom was so stressed about the whole thing, and she is the type to get really easily stressed out anyway. Nothing with her ever gets done easily. There must always be huge discussion and dithering and repeated questioning, whether it's about what she'll order in a restaurant or whether her husband really needs knee surgery. It takes five minutes just to say goodnight to her, because she'll keep remembering things that she wants to say or ask. At least, that's what I think, but since I don't really understand German, I can't be sure.

It all just felt so noisy. There was always talk and chatter and the TV or the radio on in the background and it was just so different from my family environment that it was really surprising to me. It did help me get a much better understanding of where Torsten comes from, which I appreciate, but wow. It was just so much.

And also, we spent two days at the North Sea just the two of us, and then two days in Cologne visiting Torsten's best friend and his wife, who flew in from England especially to see us. His mother encouraged us to do all this, and yet when we got back, she was furious about how much time we had spent away from her, and what an ungrateful son Torsten was, and what a bad influence I was. And she was passive-aggressive about it, which is so frustrating. Even I could tell she was being passive-aggressive, just from her tone and gestures, and I don't even speak the bloody language.

The weird thing is that his mother is truly a nice person. She means well, and she truly cares about Torsten, and she took great care of us and cooked good food and was generally friendly and open. She's just so much to handle, and such a shock to my system. She's a shock to Torsten's system, too, and he's been dealing with her for 30 years.

I even ended up having a meltdown on Saturday night, which normally never happens to me--we had gone to an Italian restaurant, just Torsten and me (because his mother doesn't eat dinner and doesn't understand why other people do, and his father was in the hospital), and I had ordered one dish and received another, and hadn't realized it until it was too late to do anything about it. And then I got ridiculously, uncharacteristically upset over it, even though I knew it was totally tiny and inconsequential, and ended up crying in the middle of the street, like really crying hard, over some stupid spaghetti but really over how stressful everything was and how frustrating it is and how much I so totally did not want to listen to everyone crying and being all tragic when they said goodbye to us the next day.

And speaking of saying goodbye and crying, remember what happened last time Torsten's mother said goodbye to him? How she told him he could always come home when things didn't work out? Yeah, that's right. She said the same thing again this time, that he was always welcome to come home anytime he needed. Apparently it wasn't quite as direct as last time, and he doesn't think that she meant it to be anything against me, but she still said "you," and unlike in English where "you" can be singular or plural, she used du, which is exclusively singular. Just him. Not me.

Torsten and I discussed it in the plane, and we think the problem is that she just doesn't make me feel like part of the family. And we know part of that is the language barrier, and the distance, and the fact that Torsten has never been as close with his family as I am with mine. But his mother just doesn't view us as a unit. You would think she would, because she had (and has) the exact same problem with her mother when she married Torsten's father. But she doesn't, and it's so clear to me that she doesn't, and it makes me feel like such an outsider.

So it wasn't a relaxing trip. But it was so nice to go to the North Sea, and so so nice to finally meet Torsten's best friend, who will be the best man at our wedding, and also great to see where he grew up and what his house was like. And the nice thing about being with someone you love is that you can never really have a bad time, even if your so-called vacation is stressful, because I never have a bad time with Torsten, ever.

But still. Thanksgiving cannot arrive soon enough.


  1. I totally hear you about not feeling part of the family. I was with Andy for five years before we got engaged, and even now, it's only just starting to feel like I fit in their family. Not that they're not nice people; just that they have a very different way of living than I'm used to. Hang in there. All that matters is you and Torsten. Glad you're back!

  2. I would say his mother doesn't necessarily have an issue with you, but would have a problem with probably any girl he is with. I've noticed mothers have a special bond with their sons, and some can actually overdo it (as I think in the case of Torsten). But she's just going to have to get use to the fact that you are in Torsten's life for good. Sorry you had to deal with all that! (Hope his dad is doing well!)

  3. Glad you're back, but probably not as glad as you are!

  4. aw honey welcome back! only a few short days till youre with your family and things can all be right in the world! And just think, they live in another COUNTRY so its not like visits will occur all the time. Dont let it get you down, it all makes for fun stories :)

  5. Oh, I know those kind of stressful vacations. Where you feel like you need a vacation to recover from your vacation. Glad you're back!

  6. Welcome home! Just concentrate on the fact that you get to come home to a place that is very far away from all that NOISE and the fact that you and Torsten have honest conversations about these things and that he understands.

    Also, I've totally been there with the little thing setting off a HUGE crying jag. I feel about 4 years old when that happens.

  7. Oh boy, well I'm just glad you're home and that you have a relaxing four days just shortly ahead of you.
    And what other people have said about the mother/son bond - I think it is especially hard for mothers to see their sons happy with another woman who is essentially taking the place of the mother. You are now the most important woman in Torsten's life and it sounds like his mom is jealous and, unfortunately, is not handling it the right way.

    I feel the EXACT SAME WAY about Mark's mom - I know she means well and I know she likes me as a person, but there are times when I have been very uncomfortable and made to feel like I shouldn't be there.

    I'm sure that deep down in her heart she knows you are the perfect woman for her son and will eventually accept you as her new daughter.

  8. i'm glad that you're back! and that you had a good time despite the soon to be mother-in-law awkwardness.

    i'm sure in time she will come around. i mean how could she not? you're awesome! ;)

  9. High maintenance mothers are amazingly self sufficient when it comes to zapping the will to live, no? I am sure she is sweet, just - strung out.

    Hang in there!

  10. Glad you are home and that overall it was a good trip. I enjoyed the photos you posted.

    I feel your pain about his mother. While I think that Ed's family would kick him out in favor of me, my family was the opposite, because of my grandmother. She refused to see Ed and me as a unit until we were married. Which meant that he was not invited to Christmas and the likes. Outside of my parents, my family didn't see me for years because I refused to go without him.

  11. Oof. that totally sucks. Luckily, they're not within driving distance, so you shouldn't have to deal with those issues too often. However, if they were closer, there is more of a chance of her getting used to you. That's usually what i think my problem with the In Laws (soon to be) is. I don't see them enough for them to get totally comfortable with me (and vice versa) so there's usually an underlying tension there. Which, in hand, makes me not want to go see them very often.

    Passive-aggressive people are always hard to deal with, no matter their relation. Enjoy Thanksgiving with your own family; and thank them for being so great.

  12. oh pumpkin... mother issues suck. a lot. she'll come around, because you rock. and if not?

    well then, thats her loss. you've done the best you could- you can't control other people's stubborness. :(

    hang in there. heart you. xoxo

  13. oof. i soo understand what you mean, and that totally sucks. but like so many other people have said, at least she's far enough that you only have to deal with it on occasion, and at least it makes for good blog fodder :-)

    glad you're back!

  14. Oh do I ever feel you on this one. It's hard to feel comfortable in a new family anyway, and all the little things that people can do to emphasize your outsider status- so frustrating. To add insult to injury, my mother in law will invariably complain that I don't seem "open" enough and I'm "holding back." Um, yes. Make me feel like a weird alien species and I will hold back. Forgive me.

  15. I'm glad you're back but sorry you didn't have a spectacular time. And now you know even more about how you want your family with Torsten to be when you guys have kids. :)

  16. Oh man. Well, my only hope is that she comes around because, um, hello? Who wouldn't want awesome you to be a part of their family?

  17. My parents have been married for more than 30 years and my mom still doesn't always feel accepted by her in-laws. It's kind of weird, because I've always been able to tell that they love her very much, but they still don't always support her in the way her family would or the way she thinks a family "should." It's a tough business.

    Although, it seems that Torsten's mom genuinely likes you and I bet that as you get to know her more and more, the awkwardness will ease.

  18. Glad you're back Woman.

    As for the MIL, she will need to figure out sooner or later that if she wants to feel included in Torsten's life now and the life of her future Grandkids, she will need to make more of an effort to bond with you.

    "A man shall leave his Mother and cleave unto his wife"

    It's all very hard with the cultural difference. You're great. Try not to let it affect you too much.


  19. Welcome home - it sounds like a stressful trip as far as the famililial part goes but I am glad you got to see how he grew up - even though you probaby don't know it I bet his Mother really likes you - she's just proabbly a little scared of losing her baby boy to a woman from the states....enjoy your Turkey Day!

  20. I almost never feel relaxed on "vacations". Sigh.

    I'm so glad you're back.

  21. I'm sorry your vacation was so stressful. It sounds like Torsten's mom is having a hard time letting go. I'm glad the two of you had a nice time meeting his friend and seeing the North Sea.

    (And I totally understand the crying about a little thing. I just broke down last weekend when I realized my bank "accidentally" reported my bank card as stolen when I asked them to order a new one with my new name. Now I'm without my debit card for 10 days.)

  22. Oh man, I understand the in-law vacation and it's lack of relaxation. It's a frustrating necessity sometimes.
    Also, so glad to have you back!

  23. Have a great Thanksgiving!