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My mother-in-law hates my guts and we haven't even met yet.

This weekend, my wife and I will be meeting up with her parents for the first time after they kicked her out unexpectedly. This will be the first time I'll ever get to talk to her parents in person, or verbally even.

You see, my wife and I met online 2.5 years ago and we've always been one state away in distance. 3 months ago, her mother tried to catfish me and failed miserably. I had a fairly strong suspicion who she was so I went along with it for an hour and ended it with "Goodnight, $name. It was a pleasure finally getting to speak with you. :)"

This seemed like a badass move at the time but, the day after, she ended up kicking out my then-fiancee and I had to drive to her and have her move in with me. We've been living together ever since and got married last month. My wife has been in touch with her family online the whole time. Now her mother wants to meet me in person and refuses to video call before then. We agreed to spend a few hours at some events (restaurant dinner + pumpkin patch the next morning), because my wife really wants her property she couldn't bring with her at the time.

This is the same mother that filed a missing person report with me as the suspect when I went to pick her up (she was an adult at the time), refuses to acknowledge my good traits, hates my race, hates my family she's never even seen, hates my lack of religion (she's a Jehova Witness), hates my looks, hates the age gap between her daughter and I (almost 5 years), hates the fact that I used to play first-person shooter games as a teenager (found me online), constantly wants to get our marriage voided, and has sent my wife messages saying she would've murdered me if she saw me at the time I went to go pick her up from the motel she was staying at.

My lack of religion is perhaps the largest thing she hates about me, but I'm mainly concerned about the last part because she said it in such a serious manner which makes me seriously nervous about my safety.

How can I steer a conversation away from things that could be used against me?

Edit: the only reason we agreed to going is to get my wife's property she couldn't take before and, more importantly, her cat whom we have strong emotional attachment to. Were it not for that, we wouldn't even consider going. Agreeing to a quick dinner and event seemed like a nice way to make an impression on them along the way.

  • Maybe think about what your goal is here long term. Do you want to have further contact with them in the future or just get the things and never see them. Right now the question is a bit too broad. I don't think it is off-topic per se, just in its current form. – Hakaishin Sep 27 '18 at 13:36
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I recommend looking into how to respond to and handle emotional abuse, in general. My personal experience with a narcissist has taught me several things how to handle situations like these. I think the best one overall is the grey rock method.

The Grey Rock Method

To avoid the mother-in-law making drama or taking "digs" at you (chipping at your self esteem, passive-aggressive insults, etc) you have to become a Grey Rock.

A Grey Rock person basically is just that. An uninteresting person, that doesn't respond in the way that the abuser/narcissist wishes them to. For example, if your mother in law starts making snide comments or saying things related to her religion that she holds over your head, you respond neutrally.

Example:

Mom-in-law: Huh, what church you go to? I don't think it's as great as mine!

What you're probably thinking

I don't like that statement....

What comes out of your mouth:

Ah, yeah.

Other responses you can use, depending on context.

Okay.

Interesting.

Yeah.

It's important to note that you have to control your emotions here. If you and/or your wife are empathic people, it will be difficult. (I am an empath, and it's really, really hard!)

Overall, you want to give her ZERO negative energy that she can feed off of.

You can absolutely enjoy your day. Keep in mind that she has NO control over you and your wife if you do not let her. If you let her affect your emotions and reactions, you've given her a step stool.

My source: The Grey Rock Method

From the source, more examples if you want to read further.

When you do have to talk to them, stick to tedious subjects like the weather. If they ask questions, give short, uninspiring answers that can’t possibly lead to further conversation. They ask, “how are you?” and you respond “fine, thanks.” They ask, “what did you do at the weekend?” and you respond “I did my laundry and mowed the lawn.”

If they respond with “you’ve become boring,” just nod and smile in agreement (they don’t have to know that you disagree wholeheartedly with that statement).

A simple yes and no will suffice where appropriate, but sometimes you won’t want to commit to an answer if it means giving an opinion. In these cases a non-binding “hmmmm,” “maybe,” or “we’ll see” will do.

Never talk about your personal life, even the smallest details. They will hook their claws into any morsel of information you provide and use it to try and further the conversation and extract narcissistic supply from you. They want to know what you value in your life now. They envy what you have (regardless of what it is), and if they can’t have it, they will seek to take it from you somehow. Don’t give them the chance; remain secretive about your new life without them.

Never tell them how well you are doing (as much as it might please you to rub their noses in it). Remember, they are driven by their egos, and any suggestion that you are better off without them or that they are in some way inferior to you will be seen as an affront to their identity. They see themselves as above everyone else in every regard, and if you imply that you are doing better than they are, it will enrage them.

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    This worked, surprisingly. I'm basically a Grey Rock by default, so this was easy to pull off and surprisingly effective! – Pkmmte Oct 8 '18 at 22:05
  • I'm glad it worked for you! Do you mind editing that into your question so that future users can see what worked for you and why? – ElizB Oct 8 '18 at 22:07
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Some relationships are not worth fixing, especially abusive ones, seeing as she tried to catfish you as well as name you in a fake police report, stalks you online, threatens to murder you, et cetera.

I would instead urge both you and your wife to stay far away from her and have her behaviour documented by the police if she keeps harassing you. If she escalates then file a restraining order.

EDIT: Because you still need to converse with her for some time, see if you can flip the tables and instead ask her questions so that she will talk about herself rather than her dislike for you. If she steers the topic into religion, ask her about what it's like being a Jehova's Witness and their practices, for example. If you approach the topics with curiousity, she should be more receptive to talking to you in a more relaxed manner.

  • I should've mentioned that the only reason we agreed to it is because her mother still has my wife's cat, whom we're going to get. If it were not for that, we wouldn't even consider going. This cat has a very powerful emotional value to us so, unfortunately, we feel the need to go. – Pkmmte Sep 27 '18 at 16:33
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    Taking the current edits into consideration, what should they do to steer a conversation away from things that could be used against (them)? and considering their goal of just getting the wife's things? This answer seems like a "try this!" answer, which is confusing and not well elaborated. Why do think this is a good idea? This could essentially be a frame-challenge answer, which more information can be found here. – ElizB Sep 27 '18 at 18:33
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    I agree that talking about herself could be a good strategy, but it would probably increase ire and increase her chances for rubbing whatever she wants in their faces, thus making it a more unpleasant experience. What should OP and wife do about that? They want a pleasant experience and they want a peaceful experience. – ElizB Sep 28 '18 at 13:43
  • Chances are they will not be able to have any pleasant experiences given the fact that the mother already has decided that she hates him. By approaching her in the manner as stated above, it should hopefully contain aggressive and rude behaviour to a minimum so that they can collect their things and get out. There is no winning in this situation. – JCJ Sep 28 '18 at 13:59
  • @JCJ I'm interested in continuing this discussion in chat – ElizB Sep 28 '18 at 14:21
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I want to applaud the commitment you have to your wife and for even agreeing to this meetup after all that has happened to you.

How to actually handle it would be tricky.

My best advise for your situation is to try to remain calm no matter what happens during that dinner and to try to stay positive. Angry people sometimes calm down when they see that the other side stays composed and the last thing you want to happen during dinner in a public place is to turn into a yelling match.

If you believe that the religion is a major part of the problem, have you though about telling them you could consider converting to your wife's faith? It doesn't have to be something you commit to but just considering it might put them a bit more at ease.

A good idea if you expect other kind of issues during this meeting is to have some friends at the restaurant sitting on a different table, just having your back if there is a problem. That should help you remain calm in any case.

If things get unbearable and you cannot keep your calm, I would advise just leaving rather than engaging into the fight. Just say something like "I hoped this meeting didn't end up like this" get your wife and go.

Whatever plan you decide on, talk it over with your wife first so you are both on the same page and you stand united. Have a plan for certain situations ready so you don't lose time figuring out how to respond to them during that meeting.

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I decide to write this as an answer although it perhaps istn't really a new one.

If your wife arranged that ask her about the general mood you will probably face there. Discuss why this should be a good idea if they kicked her out because of you and hate you enough to talk about killing you.

If things still are the way you described them, then probably the woman (or the parents) expect to find reasons why you are the wrong partner for her daughter. And maybe reasons why it was a good idea to kick her daughter out. Do you really think this could repair a relation? If I had to bet if this brings you together or escalates - I'd bet for escalation...

The first thing you need is recreate the bonds between your wife and her parents. She must do that on her own, without you.
Picking up properties doesn't require a dinner. If it really is only about picking up things, I recommend her to go there with one or two other people to help carry things, but not with you if they hate you in every aspect.

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