Leaving The Table Is Like Announcing That You’ve Eaten A Neighborhood Child

It’s no secret that my in-laws do not  like me. Why? I have no idea. I mean, I know I’m weird, but they hated me way before they had a chance to get to know me. Given the way that they pronounce my nationality, like a disease, saying it to others as though they’re apologizing to God, tells me that maybe it has something to do with where I’m from. Now, I’d also like to say that I know most people dislike their in-laws. I know that I’m not the only person in all the world with this problem, which is my purpose for writing this, I feel like other people can relate to it. Also, my point of doing this blog wasn’t to document how “beautiful” Italy is. Everyone knows it’s beautiful. I wanted to write an honest blog about what it’s really like living here as a foreign person. If I just post photos of pretty buildings and great food I’d only be telling half of the story. If that’s your thing, there are loads of tourism blogs about Italy that don’t document things like neo-nazis or evil mother-in-laws.

Cross Cultural Love: I Own Him On Paper

Cross Cultural Love: I Own Him On Paper

So, anyways, I’ve been with Francesco for over three years and since the beginning we have had a lot of problems with his parents. They objected to our marriage, our relationship, and me. I assumed at some point they’d be won-over by my charm, and by charm I mean, “she’s cute in a baby-in-a-head-shaping-helmet” kind of way. That did not happen and in many ways things have only gotten worse.

Two weeks ago, my husband and I were in his hometown visiting his parents when his mother took it upon herself to introduce me as her sons “girlfriend,” followed by an explaination to my husband that she doesn’t recognize our marriage. This. Pissed. Me. Off. In three years this is the first time I’ve ever felt compelled to say something to her. So I emailed her because I am super, incredibly, stupid. I’m not going to paste the exact email here but it was something like this:

“Look, clearly if you still have a problem with me after three years you’re always going to have a problem with me. I have no idea what you want. You’ve never liked me and have made sure that I’m aware of that. The tension in the family isn’t good for anyone. It’s not good for you guys, or Francesco, and I don’t want to cause problems in his life. He’s  in a really difficult position. I’m aware that you would have prefered he married an Italian woman, or one of his ex’s (whom his family is still close with), however he chose me. Why? No idea. But he did. Seriously, what do you want from me? Do you want me to pack up my stuff and return to the United States and leave Francesco? Is that the goal here?”

Of course, my purpose was to address their problems with me and the “less than ideal” situation, and ask what the family hoped to accomplish by reminding me every other weekend that I am not their first, second, or third choice of daughter-in-law. This is not what the mother took from it. Of the five paragraphs I wrote the only part she paid attention to was, “return to the United States” where she decided that I’m going to leave Francesco and divorce him as an “American does.” Her response back to me was something like this:

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. You’ve imagined everything because you are mentally unstable. Maybe you should look at how you’re acting, and stop hiding inside of yourself like a hedgehog.”

Where I responded internally: Oh b&$&, just wait until I publish a book! Just kidding, that would make me crazy (because there is no way anyone is going to publish me). But seriously, just wait. 

Suprisingly, her response also pissed off my husband because she called me a dellusional liar, which she can’t do in this particular case because he was there everytime she threw a tantrum forbidding him to marry me, screaming “why would you be with an AMERICAN,” and telling his friends that whatever they do to “find a nice Italian girl, not an American,” like her son did. Not to mention, she expressed her disapproval to the entire village, which of course came back to us. So, as nuts as I really am, I didn’t hallucinate the fact that she hates me and the idea of our cross-cultural union (because it’s 1825), nor did I hallucinate the few times she’s poked my breasts and told me how incredibly unattractive I am because I don’t have huge knockers. True story. So, my point is that I did not make this shit up. My husband called her to say, “My wife did not make this shit up.” Where she responded (seriously), “She left the table during lunch.” What does that even mean? Let me explain.

Leaving The Table Is Like Announcing That You’ve Eaten A Neighborhood Child: Important Cultural Lesson

Let’s say you’re sitting around a lunch table with guests and your baby starts screaming to the high-heavens, or, in my case, your dog feels the urge to make leg sex with everyone, followed by incessant barking, and then food thievery.

The polite thing to do is:

A) Keep eating. Smile. Drink more wine, and tune out everyone yelling at your dog to “stop” and “BASTA!” Embrace the fact that your screaming baby/obnoxious dog is the center of attention. Feel the love. Own it.

B) Take the disruptive child/dog into another room and let everyone eat in peace.

We all know that in the United States, Britain, France, etc, choice “A” would make you the rudest fucking person in the history of manners, EVER. However, I’ve recently learned that choice “B” is worse than committing murder in Francesco’s family.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, you’re wondering, “How does telling you that you’re not welcome in their family have anything to do with getting up from a table?” It doesn’t. Which is what makes this woman a genius because she is using a  classic red herring move. Touchè devil woman. Now, I have to make the next move but what I really want to do is disappear.Or, I can use her own method against her and reply back, “Goats drink goats milk in the spring . You ate an orange once. Eminem. Caffe Latté!”

I’m trying to figure out what to do next so I asked everyone for advice because clearly I can’t trust myself. An Italian friend of mine said that her behavior is standard for a small southern village, and that she will continue to use a “paranoid, and insane,” strategy to try to take the higher ground politically.” I am well-versed in this behavior, since I attended an American Junior High School, but ain’t no body got time for that! I talked with a few American friends who said that I should simply stop going to their home for a while because the constant negativity is causing harm and strain. I have great friends and I value their advice but honestly I don’t want to do that either. I don’t want to play her “strategy” game, and I don’t want to avoid the problems for another decade. My goal was to address the fact that there are issues and try to resolve it so that maybe one day my kids won’t have to grow up with the same tension (yes, I’m stupid, stupid, stupid!). Though, I do realize that if I couldn’t win them over in three years, it’s not going to happen, ever.

I’ve tried compliments, helping the mom clean and cook more, doing whatever they tell me, I’ve tried everything that Francesco has told me to do to improve the relationship but it hasn’t worked. I’m not the kind of person who normally places blame on other people (but my husband has assured me that this really isn’t me), nor am I the kind of person who cares if people like me or not (because duh, everyone does), but this is my husband’s family. I really want them to like me and it hurts a lot that they don’t (whine, whine, whine). However, I’m aware that you cannot force open a closed mind. If a person isn’t used to cultural differences, there is nothing that anyone can do. I know that because my own father is racist, homophobic, and all kinds of closed-minded. Can’t change them.

So the question is: Do I keep going there, pretending that everything is fine, tune out their criticism and smile, knowing they all want me to overdose on gasoline, or do I politely step aside and avoid the tension for a while, or do I respond to the the mother-in-law’s hedgehog email and hope that if we go back and fourth enough times we’ll come to some resolve?

Being a grown up is hard.

For A Follow-Up Of The In-Laws Saga Click Here. 

59 thoughts on “Leaving The Table Is Like Announcing That You’ve Eaten A Neighborhood Child

  1. I always enjoy reading your posts. I lived in Italy for four months and am semi familiar with the extreme behaviors/mindsets of Italians. At this point, I think you’ve walked the polite, silent road long enough without any results. If anything is going to change maybe it’s going to change from you standing your ground and letting things come to a head. Maybe she just needs to be shown that she’s not the alpha female–you don’t have to be either, but if she sees that you’re just going to play on an equal playing field then perhaps she will see that she can’t dominate you. You’re clearly smarter than her—maybe it’s time to show her.

  2. I truly believe that you have to do what you feel is right in your heart. What’s best for you and your husband. It’s painful not to be liked by in-laws. Approval and acceptance doesn’t or shouldn’t matter, but it does when your newly acquired family is so close minded that even God cannot see what goes on in their heads. You will receive comments giving you advice of every kind. In the end you have to choose and do whatever it takes to keep the harmony between you and Francesco. Never is it easy, but if your love for one another can overcome your cultural differences, then you will find a way to make the absolute best with what you have.

    Best of luck to you.

  3. Part of me thinks that since she’s likely Catholic, you can use Jesus’s teachings to your advantage and tell her that he wouldn’t judge you or that he even liked Samaritans, which were probably worse than Americans back in the day. Or, you know, fight back. Maybe because she’s from a culture of screamingly emotional, get it out kind of people, she’s put off by the American culture of Don’t Make a Scene?

    I don’t know, my ex-husband’s mother hated me, but she was too waspy to ever say it to my face. Instead she talked about me every time I left the room. Getting rid of her in the divorce was even better than getting rid of him.

    • I can understand your sentiments, many, many people here divorce over the mother-in-law. People are very “in your face” and they talk endlessly behind your back also. They like to really drive their points home. lol. She is Catholic, she’s actually a bible teacher, though, unfortunately I think she’s decided to ignore the parts of the bible about being nice. The family does have an issue with how calm and collected I am, though, my husband is Italian and he’s exactly like me. They do complain frequently that I don’t talk enough or tell them what I think, though, I’m not a big small-talk person, and I’ve always been a short-direct response person. I say, “I like this more than that for this reason.” And, I assume that gets my point across, however, his family is very, very high-strung (famously so, the entire village knows them as stress-cases) and I don’t think anything short of screaming my head off is adequate. Though, I’m not going to turn into a chimpanzee anytime soon…

    • “notyourvictim” Thank you for making me giggle!

      “Getting rid of her in the divorce was even better than getting rid of him.”


  4. Another option will be to remind her that you’re a “furriner” and you don’t understand all their customs. Tell her you want to be a part of her family, but that you seem to keep doing the wrong thing–that you never mean disrespect, but if they’ll be patient with you, you’ll learn how to be a good family member.

    If that doesn’t work, just remind her that you’re NEVER going away and if she doesn’t learn to tolerate you now, she’ll be miserable for the rest of her life. And who wants that, eh?

      • Personally, I’d stay away from her if I couldn’t find a way to detach from it all emotionally. That sort of stress takes its’ toll on you. She (they) have no right to treat you with that kind of disrespect. I’d have blown a gasket by now, told them what I thought of their behavior, no holds barred and then the ball would have been in their court to either improve their behavior or just f off.

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  6. Your mother-in-law is not going to change. Most Italian women like to draw out a conversation when it could be over in five minutes; I witness this for six months straight. I think they feel insulted that you don’t care to drag a story out with them. By you being direct she feels snubbed.
    You sounds so amazing I wish I discovered your blog months ago, so I could meet you. Your in-law situation is pretty standard . So just Stand your ground but be polite, she is his mother. May the force be with you.

    • haha, well, unfortunately I’m aware that nothing will change. How incredibly lame but part of agreeing to marry my husband nonetheless. Italian humans definitely prefer wordy dialogue, though, I have to say that of my many American friends who are married to Italian men I’m really the only one with problems of this extent. I’m fairly sure it has to do with the fact that his parents are very rural and have no experience with foreign people, thus, no understanding that people are different. Unfortunately, this is also something that cannot change since I can’t (and have no interest in) becoming an Italian woman. lol.

      Where did you live while you were here?

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  8. What an engaging post! Thanks for sharing.

    I married an outlier as well, and caught heck from my family, particularly my mother. After trying many of the solutions you suggest, the only effective one turned out to be standing up to my mother and letting her know that I had chosen my wife. If she didn’t want to be part of our family, that was her choice, and I/we weren’t willing to put up with the behavior she was displaying.

    A semblance of peace ensued, and she came to respect me more, and more importantly, my wife as well. It may seem that you want to keep your husband out of it, but he may be holding the only key.

    I’ll continue following your blog. Best of luck!

    • Hello and thanks for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed the post! So, actually, funny that you should say this because it’s exactly what happened. One day my husband just kind of lost his mind and basically told them that they either had to knock it off or we’d just disappear. It was very difficult for him because he’s one of those “perfect son” types that I totally don’t understand because I was always a pain in the ass kid.😛 Anyways, they slowly started to come around and started treating him more like a man instead of their little boy. You’re totally right. The ONLY thing one can do in this situation is set boundaries. Someone should write a guidebook on parents and dating the “other.” lol.

      • I’d be cautious about asking him to man up and stand for you in front of his parents. For as much as I agree that your husband should defend you, they might blame you even more for this ” oh, that girl turned my son against me, it’s all her fault ( as if he has no will)”.

        I don’t have all the info, but do they march all united against you? Since the main source of trouble is the mother, I would try to get closer to other members of the family, like brothers and sisters in laws, your father in law and then defeat the evil mother in law by taking her under siege? LOL, I realize that this has turned into a war strategic game. Maybe you should read the famous book Art of war by Sun Tzu.

        But in the end, I understand your situation. My parents come from a small town in SIcily and some people, especially the old ones, are just so narrow minded that it’s a lost cause to try to change them ( even though my own granma had no problems when one of uncles married a swiss).

      • Oh man! I do need a book on war strategy! Actually, I really do need to write an update to this story, my husband kind of freaked out on his parents and things dramatically improved afterwards. It’s still uncomfortable because as an American I’m not so used to people trying to make decisions for me, etc., but at least we’re not fighting right now.😉

  9. Since you are living his your husband’s country with his relatives then it is important to find peace with the in-laws. The most important reason is that if he is a ‘good son’ then he will want to spend the traditional holidays with his family. That means you get Christmas and Easter and Lent and long weekends going back to the village and the family. If you decided to have children the problems only increase as my experience has been these fiesty mother in laws want everything their way from the way the baby is bathed, to the christening to the birthday parties. And unfortunately if you have more than one child then Grandma ends up being there every second weekend for a children’s event. Of course you want your kids to have family. So I would say more than ever, your husband and you need to set out the rules. Try to live above the line with smarmy and snarky comments. Explain why she is offensive when she is offensive. Maybe she doesn’t always get it, don’t let her get away with it, because trust me, if there are kids involved she will really become a pain in the butt.

  10. Thank you for your very honest post. I can understand…living in Italy for seven years, 11 years of relationship…separated this year…it’s not about finding peace, it’s about being mature for both in the marriage. My ex is a very good person, but preferred just not to notice the challenges, assuming I had to cope with everything by myself, including in-laws… From my experience, I would always advice to not “feed the beast” and not to get too much involved in a game ” please recognize, me too, I am a human being, I have feelings and can love, I am just different”. If In-laws did not get this from the very beginning, they will never do. But you can build the strength of your couple, really taking care of each other and protecting Love that brought you together. You are right, you will not win them, but who said you should do this at any cost? They will never give you a medal “Finally-we-realized-you-are-a-precious-gem-of-our-family”, whatever you may do. Boundaries are essential, and it’s mainly the task of an Italian husband to be conscious and proactive about this. My advice IMHO: speak with your husband, make him understand your feelings, its his task for set the rules with his relatives based on your interests; if your meet your in-laws “wave and smile” and think about your little family – you and your husband. One day a miracle may happen… Ciao! Lana

  11. This sounds like me with my in laws. Our relationship is now much improved, but your attitude towards the whole thing is an exact match to mine. Your blog is hilarious! Really brightened my day xo

    • Thanks love! If you went through the same stuff I feel for you. lol. Things are better on my end too but only after I started yelling back and standing up for myself. The first three years I tried to be polite (which I learned was definitely not the right thing to do in this culture). Ah, the crazies.

      • Hilarious post, I can’t believe she actually poked your breasts and said they weren’t big enough. Sounds like you have a fantastic dog, now all you need to do is train it to just target the mother in law…🙂

      • haha! Right!? Thankfully she stopped. They’ve now moved onto my vagina and how much action it’s getting. “If you do “it” EVERY DAY you can have a baby by next year!”

      • You are wrong there lady,is only a truce period ! ….”una volta che ti ha segnata al dito” no matter what she will win you.It’s just a matter of time,even years.And if you are going to have children go and live in usa,very far away from her because she will use them too.I hope you understand what I mean………..And remenber : ……even years but you lose at the end. I’m sure.

  12. As an Italian (expat thankfully) and as the son of a pretty unstable Italian woman and a asshole Italian man, the only thing I can suggest to you is to have your husband straight your mother-in-law out. It’s not up to you to stand to her, it’s up to him.
    You obviously got that she’s bat shit crazy. You will never bloody ever find a way to come to terms with her. I’ve seen this kind of behavior countless times with my exes and their moronic parents and, trust me, that ain’t going to change.
    By the way, even if I’m from the south myself, I used to live in Prato.😉

    • Daniele,

      Thank you for your comment! lol. Eventually my husband and I both started to fight back with his parents and after a long time (3 years) things started to finally calm down. Things are not always perfect but they are way better than they used to be. LOL. But, you’re right, it’s VERY common here and I also have a lot of expat friends (and Italian friends) who struggle with their in-laws. It’s a long uphill battle for sure. Where are you living now? In the US?

      • You are very welcome. I spent half of yesterday evening reading your blog and laughing my ass off, so I am the one who has to thank you.😉
        I moved to Denmark for love. Not for a Dane, mind you, but for an Italian woman. I know, I know… Yet I was on the verge of my thirties and I couldn’t take Italy anymore. I never felt Italy to be my home, not with all the crap that goes there that by now you surely know as good as me.
        Not that I particularly feel Denmark as my home, but it’s better. People don’t actually give a damn about you unless you go mental or not pay your taxes, so all in all it’s an improvement. The very good thing is that my two kids are going to have a proper future here, which is something that they would never have in Italy.

  13. I just discovered your blog, and love your humor! Hilarious posts. Refreshing to see these no-holds-barred opinions. As another expat surviving in Italy, it’s a relief to be like, So it’s NOT just my Italian boyfriend who thinks you shouldn’t walk around with bare feet, but ALL OF ITALY.

    I’ll be sure to stay updated!

  14. This really sounds like a southern mom. It sucks. The only solution I can think of is hiring an actor who will threaten the two of you with a knife in a dark alley and you will knock him down with a karate move and save your mother-in-law’s life! It will work, I promise.

  15. AHAHA this is hilarious!!! I love your blog!!

    What is up with Southerners?? The hubs is a Northerner by birth but his parents are Neapolitan!! HO-LY!! One day I didn’t make it to the table for lunch as I was chasing a deadline (they were visiting for a week, She insists on cooking and everyone eating at the same time). Next thing you know, there’s a wail and a crash and his sister is screaming and his father slams a door – turns out she was extremely offended by my not-coming-to-lunchness and threw a couple of my vintage French plates across the room (“I wasn`t aiming for you, I was aiming for your brother!!”, She screamed to her daughter as She nearly took her eye out).

    Snore. I`m Asian – we value work over drama all the day, all the day. Plus I have the advantage of smiling blank smiles, slightly bowing and answering affirmatively to everything while looking delightfully vague and clueless. Drives her nuts. I keep a tally. And buy cheaper plates. Win!😀

  16. Wow, this sounds like a terrible situation. I really do hope its improved and your in-laws have come to terms with the fact that you’re married to their son and that this is no mere summer romance, and that you’re staying put. I stumbled across your post while searching the internet to see if anyone else had problems with Italian families and their very special quirky ways of doing things.

    Im quite fortunate that I have lovely in-laws. We’re not married but they have accepted their daughter and me living together in the same city. My mother-in-law is a classic Italian mother and so ver domineering but she is also very sweet, kind and loving. Therefore, the problem I often have is a question of too much love. Such as ringing your daughter three times a day (minimum, and at the same time each day) just because “sei venuto in pensiero”, or what she really means is “you popped into my head so I had to make sure you were ok”; not allowing your daughter pay for anything because it would mean recognizing the fact that she’d grown up; pressuring your children to come on holiday with the whole family (to the same place where only mamma wants to go) because no one has the guts to say “actually mamma we’d maybe like to go on holiday OUTSIDE the region this summer”. Connected to this when we go and stay in said holiday home we have to sleep on bunk beds with the bedroom doors open so mamma can make sure we dont get up to any funny business…..oh and me and my girlfriend are both nearly 40….

    I’m from London, and although Britain is a smaller place than the States, I think our “special relationship” was built on a shared heritage, so having read your most recent post I can completely understand how you feel about “an intrusion of personal space, “shouting”, “aggression”, “family politics” etc. As I said, I’m nearly 40 and my parents divorced when I was 7 so not matter how I try I will never completely adapt to life out here. I crave space and because Im stubborn myself Ive nearly offended the family a number of times by trying to avoid situations where its an “all-in/everyone together” because I just like doing my own thing. I love my Neapolitan in-laws they’re lovely people but I wish they would treat me more like a 30 something man and not as a bimbo: “devi mettere i pantofole”, “non puoi scendere senza giacca”, “non puoi andare in mare per tre ore dopo hai mangiato”, “madonna mia! Ma come puoi scendere dalla casa con capelli bagnati” for example.

    I disagree with some of the comments on here about southerners though (not from M.Evans, but some of the replies). I have read countless blogs and articles by expats from Alto Adige to Lampedusa and if the south is backward, then Im sorry but the whole country is….Berlusconi is from Milan not the south and you cant get much more backward than him. I find this country a lovely but difficult place to live. Tim Parks has written a few good books on the difficulties and he lives in Verona, so I think Italy and Italian families are very similar from North to South e come diccono qua “la mamma e sempre la mamma”.

    The problem I suppose is mine, because in the UK you’re pretty much free to be who you want (Im talking about London here, cos we also have rural narrow-minded places), I suppose its my fault then for expecting another country to accept that I’m different and not be so rigid about their own customs, traditions and habits. I choose not to get involved in religion so why force Easter, Onomasticas and Saints days on me if I’ve said I’d prefer to not celebrate? With certain things they are very rigid and will never change. I just hope for you that your in-laws have become less rigid with their Xenophobia, yes its true the US foreign policy isnt perfect but you could always remind them that Mussolini was no Angel if thats what their problem is. On the other side they can at least be happy that their son has done well and married a bella ragazza, surely appearances are what are more important to most Italians than what it says on your passport? Fingers crossed it gets better for you, I’ll keep my eye on you blog for the future. Good luck.

    • Hello love!

      Our relationship has “improved” I suppose to some extent. We don’t fight the same way we used to but there are still plenty of issues that we struggle with and similar to what you said, we always will. The cultures are simply too different to not have some difficulty once in a while. Yes, my in-laws are the same as you described above as well. They call my husband multiple times per day, they tell me how a “good wife” would do this or do that (all of which I ignore because it’s not 1935 and he’s perfectly capable of doing things for himself). For example, the last trip we took we stayed with them for a few days before leaving, when I wasn’t looking my in-laws unpacked my suitcase and repacked it because they didn’t like how I did it. Invasion of privacy? Simply rude as shit? Completely crazy? For an American, that shit would never be tolerated, however my husband just shrugs and goes, “They want to help.” I’m 32, which in Italian culture is about 12. In the US I’m quite “old.” It can be incredibly frustrating to be babied and told what is best for me when I’ve been taking care of myself since I was 18. They refer to my husband as “practically a child.” He’s 30. It’s weird.

      However, it’s really only been this way for once generation, which makes it even more bizarre. Before, Italians were the same as the rest of the world where a “man” was like 15 and could leave the house to work in the fields or wherever to make money. Women married young. There are a lot of factors as to how this happened but even many Italian academics agree that it’s very bad for Italy as a country. The Mammoni problem is actually making the economic collapse worse, and they’re finding the Italian workforce to be more and more incompetent, unable to compete in the global market. Which is sad, because Italy has long been known for it’s genius, however, with the parents coddling their children into their 40’s, the kids are not learning how to handle responsibility, or how to problem solve, for example.

      That’s also not to say that every family is like this. My husband is from near Naples, where I’ve found it to be more common, although, there are plenty of people from his area who don’t have this relationship with the parents, and there is an equal mix in Florence as well of both co-dependent relationships and more distant ones. It really depends. My in-laws are pretty overbearing and even worse because I’m a woman and in their eyes it’s my job to wait on my husband. But, because of women’s lib and all that, I refuse LOL. It’s an ongoing issue.

      However, the fighting the ceased. They have realized that if they throw a tantrum they won’t win. It took four years but my husband eventually sat them down and set boundaries (and also threw a massive fit and went crazy) and that changed everything drastically, in a good way.

      At some point, your girlfriend will HAVE to do the same thing. Otherwise, you’ll have them running the rest of your life. It gets worse after marriage, because at that point they feel more entitled than ever. LOL.

      Keep me updated! Also, please, I would LOVE to have a guest post if you’re willing.😉 I rarely talk with expats with Italian wives, it’s usually the other way around.😉

  17. Dear, I just found your blog and love it. Not many “honest” blogs about Italy out there.
    These kinds of in-laws you find all over Italy, it is not just a southern problem but I do think it is a bit worse in south as women still are home-stay moms and those four walls makes them crazy = mentally insane!
    I do not understand why you keep being in contact with them? I have cut “mine” out. My hubbys family is not allowed to visit our home, not allowed to call nor speak to me. If they even look at me they get the finger back. I told them to go to hell and told them that I will write about their bullshit in my blog so the whole world knows what shitty people they are. And that threat worked! Because in many regions family problems are hidden, I call it “Mutuo, Cosa Nostra e'”. They treat also eachother badly. Put their kids down, hit them, scream at them and parents fight. Just watch the news and see how much family violence (often murder) is going on!!
    My hubby is allowed to visit them, but he rarely does lately. I was invited to MILS b-day last week as a step for peace making. I did not go. That ship has sailed and hit the sea bottom. I will never seek their company anymore. And I do not care even if they try to repair things. They are not worth it and it is not worth the risk. I do not trust them!
    Your hubby has to step in and talk to his parents. It will not solve anything, but atleast he made something. Please also remember that he is likely afraid of his parents, his mother has brainwashed him since first day. Then not to mention the religious traditions in Italy on that, and those are not nice when you start to dig what they actually say here to people.


  18. I’ve just read this out to my beautiful, mad, passionate, volatile, insane, southern Italian husband. He says that you’ve essentially missed the point that as you’re not Italian you will ALWAYS be on the back foot. It’s a cultural thing. Your MIL isn’t being racist. She’s being an Italian woman. What she’s doing is normal. OK, he really wants to help you here. So … next time you’re at the dinner table with the family ( do not EVER avoid family gatherings or just send your husband), burst into tears. Seriously, let the tears naturally flow. I would! If I had been under the same amount of insane pressure from my in-laws, I just know I would be on the verge of tears – constantly. Cry. Tell the family that you are sorry for being American (I know, this is hard), that you you’re ashamed that the USA, which was discovered by an Italian, has treated Italians so badly. Tell them that you know you look strange and ugly (no honey, you are really beautiful but this is gonna work) and that you cannot stand yourself anymore. Bang the table a lot. Cry until your face is a complete sobbing mess. Say that your culture has not taught you proper manners (I’m so sorry for saying this) and you wish you could be more like your beautiful husband’s family. Hubby says: do not be disingenuous, let the emotions rise to the surface and completely overflow. OK, by now you probably think I’m completely nuts, but after five years with this beautiful madman, I know what he says is right. You are essentially trying to integrate into a society that is so old that anything foreign is always going to be “strange”. Being “cute” does not work, “wanting” to be liked does not work. When in Rome … scream, shout, rant, weep, let it all out. But use your mind and cultural experience and wisdom to do this in a respectful way.
    Oh god, I’ve probably completely ballsed this up, but I just want to say I discovered your blog today and hubby and I have been in tears of laughter over your fantastic take on Italian customs (and men!!). Soon we will be moving to Cassino/Caira and he has family in Lecce, so no doubt I will be in a very similar position to you. Oh god, here I am in tears, I feel for you M.E!!!!

    • hahaha. Ah, yeah, no. This post was written a few years ago. I really need to write a follow-up post. I’ll do that today😉 So, I had my husband read this comment just for his feedback and he looked at me and said, “Uhm, no. If you started acting like an emotional wreck of an Italian woman I would have stopped wanting to marry you. I married you because you’re different, NOT because I wanted you to change and act like them.” And I agree. If there is anything I’ve learned about living in Italy for five years it’s that you cannot hide your culture. It comes out in your humor, in the way you move your hands, the way you stand, even the way you listen. Trying to play their game by “being Italian” would have not only been an injustice to myself (I really like who I am, and have no intentions of changing my personality anytime soon) and an injustice to them. Ask your husband how well he would fair at responding “like an Australian.” My assumption is that he would fail miserably, just as my husband can’t act “American” or “Persian.” He simply cannot and it would be fake, forced, and superficial to all parties involved. The way that we resolved the issue was by talking. There was a huge fight and at the end my husband (and it MUST come from the husband) sat his parents down and told them that he was marrying me BECAUSE I was me. He didn’t WANT a typical Italian woman, he wanted me, exactly as I am, so either they could become open-minded about the fact that I will never be Italian or they would continue to damage the relationship until it was unfixable and everyone hated one another. I told them that while I respected their culture and beliefs, I also respected my own, and just as I wouldn’t ask Francesco to change for my family, it’s unacceptable for them to expect the same from me. This isn’t to say that I don’t think I should have to be polite, I obviously do, but being polite and relinquishing my differences to appease them is very different (and impossible, frankly). Things became a good deal better after our very long talk and my husband’s very solid boundaries. My husband is from Cassino, you’ll learn very quickly that the changes that people will expect from you can be endless. If I started apologizing for who I am, I’d be doing it all day, every day for the rest of my life. Also, what a terrible thing for our children to witness, “mommy hates her culture and upbringing.” I think being fair, understanding, and honest is much more important from both sides (and for us that’s exactly what worked).

      • Don’t waste your energy trying to “fit in” or “be liked” by the inlaws because most likely your energy and efforts will be in vain. Be yourself, and if they don’t at least tolerate you, screw them. They should be grateful to have an American daughter-in-law. Hell, they should be lucky their son even moved out of the house and got married at such a “young age” (yes, by Italian standards, he’s still a baby). And if all else fails, just remind them, with a smile on your face that they would be speaking German right now if it weren’t for Americans. (At least, that’s what I plan to say once I start permanently burning my bridges and getting the hell out of dodge.)

        Love and Light.

      • Haha! Ive been sitting here reading your comments and laughing out loud. This is the highlight of my night. Thanks Denise! I agree, it’s totally not our reapinsibility to mold ourselves around insanity. Very true! He is just a baby, they told us a bunch of times that we were too young for marriage (he was 28 and I was 31). Hilarious. So, so weird.

  19. Hi there M.E., Thank you so much for your very thoughtful, considered reply and for asking your husband’s opinion here. I really enjoyed reading your reply and I’m so relieved that this issue isn’t hanging over you in the way it was some time ago – I agree that as much as an expat needs to integrate into a new culture, it’s critical for expats to be both open-minded and have self-respect; being true to oneself.
    My husband (Antonio Caira) is a European-Italian, meaning he’s studied, worked and lived in Italy and many other European countries – his first language is English, second language is Lazio dialect. Now for 28 years he has been speaking “Roman Italian”, which is how he describes it. He’s an architect and a little more – his great-uncle is in Italian government. Antonio is from very humble roots: farmers (landowners) and a grandmother who was treated in the typical way by her seven brothers (work horse) and from Sora. He’s worked hard, been widowed once and we met here in Australia simply because he came into my office (a newsroom) and had a “bit” of an Italian rant about parking tickets.😉 We love each other very much. If you have a look at my blog you might see how worried Anto is feeling about the “borghese” contingent that he’ll be working with soon in Italy, judging his wife. I make no apology for who I am and I certainly believe everyone has the right to live, express and be who they really are. It was these qualities that attracted him to me – so he tells me. He wants me to be me but he’s worried about losing his job because of horrible judgements about me from others, not just family, but an entire region. Anto has been away from Italy for nine years and the last time he was in the region of Puglia. He says he’s “so thankful for your’s and your husband’s reply”. He wants me to be respected and to work, live and dress in the way I’m accustomed to. I however, understand that I will need to reign in my “look” in Italy – it’s not like I’m going to be wearing hot pants and bras in public! Jeez, I’m 46, I know how to dress to fit in and NOT have rotten vegetables thrown at me! Anto admits that as he’s nearly 50 and raised in a very old-fashioned family, so his views might be a bit “past it”. But he seeks the advice of you and Francesco. He will be in a position in the public eye with possible media exposure or the lovely town gossip system (he laughed at your telescope and the window scenario in one of your posts – he does EXACTLY the same thing here at home!) He humbly asks you how can he stop the gossips from making unfair judgements about him and our little expat family. Our daughter (Anto’s step-daughter) is 11 and growing into a willowy beauty and looks much older than her years. What has ahead of her in Italy? Anto worries a lot. Any advice you can give would be so very much appreciated

    • I let my husband read this comment and we talked about the best approach. Truly, people react to things based on how you act in the first place. ESPECIALLY small town people. If you guys move to Cassino assuming that you’re going to be judged negatively it will impact how he acts (he’s seem ashamed, like he’s committed a crime against Italy) and you’ll lose confidence assuming that everyone is shaking their finger at you. Something that we learned through ALL of our drama is that people really do take their position depending on you. So, you both need to be proud of your differences, of your marriage, and most of all he needs to communicate really well. Everyone should know that he married you because you’re special, that he is absolutely in love with your differences, and he should brag about you. That way the only gossip people can have is, “He said he married her because she’s a very good person, very smart, very sweet.” There will always be some level of gossip but obviously the more in love and the more proud you are of each other the less things people have to gossip about. One thing is for sure, if you seem like you’ve done something “wrong” by being Italian, you’ll invoke the lions upon you. Then things quickly become, “Oh that Australian woman, she’s trying so hard to be Italian but she can’t! She seems so silly! Oh what was he thinking!? Mamma mia! Mio Dio! Poverino!” My husband began our relationship trying to make me “act” Italian, he was ashamed that I was American, and it showed. And people gossiped, and things were TERRIBLE. As soon as he said, “you know what!? Fuck this! She’s American and she’s a badass and my wife is better than yours!” Everyone jumped on board. Soon he started hearing, “Wow! I wish that I could find someone like your wife! You’re so lucky!” It all starts with you, and more so him. Your husband needs to be stronger than the masses, have conviction that he made the right choice, and stand tall. The waves will always break at the rocks.😉

  20. Pingback: Finding Common Ground With Italian In-Laws | Living In Italy.Moving To Italy. Loving In Italy. Laughing In Italy.

  21. Hello

    I’m sorry to read you got so many difficulties with your mom in law, but, as italian ( north of) i would like to give you an advice:

    Don’t go to visit them more then a couple of times a year, i mean just for Xmas and Easter, that could be enough, i think,

    So your mom-in-law will accept you more easly when she wiill understand you are forced to go by them for speacial events only and just for being polite with your husband.

    In Italy the is a dictum: ” Non c’è peggior sordo di chi non vuole sentire” hope you understand the meaning.

    I hope this may help you.


    • Thank you Max. Luckily things have improved in the past while. They are still complex, of course, because we are from two different cultures, but I think things will continue to improve (at least until we have children, and then, non lo so…haha

  22. Oh god this sounds horrendous really you poor thing it sounds like a terrible situation. i am living in italy with my italian boyfriend and as much as his parents wreck my head and suffocate their son the have been nothing but welcoming to me since we first met. i really cant imagine how difficult it is to navigate all that crap. she sounds utterly crazy and a complete control freak i really dont see you changing her although i understand your desire to clear the air and end all the crap. she will never change. closed mindset. control freak. i recognise the traits but thankfully i have not come up against the same kind of resistance. Hope it gets better for you!

  23. I have the answer. Just do what makes you happy, call her on her crap when she does it, and let your husband know you can’t put up with that behavior from her. Tell him, and he knows this but remind him, that you have been trying to be nice but this is unacceptable. If he tolerates it she won’t stop. Period. But if he calls her on it, and/or someone else she respects tells her to back off, it’s a forever battle. So in that case retreat to a palace and eat Gorgonzola gnocchi and giandiuja gelato and anything else multi-g and delicious. And don’t sink to her level- it will exhaust you.

    • “Fake name because privacy” You took the words right out of my mouth, wow! I thought that was one of my own comments.

      I’ve got an insensitive mother-in-law, too. I ignore her. Completely. I refuse to stoop down to her provincial level. The best way to dIfeat your enemy is to not give a fig. She tries to start crap within the family, and I just smile and often say “Signora, tu devi parlare con una professionista, perché la tua rabbia è una brutta cosa.” Then I continue to smile. Don’t let the woman and her brutta figura ruin your relationship with your husband. I know a lot of Italian mother-in-laws who successfully ruined marriages because they wouldn’t accept their sons marrying a non-Italian woman. They’d rather have their sons miserable, than happy it seems. Mother of the Year. It’s called jealousy. Don’t let her ruffle you.

  24. Wow! She sounds exactly how my mother (100% Italian-American) has been to every single one of my boyfriends. I’ve even broken up with a few of them just because I couldn’t take her passive-aggressiveness and grievances that made absolutely no sense. It gives me hope to hear that you and your husband remain strong through the negativity. Forza!

  25. Hi, M.E.! I fell in love with an Italian ‘girl’ (just turned 33) last Marzo. I am almost 49. And before I am accused of robbing the cradle, she asked me to be her boyfriend!😉 And we met on a pen pal site, if that matters.
    So…I am discovering the ‘joys’ of Italian famiglia and I am afraid I do not like what I see. My girlfriend wants to get out of the house and her parents have told her they want her out. Her brother cruelly makes fun of her MS, and the fact that she takes anxiety meds because they stress her out EVERY DAY! >:-( Her mother has said that she wanted another boy and not her >:-(, keeps her money that she earned and doles it out when she feels like it, and to top it all off, when she has found jobs, her brother follows her and the family calls work/ school, etc., saying she is “crazy” and it gets her fired! >:-( AND, her bastardo fratello gave her an iPhone. Nice brother, right? Well, he was spying on her with iCloud! >:-( Is it ok for me to say I want to slap the piss out of ALL of them?!
    As an American man (I live in the States, I am trying to get her because I would choke the shit out of someone that treats my woman like that. Scusa) it is VERY difficult for me to relate to this dynamic. I have tried to tell my ragazza that in America, a woman can be free, independent and an equal in our relationships. She wants me over there because of her medical conditions but I think we would have an easier time here, work, etc.
    Thank you for enlightening me to the Italian family mindset. I really, REALLY do not think I have a p,ace in Italy with her asshole family. I cannot speak for other Americano uomini but THIS one is EXTREMELY protective of his woman, family or not. May I ask, what is the job situation like now? I still think we would have a better time getting her on her feet here than there.
    Thanks, M.E. For a hilarious yet informative blog! Ciao ciao…!

  26. That’s crazy. Sorry for your experience, maybe you’re right when you say that this “xenofobia” is due to the fact that they are still so “rural” maybe because they’ve lived in a small village of the south of italy for their entire life and have this “backward” mindeset. I’m italian and to me this sounds so stereotypical that I can hardly believe this still happens in 2016. I’m from the north, maybe in the south is different but I’ve never heard nothing like that nowadays.

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