Dear Prudence

Help! My Mother-in-Law Has Taken a Disturbing Turn.

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

A doormat that says "go away!" lies before an entryway.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by zentilia/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Q. My racist MIL insists on visiting: I’ve been married for 25 years and have one grown child. I identify as BIPOC, and my husband is biracial and identifies as a person of color. My relationship with my husband’s mother has been cordial but not warm. She’s possessive of my husband, plus we have very different personalities. She is white, and when he was a kid they lived in a primarily Black neighborhood. She worked in that community, and he felt a part of the community. Flash forward 40 years, and my mother-in-law has moved with her other son to another state that is known for its active white supremacist movements. We haven’t seen her during the pandemic, but conversations have made it clear that she is a Trump supporter and Fox News fan. My husband ended up having a heated conversation with her a month ago and asked her about the change in her views. She called him a communist, and the conversation ended abruptly. We then received a thinly veiled threat through another family member from the other son who lives with her. A week later, my mother-in-law called my husband and acted like nothing had happened. Now she wants to come visit because we are all vaccinated. I know it will be super uncomfortable at best. I’m worried that if there’s conflict my MIL’s other son will make good on his threat. My husband is a good man and listens to my concerns, but I don’t know if I should put my foot down about her visiting us. Help!

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Certainly if your mother-in-law’s other son attempted to pass along a threat of violence, you should not allow her to visit you. If it was the more common kind of interfamilial threat, something more along the lines of “if you don’t let this go, I’ll stop talking to you/withhold an inheritance/ignore your birthday/escalate emotionally,” you may still decide to decline her suggestion to visit, but you’ll have a bit more flexibility to discuss your options with your husband first. Does he want her to visit? Was that heated conversation last month the first time he’s ever challenged her on her views, and if so, does he have any plans to revisit the conversation with her in the future? What lines could she potentially cross that might lead you to cut the visit short early, and can the two of you agree on them beforehand? You don’t have to simply go along with whatever your husband wants to do just because she’s his mother, especially if she’s suggested staying in your home for her next visit.

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