Caring Mother or Manipulator?

"My mom wants to drive a wedge between my husband and me," says Anneka, who has been married to Michael for three years. "If looks could

kill, my husband would have been dead a long time ago."


"My mother-in-law would do anything to get me out of the picture," Michael says.


The conflict started when Anneka was giving birth to their daughter. "I waited 30 years to have a grandchild, and then Michael kicked me out of the labor room just before she was born," Marcia explains. 


Anneka and Michael continue to fight with Marcia over the rearing of their 15-month-old daughter, Miah. "My mother blatantly disregards any wishes that we have for our daughter," Anneka says. "My mom says, 'Miah can play with whatever she wants to play with; she's in my house.'"


Michael recounts, "They have a porch with, like, a meter drop, and my daughter could just drop right off of that. I said, 'Mom, if Miah is going to be on the back porch, she needs to be

supervised.' Marcia goes, 'Miah will be fine on the back porch.'"


Marcia defends herself. "I'm not going to let my granddaughter fall off the deck and let her hurt herself. It's stupid. I would never let her do that," she says. "Michael talks to me like I'm stupid."


Another incident involved feeding Miah peanut butter. "Doctors tell you if you are under the age of 2, just don't give them peanut butter," Michael explains. "Anneka was right there when I told [Marcia], and within hours she fed her peanut butter ... She defies me."


"I did not know that I couldn't give Miah peanut butter," Marcia says, tearing up. "If I knew, I'd never have told them when they came in."


"How do I trust her again?" Anneka asks.

Marcia doesn't like the way Michael acts toward Anneka. "Michael brainwashes my daughter. He's very controlling," she reveals. "Anneka never gets to go anywhere by herself. She was going to go back to college, and he was going to go to school with her and sit out

in the hallway or out in the car. He's going to make sure that none of those college kids hit on her ... He's jealous. He wants to be the center of her life right now."


Anneka and Marcia's strong emotions are causing a rift in their relationship. "It's been about two months since I've spoken to my mother. We've only been corresponding via e-mail. Her e-mails have just gotten nastier and more vengeful," Anneka shares.


Marcia says she will continue the fight until she can have a relationship with her granddaughter. "I hate Michael for not letting me

see my granddaughter. Michael is trying to make me afraid, but he ain't running me out," she says. "It might take me 30 years to win this battle, but I'll win it."


"As big as I am, I'm still scared of this lady. She manipulates things," Michael says. "I wouldn't put anything past my mother-in-law to try and separate me and my wife so she can have Anneka back."


Anneka turns to Dr. Phil for help. "If it's not her way, it's the highway, and it's sick. I feel my mom wants to destroy my relationship so she can have me to herself again," she says.

"Is this true?" Dr. Phil asks Marcia. "She's saying that you just can't

turn loose."


Marcia says it's not true, explaining that when Anneka was in eleventh grade she put her on a plane and sent her to live with her father. "I lost control of her at that point," she says. "I haven't had control of her since then, so no, controlling is not part of my life with her. I want her happy. That's all I want. If that's with Michael, so be it."


"But you don't think much of him?" Dr. Phil probes.


"I love Michael. I don't know what happened to us," Marcia says. "They got in a fight one time I know, and she threatened to leave and come to my house. Now, I don't know if that's what happened, that he just wants that path cut off."


"I completely disagree with her," Anneka says. "I feel she pretended to love Michael until my daughter was born." She explains that while she was in the delivery room, Michael left briefly so she could sleep. She was supposed to call him when she woke up, but she called her friend first. While she was on the phone, Michael walked in and was upset. "I, being emotional, started crying, and my mom took that as an offense toward me, instead of allowing him to have feelings," Anneka explains. "My husband, at that point, told her to leave the room so we could discuss it ourselves. She stood and looked at him and said no. And then that's when I turned and said, 'Mom, leave,' and she left."


"Michael asked you to leave, you said no. [Anneka] said, 'No, Mom, I want you to leave,' and you left," Dr. Phil clarifies.


"Absolutely," Marcia agrees.

"What is your ownership in this situation?" Dr. Phil asks Marcia. "What have you done that, in retrospect, was just not right, appropriate or fair in dealing with this couple?"


"I guess I spoke out of turn," Marcia admits. Referring to the peanut butter incident, she tears up and says, "I did not know that my granddaughter couldn't have peanut butter. It could have killed her."


Dr. Phil interrupts her, "You're defending again."


"I gave my granddaughter peanut butter, and I didn't know she couldn't have it," Marcia repeats.


"We told her she couldn't have it," Anneka interjects.


"You had just been told an hour earlier," Dr. Phil points out.


"Not about Miah," Marcia retorts.


"Do you think you've been disrespectful to Michael?" Dr. Phil asks Marcia.


"Yeah, sometimes," she replies. "I look at him kind of stupid, because he looks at me, like, 'My daughter can't be out on your deck.'"


"See, we're talking about someone else again, I keep trying to talk to you about you, because you can't change what you don't acknowledge," Dr. Phil tells Marcia. "I'm trying to find out if there's any way that you can say, 'You know what? I can change my position. I can redefine my position. I can step back some.'"


"I stepped back. She called me and I said, 'I can't take this. I'm out of your life. I'm gone,'" Marcia explains.

Dr. Phil asks Anneka what she has done to contribute to the decline in her relationship with her mother.


"What I have done is not stand up for my marriage, to stand up against when my

mom talks down to my husband," Anneka says. "My ownership in that is that I have not been strong enough against my mother to take care of that."


Dr. Phil asks Michael the same question.


"I thought everything was just hunky-dory. Then I saw all the e-mail trails of just pure hatred toward me, and then that's when it all came out how much Marcia hates me. I had no idea. I have no idea what I did," Michael says. "Every time I'd say, 'I don't want Miah playing with such and such,' she would say, 'She can play with it if she wants.' I'm like, 'Well, it's my daughter.'" He notes that he often backs down when he and Marcia disagree. "She thinks I have no right to say how my child is going to be raised."


Dr. Phil asks Marcia if she and Michael butt heads.


"Yeah, because he makes me feel stupid, and I'm not stupid," she says. "I don't have a master's degree, but I think

he makes me feel stupid."


"You feel condescended by him?" Dr. Phil asks.


"Absolutely," Marcia says.


"I've never talked down to anybody," Michael interjects. Pointing to Anneka he says, "She doesn't have an education. Do I talk down to you?"


"Absolutely not," Anneka says.


Marcia and Anneka argue about whether or not Michael supports Anneka going back to college.


"It doesn't have to be an all or nothing. It doesn't have to be, 'I'm leaving angrily,'" Dr. Phil reiterates to Marcia. "You have interest but no rights."

"At the break, you just looked at your mother and said, 'You are lying,'" Dr. Phil says to Anneka. "What is she lying about?"


"She's lying about everything," Anneka says. "Michael talks down to her, that he makes her feel stupid. You know, I don't know if he makes you feel stupid, because a lot of people make you feel stupid. It's not their fault, it's your fault. That's something that you need to deal with



"Probably," Marcia admits.


"And you blame it on everyone else. That is your way of dealing with everything, to blame it on someone else," Anneka says to her mother. "This whole situation, the e-mails, every time we try to confront you about this whole situation, you blame someone else. You blame Dan (Marcia's husband) for feeding her the peanut butter, when it was your fault for watching."


"Dan blamed himself," Marcia says.


"You watched him feed her," Michael adds.


"I wasn't talking to you. I was talking to your wife," Marcia snaps.


"That's how she talks to him," Anneka points out.


"We are a team. We are partners. I love this lady. She loves me. We are a unit. You talk to her, you talk to me," Michael says.


"This is the problem: she is an all or nothing person," Anneka says. "She gives ultimatums to my stepfather that, 'If you don't like my attitude, leave.'"


"And that's none of your business," Dr. Phil tells Anneka. "It's an example, but it's none of your business what she does with her husband."

Dr. Phil points out that Marcia and Anneka have a long history together. "It's easy to forget what an interest you would have in how her life is going, because you're her mother, and you have that history with her," he says, noting that Marcia took care of Anneka through good times and bad while she was growing up. "You were there for her in all of that time, and now it's come full circle. Everybody forgets

about that, and all of a sudden, we don't matter anymore."


"That's right," Marcia agrees.


"And that hurts, doesn't it?"


"Absolutely," Marcia says, crying.


"Can you appreciate you may be having trouble letting go of some of the protectiveness that you feel?" Dr. Phil probes.


"Probably," she agrees. "She's gone through a lot in life, not just me, lots of things in her adult life that I haven't agreed with that she's gone through, but I've been there. I've stood by her 100 percent, but now I'm not. I don't understand any of this."


"It seems so unfair, doesn't it? Because all you've ever done is try to love her, and now you think that she has married somebody who is very controlling," Dr. Phil says.

"Oh, absolutely," Marcia agrees. 


"You do not like the way that he seems to be dominating her and brainwashing her and taking her away from you, and that causes you tremendous pain and angst," Dr. Phil spells out.


"Absolutely," Marcia says. 


To Anneka, Dr. Phil says, "I'm not saying it's right or wrong. I'm just trying to give you some empathy, some understanding to see things through her eyes."

"Michael, this is hurtful to you?" Dr. Phil says.


"Absolutely," he says.


"Do you hate your mother-in-law?"


"Absolutely not," he says.


"Do you wish her pain?"


"No, sir."


"Do you have any understanding of how painful it is for a grandmother to see their daughter have a precious child and be told 'No, you can't " '?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I didn't make this decision," Michael says.

"Whoa, whoa. I'm not saying that it's your decision or even [Anneka's]. I'm just saying that the circumstances of estrangement are that she doesn't get to hold that baby, that she doesn't get to talk to and spoil that baby," Dr. Phil clarifies. 

"I feel for her," Michael says.


"I'm not saying that it's your fault, or your fault or your fault, but the circumstances are such that she has been walled off from that child," Dr. Phil says. "Do you have any understanding how painful that is to a grandparent?"

"No, no I don't," Michael admits.

"Guys don't have that maternal instinct as strong as women do," Dr. Phil says. He asks Anneka, "You get that, don't you?"

"Absolutely," Anneka replies.