The Buttinskys: Tammy and Joyce

The Buttinskys: Tammy and Joyce
Dr. Phil speaks with guests who are fed up with an interfering family member.
"I knew the day after I got married that my relationship with my husband was going to be in major jeopardy due to my mother-in-law," says Tammy, who's been at war with her mother-in-law, Joyce, since the day they met. "She sticks her nose into pretty much everything in our life," she says, including their finances and their sex life. Tammy says she wants to get along with Joyce, but her constant butting in is ruining her marriage. "Troy has left me four times, and I always feel that it's been with the guidance and coaching of his mom," she says.

Tammy says Joyce has called her a bitch, a redneck, and trailer park trash. "She told me I was a piss-poor mother that didn't deserve to have children," says Tammy, because Joyce doesn't agree with how Tammy runs her household. "I do have house rules and they're pretty simple," says Tammy, who describes them as, "Take your shoes off, make your bed, clean your room, eat your dinner."

"She bosses those kids like they're military," says Joyce. "She raises them with so much authority. She's trying to show that she's the strong, take-charge, great mom, but it comes off as being a bully." Joyce admits that Tammy probably would not have been somebody she would have chosen for her son Troy, whom she has a very close relationship with. "They have a great sexual relationship, but sex is not going to keep your marriage together."

Troy speaks to his mother on the phone nearly every day, and admits to taking his mother's side. "I think that there have been times where my mom is absolutely justified for butting in," says Troy. "My mother is a very important part of my life. And if Tammy doesn't realize that, I don't see much of a future."Dr. Phil goes over some of the names that Tammy says Joyce has called her, and Joyce disagrees. "I did not call her trailer park trash. I did not call her a redneck. What was the other one?" asks Joyce.

"An F-ing bitch," clarifies Dr. Phil.

"No, my husband said that," says Joyce.

Dr. Phil turns to Joyce's husband, Terry, who is sitting in the audience: "To me, that sounds just absolutely unreasonable to be saying to your son's wife."

Dr. Phil turns to Troy: "I'm curious where you are and what you're saying and doing when anybody in this world, your father, a stranger, your mother, a friend, is calling your wife an 'F-ing crazy bitch.' Now I've just got to tell you, I'm just an old Texas boy, but if somebody jumps on my wife calling her those kind of names, there's gonna be a serious problem right there, right then."

Dr. Phil summarizes Terry's justification of his word choice: "'I used the F-word because it's in her vocabulary, but calling her a crazy bitch is because she is.'" Terry stands by his comment.

Dr. Phil asks Troy, "How and why is that OK with you? Because I'm a strong believer that when you get married, you have undivided loyalty and it begins with your partner."

"And it did and it does and it still is today," says Troy, while Tammy shakes her head. He explains that Tammy always has to feel like she comes first. "Why do I have to choose? Can't I just love my wife and love my parents? I have never had this issue my entire life, except when I met her and I married her."

"Have you left her five times?" asks Dr. Phil.

"Four," corrects Troy.

Dr. Phil asks Troy if he uses leaving as a weapon to threaten Tammy and to get her to change her behavior. He agrees. Dr. Phil also points out that he turns to his mother each time for support, which Troy agrees with. "You think that sends a good message?" Dr. Phil asks.

"No, it doesn't send a good message," says Troy, "but that's why I'm here."

Dr. Phil asks Joyce if she's butting into their marriage. "I don't think I'm butting into their marriage," says Joyce. "When I go there to visit, I don't want to watch Tammy bully the kids. That's all."

"OK, now if that's true ... I don't understand what business this is of yours," Dr. Phil tells Joyce. The audience applauds. "I understand that you love the children and you want the best for them, but I think what we're talking about is child rearing values, and you're complaining about cleaning the plate, taking off their shoes, having rules in the home, and just frankly, I don't think that's your business."

Tammy admits that she's made mistakes in the past, and has something to say to Joyce: "I have said to you a million times that I am sorry, and you have never once told me that you're sorry, and you have not tried to have a relationship with me and you have not tried to make this better."

"I cannot live up to your expectations, Tammy," replies Joyce.

The two get into a heated argument, but Dr. Phil gets back to the issue at hand.

Dr. Phil tells Troy that he has some unique challenges with his blended family, and if he doesn't start making adjustments, he won't be married for long. "You need to love your parents, have a rich and active relationship with them forever. But I believe any time you turn away from your partner to resolve a relationship issue, that's a bad thing. And I think if you have a problem in the marriage, you need to resolve it in the marriage."

Dr. Phil tells Joyce that she needs to trust that her son has the vision and courage to resolve his marriage problems. Joyce argues that she disagrees with how Tammy enforces her rules in her house, such as making the kids eat everything on their plate.

"Well, who died and left you in charge?" asks Dr. Phil. "The fact that you think your values should be adopted just because you are inside the building, I just think that's a sense of entitlement and expectancy that is inappropriate. You are a guest in her home, you should support her while you're there."

"Not going to happen," says Joyce.

Dr. Phil tells Joyce if that's the case, then she shouldn't go over to their house. Joyce agrees.