Mothers-in-Law Cause of Italy’s Soaring Divorce Rate

Mothers-in-law, children and divorceItaly has been experiencing an unprecedented rise in marriage break-ups. The main cause bearing a high proportion of the blame? Mamma’s boys and interfering mothers-in-law.

A new poll by research institute Eures reveals that divorce happens every four minutes(!) in the country once regarded as a bastion of marriage. In 2002, Italy recorded 50,828 divorces - a 45 percent increase from 2000. While some reasons for divorce seem to be marrying too young, squabbling over money and meeting new partners, a shocking three out of 10 marriages fail because of the unusually close attachment of Italian men to their mothers.

A real life “Everybody Loves Raymond”, mothers-in-law who live in the same house or nearby, are putting strains on couple’s relationship by meddling in their affairs, finding fault with her daughter-in-law and of course, treating her grown-up son as a child.

Psychologist Dr. Annamaria Cassanese says she sees many disillusioned daughters-in-law at her practice in Milan. “In Italy there still exists a sort of mother love that is excessive,” said Cassanes. “It is a very Latin thing, deeply embedded in our social structure. For example, you will see mothers crying at the weddings of their sons, but they are not crying for joy, they are crying because they feel devastated. Their son has chosen another woman and it arouses very complex feelings, including jealousy.”

Mamma's boy and divorceCassanese points out two different types of extreme Italian mothers-in-law. One refuses to give in to ageing and sees her daughter-in-law as a rival; the other has dedicated her life to her family and expects payback, well, for life. The latter type of mother-in-law starts creeping in by offering to do chores such as cooking, ironing and babysitting. “This can often be the beginning of an invasion, in which the mother-in-law slowly takes over and undermines the woman in her own home,” she says. “What starts out being portrayed as something that is helpful degenerates into outright intrusion such as going into drawers and pulling out shirts that are not ironed ‘her way’ or monopolizing the kitchen. Wives feel like strangers in their own homes because the mother-in-law is always there.”

The fact that many Italian parents help out their children financially by buying them apartments or cars doesn’t help either, adds Dr. Cassanese. The so-called generosity causes the mother-in-law to expect something in return. Cassanese claims that many couples still obey invitations to eat with their parents three or four times a week.

According to Dr. Cassanese, the concept of mammoni - sons who cling to apron strings - is well known in Italy and it is not uncommon for men in their 30’s and 40’s to live with their parents. The reasons are partly economic but also come about because boys are indulged well into adulthood causing Italian men who remain close to their mothers to become emotionally immature. “The husband is used to being adored and when he doesn’t get that unconditional love from his wife, he goes running back to his mother.”

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Wow, my mother in law is looking better and better by the minute…

This is a very good article, right on the money and I can totally relate!Wow, my husband and I are actually getting divorced because of his evil monster of a mother. She has him completely brainwashed, and he is basically picking his “dear mother” over me. She is so selfish, that she does not even care if her son ever gets married, as long as he takes care of her. She also spends all of his money, and takes complete advantage of my husband. I tried to open his eyes, but he is very immature, and does not get it, so I`m moving on with my life.

Hello, I am a master’s student in Communication at Illinois State University. My research line focuses on the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. Specifically, I am focusing on the emotional experience and expression of mothers-in-law. I am in need of participants to my study (mothers-in-law). If you know anyone that would be interested in contributing to social scientific research, please have them visit my website, thank you so much!


well sylvia youre in luck! you can ask me anything about mother-in-law im married but im verytraumatic because of too much meddling of my mother in law and my husband is a mama’s boy, she invents stories about me telling everything in exaggerated for and broadcasted to her sisters like cnn, i think she needs a psychologist she talks alone, she keeps on telling my husband anything about me that isnt and will never be true. im sooo helpless here, and when she commits mistakes againts me she never ever say an arrogant mule.

My mother in law has never supported my husband and I as a married couple. I am a second wife and gave her two beautiful grandchildren, which she treats like they are not hers. She bends over backwards for the ex- wife who is a handful and grown grandchildren. It has made things rough on us. Meddling started years ago with then my husbands kids being younger and her not respecting my husbands visitation after the divorce. Picking them up on our weekends and thus my husband not seeing them on a regular basis. She has cost us a fortune in attorney fees because of her meddling and staying in touch with the ex-wife. Now, his older children have very little to do with us and treat us bad. Maybe if dear old mother had let her son be involved with the kids and kept him in the loop things would be different. A little advice when your kid remarries close the door on the ex- spouse a bit….or you will end up loosing your own kid and maybe future grandchildren. It amazes me how hurtful this lady really is……… She picks the other grandchildren up weekly and has not asked once to see her youngest grandchild in months! My husband is not a Mama’s Boy, so it helps he shares in my despair. It’s best to shut the Mother in law out a bit if you don’t want to be hurt.

I empathize with your misfortune. No one really knows how hard it is to step parent kids that do not live with you or even be a biological parent to those who have their heads filled with junk from the custodial parent! To have a mother in-law that does not respect you or support you and your family is the worst! Your right. Step back a bit. Wonder why the divorce rate is so high all over not just Italy.

now where do i start…? my mother in law is evil, wicked, nasty, sick, twisted, lying, controlling little hobbit sized bitch. she is making my life hell, i’m losing the will to live because of one nasty twisted lying controlling little hobbit, she might be small but she’s a f**king bitch.
unfortunatly i have to live with this monster. she is messing with my head, she’s making me mental, i cannot live with her, i’ve only been married 7 month, and feel like commiting suicide already. My husband is a brickwall who doesn’t wana understand me. i am trapped get me out of here. she’s driving me crazy. could someone tell me how do i deal with this monster?


You should leave. There is no point in living in a mentally abusive situation, with no support from you own husband (shame on him!). It might feel scary, but call up a friend or family member and just leave for a while. If nothing changes, or no one is willing to change (i.e. live away from the MIL) then you are just setting yourself up for failure and pain. Good luck and be strong!

Hi Naz!
I totally agree with Shandy.Move out before it´s too late….I mean before kids arrive on the scene.Once there are kids involved,it gets far more difficult….it´s not fair to kids either.So get out while the going is good….I know….you love your husband….but now it´s his turn to show you how much he loves you……alternatively….how about getting YOUR mom to move in with you also??Just let the two moms-in-law battle it out instead!!!Your husband will be glad to move out with you!!!If he´s allowed tohave his mom all the time,then you´re entitled to have your mom around all the time too!!!See how much your husband like that!!!I´m keeping my fingers crossed for you.

I can totally relate. I just recently moved to Italy with my husband, and we are staying with his parents until we can find a place. His parents treat him like he is a child, but his mother acts crazy. She is sneaky, evil, and so jealous. I have tried and tried to be nice to this lady and I’m not sure what to do. She plays off sympathy, and tries to make my husband feel sorry for her. I’m not sure if the situation will improve once we move out, because when he is not home she has to call him constantly. It’s driving me crazy. He has tried to say things to her, but when he does it starts a fight. So most of the time he would just rather let it go and ignore it. Meanwhile my head feels like it’s going to explode… Any suggestions???

It’s an epidemic. I think even more than divorce, which I am presently going through, is the unhealthy mama boy in the role of father. My soon to be ex “needs a female around” when he has our son, so who does he have but, his back stabbing nice to your face, dagger in your back mommy - who basically has set up house with him in some strange wife-like way. He basically chose a divorce because she was putting so much pressure on him - calling him complaining about me, saying nice things to me, but inciting him behind my back. I’ve learned in this process of having him take our son for visistation to make it my commitment to raise a healthy man capable of an adult relationship that isn’t some perverse sexual/non-sexual love/hate little boy addiction that he has for his mother. On that note I highly recommend the book “Real Boys.” It discusses the damage that society and mother’s do to their sons. And seeing how that damage plays itself out as an adult, is disturbing at best. I don’t want my son to be a slave to my apron. I want him to be a self-actualized adult man.

My italian mother in law is so sweet, until that is, when her son decides to take a stand and stand by me his wife and not her, his mama. After 3 years i have had enough of being forced to sit at a table and listen to a language they refuse to teach me. I have taken a stand and invited her to my table for a meal. Last week, just my luck, the chicken was a bit dry for her to swallow so this week it’s been all fixed. My husband and her have decided that tonight she will cook the meal in my kitchen. I just need to look on.

I hate my mother in law…I hope she goes to HELLLLLLLLLLLLLL

It’s so sad that there are so many of us dealing with this. Despite months and months of counseling, my husband would still rather deny that there’s a problem and resent me than take a birds-eye view at what is ruining our marriage. I agree, though, that it is not so much a MIL problem but a husband-problem. It is up to him to establish an appropriate relationship. Unfortunately, in my case, our marriage is not worth it to him to rock the boat with mom. I can’t quite understand how giving up your marriage is an easier and more attractive solution rather than being an adult and doing the right thing! It’s also sad to see someone manipulate her son, whom she claims to love and be “so close to”…all in the name of great parenting…what kind of mother doesn’t encourage her son to be happy by being a loyal husband?

My mother in law is one manipulative, wicked, and a straight out LIAR!
My mother in law is a lawyer. My husband is an only child. My MIL makes up stories to my husband; she told him that I don’t let her see the baby, and that i make sure I check the dipper bag before i leave her house; she made it sound as if i am accusing her of stealing the baby’s things. My husband believes her and he ends up fighting with me without hearing my side. My MIL treats me nice when my husband is around, when he’s not! She treats me like a criminal in her court room. She has a way of manipulating the truth to the point of NO return. My MIL is a wicked human. When i try to express how i feel to my husbands, he ends up denying that it’s his mother and blames it all on me!

my mother in law is so evil. since my daughter has been 3 months old she will not ease up. she travels on vacation constantly- and has a very busy social schedule with bridge, etc. so when she wants my daughter, she calls my husband and informs him she wants to come get nicole. she never gives hardly any notice, and used to insist and come and get her on weekends. (we both work full time) i finally put my foot down after many tears and arguments and said no more. we talked to both of our in laws and they could not understand our point. this has made it so hard with my husband as he cannot ever say no to his mother. and then there was last christmas and they called us rude for leaving their house early. we left early because we had to also go to my mother’s house- we didn’t even leave until 4pm and were late to my mothers! with my MIL, it’s all about her and her needs. i had a son a few months ago (her first grandson god help me!) and I insisted before having a second child we have several things agreed upon (no overnights until the baby is at least 12 months old, etc) she is in our business constantly, and told my husband I was selfish for wanting to go back to work after the second child. WE hired a nanny to come four days a week WTF? She is such a controlling bitch- I could go on and on.

..I am 38 and had a very colorful life. I have never met anyone as disturbing as my M-I-L. They all tried to beat me down into becoming her door mat and when I resisted she turned things around and everyone here in Italy thinks I am very crazy…. She is breaking up our family and my husband now wants a divorce. I asked the in-laws for help getting their son to come back home and they are pissed at me!!!!!!
We ahve 2 beautiful children (she is obsessed with them)in all this and now theyy are trying to force me to stay here. She finally got rid of the “third wheel” and will finally have my kids to herself(on visits from son…)….over my dead body!!!! America here I come and FUCK YOU VALENTINA!!!!!!

i am not married to my partner of 7 years but we have children, and i believe he mother is the worst of the worst, i hate i her, i feel about hating someone but she is the devil she is so slight small petite but very dangerous she has made my life hell but i taking back life she is just poision i dont know where to start from, alarm bells should have been ring when i remeber a time when me and him fell alseep in his room wake up and she was laying in bed with us, and similar events, i should ran like fire, cause she like acts like his wife and i’m just his accident who bothers him, we have broken up now i feel great to get out of the mess but i feel bad for my children because they are part of those freaks, i wish i never set eyes on the barsad and his bitch mom.

Ah, yes. These posts are all too familar. My situation is a bit different in that I’m not married to Mama’s”boy’, but we have been living together for the past 17 years. I am astounded by my psuedo-MIL’s behavior. Yes, she’s
Scilcilan and she owns her two boys. Unfortunately for her, her eldest son,my SO, respects my intellect and he has so tired of his mother’s constant nagging that he actually supports me now when she is on the attack.
A few priceless examples of her graciousness;
She owns the house we live in or I should say she holds the mortagage. We make the house payments, pay the taxes, pay for all repairs,improvements. She takes the tax break. well,at one point, when My SO was trying to qualify to take over the loan, they got in a big fight. When she appealed to me for sympathy and help, I told her that I wasn’t going to get involved. I then referred to the house as ” our home.” She went throught the roof and informed me I had no right to the the house, that I was only a RENTER! She told my SO that even if the deal went through, he was to leave the house to his brother, not to me. We never did get the house. My So was so disgusted he dropped the whole thing. The funny thingis, this renter turns into her wonderful daughter in law when introduced to doctors, nurses,etc.
Her sons have a very conflicted reltionship with her. They care for,mostly out of guilt but both expressed the thought that they will be relieved when she’s dead.Not exactly the warm fuzzy family she thinks she has.

My second husband’s mother was a 4′10″ dragon who looked down on everyone and poisoned her son for years that I did nothing for him. We’re divorced now; it was easier to get rid of me than to upset her and one of her ignorant loud-mouthed daughters. But, guess who still calls me though when he can get away for a minute…yep.

off subject a little bit but sort of the same thing. Any advice for Italians who live in America that are so used to there culture that the Americans don’t understand them and the Italians don’t understand the Americans. Now I know why cultures stick with there own.

An added comment to my previous post. This just happened a week ago. The phone rings and it’s “Mama”, third call that day. She asks to speak to her husband. I’m confused because he’s been dead 29 years. I stumble over myself thinking she’s having some kind of weird senior moment. She then chuckles and says she wants to talk to my SO,(he’s named after his father). When I told my SO about the incident, he was rather disturbed. Actually, it’s not surprising to me. A friend of mine once described my SO as his mother’s surrogate husband. Creepy,huh?

These post are all the truth. To Start of I have been married for 5 years now. Well, my husband is a ‘mama’s boy’. My MIL stays with my husband and I. My husband will always choose my MIL over me. To make things worst my husband and I are from a different ethnicity. MIL expects me to be like her. She is a boastful evil in a human being’s body. She try to control my lifestyle. The thing is if there is an attack her whole family is going to back her up. I love my husband and try to persuade him to move out. He refused and end up blaming me for being evil. As now my hubband and I are planning for a baby..i dont want her to be around when the baby aaarrive. I have no one to turn to…I marry my husband out of love, my family didnt agree and now I have bad relationship with my family. My husband also has a brother who like to twist and turn things which is not true. Whatever it is MIL is a jealous person and always want to be the best in her sons eyes. I am thinking to file a divorce, but I love my husband so much. My husband dont want to understand my feelings. Luckily I am working at least I can run away for few hours at work. Can anyone tell me what to do? I am desperate and stress out. It affect my life my work and my study.

I am an American with an American-Italian boyfriend his mother is Italian American. She refers to me as his evil girlfriend behind my back, she is constantly whining about how miserable her life is, how miserable she is and how cruel and abusive he is to her!! When in actuality he is the kindest,most caring, unselfish, generous Son I have ever seen! He spends every spare moment with her, taking her to doctor appointments, picking up 10 boxes of cat litter for her 30 cats, yes 30 cats, all the while she is telling him how he isn’t there for her, does nothing for her, is nothing but neglectful and cruel to her! She loves complaining and whining about everything under the sun, and her favorite topic is how wicked or evil everyone in this world is. Well, frankly my dear, if you perceive everyone as evil, and everything as horrible, maybe it’s you that’s the problem! He is constantly over at her home, fixing every little maintenance issue, for free. Not to mention 2-3 nights a week he spends the night at her home, as well as daily visits to bring her groceries, endless quantities of cat and dog supplies. I didn’t quite realise it in the beginning, but I see it very clearly now, she sees him as a husband figure. She treats me like I am a mistress and like I am encroaching on her turf! I knew the Italian culture had a weird thing with Mothers and Sons, but this is truly SICK! The only solution that I can offer to anyone else is to just decide to stay away from her and her home, and minimize the time spent, as well as not complain to him about her. I have been nothing but kind, caring, supportive and compassionate, so there’s nothing else I can do if my kindness is so poisonous to her, but stay away. Good luck ladies!

My MIL is the devil. I swear. we got along the first three years and then all of a sudden, she came for a visit and everything changed. she started being rude, and saying mean things to me. my husband adores the devil and thinks she can do no wrong. On the next visit i called her out on her shit and she ran to my husband crying and lying and caused me and him to almost get divorced. once she left we were great again. then the next visit a month later, i apologized for my damn husband’s sake and that did no good. hes a horrible person. my husband and i get along great until she comes around. then we’re always on the verge of divorce by the time she leaves. i wish she back off and i really wish my husband saw her as the devil she is. damn mamma’s boy. he wasnt like this before we got married, i dont know what the hell happened!

Whoa it’s creepy how much Italian mother-in-laws are like Pakistani/Indian ones!! My mom is an awesome mom, very caring and loving, but i know she will be a horrible MIL because she is soooo emotionally dependent on my brothers! She refuses to let them do any chores, and when i tell her that they are going to be bad husbands, she says she doesn’t care because they are good sons!! UGH!! i feel sorry for my future sister-in-laws…the sad thing is girls love family boys like my brothers..even if they’re total brats inside

I m Laila, from Bangladesh. so far i have just heard of the dreadful stories of evil mother-in-laws. Now i have actually seen one. My life has become miserable because of my monster-in-law and ofcourse bcoz of that mama’s boy. I love my husband very much and so far i thought he did too. its been only 1.5 years of my marriage. immediately after my marriage, she started showing her true color. She makes up bad stuffs about me, tells those to my husband and the sad part is he believes her. I m a working woman and I earn more than my hubby. Even though my husband and I dont have any problem abt that, my mother-in-law has been subtly playing with my hubby’s ego for a long time. Even time any disagreement arises between my hubby & I, she interferes and draws a conclusion that he shouldnt have gotten married to a gal more qualified than him. Now the situation is so worse that we are almost on our way to divorce. And i don want that. How do i deal with that evil bitch and how do i make my husband the evil side of his mother?

i’m an American man living in Italy, and have a number of expat female-friends that can trade Italian MIL stories literally for hours. i had an Italian roommate- the little parcels of pre-prepared food was one thing, but i was kind-of creeped-out when his mother came over, made his bed, and put away the clothes he had thrown all over his room.

but there’s another aspect to the “Mama’s Boy” syndrome that affects more than just their relationship to wifes & girlfriends. i think it creates a kind-of perverse narcissism that affects the whole culture and society. too often, i find Italian men to be self-centered, unable to take criticism, and often uninterested in the opinions or concerns of others. they can literally be roused to anger because someone is disagreeing with them, making a healthy exchange of ideas difficult. a lifetime of being adored probably makes it hard for them to value anyone but themselves.

as a result, they are often manipulative & stubborn, with an excessive need to be the center of attention. because they’ve used to having their mothers organize their lives for them, they frequently start business ventures or projects literally refusing to make coherent plans, causing the business to run diasterously or not at all.

my observations of this phenomenon are supported by actual scientific research:

the only Italian men i’ve met personally that are able to cut the apron strings (and thus develop a rational, level-headed character) are the ones living in a different city than their mothers. these men also seem to have spouses that are much happier.

I need advise and help. I am an african married to an Italian. Before he married me a year ao, he promised me a life i wanted to have and i did not know he was from a wealthy family. He promised he woud look after me and so did his parents. On arrival to Italy, all my mother in law did was cry, my husband turned into a completely different person. He complained about every thing, locked me in the house, denied me the use of a phone, wasnt allowed to work as his wife neednt work but only do charity work. i woudnt have minded much if i did not have to offer every receipt even for a sweet. I wasnt suppossed to speak to my family, this completely put me off. 3 months later i discoverd i was pregnant again ( had gotten pregnant before marriage and he forced me to abort that it was against his religion (catholic) to have children before marriage. 3 moths down the line am pregnant again, he stops talking to me, his mother tells me to abort the baby, his father follows, my husband asks me to leave if i refuse to abort. God help me.. for once i stood my ground and said i was having my baby. i had done all my husband asked other than that. to me, i couldnt abort yet i was married. The arguments became too much as we spent weeks without talking yet were in the same house, one day he bought me a ticket to go to africa, untill he can call he back. I went as was tired to arguments. The support he promised came seldomely yet i couldnt stay with my parents and was ashamed. While away he wrote to my lawyer claiming that he will only support me till the day i give birth. Can any woman out there understand this? Push in the morning and be working that night is what my lovely husband expected of me. I came back to italy to give birth and proceed with a divorce though my husband has now asked for a DNA test which i await results. I am tired of his wierd behaviour and wouldnt wish my child to grow up with biggots for grand parents who will treat her like they treat me. He says i should find work (baby is 1 week old) will only support the child with 400euro (he earns 15,000 a month , he doesnt provide accommodation. He says he can provide accomodation for the child but not for me.He owns property that he rents out. What right does this man have to take away my child. He claims that the grand parents who asked me to abort will look after her. he refuses me to leave to country as he wants his child to grow up in italy. what can i do? I would like my child to know the father but not the grandmother, am scared of leaving my child with my mother in law as all i have had from her is grief. She is capable of anything, believe me. yet my husband refuses to offer child care costs when i go to work later claiming his mother is offering. Am losing it!!!!! I am now left homeless with a baby and only 400 euro a month. Does Itay have laws that prevent such attrocities and how do i go about it.? Even maternity leave is offered when one works but my husband cant even support me for three months only as i look after our baby and look for work.HEllp alll advice is appreciated.

My God Susanne, this is awful! I am so sorry you are going through such a bad experience. Please e-mail me at and I’d see what I can do to help you. This is really awful!

Take care until I hear from you.

Kind Regards,

secretly somehow work ,use daycare for the infant and secretly apply to migrate to australia.dont tell this italian screwball family any plans but you need to get away as soon as the child is 6 mths old .

you need to get to an english origin country and australia can help you the most

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