I'm happily married, but the relationship between my wife and mother has been a huge stressor on our marriage for years. My wife feels that from Day One, my mother didn't show an interest in getting to know her as a person, hasn't been welcoming, and has been downright rude. My mom feels my wife has blown some things out of proportion and perceived insults where there weren't meant to be any.
There is some truth to both sides. It doesn't help that other family members haven't always been kind to my wife, either.
My wife has asked me to stick up for her and has asked for an apology. I have stood up for her, and communicated her position to my mom several times. My mom is willing to apologize. Now my wife says she has no interest in talking to my mom. I sense this is more than just frustration talking.
I feel stuck in the middle and have told both women that my wife comes first, but I don't want to shut my mom out, either. My wife believes any show of kindness from my mom comes from wanting to see our children. She has said I can go see my family during the holidays, but they will not get to see her or our kids.
I think the adult thing would be for both women to sit down and talk, but when I've suggested this, my wife has gotten very upset and accused me of taking my mom's side.
Answer: I would hope that, if your mother has been abusive to your wife, you'd have said so explicitly. Since you don't say either way, I leave open the possibility. While it's good for children to witness - and thereby, ideally, learn to handle - a wide range of behavior from others, it's hard to argue for any educational value in letting them witness their grandmother abuse their mother.
That said, it seems more likely that your mom and wife just clash. In that case - and if your mom's overtures are genuine - your wife lands solidly on the childish side of this divide.
I don't doubt your wife was coolly received, and of course your mom is focused on the grandkids. However, given your wife's escalation, it's credible that her personality did rub your folks the wrong way. She thinks it's OK to banish the woman who raised you? And deny her kids a grandma? Without your support for either? Just because she feels wounded?
Picture your wife someday being kept from her grandchildren by a child-in-law. Do you see her backing down, as your mom is?
Your wife rightly comes before your mom, but that doesn't mean she's always right. You backed her up. Now, it's time for her to stand up for you - again, assuming your mom's behavior hasn't been unforgivable. If your wife won't meet with your mom, then she at least needs to release the hostages and let Grandma see your kids. A refusal means it's referee time: marriage counseling. If your wife's stance is justified, she'll have nothing to hide.