A court in Salerno has granted an Italian man a divorce after accepting his claim that his mother-in-law had "made my life hell".
The 36-year-old man, a car salesman from Ravello in southern Italy identified only as Antonio under privacy laws, said: ''The marriage lasted just four months, but it was hell."
The man said he and his ex-wife Gemma, 31, had even signed a pre-nuptial agreement when they married, guaranteeing that her mother would not interfere in their life together. The agreement had not been observed, however, and the couple had separated.
''I thought all the stories about terrible mothers-in-law were made up, but I was forced to think again," he said. "There's no point describing everything I suffered, you have to go through it yourself."
Ten years on from their marriage, which took place in 1998, a civil court in Salerno this week finally confirmed an annulment of the marriage by the Catholic Church, even though the ex-wife, who comes from Amalfi, insisted that her mother had only intervened when her former husband mistreated her.
''My husband never took care of me or our daughter," she told the court. "The months of marriage were terrible because of the unacceptable behaviour of a man who was supposed to love and respect me."
She added: 'My mother wasn't interfering, she was worried about her daughter's physical and psychological state." Her mother had not done anything "that any other responsible parent would not also have done''.
Mothers-in-law are often blamed for putting a strain on marriages in Italy, though usually it is the husband's mother rather than the wife's who is held to blame. Last year a poll by the research institute Eures said that three out of ten Italian divorces were due to "the unusually close attachment of Italian men to their mothers".
Annamaria Cassanese, a psychologist, said grooms' mothers often continued to live close to the married couple, visited them frequently and criticised their daughters-in-law.
They offered to help with cooking, ironing and babysitting, but "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".