Deal with Your Mother in Law: Improving a Loving Relationship

Just the word, mother in law, fills the heart with trepidation and self-doubt. This woman has assumed mythic proportions wielding criticism, guilt and coldness. When she visits, you feel like the inspector general has marched into your home. When she interacts with the children, she is evaluating their manners, academic performance and fitness tracing it all back to you!

Sometimes when we get married we inherit more than just a spouse. We also get a new mother and that can be either good or bad. Most people get along fine with their mother-in-laws, and some even have enviable stellar connections. But when a relationship with a mother-in-law gets bad, it can be very bad. At its worst we start to wonder how we could ever fall in love with the offspring of such a thoroughly unpleasant person.

It can be the type of thing that tests the bond between husband and wife, and sometimes it even puts the marriage in jeopardy. Here are some suggestions to befriend your mother-in-law thereby making your husband and children happier.

Start by Talking About Your Feelings to Your Husband:

He is always your best friend and ally in life, and even though it’s his mother who is causing you stress, explaining to him how you feel is your first step. If he has trouble understanding, see if you can find a good intermediary: clergy, a counselor, a nurse, or just a friend who understands, preferably one who has been through this before. You need your husband in your court before you can get anywhere with this situation.

Have a Sense of Humor:

Look at it from a distance.You laugh at the TV comedy, Everyone Loves Raymond, particularly Marie and Debra’s relationship; try to see the humor in your own relationship with your mother-in-law. Humor goes a long way to defuse hostility.

Break the Pattern of Criticism:

When your mother-in-law criticizes you, listen calmly for a few minutes then distract her by changing the topic, pulling out some photos of the children, new makeup or a magazine about a subject she’s interested in like gardening, golf or shopping. Get her into grandma mode by having your children sing, perform or show an award they received.

Reinterpret Negatives into Positives:

Anything can be reinterpreted! Be creative and release the anger. Practice it so often that it becomes a reflex action. For example, if your mother-in-law doesn’t even refer to you by your name, if you don’t even merit a hey, you then reinterpret to, She’s being sensitive to my needs. It is awkward for her as I am not her daughter. So rather than confront me or offend me, she avoids calling me anything.

Affirm Your Mother in Law:

Compliment the qualities you want to reinforce. Wouldn’t you do this with your child or pet? You don’t want to comment on bad behavior and create the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Schedule One-on One Time:

Schedule one-on-one time around her interests to do something fun together: a day at the spa, lunch and shopping, visit the new exhibit. Get to know her on a personal level and bond. Ask about her dreams, her career and her past. Knowledge is power!

Be Patient and Lower Your Expectations:

Don’t envision an immediate transformation or a Kodak moment of love. You can expect mutual respect and loyalty. One step at a time. It took my mother-in-law twenty years to love me, but she finally came around. Where there is life, there is hope.

These mothers-in-law share the following characteristics:

  • They think they know more than you do. Much more.
  • As a result, they offer “recommendations.” A lot of them.
  • They don’t respect the laws of time and space.

Therefore, they offer their advice anywhere: In your home, in their home, at family gatherings, shopping malls, political rallies you name it.

  • Their voices usually carry from here to Guam. They like to give everyone the benefit of their unsolicited advice.
  • They actually believe they are helping you.
  • They usually have a need to control. Sort of like a combination of Catherine the Great, Atilla the Hun, and Roseanne.

A Few Advice:

  1. Mothers-in-law sometimes “lay in wait” until no one else is in the room (including their own husbands, whom they want on their side). Do not be alone with her. If you find yourself alone with her, immediately get up and go to the bathroom, take a walk, do whatever you need to in order to not be alone with her.
  2. It’s highly recommended that if you have a child, take them out of the room at the same time that you are leaving. If you don’t trust your mother-in-law yourself, you can’t trust her with your child. Don’t allow her to say poisonous things to your child, undermining your relationship with that child.
  3. If All Else Fails:
  • Relocate to another city. Many people swear their marriages have been saved by this solution!
  • If your partner does not support you, this is a critical sign! A sign not only in terms of, your relationship with your MIL, but, with your own marriage. You have to give serious thought as to whether this is a marriage you want to stay with.