It’s true what they say. You don’t just marry your husband; you marry his family too. For some of us, welcoming and embracing new family members can be a wonderful experience. But for those of us who may not have such luck, there is nothing more unpleasant than dealing with a difficult mother-in-law. Here are some tips to help you overcome the unpleasantness that is a difficult mother-in-law.
What’s The Root Of The Problem?
If your mother-in-law issues began the day you got married, then chances are, she probably doesn’t like you. If this is the case, then you need to tread carefully. It may be that his mom is just having a hard time accepting that her little boy has grown up. Don’t take it personally, give it time and see if the dislike she harbors against you eases.
If your relationship with his mom hasn’t always been rocky, then consider that maybe her feelings were hurt at some point. Instead of throwing her difficult behavior back in her face, see if you can talk to her and resolve whatever issue is going on with her. Chances are there is a misunderstanding that needs to be cleared up.
Be The Solution, Not The Problem
Whatever the issue, make sure that you are part of the solution, not the problem. Be advised that this may mean endless bouts of effort on your part to try and figure out why she’s being so difficult. If the situation is right, your efforts may pay off. If they don’t, eject yourself from the relationship and avoid being part of the problem.
Keep Your Distance
It’s time to keep your distance if your efforts to resolve the issues with his mom don’t work. This doesn’t mean you don’t go to family functions or over to your in-laws’ house. This simply means you avoid her when you do have to be around her. It’s still a good idea to acknowledge her presence with a polite hello and goodbye. But for the sake of keeping the calm, you might want to avoid any interaction beyond that with her.
A lot of times issues with your mother-in-law may arise because of unclear boundaries. Mothers-in-laws are notorious for this. Especially when it comes to their boys. More often than not, mothers-in-laws tend to overstep. To avoid this, set boundaries early on. Make it clear to her that you are his wife and not his mom. The role that she has in his life is not necessarily your role. His mom might find it appropriate to openly criticize you if you don’t do things the way she thinks they need to be done for her son. If this is the case, kindly remind her that you are his wife and that you do things differently.
Boundaries are especially important when it comes to your children. Establish expectations for how you want your mother-in-law to interact with your children early on. Do you want her to be the disciplinarian? Do you want her to have a say in choices that will impact their life be them big or small? These things may seem trivial, but many difficult relationships with mother-in-laws stem from boundaries that are inconsiderately crossed. You may find that this is a conversation to have with her one on one. If not, then making your expectations clear to your husband and having him explain to her may be the way to go.
Avoid Asking For Favors
If your mother-in-law is difficult, to begin with, then you may want to reconsider asking her for favors. Asking for favors just amplifies her ammunition for throwing stuff back in your face. By all means, don’t completely cut her out of your life. But don’t give her the false sense of being owed something by asking for favors.
Don’t Complain To Her
Don’t give your mother-in-law any more reason to be a difficult family member. And don’t seek her ear when you need to vent or complain. This only gives her more ammunition to throw in your face later. Instead, keep conversation with her cordial. And if your situation calls for it, keep it at a bare minimum.
Air Your Concerns With Your Husband
This goes without saying. If you have concerns with your mother-in-law, your husband can be a great resource. Guys can often talk some sense into their mommas and give them a perspective they might be missing out on. If this can work in your situation, then use it to your advantage.
Find A Close Friend
If you haven’t already, you will reach a breaking point. When this happens, the healthiest thing that you can do for yourself is to let off some steam. Reach out to a close friend and let them be your confidant. Try to stay away from venting to other family members, especially your own. When you vent to your side of the family, they will only ever remember the bad things she’s done and not the good. This can create more even more friction between you and your mother-in-law and possibly even your family and mother-in-law. Avoid this by talking to a good friend who is close enough to sympathize, but detached enough not to harbor resentment.
Talk To Your Mom
Ok, I know I said to steer clear of venting to your immediate family, but moms are the exception. When you feel frustrated with your mother-in-law, your own mother might be the best go-to person for advice. Chances are she’s been there, done that. Her experience with her own mother-in-law might lend itself valuable to you; this can be true even if her relationship was a positive one.
When She Goes Low, You Go High
When you find yourself in a situation where you have to be around her, always aim high when she aims low. If she’s unpleasant, don’t engage. When she tries to push your buttons, simply walk away. If she does things to set you off intentionally, don’t react. Difficult mother-in-laws can feel like mosquito bites that won’t go away. Scratching at them only makes the bite worse, so it’s best to ignore it. Mother-in-laws are no different. Whether she passively tries to set you off or blatantly displays it, remember to play it cool and be the bigger person.
Gain A New Perspective
If you are at a total loss, then it’s time to put yourself in her shoes. Hopefully, you know her well enough to be able to do that. If not, then you are going to need to put in some extra effort. See if there is a reason why she feels the way she does towards you. Try and analyze your relationship with her through her eyes. This might be something you may want to do with your husband. He’s known her all his life so his insight can be critical in this exercise.
This is probably the hardest tip when it comes to dealing with a difficult mother-in-law, but respect will go a long way. It may sound silly to respect someone who doesn’t respect you, but you have to keep in mind, she isn’t just someone. At the end of the day, she is still your husband’s mom. You may not like it, but your husband and his mom will always be connected. No matter how difficult she is with you. For that reason alone, she is owed a certain level of respect.
Focus On Your Family
If you cannot seem to make amends with your mother-in-law, then it’s time to redirect your focus. Shift your attention and energy towards your family and spend your energy with them. Spending time arguing and fueling her fire will only make your own relationships crumble. Avoid this by being honest with yourself and your husband and create a plan in which your sanity is not jeopardized.
I hope that all these tips can help you as you navigate this new relationship with your new family. Best of luck and I hope that you are on your way to developing a healthy relationship with your mother-in-law.