Monster-in-law to mother-in-law
Perhaps the most complicated relationship you will have in your life is the one with your mother-in-law. It’s a very trying relationship. But are there ways to navigate this tricky terrain? Or defuse the situation? Here are the most common problems and some suggestions to keep things mellow between you two.
1. You’re sharing a husband. Whoa, no that’s not what I meant. Well, not entirely. If your mother-in-law is single, divorced, or in an unhappy relationship she may depend on your man the way one would traditionally depend on a husband. So, in a sense, you’re sharing a husband. There may be tension if she feels neglected now that you’re around or maybe you feel robbed of time with your husband because she demands so much of it.
2. It’s getting competitive. She compares herself to you and you keep coming up short. She criticizes your cooking, cleaning, or parenting style. She may even say things like “back in my day we had it harder and we did a better job”. She suggests that you are lacking in certain departments or slacking in your “duties as a wife”.
3. She’s playing step-mom. Instead of being a dotting grandmother she’s acting like a step-mother to your children. She’s trying to tell you how to raise them. Some advice is fine but she’s giving unsolicited and maybe even out dated advice.
4. Her way, or no way. She has issues with any kind of change or deviation from her plans. Of course it’s normal to want to keep with tradition but she wants everything her way. You may argue about wedding plans, holiday gatherings, to the way you raise your children.
5. She tries to change you. She may try to change your mind in favor of her beliefs or may even go as far as trying to change your body. She may talk about politics, religion, or… your weight. She makes comments about things she doesn’t like about you.
Navigating around these topics are super tricky. Though they are the most common, they’re not easy to solve. In fact, in most cases it’s not entirely your problem to solve, it’s actually your husband’s. It’s always best to allow him to build a bridge between you two. After all it’s his mother and he should know her best. Also, he’s the one thing you two have in common and love. He should try to find a way to defuse situations. You should discuss your issues with him in private. Also, as hard as it may be, you must not get defensive. Try to stay away from cruel language when you discuss his mother. For instance, instead of saying “Your manipulative mother is at it again!” be more specific and direct and less emotional. Rather than angrily voicing your feelings say “Your mother hurt my feelings today when she talked about my weight. She has mentioned it a few times and I don’t know how to tell her that it’s offensive.” I know this is not easy, but the last thing you want to do is argue with your husband and with your mother in law or worse start a nasty cycle that never ends. I would suggest avoiding topics that cause arguments. There’s no way you both can change each other’s minds on certain topics so stop debating them. Some other issues can be solved with compromise and sometimes we have to choose our battles. For instance, if your child’s health is at risk then by all means stick to your guns. But, sometimes we have to let grandparents be…grandparents. If she tries to be a mother, give her fun grandmother things to do instead. Let her teach your child how to bake. Try to distract her with “grandma duties”. Also, use your pediatrician as a scapegoat. Just say “Our pediatrician says we can’t do that”. Not all things can be solved so easily, I know. In fact, it all depends on how bad things are. If she truly hates you or you hate her, there’s no way it’ll get better. But sometimes we add fuel to the fire too. We must not look past our faults. In an ideal world, she would be rooting for you, rooting for your marriage to be a success. But remember, if the success of your marriage means the end of her relationship with her son, especially if she relies on him, it can be heartbreaking. She needs to have a purpose, often times, if we give them a place or a role in our lives–make them feel wanted, they’ll be happier.
And if there are any mother-in-laws reading this, one day we will be mother-in-laws too but as of right now we are wives. We have no idea what it’s like to be a mother-in-law yet but you remember what it is like to be a wife or a mother to to young children. Let us have our moment. One day, we will look back and understand why you acted a certain way, and we know it’s not easy to adjust to change, but we want a happy marriage. Give us your blessings. We’re on the same team, I promise.
And to my daughter-in-laws, we cannot expect someone to change so easily or sometimes at all, especially in their later years, we must sometimes take the high road. Our husband’s need to help us along on this path, but we must try. It may not be possible in all situations, but we must not seek a chance to win, but rather a way for peace.