Managing Your Mother-In-Law: How to Have a Healthy Relationship
Do you have a difficult time getting along with your partner's parents? You're not alone. Find out why your in-laws act the way they do and learn to gracefully manage stressful family situations.
As husband and wife, you've decided to host a big dinner at your house. All of the family will be there, and you're excited to show off the kids and spend time with those you love. That is until your mother-in-law enters the room. From the moment her foot crosses the threshold, she's all criticism. "I wouldn't have picked this carpet," she may say. Or, "The chicken is a little dry, dear." Meanwhile, a smile is on her face, and you have to grin and bear it.
This sort of thing happens to people regardless of how long they've been married. A mother-in-law can be so bossy that you just don't know what to do with yourself. You don't want to be disrespectful, yet you can't tolerate being walked on, either
. It's a nasty predicament, but it may help to learn that there are reasons for your mother-in-law's stereotypical behavior and ways to gracefully maneuver through difficult in-law situations.
This tension, most typically felt between women and their mothers-in-law rather than between men and theirs, occurs because these are "two women in love with the same man," according to Debbie Mandel, author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul and Changing Habits.
Most of the time, your mother-in-law means no harm. She may just feel out of control and anxious about the fact that you are now in charge of her grandchildren and that you have the say in your household
, says Dr. Newman. In her mind, you are a threat to her relationship with her son, making your relationship with her unsteady.
Some mothers-in-law will be able to work through their feelings and overcome them, others will stay stuck in this spot forever and "always have a rocky relationship," with their daughters-in-law, she adds.
Now that you understand why your mother-in-law may behave in an unsavory fashion, what should you do about it? That depends on several factors. First and foremost, keep an open mind around your mother-in-law and try your best to keep situations upbeat and positive. When something uncomfortable does happen, try these tips to calm the rough seas.
No matter if you're intimidated frustrated, or at ease with your mother-in-law, she's a very important member of your family
, and it's a good idea to foster a positive relationship with her. Here are a few tips to help you foster a healthy and peaceful family environment:
Reach out to her
: Having someone enter your home and start telling you how to live can be irritating, but maybe she really just wants to help. Reach out to your mother-in-law. Ask her opinion—perhaps on issues where you are willing to be flexible—and respect it. Remember, respecting someone's opinion and agreeing with it are two entirely different things.
Ask for advice
: While you know your mother-in-law will be offering up tons of advice during your meeting, you may be able to prevent some of the unwanted comments and make her feel valued by asking for her advice before she offers it. "Ask her advice as soon as you see her," says Mandel. "She will be disarmed by your charm and feel special," not to mention, needed
: Even if you get annoyed with her sometimes, she did at least one thing right—raised your husband
! Whenever she offers advice or tries to help you, calmly thank her for her opinion, even if you do not agree. It is completely possible to disagree and still have a loving relationship.
: Your own view of life and how people treat you can be seriously affected by the position you hold in the family. Take a few moments to examine the situation from your mother-in-law's point of view. Does she have viable opinion? Are her criticisms coming from her love of you and her son? Answering these questions can help you learn to relate with your mother-in-law better
Having a mother-in-law who thinks she knows everything can be daunting at best to deal with. However, with a bit more insight and a few strategies you can diffuse the awkwardness and go on to maybe even enjoy your family get-togethers.