Many of us are facing the age old problem of a troublesome mother in-law. A mother in-law’s conspicuous and continuous assessment and criticism of a daughter in-law combined with the daughter in-law’s vulnerability forms the foundation of the ancient conflict between in-laws. There are those who are lucky and have a helpful, supportive and comforting mother in-law. Others find themselves faced with one who is constantly making unreasonable demands, expressing disapproval, spewing snipes or giving unwanted advice. If you’re sure you’re not dealing with a clinically diagnosed psychopath, here are some tips to help deal with a difficult mother-in-law, restore your calm, and garner respect between the two of you.
Two Reasons Main Why Mother In-Laws Cause Problems
1. Fear- She may fear that she is losing the adoration of her son or that her relationship with her son may be damaged forever. She may question if she is still loved and still valued for her role in the family as a primary care giver. In this respect, she may fear that she will be or is ignored and relegated to an unimportant role in the family.
2. Difference in cultural values- The mother -in-law may be genuinely concerned that her son and grandchildren are not being exposed to the maternal values and norms that have been embedded in her family. There may be a different culture, or ethnicity, religion or societal status than what she has dealt with in the past. These may all bring differences in manner of child care and housework. She may genuinely feel that the family is not getting the necessary care that she feels is needed.
Role of the Daughter in-Law in Solving the Conflict
While it is the son’s role to reassure his mother of his love for her and his respect for her family values, it is the daughter in-laws role to do the following:
1. Recognize her sincerity-Know that in her own way, she is most likely trying to be helpful. Realize that you now have the role in her son’s life that she once had and she is therefore at a loss as to how to best inject changes for the better.
2. Be careful of your responses- Instead of being silent, walking away and ignoring her as though her suggestions are not appreciated, or flying off the handle, take a thoughtful approach. Try to remember that she is being sincere and explain calmly and kindly how you feel. If powerful spiritual rings agree, tell her so, if not tell her why, and that you feel that you are doing the right thing for your family. However, try to find a middle ground. Find ways to involve her in some decisions and ask her advice about others.
3. Act as a confident adult- When you behave as a confident adult, your mother-in-law will likely treat you as one. Many women call their mother-in-law “Mom” and still maintain a wonderful relationship. However, if you have a competing or conflicting relationship, calling her “Mom” may put you in an inferior position. Also, behave as a confident adult by responding to her comments in a mature manner instead of getting defensive or giving excuses for your actions.
4. Treat your mother-in-law the way you’d want your husband to treat your mother. For example, if you must enforce boundaries, don’t be disrespectful, arrogant and insulting; open communications and proceed in a way that you would want your husband to treat your mother. If you treat your husband’s mother the way you’d want him to treat your mother, then there’s an added bonus of gaining the respect of your husband.
Realize that both you and your mother-in-law are contributing to the problem, however your husband is actually the one whose behavior decides whether or not you and his mother get along. It is in his power to eliminate the need for a competition by making it clear to his mother that she loved and is very important to the family, but that you are now the mother of the household and are the most important woman in his life.