Overbearing mother in laws: unexpected ways to bridge the divide

By February 1, 2013Blog

mother-in-lawEverything is fantastic. You’re marrying the love of your life and you couldn’t be happier. There’s just one tiny, niggling thing that bothers you in quite the same way as that pestering fly hovering above your delicious, hot meal: your soon to be mother in law. Like that annoying fly that just won’t leave you alone, she is a constant source of agitation and grievance. And just when you think you’ve seen or heard the last of her, she comes buzzing back, too close for comfort. It’s all nice and well that you’re marrying her son and not her, but even so, the thought of all those family events to come is enough to make you skin turn blue with worry. And let’s not even get started on the unexpected drop in’s or the weekly check-up phone calls. How do we deal with mother in laws like the one described? And more importantly, how do we deal with them without losing our sanity in the process?

The first thing to remember is that it is actually not essential to be buddy-buddy with your mother in law. Yes, it’s nice to have a good and positive relationship with your mother in law, but as long as you’re not fighting tooth and nail with her, it is ok to just get along – to be courteous, polite and friendly. Keep in mind that without her, you would not be where you are today – marrying her son. She is the one who brought him into the world, so appreciate her for that, if nothing else.

The other thing to reinforce again is that you are marrying her son, not her. You are not entering into a marital contract with your mother in law. There are no laws stating: “You must love, cherish and appreciate your mother in law every day, and must always compliment her on her cooking.” The reason for this is, of course, that in the scheme of things, she’s a background player. Let the relationship with your new husband take precedence and give it the attention it deserves.

If your relationship with your mother in law to be is a little more complicated than the ones described, consider finding ways to limit the amount of time spent with her, without it being insulting to her or your new husband. Dissect her personality and come up with the positive aspects of it. Try to focus on the good parts and minimize the negative ones. Everyone was young once, it’s living that adds years to us. Picture her as a hopeful newlywed and try to let that image override the negative one.

As always, it’s also important to keep things in perspective. She will always be your mother in law, in the same way that your husband will always be your husband. But over time she may also lessen her cut-throat grip and let you breathe. Remember that it’s not essential to be her best friend, and you are not entering into any kind of contract, marital or other, with her. You are marrying her son, and if that’s the only thing you have in common, so be it. If nothing else works, go inside your house, shut all the blinds, pull the phone from its socket, and hide. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

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