Recently, I’ve begun to receive a lot of emails about in laws (particularly mothers and sisters in law) who the writer perceives is “trying to destroy my marriage” or “trying to drive a wedge between my spouse and myself.” Often, the writer (which is usually a woman) will tell me that the mother in law never liked her, has never accepted her, and will never pass up any opportunity to cause trouble or to make the husband chose sides or to stir up some issue that is going to create tension and drama.
This is a tough situation. Your husband did not choose his parents and, like it or not, he’s stuck with them. I mean, you can certainly divorce your spouse and not be legally tied to them anymore, but your immediate family (and especially the woman who gave birth to you) is yours forever. Add that to the fact that many mothers will cling onto their adult sons as though he’s as responsible to her as her own husband and there is most definitely a recipe for conflict there. I’ll offer tips and advice on how to best handle this in the following article.
Always Try To See Things From Your Husband’s Perspective: I know that I am asking a lot when I tell you this. It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes when you are being attacked. However, it’s so important to remember that your husband is the one who is caught in the middle. His mother will likely see any breaking away on his part as a betrayal. That’s not to say that he does not have a responsibility to you – he does – and I will discuss that more below. But, you have to do your part as well. Before you make any requests of him, think about how you would want him to react if the roles were reversed. What if it was your mother who was creating tension and drama with him? Wouldn’t you want for him to attempt to let this roll off his back rather than becoming angry with you and demanding that you put your own mother in her place?
Understanding What The Mother In Law Is Really Trying To Accomplish (And Not Letting Her Get It:) If you’re right in your assumptions that your mother in law wants to break up your marriage, then what better way to fight fire with fire by ensuring that she doesn’t get her wish? Don’t play right into her hand. What she really doesn’t want if for you to go about your business completely happy and unaffected by her games. So, this is just what you want to happen, of course. Your best defense against her is a happy husband who is oblivious to all this drama. If he’s happy at home, then he isn’t likely to listen to her criticisms or even to pay attention. This is your goal.
So, remain lighthearted when she’s flinging her barbs. Act as though she is literally joking. You want to let her know that you really are laughing her off and that her attempts to hurt you are not only missing the mark, but are giving you something to be amused by. My aunt used to tell me to “kill with kindness.” This is great advice in this situation. The meaner she gets, the more you should smile. This will annoy her more than anything. If you become angry and have a negative reaction, then she’s won that hand. But if you smile and then dismiss her, this is going to make her very frustrated. And, if you keep up this game long enough, she just eventually might quit playing.
Creating A United Front With Compromise: Up until now, I’ve been asking you to do all the giving, but it’s not asking too much to ask your husband to set some boundaries too. This doesn’t mean that you should ever ask him to estrange himself from his mother. But, it’s not unreasonable to ask him to set some limits. You are a family too now and you may want to spend some holidays alone or with your own family. You may not want to have to have Sunday dinner at her house each and every week. There is a happy medium in all of these situations. It’s not fair to ask him to make drastic changes but there’s nothing wrong with cutting back. This gives every one at least some of what they want.
Understand what your best case scenario is. I’m betting that you want for your own family to be a priority and to be happy. And, you probably want your husband to be happy without any unnecessary stress regarding your or his extended family. So, always keep this in mind and control what you can. In truth, you can not control how your mother in law or your in laws act or what they demand from him. But, what you can control is your reaction to it. You can control your own immediate family. So, strive to keep him as happy as home as you can and limit your negative contact with the in-laws as much as you feasibly can by setting limits.
At the end of the day, you have to remember that it’s your job to safeguard your own happiness and well being. Because the wife and mother’s mental health and piece of mind affects every one in the family. Don’t let her (or them) get to you and affect your happiness. They want to whittle away at your family? Well, give them just the opposite. Make sure they know that your family is so strong and deeply connected that they are only wasting their time. Respect that your husband can not chose or force his family to behave. You can not control others. But, you can control yourself and your reactions to them. Always make sure that these reactions are in the best interest of your own family, not theirs.