My mother in law hates me and I am having a hard time getting along with her. Things seemed really good between us before the wedding, but after we said “I do,” she completely flipped the script. I don’t know what I did to make things change so drastically. When I talk to my husband about it, he just waves it off or thinks I am being nit picky and overly sensitive. He refuses to stand up for me and talk to his mother about what is going on because he doesn’t want to upset her. I don’t want to cause any problems with me and my husband, but I don’t know what to do about the situation with his mother. What should I do?
Dear Frustrated DIL:
It’s amazing that so many women have this issue. Not once has a woman written to me asking for advice about resolving conflict with her father in law! I am sure she exists somewhere! I think conflict between a wife and her mother in law is a stereotype that has grown to be expected, and many people just accept it as “a natural occurrence.” There are countless movies and television shows that depict just this and though we find them entertaining, a real-life situation is no laughing matter.
I know from experience that having issues with your mother in law can lead to some very difficult holiday dinners and family gatherings. And even tension at home because the husband usually gets pulled into the middle of the conflict. If your husband is anything like mine, that is his least favorite place to be! It’s impossible to address all of the possible conflicts between a wife and a mother in law. Whether it be control issues, jealousy issues or just plain ole’ “you aren’t good enough for my son” issues it can become a big mess if not handled with care! And while I don’t have the perfect cure for in-law tension, I can give you a few suggestions.
First, try talking to your mother-in-law directly and see if there are underlying issues that can be resolved. Let her know how you feel and let her know that you want to have a good relationship with her. I suggest a nice lunch at a neutral restaurant.
Second, stop putting your husband in a position where he feels he has to choose between you and his mother! In his mind your constant complaining might begin to justify the situation. Instead, take control of YOU and YOUR actions. Yes, you heard me right. You cannot control your mother in law, or anyone else for that matter, but you can control your own actions and reactions. Stop letting your mother-in-law push your buttons and pull you into conflict. Soon your husband will see her constantly trying to push your buttons and he’ll see you deflecting the situation with loving kindness. Maybe if he witnesses his mother’s actions for himself, he will be compelled to come to your rescue and put his mother in her place by validating you as his wife and establishing some boundaries…okay, that is a great BIG maybe! But if that were to happen, your mother-in-law would definitely chill out! She wouldn’t want to upset or alienate her son if he took such a strong approach. She would do just about anything to stay in her son’s good graces, even if that means being nice to YOU!
Tamara Hartley is Your Advice Guru and Personal Success Coach. She is the author of REAL Advice from REAL Experience: Advice, Tips and Strategies for Your Life Relationships, and Career. She uses her personal life experiences and lessons learned to give others a different perspective and help them make critical decisions in their life, relationships and careers. Read advice archives at www.YourAdviceGuru.com. Email questions to advice@YourAdviceGuru.com or on Twitter @DrTamaraHartley using hashtag #AskTamara. Tamara is also a certified life coach and works with individuals to find balance, make moves, and live their dreams. Learn more about her coaching programs at www.YourPersonalSuccessCoach.com.