How to Handle A Controlling Mother-In-Law

She picked out the desserts for your wedding and insists your glassware has watermarks all over them. Whether your husband is a mommas boy or has a strained relationship with his mother, keeping the peace in the family can be a challenge. The attacks can feel personal and you may have felt like you really gave it your best shot, but for better or worse you are now family and finding a positive way to move forward is always the best option.

Of course, that is easier said than done. How exactly do we make that happen? How exactly do we not allow the comments to bother us or allow the control to feel overwhelming? Here are a few tangible tips to help keep the peace.

  • Have A Talk With Your Husband

The most important thing is creating an understanding between you and your husband about how you are feeling. Preface the conversation with positives like, ‘I love you and I love your family’ or ‘I love your mother but I feel there is a disconnect in how we interact.’ Then explain how it makes you feel when your mother-in-law does some of the things that bother you. Chances are, your husband is well aware of these issues. However, that may not solve the problem. It is simply the first step before continuing. Make sure your marriage is taken care of and intentions are well understood before anything else is done.

  • Sit This One Out

Every family is different but many couples find comfort in a simple rule, we deal with our own families. When your husband has an issue with your brother, you deal with it. When you and your mother-in-law are not getting along, it is your husband’s responsibility to be the peacemaker and resolve the conflict. Intertwining these relationships can lead to larger issues and messier fights.

If your husband understands the conflict you’re feeling, it may be a good idea to make him aware and then give him the responsibility of helping ref those moments. If he is in denial or simply unaware, continue to the next steps with caution.

  • Set Ground Rules

Setting ground rules create boundaries when it feels like there are none. These ground rules can be personalized to your situation. For example, if you have a mother-in-law that frequently pops over unannounced for dinner. Make a rule that she calls first and only stops by maybe Monday and Wednesday. Explaining the other days of the week are too hectic for guests.

  • Set Expectations

If your mother-in-law likes to criticize, create expectations for what the outcome will be when she does. For example, if she always complains that your car is dirty. Simply walk away every time she brings it up. She may be looking for a response, expecting you to jump at the opportunity to please her, or she may think your car is actually really dirty. No matter what her reason, how you react will be setting expectations for what will happen after she criticizes you.

  • Try To Understand Her Point of View

Ok, ok, hear me out first… is this her only son? Did everyone just leave the nest? Is this common in her culture? There may be a long list of reasons she is controlling. Maybe that is just how things go in your husband’s family and you are new to the party. That does not excuse her behavior or you feeling bad every time she is around, but it may explain why you feel controlled. Seek out empathy and maybe you will find some more answers on how to improve this relationship.

  • Consider Other Family Members

Are you the only daughter-in-law receiving this treatment? Is she controlling with everyone? If you are being singled out, there may be something personal going on. Maybe you are not her cup of tea, which is completely fine! But if she treats everyone this way, you may just have to sip a glass of wine and practice some good old meditation. Chances are, she has been approached with this before and chances are, her controlling ways aren’t going anywhere.

  • Have A Talk With Her

This one may be the least enjoyable but the most effective. Come from a place of love. Avoid harsh words like ‘controlling’ and instead pose statements like, ‘I felt attacked when you said my home was a mess in front of my children.’ She may have a response for everything, play the victim, and never apologize, but having this conversation can be a subtle signal that you notice her behavior and are not ok with it.

A controlling mother-in-law can harm a person’s confidence in their family and in their relationships. Whether your husband recognizes this is occurring or not, it should not go unnoticed. Take peaceful steps to create boundaries and gain understanding, to create a loving and open environment for everyone involved.

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