Mother-in-law problems are not uncommon. Many people dream of a good relationship with their mother-in-law they can talk about with their friends. In this article, we reveal four problem areas many couples face and how to deal with them. If this is you, keep reading.
Your dream was to be close, no interference in your marriage and she loves the way you parent your kids. On top of it, she brags about your food, your decorating, and how sparkling clean your house is when she visits.
Sounds perfect huh? Fairytale stuff huh? This doesn’t always happen. It isn’t always this picture-perfect. You don’t always want to brag about it to your friends.
Sometimes you find yourself venting to your friends. You spend time talking about it with your spouse because it’s driving you nuts.
Your mother-in-law in law feels like a monster-in-law. You love her but it’s difficult navigating the path because you’re married to her son. You always marry the family too. You might only see them three times a year but you need to be able to get along well, even if there is limited time together. Boundaries are your friend.
4 Problem Areas With In-Laws That Should Be Addressed
Here are some areas that could be problematic.
#1 Unrealistic Expectations.
She wants you to be best friends. You feel the pressure. It’s important to create realistic expectsions for everyone involved.
You want to be friendly and love her well. She has a greater desire and need than you do to get together for outings, dinners together, and time to talk on the phone. You struggle with knowing how much to give because you are busy.
You want to give some, but not as much as she would like you to give to the relationship. Boundaries aren’t bad and having them doesn’t mean you are selfish. It means you’re self-aware and know your limits.
Not everyone has the same needs and giving some is OK. We are not talking about selfish behavior.
We all want to have a healthy relationship with our mother-in-law, in-law but saying no is wise when you can’t give more.
Maybe, she thought you’d have Thanksgiving every year at their house but you want to be the host home. She also thought every year the whole family would always vacation together but you don’t want to do that every year.
You find yourself giving more than you want because you don’t want to be selfish. You’re exhausted and don’t do much for yourself and tend to be a pleaser.
#2 Interference in Your Marriage.
Your mother-in-law has a strong connection to her son. This is good until she has more influence in the relationship than you do as the wife. How is it handled?
Is your husband aware? Does your mother-in-law add her opinion about your finances?
Your business decisions or anything that pertains to your marriage? You can feel your blood pressure rising with every situation she interferes in. You keep trying to be gracious and drop hints but risk offending her because she can tend to wear her feelings on her sleeve.
And then, It happens:
The awkward situation you voiced your opinion about to your mother-in-law came out and now there is a rift between you and her? Can it be resolved? Did you get fed up and finally say something and now it’s gotten worse?
Now, your husband is in the middle and it’s messy. It’s the two women He loves the most, His Mom and His wife. Yikes. Never a good situation. He feels between a rock and a hard place and has to get it resolved to salvage both his relationship with his wife and Mom.
Could it have been handled differently? What if it came through your spouse instead of you? Discerning if you should say something or what to say along with the timing is everything.
The wise thing is being able to stay in your lane and ask your husband to address an issue. It’s much easier to swallow when it comes from her son.
Hopefully, it can be received well coming from her son. Then it can calm potential brokenness from coming to the relationship and fracturing the whole family.
#3 Criticism Over Your Parenting Style
By nature, your mother-in-law isn’t gracious with encouragement. She tends to be critical and find fault. She projects her style of parenting onto you.
The judgment you feel from her is hurtful and crushing. You try not to react but you find yourself avoiding her. Subjecting yourself to the negative environment she lives in and projects onto you is exhausting.
The kids aren’t behaving to her liking. They aren’t being raised the way she raised her son. Internally, you roll your eyes but try to keep the peace as you walk away from the conversation.
She projects her spiritual convictions onto you with no regard to how it makes you feel. You don’t go to the church of her liking or to church at all. You don’t do the things she did and she lets you know it as a couple.
You don’t feel good enough because she’s nit-picking everything you do. She makes you feel like a failure as a mom and wife.
The looks of disapproval when she’s around are stinging. You find yourself trying to avoid being with her. Your husband sees it but it doesn’t bother him to the degree it bothers you.
It gets personalized for you because it hurts.
You forgive her but it happens over and over again. It feels toxic. She subtly makes you feel unworthy to be married to her son.
#4 Your Mother-In-Law Is Drama
Everyone seems to walk on eggshells because your mother-in-law is wired on the dramatic side. All of her relationships are characterized by drama. Your husband unfortunately is blinded to it but it has bitten you more than one time.
He shrugs it off, saying, that’s just Mom. She dotes on your husband and frequently feels she competes with you for his attention and affection.
He strives to please her and you want to, but it’s causing tension between you and your husband. He realizes she’s imbalanced but minimizes it because He is familiar with it.
You are not minimizing it and are struggling. You walk away biting your tongue so the situation doesn’t bite your marriage in return.
Clear communication with your spouse and keeping him from being placed in the middle will help. Unless you live with your in-laws, it gets hard to know where to draw the line.. Clear boundary lines being established will keep you from having marital issues because you are drawing clear lines to preserve you as a couple and family.
Striving to be on the same page with your spouse will help you address things that aren’t going away but are getting worse.
If your mother-in-law is immature, manipulative, or competitive it will be a challenge. The best-case scenario is your husband handles it.
Ignoring drama with an in-law because it’s a difficult conversation will eventually affect your marriage.
Resentment will build when something isn’t addressed that affects your wife or your Mother.
Common Questions About Mother-In-Law Issues
Here are common questions we get about in-law relationships (especially mother-in-law issues):
Why Do Mother-In-Law’s Hate Their Daughters-In-Law?
They don’t. It often feels like hate, but more often than not it is jealousy. Many moms have a hard time letting go of their sons. This causes them to become possessive.
Also, they feel their place is taken when their son gets married. They struggle (like we all do) in finding their place in the new order.
Who Comes first, Wife or Mother?
It’s unfortunate that the question is phrased this way. In a perfect world, everyone has their rightful place.
But the blunt answer is the wife. This is one of the reasons we put so much stress on the marriage relationship. Children grow up to leave. Husbands and wives are meant to cleave.
This doesn’t mean there is no place for his mom. It’s just not the main place.
Why Do Mother-In-Laws Cause Problems?
Most people who cause problems for others do so because of insecurity. I’m certainly not in the mind (or heart) of other people, but from my experience, in-law problems spring from fear and insecurity.
As mentioned above, it is not easy to let go of a child. Mom’s have a special bond with their sons. This can be a problem when their son brings a new woman into his life.
See it for what it is. Try not to take things too personally. I realize this is not easy. And sometimes it is very personal.
When you realize ‘where the problem comes from you can see it for what it is, and deal with it appropriately.
How Do I Deal With My Mother-In-Law Problems?
It depends on the severity of the problem. For most issues (which are minor), here are the steps we suggest:
- Have an honest conversation with your in-laws. This usually resolves a lot of conflicts.
- Get your husband involved. I suggest this as a second action because complaining to your spouse can often backfire. Try to resolve the issue with your mother-in-law first. Then get your husband involved.
- For the more major problems, professional help might be needed.
- Distance is the last resort. We don’t often recommend severing ties or breaking the relationship. This can have long-term negative effects.
There are, however, times when a little separation is necessary. If it comes to this, don’t make a huge announcement (don’t create drama), simply stop spending as much time with your mother-in-law. You are not required to be best friends.
You should always be respectful, but you should not feel pressure to be besties.
There are a few things we stress:
- Your marriage is the most important relationship in your life. Guard it and protect it.
- Working as a team is far easier (and better) than solving problems alone. Your spouse needs to be on the same page and willing to work on finding solutions.
- Boundaries are for your protection. Use them.
A Word Of Warning To Daughter-In-Laws
One final word of warning. In-law problems can be taxing. It’s easy to get your heart wounded and want to lash out in anger.
One of the best pieces of advice I have for newly married couples is to always treat in-laws with respect and honor. It may not always be easy. But it is important to respond with kindness and respect.
Three things happen when you do:
- Your husband will respect you.
- Your in-laws will respect you.
- You will respect yourself.
Resist the temptation to get even, or act inappropriately. This doesn’t mean you become passive and allow others to treat you wrong. On the contrary, you can establish boundaries and stand up to others with respect and dignity.
Related article: How To Safeguard Your Marriage
‘Final Thoughts on Mother-In-Law Problems
Being realistic about what you can give instead of what she wants will help you have peace. Close the door early and quickly about outer interference from any family members especially your parents. Your parenting style and choices are yours.
Be OK with your mother-in-law disapproving of your choices as a family. Last thing, the drama in your Mother in law probably won’t go away. She might be addicted to it but you don’t have to participate in the drama fest.
Most important for your marriage is unity between you and your spouse. Has He shifted where his allegiance should fall? Leaving his Mom’s nest is key to cleaving with you. It shouldn’t be a competition with your mother in law but it can still be quenched if you and your spouse are unified in what to do.
Let’s recap the areas of struggle and offer some solutions.
- 4 Problem Areas With In-Laws That Should Be Addressed
- Common Questions About Mother-In-Law Issues
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