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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Deadly Mother-in-laws Part 3 of 3

How To Deal With A Nasty Mother-in-Law

Does just the word, mother-in-law, spell terror in your life? This woman has assumed mythic proportions wielding criticism, guilt and coldness. When she visits, you feel like the police commissioner has marched into your home. When she interacts with the children, she is evaluating their manners, academic performance and everything – tracing it all back to you!

However, in reality you can dramatically improve the situation simply by understanding one simple thing. You and your mother-in-law are just two women in love with the same man.

When you understand this, all the conflicts and criticisms start to make sense.

Here are some useful advice that has helped other women faced with hostile mothers-in-law;

1. Let your mother-in-law know that she occupies the primary spot in her son’s heart and always will - after all she is his mother.

2. Stop licking your wounds and spring into action. Change the habitual responses and stick to neutral territory. Here are some suggestions to befriend your mother-in-law thereby making your husband and children happier:

* Have a sense of humor - See your life as a sit-com. Look at it from a distance.You laugh at the TV comedy, Everyone Loves Raymond, particularly Marie and Debra’s relationship; try to see the humor in your own relationship with your mother-in-law. Humor goes a long way to defuse hostility.

* Break the pattern of criticism - When your mother-in-law criticizes you, listen calmly for a few minutes then distract her by changing the topic, pulling out some photos of the children, new make-up or a magazine about a subject she’s interested in like gardening, golf or shopping. Get her into grandma mode by having your children sing, perform or show an award they received.

* Reinterpret negatives into positives - Anything can be reinterpreted! Be creative and release the anger. Practice it so often that it becomes a reflex action. For example, if your mother-in-law doesn’t even refer to you by your name, if you don’t even merit a “hey, you,” then reinterpret to, “She’s being sensitive to my needs. It is awkward for her as I am not her daughter. So rather than confront me or offend me, she avoids calling me anything.”

* Affirm your mother-in-law. Compliment the qualities you want to reinforce. Wouldn’t you do this with your child or pet? You don’t want to comment on bad behavior and create the self-fulfilling prophecy.

* Schedule one-on-one time around her interests to do something fun together: a day at the spa, lunch and shopping, visit the new exhibit. Get to know her on a personal level and bond. Ask about her dreams, her career and her past. Knowledge is power!

* Be patient and lower your expectations. Don’t envision an immediate transformation or a Kodak moment of love. You can expect mutual respect and loyalty. One step at a time. It took my mother-in-law twenty years to love me, but she finally came around. Where there is life, there is hope.

3. Get spouse support. Does your husband or wife support you? Don't criticize the mother-in-law, just calmly state "It hurt my feelings when your mother implied that I made you move here/made you change jobs/made you buy a new car. Be aware that there is a belief that mothers-in-law often assume that daughters-in-law are terrible manipulators who wickedly control their son's lives. Don't make judgemental comments as she does, but let your husband know that it hurts. Most men do not want their wives to be hurt, and you are entitled to share this with your husband (your best friend). Do not criticize her, but don't protect her either.

4. Distance yourself physically. You don't need to move, but you also don't need to show up at every event. Just be busy doing something else. Always make it easy for your husband to go without you (after all, this is his mother). Often the son still goes to some things, but drops some things as well, because he wants to be with his family. Do not discourage your spouse from attending family functions! But it is important that you protect yourself and stay away when you choose, and you should be aware that sometimes he will choose to stay home, too. Do not feel guilty! You have to protect yourself.

5. Remember that it's highly unlikely that she'll change. If your mother-in-law has criticized you, stabbed you in the back to other family members, and has been dismissive of things you've said, she is making a very clear statement about this "relationship". Believe her. She may be occasionally nice. Judgemental, negative people often do this; they do something nice to reel you in, and then grab the opportunity to make a jab at you. If she's done this, remember to keep your distance even when she's being nice. You are more important than your relationship to your mother-in-law! Take care of yourself. Let the hopes go. Look to other women for mentoring, advice, kindness, role modeling. You have to write this woman off. It's not going to happen.

6. You are entitled to a peaceful life. You do not owe this woman anything. She's just a person, and if her behavior is ugly, she isn't entitled to any sort of special respect. Mothers-in-law sometimes assume that they're going to be a powerful matriarch. No. Respect and admiration are earned. If she doesn't deserve it, you're certainly entitled to protect yourself, and keep strong boundaries.

7. If she really attacks you, your husband needs to support you. Your spouse can simply phone her and said "I heard you say X to my wife. I don't think that's appropriate. Do not do it again." (Note: it is very important that your husband not leave you alone with her! He needs to be a witness! Otherwise, she'll say that your interpretation of events is incorrect, etc.). But if she does something in front of your spouse, your spouse can say that it bothered him. This is key. And it is your spouse's responsibility to handle his own mother, just as you should deal with your family, and he shouldn't have to. Mothers-in-law sometimes "lay in wait" until no one else is in the room (including their own husbands, whom they want on their side). Do not be alone with her. If you find yourself alone with her, immediately get up and go to the bathroom, take a walk, do whatever you need to in order to NOT be alone with her.

Most important learn to live with the things in life that you cannot change, a nasty mother-in-law being one of them.

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