Maybe you have a difficult mother-in-law. Maybe you’re just dating her son or daughter at this point but you are looking forward in time with anticipation or perhaps, dread. The mother-in-law relationship is so often contentious and unpleasant that it has become a stereotype and a bread and butter subject for comediennes. But for those of us trying to have a peaceful relationship with our spouse and their family a bad relationship with mom is no joking matter. She may never be your best friend but it is possible to get along with your mother-in-law. These few tips have helped me over the years basically get along with my mother-in-law, a lovely, but difficult woman.
Focus on what she did right. Your husband is spoiled rotten and has never washed a dish or a load of laundry in his entire life. Your wife never balances the checkbook and just shrugs when this upsets you. It is obviously you mother-in-laws fault. Instead of thinking of all the things she failed to do right when raising your spouse and how difficult that is making your life now, remember it’s probably because of her that she’s so thoughtful and kind and it was her influence that taught him to think of women as equals. Tell her about the things you appreciate about her influence with her child and your spouse. It will go a long way towards building a good relationship with her.
Respond to the intent behind her interference. Most of the time people are not evil. They are not (consciously anyway) trying to hurt you. They see things differently, or they are concerned. When your mother-in-law butts into your business with your husband or children it is infuriating but not quite as much when you remember that these are people that she loves. If you respond to her comment that you shouldn’t give your kids junk food so often (and maybe she’s right) or that little Jimmy is too small to play football, say, “I know you love him. I will certainly give that some thought.”
Be cheerful and stupid. If there was some unpleasantness between the two of you one possible way to deal with it is just move on and ignore it. Did she say something to try and get a rise out of you? Pretend you didn’t hear. If you do something you don’t think she’ll like, play dumb. Be cheerful and don’t let her engage you in arguments. You can’t win anyway.
Don’t be jealous. Be vigilant against feelings of jealousy towards your spouse and their relationship with your mother-in-law. This can be difficult and you may wish at times that they enjoyed a more strained relationship. It is what it is though and it will only cause problems between you and your mother-in-law and you and your spouse if you get in the middle. If you haven’t yet married, think long and hard if they are overly involved. Don’t think you can change this because you cannot.