Mother-in-laws traditionally have a bad rap, and while the old adage of the interfering and overbearing mother-in-law may not always be true, for many women this can indeed be a trying relationship. If mother in law problems are causing you stress then here are some effective ways to deal with mother in law problems, to help soothe all sides in this tricky situation:
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This article first appeared in our November 2017 My Time Online Magazine.
The tension caused by some family dynamics can put a strain on even the soundest partnership. If you dread family occasions and get-togethers, or avoid answering the phone when you see it’s the in-laws, it’s time to make some changes using our practical tips to help deal with stress caused by difficult in-laws.
When looking for our ideal partner, we may have a list of criteria about their personality, appearance or character traits to fall in love with – but we don’t choose a partner for their extended family. For many, this extended family we now belong to isn’t as warm and inclusive as we may like.
Remember too that in-laws extend beyond your parents-in-law. Your partner could have sisters and brothers who may also cause stress in your life. Or perhaps you have a difficult relationship with your daughter- or son in-law.
In-law issues can range from feeling judged, criticized and excluded to those you feel are too involved in your family life or incredibly demanding.
But before you despair, there are ways of coping with this stress and freeing yourself from the emotional burden caused by it.
#1. Present a United Front
Talk to your partner about the stress, anxiety or tension that you are experiencing as a result of your in-laws. Remember to be sensitive around the subject, as this is their family you are expressing frustration about – that could cause more stress between you, which is the last thing you want.
Explain what the problem is and ask for their advice and help in how to overcome it. Depending on the issue, your partner could try talking to their family member to rectify the situation, or at least support you when an issue arises.
You might also enjoy 7 Practical Tips for Dealing with Stress Caused By In Laws
#2. Ask Yourself Questions
Perhaps your mother-in-law is too critical or your brother- or sister-in-law expect you to deal with issues on their behalf. Maybe your son or daughter’s partner excludes you from their life. Whatever the scenario ask yourself the tough questions:
- Are you being too sensitive?
- Why are you reacting as you are?
- Do they have a valid point, and does it just hurt to hear that said aloud?
- Why does their opinion matter so much?
- Why are you holding on to the stress after the fact?
- How can you work better together to keep the peace in the family?
- Is this battle really important?
- Can you do anything different to ease the situation?
- Can you walk away?
Answering these questions can help you understand yourself better, give you insights into your relationship with your in-law, and could possibly lead to you overcoming and letting go of the stress in the relationship.
#3. Take the Pressure Off
If visits between you and your in-laws always take place in one of your homes, it can lead to one person feeling at a disadvantage. Instead, offer to meet for coffee, to go for a walk, to watch your kids at the playground, or something similar.
Being in a neutral venue can often help both parties feel more relaxed – and it also helps by naturally enforcing a time limit on your visit. This is especially useful if the conversation is awkward and stilted, or if the problem with your in-law is an overbearing nature.
#4. Make an Effort
Try to send a card or a text for birthdays, anniversaries and important dates. This shows that you care enough to have remembered and have acknowledged their special day.
Pick up the phone or send a text when they are not expecting it. Surprising and delighting people can go a long way towards everyone getting along better together. If you know your in-law has a big meeting try wishing them well, or send a quick snap of something you think they would like while you’re out shopping.
Similarly, try extending the olive branch and be the first to apologise, even if you feel you are not entirely in the wrong. Holding on to each and every tiny grievance is exhausting, and this can be a great way to diffuse a potentially stressful situation.
#5. Keep Everything in Perspective
We can not control other people’s behaviour. If you obsess about the tension and attitude of your in-laws, it will eat away at you and could grow beyond your control. Try and see situations from your in-laws’ point of view, and choose your battles carefully.
Sometimes we can be too sensitive. When this happens, we can be hurt by the smallest issue or perceived grievance. Try to state your point clearly, stand your ground and be resilient when it comes to dealing with difficult in-laws. Having a united front with your partner will really help you here.
#6. Think What is Best For Your Children
Even if your relationship with your in-laws is less than ideal, you need to think beyond this to give your children the chance to have a good relationship with them. Extended family, particularly grandparents, can be wonderful sources of additional security, inspiration, information and love for your children. If you need to, agree some ground rules to set expectations for the relationship between your in-laws and your children.
Remember we are all individuals with different opinions, hang-ups and values. A tense relationship is not beneficial for anyone, so unless your in-laws are being deceitful or destructive, try to rise above it and be the bigger person.
Over to you now. What’s your best tip for dealing with mother in law problems? Share it with us in the comments below.