Are you lucky enough to have a terrific mother-in-law, or is she someone who is challenging to like?
Does your mother-in-law think that you are just not a good enough match for her child or do your personalities just rub each other the wrong way?
Whatever the reason for having a relationship with a difficult mother-in-law, the fact of the matter is that she is the person who is connected to your spouse and with whom it would behoove you, and your marriage, to develop a tolerable relationship. (Notice I did not say “good” relationship. Tolerable is sometimes the best that can happen.)
Here are 7 suggestions for cultivating a tolerable relationship with a difficult mother-in-law.
#1. Take leadership in change. Rather than waiting for her, or your spouse, to take the first step, make it yours. It is also quite okay to take the second, third and fourth steps before anyone else moves.
#2 List all of the good things about your mother-in-law, even if you really have to stretch your thinking. She did bear and rear your spouse and you love her or him, so she must have done some things right.
Anytime that you will be with her, read over the list to remind yourself about the good things in her and in your life because of her child.
#3. Plan ahead for one nice thing that you might say to her about herself … the meal, her hair, her yard. Stretch if you have to, but come up with at least one nice thing. Even the most difficult mother-in-law has something good about her.
#4. Ask and find a way to be interested in some of what is happening in her life.
Fill her in on something special about her child and let her know something about what is happening with you.
#5. If there are grandchildren, so much the better. Use that positive connection to enhance her bonding to your family and maybe even to you.
Find something nice to tell your mother-in-law that the children said about her or ask them to draw her a picture. Mention any flattering physical appearance or behavioral mannerisms that are from her side of the family. Take her photo with them and put it in a frame for her.
Ask her advice about something with the children or have her tell you a story about how she handled a situation with your spouse. Being needed and appreciated can have a positive effect on even the most difficult mother-in-law.
#6. Find a way not to take her unkind remarks personally. Develop a new way to think about them such as “it is hard for my mother-in-law to accept an assertive woman in her son’s life but there are many good things about her, anyway. After all, she reared a son who appreciates and respects a strong woman.”
#7. If you need to stand up for yourself, do it in a calm and respectful, clear and direct way. Prepare your spouse for what might occur and ask for his or her backing.
The more positives you have been able to put into your relationship with her, the more likely it is that you will be able to be heard and respected. It is a much stronger place to speak from when you have established a tolerable relationship.
Choose your battles. Make sure that what you challenge is important enough to test the relationship. Some things truly are better left unchallenged for the greater good of the relationship.
You cannot change another person and that is usually an unrealistic goal. Sometimes keeping peace and developing a tolerable relationship is a much healthier goal.
Even the most difficult mother-in-law may always be a difficult mother-in-law; however, you can change the way that you think about her and act around her and the situation will change.
Hope that these tips are helpful. Building a tolerable relationship with a difficult mother-in-law will not happen quickly and will most likely take quite a bit of effort on your part. Hang in there and remember, she did rear the person you love.