First published on KSL.COM
I have a really difficult mother-in-law, who continually disrespects my wife and I and our ability to parent our children. She often manipulates us with guilt to get us to do what she wants us to do, yet nothing we ever do is good enough either. When my wife has tried to talk to her mom about her behavior it blows up and she ends up mad at us. Whenever my wife and I fight my wife also runs to her mom with all the details, which is making the situation even worse. I am hoping you have some advice on the in-law topic that would be helpful to me and many others who have in-law challenges.
I think it might serve us all to get some clarity on the problem and define some rules of engagement for everyone to follow.
Most of these mother-in-law relationship problems are created because the mother-in-law is suffering from a fear of loss. This is the fear of losing out, missing out, being mistreated or being taken from at some level. Many women feel like they are literally losing their child (a child who has the been the focus of their attention for many years) when the child marries. The mother-in-law may get controlling, needy and selfish in an effort to hold on, stay involved and feel a sense of importance in your life. They may subconsciously see the spouse as a threat and try to undermine the relationship (this could be a conscious effort, but it could also happen subconsciously.) Most of these women are trying to be good, loving people, but their fear is making them needy and selfish and they are missing your needs.
The problem with trying to talk to a person (who is suffering from this much fear) about their behavior, is they will only see it as an attack. If you can’t talk to her about the issues, then you must work on the tips below for you (including enforcing strong boundaries) and hope she gets it after a while. Or you could share this article with her and ask her for some other specific ways you could treat her better. Focus on how you can treat her better because you want to improve your relationship, and hope that she sees the wisdom in treating you better too.
Your mother-in-law is not a bad person though, she is just a scared person. What she needs is reassurance, validation, appreciation and to know that she is important and valued, and the good news is, you can give her these things without letting her control your life. You must enforce strong, resolute, but loving, boundaries with her and then let her process through any anger or drama she choses to experience about your boundaries on her own. You cannot feel guilty about it. The less you join in the drama, the more pointless the drama will become for her.
Here are some simple relationship rules for all married people and mothers-in-law to live by.
For all mothers-in-law:
How to be a great son-in-law or daughter-in-law:
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a life coach and speaker.
FOR MORE FREE
Coaching is less expensive than you think - If you need help we can find you a coach you can afford.
Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.