Marrying into a new family often comes with a few bumps along the way. Here is how to deal with a problematic new mother-in-law.
You love your fiancé more than life itself. They’re caring, kind, considerate, and not bad to look at either! So you can’t imagine how a person so wonderful came from…well, let’s just put it this way – if you found out your fiancé’s mother used to breathe fire and destroyed a few cities in her youth, you wouldn’t be surprised. Like, AT ALL.
Trust us when we say: you’re not alone in dealing with a problematic new mother-in-law. If the issue weren’t so common, we wouldn’t have movies like Monster-in-Law, right? But there are a few ways you can help bridge the gap between you and a steely matriarch.
This is a big one, and one that is SUPER difficult to put into practice. When your problematic new mother-in-law is causing drama over the smallest things, whether they’re related to your wedding or not, try putting yourself in her shoes. Is she making a scene because you’re getting the wedding she always wanted but never had herself? Is she acting spitefully because she’s afraid of losing her son completely? Of course, NONE of these are excuses for any bad behavior, but it might help you to be able to communicate with her better. Which brings us to our next point…
If your future Mother-in-Law is giving you grief or deeply upsetting you about a particular issue, try communicating those ideas in a calm and clear way. For example – if she’s throwing a fit over the color of bridesmaids that you’ve picked, you could say “I completely understand that you don’t like the color. I know it’s not everyone’s favorite. But I really love it, and I think it’s beautiful, and I would like it to be a part of my wedding day. When you make comments about it, it really upsets me.”
Plan an outing together – just the two of you
If you can tolerate it, it may be a good idea to arrange a little day date for you and your future MIL. This provides an opportunity for the two of you to get to know each other, outside of your fiancé and wedding planning. Who knows – you could actually share a lot more in common than you think!
Talk to your fiancé
You may be tempted to unload all of your grievances about a problematic new mother-in-law to your fiancé. While it is important to share how you are feeling, remember – this is your fiancé’s mother that you’re talking about. Keep the discussion civil and respectful while expressing the issues. Depending on your relationships with each other, you may decide that your fiancé should speak to their mother in a private conversation.
Sometimes, a future MIL’s actions don’t come from any source you can empathize with. And even worse – some future MIL’s will act in ways to specifically hurt you or cause issues. If you’ve tried empathizing, clear and respectful communication, and initiating conversations between your fiancé and their mother, it may be time to put some boundaries in place. Whether you want those boundaries to be physical, emotional, or both, is up to you and your fiancé. You should never be in a situation where you feel continually disrespected or emotionally abused, and some healthy boundary-setting can help you avoid those outcomes.
Don’t take it personally
People act and react in very different ways, and for different motivations. Sometimes you can go out of your way to be nice to someone, but they’ll still choose to do hurtful things in the end. Realize that their actions are more of a reflection on them than they are of you. More likely than not, their behavior has little to do with anything on your part.
Accept the status of your relationship
At the end of the day, you only have so much control over a situation. Not everyone in the world will get along, and you deserve to only have those in your circle who (at the very least) respect you. If you’ve tried everything to foster a harmonious relationship with your problematic mother-in-law but nothing has worked, it may be time to accept a hard truth – you will never have a strong, loving relationship. Like we mentioned, setting boundaries and speaking with your fiancé are important steps to check off before you come to this conclusion. While you may not have a bond, you can keep things between your families civil and appropriate – what “civil and appropriate” looks like will depend a lot on your specific situation. Maybe it means only seeing each other on holidays or at public gatherings, maybe it means not seeing each other at all. Whatever you decide, make sure you and your fiancé are on the same page. And know that you’ve done everything possible to try and make it work.