Even though a mother-in-law’s interests on her son or daughter are different from those of her son or daughter’s spouse, these interests are bound to clash, creating conflict.
The mother-child bond is particularly strong when the mother was the sole parent or the breadwinner. She may have sacrificed so much to raise and educate her son or daughter and it is only right for her to expect to benefit from her child’s success.
The spouse, on the other hand, also feels an entitlement to solely enjoy her husband or wife’s full attention, love and resources, and rightfully so. Since the new couple have the responsibility of building a new family, different from that of their parents, constant interference by parents will hamper their efforts and affect their unity.
Here are tips on how to avoid conflict with your mother-in-law.
Know your spouse: Talk to your spouse about how you want your life to be together. When it comes to family traditions and practices, children and home, make sure your spouse understand the way you want things to be, and your reasons. Listen to your spouse’s ideas, too.
Make sure you know what is most important to your spouse and what he or she values. This way, you are ready to make the important decisions about your life together. You then will have a solid front that makes you prepared to deal with your mother-in-law.
Say yes when the opportunity presents itself: Find common ground. Embrace the things you and mother-in-law have in common. Include her in things, so she feels she’s connected with your family. Listen to your mother-in-law’s ideas with an open mind. This way, she feels validated and important. Appreciate her experience and point of view. Take any advice that sounds good and helpful and ignore what you don’t like.
Say no when necessary. Be assertive: Once you and your spouse are clear about what you want, calmly and politely thank your mother-in-law for her ideas, and clearly say no when needed. You and your spouse need to back each other up. A united front of husband and wife makes for a strong marriage and family.
Be polite and respectful. Honour the wisdom and strengths of your mother-in-law. Thank her for her help. Plan ahead for a thoughtful Mother’s Day gesture for her. When in doubt, remain respectful. If you are upset or irritated by your mother-in-law’s actions, remain polite.
Consider going to counselling with your spouse first. A lot of mother-in-law problems actually reflect a problem with the way you and your significant other are interacting. Be proactive. Through counselling, you can get an objective perspective on your situation and learn tools to ensure a positive relationship.
Don’t vent to everyone about how horrible your mother-in-law is. This harmful gossip can destroy both your reputations. Instead, have courage and be proactive in dealing with her.
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