I hate my mother-in-law! She is forever correcting me and comparing me unfavourably to everyone else.
She is constantly criticising my cooking, my clothes, the way I am raising the children - just about everything about my career, and loads of other things, so I sometimes wonder if she will ever say anything nice about me.
I know I am doing a good job, so why does her disapproval bother me so much? And how can I get her to change?
Hi Scary Mother-in-Law!
Trying to change your mother-in-law is the wrong strategy because none of us has any control over other people’s behaviour. So she is unlikely to improve if you try. A better approach is for you to think about how you could change yourself.
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That does not mean giving in to her. It means considering how adjusting your behaviour might make hers better. Because she probably feels she has your best interests at heart.
Or maybe her criticism’s just become a bad habit. Either way, her disapproval gets to you because her comments make you feel that she is treating you like a child.
So your target is to get her to see you as a completely competent adult. And that is all about how you react to her criticism. Because if you get upset, you will reinforce her behaviour.
Instead, you need her to see you as a confident, relaxed, assured and independent adult, even if you are churning inside. A good way to achieve this is to be calm, respectful and polite, and avoid rising to the bait.
So do not fret about her criticism. Instead, find ways to respond to her nitpicking so that you do not get drawn into the put-down. find ways to respond to her nitpicking so that you do not get drawn into the put-down. Because a total lack of reaction will stop her comments.
But if it does not, just stay relaxed and say something like, “Thank you for your suggestion, I will think about it”. And then move the conversation on to something else. The whole idea is to avoid her feeling that she’s got to you. Then her disapproval will get less frequent.
But what if some of her criticisms ring true? If you are resisting good advice, you should ask yourself why. Maybe you feel threatened, and worry she will take over your whole life? And ask yourself why she behaves the way she does. Maybe she is also feeling insecure?
Because understanding her behaviour and your reaction to it will help you get things into perspective. So you can accept her help when it is useful, and reject the rest. And begin to have a warm and adult relationship with her.
All the best,