Tips To Keep
Your Sanity

Just the word, mother-in-law, fills the heart with trepidation and self-doubt. This woman has assumed mythic proportions wielding criticism, guilt and coldness. When she visits, you feel like the inspector general has marched into your home. When she interacts with the children, she is evaluating their manners, academic performance and fitness -- tracing it all back to you!


You love the same man

However, in reality you can dramatically improve the situation simply by changing the premise underlying the relationship -- two women in love with the same man. Now, all the conflicts and criticisms make sense. Next, let your mother-in-law know that she occupies the primary spot in her son's heart and always will -- after all she is his mother.

Then you need to stop licking your wounds and spring into action. Change the habitual responses and stick to neutral territory. Here are some suggestions to befriend your mother-in-law thereby making your husband and children happier:

Have a sense of humor

See your life as a sit-com. Look at it from a distance. You laugh at the TV comedy, Everyone Loves Raymond, particularly Marie and Debra's relationship; try to see the humor in your own relationship with your mother-in-law. Humor goes a long way to defuse hostility.

Break the pattern of criticism

When your mother-in-law criticizes you, listen calmly for a few minutes then distract her by changing the topic, pulling out some photos of the children, new make-up or a magazine about a subject she's interested in like gardening, golf or shopping. Get her into Grandma mode by having your children sing, perform or show an award they received.

Reinterpret negatives into positives

Anything can be reinterpreted! Be creative and release the anger. Practice it so often that it becomes a reflex action. For example, if your mother-in-law doesn't even refer to you by your name, if you don't even merit a "hey, you," then reinterpret to, "She's being sensitive to my needs. It is awkward for her as I am not her daughter. So rather than confront me or offend me, she avoids calling me anything." Affirm your mother-in-law -- Compliment the qualities you want to reinforce. Wouldn't you do this with your child or pet? You don't want to comment on bad behavior and create the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Schedule one-on-one time around her interests to do something fun together

A day at the spa, lunch and shopping, visit the new exhibit. Get to know her on a personal level and bond. Ask about her dreams, her career and her past. Knowledge is power!

Be patient and lower your expectations

Don't envision an immediate transformation or a Kodak moment of love. You can expect mutual respect and loyalty. One step at a time. It took my mother-in-law 20 years to love me, but she finally came around. Where there is life, there is hope.

Recommended for you


Comments on "How to deal with your mother-in-law"

San July 09, 2013 | 2:16 AM

I agree with Sheila! These women are cunning and their manipulation skills are so well polished that everyone ends up believing that you're the bad woman and she's the saint. My MIL did something similar to what happened to Sheila. She put my husband's entire family against me with her lies and was so against my husband moving out to live with me! Obviously we need space once we get married! She constantly nags about everything and anything, glares at me ALL THE TIME (if looks could kill, I'd be dead by now), she wrote to my mother about how I'm not fit to marry her son, and has been shallow in every way possible. She has been lying to my husband's cousins and the rest of the family about how I take up all his time and how he no longer has time for her (this was when we were dating and we were seeing each other just once a week)! She has not so much as uttered a good word to me, pretends as if nothing happened in the past and that all is well (when her son is around - I don't meet her alone at any cost). Her husband left her years ago and no wonder. This type of people slowly and surely work their way towards tearing your family apart so WATCH OUT! Stay well away and as far away as possible and minimal meetings with these people are advised.

jeri March 19, 2013 | 5:42 AM

This sounds like it is written by a narcissistic MIL!

jeri March 19, 2013 | 5:39 AM

The comments to this article make more sense than the author! This article is damaging in so many ways. Shame on you for telling the abused DIL to let her MIL know that she will always hold the primary spot in her Son's life! His Wife now holds the primary spot and the MIL should step back and let them learn life together. Readers please check out other sights that have more knowledge on this subject. Showing kindness and love to a narcissist just makes them think you are weak and she will break you! Run don't walk from this article.

Sheila December 06, 2009 | 10:29 AM

I completely agree with Sharon. This article must be written by someone who has not been abused by a narcissist. My mother-in-law has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Even though I have taken her on 2 vacations, showered her with praise and gifts, she is still abusive. She is now a very young 90 years old, I am 54 and her son is 62. She would do anything she could think of to destroy our marriage so her son will come live with her. She has spread vicious lies about me to her friends and my husbands family. She told me that I don't belong on her family because I am not a "10". Even though I am 5'7" and weigh 140 lbs, she bought me a diet plan for my birthday. She has repeatedly tried to introduce single women to my husband on our trips to visit her (she lives in Dallas, we live in Colorado). She has asked my husband whom he loves more; her or me and has made him feel guilty about even being married. Her abuse goes on and on. She recently told everyone that I called my sister-in-law a "". I do not use that kind of language and would never call anyone, especially my sister-in-law that name. She then told me I had no right to defend that remark with the people she said it to. My therapist has told me that the only way to end her abuse is to end my relationship with her, which is what I am going to do. After 6 years of tolerating her abuse, I've had enough. NO ONE deserves to be abused. Narcissists cannot help themselves; they MUST be put on a pedestal, and when they are not, they will abuse the person whom in their mind has taken them off of it. If you meet someone with this away as fast as you can!

sharon August 11, 2009 | 2:40 PM

This is the wrong advice. A person with narcissistic personality disorder will take everything you give them and act as if it is NOTHING. They are insatiable, and what you do is NEVER enough. Let alone that they live in their own world and make up all types of stories to make you look bad. I have heard so many lies about myself that I don't know who they are talking about. And she will lie right in front of you to colleagues, family, etc. Distance from them and awareness of their plan is best. NEVER give them what they want. To them you are a rotten, vile and disgusting person, regardless of what kindnesses you show them.

+ Add Comment

(required - not published)