When it comes to finding ‘the one’, we tend to overlook the fact that we’ll also be marrying into a whole other family as well. After all, it’s already hard enough trying to find someone we want to spend the rest of our life with, let alone making sure we get along with their relatives too.
Even the best in-laws, however, aren’t immune to becoming overly critical — especially the mother-in-law.
If you’re feeling like your mother-in-law is constantly criticizing you for one thing – or everything – it can leave you feeling like you are in a relationship black hole. You’re screwed if you say something, and miserable if you don’t.
Here are 5 tips for how to deal with a critical mother-in-law.
1. Try to understand where she’s coming from.
A lot of times, a critical mother-in-law may not realize she’s coming across that way. In her view, she’s just trying to help. Even our own parents can do this to us as well.
People who are older than us love to give advice — regardless of whether or not we asked for it. Having knowledge and years of experience is definitely valuable, but rampant advice can begin to feel more critical than helpful.
When it comes to our in-laws, it’s always good to try and see things from their perspective first — especially with regards to your spouse’s mum. We’ll always see our son or daughter as a child, even when they are grown up and married. So, it’s understandable that a mom would be enthusiastic about giving advice on all sorts of things. Unless your mother-in-law actually does not like you — which hopefully is never the case — she’s usually just trying to help.
2. Change the topic.
If you’re in a conversation with your mother-in-law and you are getting the brunt of criticism on something, change the topic. Shift the focus from you to her.
Perhaps she’s telling how to parent your infant. Simply say something concise and polite like, “Okay great, that’s very helpful” and then immediately ask her how she’s doing. Give her a chance to open up and talk about what’s going on in her life. After all, if she’s been worrying about everyone else, she probably hasn’t had any time to focus on herself and would appreciate someone willing to listen.
By shifting the conversation onto her though, it’s no longer about you and what she thinks you should be doing. Think of it as a mother-in-law diversion tactic.
3. Wait it out for a while.
The truth is that we may only see our in-laws from time to time, so when you encounter that criticism, it may just be a few times a year. If it’s only once in a while, try your best to shrug it off. It might feel frustrating at the time, but if it’s not a continuous problem, it’s not necessarily worth addressing.
Now, if your mother-in-law is constantly around and it’s a repeated issue causing you stress, then it’s time to consider talking about what’s going on. If you keep your feelings bottled up, it will only cause you to resent her – and quite possibly, your spouse too.
4. Discuss it with your spouse.
Before confronting your mother-in-law, it’s a good idea to talk about the situation with your spouse first. Odds are he or she may have no idea you’ve been feeling like this and understands that his or her mom can come across as a little too strong.
When bringing up the topic though, don’t be mean with how you talk about her. You may feel like she’s driving you nuts, but bring it up kindly.
No one wants to hear their mum insulted. Remind your spouse that you adore your mother-in-law, but lately, you feel like she is constantly critical and it’s been bothering you. Suggest that your spouse talks to his or her mother.
A lot of times, it’s way easier for us to be totally open with our own parent than our in-laws. I wouldn’t recommend your spouse to say that you complained though — simply that they have noticed what’s been going on. Your mother-in-law may feel offended if she hears you are complaining behind her back.
5. Confront the source.
Despite using the word ‘confront’, do not go into the conversation guns-blazing looking for a fight. Remember to be sympathetic.
Emphasize that you know she means well but the criticism has really been hurting you.
It’s not always what you say, but how you say it. The best case scenario is that she probably had no idea how her words were affecting you and will be glad that you told her.