Interfering in-laws is not an alien concept to married couples. The amount of influence the man’s family can wield in a couple’s married life can take a toll on the marriage. Personal space may become a thing of the past, and having kids no longer remains your decision to make.
Having an interfering mother-in-law really affects all aspects of your life without so much as a warning. My relationship and my mental health invariably started getting affected as well. Since my mother-in-law lived with us as well, it felt as though I never had any space to myself.
My story is a classic example of meddling in-laws acting with impunity in their treatment of the daughter-in-law and not knowing where to draw the line in their involvement in a couple’s personal life. Read on to find out what I went through, and 6 tips to deal with an overbearing mother-in-law.
The Ordeal Of Coping With Interfering In-laws
When I look back eight years, I wonder how things changed for me. We have been through so many ups and downs and still managed to maintain our relationship.
April 28, 2008: My wedding day. I was nervous; I was happy, and the effect of mixed feelings was etched on my expressive face. Yes, I was about to start a new life. A life that began with so many hurdles. There were people who made every possible effort to make my wedding the worst event of my life. An event that I never feel comfortable discussing with people.
I am married to my aunt’s sister-in-law’s son. His family created a ruckus about the wedding food arrangements and blew the matter out of proportion rather than playing it down. They had always treated me like a daughter, but they marred my wedding day.
I could see the pain on my father’s face but could never understand why the food was so important to my in-laws. My father was a saintly man who would never speak ill of people and hardly cared what food was served to him. I will never be able to get over the fact that my wedding day brought him such humiliation by my disrespectful in-laws. It was just the beginning, and I had to go through several other trials.
In rather regressive households, every girl is expected to make adjustments and compromises after getting married; I was no different. Thankfully, things are a lot different now, but in the smaller towns where all the street signs give directions to the bigger cities, this kind of thinking is still pretty much prevalent. But, the events that spoiled my wedding day had a deeper impact on my personal life.
Related Reading: Living with criticism from the in-laws
Spouse vs family divide
I was always the target of my mother-in-law’s complaints and was constantly on the receiving end of sarcastic comments. She used to say that I was not a suitable bride for her son, and they could have found a better match for him, where they would have received the best treatment and respect. For her, I was neither beautiful nor talented in any way, although my husband always said that he couldn’t have found a better match than me.
Things started badly and were getting worse due to interfering in-laws and third parties in my marriage. My husband was always better disposed toward his mom since she was a single parent, and avoided chiding her even when I complained. He was caught in the age-old spouse vs family divide.
Extended family interference in marriage
Then, there was extended family interference in marriage as well. My sister-in-law, for instance, always had an opinion on our personal matters and created mountains out of molehills. My husband’s role as a mute spectator in this entire situation began affecting my relationship with him. Those rare times when he spoke up for me, he was labeled an irresponsible son and a bad brother.
My husband never blamed me for what happened at the wedding but felt that he was deprived of the respect that one would traditionally get as a groom. My brother had cut all ties with my aunt’s family. But whenever my husband and my mother-in-law visited my parents’ home, they would ask my mother-in-law’s brother’s family to accompany them.
Their presence made things awkward, as nobody shared the old bond anymore. My mother-in-law wanted them to be respected and my brother didn’t even want to see them. It affected the status of my husband in my parents’ house and I feel sorry for this.
Making peace with interfering in-laws
My husband listened to me about my in-laws and I understood his compulsions too. But we found ourselves helpless. Both of us suffered and often clashed. We reached a point where we felt that things were not working and separation was the only answer. It was solely for the sake of our unborn child that we continued living together. Yes, I was pregnant. Slowly and steadily, things started to settle down and my position in the family improved with each passing day.
The birth of my child changed the atmosphere of my house. Suddenly, we all had a common goal: to see my son smile, to watch his cute antics, to see him learn new things. The topic of discussion shifted from grievances and complaints to our little bundle of joy. My mother-in-law began accepting me as an integral part of the family rather than an outsider. My husband, Rick, and I became a unit within a bigger unit.
It took both of us 3 to 4 years to accept that interfering in-laws will always be a part of the joint family system. The mutual understanding between a couple regarding extended family interference in a marriage is what helps them overcome marital issues and obstacles. It is one of the top priorities of a long-term marriage.
No matter how difficult the situation is, if a couple stands by each other during a crisis, things automatically start to ease. It’s a difficult process and will require the utmost patience, but take it from me, it does get better. If you’re in a situation where your emotionally manipulative mother-in-law is causing a ruckus in your marriage, the following tips are just what you need.
Tips To Handle An Interfering Mother-In-Law
I know just how hard it can be to deal with an interfering mother-in-law. In my story, the only respite came when our little bundle of joy entered the world. If having a child isn’t on your mind and distancing yourself from in-laws isn’t an option, there are still some things you can do to ensure your life doesn’t become a reality TV show.
1. Have a heart to heart with your overbearing mother-in-law
Improving communication in any relationship will benefit it. No, just telling her “stop interfering in my relationship!” won’t solve anything. If your mother-in-law isn’t completely irrational, try to have a conversation with her next time she visits. The key components you have to remember here are that you need to be extremely polite, and extremely understanding. The minute you lose your cool, your relationship with her will be damaged even further.
To make sure that doesn’t happen, let her know you understand where she’s coming from and try to tell her politely that you’ll pack your husband’s lunches when you want to, not when she demands you do it. Be respectful, have a clear topic of conversation and try to land at a constructive resolution instead of just bickering.
2. Respect her
Dealing with an emotionally manipulative mother-in-law is complex but at the same time, really isn’t. All she’s looking for is some respect from her child and you. If she’s looking to put you under her thumb with the respect you give her, that’s another story. But other than that, treat her the way she wants to be treated. Show genuine appreciation and make sure she sees how genuinely you care about her.
If distancing yourself from in-laws is not an option, consider jumping in with both feet. By making the best out of the situation at hand, perhaps you’ll be able to diminish the toxicity with kindness.
3. Understand your husband
When you essentially have to choose between your mother and your wife, it’s not necessarily a fun place to be in. Communicate with your husband, tell him you’d like to set some boundaries with your mother-in-law but try to understand the Catch-22 he’s found himself in as well.
Being stuck between the wife and the family will confuse your husband about what he should do, prompting him to shell up and not do anything. Tell him what you want from him and figure out what the best way to go about it could be.
Related Reading: How To Talk To Your Husband When The Other Woman Is His Mother
4. Try to look inward
Ask yourself: Are you unknowingly dishing out rude remarks to your mother-in-law that may tick her off even more? With an open and unbiased mind, try to think about if you’re doing something that may cause more problems. By making sure all your mother-in-law sees is genuine care in you for her, you’ll be increasing your chances of having a harmonious relationship with her.
5. Seek advice from people around you
Your husband may not be the best person to go to in this situation, since he’s struggling to figure out just what he should be doing in this situation. Perhaps consider seeking advice from people around you you can trust and count on. Be it a best friend, a sibling, or even your parents.
Sometimes you can’t find all the answers by yourself, and you’ll need the help of others around you. Don’t just end up endlessly ranting about your toxic mother-in-law though, that won’t get you any help!
6. Set clear boundaries
When being the bigger person and diffusing the situation with kindness fails, you need to set boundaries in a relationship that will benefit everyone involved. However, setting boundaries doesn’t mean you have to be rude. It can just be as simple as you requesting your mother to call before she comes to visit.
I hope these tips to deal with your interfering mother-in-law will help you and you’ll start to have a better-married life, just like I did. Remember, a bit of kindness goes a long way. Once she sees how genuinely interested you are in caring for her and your husband, she’ll start to calm down with her nasty remarks.
To deal with an overbearing mother-in-law, try having a conversation with her and understanding where she’s coming from. Figure out what it is she actually wants and how you can deliver. You’ll have to be the bigger person, despite how much you want to distance yourself from her.
It all depends on what the dynamics of your family are like. While in most cases, no communication with the mother-in-law is a bad thing, if you and your husband agree that your toxic mother-in-law was negatively affecting your mental health beyond an unreasonable degree, in some rare cases it may be okay to cut her off. Your mental and physical health is what’s most important, get on the same page with your husband about your mother-in-law.
Chances are, she’d have told you to your face. If she hasn’t, however, and you suspect foul play, try looking for signs like rude remarks, lack of respect and condescending tones.