How do you recover after a major blow-up with your Mother-In-Law?
Vent. Talk to you girlfriends, not your husband or your family. Your girlfriends will let you get it off your chest. Your Mom or Sister will remember everything you’ve said and hold a cumulative grudge against your Mother-In-Law and perhaps your husband. Don’t involve your Sisters in Law, or other relatives for the same reason. Dr. Phil says ‘If you haven’t talked to your in-law about what’s bothering you, then you don’t have the right to be complaining about the problem to others.” While we totally intellectually “get” that, we aren’t all strong enough to confront our Mother-In-Law. You have to get it off your chest, so go ahead and vent.
Stop bitching about your Mother-In-Law to your husband. We know it’s hard. This doesn’t mean don’t have constructive conversations with hubby about setting boundaries. Just stop complaining. Remember, no man likes to come home to a complaining, bitching wife. As a bonus, the less you complain about your Mother-in-Law, the more likely he is to complain about her! But when he does, resist the temptation to join in the fun. Listen to his complaints, but don’t add to them. It can be extremely gratifying to hear him complain about her!
Do NOT email your Mother-In-Law! In fact, do not create a written record that you will later regret after you’ve calmed down. Even if you receive an aggravating email from your Mother-In-Law or others, send only the briefest, most courteous reply. You cannot take back the written word. It will only come back to haunt you.
Don’t involve the children. Shield your kids from any arguments with your spouse or in-laws. Even if you can’t stand your Mother-In-Law, you should do everything in your power to preserve a positive relationship between grandchildren and their grandparents. Don’t speak ill of your Mother-in-Law in front of your children—you know it’s the wrong thing to do.
Examine your role in the feud as objectively as you can. Did you act immaturely? Did you say something you know was out of line? Did you break a promise? Do you give her the same amount of time with her grandchildren as you allow your mother? What about your behaviour embarrasses you?
Did you give her a chance? No. Really. Many Daughters-In-Law get themselves worked up and defensive before a Mother-in-Law visit. We play out scenarios in our minds, predicting disaster, and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. She can do no right. If she insists on cooking dinner you view her as controlling and insulting your cooking. If she doesn’t offer to cook you see her as a lazy, imposing, ungrateful houseguest. If you continuously predict negative outcomes, that is what you will get.
Have some empathy for your husband. This grudge match could be causing your husband a great deal of stress that he is not verbalizing– it’s not easy being in the middle of two women he loves. Put yourself in his shoes. Have some sympathy for the fact that he is in a lose-lose situation. If he pleases one of you, the other is certain to be mad at him. Accept the fact that however horrible your Mother-in-Law is, your husband needs to have a positive relationship with his mother.
Try to put yourself in your Mother-In-Law’s shoes. Even if you really, really don’t want to. Recognize that your she loves your husband. This may be the only thing you have in common with her! Can you pinpoint the root cause of her behaviour? It must be difficult for her, a seasoned wife and mother, to see you -- an inexperienced wife and mother -- doing things that don’t look right to her. Don’t you think it could be hard not to say anything if you see someone doing things you know to be wrong, be it cooking or child rearing?
Try this exercise: before speaking to your Mother-In-Law, imagine she is your own mother. Speak and react to her with the same level of respect and consideration that you would give to your own mother. Does it feel artificial? Is it difficult? Perhaps you will realize that you aren’t as nice to her as you could be. (Or perhaps she is truly impossible!)
Decide if you would rather be right or be happy. Would you rather win every argument, or would you rather have a peaceful home life with your husband and kids? Imagine your future if this feud is unresolved. What will it do to your family? Your holidays? How would you feel if your Mother-In-Law was hit by a bus tomorrow? (No snickering) Would you feel guilty that you didn’t try harder to make it work?
Work with your husband to develop an action plan. Don’t let her be the downfall of your relationship. If you are lucky, your husband is supportive, and on your side, if not see Mama's Boys. Either way, sit down and talk with him (when he is not in his ‘cave,’ watching the big game, or exhausted from a hard day’s work.) Tell him he is your #1 priority -- not the feud with your Mother-in-Law. Men (who are from Mars) like to talk about solving problems rationally. They don’t like to emote and empathize about a problem as women do. He is not going to say, “yes honey, she is a total B$&%* and you are 100% right, I’m sorry it has been so hard on you.” Ask him to brainstorm with you how to improve the relationship, such as setting new boundaries for his mother. Agree to a concrete action plan and start enacting it. You will both feel better. Good luck!