by Rebecca Eliason, M.S.
A friend of mine was recently telling me stories about how “absolutely nuts” her husbands’ parents make her. She tells me that she cannot stand how her in-laws are constantly interfering in her life. She is living a daughter-in-law’s nightmare. They are opinionated, and ALWAYS share those opinions, even without an invitation. They tell her how to raise her children, push her to break her kids bedtimes so they can visit, and always want her to bring her family to their house, so that they can spend time with their grandchildren. They do not seem to realize that she is involved in other activities and has commitments in her life that do not include tending to her in-laws needs. She told me that she has tried everything, but that she cannot get her mother-in-law to stop asking invasive questions and making ridiculous demands. Furthermore, she gets annoyed and tells her husband that she can’t stand his mother and everything she does, which usually causes an argument between the spouses.
Prior Attempts to Fix the Problem: My dear friend has tried many different ways to change her mother-in-law’s behavior. She has invited her in-laws to her house so she and her children do not need to travel, she has tried to schedule dinners earlier so that the kids can still go to sleep on time, as well as many other solutions. They have all been to no avail and she still ends up angry after each encounter with her mother-in-law.
My Unsolicited Opinion: First, I think it’s important that my friend realizes that she cannot change her mother-in-law. Next, I desperately want her to realize that her that her anger is not only hurting her relationship with her-in-laws, but is also hurting her marriage and her children’s relationship with their grandparents. Each of these relationships is important to her. Hopefully, she will realize that she needs to get her anger under control for herself and her family.
The Real Problem: The semi-hidden problem here is that my dear friend believes that she cannot stand her mother-in-law’s interference. However, the fact that she continues to tell me these stories afterwards shows me not only how many times she has faced this situation but that she has, in fact, stood to tell the tale.
Many daughter-in-laws have mother-in-laws who overly involve themselves in their daughter-in-law’s business and still manage to survive. She should be no different. I wonder how many daughter-in-laws think their mother-in-law’s sole purpose in life is to get under their skin? Let’s just say she is probably not alone in this feeling and I haven’t heard too many stories of people truly not being able to withstand an interfering mother-in-law.
Magic Potion Fix: If she could change her belief that she cannot stand her mother-in-law to a more rational or functional belief, then perhaps the next time her mother-in-law demands that she bring her two young children over for dinner at 8:30, she can still manage to enjoy some of her day. Perhaps if her new belief is that she does not like it when her mother-in-law interferes, (who would?!) but that she can stand it with it when it happens, she’ll be less angry each time her mother-in-law steps over the boundaries she has set.
To be fair, she will probably still be annoyed when her mother-in-law invades their lives, but it will be a healthy kind of annoyance. If she can turn her anger toward her invasive mother-in-law into a manageable frustration, then she can join the ranks of all the frustrated but functional daughter-in-laws of the world.
P.S. To my mother in law- if you’re reading this I love you!