These tips for coping with difficult mother-in-law problems are inspired by a reader’s question. Her mother-in-law is causing all sorts of problems in her marriage, and she doesn’t know how to cope.
One way to cope when your mother-in-law doesn’t like you is to read Reluctantly Related: Secrets To Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law by Deanna Brann PhD. The more support you get, the better off you’ll be. You’ll never find all the answers to dealing with any family problem in a blog post, but you will get the support you need in a book!
Here’s what my reader said, on my article about coping with controlling parents: “What do I do about my boyfriend’s parents, who don’t like or accept me? They are very clear about their feelings for me, and it makes me uncomfortable.”
If your mother-in-law problems seem insurmountable, remember that this is a relationship conflict that you and your partner need to work through together. This may be the worst problem you face – and it may help you build a better relationship and marriage.
How to Cope With a Difficult Mother-in-Law
Talk to your mother-in-law directly. Dial up your courage, take your boyfriend’s hand, and sit down with him and his parents. Describe how you feel excluded, rejected, and disliked by them. Ask if you’ve offended them. Basically, you’re asking what their problem is – in a gentle, nonjudgmental, open minded way. Ask for three reasons they’re not comfortable with you or your relationship with their son. The first reason or two they give are excuses; the third reason is the closest to the truth.
Don’t expect your mother-in-law to change — or your mother-in-law problems to be solved overnight. People can and do change, but it’s not realistic to stay in your relationship and expect your mother-in-law problems to suddenly disappear! Generally, toxic in-laws won’t do an about face and start welcoming you to their family gatherings. Be realistic, and expect a future similar to your present situation. If you’re not currently welcome at your in-laws’ family gatherings now, you can expect not be welcomed later.
For more tips on coping with mother-in-law problems, read Should You Visit In-Laws and Family Members Who Are Hurtful?
Be kind and friendly, but not a sycophant. “Sychophant” is a fancy way of saying “suck up” or “toady.” My reader mentioned buying her boyfriend’s mother a Mother’s Day gift – this is a very sweet, kind thing to do. But her boyfriend later discouraged her from buying his mom a birthday gift because she didn’t appreciate or want the first gift. If your mother-in-law refuses to accept gifts or have you over for family events or holidays — or if you’ve done everything you can to cope with toxic in-laws — then don’t buy them gifts! Be polite, but don’t try to win them over. Sometimes the best way to cope with toxic in-laws is to leave them alone.
Don’t ask your partner to choose between you and his family – unless you’re married. This marriage tip applies to all relationships! Generally, it’s not a good idea to ask your boyfriend to choose between you and his parents. If you’re married, then your expectations of your husband and your mother-in-law is different. But, girlfriends who ask their boyfriends to make that choice may be causing more conflict than it’s worth. Coping with difficult parents or parents-in-law requires patience and wisdom.
Decide what you can live with in your marriage. Are you happy in this relationship? Can you live with your partner’s parents or your mother-in-law not liking or accepting you? You need to decide if this is a small price to pay for your relationship and whether you can tolerate being excluded from or snubbed at family gatherings. After all, all love relationships have their own unique challenges! But if you are seriously upset or bothered by partner’s parents, and if it’s causing conflict in your relationship, then you need to decide what you can do about it. And, what you can do does not include changing your boyfriend or mother-in-law.
If your mother-in-law problems are wrecking your relationship with your husband, read 20 Simple Tips for Communicating Better in a Relationship.
Remember that you can’t change anyone but yourself. Don’t ask – or expect – your boyfriend or his parents to act or think differently. After you express your feelings about how you’re being treated (or mistreated) and after you ask what you did to cause his parents to treat you this way, then you need to let go. You have to let them be who they are.
Your mother-in-law or toxic in-laws may not be able to accept you for who you are, but for your own peace of mind and soul, you have to accept them for who they are.
To learn more about coping with toxic in-laws, read How to Cope With Toxic Family Relationships.
Do you have a mother-in-law problems, or can you offer tips for coping with them? Comments welcome below…
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.