The struggle is as old as time. Trying to navigate family relationships is no easy task. Especially when it comes to exchanges with your in-laws. Mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws are historically known for having a difficult relationship. If you find yourself in this situation, you are not alone. And though you might not ever attain BFF status with her, continue reading for ideas on what can help to improve your relationship with your mother-in-law (MIL).
First, don’t make it mean anything about you.
Are you continuously worried about what your MIL thinks of you? Stop. C.S. Lewis explains, “You will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you're making.”
So, take that burden right off your shoulders.
Some of the best life advice I ever received is very applicable to this situation:
Don’t make it mean anything about you.
Your MIL doesn’t like the way you cook? Don’t make it mean anything about you.
Your MIL doesn’t acknowledge you when you’re at family gatherings? Don’t make it mean anything about you.
Your MIL made a passive-aggressive comment about the way you parent? Don’t make it mean anything about you.
Remember, your worth does not come from how your MIL feels about you. By removing that pressure, you will find it more doable to be yourself around her and to feel more at ease during family gatherings.
Recognize your insecurities.
Okay, so easier said than done, right? Well one thing about family relationships is that they can reveal a lot about a person. In a kind, non-judgemental approach, take some time to reflect about what troubles you with your relationship with your MIL. You might discover different insecurities that you are carrying.
You can use these experiences to better understand yourself, your needs/boundaries, and the personal growth you want to achieve.
Recognize she has insecurities too.
We all deal with insecurities, and though they might be deeply hidden, your MIL is no different. If your MIL continuously exhibits unkind behavior, she likely is dealing with significant insecurities. Her behavior is more telling about her and where she is at, than it is about you. So again remember, don’t make her opinions and actions mean anything about you. Think about how underneath all of those outside layers, there is likely pain that she is dealing with.
Make and keep healthy boundaries.
As you work on your relationship with your MIL, remember to uphold boundaries, as needed. When is a boundary necessary? Typically when you feel that a value of yours is being ignored and/or when you feel depleted/burned out. To navigate what those boundaries should be, consider discussing the topic with a therapist. He/she can help you identify and implement boundaries for your specific needs/situation.
Learn to appreciate your differences.
It seems to be human nature to feel threatened when someone else does something differently than the way we do it. This seems to be especially true when that person is your MIL. You might feel that your partner is comparing you to her, or that she is judging you for doing things differently.
Whatever the case may be, try to keep an open mind when it comes to your differences. If you are willing to learn from her, you might be able to learn a new skill or at least gain a different perspective. And you can earn double the connection points by asking her to teach you how to do something that she is proficient in.
Ask her questions.
Not sure what to talk about with your MIL? Ask her meaningful questions. And try to listen with the intent to gain a better understanding of who she is.
Some examples of questions include:
What was your childhood like?
What was your favorite thing about motherhood?
What was the hardest part about motherhood for you?
What are some of the best life lessons you have learned?
What were your parents like?
Her responses may surprise you. And hopefully this exercise will help you to gain a new perspective on who she is and the experiences she has had.
This one can be a tough one, especially when there are layers of unresolved resentment. However, over time, it can be a tool to help relieve some of those negative feelings. Seeking, acknowledging, and vocalizing the good things that your MIL does will not only improve your relationship with her, but it can also improve the way you FEEL overall.
It is so easy to identify the flaws and missteps. It takes a bit of work to seek the positive. Be patient with yourself as you try to train your brain to look for the ways your MIL has blessed/is blessing your life.
In the ways you feel that you can, express that appreciation directly to her. You might be surprised how in doing so, it can help you overcome your own insecurities, appreciate your differences, and improve your relationship.
What has helped you improve your relationship with your MIL? Let us know in the comments below. And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter so you can be notified when new blog articles are posted.
About the Author:Michelle White is the Founder of Rest Dress: A lounge dress company dedicated to improving the motherhood experience. She and her husband are raising their four boys in the San Antonio area.