Many people admit to having difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships with their in-laws, however having a toxic mother-in-law can be especially tricky when balancing a relationship with your spouse.
I have five simple tips that can help put you on a happier and healthier path when dealing with a toxic mother-in-law.
1. You don’t have to like your mother-in-law, or even be friends.
Establish clear boundaries with your spouse. Let him know that it is OK for him to maintain a relationship with his mother without involving you. By doing this you can eliminate the pressure to please your mother-in-law; chances are she doesn’t want to be your friend, either. If your spouse is constantly pushing you into uncomfortable situations, make it clear that friendship is not a necessity and that it’s OK for him to have a relationship or do things together that do not involve you. Trust me, you will be much happier and your marriage with suffer significantly less in the long run.
2. Stop going the extra mile to please her.
I learned this the hard way with my husband’s mother. After years of accommodation and fake smiles, I stopped worrying about making her happy and started worrying about my own happiness. The truth is, a truly toxic mother-in-law will never be happy. Do you find yourself planning events, inviting her to parties, attending holidays, dinners and birthdays just for her to show up and ruin your fun? If you find yourself in situations where your mother-in-law is ruining exciting and fun memories it is time to take a step back and realize maybe she shouldn’t be there at all. Talk to your spouse and let him know that you don’t want to spend happy times trying to please an unpleasable person; it most likely bothers him, too.
3. Know she might put her own selfishness above her child’s happiness.
It is sad to imagine a mother not being happy for her child, especially when he has created such a beautiful and loving life and family with you. Unfortunately, it is all too common. Dealing with the selfishness that comes along with a toxic mother-in-law means having compassion for your spouse. This will bring you closer, because he is dealing with the effects of a toxic mother, as well.
It is hard for a person to realize his mother has no interest in his happiness, especially when he is so proud of the life he’s have built with you. By allowing him to cope and grieve the lack of an emotionally present and loving mother it gives you an opportunity to bond and understand. Evaluating the role she needs or does not need to have in your lives together can be therapeutic.
4. Create distance, either physical or emotional.
Creating distance in any toxic relationship can alleviate tension. Emotional and physical distance may be more closely connected than you realize. Simply by skipping a cookout or a dinner date to meet the new boyfriend, you are creating boundaries. Not being available at the drop of a hat is a good thing when dealing with a toxic relationship, it lets her know that she is no longer the only important person in your spouse’s life. Don’t feel guilty for not picking up every phone call.
5. Forgive her.
When I say forgive her, I don’t mean to get your nails done together and go dress shopping—I mean forgive her for any wrongdoings and move on. Stop dwelling on the past. Just because you forgive her for hurting you does not mean she has to be a part of your life. Forgiving her will allow you to avoid arguments with your spouse and give you the peace of mind that you did your part. Forgiveness can be a difficult road to take and is something that requires a lot of consideration and thoughtfulness. If forgiving your mother-in-law for the things she has done can help your marriage, it is worth a try.
When you’re dealing with family members who make no effort at spending time with you it hurts—but they’re the ones missing out.