My mother-in-law can be pushy, aggressive, and kind of a bully. She always talks about how she is better and holds things over our heads. She has been less than welcoming to me over the years. My husband agrees that she is not a nice person. And, I know saying anything would just be a waste of energy. I don't even know how to respond and am doing my best just to control my tongue.
It's unfortunate when relatives, either biological or by marriage, behave in a way that is below even the most reasonable expectations. Hopefully, the following points can help you feel better about a feel-bad situation.
Draw the Line Somewhere
You're exactly right that speaking up likely won't result in your MIL making any desired changes. You've realized that telling her where to go won't get you anywhere.
But, you don't have to be a doormat either. We often feel like we are supposed to bite our tongues out of respect or to avoid confrontation.
Don't feel obligated to tolerate such toxic behavior just because of the role somebody has in your life.
A title does not demand more respect than that which is earned.
If you feel the need to respond when others push their opinions or agendas, channel your inner politician and give some of these comments could be:
I appreciate your concern, but we have it under control.
Thanks, I'll make note of that.
Thanks for thinking of us. I'll let you know if we need anything else in the future.
I feel differently, but everyone is entitled to their own opinions.
I'm comfortable with the direction we're headed.
If the Shoe Fits
We usually get upset by such toxic behavior because we expect someone in that type of role to behave differently. We expect, or at least hope, that a mother would be supportive, loving, and caring.
I lucked out with my own mother-in-law, but I know that many just don't live up to even the most mediocre of expectations.
One way to take the sting out, is to have more realistic expectations. Unfortunately, if you continue to expect her to behave like a "normal mother-in-law", you are just setting yourself up for failure.
It's just the reality of the situation. Don't feel guilty about calling a spade a spade. You didn't make her that way. She has probably been this way for years; long before you married her son.
Distance Makes the Heart Grow Less Offended
It's not always an option to completely cut toxic people from our lives, especially when grandchildren are involved. Just try to do what you can to expose yourself (and your kiddos) to her as little as possible, both in person and online.
There are going to be times when you absolutely cannot avoid being around this person. When that happens, just remember to have realistic expectations and try to care less about what she thinks or says.
Her opinion only has as much value as you give it.
Be A Role Model
Even if they are pushy and aggressive first, we don't want to stoop to their level.
Instead of feeling bad for them, feel better about yourself.
Just the fact that her behavior bothers you already means that you are more caring of others' feelings. Hold your head up and take pride in the fact that you're not so heartless!
What's the worst thing your mother-in-law ever said? Share your misery in the comments below!
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Thanks for taking the time,
Amanda is a licensed counselor with a practice in Westfield, just north of Indianapolis. She counsels worry warts, distant couples & also offers online coaching packages for busy moms who want to have it all on their terms. She lives with her husband, two boys, and not-to-be-ignored cat Sphinx.