Ask Laskas: “How do I get along better with my mother-in-law?”

Help this distressed daughter-in-law have a better relationship with her mother-in-law.

It seems like every word that comes out of my mother-in-law’s mouth  is either a criticism or a complaint directed toward me. My husband says that’s just her way of making conversation, but I think otherwise. How do I bring this up with her to clear the air?
—Distressed Daughter-in-Law


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28 thoughts on “Ask Laskas: “How do I get along better with my mother-in-law?”

  1. It is time for your husband to step up and talk to his Mom about this. His is the relationship that brought you together. He is the one you both love. He chose you already. Help him outline his points ahead of time. 1) Mom, I love you and always will. 2) I have chosen a wonderful wife and love her very much… 3) Your constant criticism hurts my wife and that hurts me. 4) I want you to be friendly and polite to my wife. 5)I think you could become good friends. 6). If you continue to hurt my wife, we will have to distance ourselves from you. 7) I don’t want to do that, but it is up to you. Any questions?

  2. Proverbs says that to make a friend of an enemy, give them a gift. I am paraphrasing. So, purchase a few small gifts and when she does this, give her a gift and say ” I hope you enjoy this little token of my affection and walk away before she has time to respond.

  3. When she begins to berate you, ask her if she is feeling well. Tell her that lately she seems to be negative and critical about everything and that you thought she may not be feeling well and that you are concerned. If that doesn’t work, when she criticizes you, say” what other nice thing do you have to say about me today?”

  4. I had one of those MIL’s. Right out of the gate she let me know that no one was good enough for son. The one time I asked my husband to intervene, she brought that up for the next ten years or so in front of anyone who would listen. I just thought it wasn’t worth it to ask hubby to talk to her so whenever she made one of her digs, I would just look at her, smile sweetly and say, “what did you say?” It really broke her of criticizing me, because for some reason she wouldn’t repeat herself. And the funny thing is, I’ve been married to her son for over 25 years and now she tells me she loves me all the time. And, I love her too. For her, gaining a DIL was really difficult. But, over the years she’s seen me be a good wife to her son and a good mom to her grandkids. So, sometimes it just takes time. Whatever you do, do it gently. She’s always going to be in the picture and always going to be his mom.

  5. People who are highly critical usually fire off at those who most seem to reflect how they feel about themselves. In addition, She may perceive you as a threat to her relationship with her son. If she’s feeling insecure and lonely. find some positive things you have in common with this woman and begin to build comeraderie with her. Find out who her favorite actors/actresses are and invite her to a movie featuring one of them. Take her to lunch at a favorite restaurant and be sure to arm yourself with topics she’s interested in so you don’t sit with a lot of dead air or give her time natter at you off-handedly. Lastly, everyone likes to feel others are interested in them. Older people especially enjoy telling stories about their youth. Ask her about her family, her heritage, childhood hobbies and games, etc. Show genuine interest in who she is and she may well begin to show genuine interest in this young woman who’s married her son. My advice always is to try to make the best of all relationships but when it comes to in-laws, the plan is for a life-time, so it’s wise to work harder to make these connections peaceful for our own sanity and and future children’s enjoyment.

  6. My Dad had a great short comeback to situations like this….”Are you braggin’ or complainin’?….” It throws the situation back to the sender and usually ends there.

    She doesn’t have to touch her MIL’s statements and it can be percieved by the sender as a dismissal- once she thinks about it. Then go on to a different subject!.

  7. I had that exact same situation. She criticized everything I did regarding my daughter (her only grandchild). I finally had enough & told her that our daughter was OUR daughter to raise not hers. I will always be her mother and there was nothing my mother in law could do about, so just accept it. Things changed for the better after that incident. Good luck.

  8. All “Everybody Loves Raymond” jokes aside, the saying “Kill her with kindness” is so applicable here. You get to CHOOSE to show her love no matter what she shows you. Maintaining the same loving attitude, think about what you can say that might change her mind about what she says about you. You ARE allowed to defend yourself. You are NOT allowed to offend your mother-in-law in return. Regardless of the comments she throws to you, she is STILL your husband’s beloved mother.

  9. Put it in writing! The best-intended “discussion” can quickly escalate into a full-blown heated argument–especially when emotions and hurt feelings are involved. Shame on your husband for adopting the ‘avoidance’ technique!  Sit down, take a deep breath and write her a letter, in a non-accusatory tone. Extend the olive branch and begin by being positive and telling her something nice that you appreciate about her. (You may have to think really hard, but try!) Don’t expect immediate results. She may have not gotten the memo “you’re not losing a son, you’re gaining a daughter”. Regardless, no one has the right to treat you disrespectfully. Please keep in mind that we cannot chage others, but we can change our attitude towards them. Life is short–take the high road. You’ll never regret doing the right thing.

  10. Dear D.DIL,
    I’ve been there so I know exactly what you mean and there is no winning in a battle with your MIL – even if you’re right!  My advice is when she makes an unkind comment just ask her ‘what would you do’ or ‘how would you handle it’ or whatever phrase would fit the comment.  If (by some chance) you agree with what she says then you can respond  ‘great idea – I’ll have to remember that’ and if you don’t agree then you can just say ‘really??? I’ll have to think about that’.   If your husband is correct in his opinion then watch how she ‘converses’ with others  – it should reveal her intentions.
    Good Luck,
    Been There

  11. Observe. Take the emotion out (yes it’s difficult) and observe. Are you the only target of her criticism or does she find something negative to say about everything? If it is only you, take your findings back to your husband and the two of you need to find a solution (and HE gets to tell her about it!). But if she is just unhappy, let her talk, listen with compassion and be grateful you are a happier person. You cannot change her by pointing out her constant negativity but you can decide your response to it. 

  12. Is it possible that you have never treated her like a mother? Mother-in-law should be treated like a mother, not like mother-in-law. Have you accepted her and taken her into your confidence? She needs you and your attentions. Ask for her advise often and bring her into your family circle. Tell her how good her son is etc. mothers love that and she will love you for loving and appreciating her son.

  13. This isn’t something for you to deal with, but for your husband to deal with.  It’s his job to be your champion and defend you.  Ask him to ask her why she does this and to stand up for you.  If he won’t, then your best bet is to remain calm, carry on, and limit your contact with her.  If she asks why, be gentle but frank.

  14.  Well, show me one household where such strifles are not known to have
    been goin’ on, infact every moment!, now I observe both of you are very
    much ignorant of a few things, its not just you, but she too.Of all the
    most important thin’s, we often just not let ourselves conscious of :
    how I’m unkowingly making problem for you by my actions, now cuttin’ the
    crap…this’s what you’ve to do: for a day or two(or as long as she’
    not gotten aware) you’ll have to just ignore the problem you’r facin’
    due to her behaviour, be devoted to the household and mom in law as
    well! win it dear one!!! someday you’r going to mend the relationship,
    that’s what you want from your inner self(in case you’ve not heard that
    call), so be it, it all starts from looking over her, what is she upto ,
    and giving love, respect , care , everything which is dutiful for you,
    there’s a great importance of duty in everyday issues, and just neglect
    your pain for a while, and don’t forget that you’r even supposed to
    communicate calmly and with affection, like you must do to your mom, next
    time you’r going to tell me how easily things have changed for good,
    God bless all, thank you

  15. Since the problem involves his mother, it should be your husband who takes up the issue with her — not you.  What he describes as “just her way of making conversation” is clearly leaving you distressed.  Whether she intends it to be hurtful or not, as a loving son he owes her the courtesy of pointing out how her negativity is damaging her relationships.  As a loving husband he owes you the courtesy of ensuring that your feelings are respected.

  16. Keep a pad of paper and pen nearby.  Every time she criticizes, make a tick mark on the paper.  Eventually she will either realize what you’re doing or if you’re lucky she’ll ask.  Then you can tell her “it’s just a little game I play every time you criticize something…I like to see if you can break your record from the last time you were here.”  Even if she keeps criticizing; keep ticking.  You’ll be cracking up inside and won’t care about the critical remarks.  

    1. There’s a big difference between solving a problem and winning a fight.  

  17. The best way to deal with DD-in-L’s mother-in-law’s apparant negativity and keep her sanity is to ignore it.  Counter each negative comment with a positive one.  If M-in-L says the floor is dirty, as her what brand of floor cleaner she uses.  If Mom says the dinner is bland ask her for a favorite recipe.  I say this because I am from a family where we have an odd trait when we speak and a lot of what we say is misunderstood.  This may be her particular oddity, and from what her husband said, this may have been her way of speaking for years.   Absent out-and-out insults, DD-in-L should take an example of the duck who let’s water roll off her back.

  18. Speaking as a new mother in law, perhaps you are too defensive?  I would love to get along and have a great relationship, but my new daughter in law see me as an adversary. I think that she believes she is being somehow disloyal to her own mother to have a relationship with me. I wish I could turn the tide. There is enough love for everyone and I wish she would understand I treasure her and know my son chose her to be his wife because she was special.

  19. Try a direct approach. In a calm setting tell her how her comments make you feel. It is possible that your husband is right and it really is just her way of making conversation, but if she knew it made you feel bad she might stop. It is likely she will be apologetic but if not then you may have deeper issues with her that need to be resolved (possibly with your husband’s help).

  20. Don’t bring it up to her. Instead, make a point to compliment her each time you see or speak with her. You need a positive relationship with your husband’s mother. He’ll appreciate it.

  21. Understanding is the key. Stop and think what she is really saying. Often people are saying, notice me, I’m important too. They want to give unasked for advice because they think you will see them as valuable. Telling you how to do things may be her way of wanting a close relationship. Of course the opposite is true but she don’t understand this. Give her lots of affermation and see if she doesn’t mellow.

  22. Recommend you kill her with kindness. When she mentions that the color you’re wearing doesn’t look good on you, tell her how much you appreciate the fact that she cares enough about you to let you know. Then ask her to go clothes shopping with you and make it into a girls’ day out. You don’t necessarily need to buy what she recommends. If she tells you that your house is messy, laugh and acknowledge that it could be cleaner. Ask her how she managed housework when her kids were small, or tell her you’re planning a spring-cleaning day and invite her to help! If she makes comments about what kind of wife you are, remember that she raised your husband and she still loves him immensely. This is a good time to thank her for the man he turned out to be and remind her that you also want only the best for him. Some people do communicate via criticism, but a sense of humor and thick skin can really help. If she truly is a toxic person, then your inability to hear her criticism will be very frustrating for her, and ultimately satisfying to you!

  23. Honestly, she probably does it on purpose because she doesn’t like you. You’re not good enough for her son. Don’t feel bad… there are many of us in this club whose MIL back bites and is plain dreadful toward for no reason other than their precious prince picked us. With mine, I ignore the negativity she spews and in my mind, turn it around to compliments.

    “My boy is getting so thin, are you even cooking/feeding him?” to “You must be making great meal choices for the meals you put before my son. He’s not packing on the pounds like other Americans typically do due to bad diet.”

    She and I will never agree on anything other than we both love the same man.

  24.  Every time your Mother-in-law makes a comment that you interpret as a criticism or complaint about you….just laugh! Make it an obnoxiously loud laugh…with lots of snorting and cackling! I can almost guarantee that it will throw her SO off she will eventually stop picking on you. ~ This advice courtesy of “Ask Bubbi” The Jewish Grandmother Advice Columnist on facebook

  25. Record a few choice episodes of “Everybody Loves Raymond” & invite your mother in law over for tea. After seeing Marie Barone in action, she may get the hint. Or at least it may give you a good opening for some honest discussion on the subject. There are a few episodes where Debra actually brings up the subject with Marie & they end up hugging. (I hate to tell you this though but it doesn’t help–Marie is a piece of work!) The show is on every weeknight on TV Land. Hope this helps.
    Kathy, mother in law of three.
    PS There is always the possibility that she is unaware that what she says is hurtful & may appreciate your telling her.

  26. The first step to getting along with your less-than-pleasent mother in law is understanding her. Set up a lady’s day. Go out to lunch and find out a little bit about her. Maybe you can figure out why she is the way she is. If the criticism persists, you may have to clearly bring up the problem to your husband’s family. From there, you may want to schedule therapy for you and your husband’s mother.

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