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


What’s your take? Give your best advice in the comments below, and your answer might appear in the magazine.

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  • Your Comments

    • Jerseysue1

      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.

    • Darinsdog

      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.

    • Kate Follett

      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).

    • Papagaal

      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.

    • Nancy Gooding

      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.

    • LizL

      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!

    • Konflickted

      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.

    • Debi Drecksler

       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

    • Kathydon4

      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.

    • Nancy Drew

      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.