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

    • Linda Brickley Deyunn

      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.

    • Nicole Green

      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.

    • Chanda Johnson

      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.

    • Been There

      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

    • MsAnne

      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. 

    • A mother-in-law

      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.

    • Wendy B.

      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.

    • Jami Wilson

       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

      • Cherri

        Dear Lord, who taught you how to speak?????

    • BeenThere2

      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.

    • Guest

      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.  

      • Kim_barker

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