If you're lucky, your relationship with your mother-in-law is all sunshine and roses. More than likely, though, it's not. Even if you love the woman dearly, there are probably still moments when she drives you absolutely crazy.
Your mother-in-law can be a problem at any time of year, but there's nothing like the looming holiday season to make the woman seem even more menacing. Need some simple tips to help keep the peace? Bracing for a holiday horror story? Check out the following 7 surefire ways to survive even the most difficult mother-in-law with your dignity and sanity (mostly) intact.
1. Give Her the Facts
Parenting differences can be a prime source of tension when it comes to relations with the in-laws, and traditionally, the mother-in-law is the worst offender. Often, she has no filter between her brain and her mouth and feels compelled to remind you of her own dated parenting experience. "Well, I didn't do that with my kids and they turned out just fine," is the classically patronizing mother-in-law refrain.
If you feel like your parenting is being criticized, it may help to share some facts. Quote the American Academy of Pediatrics, and remind her that information and recommendations have changed with the times. If all else fails, agree to disagree. You're an adult now, so she can't tell you what to do any more than your own mother can.
2. Kill Her With Kindness
If your mother-in-law is a master at the art of being passive-aggressive (as so many of them are), it's time to fight fire with fire. Throw her off her game by constantly telling her she's right and complimenting her incessantly. Agree to do everything she asks, and then turn around and do whatever you want. Use your sweetest voice and your warmest smile every time you speak to her. Make comments that seem pleasant to the outside observer, but are loaded with implied and thinly veiled threats that only she can recognize.
"Well, my friend Jane just put her mother-in-law in a nursing home, but of course we would never do anything like that to you, Bunny." Translation: don't mess with me, lady.
3. Tell Her Off
Yes, I said it. There's a lot to be said for keeping the peace, but sometimes it's better to clear the air. Tact is nice and all, but it can also be overrated. And as far as I'm concerned, polite isn't always the best policy when you're dealing with family, where the dynamics are almost always complicated and messy.
Now, I'm not suggesting that you give mother-in-law a verbal tongue lashing over every mean-spirited thing she's ever said or done to you. That would probably take too long, anyway. But occasionally, when the situation really warrants it, losing your cool and giving in to your emotions can actually allow you to express thoughts and frustrations that you might otherwise be too afraid to vocalize. And, if you have a decent relationship with the woman, you just might be able to talk about these frustrations and reach some sort of understanding that will improve future relations.
4. Consider Her Point of View
As frustrating as she can be, your mother-in-law probably means well. Put yourself in her shoes and try to understand where she's coming from. She's probably giving you advice out of love and concern, and not because she believes you're a terrible person. Maybe what you hear as criticism is her way of trying to help. And maybe there are a few things she's actually right about. Maybe not, but at least cut her some slack and consider the possibility.
5. Move Out of State
This approach might be a little extreme, but greater distance can work wonders for any relationship that is touch and go. And if you live out of state, you usually won't have to spend quite as many holidays together. "We're so disappointed, but we just can't afford the airfare this year," typically works well.
If you do have to visit for the holidays, be sure to splurge on a hotel room so you don't have to endure days living under the same roof with no justifiable means of escape.
6. Find Common Ground
Look, you married her son or daughter, so chances are that you are the two people who love this person more than anyone else in the world, even if you have completely different ways of showing it. Your mother-in-law raised the person you love, so she must have done something right. Try to focus on her redeeming qualities and any common interests that you share. She's human and she has weaknesses, but remember, so do you.
7. Pick Your Poison
Self-medicating may be not be the mature way to go, but it is the easiest, most effective, and dare I say, the most fun method for surviving a difficult mother-in-law. Wine, Valium, margaritas...they all do the job equally well, and make for a far more pleasant visit with the family matriarch. If you're lucky enough to have a mother-in-law who is willing to indulge right along with you, then you have hit the mother-in-law jackpot. (And a word of advice? Don't stop pouring.)
If your mother-in-law isn't cocktail-friendly, I feel for you. But don't despair — Christmas is just around the corner, and there's always the option of spiking the eggnog!