Don’t let a tense relationship with your mother-in-law spoil your holidays. Chill out, practice your smile, and consult your higher power – even if it’s vodka.

Accept Reality

No matter how much you wish for a chummy relationship with your mother-in-law, if it’s not in the cards you’re doomed. If you can count the time you’ve known her in years and things are still awful, let it go. This may sound counter-intuitive in our American never-give-up culture, but sometimes the healthiest step is to accept people for who they are.

Create Distance

While you can’t avoid your mother-in-law completely at the holidays, you don’t have to spend every minute by her side. Find things to do that are helpful and at the same time give you both some space. Offer to do things you know she doesn’t like to do, whether it’s going to the grocery store or taking all the nieces and nephews to the mall. Sleeping in as late as possible and taking a long time to shower and dress are other good tactics. There are only so many hours in the day.

Fake It

When it comes to your mother-in-law, honesty is never the best policy. She doesn’t want to know what you really think of her gravy recipe any more than you really want to know her opinion of your new jeans. Smile and nod, and ask questions about things she’s interested in.

Pretend You’re in a Sit-Com

Whenever an especially terrible remark escapes your mother-in-law, play a laugh track in your head. Then sneak off to your journal and write it down verbatim. Chances are after you get done being pissed off about it (after a few cocktails), the whole scenario will seem hilarious and you really can’t make this stuff up.


Whatever faith sustains you, use it. Pray for the strength to be kind, the wisdom to let snide remarks slide, and the gift of silence. Breathing is good, as is taking a walk or making a list of things you’re grateful for. Listen to music, strike a yoga pose or whatever else takes you to your happy place. While you’re at it, pray you’ll never be half as awful to your children’s spouses!

The holidays are no time to get down on your self. Don’t let someone else’s ideas about you keep you from the joy that is all around for the taking.