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Tips To Establish A Healthy Relation With Your Mother-in-Law

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Tips To Establish A Healthy Relation With Your Mother-in-Law

My connection with my mother-in-law was akin to the film Monster-In-Law, which used to bother me significantly. However, after becoming a mother myself, I am starting to grasp her protective instincts better to some extent. Nevertheless, there came a moment where setting clear boundaries with her was essential not just for my own well-being but also to preserve a harmonious relationship with my spouse.

My upbringing was in a tight-knit family setting where my mother and my paternal grandmother had a harmonious rapport. Despite their contrasts, they managed to cultivate a close relationship through medical check-ups and frequent family dinners orchestrated by my mom.

When my mother-in-law opted out of attending our wedding and directed hurtful words at me, I felt at a loss for how to respond. Following my parents’ advice for my husband to reach out to her and my endeavors to organize family outings whenever she visited only led to negativity and accusations each time.

Realizing (aided by my therapist) that maintaining a relationship without boundaries was neither viable nor beneficial, I confronted the fact that changes needed to be made. The escalating conflicts between my husband and me due to my insistence on him being amiable towards his mother despite her actions, alongside my children lacking in a grandmotherly bond, prompted me to take decisive action.

Identifying Signs Of A Toxic Mother-in-Law

“Toxicity in relationships is not always clear-cut,” remarked Elizabeth McCarthy, a psychotherapist from Chicago. “Even a generally positive mother-in-law could exhibit toxic behavior in certain contexts.” To begin your evaluation, ask yourself: How do you feel in your mother-in-law’s presence? Do you feel valued, respected, considered, and looked after, or do you experience:

  • Dismissal
  • Disrespect
  • Undermining
  • Overwhelm
  • Stress

If these negative feelings resonate with you, then toxicity might be present. Navigating a complex mother-in-law dynamic becomes even trickier after having children. According to McCarthy, “The stakes are higher once you have a child. Things that may have been brushed off before kids are now significant because we want to shield and advocate for our children.” So, how can you establish boundaries with a toxic mother-in-law?

Strategies for Setting Boundaries With a Toxic Mother-in-Law

Delegating communication to your partner

Mothers often bear the responsibility of orchestrating family gatherings and updating relatives on baby matters. However, this duty is not yours alone. If your relationship with your mother-in-law is strained, it is completely acceptable to entrust these tasks to your partner. Stepping back from this role can create a healthy boundary and prevent you from being cast as the “villain.”

When my spouse and I began implementing this tactic, it required an adjustment period. I had to prompt my husband to reach out to his family and share pictures a few times, but eventually, he grasped the situation and acknowledged the burden I had shouldered. This mutual understanding bolstered our bond and provided me with a necessary respite.

Asserting your boundaries unapologetically

Whenever my mother-in-law requested visits or video calls with the kids, I would immediately comply, driven by my desire for harmony after years of strained interactions. Believing that compliance was the key to peace, I hastily obliged to meet her demands.

I soon realized this approach was flawed. Some individuals are perpetually dissatisfied, regardless of your efforts. It was only when I had depleted myself that I understood the importance of setting boundaries and saying no.

Uttering that two-letter word not only bolstered my self-assurance but also reclaimed my agency in the situation. Prioritizing my needs and those of my family over incessant people-pleasing attempts proved more beneficial.

Rejecting the notion that affection is contingent on competition

A significant source of conflict with my mother-in-law stemmed from her belief that I had “stolen” her son. Addressing this issue necessitated underscoring that my husband is an autonomous adult capable of independent decisions.

While presenting a united front is crucial, it is equally vital to prevent your partner from inadvertently using you as a scapegoat. My husband’s mother and other relatives…

Many from his family might believe I was the one obstructing their access to him. It wasn’t until his father stayed with us briefly that they discovered my husband was simply terrible at responding to messages or calls from anyone.

I’m not implying you should move in with your in-laws, but it’s beneficial to remind them that you’re not in a competition. (Feel free to show your relentless reminder texts to your partner as additional evidence for persistent in-laws.)

Establishing a regular visit or call routine

As previously mentioned, part of the reason some mothers-in-law misbehave is due to feeling disconnected from their cherished child. One effective approach is to arrange a consistent schedule for visits or calls. The beauty of this solution is that you don’t have to accompany your partner on the visit. Prepare the diaper bag, send your partner with the baby, and enjoy a well-deserved break.

“Ultimately, you are the primary caregiver,” shared McCarthy. “Your children spend most of their time with you, not your mother-in-law, giving you the authority to manage their exposure if she exhibits toxic behavior.”

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