Whether she is interfering, makes subtle digs about your weight or just knows all the things, having a difficult mother-in-law can be a very stressful situation to be in. While the urge to give her a taste of her own medicine may be strong, it really isn’t the best solution.

So how do you deal with a difficult mother-in-law? Each situation is going to be different, depending on the relationship you have with her as well as your husbands relationship with her, but these are a few general rules to follow.

Show compassion and understanding

A little understanding can go a long way, especially when it comes to dealing with difficult family members. Perhaps your mother-in-law is rude to you because that is how her mother-in-law treated her and so she doesn’t know any different. Or perhaps she is going through a difficult time in her own relationship and is jealous at seeing you so happy in yours.

It isn’t your job to fix the problem, it takes two to tango after all, but if you understand the reason why someone is acting the way they are, it can make it easier to process for yourself. It also doesn’t excuse bad behaviour but again, if you have some understanding as to the reason behind the behaviour then it is easier to show compassion.

See the best in her

She can’t be all bad if she raised your husband, can she? Maybe she makes a mean lasagne, or is a dedicated community volunteer. She may dote on your children or help friends in times of need. Look for the good qualities and try to focus on those rather than the not-so-appealing qualities, whatever they might be. And if you validation, read some horror mother-in-law stories and maybe yours won’t seem so bad after all…

Pick your battles

Firstly, don’t go into every encounter with your mother-in-law expecting it to be difficult. Avoid pushing buttons where you can and pick your battles. In the scheme of things does it really matter if she “wins” an argument over whether you store tomato sauce in the fridge or the pantry? Don’t be a pushover but don’t waste your energy on things that really don’t matter or you won’t have the energy for the things that do.

It’s not about you

Someone else’s bad mood or behaviour isn’t about you. Chances are that your mother-in-law being difficult actually has nothing to do with you. It is about her and what is going on in her life or in her head. Don’t take on other people’s issues or problems; you surely have enough of your own to deal with anyway!

It’s not ok to be rude or mean, but her rude behaviour doesn’t justify you being rude back. Leave someone’s bad mood with them and don’t take it on board to carry into your day.

Seek support

Whether that support is from your husband or a trusted friend, seek out someone who can help you when you need a sounding board. Ideally you want build a good relationship with your mother-in-law, she is the mother of your husband and the grandmother of your children after all. If the relationship is particularly damaged, seeing a counsellor may also help give you the tools and strategies you need to repair and maintain it moving forward.

Hold yourself to your own standards

At the end of the day, you want to look back on your life and be proud of everything you have said and done. You can only control your behaviour so be proud of how you do that. What matters is how you treat people and the example you set for your kids for how to be a kind, respectful and good person. Show your kids that rising above a nasty situation is sometimes the best course of action and teach them that we should treat people how we want to be treated ourselves.

Have you had a difficult mother-in-law to deal with? Any tips to share?

Header image: ikostudio/Depositphotos.com

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