My Mother-in-Law Hates Me for No Reason
How to Get Your MIL to Behave and Give You the Kind of Help You Want
Mothers-in-law can be pushy.
Yours may think she knows better than you how to make a cup of tea, burp the baby or get the spot off the carpet, but it’s your beverage, your baby and your carpet, and nobody wants to be told how to do things.
Sometimes it goes even further and you get the impression that she just doesn’t like you. At all. In fact, you get the feeling she’s rooting for you to fail.
It’s like she hates you, and you’ve never done anything to her except marry her son.
It feels terrible. And as much as you’d like to put her in her place, you can’t because your husband insists she means well and you should try to be more understanding around her.
Or maybe you have had your blow-ups with her and now things are tenser than ever.
But you can’t get your mother-in-law (MIL) out of your life. So you’re stuck with what feels like an enemy in the camp. Forever!
Fortunately, you can solve this.
1. Find Five Good Qualities about Her
This step is the hardest because once you’re feeling hurt by your MIL it’s hard to see past that hurt to the fragile human who birthed your husband.
But your MIL has good qualities. Everyone does, and even she is part of everyone.
Does she remember birthdays and anniversaries? Has she bought presents for your baby? Does she clean up after herself? Is she a good cook? Does she smell good? Does she let you stay at her home?
If absolutely nothing comes to mind, why not start with this one: She raised a wonderful son. She’s a good mom.
I’m sure you could make a far longer list of her faults, but if you’re anything like me, that would just cause you more pain.
I admit that I don’t know if I could have made a gratitude list about my MIL years ago because I was sure she didn’t like me. She told my future husband not to drink out of the same water glass as me so he wouldn’t get my germs.
I wanted to tell her that he was getting plenty of germs from me in other ways, but I kept quiet and rolled my eyes internally instead.
I decided she meant that she didn’t want me to touch her son.
I gathered more evidence for this story at my wedding shower when, as I was opening one negligee after another, I got to her gift: a full-length flannel nightie with long sleeves and a high neck.
That was all the evidence I needed to become convinced that she had it out for me.
I nurtured that grudge for two full years after my wedding until something completely unexpected happened.
My mother-in-law died.
I was sad for my husband and, I’m embarrassed to say, relieved for myself, as if my adversary had fallen.
Looking back 25 years later, I’m sad that I never got to know her.
Today I can see that she was probably thinking past the wedding night when she picked that nightie.
She must have wisely realized that negligees are not so comfortable for sleeping and that I would get plenty of those at my bridal shower. I now believe she wanted me to be warm and cozy for the coming winter.
Even as I write this, I get a little choked up thinking about what I missed because I never got to know her or benefit from her wisdom. She lived thousands of miles away, and I was too busy making her wrong in the short time we had together.
Now that I’ve gotten to know her posthumously, I can see she was practical and considerate. She was resourceful, having raised five kids who became wonderful adults, and she loved her family.
When I think about how reliably she sent me a birthday card every year and asked how my parents and siblings were, I realize she also loved me when I joined her family.
I just couldn’t see it at the time.
2. Find a MIL-Fulfilling Prophecy that Serves You
What you focus on increases, and you may be telling yourself something negative about your mother-in-law–that she’s controlling or overbearing or negative–and therefore you’re experiencing the very thing you’re focusing on.
My MIL-fulfilling prophecy was that she didn’t want me to touch her son. I gathered evidence and made a case for it, and then I got to be right. But I didn’t get to be dignified, happy or connected to my new family the way I would like to have been.
Sophia felt the same way. Her mother-in-law’s native tongue was Spanish, and English-speaking Sophia’s mantra was that they couldn’t communicate. So Sophia delivered messages through her bilingual husband instead of telling his mom directly.
Once she started practicing The Six Intimacy Skills™, and had her second baby, Sophia realized that going through her husband to communicate with her MIL was no longer serving her. She decided to change her mantra to: “My mother-in-law and I communicate well.”
Sophia was gushing when she described how wonderful her mother-in-law is now. “I drop off the boys with her for the weekend, and she takes wonderful care of them,” she explained. “When I dropped them off last time, I ended up staying two hours just to talk. I really enjoyed it. So, clearly we communicate well now!”
She got tears in her eyes describing just how much she genuinely loves her husband’s mom.
What will your mantra be about your mother-in-law? That she’s generous? Sensitive? Respectful? So positive?
Once you start gathering evidence for your new MIL-fulfilling prophecy, you might be surprised just how far it takes you.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
3. Find Three Reasons to Thank Her
Here’s the next experiment to try if you want your mother-in-law to shape up: Kill her with kindness.
Now that you’re focused on both her good qualities and having the experience you want, look for three specific reasons to thank her. Refer back to your list of good qualities from step 1 for ideas.
You might appreciate how generous she is or how supportive of your family or what a good cook.
When you express your gratitude, you’re also calling your mother-in-law to be her best self. You’re speaking greatness into her.
Here’s another reason why this step is so powerful: Voicing the gratitude you came up with in Step 1 brings your focus to that gratitude. Since what you focus on increases, you’ll see more reasons to be grateful for her. Really!
Hearing yourself thank her will also help to erase resentment because you can’t be grateful and resentful at the same time.
Feeling resentful is painful. It was not an attractive state for me either.
Feeling grateful, on the other hand, is the best beauty cream that never came in a jar.
Wearing gratitude-colored perspectacles could just transform your mother-in-law into a helpful, sweet, loving woman you actually enjoy spending time with in about two weeks.
What positive qualities can you see in your mother-in-law? What could you thank her for? I’d love to hear in the comments below.