How to Deal with Your Mother-In-Law

Navigating issues with your in-laws can be very tricky…Check out Nikki’s 5 tips!


by Nikki Pennington | staff writer for The Snap Mom

Photo Credit: Creatrix Photography

I have been married to my husband for nine years. I’ve never been one to hide the fact that my relationship with my mother-in-law is rocky. If you say that your relationship with your MIL is absolutely perfect, everything you dreamed it would be and more, you are probably in denial or simply want everyone else to believe a fairy tale. No mother-daughter relationship is perfect; they are typically messy, especially when it comes to mother-in-law relationships.

I’m going to be fully honest and share a few instances with you that have occurred over the years: There was the time I told her not to give my children goldfish snacks and I came to pick them up early only to find them with a bag of goldfish. Another time I told her the boys were not allowed on the four wheeler without myself or husband present… only to hear the story a few hours later from my four-year-old about the awesome four wheeler ride that afternoon. Little things yes, but things that definitely went against my request as their mother.

Over 11 years I have grown a lot and learned better how to deal with our relationship. I want to share 5 tools on how to deal with your mother-in-law to hopefully help you mend your relationship with her right where it is now.

1.) Remember her past

This one might seem odd when reading it. No, I don’t mean bring up her mistakes or anything like that. What I do mean is to remember that your mother-in-law was once a young girl herself, and how she was raised has impacted who she is today and how and why she handles things the way she does. I think once I understood the extremely rough childhood my mother-in-law suffered, I began to understand (not excuse) some of her actions. I realized her lack of being able to have a relationship with me stemmed from her lack of a relationship with her own mother. She didn’t know how to have that mother-daughter bond.

2.) Pick and choose your battles

Yes, you’ve probably already heard this one a million times. I promise if you actually apply it and stand firm on those things, you will see a difference. I also found that if I am not instantly reacting to every little thing, only the big things, she seems to listen more when I stand firm.

3.) Talk to her with an open heart

When I was younger, my emotions would get the best of me. When she would hurt my feelings, I would go right back to her in anger. This never went over well. Now, I wait a few days, pray about the situation, and go to her with an open heart and hear her out. It might not always result in the way she wants it to by her getting her way, but it results in compromise or me explaining why I am hurt or why I do not wish for her to do something pertaining to our children.

4.) Go to her alone

If you have an issue, I know it’s “his mother,” but go to her alone at first to talk things out. I found that at first I wanted to go with my husband and look like a united front, then I just wanted him to go alone and talk to her. Both ways never worked, she felt ganged up on and would shut down instantly or he was not really able to express alone with her all that needed to be said. Going to her one-on-one, I get to see firsthand how she is responding, and she can see the genuine way I am coming to her with a certain issue.

5.) Stand firm on big issues

When it comes to big issues, issues of talking rude about you in front of your children, disciplining your children in a way that you do not approve, or anything of that nature you must stand firm and not waiver. I’ve had to stand my ground plenty of times. No it’s not pretty, feelings get hurt, and dealing with telling someone they are doing something wrong is not an easy discussion. However, I promise you will gain more respect and you will avoid harboring bitterness and anger which will only taint your relationship with your in the long run. We’ve personally had to take a “break” from my in-laws to stand firm on a very big issue that occurred. It was not easy, but can I tell you what came out of it? Respect and a sincere apology; an apology that has changed our entire relationship. She knew that everything we were standing firm on was out of love for our children.

I am not saying my relationship with my mother-in-law will ever be perfect. Things are bound to come up down the road. However, if I continue to apply these tools and be mindful of these things, our relationship can continue to grow.

What are some tools you use to help you deal with your mother-in-law? Please share them with us!


 About the author:

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Nikki is a stay at home mom to three high spirited boys. Three years ago she became a motherless daughter after losing her own mom to terminal brain cancer. When she is not playing the role of referee for the boys, she spends her days trying to encourage and inspire others that are on the grief journey.