It happened again! You want your husband to understand how you feel about what his mother said, but it seems as though he just wants to argue with you. He just doesn’t get why his mother is such a problem. Why can’t he see it my way? you think to yourself. Why does he always have to point out her side of things?
You end up feeling defeated, alone, and completely misunderstood by the one person you count on to really support you. It seems as though the more you try to get your husband to see things from your perspective, the worse things seem to get between the two of you.
Although this situation can feel hopeless, trust me, it isn’t. If you want your husband to really hear what you have to say and actively work with you to make things better, try the following three simple strategies:
- Figure out what you want from him. Do you just want to vent, do you want him to truly understand your emotional pain, do you want him to fix the situation, or do you want something else entirely? Maybe you want some combination of these. It’s unwise to jump into the conversation without first being clear on what you are trying to achieve by having it. After all, if you don’t know what it is you want from him, how can he know?
- Let him in on this early on. Begin the conversation by letting him know right up front what you want from him. “I just need to vent right now,” you might say. “I really don’t want you to feel like you have to say or do anything.” That not only takes the pressure off of him, but it also helps him know what he can do to help. Or you might say something like: “I really need to you understand how hard things are for me, how hurt I feel…” Or even, “I want to talk about something your mother said that really made me angry, and then I could use your help in figuring out how we can deal with this.” Again, spelling out what you need helps him to deliver just that.
But be careful how you word your request because that’s critically important to getting what you’re after. In other words, complaining about his mother, berating her, or blaming him are not going to get you what you want—even if you think it makes you feel better. Those things are more likely to cause an argument between the two that will make everything worse, not better.
- Keep the focus on the two of you—not on your mother-in-law. What is going on right now in this discussion is between you and your husband. It is a marital issue at the moment. You want and need something from him as your partner, your spouse. His mother just happens to be the catalyst. To reach your goal, the two of you need to be in a problem-solving mode.
So instead of hurling accusations like, “Only a psycho would let herself into someone else’s house when they’re not home! She’s lucky we don’t call the police!” try something more productive. For example, “Your mother came in our house again when we weren’t home and it feels creepy to me. It feels as though she does not respect that this is our house.” Or instead of saying, “I am sick of the way you always stick up for your mother!” try, “When you cut me off and start defending your mother, I feel as though you are dismissing my feelings—that you are dismissing me.” This allows your husband to take off his armor and actually hear what your concern is—and then address it with you.
If you practice using these three strategies, before long your husband will start to feel more like your ally than your adversary. Not only will that improve your marriage, but it will also go a long way toward helping you resolve your in-law issues. It’s a win-win!