I know sometimes your mother-in-law can do and say things that drive you absolutely crazy. I also know you have a breaking point. Believe me, we all do. However, saying something that makes things worse – even if it makes you feel better at that moment – is not the answer. Saying something that puts a bigger wedge between the two of you or worse, yet, creates an out and out war hurts everyone – you, your MIL, your husband, and your children. Remember your children are learning from every action you take about how to behave in important relationships. When you interact with your husband, your MIL, your mother, or anyone else who is important in your life, they hear your tone of voice, your word choices, and they see the respect you show or don’t show to the other person. They are learning how to behave in similar situations with people who matter to them.
There are some things you should never say to your MIL and not because she’s your MIL, but more importantly, because you should not say them to anyone. You can think them, but you just should not say. Let’s get into the five things you should never say to your MIL and then I give you some tips on how to stop yourself.
1. I’d rather spend my time with my family. I’m much more comfortable with them. Of course you are more comfortable with your family. You grew up with them. You have history and familiarity with them. It’s hard to get comfortable with someone if you choose not to get to know them (and they you) and to do that you have to spend time with them.
2. You can talk to your son if you want to know what’s going on. Setting up this precedent will only drive a bigger wedge between you and your MIL. As much as you may not want to have anything to do with your MIL, avoiding her is not the answer. Be kind and compassionate, and set boundaries if you need to so that interacting with her is easier and more pleasant – for you and for her. This is not a power play. It is making sure you both know what the expectations are.
3. You’re never going to see the grandkids. Remember your MIL is family too and your children have the right to get to know your husband’s side of the family as well. It can’t be all about you and your family. However, sometimes MILs can do things that put your children at risk; that is a different story. If your MIL is doing things that are not safe for your children, then by all means set boundaries with consequences and follow through. Your children’s safety is what matters.
4. I didn’t ask for your opinion. Getting unsolicited advice is not something anyone wants. This is especially true when it is from your MIL (somehow the advice sounds different coming from her). The key is to find a nice way to address this without creating a battle (or a war). You can always just listen, nod, and then change the subject. No one says you have to do what she is recommending. Nodding only means you are acknowledging what she is saying, not agreeing with it.
5. You did so many things wrong in raising your son. Ouch! In all honesty, we all make mistakes raising our children. Your MIL made mistakes raising your husband, your mother made mistakes with you, and you will make mistakes with your children. It is part of being human. Typically we do the best we can based on where we are at that point and time in our lives and based on who we are as a person. Have some compassion. When your children are adults you don’t want to hear these words from your DIL (or daughter or son).
What can you do, then to avoid the temptation to say these things to your MIL – to let her know how you’re really feeling.
a. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. In doing this you are allowing some time to go by before you respond. Even those few seconds can make a huge difference.
b. Think about a better way to say what you are thinking. Even if you find you need to say something, there is always a better way to make your point. Keep in mind you want your point to be heard, acknowledged, and adhered to so saying it in the best way can make the difference between that happening and another misunderstanding occurring.
c. Use your ally. Your husband is your ally so talk things over with him before you say anything. Let him help you be clear on what you’re trying to say and separate out your feelings from what you are wanting/needing from your MIL
These tips can make a huge difference in how you and your MIL move forward in your relationship. Remember, too that your MIL is human. She’s going to make mistakes. Treat her the way you would like to be treated if you had made the same mistake.
What things have you learned “you should never say?”
(Next blog post will cover what MILs should never say to their DILs)