All Things In-Law...

Dr. Deanna Brann's Blog

Do you have a mother-in-law or a daughter-in-law who says she is “fine” or says nothing at all, yet her actions speak volumes about her displeasure with you? She won’t say anything directly if she doesn’t like what you’ve said or done, but then come those behaviors that you know only too well: the obvious pouts, the loud heavy sighs, the avoidance of you, and even the malicious subterfuge (such as those undermining “accidental” oversights). No matter what she says or doesn’t say, her actions are screaming the real truth: she is not happy with you. Believe me, it’s not your imagination. It’s called passive aggressive behavior, and it’s very real.

Dealing with this behavior (passive and unassuming on the surface, but nastily aggressive toward you underneath) can be incredibly difficult, draining, and frustrating. One of the biggest problems is – she won’t talk to you about what is going on! You are left with this tension in the air, the “behaviors” that are screaming at you, and yet, you can’t say anything to clear the air because doing so goes nowhere, does nothing. She just looks at you…that is, if she hasn’t left the room altogether.

So what can you do? Fortunately, there are ways you can start to shift your sense of helplessness and begin to change your mother-in-law or daughter-in-law’s passive aggressive actions. Interestingly enough, what you would use to help you with your mother-in-law is not necessarily the same as what you would use to help you with your daughter-in-law. I know, you are probably thinking, passive aggressive behavior is passive aggressive behavior, right? Yes, it is, however the dynamic of the relationship is different and because of that the power in the relationship is different. So depending on which one you are and which one you are trying to deal with, you need specific tools that will get you the results you want.

Starting Wednesday I’ll focus on the tools you can use when you have a passive-aggressive mother-in-law. Friday I will post what you can do when you have a passive aggressive daughter-in-law, and finally, on next Monday I will post about husbands/sons. Surprised? Well, husbands/sons’ passive aggressive behaviors play into how their mother and their wife get along. Their passive aggressive behaviors often contribute to the problems between these two women (but more on that next Monday!).

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