All Things In-Law...

Dr. Deanna Brann's Blog

Have you ever caught yourself thinking or feeling, I hate my mother-in-law? Or, do you find that you and your friends share this feeling among yourselves when you are together? Throughout the years of working with mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, I have heard daughters-in-law say these words, often with a lot of frustration and exasperation in their voice.

Hate can feel like such a strong, intense word. There is a lot attached to this word that goes beyond the word itself. It can create an almost visceral response within you when you say it or think it, especially in association with your mother-in-law. Yes, you know the word hate may be severe, but this woman –your mother-in-law – is driving you crazy! No matter what you do or try to do she just doesn’t seem to “get it.” When you feel this way toward her it makes you want to have little to do with her. You may want to avoid her altogether.

What Does Hate Really Mean?

Feeling this strongly about your mother-in-law – actually feeling this strongly about anyone – means this person matters to you. There is no reason why you would feel this strongly if she didn’t matter to you. Think about it this way, if someone else – a stranger, an acquaintance, or a casual friend – did or said the same things your mother-in-law did or said, you probably wouldn’t hate them. You might be frustrated. You might be annoyed. You might even be angry, but you probably wouldn’t hate them. The reason you wouldn’t is because the emotional connection or investment you have in them is not as deep or as important to you. I’m sure this is not what you want to hear. It may also be something you don’t want to believe. But why then, do you feel this strongly about someone who doesn’t matter?

So what is this feeling of hate really about? In other words – What is this severely strong feeling you have about your mother-in-law really about? Why are you feeling this much intensity? Taking a look at why she has this kind of impact on you will help you understand yourself, and will help you lessen the negative impact this feeling is having on you.

  • Do you feel as though you are not in control?
  • Do you not like how you feel about yourself when she says/does these things that get you feeling so strongly?
  • Do her actions create a feeling of inadequacy, self-doubt in you?
  • Do you feel devalued by what she says or does?
  • Do you feel she “looms” over you?

As you can see from these questions I propose, this is about you getting in touch with how her actions are impacting you. You respond to her actions based on the feelings she stirs in you. So, this is about you!

Feelings Don’t Make It True

To help you sort through this it is best to take an emotional step back. Put your feelings aside and really think about what your mother-in-law said or did.

  • Do you really believe she deliberately wanted to hurt you?
  • Do you really believe she wanted to make you feel bad about yourself as a mother, a wife, as a person?
  • Is she really that mean, malicious, and sadistic that she sought you out to watch you wince in pain?

Or could it be that she

  • Didn’t realize how her words sounded or how her actions could be interpreted?
  • Didn’t really think before she spoke or acted?
  • Is more on the self-centered side and says/does these kinds of things with everyone?

Then ask yourself

  • Does feeling hate toward her give you power?
  • Does hanging on to this feeling give you a reason to push her away?

As much as you may hate your mother-in-law, this feeling keeps you stuck in a place that hurts you, hurts your husband, and hurts your marriage. You may be investing so much energy into hating this woman that it is affecting every aspect of your life. Something you may not have thought about is that your children are watching how you react to “loved” ones. They watch how you treat people you are supposed to care about. You are their role model for how they will treat family when they are older.

Understanding what is behind this feeling of hate, allows you to put it in perspective. It allows you to shift this feeling in a way that helps you create some emotional distance between your mother-in-law’s actions and your response.


If you would like help to move past your feeling of hate. If you would like help to see what is really there, consider private coaching sessions or a consultation with me, Dr. Brann. Email me –

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