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How to Make Peace With Your Mother-In-Law

How to Make Peace With Your Mother-In-Law

It's so classic a conflict as to almost be a cliche. Your spouse's mother and you just don't get along. Perhaps you could tolerate each other before the baby came along, but now her meddling gets on your last nerve. What to do?

Compromise and Humor Are Key

My mother-in-law is kind and intelligent, but she was strict with and judgmental of her own kids. It's clear that she likes to be in charge, and it's also pretty obvious that she thinks there's one right way to do something. I am pretty much the opposite. I enjoy collaboration, and I'm always looking for ways to do something better, or in a new way. Because we are so fundamentally different, it's easy for me to concede on things that aren't very important to me, such as "bath must always be after dinner" or "dirty shoes go only on the back porch."

On other things, I'm not willing to be flexible. For instance, we practice positive discipline in our home. We don't ever shout "no" at our son, and we don't shame him when he makes a mistake. So when my mother-in-law yells at him, even if she's well-meaning, I pick him up and tell him, in front of her, that it's not ever okay to yell at someone, that we should express our feelings calmly, with words. This doesn't change my mother-in-law's behavior, but it lets my son — and my mother-in-law — know where we stand on this issue in our home. And since I concede smaller points routinely, she takes me seriously when I go against her.


Circle of Moms member Christy F. says, "You have to pick your battles, and don't get stressed out." She also recommends using humor to get through difficult exchanges. I would agree that humor is key. Once, when my mother-in-law asked me if I "used to be thinner," I simply said, "I vaguely remember that — but weren't we all?" instead of what I wanted to say: "Maybe if you would babysit I could go to the gym." The latter would've escalated the conflict, and the former brought the tension down a notch. Louise G. also recommends killing with kindness. If you don't let her ruffle your feathers, she can't!

Being Right Isn't Everything

Why is it important to make peace with your mother-in-law? Why not just co-exist with a mutual and honest lack of affection?

I've found that even when you're right, you can't necessarily change someone else's mind. So, making your case and pointing out your obvious correctness will not likely go very far in persuading someone with whom you're in a stand-off. (If your mother-in-law is open to a real discussion about an issue, that's a different story.)

Other Circle of Moms members suggest a more direct approach. Louise G. reports that she said, point-blank, to her mother-in-law, "I am enjoying being a mother, and part of that is deciding what's best for my son." 

My mother-in-law doesn't get too involved in the day-to-day child rearing conversation, but she has a critique of almost everything else: our refusal to let him "cry it out" at bedtime, his eating habits, even his name  which she said "won't be good for business"! My response? "Maybe he'll be an artist."

It seems clear from discussions on Circle of Moms that we universally agree that we need to set boundaries with our mother-in-laws, and the bottom line is that we make the decisions, not them — because we live with the consequences, good or bad. But how do our spouses feel about this?

Spousal Support

Meilan S. is has a problematic relationship with her mother-in-law, but it helps that her husband backs her 100 percent. My partner backs me as well, and has just as severe a critique as I do. In fact, in some ways, I am more tolerant of her than my partner is. This actually results in a positive dynamic because when I do get pissed at my mother-in-law, my partner takes me completely seriously, and often already understands the problem.

Solutions are a different story. I prefer communication and conversation, and my partner would rather just not have much contact. But I don't think that's ultimately good for our son, so I do what I can to breach the gap, and to steer the conversation to common ground. I feel lucky that we have some!

Other moms aren't so lucky. Sandy B.'s husband "acts like his parents are still his priority," and this really bothers her. She has even considered leaving him over this conflict. While some moms suggest therapy as an approach to changing your own responses to a situation, others just say that you should try to see it from your mother-in-law's point of view. Trying to put yourself in her shoes might help. Mothers-in-law have stories, too, and understanding their histories can help you understand their psychologies — which will guide you in responding in a way that's best for your entire family.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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