Should I Back Off So My MIL Will Be Civil

Question: Dear Luise: I have been married 4 years and I am still struggling for a civil relationship with my mother-in-law. I’ve read many blogs about MIL relationships and how “terrible” they are. The only difference with me is that desperately want to fix it. I do not have a good relationship with my mother. She has had huge trouble with drugs and alcohol. I feel like I try to make up for that with my husband’s mother, only she wants all or nothing. I feel as though the harder I try, the more she mistakes my kindness for weakness. If she can’t have complete control of our lives and our child…then she just shuts me out all together and tries to manipulate my husband into letting her have her way. I would love more than anything for her to be PART of our family. However, it seems she wants to be the leader, or nobody at all. Is there any hope, or am I only making myself more vulnerable by taking a back seat to her, just so she’ll be civil? B.

Answer: Dear B.: It’s a package deal…she comes with the territory and probably no matter what you do, her behavior is going to remain much the same. (I know that I’m not offering much hope.) She may be basically insecure or just a mini-tyrant…possibly both.

Being able to see through her every move and not being able to do anything about it is the pits, as you know better than anyone. Does it look to you like your husband and your father-in-law have just given in to her control issues? If so, it’s a pretty old set of dynamics. You, as the newcomer in the family, have little to say about how it all got started and why it’s been maintained. (I think it may be the price of peace.)

It’s sad, since you are so willing to relate to her in a mature way, that she is unable to reciprocate. It would have been wonderful to have her as a friend.

I see you as making yourself less vulnerable, not more, by taking a back seat and keeping a low profile, even if that is misunderstood. It’s too bad but it’s a no-win situation. There will be times when you will have to take a stand on an issue. However, most of the time you would probably be wise to fade into the woodwork where she is concerned. I’m sure your guy and your child make it worth the struggle. Blessings, Luise

One Response to Should I Back Off So My MIL Will Be Civil

  1. C. April 2, 2009 at 6:56 pm #

    Why don’t you try a book I just finished reading called The Mother in-Law Manual. What I like about this book is that it isn’t a how-to-fix-it book but a how-to-think-about-it book. I like this book because it doesn’t blame anybody. It sets as an intention having a loving family and then offers ideas about how to get there that seem like normal people could embrace. It’s definitely worth the try! You can find it at C.

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