The cliché of the difficult mother-in-law is often read about online, in books and magazines and even portrayed in movies.
There is a lot of advice on how to deal with this challenge – from fleeing or cutting them off entirely, to fighting or tackling their issues head on, advice varies and can just make matters worse, but there is one thing you can do that will change the dynamic completely.
The initial intention of the marriage ceremony is a lifelong commitment, and with that comes another family, and probably, a mother-in-law
You might as well master the art of communicating and work towards building a more meaningful and adaptable relationship, since you are probably going to be interacting with your partner’s mother for the rest of her life – and much of yours.
What you may forget, is that, while you wish to be loved and appreciated for who you are, and not who others expect you to be, so does your partner’s mother in-law desire to be loved and appreciated for who she is.
Whenever you are challenged by your mother-in-law, it is probably going to be when she projects her values, expectations and what is most important to her, onto you
Whenever you are challenged by your mother-in-law, it is probably going to be when she projects her values, expectations and what is most important to her, onto you.
Understandably these are potentially unrealistic expectations given that her values are not always going to be the same as yours.
Understandably, as a result, conflict is a natural occurrence and instead of opting for the confrontational approach, I suggest some reflective self-questioning to reduce annoyance and open the communication channels.
Here are three actions to help you reduce the tension:
1. Identify your trigger points
The first step to alleviating some of the frustration perceptually triggered by your mother-in-law’s behaviour is to ask yourself: “What specifically is she doing that I find challenging, frustrating, irritating or dislikable?”
List each specific action that pushes your buttons down the far-left-hand-side of the paper.
2. Identify and own these points
The next step is going to require some self-reflection. Ask yourself, “Where have I acted in the same or similar manner towards others as she has done towards me?”
This means you must own the trait or action that you see in her fully within yourself. List where and when you have demonstrated this behaviour until you can honestly acknowledge that action to the same degree. This step will not only humble you, but ease your judgement of her too.
The key is to keep going with this list until you have owned it 100% within your life. This could take as many as 30 memorable times where you have done the same or similar action to others.
3. Neutralise them
The final question you need to ask is, “How specifically is the action she is displaying serving you, benefiting you, an advantage to you, or helping you in any area of your life?”
Spend time answering this question until you start to feel gratitude for her very action.
It is never just what happens to you that matters, but how you perceive and then respond to what happens to you.
If you see only drawbacks to her action without benefits, you will withdraw and feel like a victim.
Instead of doing so, find enough benefits to each action until you don’t react, and you feel balanced and become the master of your destiny. You will begin to appreciate and love her for who she is and for what she is awakening within you.
By balancing out your perceptions of her, and mastering the skill of not having your mother-in-law run your life, you will come to appreciate her for who she is, and she can become one of the people you can love and appreciate in your life.
About Dr Demartini
Dr. John Demartini is a renowned entrepreneur and human behaviour expert, founding The Demartini Institute, authoring 40 books that have been translated into 31 languages, appearing in films including the secret, appearing on Larry King Live, and regularly contributing to Oprah magazine. www.drdemartini.com