It's no secret that here at SweetEscape, we are just a bit too obsessed with anything love and relationship. How could we not be? After all, we are all about capturing beautiful, precious moments, made possible only through the power of love and the relationships it forms. As much as we love lovey-dovey, tearjerking stuff, we also realize that in reality, personal relationships are nuanced and complex, and not always pleasant. Hence our new feature, SweetLove with Andrea!
Every two Fridays we're going to discuss at great length about the harsh realities of love and relationship, brought to you by our favourite gal, Andrea Gunawan. The image consultant and dating coach is your go-to authority for love, sex and modern dating as proven by her fiery, passionate takes on the pressing matters via her Instagram, @catwomanizer. For her first column, she's going to tackle the classic: the in-laws.
For this topic, Andrea was inspired by a comment from one of her followers about her nosy mother-in law. "She tries to get involved in every part of our marriage. There was one time she called my mom and told her that she didn't raise me well, just because I had a small fight with my husband!" she recounted. That's harsh, no?
Another follower's story is even more ludicrous: "Ever since I married her son, every time my mother and I got a new bag or jewelry, my mom-in-law is furious!" Why? "They always think that my husband bought those new things for us and she would interrogate my mother and me about it. So rude!" Ouch.
So what to do when push comes to shove and you're left with no choice but to put your foot down? A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, right? Take it away, Andrea!
Welcome to the first ever SweetLove with Andrea! I'm super excited to share some of my thoughts with you and this time around, I want to talk about the in-laws, especially the monster-in-law... oops, I mean mother-in-law. We often jokingly refer to our significant other's mother in this manner, but it's also true that the strain that parents-in-law can put on a couple’s relationship is no laughing matter. It can, in fact, ultimately destroy a marriage!
When you're married, you're not just married to the love of your life, but also to his family. While it may seem unfair to make your partner choose between you or the woman who brought him into the world and raised him, sometimes it's the latter that instigates havoc when you just keep your head down and mind your own business.
If you have been following me on Instagram, you would know the kind of conversations I usually have with my followers. The recent one is about the relationship between in-laws, specifically daughters-in-law (DIL) and their mothers-in-law (MIL). Some of them said the reason their marriage ended was because of their meddling in-laws, especially when they lived under one roof and the ex-husband didn’t stand up for them.
The DILs’ resentment usually stemmed from the MIL thinking that she was the authority on parenting and parenting skills. A classic example of this was the MIL undermining the DIL in front of her husband and children. Other complaints included being made to feel not good enough for their partner, or that the MIL was rude or bitchy.
The thing is, it’s not a relationship without fights and arguments, but your MIL shouldn’t be a contributing factor to your headaches. Now if you’re still dating someone who doesn’t stand up for you whenever your MIL-to-be is being nasty to you, leave and don’t look back. Don’t settle on the issue and hoping they would change. Once you get married, these issues are going to be magnified by a million.
However, if you’re married and you have to deal with your crazy MIL, here are 8 ways to ask your MIL to kindly butt out of your marriage!
Try to see your MIL’s side of the story and how her behavior may be a symptom of larger issues she has with herself and her relationship with her son - and not you. In some cases, his mother’s hostility towards you is an act of frustration over being disconnected from him. If this is the case, this is something that your husband needs to work on with his mother.
While challenging, try to be objective as you evaluate the situation. Honestly ask yourself if she has a valid opinion about matters. Consider if her actions and words are coming from a place of love, and if this needs to be acknowledged in managing her. Consider, too, if she’s struggling with feelings of having been dethroned as the family’s powerful matriarch, and if there are ways you can still make her feel important and needed in her own way.
With your spouse firmly by your side, let your in-laws know what kind of advice is helpful and which isn’t, said Deanna Brann, a psychotherapist and the author of Reluctantly Related: Secrets To Getting Along With Your Mother-In-Law Or Daughter-In-Law. “Be clear, concise, yet kind. No matter how they try to manipulate you, stand your ground,” she said. “If they’re persistent, you may need to add consequences to whatever boundaries you have set. By letting them know in advance about boundaries and consequences, they’ll be making the choice, not you, for what happens next.”
By remaining passive to the meddling, your spouse is giving a silent thumbs up to your MIL. Your spouse may believe he’s an innocent party but if he’s not speaking up, he’s not helping the situation either. After all, he knows her a lot better than you do. Hopefully, he’s figured out how to get through to them.
Your MIL thinks she’s being super helpful with her parenting and housekeeping advice but it drives you nuts. Your best approach is to let them know you appreciate their advice but have most things covered. Or delicately suggest that times have changed and “this is just what our pediatrician recommends.”
Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you. When you married your spouse, you married into a family with deep history. Understanding where some of their problems stem from can be incredibly helpful as you learn how to approach them.
Many problems with in-laws come from parents’ difficulties letting go of their own children, and it can be hard for a parent to make the transition from parenting their child to having an equal relationship with them as an adult. Setting gentle, but firm and consistent boundaries, can help with this transition. Your MIL might begin to realize that her child needs to live his own life with you.
Your MIL isn’t a monster. She’s a human with faults and a parent struggling to bond with her adult child and her new DIL. In those times when connecting seems downright impossible, try to be sympathetic toward her. And always on the lookout for positive changes in behavior. No person is 100% bad. The one time your MIL honors your schedule or other requests or compliments your food, say something positive back. You would be surprised how this one small gesture can increase motivation to change.
You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of a situation. This involves excusing yourself from family gatherings for some quality “me-time”, not answering the phone when you know it’s your MIL, and keeping your distance as a couple to take care of yourselves and your family, in spite of expectations, around times like the holidays.
Whenever anybody becomes toxic to your marriage or family, then you have every right to roll up the “Welcome” mat and say goodbye to them. You, your spouse, and your primary family have the right to a peaceful existence, with the people in your circle - family, friends, and relatives - being those who are a positive and supportive presence.
If you are being disrespected and mistreated, then your MIL isn’t entitled to any of the special privileges that come with being family. You have every right to draw and maintain strong boundaries in protecting yourself and your marriage. Nobody has the right to make your life miserable, and only you can make sure of that.
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