Handling Mother-in-law Stresses

You marry someone and his or her mother hates you. Why? What did I do? Answer, you married my daughter or son. I didn’t know that was a crime or insult, loving your adult child. I thought you’d cherish the fact that I love her or him. You know, you should be happy to meet the person who loves your daughter or son and wants to take care of her or him for a lifetime. What’s the problem?

First and foremost, the problem is not obvious. Meaning it’s not being admitted and talked about openly. Does the stress exist because the mother of the person you married doesn’t think that you’d be the the best choice for her daughter or son? No, that’s not it. Whose decision is it anyway? Let’s move closer to the real reason for this problem. Mother-in-law is not ready, willing, or in some instances able to let go of her progeny to allow him or her to have his or her own life.

Frankly, if you’re going to be a parent, you’d better get used to the idea that your child, when grown, will launch into the world to start his or her own life. A big part of that experience is finding someone to love. Once this particular understanding is reached, you as the adult child and your beleaguered spouse, can now figure out a way to “handle” this problem.

As an adult child with the understanding that your mother is having a hard time letting you go, you can now communicate that understanding directly and strategically to your unhappy parent. Trying to develop a dialogue about it over time is going to be your best way of reducing the mother-in-law stresses in your marriage. Remember open communication always helps solve problems, instead of allowing them to fester over time.

As the unlucky spouse, you’re faced with two tasks. The first is to learn how not to react in a way that would be destructive to your marriage. The end result of which would be your mother-in-law’s greatest hope. Her naive attempt to break up your marriage is always at the base of whatever tension exists. Your other task is to communicate as openly as you can to her adult child, your spouse,  about the problem. Letting him or her handle the issue with his or her  mother is always the best approach in the long run. Get out of the middle.

Remember, the problem really started and exists between your mother-in-law and her adult child. It was never intended to be your problem. It’s made your problem to avoid dealing with it directly as a problem of separation from a parent having trouble letting go. Good luck.

Comments? Dr. Thomas Jordan, author of – Learn to Love: Guide to Healing Your Disappointing Love Life


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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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