Very delicate balancing! When you have to share your partner (wife or husband) with your in-laws, or when they irritate you so much that the resultant aggression affects your partner, that is what you need. Delicate balancing! It is like the bile sitting right in the delicious liver; you handle both with care. For, as the verdict of experts and our elders go, “if you love and plan on sticking with your spouse, then you’re also stuck with your in-laws.”
And if there are children in the family, you are perhaps more handicapped. So how does one handle an intruding father or mother-in-law? Right from the onset, many wives rule out the miracle of getting their mothers-in-laws (MILs) to like them. They only try to endure them, working on their husbands to get them on their side. Not easy though. Blood is thicker than water, but they try because it is the best option.
According to the parenting website Netmums, one in four daughters-in-law (DIL) despise their mother-in-law (MIL), finding her “controlling.” The site’s poll of about 2,000 women found that the DILs’ resentment stemmed from the MIL thinking that she was the authority on parenting and parenting skills.
Complaints included being made to feel not good enough for their partner, or that the MIL was rude or bitchy. Over one-third described their MIL as “judgmental” or “interfering.”
Nearly one-quarter of poll participants described their relationship with their MIL as “bad” or “terrible.” One in 10 moves were reported as an attempt to get farther away from a MIL. In some cases, the stress of the in-law situation led to marital collapse.
For husbands, who are the heads of their families, and who desire to run their homes, the challenge is MILs is equally huge. The MILs believe their daughters should be treated the way they as mothers would. They desire their daughters to give them regular reports or consult them on key decisions. In cases where the wives are emotionally or spiritually dependent on their mothers, their homes are literarily run from outside. And when the husbands resist, there are sparks of fire everywhere in the home.
In all in-law cases, what I will call the Apter principle applies: “When two people decide to marry, each makes a pledge that the other will be the most important person in their life. And so we expect that our partner will be on our side when the going gets rough. Couples may fight between themselves, over big things and small, but we expect a partner to stick up for us when someone else threatens us, criticizes us, makes us feel bad.”
Terri Apter is the expert from who I borrowed the term, ‘domestic intelligence’.
Applying this principle, it is expected under normal circumstances that:
A family should realize their in-laws are different people with different ways and views.
They should separate their own relationship from their in-laws. According to an expert, “They (should) remember that no matter how complicated or difficult their in-laws may be, they are not married to them.” So when in-laws are being especially difficult to deal with, healthy couples make an extra effort to be kind to their partner.
This other strategy is my favourite. Couples should set clear boundaries with their in-laws. They’re able to have open conversations with their spouse about their needs and create a plan that both of them agrees with, Hansen, an expert said.
However, this doesn’t always work. There appears to be no silver bullet for in-law crisis, but Dr. Phil offers some good perpectives for all couples. Dr. Phil McGraw is perhaps the most well-known mental health professional in the world. He provides the most comprehensive forum on mental health issues in the history of television. For 11 years, Dr. McGraw has used the Dr. Phil platform to make psychology accessible and understandable to the general public by addressing important personal and social issues.
Dr. Phil says:
“There can be no divided loyalties. When you get married and start your own family, that’s where your primary loyalty needs to be.
“If a wife has a problem with her mother-in-law, it’s the husband who needs to step in and help fix it. Likewise, if a husband doesn’t see eye-to-eye with his in-laws, his wife needs to step in. The person with the primary relationship (the son or daughter, not the in-law) needs to be the messenger.
“Try not to criticize your spouse for his/her relationship with his/her parents. It may only lead to more clinginess or complications.
“You need to love your parents, and have a rich and active relationship with them, but any time that you turn away from your partner to resolve a relationship issue, that’s a bad thing. If you have a problem in the marriage, you need to resolve it in the marriage.
“Keep in mind that your parents only know what you tell them. If you go to them every time you’re angry, and frustrated and having problems in your marriage, they hear that, but they don’t hear when you make up.”