You may be married to the man of your dreams, but there's definitely a catch, and it's a big one--your mother-in-law. Remember the movie Monster-in-Law, starring Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda? Yes, you can definitely relate, and then some!
But wonderful as it may be to imagine strangling your mother-in-law--or MIL, as many of us call her--you have to know this isn't a viable solution to your marital MILady. Check out the problems we've listed below. Any of them sound familiar? We share comments from women who have been there, done that, and we offer tips on how to deal with each of these possible scenarios.
Monster-in-Law Scenario #1. You hear she's criticized you behind your back.
Confront her about the issue she commented on, not about her criticism of you. If it's relevant, you may want to ask for her advice.
Trish heard from a relative that her mom-in-law was criticizing her practices as a mother. "She told a family friend that she didn't blame me because uso daw yan sa mga moms ngayon (it's common with mothers these days), but she didn't think I was disciplining my daughter correctly," says the 34-year-old mother. "So the next time we saw each other, I mentioned [the incident she had commented on], and asked her if she encountered anything similar with my husband when he was a child and what she did about it. I don't know if I'll ever use the advice she gave me, but I think it's important to her that I asked."
Monster-in-Law Scenario #2. She undermines your authority.
CC shares that one of the rules she set for her kids was that they were only allowed to drink soft drinks during parties or on weekends and holidays. "But since we lived in a compound, they could go next door to lola's house and drink Coke any time they wanted to," she says. "I finally had to get mad at my mother-in-law for encouraging them to break the rule [my husband and I] set."
You need to establish the rules early on, and make sure everyone is aware of them. Especially when kids are involved, let relatives and friends know that it's not okay to bypass household rules just because they don't belong to the household themselves. Just explain that your discipline philosophy has you invested in making sure your child is raised to realized there's no "palusot," and it's not fair to the child if the grownup acts as a BI.
Monster-in-Law Scenario #3. She meddles with your marriage.
"Nakikialam siya sa lahat ng away namin (she gets involved in our arguments)," Trish recounts, mentioning an incident in which her mother-in-law actually butted in on an argument between herself and her husband.
Gently, subtly, but firmly remind her that this is first and foremost an issue between you and your husband. You may want to put it this way the next time she offers unsolicited advice: "Thank you for your concern and your advice. Actually, we are still trying to clear the matter up with each other to make sure this isn't some kind of miscommunication before we decide on what to do." This is a more diplomatic way of saying, "If we want your advice, we'll ask for it."
Monster-in-Law Scenario #4. She is openly--and frequently--critical.
Trish recounts an incident in which her mother-in-law made some nasty implications to her after she'd argued with her husband. "She said something like, maybe he was working late all the time because he didn't want to go home."
Don't fight fire with fire and answer back. For one thing, it will put you in a more unattractive light because Filipinos are raised not to talk back to their elders. Another thing is, turning your encounters into catfights won't help things and will only force your husband into the awkward role of mediator. In this case, the best defense is, well, a good defense. When she criticizes you, ask her to explain her observations and, yes, ask her for suggestions on how you can improve things. That doesn't mean you need to follow them to the letter--just hear her side of things. Then explain why you do the things you do, and if her comments have merit, consider following her advice.
Monster-in-Law Scenario #5. Her attitude toward you is cold and uninviting.
"When [my husband and I] were still going out," says Yvette, "I would sometimes see his mom at church or in the mall. Kung kasama si [husband], we'd all say hi, make beso, etc. Kung wala, minsan dedma unless nahahalata siya (If my husband wasn't present, we'd ignore each other unless other people notice her)."
Coldness on your mother-in-law's part is not in anyway unusual, especially if you're just in the beginning stages of your MIL-DIL relationship. Sometimes, all it takes is for her to get used to the fact that she's no longer the most important woman in your man's life--and for her to get used to you as a person. Make polite overtures and invite her to be part of your lives, but don't toady to her. You don't want her to think she can dominate you, but you do want her to see you as a likeable equal worthy of her respect and affection.
Monster-in-Law Scenario #6. She over-mothers your husband.
CC says, "Even after we married, she would still come to our house and do my husband's laundry! It was only across the driveway [in our compound], but still, di ba?"
Your hubby doesn't have to be a mama's boy for Mom to have an overwhelming presence in your lives. The truth is, she may just have trouble letting go. She has spent at least a couple of decades taking care of your man, so it may just be habit for her. Don't try to push her aside or fight over him--instead, offer to do the stuff for him that she's used to doing herself. And take advantage of her expertise when it comes to learning about your guys likes and dislikes. She'll appreciate the effort you make and will eventually come to the conclusion that she's leaving him in capable hands.
Read these articles for more relationship tips:
- Relationships 101: Men and Women--Different But Complementary
- Korina Sanchez Reveals That She's a Submissive Wife + 5 Tips on Equalizing Your Relationship
- Relationships 101: How to Communicate Effectively as a Couple
- 10 Bad Habits that Could Be Hurting Your Relationship + How to Break Them
(Photo from Monster-In-Law courtesy of New Line Cinema)