To Solve A Mother-In-Law Problem

If you Google, “What to do when your Mother-In-Law hates you?” you’ll realize that a) You aren’t the only person dealing with such an annoyance, b) Some Mother-In-Laws are certifiably crazy and c) No one really knows what the hell you are supposed to do when your Mother-In-Law believes you’re an evil villain. Here are your options: Kill her with kindness. Make your significant other deal with her. Ignore her. Ask yourself if you are at fault. Try to find mutual topics to discuss. The list goes on and only gets more condescending — as if you haven’t tried. I’ve surrendered to the power of the Internet, hoping its mystical wonders will inform me how I can get along with a woman who seems to be planning a ritualistic sacrificial ceremony in my honor. If drowning her in kindness worked, I wouldn’t be scouring the internet for answers.

Image Credit: Anne Taintor

Full disclosure: I’ve dated a lot of guys seriously. Which means that I’ve met a lot of parents. I’ve wooed them with my sharp ability to say dumb things because I’m nervous, my palms are sweaty and oh my god, they won’t stop asking me questions. I’ve snuck into houses when parents weren’t there because they hated me and thought I was going to be the undoing of their perfect conservative son (who, during mid-make out session, blurted out that he was gay and wept into my lap as I sat there stunned). There were the parents who found handwritten love notes in the pockets of their son’s jeans and confronted me about the fact we were expressing our teenage hormones by holding hands and pretending we were going to be together forever. My ex-husband’s parents routinely injected their opinion into our sex life, our money and snooped through my personal belongings because they had a key to our house.

So I swore off serious relationships. Mostly because of my ex-husband but partly because I couldn’t handle meeting another set of parents. I could barely get my own parents to like me which only stood to reason that it simply may be a lost cause. I say a lot of things that I don’t follow through on — I’m giving up Diet Coke. I’m going to stop swearing. This is my last pack of smokes.  I’m going to bed before 11pm. It’s a lovely sentiment, but most of the time, I’m full of shit.  Obviously, when I met my husband and fell in love, of course I wanted to meet his family. Sure, there was a nagging voice at the back of my mind screeching that it might be a terrible, no good idea, but I ignored it. At first glance, his family appeared to be incredible. I was sure my days of fearing my in-laws were long over. I had won the lottery.

Yet, here I am ten years later, still Googling, wondering where the hell everything went so wrong, but more importantly, why I still care. I could write a novel about all of the ordeals that have been encountered in the last decade; the tears, the fights that have been had, the insults, and yet, despite all of that, I still care to make this relationship better. Even my husband who once was bothered that his mother seemed to loathe me with the fire of a thousand suns is finished, “I’m so over this shit. You should get over it too.” But I can’t, because I desperately want these people to like me. My increasing need to have them like me is both sad and really, really pathetic.

This is precisely the reason it’ll never happen. There are other variables that would also hinder it from happening (like them wanting to like me), but it won’t happen when I’m begging for validation. My incessant OMG, PLEASE LIKE ME says way more about my insecurities. How far am I really willing to go in order to get someone to like me? Why am I so insistent on forcing his mother (and family, really) to like me? In 30 years, I’ve learned that I’m not for everyone. I’m frustrating. I can be loud, especially after a glass of wine. I don’t believe in god, yours or anyone elses. I say what I’m thinking almost 98% of the time. I’m a bit of social recluse and don’t love relationships that need constant attention. I’m rough around the edges, and unlike some people, I’m absolutely not ashamed of it. You either like me or you don’t. Except here, apparently.

Maybe I am the problem.  Perhaps, I have an evil lair that I go into when I’m not conscious, planning all of my schemes and shenanigans. There is a small chance that I am as horrid as my mother in law describes, that her tall tales she distributes to anyone who will listen are factual and not exaggerated on any level.

Or, maybe, like so many other women who have Googled the same phrase, we are just the victims of the crime we didn’t even know was a crime — We married their sons, and opted to not be the version of the fantasy daughter in laws they had concocted in their heads. For some reason, I naively assumed that loving her son, and him loving me would be enough to bridge the gap. Instead, I feel like I was invited to a war.

So, what’s a Daughter-In-Law to do? How do we overcome this timeless trial? We just don’t. Not because we don’t want it to be overcome, most of us do. In order for a relationship to work, both parties have to be open to having a relationship first and foremost. In my own circumstances, I have pulled and stretched, I have stepped out of my comfort zone, and tried to make this woman my friend, to get her to see I’m not as bad as she thinks. For years, I’ve wanted nothing more than to be accepted by my husband’s family, and the cold, hard truth is: They don’t like me.  Would it be great if they did? Yes. But it’s not mandatory. Something I wish I had figured out long ago.

Now I’m going to Google, “Why doesn’t my Mother-In-Law realize I’m awesome?!” and I’m not going to even click on a single link because I am awesome — and so are you–(though, I may click on the deliciously delightful memes to warm my cold, heathen Daughter-In-Law heart).  If our in-laws don’t see that, it’s completely on them.

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8 thoughts on “To Solve A Mother-In-Law Problem

  1. There is something to this, after what I have seen, I will never underestimate the damage a mere mother in law can do. I won’t court the favor of one again. Good luck with your Googling.

  2. I’ve had some ROUGH patches with my husband before we were married, and none of which were my fault. Honestly! He cheated on me and I was mad and screamed at him, punched him (okay, that was going a little far but…) and somehow his mother turned it on me! We didn’t speak for a year after I gave birth to our daughter because I was done. I didn’t care if she liked me, I told her off, and then tried to forget about her. We’ve (she’s) since come around and now I’m her perfect daughter-in-law! Perhaps playing hard to get worked with her? Either way, I don’t care if she likes me or not, and things have been working out great since 2012.

    P.S. I love the read 🙂 Just found you and I’m looking forward to reading more

    1. We’ve all been there, eh? We’ve had some periods of things being good, or at least seeming as though it was. Being further away has helped astronomically, that’s for sure. I’m glad you have it all worked out now though. It certainly makes things much easier!

      And thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. OMGosh I love his blog! My mother in law is sometimes from hell! But she always does the shit when it’s just me and her. I’m shy and generally a people pleaser! Yet I sit back and let her say what she wants and most of the time it hurts and makes me feel like shit.. Yes, I am so over someone making me feel like that!

  4. Imagine how much of life would be easier if we didn’t care what other people, especially family, thought of us. Just accepted us as we are. Flawed and mistake-prone and crazy in love despite ourselves.

    I wish I knew how to say “to hell with it” and move on, but I don’t think most people are made that way. I think you will keep trying too, just like we both can’t give up Diet Coke. 🙂

    1. I like my people to be flawed and mistake prone, with a little side of cynicism and humor. Those are the best people, I find.

      I think that there is a difference between acceptance and moving on. I can accept things out of my control, and be able to flex around those circumstances, but moving on from some things means ignoring it and in a lot of cases, that won’t always be the best or the healthiest way to work it.

      Of course we share a Diet Coke addiction (Can’t read about your trip to Paris!)

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