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.
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.