Too many women have a love-hate (mostly hate!) relationship with their mothers-in-law. The first time around, I had the MIL from hell — Eva couldn’t stand me because I wasn’t the right religion, nationality, and anything else she could think of. But somehow I managed to bury the hatchet (and not in her head!) and get her to come around. This time, I’m blessed with a fantastic, energetic, generous MIL — who, thankfully, responded well to the proper training.
Keep reminding yourself that both of you love the same thing — your husband. I remember asking my friend Iris, who had a MIL worse than my #1, how she managed to be civil to Louise. Iris looked at me in wonder and said, “Because she gave birth to the man I love.” Think about it — where would you be without him? She deserves respect just for being his mom.
You get more with honey than with vinegar. Now, I’m not suggesting you let your MIL walk all over you. But instead of getting into a shouting match, say it sweetly, with a smile. Point out her bitter, bitter, bitter comments and prompt her to examine them with something along the lines of, “Gloria, how would you feel if someone said that to you?”
Where’s your sense of humor? Once, after I’d toiled hours to make a special Italian feast, my reigning MIL quipped, “What are you trying to do? Kill us with garlic?” My initial thought was to yell about how hard I’d worked. My second was to run away from the table sobbing. But instead, I took a deep breath and responded, “Well, obviously it didn’t work!” Both my husband and my father-in-law cracked up, spouting merlot through their noses. P.S. my MIL never said anything negative about my cooking again.
Find her sunny side. Come on, she’s got to have one! Everyone does, even if it’s buried deep down below. Open your mind and discover something she’s good at and celebrate it. Learn what makes her tick. Maybe she volunteers at an animal shelter. Maybe she knits booties for preemies. Talk to her about it. Get on her good side. Make her love you, or at the very least, like you. Because after all, you’re so lovable, right?
Put your best foot forward. Likewise, show your MIL what makes you so awesome. Maybe she’s never seen you in action, in your element, be it finishing a grueling 5K race or participating in a poetry reading. There are all kinds of amazing things about you she has no clue about. You’re so much more than just “the other woman!” Prove it to her!
Open your eyes, open your heart. I saw my present mother-in-law in a whole new light the first time she held my newborn son. Lydia gave me a glimmer of the love she showed Peter when he was a baby. I learned from her sure, tender hands when she changed David’s diaper or just the way she smiled at him. Look, listen and feel.
And above all, be kind. Kindness begets kindness. How can you be evil to someone who’s sweet to you? Even though MIL # 1 could be a meanie, I kept responding to her rants with random acts of niceness. When Eva came home from the hospital after a heart attack, I washed her hair in the kitchen sink, figuring that not being able to shower would drive me nuts. Eva was so moved she almost cried. I think that was our turning point. She never forgot it and neither did I.