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Don't Fear Your Mother-in-Law

06/24/2013 03:47 pm ET | Updated Aug 24, 2013
  • Jonathan Alpert Licensed psychotherapist, executive coach, columnist, and author of "Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days"

It's that time of the year again. We're in the throes of wedding season and inevitably I see lots of in-law related issues either before or shortly after marriage. One of the most common issues is from the wife who feels that the mother-in-law gets between her and her husband. Often the wife feels like she is competing with her mother-in-law to get her husband's attention and this strains the relationship all around: husband, son, wife, and in-laws. At the heart of this issue is fear: the wife fears she will lose her husband to her mother-in-law. She wonders: "Does the mother-in-law control everything in this relationship?" "Will I get private time with my new husband?" "Does my husband value his mother more than he values me?" Questions abound and are all rooted in negativity and fear-based thinking.

It's important for the wife to bear in mind that this issue is about you and your husband, not you and his mother. To change how you feel about this situation you must change your thinking. For starters, see it as a good thing that he has a strong relationship and values his mother -- it's not a competition. Focus on what you can control: your relationship, not theirs. Talk to him when things are calm. Acknowledge how important his mother is to him and mention something you like about her. Let him know how important he is to you and how you value him and his support. Express that when issues arise between you and his mother you don't always feel you get that from him. Ultimately you want the same thing: to have your needs and expectations met and to feel understood. The more united you and your husband are on issues, the less likely that a rift will exist between you and your mother-in-law.

Here are some general tips for getting along better with your mother-in-law:

  • Don't harp on issues. She's probably set in her ways.
  • Be respectful and keep in mind that she did bring your husband into the world.
  • Thank her for raising such a great son.
  • Allow space for her to spend private time with your husband.
  • Keep your relationship problems between you and your husband. Don't try to garner support from an in-law as it's unlikely to yield anything positive.
  • Discuss boundaries with your husband as they pertain to your in-laws. Agree on what's acceptable and what's unacceptable in regard to sharing information with them.
  • Get to know her. She's more than just your husband's mother. She potentially brings a wealth of life experience and interests.

For more tips on how to fearlessly handle difficult situations, people, and relationships check out my book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days.

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