5 Polite ways to deal with a mother-in-law who can't stop criticizing you
Here's how you can ask your overly critical MIL to 'Back Off' without being mean about it
When you get married, you are not just marrying one person, you're also--to some extent--marrying their entire family.
Clashes between women and their mothers-in-law are common. In some cases, it may even cause strain in marriages.
In dealing with an overly critical mother-in-law, you may choose to take the passive-aggressive approach or go the combative route.
The evasive method may leave you seething inside, causing resentment to build up over the years. However, lashing out may cause irreparable damage in your relationship.
Whichever approach you take, acting solely based on momentary emotions is never a good choice.
An example would be having to deal with their little pieces of unsolicited advice on parenting or housekeeping. One user on ParentTown can relate to this dilemma.
According to Family Therapist Susan Stiffelman, there are a lot of possible reasons why a mother-in-law seems like a "fault-finder": she may be interfering because she feels powerless in her own life; she may have a "low tolerance for frustration or it could be that she's been used to expressing love and affection by telling people what to do with their lives.
But there are ways to deal with a hyper-critical mother-in-law. Here are five of them.
1. Don't take it personally
Stiffelmen suggests taking a step back and trying to understand where she is coming from. "Regardless of the reason, by considering possible explanations for your mother-in-law’s behavior, my hope is that you can take it less personally. This is key. If you see her critical behavior as something she does, rather than an assessment of your parenting skills, you may be able to feel less hurt by it."
2. Thank her
By not taking it personally, you can form a more diplomatic response. You can thank them for their input with a smile.
You can also acknowledge that they have a point but explain why you don't totally agree. Starting with thanking her, whether you agree with her or not, softens the blow and allows you to freely communicate how you feel without running the risk of offending them.
More subtle ways to deal with a critical mother-in-law on the next page
3. Stop pushing back
When you are flooded with unsolicited advice or criticism, be open and don't fight it. Less resistance means less impact.
When their constant criticism stops evoking emotions, they lose their power over you. For instance, if they don't agree with your school choice for your children, don't contest everything they say. But assert the reasons for your choice in a positive way, possibly even finding connections between the two schools.
4. Take control---politely
Dr. Daniel J. Tomasulo suggests to emphasize her ownership of her comments. He says, "When she says an unkind comment or criticism offer back a simple descriptive statement of what she said (i.e. It sounds like you’re unhappy with how I keep my home). In other words, let her criticisms and persecutions be hers. Again, don’t take the bait and feel the need to defend yourself. A descriptive statement allows you to stay present but not become overwhelmed by her taunt."
5. Walk away
Sometimes, when emotions are heightened, it's best to just walk away. Don't keep trying to prove you are right. Walking out on them doesn't have to be dramatic. You can simply postpone the discussion to a later time when you both are more calm and composed. This also buys you time to really reflect on the issue at hand.
The key is to be patient with them. Accept that there are a lot underlying reasons why they behave this way. Focus on the good in them. For starters, they brought your spouse into the world. Focusing on that fact alone will help ease you into a more loving relationship towards them, even if it has to be one-sided at first.
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