This is an equal opportunity phenomenon, experienced by both husbands and wives. To be sure, an article this short cannot begin to address core issues, so know that that is not what this is about. This is about one thing. If you find that you are the focus of anyone’s unwarranted hatred, venom, or just occasional rudeness that, nonetheless, still gets under your skin: what should your mindset be?
And although what we’re talking about here can be anyone, not just a vindictive mother-in-law, the dynamics involved in a situation like this are unique. Family matters tend to matter more (we can choose our friends, but not our family!), so more care should be taken to make sure we are guided by wise choices in terms of how we move forward.
Unless you have said or done something that specifically and personally invited this woman to directly and personally hope and pray that a series of unfortunate events would happen to you, you have got to happily and deeply embrace an important and relevant fact: it is not personal.
Sure, it feels personal. It feels very personal. After all, you are being snubbed. You are being disrespected. Boundaries are being willfully ignored and crossed. Buttons are being pushed. And you are the target. You, personally, are the target. So, when you are the target of attacks and challenges and all kinds of undermining nonsense, how do you not take that personally?
Obviously, it is difficult to appreciate someone who treats you horribly, but it is impossible to dislike someone you happen to be genuinely grateful for. So here are some questions to ask and answer that, hopefully, will help plant some seeds of gratitude toward this person and these circumstances.
Putting aside the negativity for a moment, what admirable qualities does this woman exhibit? (How, and under what circumstances, has she made you smile?)
What positive characteristics are frequently exhibited by your spouse that came from your mother-in-law?
What positive character traits are being developed in you as a result of this woman being in your life? (How are you maturing as a result of this experience?)
Here’s a question you might be asking: How will answering these questions change my mother-in-law? Well, that’s the beauty of these questions! They are just for you, not for her. That’s right. Changing your mother-in-law is none of your business, not even when it comes to the way she treats you. The only thing you can control is the way you treat her and the position of your heart toward her. Answering the above questions – and consequently treating her as well as is humanly possible – may not inspire her to treat you any differently at all. Ever.
That’s a sobering reality, but it is also liberating! I am completely free of the burden of changing this person or of trying to correct them in any way. Halleluiah!!
Of one thing we can be certain: if her treating you badly is uncalled-for, then you treating her badly in return is just as uncalled-for. We don’t stop a cycle of poor behavior by participating in it.
I love to consider what the Angel Gabriel told Mary when she discovered she was pregnant: “Do not let your heart be troubled.” Letting yourself get stressed out… or overwhelmed… or worked up… or offended… those are all decisions we have the opportunity to make… or not make. In other words, it is possible to not let certain things get to you. It takes some practice, but it is possible.
Toward that end, here are a couple more questions to consider:
Is my mother-in-law more likely to change her heart toward me if I treat her in a loving way no matter what, or less likely to do so? And…
Will I generally be a happier person and more at peace with myself and others by allowing myself to be offended and upset by this situation, or by not allowing it?
Sometimes we get bothered and bogged down because we ask and answer the wrong questions. Start with gratitude. What are you grateful for? If only for you, your mindset will make a difference.
- The Baby Boomer mother-in-law: Monster-in-law or kick-ass broad? (afterthekidsleave.com)
- When Your Mother-in-Law Doesn’t Like Your Dog (wagthedoguk.com)
- How to Win Over your Mother-in-Law With A Personalized Gift (personalcreations.com)