You hear those stories of the nightmare mother-in-law that believes her child is absolutely perfect, feels that she has a say in your relationship, and believes whole-heartedly that you are in desperate need of her parenting advice. Why don't these people like us? Why do they think we are unworthy of being with their child?
Don't get us wrong either, it's not always the mother-in-law that is the problem. It could be any relative on your partner's side that makes your life difficult, and likely your partner could share a tale or two about someone on your side of the family that is hard to get along with. Regardless, if you are in a committed relationship that you want to see work out, then you need to find a way to manage these toxic relationships, and not let them be the cause of you and your partner falling apart. Here are ten ways you can navigate these toxic waters a little easier.
10 Let The Little Things Go
Not everyone is perfect and not everyone is going to jive with you and your personality. That's ok! Sometimes people just clash when it comes to certain beliefs and views, and as the saying goes, you can always agree to disagree. As long as the differences in opinion aren't expressed in a hurtful or discriminating way, you can afford to let some of those things go.
Perhaps your in-law is rather stern and serious and hard to chat with at family gatherings. It may not be that they dislike you, but rather this is how they present themselves to everyone, it is just in their nature. So, when you can, try to let the little annoyances go and try to accept them for who they are, even if they are the polar opposite of you.
9 Try To Get To Know Them
This may sound counter-intuitive if you have already reached the conclusion that this person is toxic. However, if there is a glimmer of hope that you could possibly work things out, it would be well worth your time to try to get to know them a little better. Perhaps by doing so, you might come to better understand where they are coming from and why they act the way they do.
Maybe they are overly protective of their child because of a rough upbringing or an unhappy marriage that they had to struggle with themselves, and therefore they want to protect their own child from such a fate. You never know the battles someone else is facing until you take the time to listen to them.
8 Give The Benefit Of The Doubt, When Possible
OK, so their parenting style is completely different than yours, and they do things with your kids that drive you nuts. But, are their intentions good? Are they kind to your children? Are they being safe with your children? If it is at all possible to give the benefit of the doubt, try to do so. For your sake, for your partner's sake, and for the sake of your little ones.
This is especially important if your children genuinely enjoy their company and seem happy when they are around. As long as they aren't doing anything that is harmful or that you vehemently disagree with, try to assume that they mean well and genuinely care about your children. Bite your tongue, count to ten, and pour yourself a glass of wine!
7 Be Upfront And Honest In Your Communication
If it gets to the point where the things they are doing are really driving you crazy, or there are issues that you feel very strongly against, then it is time to say something. Not necessarily in the heat of the moment or in front of other people. But, try to find a moment to talk to them in private, and use that opportunity to be open and honest about how you feel and about how their actions affect you.
Allow them an opportunity to explain where they are coming from, and hopefully by having this conversation, you can avoid further upset down the road. If they can be respectful of your feelings and your wishes, especially when it comes to your own children, then there is hope that you can find some compromise. But, the first step is honest communication.
6 Seek Support From Your Spouse
Perhaps by this point, things are starting to get a bit strained, and you are feeling that you are not getting anywhere with this in-law relationship. You've tried getting to know them, you've given them the benefit of the doubt, and you have voiced your concerns openly and respectfully, and yet you are still not making progress. It is time to seek some support from your partner, and to find out where they stand on this situation and how you can solve the problem together.
You're not necessarily asking them to step in on your behalf, but more to get their opinion on what your next steps should be. When having this conversation, keep in mind that, although you're not overly keen on this particular in-law (and that may be putting it lightly!), this is still his family and you want to be respectful of that.
5 Be A United Front
If there is someone in your family that is really pushing the limits, interfering, or being downright rude to you, then it's time to take a stand. It makes it incredibly hard to do this if you are not in sync with your partner, and they aren't supporting you in this.
It is imperative that you present yourselves as a united front, so that this relative realizes that they are not going to get between you, and that you come together as one package. If you are not united in this, then just like children will do, they will likely try to play one of you against the other, and that only increases the toxicity in the family. Try to work with your partner to find a way of dealing with the situation, so that you are united in your approach.
4 Set Boundaries (And Stick To Them)
Perhaps it has now reached the point where some boundaries need to be set. You've exhausted all avenues for trying to make this toxic relationship work, and it continues to be negative and stressful. It is time to incorporate some boundaries, and you and your partner need to determine these boundaries together.
Maybe it is that your mother-in-law can't just land on your doorstep whenever she feels like it without letting you know ahead of time. Maybe it's that the kids no longer go over for sleepovers because you don't trust how they look after them. Whatever boundary you need to set, determine what that is and stick to it.
3 Protect Yourself And Your Children
As much as you want to make relationships work, and it makes you sad to have to distance yourself from people, your priority needs to be to protect yourself and your children. If you come away from every family gathering seething with rage and feeling crushed about how you were treated, you need to protect yourself from that. If your children don't seem happy when they are around this individual, or you don't feel that they are safe around a certain person, then you need to protect them from that.
It doesn't mean that you don't go to the family gathering at all, but perhaps there's a way to maintain some physical distance from this person. It's not easy, and you'll likely still come away feeling exhausted by it all, but hopefully you can enjoy seeing other relatives and keep yourself away from them.
2 Don't Make Your Spouse Choose
Whatever you do, try to avoid making your spouse choose between you and their family. This puts them in a very difficult and painful spot, and regardless of how you feel about your in-laws, they are still his family. Making them choose between you creates additional tension in a situation that is likely already rather fragile.
Let your partner know that you have reached your limit with this particular family member, and that you are no longer willing to subject yourself to them. But don't make your partner choose, they need to reach that decision on their own. Tell them that they are free to see that person and have whatever relationship they want with them, but that you have the right to make your own choices too.
1 Walk Away From The Toxicity
Sometimes, at the end of the day, all you can do is cut your losses and walk away. Perhaps this means that you and your spouse walk away from the toxic relationship, or perhaps it is just you who walks away. Whatever the situation, take comfort in knowing that you've done all you could to make it work.
Hopefully, your partner will be supportive of your decision, even if they haven't reached the same conclusion yet. Either way, your mental health and well-being is far more important that keeping a toxic relationship in your life, simply because it's family. Blood isn't always thicker than water, and sometimes you need to do what's best for yourself and for your family.