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With wedding season in full bloom, we are on "mom-in-law-from-hell" alert. We have heard so many stories of overbearing moms-in-law that we turned to an expert to find out how to manage these often unbearable situations.

old woman angry, young woman covering her ears

There are entire websites devoted to discussing mom-in-law stories and problems, but few discuss what's at the core of these issues and what to do about it. Before this starts to cause a detrimental rift in your marriage, clinical psychologist Dr. Michelle Golland shares her expertise on just what to do if you've got a MILFH in your family.

Why are MILs such MILFHs at times?

Dr. Golland believes that a lot of the time, mom-in-laws are insecure and they don't feel important enough. They therefore become a dominant presence in the family, and often times, this comes with some very strong demands. The big problem, however, is not with the MIL -- it's in the relationship between the two partners.

Says Dr. Golland: "Both partners need to value the relationship first and foremost, before worrying about the MIL and her feelings. As a couple, you should always feel the person has your back, with your family, their family, and in the world." Often, particularly in an enmeshed family structure, the daughter or son of the overwhelming mom fears their mother more than you, and they feel they may be letting their mom down by not following her demands. "What needs to happen is your partner needs to worry about disappointing YOU more than his/her mom," Dr. Golland says.

These issues can get so severe that they can break up a marriage if things don't change. Here are some ground rules to implement:

1. Never argue in front of family or disagree in front of family. Make this a rule between the two of you.

2. Always present a unified front on all issues. Behind closed doors you can disagree, but ultimately when in front of family, you are both on the same page.

3. The husband needs to care about the feelings of his wife before those of his mom (and the wife needs to care about her husband's feelings before Mom's). This is especially important in cases like weddings/births, where this is an experience for the two of you.

4. When a partner feels really strongly about something, you better choose your partner over your mom.

4. Tell him/her: It's not about your mother, it's about me. You should care more about how I feel than about how your mom feels, and if you don't, you should be curious why.

5. In dealing with family, each partner should address their own families -- his mother, his sister, his family, he picks up the phone. If it's his family, he has to put his foot down.

6. Seek couples counseling to sort through issues. Issues of family can cause a huge rift between partners, so putting some boundaries in place now is crucial.


next: Mom in the Delivery Room: Yay or Nay?
2 comments so far | Post a comment now
steph July 13, 2009, 3:48 PM

thank you for this article. It was a great bit of information for those of us who have challenging times with the mom-in-law.

canuck August 26, 2009, 12:09 AM

this vapid article was just terrible……..


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