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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: Tolerating My Mother-in-Law Is against My Moral Values. Should I Tolerate Her?

December 12, 2020

Dear Stavroula, 

I have been married for three years to my husband and we have two children. Our relationship started beautifully. I thought he was the one. I only knew him for five months when I got pregnant with our first child. My mother-in-law was very happy at first, because it was her first grandchild. She has three children. After us, her other two children got married and each of them gave her a grandchild. At first, I spoke to my mother-in-law in the singular, because she seemed Ok with it. I later learned that she did not like it and that she even asked my husband to tell me to speak to her in the plural. 

Anyway, I let it go and changed my attitude towards her – I spoke to her in the plural as she wanted, I was polite and kind when she came to visit. I welcomed her with warm hugs when she entered our house "to mainly see the children," as she said. For a while things calmed down. But the sweetness did not last long and she started to create problems again. She cried to her other children and said that we will not let her see her grandchildren … For my part, I told my husband that I cannot stand my mother-in-law's behavior and I do not want her to visit, because she was always causing problems and even getting other people involved against me. And I really can't bear to see this woman anymore. She constantly lies and causes trouble. This goes against my moral values. Should I follow my moral values? Or tolerate behaviors that degrade me as a person? I would like your opinion. 

Lydia 

Dear Lydia, 

Many times, the mother of a son finds it difficult to accept that she is losing her child emotionally, and she may feel strong feelings of loneliness, rejection, or even anger for various reasons. If she is not able to manage these feelings, she might express them in the form of aggression towards her son’s wife. 

If this problematic relationship with the mother-in-law does not improve, the whole family can be adversely affected. 

Therefore, before you decide to answer the dilemma of whether or not to tolerate your mother-in-law or to exclude her from your life so you can stay true to your moral values, I would like you to think about which of the two decisions will make your life and your family’s life better. 

So if you decide not to allow your mother-in-law to visit your home, will this decision benefit your children and your husband? Or will it create other problems with even more difficult consequences? If you and your husband switched positions, how would you like him to deal with the problem? Would you agree to exclude your own mother from your family life? Would you like your children not to have contact with their grandmother? Or would you like to find a way to manage the situation? 

So if you decide to try to improve your relationship with your mother-in-law again, because this will offer you a calmer and more stable family life, it might be best not to take her behavior personally, and try to understand the real reasons she behaves that way. Maybe this way you can accept her and forgive her. Try, if you can, to focus on her positive qualities, she cannot only have negative ones. 

Acceptance is very important in improving relationships because people do not change easily, so demanding that she change her behavior is probably pointless. Accept that she is different from you, that you do not need to like her, and try not to take her feelings for you personally. What matters is that your mother-in-law is part of your husband's life, and it will be very painful for him to ask him to cut her out and throw away that part of his life. 

On the other hand, maintaining a relationship with your mother-in-law does not mean that you have to change as a person or pretend to like her. You can adapt to the situation with your own principles and values, and always set your limits with respect and courtesy. Allowing this woman to have contact with her grandchildren and her son does not mean that you are violating your values. The opposite is true in fact. You show superiority and moral quality. After all, you are also a mother and you know how much love this encompasses, even if sometimes is expressed in the wrong way. 

Again, if you decide to insist on not having a relationship with your mother-in-law, I would like you to think about how this can affect your relationship with your husband and how you feel about him. It is important to talk calmly with him, without accusations and criticism but with love. With love solutions are found. 

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