Managing Marriage With a Meddling Mother-in-Law is no Slam Dunk

They come in all shapes and sizes.

But they share one thing in common.  A meddling mother-in-law thinks she rules the roost.  If you have an interfering hen-pecker she can be a nuisance.

My mother-in-law was a bit meddlesome. “Your  marriage will never last unless you learn to love basketball,” she’d say trying to explain the game and forcing me to watch it.  My husband is a basketball fanatic.  He was captain of  the number one ranked basketball team in his state his senior year in high school.  My husband loves to joke that when he took me to watch our first Duke basketball game together at the Meadowlands, rain was forecast and I asked if it was an indoor or outdoor game to know whether to bring an umbrella.   Sports was never my thing.  My family is very artsy.  I thought opposites attract. Managing marriage with a meddling mother-in-law is no slam dunk.  You just have to try and give it your best shot.

I was thinking of my mother-in-law today as I packed up the ornaments she left me.  From trying to teach me to cook Southern meals, to arm-twisting me to move down South, she was always a nudge.  She passed a decade ago, but when she was alive I found relief laughing at the TV sitcom Everyone Loves Raymond. In the show a daughter-in-law with my name “Debra”  was always trying to fend off the unwanted advice of her mother-in-law who lived next door.

Like the actress Doris Roberts  who plays comic Ray Romano’s mother Marie on the show,  my mother-in-law was well-meaning but intrusive.  The constant meddling got to a point where I decided I needed marriage counseling.  It was affecting my family.

I resented the fact that my husband never put his foot down.  Research shows that women who feel supported by their spouses in their in-law conflicts have better marriages.  I told the therapist that every time his mother crossed the line and pushed me to a  meltdown I feared I’d release more radioactive steam than the reactor at Chernobyl.  The therapist told me that I couldn’t change the people around me.  He said that I could only change how I reacted to them.   He had some sage advice. He said that “going nuclear” is never the way. “Don’t ever go to bed angry,” he told me, ” just stay up and argue until you win.”

17 thoughts on “Managing Marriage With a Meddling Mother-in-Law is no Slam Dunk

  1. this is so funny that I read this tonight! I was just ranting to my hubby about his mother and then looked up your post from my linky and I had to laugh and said to my hubby ‘oh my gosh look at this post!’ She has been staying with us for 2 months, and has differing opinions to how I should raise my children, especially Adam who is 7. I am losing it, but yes I can only control my reactions, BREATHE #mg

  2. I had a tough relationship with my first mother-in-law but that was probably because my first husband was my childhood sweetheart and it wasn’t always plain sailing. Now on my second marriage, I keep my mother-in-law firmly at arms length. I am polite but I don’t phone her for chats or go out of my way to see her and it works for me and her I think! #mg

    • Jo happy to hear you found a way to make this challenging relationship work the second time around. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    • Better to swallow your pride and bite your tongue than say something you’ll regret later. She’ll always remember what you said and not what she said. #mg

  3. Great article. I had a terrible mother in law. Always disapproving of me. She didn’t think that I was good enough for her son. She despised the fact that I wasn’t Catholic. 6 years after we first met she would still mention with disapproval the red shoes that I was wearing the first time she saw me.

    Fortunately I decided that I didn’t want to marry her son. He was not the man for me. I now no longer have to see her very often (I see her a bit because I have a child with my ex). It is a massive relief off my shoulders I have to say.

    I wrote a similar post. I often think it is bad form to provide links to my posts in comments, but I am going to take the liberty of doing it here:

    Pen x #mg

    • Pen I really enjoyed your blog post about your meddling ex-mother-in-law. Yes, there are “alarm bells” that we unfortunately ignore.#mg

  4. Jo says:

    I hit the jackpot when I married a man with a late mother.
    However it turns out I am his mother after all. So the councillor says.
    Does that make me my own mother-in-law?

  5. Paula says:

    Hey dear GF Debbie! LOL my ex-mom-in-law barely spoke English so I only got nice German interactions with her so no misunderstandings (I guess). I admit my ex said if his parents made any false moves, we leave their home immediately and stay in a hotel. Back then I had his support LOL! BTW, Erika did make the best German cookies in beautiful tins for Christmas — she knew she had me when I ate a whole supply in two days….then you wonder why I need to resume personal training at the gym now…once a Foodie, always a Foodie?

    • Hi Paula,

      A mother-in-law who can’t understand what you’re saying and can’t talk back sounds good to me. So do the German cookies. It was good that you felt your ex had your back. After the holidays, I need to hit the gym myself. LOL, Debbie

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