Dealing With Your In-Laws
Advice for keeping in-law relations sane and strife-free.
If They Criticize Your Housekeeping Skills...Address it directly. While you may be tempted to enlist your husband, in this case it's often better to respond to your mother-in-law directly, since your husband may not feel that this is a battle worth waging and thus may avoid the discussion altogether, says Terri Apter, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Cambridge, in England.
Be honest. If housekeeping isn't a priority for you, go ahead and tell her, say Liz Bluper and Renée Plastique, the pseudonymous authors of Mothers-in-Law Do Everything Wrong: M.I.L.D.E.W. (Andrews McMeel, $10, amazon.com). But if her complaints seem unsubstantiated or become an incessant refrain, there could be deeper issues at work. "What seems like a small point may not be," Apter says. "She may not just be saying, 'There is too much dust here,' but implying that you're not the kind of woman you should be."
Before you tell her where she can stick her dust bunnies, though, keep in mind that she may be unaware of the problem. "People often don't realize that what they're doing is hurting someone," says Beverly Freid, the creator of Motherinlawstories.com, a support-group website that has 50,000 visitors each month. Clue your mother-in-law in, Freid advises, by saying something like, "I truly appreciate your concern, but you might not realize that you're hurting my feelings when you make comments about the dusty bookshelves."
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