Skip to main content

Setting Boundaries with the Mother-In-Law

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience. She holds degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.


How to handle the mother-in-law has been a topic of emotional debate since Eve became a mother-in-law.  Comedy routines are based on the actions of the mother-in-law.  Movies center around her actions.  Marriages have been ruined because of her.  What can be done about it?  Set the boundaries for your mother-in-law and stand by them.


Stereotypes are not always fair though they make great punch lines for jokes and comedy acts.  The mother-in-law is not missed.  The stereotype for a mother-in-law could be summed up as nosy, bossy, domineering, controlling, interfering, criticizing, and downright destructive.  Before going further, I do want to clarify that 100% of mothers-in-law are not like this.  Stereotypes do not represent the majority.  Not all blondes are dumb.  Not all jokes are stupid, and not all rocket scientists are nerds.  All mothers-in-laws are not marriage destroying monsters.  Unfortunately, a good number are (which gives the rest a bad rap) whether they realize it or not.

Many mothers-in-law want to help and just do not realize that they are doing more harm than good.  These are the ones who inadvertently fall under the stereotype.  Then you have the ones who are willing take up the scepter of mean mother-in-law and live it with relish. 

Here, I’ll go into ideas on how to set the boundaries with your mother-in-law so that the relationship can be outside the “typical” in-law relationship.  Discover different tactics and even potential problems. 


Before going into how to resolve issues and prevent them before they occur, we need to get a better understanding of why mothers-in-law act the way they do.  As stated earlier, not all are the same and they come in various degrees of the stereotype.  But, why are they like this?  Because they are mothers.

These women have been mothers for at least eighteen years usually before they encounter a daughter-in-law or son-in-law.  They have had their precious child for many years and have gone through hell and back with them and for them.  They have sat by their bedside and nursed them.  They have clothed them.  They have taught them the basics of life and have been the only woman they turned to for advice, help, and guidance.  Now, their baby has someone else.

It does not matter whether their child is a daughter or a son.  The newcomer that steals their attention and their affection is an enemy.  Though not all mothers-in-law look at the newcomer with intense hatred, there is always a small degree of jealousy and possessiveness.  They are losing the one who shared their blood for nine months and who they have sacrificed so much for.  This new person has done none of that and wants to usurp the mother.

The hostility sets in the minute their child shows an interest in someone else.  It is not easy to step aside and let their child go much less handing them over to another person.  This has led to the stereotype of the evil mother-in-law.  Boundaries need to be set to help the relationship not be destructive.

Going into a Marriage

When a son or daughter announces that they will be cementing their life with another for eternity, the mother has a mixture of feelings begin to wreak havoc in her heart and soul. They are happy for their child yet they feel fear. Is their child choosing the right person? Are they making this major decision at the right time in their life? Will they lose their child forever? As these questions go through their minds, they begin to react and set the stage for their mother-in-law role.

As a couple goes into marriage, the boundaries for the mother-in-law (and, in truth, all outsiders) need to be set early. Why is this important? The earlier this happens the less likely severe damage occurs and there is more time for fulfilling relationships to be developed.

What boundaries should be set at this time?

Criticism – One of the most destructive things anyone can do is criticize and put-down the love of someone’s life. When Mom points out all the flaws of the newcomer, they are letting their child know that they do not find the person acceptable. They are expressing their disapproval. That might be well and good one time because they love their child and want to make sure that they are not picking a gold-digger, abuser, or low-life for a spouse. Continual criticism is different and is extremely destructive not only of their relationship with their future daughter-in-law or son-in-law but more so with their own child.

Criticism tells the child that Mom does not feel that they are competent enough to choose a spouse. It is telling them that Mom does not want to let go. Stop the criticism up front.

Do not allow your mother to constantly put your intended down or point out their flaws. If you allow this to go on, you are giving her control of your marriage before it even occurs to her. By letting her constantly reject your love, you are letting your intended know that they come second to mom. That is not the basis of a strong marriage.

“Mom, I know that you are not fond of Jane (John) and that you think that they are not worthy of me. But I love her (him). I want to spend the rest of my life with her (him). I know they are not perfect. I’m not perfect either. Her (His) mother is probably pointing out how rotten I am, too. But we want to grow together and make each other a better person. Your rejection of them is a rejection of me. Please refrain from comments that are destructive instead of constructive because I do not want to be forced to choose between the two women who mean the most to me.”

Stop the condemnation now before it destroys everyone involved. Too many times, the mother-in-law is allowed to rip apart their child’s spouse. “Amy needs to learn to keep house better.” In other words, “Amy is not near the housekeeper I am which shows that I’m the better woman here.” “Brian needs to help out more around the house.” In other words, “He is not man enough for you and is lacking.” Some comments might not seem like much, but each criticizing comment tears down the potential strong relationship bonds.

Scroll to Continue

Criticism needs to be stopped.

Interference – Criticism leads into interference. The stereotypical mother-in-law is always trying to tell the future spouse how to plan the wedding, where to live, what jobs to have, and how the relationship should be. The couple cannot make a single decision without the mother-in-law putting in her two cents or more. This is just as dangerous as criticism.

Lay down how much influence she has on the wedding. Is she paying for any of it? If so, she does have a degree of influence. If not, she needs to realize that this is the couples’ day and not hers. Either scenario needs her to be respectful of each party and to realize that this is their special day to remember forever.

If the boundaries are not laid out now, the marriage will practically three parties.

Established Marriage

Too often couples do not attempt to set boundaries until after the wedding.  This can be done to the immaturity of the couple when first married or because of logistics.  Setting boundaries later in the marriage relationship is much harder and can have negative effects.  She has already entrenched herself which means uprooting is very difficult.

The key is to be strong and consistent.  If you are not, then nothing is being resolved and no boundaries will be firmly established.  Might as well accept the fact that the marriage is made up of husband, wife, and potentially two warring mothers-in-law.

Remember that in most scenarios there are two mothers-in-law that want influence.  Talk about a battleground!

Importance of Spousal Support

Both spouses have to be on the same page with the boundaries.  If Jane does not want John’s mother to barge in without knocking (who knows what she might be interrupting!), then John has to support her on this.  In fact, he needs to reinforce this as much as possible and not leave it up to Jane to tell her.  If he puts it all on Jane, John’s mother looks at Jane as the enemy and not the couple as a unit.

This is especially true when grandchildren are involved.  If boundaries were not needed before, when a grandchild arrives, they will be extremely necessary now.  Nothing gets a mother-in-law more involved than her grandbaby arriving.  She wants to make sure that they are healthy and nothing harms them.

Set ground rules early.  Is she allowed to control how the child is dressed?  How much influence does she have over the child’s daily life?  This can be touchy, but is critical to be addressed early on.


Rest assured that none of these actions will be taken with a smile on their face.  There will be radioactive fallout over any of this.  Though this might make you wonder if you should even set up boundaries, keep in mind that without them the marriage could be ripped apart. 

Create a united front with your spouse and make sure that the boundaries are not set in place or enforced out of anger or malice.  At times, it might be necessary to be stern and unmoving, but always reassure that she is not being pushed completely out of the life of her child and/or grandchildren. 

If you set the rule that she cannot just walk in without knocking, make sure that she is invited over regularly so that she knows that she is not banned from your house but needs to respect that it is your house and that you should have privacy.  If you state that she cannot go through your refrigerator and clean it without asking, ask her advice on a dish or take her grocery shopping.  In closing a door, let you know that she is not removed from the whole life of her child.

Being a Good Mother-in-Law

I want to address the mothers-in-law at this point.  You child is bringing someone into their life and it can be threatening.  You do not have to be the stereotypical mother-in-law.

Did you like your mother-in-law commenting on how bad the kids are dressed or pointing out how your cooking is lacking?  Did you like you own mother always pointing out how you spouse just does not measure up?  No one liked that.  Then why do we take up the role of nasty mother-in-law and do it so well when we know how it is to be on the receiving end?  Limited eyesight.

Have you ever seen the movie Monster-in-law?  Though this is a very funny movie on the stereotypical mother-in-law, it is a very serious look into how the monster-in-law is created.  The mother-in-law became her own nasty mother-in-law.  She was created by her own arch nemesis.  We become the ones we hate.

How do you become a good mother-in-law?  Always remember how it was to be the daughter-in-law.  Remember how you felt when criticized or controlled.  Before opening your mouth, think of what you are going to say.  Though you might be just trying to help, how will it be received and how will it be delivered can greatly influence your relationship with them.  Much of the relationship you have with your son-in-law or daughter-in-law will be shaped by you.  Be willing to admit when you are wrong and apologize. 


Every relationship, including between husband and wife, needs boundaries.  These boundaries are not meant to be mean or controlling.  They are meant to be nurturing and create lasting, loving relationships.  With boundaries in place, mothers-in-laws can be close to their child’s love and be a part of their life.


Rebecca Graf (author) from Wisconsin on November 04, 2012:

Make a point to greet her syrupy. "Oh, Mary, you forgot to say hi. You won't believe what happened with the kids this week....." And hug her and irritate her. lol do the same with the goodbyes. Be loud especially with others around and be more than nice. "Mary, don't forget to hug me goodbye. Can't wait to see you next week. In fact, why don't we do lunch..." Loud again where everyone can here. With pictures, take other pictures of just your face and copy them. When you see a pic where your face is gone, take a pic of your own and stick it on there. "Oh, Mary, here let me help you complete the picture." :) Then after awhile pull back a little. You don't want to go overboard and then become the obnoxious one.

lovebug1012 on November 04, 2012:

Thank you! Is nice to have an outsiders opinion! I would love to avoid her but it is impossible since we live 10 minutes away, and I want my kids to know their Grandmother. Syrupy kindness is a good idea. I have tried it a little but I think you are right that I need to step up my game! I think it would drive her crazy too!!!! Again thank you! Have a great day! You have encouraged me to take back the control of the situation.

My only question to you is how do I get her to stop with the pictures and the shunning greetings and goodbyes? What is a good syrupy way?

Rebecca Graf (author) from Wisconsin on November 03, 2012:

Your husband is right in the sense that there is a slim chance she will change. I'm not saying she won't. Too many people have changed that I have personally seen. The only thing you can do is try to find a way to put yourself in a position where you can block the jabs because they will always be there. It might come down to one of two things: just avoiding her or giving her so much syrupy kindness that it drives her crazy. I mean when you go to her house, gush over her clothes, her decorating. Wait on her hand and foot. If you aren't feeding the kids, call her up before each meal and ask what you should serve. I know it sounds vengeful but in a way it is but it gives you the upperhand. You have to feel like you have control of the situation or you'll always be depressed about her.

lovebug1012 on November 03, 2012:

My MIL and I used to get along... as soon as my Husband asked me to marry him it was as if she was in competition with me. After she saw the ring her whole personality towards me changed.

I am going to vent and ask for mother-in-law advice so please be prepared if you care to read further.

I come from very very strict parents and they kicked me out over a misunderstanding. That is now joked about. My MIL and I were friendly while my Husband and I were dating. She even opened their house up to me for me to live with them. I did clean up after every one almost everyday for numerous hours. My Husband proposed to me and when I showed her the ring on my finger it was like an instant change. She would then cuss about me behind me back but say it for me to hear it, talk on the phone saying how horrible I am.... She even got my two little sister-in-laws to dislike me for years. (They now like me)

We finally moved into our house when I was pregnant with our first child. I included her in the delivery room. I did not want her there due to wanting be kind I allowed her there. I am a very private person. My Child was 3 months old and it was his first Halloween. We had my MIF and FIL over. I am a clean freak... I excpect everyone to wash their hands before holding my children. My MIL started picking at her teeth with her long finger nails. She started to grab towards my son (FIL was holding). I asked her, "Will you please wash your hands then hold him." Well that set her off she started cussing and yelling at me saying how horrible I am... I started crying saying we are family stop, I would ask anyone to do the same thing. Then she went on saying how I think she is such a dirty person..... She left by foot. I told my Husband go get her bring her back. He found her in a field. She then would not hug him, told him all the "horrible" things I have done to her (my Husband still will not tell me exactly what she said). Two weeks later she sent my an applogy text message. I forgave and told her I was also sorry for anything I have ever done to offend her.

I forgave. She still holds a grudge. If my Husband is around she is fake nice. Once He is away she makes digs about me about my cooking, not bring toys to their house for my children (which I do), me not feeding my children (which I do) etc.

I am not great at many things... too many to list. None of the stuff she has done/said until this point has really bothered me because I know I am a great Mom.

For over a year my MIL has gone out of her way to cut me out of every picture she takes. I will be holding one of my now two kids. She will not include me in the picture. She will only include my hands. Or if she wants our 2 kids, my Husband, and SILS' in a picture she has them pose, she stands in front of me.... This did not bother me until seeing on her fridge a picture that I was "in" or I thought I was in and she cut me out.

When she greets my kids, 2 and under. She gives them a kiss and a hug then says "Grandma" loves you. Goes to my Husband and says I missed you son give a hsug and a kiss. Mind you I am holding our youngest the whole time. This happens at our house and her hers. Sometimes she will say Oh Hi (says my name) I usually say Hi where is my hug.

When see leaves I will be holding our youngest and it is the same thing and she turns around and doesn't even say bye or says "Oh bye (says my name) thanks for having us over (this is only if she is in a great mood and my Husband is there"

I am sick of the hurting, rejection, pain, crying over it, and arguments caused by her poor treatment. I have tried to build a relationship calling her, texting her, giving her flowers when in hospital or surgery, cooking and buying meals for her and the rest of the fam when she is sick, saying come over anytime just call before, trying to set up them coming over every other week or the kids and I going over to her house. My Husband is very busy and is now gone all of the time. She doesn't want to come to our house because she "would rather stay at hers". Mind you there is not any toys or any baby items there. I was more than willing to bring ours. Well we came over once and have not been invited again. I even invited them to our house again. There has been several times I will say what day and time would you like to come visit. MIL choses day and time and she doesn't show up, doesn't even call, or calls almost 30 minutes from the time she said she would come.

If she invites all of us over. She expects me to tell her yes or no on whether we are coming on the spot. I tell her I do not know if we are or are I need to talk to my Husband (I say his name) first (She only contacts me after he does not answer his phone) But most likely we will. Then she will call my Husband until he answers then she asks him and says DIL said you weren't.

My Husband has called her out. He sick of me crying over how horrible she treats me. He says she will not change. Just don't let it get to you. She has been a cold, negative, and yet when needed supportive mother to him. He tells me do what he does and ignore it.

PLEASE give advice. I want her to have a relationship with our children and myself. I just want her to be nice.... I would like a decent relationship with her, however it seems impossible at this point.

Jack Burton from The Midwest on July 03, 2012:

My mother in law had problems with me that were cross-cultural in origin. That often happens when mariages cross racial, religious, language and country lines all in one package. :-)

It took many years, and a final threat of dumping my wife off back with her mother before my wife decided to stand up to her mother nd tell her to back off. Can't blame her, really, because it took a tremendous cultural mind-shift for my wife to be able to do so. Momma rules the roost for her kids as long as she lives.

Since then life has been tolerable, but distance is still our friend. Always hard on the grandkids not getting to know grandma very well, but as they got older they understood.

Reve from Dhaka on March 22, 2012:

For me, things should make stable by approaching intelligently. One should need to understand that, you will have to create a good relationship with your mother in law as they can certainly create mind game. You will not prefer to see lack of communication between you and your wife. So be wise and stay active :)

Thanks for your hub. Married couple should read this out if they prefer to get some peace :p

nancy on February 24, 2012:

my mil is nasty as can be she always trys to play the vitim role when in reality shes the one that causes all the problems in getting in our relationship.she ripped me n my hubbys pitures she and her daughter closed there house gate so he wouldn't go after me after them kicking me out.the daughter n her are both cold blooded people .they dont work there lazy and they both got cheated on.sad for the father in law who has to pay the mortgage house for them just to be lazy bumbs who alwways critizes others.i got really mad one day the were calln sum lady ugly n i snapped cus i was tired of there bs .teln them to stop critizing others n critizes ur own self n look urself in the mirror as there bitter n the mom would call my hubby 24/7 as if she was the wifey.

Barbara from Stepping past clutter on December 30, 2011:

RGraf, I had some additional answers to my question about handling mother-in-laws and rediscovered this hub. I think it is timeless! I felt as if I were reading it from a whole new perspective, now that my father-in-law has passed and my MIL is needy. I continue to be cautious, and do not give myself completely to the relationship, which is sad. (I tend to be a person who gives it all away, and need someone generous enough to voluntarily give back. She takes with ease!) We have wonderful moments together. The other day she snapped that my husband and I could not buy our daughter a car. We were having a phone conversation and I did not reply for a very long time. Then I said, "Where did that come from? We are not buying her a car, but if we were, that is our business." She was very embarassed, I think- which gave me a sense of satisfaction, a guilty pleasure, haha. Anyway, I think I might become as Deirdre, too hands OFF!

Deirdre on December 15, 2011:

I had a mother in law who wouldn't keep her bib out,so as a mother in law, and now grandmother, I am trying my best not to repeat this, but apparently have gone too far the other way where my daughter in law gets angry because I'm not involved enough. Where's the happy medium?

Lindaatherwitsend on December 10, 2011:

My MIL is in a class all her own I think! She was always bossy, rude, controlling, critical and inappropriate. She crossed the line with me when she crossed a criminal line, using our names and information online, as though she was us. My husband and I had to get a detective involved. It misdirected our mail and took over a year to resolve. It caused medical bills to be unreceived and very late claims once we tracked the problem. You cannot opt out of something you didn't know you opted into. She had been told not to ever do this, and of course, since she knows better, she did. Then, she didn't even tell us, and only because she had also given out our e-mail were we even alerted to the problem. After months of hair pulling over our mail and two Post Masters. When we tried twice to discuss this with her she laughed at us and hung up. So we had no recourse but to go to the police and a detective between two states to document the action, and that was only the beginning. It became a full time job over a year's time. I wish I'd only had to feel badly that for 16 years she never acknowledged my birthday, or accepted my children or grandchildren. They are better off without her, but her behaviors went beyond poor etiquette! Way Beyond! She is a narciccist with absolutely NO BOUNDARIES! We had to document through the police and remove ourselves completely out of her life in order to protect ourselves. Who has to call Detectives on their MIL? We did, and had no choice. She gave us none.

Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on December 06, 2011:

I have two sons and two daughters in law. I told both couples when they got married, from that point on, it was the two of them against the world. Never let anything or anyone (especially their families) ever to get between them. I believe that with all my heart because this has been a challenge in my own marriage. Thankfully, my husband and I got back to this point in our marriage and survived after a decade of a family issue coming between us. Married couples have to realize they are becoming part of another family, but their priority has to be their spouse.

Set limits, move away, get another job, whatever it takes to establish your own family - do it. In the best circumstances you can establish your own marriage and peacefully coexist with both your original families. But if you can't, your marriage comes first.

creativeinchief from TAIWAN on November 29, 2011:

I have just written a book (HOW TO BE THE BEST PARENT YOUR CHILD NEEDS.. ON AMAZON KINDLE),and I dealt with this issue.

As life is to be lived and enjoyed, both families has to see and know that they are gaining a new child and not a stranger but a new child into the fold. When the two families see marriage as such, there would be peace on both sides.


Longhunter on November 17, 2011:

I was playing golf when my former mother-in-law died. No, I wasn't celebrating. I did afterward though. She hated me and the feeling was mutual. I tried putting up boundaries, even a fortress with this woman. It never worked as the old bat was a force of nature that kept knocking them down.

I knew my present mother-in-law before I met my bride and got along with well with her then as I do now. She and my wife are close and we've been fortunate to have her in our lives.

Great hub, RGaf.

sonya2 on November 07, 2011:

my mother in law steps on my toes ever since my daughter was born she thinks that she's the mother of my child and feels that I don't know what I'm doing! She always takes my daughter out of my hands and never asks permission

chiefmomofficer from Massachusetts on November 04, 2011:

Love this hub! As someone who has had years of turmoil with her mother in law, this spoke right to me.

Sue on November 01, 2011:

Men are often advised to take a good look at their wife to be's mother to get an idea of what their future holds. I would add women should take a good look at their husband to be's mother to determine whether or not to go ahead and walk up the isle or run for the hills.

My MiL to be was a nasty piece of work before the marriage. She was rude, ignorant, arrogant and they were her better aspects!!

Once I married her son, with whom I'd had a reasonable relationship up to the marriage, they joined forces and became the Dastardly Duo. Mummy said stamp on her (me). He said how hard and how often! She told dreadful lies about me and instead of sticking up for me or at least staying neutral, he always took her side and waded into me. Never once did he ask for my side of the story or was there any truth in her accusations! I grew to hate his mother and I ended up falling out of love with the wimp I'd taken on as spouse.

I'm now a MiL and have been told by my son in law he appreciates me! I offer support when needed and otherwise butt out of my daughter and her husband's life. I'd never expect my kids to prove they love me by getting them to be cruel to their partners. My MiL is beyond the nasty steriotype, she's in class of her own! As for my husband, I've no respect for him. He has marchmallow where his spine should be!

Stephanie on October 04, 2011:

WOW I luv this hub, I will deff. Show this to my mother inlaw, it maybe a little late yet better late than never.. my mother inlaw has a very bigg kind careing heart and is always there for us when we need her, but at times she can also be nosy, controling, 21 question giving, on my back about things that have nothing to do with her or is not her problem I never came to her about.. I'm so thankful she cares but wish she didn't care TOO much.. this has really opened my eyes on things I was not even thinking and how my mother inlaw's point of veiw is.. this all makes sence and hopefully all ur advice will work cause I'm at the point of shutting down and disowning my mother inlaw.. in a few wks ill comment and fill u in on how's thing r working out or if they have worked out at all..

Crossed fingers

PiaC from Oakland, CA on September 13, 2011:

They say that in every marriage, a couple will fight about one of these 3 things: in-laws, sex, or money. So I guess the good news is, if you are fighting about in-laws, you are NOT fighting about sex or money :)

Jess on September 06, 2011:

I have the least of problems - my husband (and now I) both disrespect my mother in law (his mother). Actually, there was a time when I respected her more than my husband. Anyway, she drives us crazy with all her pathetic phone calls every night - she's like a desperate girlfriend. My husband knows I don't like her - my parents don't both us - quite frankly, if my husband makes me like her, I'm willing to divorce him just to be away from a trash like her.

Sarasota-lawyer on August 17, 2011:

nice one...actually i don't have a mother in law but soon to have. I hope all of the mothers out there can read this posts so that they will know their role and limit. hoping to read more hub from you...thumbs up!

Paula Reviera on July 03, 2011:

I have been dating a man for 4 years and it has been a rocky road. He has had to deal with issues stemming from his previous marriage, excessive child support arrangements made in haste, and a controlling mother who has vindictively formed an alliance with his ex because he tried to stop her from meddling in his affairs and trying to control the time he had to spend with his daughter. It was as if his visitations were for her and he and I got to participate in whatever plans she made for us. I withdrew consent by not participating and now I am the bad guy and the object of great conflict. I just chose not to be involved in an unhealthy relationship in which I was a mere spectator of Grandma's overly excessive involvement in our life. It dominated every weekend, every mid week visit, and every holiday. We were not able to form our own traditions or family ties and now we are very distant. Is there anything I can do to reset the clock if his mother has now cast me as the enemy within. He and his mom have not been on good terms to say the least and they fight often because of this conflict. Considering just letting go altogether and starting over. Any suggestions?

Kyra Meier from Tallahassee, FL on June 01, 2011:

I liked the : comment about boundaries (so often people don't respect others rights), also the "unified front" being important - I used to tell people they should imitate their spouses behavior around others they are attracted to, or keep touching their wedding band...not to hurt them but more to remind ourselves of who we married and why

I haven't seen Monster in Law (want to watch the movie soon) But I have heard the term "outlaws". And I wanted a marriage that grew more beautiful every year, with a "no Mother in Law" problem (but it just did not turn out that way) again.

Best of wishes to you

WillSteinmetz on May 12, 2011:

Very nice hub!Keep up the good work.

Kate Karter from Ohio on December 02, 2010:

I have allot of issues with my MIL. Oh my, where do I start! First of all she is very Dirty! Like I mean doesn't shower and dog feces on the floor of her house for years. She wants to hold my baby but he likes to chew on everything. Secondly she has touched my husband very inappropriately in front of me. She talks about me behind my back about how I should have breastfed longer and how she thinks my son is from another man. She says inappropriate things about my baby's private parts. I have told her she crossed the line and not to do it again. But three more times she has said things. She says that I make her feel nervous when she handles my baby around me. And she needs time with him alone when I am not there. We used to be friends until I got pregnant and I have talked to my husband and told him my concerns, we decided to never leave her unsupervised with him. I had to tell her she was out of line many times. My husbands whole family hates me except for his one brother and his gf. I hate holidays because they all put on a happy face and then when you think okay this is getting better. They say sarcastic comments and talk smack about me! I just wish they could give me the respect of at least confronting me. I confront them if I have an issue! On the flip side... My hubby really loves my family and they love him too. Sorry I had to vent this a bit:( I liked your article and I wish my situation would have been that easy! Bah Humbug:(

Ann M on October 17, 2010:

It was shocking to read in this hub that it seems to be normal for mothers of sons to be jealous of their wives. I am the mother of three grown sons and I do not feel possessive or jealous. I am extremely happy that each of them has a relationship (one married, one serious, one casual)with a woman and they are both happy in that relationship. My own mother in law has said that she is jealous of my relationship with my husband and that is natural. She has told me that the saddest day of her life was the day her son got married. At the time I thought it was sicko. After reading this article and thinking more about it....I still think it is sicko!

Jalus on October 07, 2010:

Don't have a mother-in-law anymore, but when I did I could relate to this.

Olivia Curtis on September 26, 2010:

Well with my mother the boundaries does not work. You can not tell her anything even my brother can tell you that. My husband and I set boundaries with her before we got married and it stayed that way for a week and half after we got married. Now she has completely became a bitch and very maniluptive towards me and my husband. She wants us to wait on her hand and foot while she sets on her happy fat butt and do nothing. My husband tries to help her out but she doesn't appreciate it when he does. He hates the way she treats me in front of him or any one. Of course my husband could say something to her but he is afraid she'll get on to me about it. She is always telling us including my brother "I don't tell my children what to do." But that is a complete lie she does she has gotten bossy with everybody including her own sister. She hates the fact I babysit her great grandchild which is my great nephew and gets paid for it. She keeps thinking she should be the one with the money. She is jealous of me and my brother since we both have houses now. She wants everything like us. What I can't stand is she acts like she doesn't have a son in law whenever we are out. But at church is all like my son in law is the greatest and yada yada. She won't even call her son in law by his name she keeps calling him your husband in front of me and whoever we know. She acts all high and mighty at family gatherings. I had one not to long ago with my in laws and she was real rude to them. She didn't even want them there at my house and I finally had enough and told her its my in laws I invited them if you didn't like it then you didn't have to come to my house. She keeps telling me and my husband we have to much junk in our house and we need to keep it clean. I have to work my butt over before she even comes over to make sure its shiney and spotless from ceiling to the floor. If its not she starts inspecting to make sure it is. My husband and I have to hide our alcohol which is stupid. Whenever we go to her house she wants me to wait on my hubsand hand and foot while he sits down. He gets his food hisself and I do too she gets all huffy and puffy about it. Another thing she can't stand the fact he and I both do the cooking in our house and etc. She wants me to do it all not him. She treats us both like children especially me. She keeps telling me what to do and etc. Plus if I wear anything out of the ordinary she has gotta see what it is or ask what's that on your shirt. You tell her she gets all pissy and is like WELL WELL WELL. Its freaking stupid that she is driving her children crazy. This includes me and my husband and my brother. We try not to tell her when we are going out but when you don't tell her she gets mad. My husband and I try to keep a date night each week,she will tell everyone oh they keep a date night,but when she is around us she hates it. She wants us to stay home like two freaking teenagers. Idk what her deal is I never seen anything like her she is a nightmare just like my granny aka her mom.

Destinsea on September 22, 2010:

Thank you!

Unfortunately the situation is a little more complex.

By trying to "politely" not be pulled into what was ocurring between his Mother and him at the time, the result of the conversation that I didn't get to participate in with her was unfortunately me not being able to keep my cool after all the negative things she had to say about her son.

Which really still disturbs me because (1) I don't understand how a Mother can show so little love for her child and (2) all I wanted was to tell her that I didn't want to be a part of what was going on with her & her son, I just wanted my privacy (she took offense to not being able to read my facebook wall, lol.)

She could still see the pictures of everyone that I posted, which was the only reason we linked up on fb at all, to make sharing pictures easier on my end.

Yet when I changed my privacy settings on my wall (which was an overall thing, I set up groups and each group had different settings) she blocked me on fb which made her no longer able to see pictures of her grandkids, lol.

I honestly only contacted her to explain to her that there was no malice...and unfortunately ended the conversation feeling extreme malice towards her.

Anyway, I have always been under the impression that she loved her Grandsons, but she nor her husband have tried to spend any time with them in the last few years.

We've always shown up for holidays at their house, but beyond that, they don't even pick up the phone to wish the boys Happy Birthday anymore.

She's called us to ask what the kids need, but that only resulted in us going to pick up the gift rather than his parents attending their birthday celebrations.

I can count on one hand how many times they've seen our two year old.

When his daughter came to visit with us for the summer of '09 he became quite upset with the lengths that his Mother went to, to get him to bring her grand daughter to her house for a weekend, being that she has seemed to care so little about spending time with our sons.

A few months following his daughter's visit he and his mother had a rather large argument about his daughter's mother and how he feels that his mother has always chosen anyone over him, and that she's not supportive of him- those are his feelings on the matter anyway. I know her take on the argument is completely different. That's what I was trying to not be involved in.

Apparently this summer his mother brought his daughter who he's only been able to have two visits with in the last eight years down here and kept the visit a secret from him. I don't have any information that makes that a fact, but that's what I'm told. So, now he is under the impression that his mother is completely out of our lives for good. As a mother, I can't believe that to be true, but I don't know what the future holds.

He and one of our sons have birthdays during the summertime and he mentioned to me that his mother has even stopped signing the birthday cards that have been sent this year. That kind of feels like she's washed her hands of even our children.

During my falling out with her, I told her that I wouldn't keep her family from her, but that I wasn't going to bring them to her anymore, for all of the reasons I just explained to you.

I was trying to set boundaries, I didn't do it in the best manner.

The thing is for years I've been polite, present & accounted for every single time our family was requested; and after her so clearly showing me that she does not care for me-I just don't think it's fair to me to keep putting myself in a situation where I don't feel loved or respected- when she's not even willing to make an effort to see our kids.

I feel that if she can buy three roundtrip tickets to fly her granddaughter down here and back, that her love for her grandsons should enable her to at least be able to drive less than an hour away.

When I "set" my boundaries I already felt like I was being the bad guy by putting my foot down; but I didn't really expect her to write off her own grandkids, that is, even more so than she had already.

I've been blessed to be surrounded by loving and supportive people & family my entire life, no family's perfect, but their love for me has been unconditional. So it throws me encountering people like his mother that can be so cold.

He's alot more used to it I guess. He just buries it and moves on, but he's been doing that for most of his life. Contrary to his beliefs I'm not sure that's very healthy for him. He may be right about staying away, but I feel personally we still need to find a way to deal with it, that we shouldn't just try to ignore how it's affected us.

Thanks to people like you on hub pages and other sites I've visited today I'm ordering the book Toxic Inlaws, and he's looking into the book Children of the Self-Absorbed. Terribly mean sounding titles, lol, but hopefully they can help find some relief from this situation.

Thank you again. :-D

Rebecca Graf (author) from Wisconsin on September 22, 2010:


There is no clear cut answer to dealing with any person who lives and breathes. There can only be suggestions that have worked for others. I think it wise that you pulled yourself out of the picture as politely as you can. When it comes to the grandchildren....

If they decide not the see the grandchildren, you have to respect their wishes. In the end, it is their loss. If they want to continue seeing them, then allow as many opportunities as you can for them to spend time together. Eventually, she might see you through the eyes of your children.

There could also come a situation in which the children do not want to see grandma. That is the stickiest situation you can find yourself in. If they don't like hearing grandma say bad things about mom or their family as a whole, the they should not be forced to go over there into such a toxic situation. That is where you should not say anything and let your husband handle it. It will come better from him. If they won't go because you don't, explain to them that they have the opportunity to have a relationship with grandma and should take advantage of it. Just because you and her don't get along does not mean that the kids have to "choose sides". Weigh these actions very carefully.

Who knows what the future holds. Just be the better person.

Destinsea on September 22, 2010:

This is a wonderful Hub, thank you so much for writing.

I've been trying for years to "connect" with my future mother-in-law. I just found out this year that this distance I've always felt from her is rooted from her having a "deal" with her son for his "future" before I came into the picture.

I have been unaware for all these years that I ruined her plans for him, lol. I may giggle about it, but it hurts me tremendously that she holds something like that against me especially when her son and I have built such a nice life together.

To top it off she acts as if I have had no part of the accomplishments we have made as a couple because I don't work.

That hurts mostly because staying home for our children wasn't solely my decision. Honestly it's been more of his decision than mine in the last few years.

For example in early 2009 I started applying for night jobs to make some extra income and as soon as I started sending out resumes he went knocking on doors and picked up a night job before I had the opportunity to.

He doesn't do things like that to "keep me" at home, don't get me wrong. He wouldn't fight me if I said I'm going back to work and that's the end of it, lol.

He's told me that he feels like he's failed if I HAVE to go back to work.

He's everything you would expect a Man, a good husband & father to be. He protects and provides for his family.

The plan was, and still is, for me to be home for the kids. Once they're all in school, the plan is for me to go back to school. By the time our children are grown I will be able to have a career that I enjoy rather than a job just to make money.

He and I grew up as latch key kids, and from first hand experience we both feel that our parents didn't know the half of what was going on with us because they simply weren't around.

They were doing what they needed to do to provide for us, but that only left them time to feed us & say goodnight for the majority of the week.

So we've made financial sacrifices to be able to live this lifestyle, and at times that is VERY stressful for both of us; but we still find it worth it.

I feel as if his mother looks down on me for it, that she views it as solely my choice to just not work. I find it very unfair.

My question is though, what do you do when you set boundaries and the end result is them not even having anything to do with their grandchildren?

I have moved myself out of the picture, but am not keeping her from her grandchildren.

Her son and I have been together for years, we have a family, we live as husband & wife, and are putting money away for a wedding that we feel we "deserve" rather than having a wedding "to get it done."

If she doesn't care or respect me after all these years, I don't feel like that will change after the ceremony.

Family is important to me, and I'm just at a loss with his Mother.

I would really appreciate any wisdom you have to offer.

Barbara from Stepping past clutter on September 06, 2010:

RGraf, this is an amazing and poignant hub. I completely agree that it should be read by all potential mothers in law, including me. I need to bookmark it for some future date when my son marries.

I am so afraid that I will do what my mother in law did to me. It was destructive and hurtful, devastating, in fact. She tore apart my self concept and tossed it into a bog. And I agreed!!! I did not figure out until I nearly lost myself that it was all about her and I did not have to cater to her in order to respect my elders, lol.

I kept my kids from her care despite living close. Things changed over the years and I now totally respect her- she has an amazing artistic talent which I admire. But, but I am always cautious.

I found myself criticizing something my son's serious girlfriend said last year and immediately upon recognizing it, said, NO, I am not getting in the middle of this! It takes energy but keeping a close relationship with my son at this point is important to me. I hope I continue down this pathway, even when he marries.

Paradise7 from Upstate New York on September 04, 2010:

Great hub!!! All mothers-in law should read this. And all prospective bride/grooms. I didn't like my first husband's mother, at all. She was sweet to my face but very mean behind my back. Nobody, including me, was good enough for her son.

RevLady from Lantana, Florida on September 04, 2010:

What a wonderful and thorough hub. I agree that boundaries are important to all relationships including parent-child, husband-wife, friendships and yes, the in-laws.

Great food for the soul here. Thanks for sharing it.

Forever His,

Sam from Tennessee on September 03, 2010:

voted up & beautiful! WOW! A very well written and researched hub. You really went into detail and spoke from all angles. Good job!

Related Articles