Q. I dated my fiancé for 9 months before he proposed. Things were going well with his mother and me until after he proposed. She wants everything to be her way because of family traditions. Not only does she insist that we get married at her church—the one that he grew up in, she wants me to join their church after we get married. Our premarital counselor suggested that we start our own life and make our own rules and traditions—which I totally agree with. We decided that we would visit churches and choose one would be a better fit for our new family. She also wants me to invite his ex-girlfriend to the wedding— which is totally not going to happen!!!!!
Last week she stopped talking to me because we had another disagreement over the reception food. Honestly, I’m ok if she never speaks to me again. I’m ready to cut her off clean. Is it possible to work around her and pretend she doesn’t exist? I feel like she has the potential to cause problems between us after marriage.
A. Hi Lea, you’re exactly right. Extended family can make or break a relationship. It’s not uncommon for mothers and daughters-in-law to have conflict or to not have relationships at all. In fact, 60% of all marriages have mother-in-law issues.
The Bible says that when you get married, you leave your old family and cleave to your new family. Which means that you start your new life based on what you and your husband agree on. Not his mother. Being Christ-like has nothing to do with being a doormat.
However, in this case, before you decide to completely obliterate your future mother-in-law from your life, you need to decide if it’s worth it. To help you make that decision, I’d like you to answer couple of questions.
- Is your husband close to his mother? If your husband has a close or semi-close relationship with his mother, he will want to visit her and may want her to feel welcome visiting his home. Some holidays may even be spent with her. And he will want your relationship with her to mirror his relationship with her, so there may be times when he will feel caught in the middle if you decide to not be bothered with her at all. He may feel like he has to choose between you and her. This can cause additional stress and pressure that newly-weds don’t need.
- Do you plan to have kids? If so, think about how your relationship or lack of relationship with your mother-in-law is going to affect your kids. I’m guessing you will want your kids to know all of their grandparents and if that’s the case, you will need to have some type of relationship with them as well. Otherwise, when your kids get older, they will be able to see the strain in your relationship with their grandparents. They will learn how to handle conflict from watching you. You can teach them to run and hide from anyone who disagrees with them (which means they probably won’t have any friends or family) or you can teach them how mature people handle conflict and move on.
Anyway, if you answered ‘yes‘ to those questions, you going to have to swallow your pride and practice being the bigger person–even when it hurts. Your future marriage and family is at stake. Instead of completely destroying a relationship with your (future) mother-in-law, try handling the conflict in a healthy way so that it doesn’t make matters worse in the future.
The best way to handle this is to make sure that you and your (future) husband are on the same page. Decide how the two of you will handle things and present a united front to his mother when she starts issuing orders. If she doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, it’s up to your (future) husband to be firm, yet loving, and let her know that you guys appreciate her opinion, but you’ve made your own decision.
He will never be able to fix her, but he can set healthy boundaries that will define when she’s gone too far. If he has problems with this, I recommend that you invite a neutral third party (such as a counselor or a pastor) to the conversation.
The most important thing to remember is you and he are on the same team and she is not allowed to coach from the other side. You don’t have to be her doormat in order to maintain a healthy relationship for the sake of the whole family.