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How to Win Your Battle with a Meddling Mother-in-Law

Val isn't playing life coach by sharing some useful ideas gathered over 7 decades of life experience and hundreds of books on human nature.

Is that smile one of love or one of triumph?

Is that smile one of love or one of triumph?

I can't believe she's lived this long. God must be avoiding her.

-- Brian Francis

Time to Wake Up, Girl!

When, back there, the love of your life said that solemn: "Yes, I do", little could you know that he was also saying it on a behalf of his mother -- who didn't waste any time to take an active part in your marriage, your household...well your new life.

Nothing to look overly suspicious about her eager help in wedding planning and preparations. Actually you were so grateful for her willingness to take care of every detail. And it also seemed all right that she asked if you guys could drop her at her home on your way to the airport for your honeymoon.

Besides, how could you see anything strange about your hubby spending some time sitting on the beach and talking on his cell phone with his mother, who wanted to share his joy of honeymooning while asking about, well, almost every detail of it.

However, like they would say it poetically: "Filling the glass with wine looks alright until the moment it overflows". That moment came for you right after your honeymoon when you found your mother-in-law in your new home with a big smile, open arms, and a table set for a dinner for three.

They say: "There is only a short step from love to hate", and it's amazing how some people succeed to make us experience that step in an instant.

At that moment you didn't even know how you managed to blurt out: "I didn't know you had the key to our place".

Well, she did, and somehow she also forgot to hand it to you on her way out of the limo that night.

It couldn't remove that feeling, that new taste of life seemingly destined for you in that marital arrangement. The fact that your hubby never spoke one word of response to that situation somehow made it even worse.

All of a sudden you felt very lonely in that house -- your house.

That tie between mother and son sometimes never loosens down all into the kid's adulthood.

That tie between mother and son sometimes never loosens down all into the kid's adulthood.

Peter remained on friendly terms with Christ notwithstanding Christ's having healed his mother-in-law.

-- Samuel Butler

The Unholy Matrimony Triangle

Now, why is it that some -- not all -- mothers-in-law have that need to meddle in their son's marriage?

My own, by the way, and bless her soul, was nothing of that kind, since it was a wall to wall family, and she must have been relieved to see her kids grow up and mind their own marriages.

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However, I have seen, or heard about quite a few of those who would belong in that unholy category.

One in particular that I had a chance to see, proudly called her daughter-in-law "her right hand" in that business of running her son's marriage and household. I almost blurted out: "What you mean is that you are her right hand" -- but I bit my tongue not to lose the lasting friendship with the guy standing by.

However, needless to say, a good chunk of that friendship went sour for me upon witnessing that, but that's not the only example in life when we keep quiet "for sake of old times".

In those milder cases, such mothers simply see their son's marriage as a breath of fresh air in their boring life, while even being reminded of their own wedding and the rest. And in all that, they may get carried away by being just a way too "helpful"

But then, there are those with a little more sinister motivations. The first that comes to mind is notoriously strong emotional tie between them and their sons, which probably inspired those fathers of psychology to come up with the term "Oedipus' complex".

To an innocent degree we can almost regularly witness, and it's even accepted as cute, how mothers and sons, and fathers and daughters are displaying a little more pronounced bond between them.

However, here we are talking about a "mama's boy big time", and her overly protective and possessive grip on that marriage -- characterized by her obvious unwillingness to share her boy's love with another woman.

In real life it may turn downright pathological, as the two women have to play rivals over one man, or should we say a boy who never managed to really grow out of that infantile emotional tie with his mother.

It may get quite intimidating to have a "professional parent" on you back.

It may get quite intimidating to have a "professional parent" on you back.

My mother-in-law belongs to Hell, but the devil is afraid she'll end up taking over.

-- Matshona Dhliwayo

Have You Run Out of Names Yet?

Somewhat similar example of a dark motivation would be of a "mother-control-freak" type, who managed to tame the last symptom of manliness in her own husband, and now can't stand the reality of her son slipping out from under her iron hand.

However, here we are not talking anymore about a mama's boy, but rather mama's victim who may keep appeasing her after marrying, literally brainwashed by her volition, and unable to snap out of that spell.

Not that he never tried, but very early in life he gave up after noticing how miserably his father had failed while trying the same.

Usually such husbands suffer a great deal as they are feeling torn between two significant women of their life, trying to make peace, avoiding confrontations, and certainly avoiding an overdue putting their mother in place once and for all.

Mothers like that may be extremely manipulative, and if they can't get enough attention by playing an authority, they play a "constantly sick" card. They may even get truly sick with something psychosomatic in nature, so strong is their need to keep their son's eyes fixated on them.

Thus, other than constantly calling and visiting with her multiple health complaints, while also lurking for any opportunity to give a helpful advice, or to criticize something in the way you are running your household, she will also need him to drive her to her, now regular, treatments, be it for sciatica, or back pain, or merely doctor's visits.

Unfortunately, over a time it's not only that she is one with health problems, but your hubby may also come up with a diagnosis or two -- all out of the enormous strain of trying to be both, a good son and a good husband.

No matter what the problem -- resolve it by thinking a new way, not by feeling the old way.

No matter what the problem -- resolve it by thinking a new way, not by feeling the old way.

It was either that or sit at home with mother-in-law all day. I picked the lesser of two evils.

-- Brian Francis

You May Be Younger, but It Doesn't Make You Less Smart

O.K., so what do you do with a husband and a mother-in-law like that, after already having said every version of: "You should have married your mother".

Your friends have run out of advices, while you could even notice some signs of their becoming tired of your story ant its ever new and new chapter being added -- possibly having more than enough of their own soap opera at home.

Is there a way to get your husband back from that stranglehold of his mother? Is there a wire-cutter sharp enough to cut that steel umbilical cord never properly severed at his birth?

Of course, despite so many temptations, putting a drop or two of arsenic in her coffee was out of question; and so was also strangling your husband at his sleep on one of those many sleepless nights.

Well, how about trying a couple of sneaky strategies that just might do the whole magic.

So far, you know that a direct confrontation doesn't work, as you came out of it as merely "ungrateful", "nonappreciative", "mean", and what else -- at times not even sure if your hubby was not falling for his mother's badmouthing you.

The ideal outcome would be with the change coming withing him and without your being pushy in that direction -- at least not by making it obvious. You would have to go sneaky about it, playing it smart, so that no one could blame you for anything.

So, let's see what could turn out to be effective. Of course, the whole idea is NOT that you "win" in that marriage after spending some time being pissed at him and his "mother-superior".

The basis for that should be your love for him, so you are simply trying to help your husband to grow out of that emotional dependency to his everbearing mother.

Your friends may be there for you in some new ways.

Your friends may be there for you in some new ways.

My mother-in-law fell down a wishing well; I was amazed, I never knew they worked.

-- Les Dawson

An "Affair" with Female Friends

The first in the line of your being a little tricky would be to "make your husband wonder" a little.

No, I am not suggesting that you make him jealous, but to somewhat make more active your involvement with your female friends. You know what I mean -- seeing them more often for a coffee, go to the movies with them, and spending some jolly times on the phone with them.

The rule number one: through the whole thing you've got to absolutely stop all your usual complaints to your husband, and even display some "new satisfaction in your life".

One of those things that bother a man -- other than woman's "cold feet" -- is a worm of suspicion that he may not be "enough of a man" in any meaning of the expression.

Thus, by seeing you suddenly "happier than usual" -- that apparently since you are spending more time with friends -- is bound to make him wonder if you were missing something in marriage that only friends could provide.

Well, as long as you are not overdoing it, and not being less affectionate to him -- he can't have a legit reason to confront you about it.

Rule number two: Bite your tongue before saying anything in a sense of: "I have to have someone who understands me, and my friends are more fun than you and your mother." In other words, any sign of spitefulness on your part would defeat the whole purpose of doing it.

Use your female intuition to play it in moderation, and yet sufficiently to make him wonder "what your friends have got that he hasn't got". Not to make it too private, you may even share with him the funny stories from the lives of your friends, or mention some amusing moments from spending time with them.

Nothing negative though, which might ruin the impression of your having some good times with them.

Initially he may go somewhat confused between his not liking it, but also liking it since you are appearing so much happier than before, and the tension with mother suddenly not being an issue.

But then, it will start creeping into his mind that you are "giving up on him, and not seeing him as worth fighting for anymore".

At that point the big question may start obsessing his heart: how much you mean to him, and how to give you that-something what your friends are giving you.

Smartness always heals a relationship more than games of nerves.

Smartness always heals a relationship more than games of nerves.

Perhaps Anita Loos had been right when she wrote that family life was only fit for those who could stand it.

-- Christina Bartolomeo

It May All Turn Out to Be Easier than You Thought

One strong word of warning to you: No matter how tempted you may be to reveal your little game to your friends -- DON'T! If you are not telling your friends about your bedroom experiences, this is another matter that they definitely shouldn't know anything about either.

Now, at the same time while you are doing this little routine with your friends, start being extra nice with your "tormentor-in-law".

Yes, you've read it right -- as a matter of fact, do your very best to get on her nerves with your niceness. Like, call her about that pain in her arm that she kept complaining about; ask her "what the doctor said..."; ask her if she is drinking enough water "because older folks often go dehydrated".

Keep nagging her "for her own good" -- you see, no one can confront you for caring about the well being of your "second mom".

Be nice, nice, nice...drive her nuts with your niceness, disarm her in her secret rivalry over her son. Then, sooner than you may expect it, she may stop visiting so much, while having lost that image of someone having an upper hand in that relationship with her daughter-in-law, now feeling "matronized" -- is that actually a word matching "patronized"? -- by her.

And she may ever stop calling so often, now scared that you might answer the phone and ask her "if she has been taking those vitamins regularly".

The tactics I am proposing here could be called "mental judo", where you don't win by exerting any energy of your own, but you let your opponent's moves make him fall, as you are merely skillfully redirecting them.
The whole process will not stay unnoticeable to your husband, who will gain a new courage while seeing his mother's manipulative tactics collapse.

So, without any resistance on your part you are getting your hubby back, and the two of you -- or is it more of you now -- may start living "happily ever after."

I hope this article could inspire someone in a need to deal with their overbearing and meddling mother-in-law. Who knows, it may even turn out to be beneficial for her own emotional health, after all.


This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Val Karas

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