Mother-in-law talks behind my back

Posted on: May 23rd, 2012 by Richard Cressman

My question for Richard

My husband and I started to farm with his parents seven years ago when we first got married. We are in the process of working through the final details of buying their share of the business.

There has been a considerable amount of strain between my mother-in-law. I get along great with my father-in-law and my husband gets along very well with his father but does have a considerable amount of differences with his mother. His mother seems to continually talk about us behind our backs and I find it very frustrating and at times embarrassing to be asked questions or your comments from friends of mine who have picked up this gossip in the community.

How do I go about approaching her because every time we do talk she does get very angry and we end up fighting?


Richard’s Reply

It appears that you have a chronic communication problem that just does not want to go away. It can be embarrassing as you mentioned to hear from a friend or neighbor about what is going on in your family and it probably does not reflect the situation the way you see it.

Frequently, individuals who have a struggle in dealing with their own emotions and in particular taking responsibility for their emotions and feelings, will tend to throw blame on to other individuals.

To justify their thinking they will frequently tell those around them what their interpretation of the events are which in their mind becomes the reality of the situation. Here is the nuts and bolts of your situation. Your mother-in-law’s going to be a part of your life for as long as she lives.

It sounds like your husband enjoys farming with his father and it sounds like his father enjoys farming with his son. You are caught between a rock and a rock. If you start discussions with your mother-in-law things will probably erupt for whatever reason. Undoubtedly this will cause more stress on your husband and your father-in-law.

You have a couple of options. You can try and sit down and talk with her which as you have mentioned has not worked in the past. The second option is to try and design your life to have as little interaction with her as possible. This gets complicated if his grandchildren involved. It also gets complicated if the family gets together socially on a frequent basis. The third option is to somehow come to grips with the ‘fact’ that your mother-in-law is probably lived the majority of her life being critical of others and changing for her will be a monumental struggle. The only option left that is for you to come to grips with the fact that this is a situation that you have found yourself in and only you can change how you are going to respond to it.

Here is a suggestion. Who are your mother-in-law’s friends? do you admire any of these individuals? If by chance you know some of her friends well enough to sit down and talk with them it may be advisable to ask them what suggestions they would have for you to live as peacefully as possible with your mother-in-law in your life. It may be an eye-opener as to what suggestions you may get. At the end of the day it will probably come down to you deciding what attitude you will bring to the table in how you deal with your mother-in-law.

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