Dealing With Future Mother-in-Law

May 15, 2009, 12:30 am

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How To Be Assertive With Your Future Mother-in-Law
by Jenna D. Barry

The way you interact with your future mother-in-law now will set a precedent for how she will treat you after you are married, so it’s important that you start behaving as an adult on an equal level to her. If she says or does something that gets on your nerves, don’t get your hoop slip in a wad. Just talk to her in a calm and mature manner. What you say is important, but how you say it is even more important. Treat your mother-in-law the same way you’d want your fiancé to treat your mom. You can be firm if necessary, but remember to be tactful so you can make progress toward gaining your future husband’s loyalty and respect.

Let me address some common complaints by brides.

1. “My future mother-in-law gossips to my fiancé about me.”

You can’t completely control whether or not your fiancé’s mom gossips about you, but you can try to put an end to the problem by addressing it at the source (i.e. the person who gossips) and the endpoint (i.e. the person who listens to the gossip).

For example you can tell your fiancé, “Honey, I’m going to try to have a healthier relationship with your mom, so from now on we are going to make an effort to talk directly to each other, rather than put you in the miserable position of having to listen to us complain about each other. If I start to criticize your mom, please remind me to talk to her directly. And if she starts to criticize me, please tell her you aren’t willing to be caught in the middle anymore, and that you need for her to talk directly to me.” I recommend talking to your groom about this right away, before you have any future interactions with his mom. After you’ve done that, then respectfully say to his mom, “From now on, I’d like for you and I to talk directly to each other instead of putting [John] in the awkward position of having to listen to his two favorite women gossip about each other.”

2. “My future mother-in-law is trying to take over all of the wedding decisions.”

Obviously your wedding is a big day for you, but it’s also a big day for your fiancé’s mom. The two of you are bound to have opinions that clash, and you may be confused about how to handle that. Here are some things to consider.

Does your groom have an opinion about this decision? (Find out what he really feels, not just what he says to please you or his mom.)
Is your future mother-in-law presenting her opinion in an acceptable manner?
Is she just being controlling, or is there a valid (or sentimental) reason for her request?
Is she footing the bill?

If your sweetheart’s mom has a reasonable request, and she is presenting it in an acceptable manner, then consider bowing out of this particular decision, especially if she is paying for it and/or you ( or your man) don’t have strong feelings about it. Perhaps then she will gracefully step aside when an issue comes up that is more important to you. Letting your mother-in-law make some wedding decisions is a great way to show your groom that you love him.

If, however, your future mother-in-law is presenting her opinion as a demand– or you and your fiancé strongly disagree with her– then don’t encourage her self-centeredness, especially if she isn’t paying the bill. You (or preferably your groom) can respectfully tell her, “Thanks for your input, but I/we have decided to [do this instead].” If she objects, remain calm and say, “You’re entitled to your opinion, but the decision has been made.” If she still won’t back off, tell her you aren’t willing to discuss it anymore and ask if there is something else she’d like to talk about instead.

3. “She acts offended whenever I don’t say or do exactly what she thinks I should.”

Just because your mother-in-law doesn’t approve of the date of the wedding, the location of the reception, the wording on the invitations, or the color of the flowers doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. She may be choosing to be offended so she can manipulate you with guilt until you center the entire wedding around her The next time she makes a negative comment about a decision she isn’t entitled to make, say “I’m sorry you’re upset, but I’ve already made my decision.” If she continues to object, say “This isn’t your decision, and it’s not up for negotiation. Is there something else you’d like to talk about instead?”

Think of every wedding predicament as an opportunity to behave as an equal adult, while at the same time growing closer to your future husband. Value his opinions and work toward loving compromises so the two of you can present a united front to family and friends. Be assertive with his mom when necessary –rather than holding silent grudges or gossiping about her– and communicate your needs in a way that makes him proud to be your groom.

Jenna Barry is the author of “A Wife’s Guide to In-laws: How to Gain Your Husband’s Loyalty Without Killing His Parents.” Her articles appear regularly in magazines, newspapers, and websites world-wide. She also leads an encouraging support group for daughters-in-law. For more information, please visit her website at

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You can have a GREAT marriage, even if your in-laws aren't so great!

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You may be quick to blame your in-laws for your marriage problems, but in reality the biggest part of the problem isn't your in-laws, it's your husband's loyalty to them.  When a man marries, he is supposed to transfer his loyalty from his parents to his wife. His behavior plays a key role in how well you get along with his parents.  The goal of this book is to help you gain your husband's loyalty.

If you are in need of hope and encouragement, this book is for you!  Jenna Barry offers hilarious, heartfelt advice about how to have a terrific marriage in spite of difficult in-laws.  As a wife who has personally experienced the despair that comes from having an unsupportive partner, she suggests specific things to say and do to gain your husband's loyalty.  This book won't teach you how to become best friends with your in-laws, but it will teach you how to think and behave in a new way so they no longer have any power over you.  A Wife's Guide to In-laws has over 40 cartoons, two fun chapters written just for your hubby, and worksheets to help the two of you reach loving compromises about common problem issues.

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About Jenna

As a wife of 22 years, Jenna D. Barry (a pen name) has learned how to gain her husband's loyalty through communication, persistence, and a whole lot of love.  She has familiarized herself with the needs and frustrations of other wives by participating in on-line in-law support groups and by talking to marriage therapists, friends, family, and co-workers.


Jenna is the author of the book, A Wife's Guide to In-laws:  How to Gain Your Husband's Loyalty Without Killing His Parents. She has been a radio guest on The Mike Bullard Show and her articles have been published in newspapers, websites, and magazines worldwide.  She writes monthly articles for Hitched Magazine and has been quoted in The Washington Times,, The London Free Press,, etc. She leads a support group for daughters-in-law right here.



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