One of the most common marriage counseling questions that crops up is, how to deal with one’s mother-in-law? In fact, the relationship between a spouse and his or her mother-in-law can become so traumatic and stressful that she soon becomes the dreaded Monster-in-Law.
But why does this happen? Some researchers at UCLA have actually figured it out – a little.
When little kids see their mother, their brain functions actually change. The study, led by Nim Tottenham, took a look at the relationship between a mom’s presence and the connections between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. The former is responsible for taking information and processing it before taking action and the latter is where our emotional responses come from.
The study shows that when kids see their moms, brain activity was a lot different than when they saw strangers. So, if you think your spouse behaves differently when his or her mother is around, you may be right – and they may not be able to help it!
Taming the Monster-in-Law
Some people really do just get along with their mother-in-law, but for others it is a constant battle. So, how do you really deal with a mother-in-law you just can’t seem to stop butting heads with?
- Your gain might be her loss. Often, we forget that when we get married, our parents sort of lose us to our spouses, so perhaps trying a little empathy when it comes to your mother-in-law. Mothers are protective of their kids, and when one gets married, the event could spur feelings of loss, resentment, anxiety and aging – these things aren’t your fault, but you are part of it. Just put yourself in her shoes and you might just get it.
- Don’t slam her character, just her behavior. One of the worst things you can do when talking to your spouse about his or her mother is to attack Mom’s character. Don’t do it! What you should do is speak constructively about her behaviors that bother you. This way, you’re not slamming her but the way she behaves. Tread lightly, because your spouse may not see things the same way – this is, after all, Mom.
- Stand up for yourself, but tread carefully. It is perfectly acceptable to stand up for yourself against your mother-in-law. What you can’t do though is pick fights. You’re an adult, so act like one! If you feel aggravated or offended about something, don’t let it sit and bottle up. Discuss it.
When all is said and done, you may never get along with your mother-in-law, but you don’t have to. You aren’t married to her! Just remember one thing: you and your mother-in-law share one thing, if nothing else – your love for the person you married. So, use that as a common ground and you may just have found the secret to taming the Monster-in-Law.
That, or just keep her out of your spouse’s sight – so that she doesn’t change his or her brain patterns!