Ask Amy: Getting hung up on mother-in-law's jabs
- Article by: AMY DICKINSON
- December 11, 2013 - 1:50 PM
Dear Amy: I got married a month ago, and I am having trouble adjusting to my husband’s mother. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a peach when we get together — all smiles, hugs and homemade treats.
But when she talks to my mother (typically when she’s been drinking or has something to get off her chest), the story is different.
Recently she called my husband a “sack of s---” because he didn’t mow the lawn before we went on honeymoon. (MIL offered to do it for us. Am I mistaken in believing that was her choice and therefore not something to be angry about?)
Then she told my mother that we “have too much stuff.” My mom thinks this is a dig because she generously provided us with furniture when we bought our house, so that, you know, we’d have something to sit on.
Mom tries to avoid these conversations by getting off the phone in a hurry. I have to drag this stuff out of her. But I am sick of it. This woman has created drama with my family since she’s met them, and now that we’re married, I know I can look forward to years of this.
I don’t know how to tell my husband. He is close to his mom, and letting him in on these jabs would crush him. Please help!
Amy says: The first rule of a happy in-law relationship is to diminish the opportunities for discord. You are violating this rule right out of the gate by actively looking for trouble — from a foul-mouthed and negative person to whom you are now related.
According to you, you had to drag these unkind observations out of your own mother. Why? And why would your mother share these insults with you?
You cannot guarantee changing your mother-in-law’s attitude or behavior. Do not pump your mother for gossip, and if she offers to pass something along, you should cut her off at the pass. I cannot imagine why your mother would engage in this, but you should encourage her to establish some very firm boundaries of her own (hanging up the phone when she receives a drunken call, for instance).
Be cordial and polite with your MIL. Assume that she will find things about you or your household to criticize. If she does this to your face, then deal with her politely, firmly and directly (and involve your husband). Otherwise, avoid!
Dear Amy: My nephew was married in May. Our families live locally and are close. Of course I gave them gifts for both the shower and the wedding.
Four months after the wedding we received a postcard in the mail, featuring a montage of pictures of the bride and groom with a generic printed message of thanks for making their day special.
That’s it. No handwritten note, no signature, no mention of gifts.
This reminds me of the annual holiday postcard sent by my insurance agent!
Is this considered acceptable nowadays? Or am I justified in being a bit miffed at their lack of manners? Should I say something to them about it?
Amy says: My theory is that this unfortunately common practice started when this current crop of brides and grooms were young and their mommy sent out photocopied, nonpersonal thank-you notes on their behalf to the dozens of children attending their birthday parties. (And so I say to the marrying couples out there: Stop it! You are not State Farm Insurance, advertising your relationship to your clients.)
You can say to this couple, “Your postcard is lovely, but now we’re left wondering if you received our gifts. Can you let us know?”
Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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