You’re in a difficult position. You’ve stolen her child away from her. Nothing’s going to make that right. You’ve tried searching for a solution, but the experts are no help: “although a daughter-in-law is an adult in her own household, a mother-in-law’s maternal expertise is already established and she may expect deference.” What if you aren’t ready to defer? What are you going to do the next time she comes over unannounced to check whether your bathroom is clean enough? (It isn’t.) There’s no point trying to talk to her about it; she’ll only sulk or go psycho on you again. What you need is a plan, one that covers all the different challenges a MIL can present. Here is a simple three-step plan that will change your relationship ““ for good!
Why do you think your MIL doesn’t like you? There are so many possibilities. Maybe she objects to your politics, your values, your line of work. Undoubtedly she thinks you’re a bad influence on her son/daughter. So how can you get her to like you? Do you have to adapt your personality or change the way you live? That seems extreme, especially when there’s an easier way.
You just need to start agreeing with her. Let’s take an example: you and your mother-in-law have some political differences. You’re a centrist liberal, and she has recently joined the Tea Party*. Your conversation might go something like this:
MIL: The “President” is nothing but a socialist.
You: I know.
MIL: Gays in the military are dangerous. They undermine morale.
MIL: It’s important to teach abstinence to teens.
You: I’m against sex in general.
Once you get started you will be amazed at how easy it is, and how quickly your relationship with your MIL will improve. And when things get particularly dicey, just look into your heart ““ then say the opposite.
MIL: David tells me that you’re going on vacation to Hawaii. It must be nice to have so much money that you can just flush it down the toilet.
You: I’m lucky to have you in my life.
Bribe your way into her heart. It’s a universal truth that people like getting presents. Exploit this fact for your own advantage. Your choice of gift is determined by your MIL’s economic status.
Rich. If she’s really rich, you can’t afford anything that she wants ““ which might be her problem with you. You’ll have to try something else. Otherwise, get her something rich people like, like a fountain pen or a gift certificate to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville CafÃ©.
Everybody else. You have to bake. Baking represents time, not just money. With each bite your MIL takes she can imagine the hours you spent laboring in the kitchen to please her. This will appeal to her tyrannical streak. More importantly, baking is faking. When you bake, people automatically believe that you’re organized and competent. From there, they’ll assume other positive things about you. That you get straight A’s, vote for the right party, aren’t on drugs ““ based on no other evidence. It’s very efficient.
If you already bake, you’re set. If you can’t bake, go to the supermarket and buy some cake mix and some fruit. When you put fruit on top of your cake instead of frosting, you can say that it’s French, which makes it sophisticated and/or rustic.
If this sounds like too much trouble, go to a bakery and buy some nice pastries. On the way home make sure to drop the box a couple of times. You want to smash them just enough to impart the patina of homemade-ness. Transfer them to a Tupperware container lined with paper towels, and voila ““ the illusion is complete.
Affection is a zero sum game. All the praise and attention your MIL lavishes on her son/daughter should get rerouted to you. From now on, every time your spouse does something considerate, swoop in and steal the credit. Did he water her plants while she was away? Tell her you did it. Did he buy her a sweater for her birthday? Secretly rip up the card and write a new one. Make sure she knows that you’re responsible for all phone calls and visits. Be the hero.
So there you have it. Try these tips, and turn your MIL into your BFF!
Or, you know, you could try talking to her like a human being. Either way.
*Tea Party Party?