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10 Ways to Solve the Most Difficult Mother-in-Law Problems

Do you feel like your mother-in-law (MIL) hates you? Or maybe it’s the other way around! Here’s what you need to know about dealing with a critical mother-in-law, plus the best ways to solve difficult problems with your in-laws.

“I have been married for over 25 years and have had many ups and downs with my mother-in-law,” says Ginger on How to Cope With a Difficult Mother-in-Law. “It has not been easy. Finally – a few years ago – I figured out why my mother-in-law hates me and why she is always so critical. Just knowing what caused the problem has made a huge difference in our relationship. I finally learned how to talk to her and my other in-laws without everything exploding in my (and my husband’s) face.”

Depending on your relationship with your in-laws, one of the best and easiest ways to solve difficult problems with your mother-in-law is to figure out what caused the problem in the first place. Was it a simple misunderstanding or miscommunication, or is something else going on? It’s possible that finding out can help you fix a broken relationship with your mother-in-law.

Below, Ginger shares why her mother-in-law hates her so much – and she offers valuable advice for dealing with MIL problems in marriage.

How to Solve Problems With Your Critical Mother-in-Law

Ginger explains what she recently discovered about her mother-in-law:

mother in law hates me mil problems

How to Solve the Most Difficult Mother-in-Law Problems

“For years, my MIL displayed pictures of her family, my husband’s other siblings, and their spouses’ wedding portraits. The wedding photo of my husband and me was also displayed, but my face and body was always hidden by the placement of the photos. When I asked why, she said it was “just to make space for all the family photos.’ Later I learned that my MIL hid me on purpose because she was mad about something I supposedly did at an event that she didn’t even attend. My mother-in-law hates me because of something she thought I did years ago.”

Ginger’s experience is the perfect introduction to my first tip for dealing with a critical or difficult mother-in-law…

1. Ask your MIL why she hates you (in a nice way!)

What if you said something like this to your mother-in-law? “Moreen, I sensed some tension at dinner last night. Have I done anything to offend or upset you? You don’t have to answer me right now. Please take some time to think about it. I’d love to talk to you more. If there is anything I can do to help us get along better, let me know.”

Consider the direct but non-confrontational approach – and remember that your mother-in-law won’t be prepared to respond thoughtfully or carefully. That’s why it’s good to give her time to think. It’s possible your mother-in-law will say nothing is wrong and brush you away. If so, repeat that your door is open. You’d be happy to talk with her in the future, if she wants. Give her a chance to think about how to talk to you.

This, by the way, is how women tend to address relationship conflict – we want to understand why we aren’t liked or loved. Men, on the other hand, tend not to need to understand why relationship problems exist with their mothers-in-law. Men shrug away conflict with their in-laws instead of worrying about why it’s happening. More about that later.

2. Be open to hearing your mother-in-law’s reasons

It’s scary to put yourself in the position of being criticized or rejected! If you ask your mother-in-law if you did something to offend or upset her, you are vulnerable. She may attack you…or she may surprise you with something unexpected. Your problems with your mother-in-law may get worse…or they may get better.

If you decide to ask your mother-in-law if you did something to offend or upset her, prepare yourself to hear anything. Even if you think you know why you’re having problems with her (eg, your mother-in-law hates you because you have kids from a previous marriage, or she thinks you prioritize your job over your family) — be open to hearing what she has to say. You might be surprised at her response; you may even learn something new about yourself and how you are perceived by others.

3. Consider asking your husband to talk to his mom

This tip for dealing with mother-in-law problems may not work for you, but it worked for Ginger. She says:

“At the beginning of my marriage, my husband sat down with his mom and told her to not be so critical of me. As a result my mother-in-law was nice to me for a few years. Recently, though, my husband doesn’t want to confront his mom again because of her age and health issues. So my MIL hates me again, and it has made me miserable. The best way for me to deal with my mother-in-law is to ignore it and say nothing. I do long for that young man to emerge again and take care of business, but he’s tired. I’m also worried about his health because it’s hard for him to see me and his mom fight.”

Ginger adds that she doesn’t regret marrying her husband. “I just didn’t understand the dynamics of my in-laws’ relationships with each other. If I was newly married and dealing with a critical or hateful mother-in-law now, I would have laid down healthy boundaries at the beginning. I would also have encouraged my husband to find a job in a different city or even state than my mother-in-law. I would have stayed closer to my family.

If you’re a new daughter-in-law struggling to deal with a mother-in-law who criticizes or hates you, Ginger says : “The most important thing is to love yourself. Make sure you marry a man who can give you security, protect you, validate you, and be able to stand up for you and your children.”

4. Understand you may never find a reason for your MIL’s problems

Ways to Solve the Most Difficult Mother-in-Law Problems Why do women seem to have more “mother-in-law problems” than men? “Women spend more time than men analyzing and worrying about relationships,” says Deanna Brann, author of Reluctantly Related: Secrets To Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law. “An off-the-cuff comment or a forgotten thank-you note can quickly snowball.

In Reluctantly Related, Brann shares a witty collection of mother-in-law, daughter-in-law and husband/son personality types – from Off-the Wall Wanda to Doubting Donna to Struggling Steven. She shows you how to identify the types in your own family, and explains how to solve relationship problems with practical, hands-on tools for mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law to improve their relationship.

Brann also says that when women have problems with a critical mother-in-law, tension builds and walls quickly go up. Confrontation occurs – but not always about what’s really going on. In contrast, men don’t often ruminate about relationship problems. When conflict does arise they tend to shrug it off rather than deal with it. That’s why men don’t have problems dealing with critical mothers-in-law the way women do.

5. Be kind to your mother-in-law, but don’t let her walk all over you

“I was young and naive when I married into my husband’s family,” says Ginger. “For years I tried hard to make my mother-in-law like me. Our relationship would be good for awhile, but then she’d suddenly be critical or make comments that were meant to be hurtful. Her annoyance and lack of respect for me has rubbed off on my husbands’ siblings and their children. I never thought my relationship with my in-laws it would end up like this.”

If you try to make your mother-in-law like you, you will lose respect for yourself – and she will lose respect for you. It’s natural to want her to like (and even love!) you. You love your husband, you know she loves her son, and you want to be part of the family. But trying to make yourself agreeable and likable is not the best way to solve difficult problems with your mother-in-law.

6. Learn how to let things go – like husband do with their mothers-in-law

Picture yourself standing sideways when your mother-in-law criticizes you or offers unsolicited advice. Let the critical comment whoosh on by without reacting or responding. Let’s get stereotypical: act like a man when you’re looking for ways to solve the most difficult mother-in-law problems.

“Men understand that they just need to get along with their in-laws, not love them,” says sociology professor Terri Orbuch in “Mother-in-Law and Order” in Real Simple magazine. “And if liking them is impossible, men don’t get hung up on that, either. For the most part, men don’t need to understand why their mothers-in-law don’t like them. Women do.”

7. Let go of your hope that your critical mother-in-law will change

If you read How to Stop Your Boyfriend’s Mother From Ruining Your Relationship, you’ll learn why you shouldn’t waste your time and energy wishing or wanting your in-laws to change.

No matter how deeply you wish or how hard you try, your mother-in-law won’t change just because you want her to. (Yes, people do change but only when they are super duper motivated! And you won’t motivate your mother-in-law unless you have an ace in the hole).

Instead of wishing your mother-in-law was different or that you didn’t have a mother-in-law who hates you or that mother-in-law wasn’t so critical overbearing toxic and rude…accept her for who she is. You don’t have to love her or listen to her. Just take a deep breath and accept that your mother-in-law is your husband’s mom. She is who she is, you are who you are. The easiest way to solve the most difficult mother-in-law problems is to simply accept her with peace and grace.

8. Spend more time with your mother-in-law (!)

Here’s an interesting way to solve problems with your mother-in-law – especially if you feel like she hates you – from Gretchen Rubin’s 10 Tips for Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law on the Psychology Today website.

How to Solve the Most Difficult Mother-in-Law Problems “Remember the mere exposure effect,” says Rubin, author of Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits – to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life. “It turns out that familiarity breeds affection. The ‘mere exposure effect’ means that repeated exposure makes people like music, faces – even nonsense syllables – better.”

Her theory is that the more often you see your mother-in-law, the more intelligent and attractive you tend to find her. So instead of avoiding your her, take the time to see her and talk to her. That may ease your relationship problems and perhaps even help her see how likable and wonderful you are.

9. Decide which mother-in-law battles are worth fighting

Here’s another tip from Ginger about dealing with critical in-laws:

Learn how to be strong and forge a life with the man you love, standing by your husband no matter what, being nice to your mother-in-law even in the most difficult of situations. If you let your problems with your mother-in-law affect you and your marriage, it can destroy you. Learn how to deal with your mother-in-law criticizing you, ignoring you, or showing favoritism.”

Ginger adds that she wants her mother-in-law to stay in their lives because she is important to her husband and children. So, she has decided which problems to fight her mother-in-law about and which ones to let go. Most of them, she just lets go.

“I do not like the things my mother-in-law has said to me over the years,” says Ginger, “but I’ve learned how to let it go. Sure it hurts and I wish I didn’t have these mother-in-law problems, but I have to live with it because I love my husband and children. This is his family. If you can’t see yourself living like this, then you have to find someone else to build a marriage with.”

10. Know your worth outside of your relationships with your in-laws

Sometimes we allow relationship problems to consume us because we want to be loved. We need love, we need to feel included, and we’re hardwired to fear rejection.

how to deal with Difficult Mother-in-Law Problems

10 Ways to Solve the Most Difficult Mother-in-Law Problems

If you’re obsessing about your critical mother-in-law’s comments or actions, you may be trying to find affirmation and validation from her. This is natural. You are normal! It’s hard to accept the idea that somebody – especially the mother of the man we love – doesn’t like us.

If your insecurities are controlling you, think about where you get your self-esteem and self-worth from. Some women put their worth in their appearance: the fitter, more beautiful, and more trendy they are the more lovable and valuable they feel. Other women put their self-worth in their men, their children, their youth, their education.

Me, I used to put my worth in my weight and body shape. Now I hold on to the fact that I am a child of God, dearly and unconditionally loved. I am worthy and valuable not because of my relationship with my mother-in-law or my job – or my weight! I am worthy and valuable because God created me for a purpose.

You were created for a purpose. And, He created you just the way you are for a reason. Don’t let your problems with a critical mother-in-law affect how you see yourself. Don’t judge yourself through her eyes. Look at yourself through God’s eyes, and see the valuable, beautiful woman He created you to be.

If all else fails, buy your mother-in-law a gift 😉  Read 17 Gift Ideas That Will Make Your Boyfriend’s Parents Adore You.

Help Getting Along With a Difficult or Critical Mother-in-Law

MIL hates me mother in law problemsIn Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships, Deb DeArmond and her three daughters-in-law share what they found in their exhaustive research into the status of the women-in-law relationship. Their research, which incorporated online surveys, interviews, and discussions, included asking about the faith factor in the relationships they studied.

Related by Chance is a practical and scriptural book that covers issues of personal perceptions, strained communication, the roles of sons and fathers in the relationship’s success, how to begin these in-law relationships on the right foot, and the necessity of trust and love. This book will give you a different perspective of your problems with your mother-in-law – especially if you feel like she hates you.

Read 5 Tips for a Healthy Relationship With Your In-Laws. In that article, you’ll learn how to build healthy relationships with difficult family members – including a mother-in-law who acts like she hates you.

What do you think – will you try any of these tips for dealing with a critical mother-in-law? Feel free to write your story and thoughts below. While I can’t offer advice on dealing with MILs in marriage, I do read every comment. Remember that writing about your feelings and experiences often brings clarity and insight, and can help you figure out how to solve even the most difficult mother-in-law problems.


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7 thoughts on “10 Ways to Solve the Most Difficult Mother-in-Law Problems”

  1. Thank you. I really appreciate the advice offered. It made me think and gave me a different perception. I normally don’t post on comments but I saw a few comments below that I thought were not fair and I wanted to post because I felt this article really helped in my situation. My MIL is also toxic and I have chosen to try and find a way to interact with her in as healthy a way as possible for my husband’s sake. I get the desire to completely bail on her and truthfully I have the same desire, but I know that would hurt my husband deeply. She is aging and I don’t want that wound I cause by making it difficult to be around her. This isn’t because he is a man and I am trying to fulfill my domestic role. It’s because he is my best friend and I don’t want to hurt him. Can I just say that whole misogyny rant is I feel off base. Yes women have duties in the home but so do men. I know no women who are stay at home Mother’s once their children reach a certain age. I am an engineer and I promise my MIL doesn’t have an opportunity to wound me because I am a domestic slave. She had no issues using my job as an opportunity to critique and criticize me. I work in a male dominated field and I actually see time and time again that men deal with conflict differently than women. I have no idea if this is biological or social roles but I suspect it is bit of both. It isn’t that the author is being misogynistic for them to be dismissive of conflict it is authentic to how they react. Misogyny would be if they demanded we act exactly as they did and derided us for reacting differently. You see this in the emotional overwrought woman stereotype that some men use to explain why male decisions are inherently better. That would be an example of misogyny. It isn’t victim blaming to offer advice based on what is likely a source of distress to some women. Thinking your husband doesn’t care while you are emotionally abused is far more difficult than realizing , that he doesn’t recognize how frustrated you are because he doesn’t have the same reaction. What you call victim blaming I call realization that soothes an old hurt. I just felt the need to address those comments this is my first time here . I discovered this site from a duck duck go search after a particulars difficult conversation with my MIL and it helped a lot. Thank you for the insights and advice. It may not work for all situations but it helped me feel more in control of mine.

  2. I understand how you feel. Even after her death, I still feel like she had power over me. She will not change and you don’t have to change. You simply have to NOT let what she says and does affect you.

    Here’s the best advice I live by which puts all the “power” in my hands: Your spouse CHOSE YOU. He had NO choice about who his mother is/was.

    Let your anger go and let it be like water on a duck’s back. Take back your power that you and her THINK she has over you.

  3. Hi There.
    I have a nightmare Mother in Law just like a lot of people do.
    I understand and can sympathise with what you are saying in this article.
    my question to you is.. why is it ok for everyone to tell you that your Mother in Law will never change it’s your outlook or how you handle it that changes! My question is why to I have to do that when she wouldn’t ever do that for me? Why should I change myself for someone that is incredibly rude to me as doesn’t respect me?
    I have always respected my partners mother but as time passes and she doesn’t respect me, my respect for her gets less! And I will most certainly not give her ggifts it would never ever be right for my Mother in Law !!!

  4. This is a misogynistic article. Men are not perfect; they just have the privilege of not being dependent on family support in their lives, as they are culturally allowed outside the domestic sphere when they are married and have children. On the other hand, women are expected to have duties inside the home. While a mother-in-law is unlikely to go to her son’s place of work and trll himwhat to do, she will more likely invade her daughter-in-law’s space at home and tell her how to cook, clean, raise children, etc. There is little escape. You are not comparing apples to apples, amd telling women to just “be like men” is victim-blaming.

  5. See my mother in law more? Buy a gift? Thirteen years of toxic treatment and this is the advice….. If I was to act like a man I would ignore phone calls and messages and show up to things when I felt like it.

  6. Hi Florence,

    I wrote this article about what to do with a critical mother-in-law (or how to cope when your mother-in-law hates you). If you have a question, please feel free to post it here, and I’ll do the best I can to answer it.

    However, I don’t give advice about specific situations…but, let me know what question you have and I’ll be happy to help if I can.

    All good things,