Updated: Sep 14
By The Girl in the Yellow Dress
Ah, the notorious monster-in-law – the stuff of nightmares! Okay, I'm going to share something with you but don't eyeball me or be jealous. I'm one of the lucky ones. My partner's mother is super relaxed and doesn't get involved. Actually, the whole family is pretty great! Hey! Come on! I said no eye-rolling. But it's not to say I haven't encountered a monster-in-law type in the past. I have navigated that prickly, thorny terrain. So have many of my friends and clients.
So fear not, brave soul, for there are ways to navigate this path of terror with your sanity (and your sense of humour) intact, or you could just hide from her. You could always, coincidentally, have plans when she comes over (have an emergency friend/contact you can go to), go grocery shopping, or during surprise visits: under the bed is comfortable. Make sure to take snacks and your mobile phone. She's going to stay a while. And here are a couple of bonus tips: keep under the bed decluttered and vacuumed (check out the new blog post on cleaning when time is short), and don't let your partner or kids know about your secret hiding space. Let them think you're out.
So to no further ado, here are some practical tips and a guide to taming the beast and turning her into a tolerable companion:
Unleash Your Inner Charlotte (Charlotte's approach in the first half of the film Monster-in-law): Think of your encounters as diplomatic missions. Approach conversations as if you're defusing a ticking time bomb. Wipe those sweat beads and breathe in and out slowly. Having a little patience and a dash of humour can go a long way.
Dust off Her Jars: Welcome Your Mother-in-Law's Unusual Hobbies: Discover her hidden passions, no matter how odd they may be. If it's collecting glass jars, extreme couponing or collecting bottle caps, showing genuine interest might earn you a few extra "brownie points." Buckle up and join in!
Embrace Her Quirks: Everyone has quirks, but the monster-in-law's quirks are just, well, "extra special." Embrace her unique characteristics, like embracing a distant cousin you only see at family reunions. Okay, maybe your "cousin" likes to clear her throat with every choice you make with your kids or jingle her keys every time you open your mouth to speak. Or she Likes to sit facing the door or turned away. It's okay. Let her. Remember, you've taken away the thing she cherishes the most - her son. She might be feeling a little prickly. Breathe in, breathe out. It's not personal.
The Power of Humour: When in doubt, unleash the mighty power of humour. Crack a joke, or share a funny story. If that doesn't work, put on a funny film. And turn tense situations into opportunities for a good laugh. Here are some icebreaker jokes: https://icebreakerideas.com/ice-breaker-jokes/
Channel Your Inner Mr Miyagi: Develop the art of selective hearing. Nod, smile, and drift away into a mental oasis when she ventures into her favourite territory of unsolicited advice. "Wax on, wax off." Breathe.
Gifts as Shields: Think of gifts as shields in your battle against the monster-in-law. Offer a carefully selected token of goodwill before major encounters – a peace offering, if you will. Flowers always do the trick.
The "Diversion" Technique: Whenever a conversation steers into the danger zone, swiftly change the topic to something mundane, like the weather or the latest celebrity gossip. Or you could compliment her outfit—everyone likes to be complimented.
Avoid "Comparisonitis": Refrain from comparing her to your own parents. It's like comparing a dragon to a unicorn – both magical but oh-so-different.
Rock the Diplomatic Responses: Master the art of the diplomatic response, like "That's interesting" or "I'll definitely think about that." These are code for "Let's agree to disagree."
Plan Your Escape Routes: For family gatherings, scope out strategic escape routes – be it to the kitchen, the bathroom, or that secret spot where the Wi-Fi signal is the strongest.
Form Allies: Connect with others who've survived their own monster-in-law encounters. Swap stories, share tips, and create a support network that understands the struggle.
Ask Yourself: Are you the Monster? Okay, nobody wants to hear it, but it could be you. Do you roll your eyes and huff every time she offers advice? Sometimes we can act like impetuous children who don't want to be told how to do things or how to raise our children.
Unleash the Feisty Jlo (Part Two of the Film): If all fails and you can HONESTLY say you have been kind, patient, and diplomatic, then sit her down and respectfully tell her you are not going anywhere; you want her to be part of your family, but you are not going to tolerate her bullying anymore. Sometimes we can only fight fire with fire. But I will always advise you to take the 'water the fire' approach. Venting should be a last resort because you can't come back from it or undo what you may say.
Remember, dealing with your monster-in-law requires strategic finesse and a hearty dose of humour. Embrace the adventure, and who knows, you might even discover a few things you like within her eccentricities. After all, she raised your partner, and you love him! So she can't be so bad. Just remember, every dragon can be tamed – or at least managed – with a spoonful of patience, lots of compliments and a few comedy films and snacks. Invite her over for a movie night and drinks! Deep down, we are all just girls who want to be accepted and liked.