“My mother-in-law gives me anxiety”

I need advice on what to do with my mother-in-law. When I’m around her, the first thing she does is talk about my sister-in-law (her daughter), from how much she gave her for her wedding to how proud she is of her for buying a house, or what she should get her for her birthday, or when we took her out to eat, how much the daughter loves this type of food to how much maternity leave time she will take (before she was even pregnant).

At my daughter’s baptizing, any time I was near her, instead of focusing on my daughter, she was talking to me about her daughter’s wedding. At a family function when she first arrived, she went right to daughter and husband and gave them a big hug, but barely said hi to me.

When I know I’m going to be around her, I get anxiety and my heart races. Should I say something to her? And if so, what? My husband recognizes it, but doesn’t care enough to say anything to her. He refuses so that is not an option.

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3 thoughts on ““My mother-in-law gives me anxiety”

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is something you are going to have to conquer on your own. Maybe see a licensed therapist to help you get through. She’s always been this way and is unlikely to change.

    One thing you can do is change how you react to the situation. You know she’s going to do it, so when she starts in, change the subject. A good way to do that is excuse yourself to the restroom. Added benefit of breather to regroup.

    Also you can make a list of topics you do want to discuss then segway them in. I had to do that with my MIL when she kept bringing up painful topics. She meant well and is very kind.

  2. Dennis Hong says:

    Yeah, I have to agree with Anonymous above. The problem here is that she isn’t doing anything that’s actually inappropriate. It seems that you and your daughter are not the center of her existence, and unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about that. So if your anxiety is caused by her lack of attention towards you, then I that’s something that you have to work on yourself.

    Having said that, you can always try to be proactive and make an effort to connect with her. I don’t know how far away she lives from you, but maybe you can invite her to lunch or something — make an effort to spend time with her. That way, she can get to know you better as a person.

    Yes, it’s probably going to give you anxiety at first, because she’s probably going to keep talking about her daughter as she always does. At the same time, if you give her a chance to bond with you, maybe she’ll come around over time and start to see you as just a vital part of her life as her daughter.

    Of course, that’s totally your call whether the not-guaranteed payoff here is worth the anxiety this will cause in the meantime. So that’s what it comes down to: I understand that she causes you anxiety, but because she isn’t doing anything overtly wrong, the onus is going to be on you to 1) keep your anxiety in check, and 2) do something to connect with your mother-in-law.

    Best of luck with this. I know it’s not an easy situation to be in.

  3. Dennis Hong says:

    Oh, here’s another idea:

    Give your mother-in-law exactly what she wants. When she talks to you about her daughter, engage her in the conversation. Ask deep, meaningful conversations about her relationship with her daughter. Bond with her through your “mutual” interest in her daughter.

    Yes, it’s going to be painful. Yes, you’re going to wish that she knew more about you. But if you use this as your “in” with her, who knows? Maybe over time, she’ll come to see you as a warm, caring person. And she will grow to love you almost or just as much as her own daughter. Because let’s face it, this is the underlying issue here — a biological daughter versus a daughter-in-law. Unfortunately, you’ll always come in second. That’s just how family works, ya know?

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