How To Deal With A Difficult Mother In Law
Question: “Dealing with a mother-in-law…how do I respond to the problem of a mother-in-law who is overbearing, controlling, and meddling?”
Answer: A mother-in-law who is demanding, controlling, and intrusive into the lives of her son/daughter and son/daughter-in-law is what the Bible calls a “busybody” (1 Timothy 5:13). The meaning of the Greek word that is translated “busybody” in the 1 Peter passage means, “a self appointed overseer in other men’s matters.” That describes what some mothers-in-law are engaged in, or at least accused of. This kind of behavior is annoying, very frustrating, and it is obviously contrary to God’s viewpoint.
Obviously, the dynamics in such a situation are frustrating. Some mothers-in-law do these things because no one else in the family has given them boundaries. Therefore, she becomes an overbearing “bully.” Perhaps she does not even realize how intrusive and controlling she is. To her it may just be “loving.” If that is the case, perhaps a heart to heart talk will clear the air. If she does understand what she is doing and does it on purpose even after she has been asked to stop, then there is nothing that you are going to be able to do to alter that. At any rate, it is not your place to stop your mother-in-law from her interfering; it is your spouse’s.
Regardless of which side of the family the interference comes from, it is an assault upon the sanctity of the marriage and violates the “leave and cleave” of God’s order for marriage (Genesis 2:23-24). A man and woman leave their birth families and begin a new family, and they are to love and protect each other. A husband who allows his mother to interfere with his marriage is not living up to the commandment given to husbands in Ephesians 5:25-33. The same can be said if it is the wife’s mother that is interfering. Boundaries need to be set and then held regardless of the “feelings” of one’s family. The reality is that people treat us the way we allow them to treat us. If we permit them to trample the sanctity of our family, then that is what they will do. No one, not even our extended family, has the right to invade the privacy of our home. So if your mother-in-law is interfering in your lives, your spouse is allowing it.
What can we do personally about a woman who acts in the way a meddling mother-in-law does? We can make a choice not to allow her to take away our peace of mind. We may not be able to change the way others behave, but how we respond to their behavior is our choice. We can allow the actions of other people to get to us, or we can choose to give it over to God and allow Him to use this to strengthen us spiritually. If our own response to this type of situation that fuels our frustration. Only we can stop wearing ourselves out emotionally by allowing a interfering mother-in-law’s actions to be the arbiter of our own peace. Her behavior is not our responsibility, our response is.
Your mother-in-law is going to continue to be the way she is until she makes a choice to stop, or her family makes it so uncomfortable for her that she must stop, or God stops her. I can understand that right now you are probably angry, frustrated and at the end of your emotional rope. However, this is not a problem that an outsider can solve for you. If this woman habitually behaves in this way, your spouse and family have facilitated this woman’s behavior by tolerating it.
You can be gracious to her, but you do not have to facilitate her. Treat her with respect and love, but do not allow your emotions to entangle you in frustration at what you see as her obnoxious behavior. The best way to disengage an enemy is to make them an ally. Do not respond in kind, but with a kind response. You may disarm her, or at the very least make her wonder what you are up to. The only thing you are responsible for is your own heart and your own motives.
You can continue to allow this woman to have power over you or you can choose to give her what she has not given you. What is that? Grace! You can give her the grace of forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32). It may not stop her interfering, but it will be a source of strength and peace for you to stand in (Ephesians 6:11-17). The only place to find true peace of heart is in a personal relationship with God through Christ. I pray you will deal with your own heart need and concentrate upon responding by resting in His peace.
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