How Do I Handle My Critical In-laws?

April 8, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

Dear Kathy,

     My mother-in-law and sister-in-law are two peas in a pod and not in a good way. They are extremely critical and have never learned the meaning of an unexpressed thought.

     They come over, often uninvited, and comment negatively on anything and everything (my parenting, home décor, weight, even my grammar!).

     My husband just sits there like a bump on a log pretending we’re having a pleasant conversation instead of acknowledging what is really going on – them skewering me emotionally. How can I handle these two witches?

Please advise,

Keisha B.

Dear Keisha,

     This is not an in-law issue, it is a marital issue. Your husband needs to stand up to the plate and support your insistence that you are treated with respect by his family members. That being said, the only one you can control is yourself, not him (or them).

     My advice is that you have a clear conversation in which you explain to your husband that you feel hurt and disrespected by his mother and sister and that you need him to help you change this negative dynamic by standing up to them.

     Then, I suggest that you speak to his mother and sister, separately but equally clearly, explaining how you expect to be treated moving forward. Explain that if the situation persists, you will give the offending party one reminder to treat you with respect and that if it goes unheeded you will absent yourself from the situation.

     Furthermore, explain that they are welcome to call you before they intend to come over to see if the timing is convenient. However, if they show up without prior arrangement you will not be able to accommodate them.

     Be gentle but firm. Keep in mind that we teach others how to treat us.

All my best,