There’s no doubt, clear and effective communication is crucial to your success – whether in business relationships, friendships, or romantic relationships.  One miscommunication or misinterpretation can set off a series of misunderstandings that can strain a relationship, possibly to the point of no return.  

Another relationship where good communication is critical is the one you have with an in-law.  Let’s say you’re recently married, just moved in together, have a great relationship, and are excited to start a life together with your husband. All is great except for one thing: Whenever there’s an issue between you and your mother-in-law, your husband refuses to stand up for you, and it sends a message that he cares more about his mother than he does about you. How can you deal with it?

First, understand that this is a communication issue, not a love issue.  To change how you feel about this situation you must change your thinking. That said, see it as something positive that he has a strong relationship and values his mother — it’s not a competition. 

Focus on what you can control: your relationship, not theirs. When things are calm among all three parties, talk to your husband. Acknowledge how important his mother is to him and mention something you like about her. Perhaps she is kind, reliable, or a great dresser? Let him know how important he is to you and how you value him and his support. Express that when issues arise between you and his mother you don’t always feel you get the support you need from him. Bear in mind that ultimately you want the same thing: to have your needs and expectations met and to feel understood. So the more united you and your husband are on issues and the better you communicate, the less likely a rift will exist between you and your mother-in-law. 

Here are some more tips for keeping the peace:

  • Thank her for raising such a great son.
  • Don’t harp on issues. She’s probably set in her ways.
  • Be respectful and keep in mind that she did bring your husband into the world. 
  • Allow space for her to spend private time with your husband.
  • Keep your relationship problems between you and him. Don’t try to garner support from an in-law as it’s unlikely to yield anything positive and will only put that in-law in an awkward position.
  • Discuss boundaries with your husband as they pertain to in-laws. Agree on what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable in regard to sharing information with them. 
  • Get to know her. She’s more than just your husband’s mother. She potentially brings a wealth of life experience and interests.

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  • Jonathan Alpert

    Psychotherapist, executive performance coach, and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. Twitter: @JonathanAlpert

    Jonathan Alpert is a psychotherapist, columnist, performance coach and author in Manhattan. As a psychotherapist, he has helped countless couples and individuals overcome a wide range of challenges and go on to achieve success. He discussed his results-oriented approach in his 2012 New York Times Opinion piece, “In Therapy Forever? Enough Already”, which continues to be debated and garner international attention. Alpert is frequently interviewed by major TV, print and digital media outlets and has appeared on the Today Show, CNN, FOX, and Good Morning America discussing current events, mental health, hard news stories, celebrities/politicians, as well as lifestyle and hot-button issues. He appears in the 2010 Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job commenting on the financial crisis. With his unique insight into how people think and their motivations, Alpert helps clients develop and strengthen their brands. He has been a spokesperson for NutriBullet, Liberty Mutual insurance, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Jonathan’s 2012 book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days has been translated into six languages worldwide. Alpert continues to provide advice to the masses through his, Huffington Post, and Thrive columns. @JonathanAlpert