When Your Mother-In-Law Is Barb in Real Life
by: Ashley Willis
If you watched The Bachelor last night you may have found yourself relating to the drama brought on by the one and only Barb…..the bachelor’s mother. While this may have just been tv drama at its finest, many of you feel like it’s your everyday reality.
Lately, I’ve talked with several wives who feel like they’ve hit a wall in their marriages. These women will tell you that they have a happy, thriving marriage in almost every way except for one HUGE elephant in the room–the relationship their husband has with his mother.
These women feel pushed aside whenever their mother-in-law (MIL) is around because their husband places his mother’s needs, desires, and opinions ahead of his wife’s. Their mothers-in-law criticize how they keep the house, dress, discipline the kids, and tend to their husband’s needs. These wives want to have a good relationship with their MIL, but they don’t feel accepted by her. Instead of a healthy, supportive relationship, they have a negative, conflicting relationship where both women feel threatened by the other.
When I asked each of these wives to explain their situations to me, I noticed several feelings they had in common: they feel disrespected, patronized, and overshadowed by their MILs. More than anything, they are frustrated with their husbands for not standing up for them and allowing this behavior to continue.
Unhealthy parent-child relationships can undoubtedly happen on BOTH sides of the wedding aisle, but I want to address the mother-son relationship in this post specifically.
As a married couple, we should do whatever we can to show love and respect to and maintain peace with our extended families, but it must never be at the expense of our marriage. Our parents must understand that it is not their place to govern us or our marriage. We need their support and encouragement and welcome their wisdom when we ask for it, and they need to respect us, our spouse, our marriage, and our privacy.
But what are we supposed to do when they don’t? Do we just allow them to continue undermining our spouse and marriage? Certainly, not.
1. A wife should not feel like she must compete with your mother for your love, respect, and adoration.
Husbands, you might be having these same conversations with your wife right now, and you’re probably thinking, “My mom is a grown woman who makes her own decisions. I can’t help how she feels about my wife or how she chooses to treat her.”
This is a huge issue that must be addressed right away. Your mom needs to hear YOU tell her that her controlling, passive-aggressive, and polarizing demeanor towards your wife and marriage must stop. Tell her that she must speak kindly of your wife in your presence or the conversation will end. You must say all this in the most respectful way possible, but it must be addressed directly.
I know these conversations are uncomfortable. Emotions are high because we are addressing issues with family and people we love and respect. That is precisely why these conversations need to happen before matters get worse. I have seen unhealthy extended family dynamics play a huge role in couples deciding to separate or divorce. There’s so much at stake!
You can have a great marriage and a great relationship with your mom, but your marriage must come first. Besides, the kind of love you feel for your wife is a different kind of love than you feel for your mother. You can love them both, but you must tend to your wife’s needs before you tend to your mother’s needs. No exceptions.
2. When we marry, our relationship with our parents must change.
When we marry, our first allegiance belongs to God, then our spouse, then our children (if we have them), and then our parents. This isn’t something I came up with, it’s how God designed marriage. Genesis 2:24 says,
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
3. Unity is a must in marriage.
Two cannot become one unless we are unified. This means a husband and wife are on the same page and moving in the same direction physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This can’t happen when a husband feels like loving his wife will somehow keep him from loving and respecting his mother. Loving your mother and loving your wife are two completely different experiences.
Husbands, your mother is part of you. She raised you and was the first woman to love you and will love you forever, but she is not your wife. She may have a hard time letting go, but she must relinquish control for the sake of your marriage. You must gently, but directly, tell her this vital truth.
Your mom will always be your mother, and you will still be her son. Nothing can change that. But, your wife deserves your full devotion. You vowed to love her, protect her, serve her, and even give your very life for her. That’s a different kind of love–a love that can only be experienced when we offer our full heart to our spouse.
Whether it’s excessive and misplaced devotion to our extended family relationships, spending too much time at the office or not enough time with our family, we must talk about these issues with our spouse. Tell them how much you love their devotion to family, their excellent work ethic, and their generosity, but that all of life must be in balance. God never calls us or equips us to do something to the detriment of our marriage—our first loyalty and our primary ministry.
Let’s do our best to prioritize our marriage every day and see our spouse as the tremendous gift in our life that they are.
And for everyone out there that has a MIL that is amazing (like mine!), show her some extra love today!
For more tools to help you build a rock-solid marriage, please check out The Naked Marriage Podcast and join us for one of our live events happening all around the nation. You can learn more at xomarriage.com.