My mother in law is being a pain in the ass. How can I deal with her?
“I know this is a guy’s kind of website, but I am a chick and I need help. My mother in law is a pain in the ass and every detail of MY wedding has to be HER way…
I have been nice and tried to accommodate her wishes (to an extent), but my efforts are to no avail. Every idea I have for my wedding is not good enough for her or her son (whom I am marrying), which she has so “bitchfully” made clear…. My wedding day is in 7 weeks!!!! Help!”
(Follow-up, in separate email):
“She is helping pay for SMALL, minute things for the wedding…. (e.g flower girl dress, flowers, and alcohol). She is contributing about $500 versus our (my fiancée and I) $18,000.”
– The Plunge Female Reader
[Flexes fingers.] Brides dealing with mothers? No problem. That’s what we’re here for. Clearly that’s what The Plunge is all about. That’s our core competency. And tomorrow, we’ll write the “Dos and Don’ts of Dealing with Pregnancy.” Next Monday, stay tuned for: “Menopause: What You Need to Know.”
For better or worse, though, yes, of course we have some thoughts. (This is usually for the worse.)
We advise a 4-step plan:
1. Give her whole chunks of projects
Instead of getting her involved a little bit with every part, get her involved in every part of little bits. Understand the distinction. It’s crucial. Give her entire projects. Take the elements that you care the least about–flowers, say. Pretend that flowers mean the world to you, but that you trust her to take that project, own it, and plan the shit out of it. Defer to her completely. Play it up. Make it seem like the fate of your wedding hinges upon those flowers, and thank the Lord Almighty, you have her steady hand to right the ship. This will help offset your following move:
2. Act, don’t ask
Heed the old saying, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.” It’s that simple. Change your habits. Instead of routing every possible option through Mrs. Bitchfully, just pull the trigger. Normally, this would be considered passive-aggressive. But your above action–generously giving her whole chunks of projects–will make her feel involved, thus softening the blow.
3. Get your dude to step up
This is part of his job. It’s up to your fiancé to step up, take the heat, and absorb some of the bitchfullness. If he doesn’t want to deal? Tough. It’s his frickin’ mother and he needs to be your Buffer. Example: if the woman leaves you a nagging voicemail asking why you changed the color of the tablecloths, have him return the call. If he doesn’t want to do this chore? Then tell him to get a new mother. Either/or.
4. Focus on zones of consensus
Inevitably you will still have disagreements, you will still have her bitchfull input, and you will still find her annoying. For those situations, stand your ground and stick with your decisions, but use this technique to keep the peace: focus on the zone of consensus. That zone is wider than you think. For instance, let’s say she wants the DJ for 2 hours, you want the DJ for 4 hours. Don’t focus on the two-hour gap. Focus on the areas on which you see eye-to-eye, saying something to the effect of, “You made a really, really good point about why a DJ is a better call than a band. And I totally agree. I’m glad everyone’s on the same page with getting a DJ, and Todd and I are going to go ahead and book him for 4 hours.” The end result is the same, but you’ve framed the issue making it feel like everybody wins. Framing matters, perception matters. Then conclude the conversation with, “Also, you’re a bitch.”