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What Not to Say to a Mother-in-Law

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I always hear married couples complaining about their mother-in-law. Women complain because they say their mother-in-law makes them feel like they aren’t good enough for their little boy. So for those of you who are in their same shoes, or are just trying to make your relationship with your mother-in-law a little better, here are some things you shouldn’t say.

Men complain about their mother-in-law because…well…there are too many complaints to list. Now my Dad has a good relationship with his mother-in-law, as does my husband. Unfortunately, my husband’s parents have both passed away, so I have no true mother-in-law, but Glen’s aunt was always like a second mother to him, so in a roundabout way, I have a sort of mother-in-law and we have a good relationship. Now that my sister and my best friend are also getting married, they’re entering potentially dangerous territory.

“Delicious! This ________ tastes just like the kind they serve at __________!”

Avoid comparing her cooking to anyone’s. No matter how sincere you may be trying to be, don’t do it. The way she cooks is the best. Always. Protocol here is to compliment her cooking, say thank you and offer to clean up. Bonus brownie points here if you tell her you enjoyed it so much you would be honored if she would share the recipe.

“Keep Your Two Cents.”

Unsolicited parenting or marital advice has been the cause of many a melodrama made by a meddling micromanaging mother-in-law. Nod, smile and say thank you because according to her, she is the best parent in the world because after all, she did raise her baby boy to be a fine young man. When the mother-in-law starts in with the unwanted advice and critiques do not show anger but stand your ground. Just remember, it’s only advice, not law written in stone. You may feel insulted, but she is only trying to help. If it gets really bad, change the subject or politely excuse yourself.

“Get a Room.”

Unless you are living in a studio apartment with a dog, a cat and a hamster, your mother-in-law expects to stay with you whenever she’s in town. Don’t suggest she stay elsewhere unless you’re planning to pay for a room at the Ritz Carlton. If you have a spare room, prepare it and mother-in-law proof it. Fresh sheets, fresh flowers, fluffy towels, fancy soaps, and nice photographs should do, but don’t make it too nice or she’ll want to stay forever.

“You like __________ better!”

When a mother-in-law is mother-in-law to more than one person, it may appear that she favors one over the other. This may be especially apparent if there are grand kids involved. Even if this is true, don’t say it and don’t take it personally and don’t confront her unless you like awkward and uncomfortable drama. Instead, talk it over with your husband or wife. There may be a good reason behind why she’s paying so much attention to one or the other over you and you never know. Your brother or sister in law may be jealous about the fact that mother-in-law isn’t breathing down your neck.

“Does this come with a receipt?”

Mothers-in-law may not know you all that well, so they don’t know what you like and what you don’t. Just accept whatever she gives you with a gracious smile. Don’t read too much into it either unless you get a bathroom scale and a subscription to weight loss magazine. In that case, she’s just trying to send you a message.

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