Why Does My Mother-In-Law Compete With Me?
Mothers-in-law often get a bad rap for meddling, criticizing, and competing with their sons’ wives. However, the relationship between a wife and her mother-in-law can also be loving, supportive, and positive. Examining some of the common causes of friction and competition can help both women understand each other better and build a healthier bond.
11 Reasons Why Your Mother-In-Law Compete With You
1. She May Feel Left Out or Replaced
For many mothers, their sons are their closest companions and confidants during childhood and adolescence. When their son gets married, it represents a major life change and shifts in his priorities.
Your mother-in-law may feel left out or replaced when you become the most important woman in her son’s life. Recognizing her perspective can help you be more empathetic. Make an effort to include her in family events and find ways for her to still feel valued.
2. She Wants To Maintain Control and Influence
Throughout your husband’s life, your mother-in-law has been used to having parental authority and influence over him. She likely provided guidance, made important decisions, and parental instructions.
Now that her son is an independent adult building his own family, your mother-in-law may struggle with relinquishing control. Establish healthy boundaries and clarify your respective roles.
Politely stand your ground when she tries to assert dominance in decisions about your household or relationship.
3. She Has a Different Parenting Philosophy
Most new parents have strong views about the right way to raise their children. Your mother-in-law likely has her own opinions based on decades of parenting experience.
If her style differs from yours, it can cause friction over child-rearing decisions. Discuss your core values and priorities as parents.
Compromise when possible and agree to disagree respectfully over less critical differences. As the parents, you and your spouse should present a unified front.
4. She Has Unresolved Emotional Issues
Your mother-in-law may never have fully worked through her own childhood issues or emotional baggage from past relationships. Her lingering insecurities, bitterness or regrets can indirectly affect her reactions to you.
Try to exercise compassion while still maintaining boundaries around inappropriate behavior. Recommend counseling if she is open to it. You cannot fix deep-rooted problems for her, but avoiding judgment and showing kindness can help.
5. She Feels Threatened by You
Even when a mother-in-law consciously knows her son has to move forward in life, it can still be threatening to witness his devotion and intimacy with another woman. She may subconsciously see you as “stealing him away” or diminishing the importance of his natal family bonds.
Use inclusive language like “our family” and find sincere ways to express your appreciation for her role as his mother. Let her know you value her and are not trying to come between them.
6. She Disapproves of Your Lifestyle
In some cases, friction arises from a basic personality mismatch or different values between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law.
If she was envisioning a more traditional, conservative partner for her son, then your free-spirited nature or unconventional ways may disturb her. Look for common ground and avoid unnecessary provocation when your lifestyles clash.
Establish that you have the right to your own ideas as an independent adult.
7. She’s Jealous of You
Even mature, reasonable women can experience occasional pangs of jealousy toward their daughters-in-law. You likely get more quality time with her beloved son, especially if you live far apart.
When she observes little displays of affection or inside jokes between you two, it can sting as a reminder that he now shares a different type of close bond with you.
Compliment her, share family photos that include her, and foster fellowship so she feels secure.
8. She Has Unrealistically High Expectations
Some mothers-in-law essentially expect their daughters-in-law to be superwomen juggling many roles perfectly.
Whether she envisions you hosting elaborate holiday meals or completing Do-It-Yourself projects wielding power tools, her lofty expectations may exasperate you.
Have an honest discussion about practical limitations and appropriate responsibilities. Pushing back gently against assumptions can prevent later resentment.
9. She Oversteps Boundaries
Good intentions can still cross lines. Your mother-in-law may have difficulty resisting the urge to constantly give unsolicited advice on jobs, finances, home repairs, parenting techniques, and even your marital intimacy.
Tactfully remind her that while you value her perspective, as adults you and your spouse ultimately make the decisions in your own household. Reiterate your boundaries clearly and regularly.
10. She Disapproves of Her Son’s Choice
In unfortunate cases, friction stems from your mother-in-law fundamentally disapproving of her son’s choice of a wife.
If she wanted him to marry someone from the same culture, religion, hometown, or socioeconomic status, then her differences may antagonize her. Kill her with kindness and have faith that your actions and character will eventually speak for themselves.
Your husband should defend you and clarify that he is happy with his choice.
11. She Competes With You for Attention
Some competitive mothers-in-law constantly vie with their daughters-in-law over who is more attractive, intelligent, successful, talented as a cook or decorator, youthful, etc. They may flaunt accomplishments and be deflated if you win a compliment.
As insecure as this behavior seems, have compassion and refrain from engaging in competition. Build up her strengths sincerely and she may gain confidence.
A mother-in-law and daughter-in-law will not always see eye-to-eye. However, many common conflicts stem from both women valuing and wanting the best for the same man.
With care, communication, and compromise, you can usually find healthy ways to co-exist and mutually support your husband/son without competing.
Focus on embracing differences, establishing boundaries, and fostering goodwill. In time, even the most difficult mother-in-law relationsKhips can often grow into loving family bonds.
Dealing With a Competitive Mother-in-Law
Even when you understand where the competitiveness stems from, coping with a mother-in-law who competes with you can be exhausting. Here are some tips for minimizing conflict:
1. Share Your Feelings Diplomatically
Have an honest yet tactful discussion about how her competitive behaviors make you feel, and ask if she’s willing to reflect on the motives behind them.
She may be unaware of how negatively her actions impact you. Offer to listen if she has any grievances to air as well.
Don’t be afraid to say “no” if she oversteps in an area that should be your decision, like parenting choices. Politely remind her you and your spouse make the decisions in your household. Reiterate boundaries clearly and calmly each time she crosses them.
3. Build Her Up
Comfort her insecurities by giving genuine compliments and expressing appreciation for her strengths as a mother, cook, homemaker, career woman etc. Validate her wisdom and life experience.
4. Share Your Husband/Son
Make sure she still feels included in family events and time with her son. Reassure her that she is still profoundly important in his life.
5. Let Minor Things Go
Don’t nitpick or react to every little annoying habit or competitive comment. Choose your battles wisely to keep the peace.
6. Encourage Counseling
If she is open to it, gently recommend counseling to address her deep-rooted issues fueling the constant competition. Offer to attend joint sessions if she’d like.
7. Enlist Your Husband’s Help
Discuss the competitiveness issue with your husband so you present a united front. He should defend you and help establish boundaries with his mother’s behavior.
8. Focus on the Positives
When she is not being competitive, make an effort to enjoy her company and build friendship. Find common interests and shared values. Highlight these areas of connection.
With consistent effort, empathy, and communication, you can usually reach a détente with even highly competitive mothers-in-law. Set boundaries while also reassuring her of her importance in your lives.