Why Does My Mother-in-Law Exclude Me?
Your relationship with your mother-in-law can be complicated. While you want to get along, there may be times when you feel excluded or left out by her. This difficult family dynamic can cause hurt feelings on both sides.
Although every situation is unique, there are some common reasons a mother-in-law might exclude her daughter-in-law. Understanding the potential motivations can help you address problems in the relationship.
Table of Contents
11 Reasons Why Your Mother-in-Law Exclude You
1. She Feels Protective of Her Son
One of the most frequent reasons behind a mother-in-law’s exclusion is that she feels protective of her son. For mothers, letting go of their adult children can be challenging. Your mother-in-law may see you as a threat to her relationship with her son.
She likely feels that she knows what is best for him. When you entered the picture, it disrupted the close bond she shares with her child. Rather than embrace you, she excludes you to maintain control.
This protective tendency is often magnified if you are her son’s first serious partner. She may try to exclude you as a way to stay connected to her son. Accepting that his attention is divided can be difficult for her.
2. You Have Different Values or Perspectives
Differences in values or perspectives between you and your mother-in-law can also drive exclusionary behavior. If you have different worldviews, political affiliations, or interests, she may feel you are not a good fit for her family.
Your mother-in-law may worry that your divergent perspectives could negatively impact her son and grandchildren. By excluding you, she creates distance from someone she sees as an outsider or a bad influence.
For instance, if you prioritize your career, she may see you as selfish. If you have different spiritual beliefs, she may feel threatened. Rather than accept your differences, excluding you helps her maintain her value system.
3. She Had a Vision for Her Son’s Life Partner
Most parents have dreams and expectations for their children’s futures. Your mother-in-law likely had a vision for who her son would marry and what their life would look like.
When you came into the picture, you disrupted that vision. Even if you make her son happy, you may represent a path she didn’t anticipate. Exclusion stems from stubbornly clinging to her expectations rather than accepting reality.
For example, she may have imagined her son with someone of the same ethnicity or religion. If you don’t fit the vision she held, she may exclude you rather than adjust her thinking. Your relationship highlights her lack of control.
4. She Feels Insecure About Her Importance
Marriage naturally shifts relationships and priorities. As her son builds a life with you, your mother-in-law may feel her importance is diminished.
Experiencing this insecurity is common for mothers as their children become adults. However, rather than cope with the changes, excluding you helps her deny it.
She may exclude you from family traditions, conversations, or activities. By limiting your participation, she maintains her connection to her son and prioritizes her role. Shutting you out is easier than confidently embracing a new family dynamic.
5. She Disapproves of Your Choices
If your mother-in-law disapproves of your lifestyle, personal choices, or habits, she may exclude you. Criticizing you directly would likely damage her relationship with her son. Shutting you out allows her to silently express her disapproval.
For example, if you have a more modern view of gender roles, she may see you as defying tradition. If you aren’t pursuing a career, she may judge you as lazy. Rather than start conflict, excluding you punishes the behavior she doesn’t condone.
Prejudice can also play a role here. If she disapproves due to immutable differences like race, sexuality, or disability status, the exclusion is a hurtful attempt to isolate you.
6. She Feels Her Boundaries are Being Ignored
Setting healthy boundaries is important in any relationship. If your mother-in-law feels her boundaries are ignored, she may retaliate by excluding you.
For instance, if you announce a pregnancy at a family gathering after she asked you to wait, she likely feels hurt and disrespected. Or if you rearrange her kitchen without permission, she may see it as overstepping.
Reacting by shutting you out provides a sense of control and allows her to reestablish the boundaries you crossed. The exclusion usually continues until she feels the dynamic is reset.
7. She Feels Competition Between You
A sense of competition between you and your mother-in-law can also cause exclusionary behavior. She may feel you are directly competing for her son’s attention and affection.
This competition is rooted in her possessiveness and desire to be the most important woman in her son’s life. When you married him, you unavoidably became the top priority.
Rather than maturely accept your primary role, she tries to exclude you from situations where she could “win.” By shutting you out, she can temporarily be the most favored woman.
8. You Have Offended Her
Sometimes exclusion happens because your mother-in-law feels genuinely offended by something you said or did. Her hurt feelings result in punishing you by leaving you out.
What constitutes offensive behavior will vary between people. But if you know she is traditional, joking about that could strike a nerve. Or if you make a big decision without consulting her, she may feel insulted and disrespected.
In her mind, excluding you helps reestablish the appropriate family hierarchy. Until she feels you have sufficiently made amends, she is unlikely to fully include you again.
9. She Misjudges Your Intentions
Misinterpretations and misjudgments are common sources of family conflict. Your mother-in-law may exclude you because she has misjudged your intentions.
For instance, you may suggest changes to holiday traditions with a helpful spirit, but she interprets it as criticism. Or she may think you exclude her from plans on purpose, while it was truly accidental.
These situations reflect poor communication more than malice. But her assumptions result in feeling justified to retaliate by leaving you out. Improving mutual understanding could help resolve these conflicts.
10. She Feels Criticized
No one enjoys being criticized – and your mother-in-law is no exception. If she feels judged or frequently criticized by you, she is likely to exclude you.
Exclusion serves two purposes when criticism is an issue. First, it allows her to avoid the person levying criticism at her. Second, it punishes you for your judgments of her.
Criticism damages self-esteem. For sensitive people, the only coping mechanism is to shut out the source. Improvements require you both to listen without jumping to critique.
11. You Have a Strained Relationship
In some cases, the core reason is simply not liking each other. You and your mother-in-law may have clashing personalities or unresolved tensions damaging the foundation of your relationship.
Rather than directly address problems, it is easier to exclude the person you dislike. Avoiding them reduces conflict and protects you from their bothersome traits.
Fundamentally overcoming this requires effort from both sides. Exclusion is a passive-aggressive symptom of a strained relationship, not the root cause. Focus should be on communicating openly and repairing bonds.
How to Improve the Dynamic
If any of these issues resonate with your situation, know that you have options for improving things. Here are some tips:
- Reflect from her perspective – Try to have empathy for her feelings and where her actions may be coming from. This will help you respond more compassionately.
- Communicate respectfully – Do not criticize or accuse. Calmly share your honest thoughts and feelings instead. Listen attentively as well.
- Suggest counseling – A neutral third party can help you understand each other and move forward positively. Many people benefit from family therapy.
- Establish boundaries – Decide what behavior you will not tolerate from her or yourself. Determine fair rules for your relationship.
- Find common ground – Rather than focus on differences, look for shared interests, values, or experiences. Build your relationship on positives.
- Patience and grace – Major changes in long-term relationships take time. Allow room for mistakes as you work to improve your bond.
Prioritizing mutual understanding and respect is essential. With care and effort, you can establish a healthy dynamic. But both people need to come to the table motivated to improve the relationship.
Here is a continuation of the article with more details:
Overcoming Specific Causes of Exclusion
While general tips can help, it is also useful to consider targeted strategies for addressing the specific root causes in your situation. Here are some ideas:
If she is overly protective of her son:
- Politely remind her that you both love her son and want the best for him
- Suggest activities the three of you can do together to bond
- Share your appreciation for the positive qualities she instilled in him
- Reassure her she is still important while respecting his autonomy
If you have conflicting values:
- Look for common ground and areas where you align
- Agree to avoid heated debates on triggering topics
- Focus discussions on understanding, not persuading
- Refrain from judgment and criticism
- Clarify how you support core family values
If your choices disappoint her vision:
- Sympathize with her hopes while staying confident in yourself
- Suggest adapting traditions to blend your backgrounds
- Share how your differences complement each other well
- Reinforce your commitment to her son’s happiness
If she feels insecure about her role:
- Frequently express your appreciation for all she contributes
- Proactively ask for her wisdom and experience on family matters
- Find comfortable ways to include her in milestones and celebrations
- Reassure her that she is irreplaceable while you take on a new role
If she judges your lifestyle:
- Listen to her perspective and validate any legitimate concerns
- Explain your well-considered reasons while acknowledging her right to disagree
- Set boundaries if needed but avoid escalating disagreements
- Focus on mutual respect despite differences
If you overstepped a boundary:
- Sincerely apologize for the specific infraction
- Listen to why she felt hurt or offended
- Explain your good intentions while taking responsibility
- Clarify boundaries and agree on changes to prevent future issues
If she feels competitive:
- Compliment her on the unique role she plays in her son’s life
- Make an effort to build your own separate relationship with her
- Include her in ways that emphasize her importance to the whole family
- Share your home and time with her generously to reduce scarcity mindsets
If you offended her:
- Apologize fully by admitting fault and validating her feelings
- Allow her to explain her perspective on the situation
- Avoid justifying yourself; focus on repairing the relationship
- Ask what you can do to make amends and regain her trust
If there are misunderstandings:
- Share your good intentions and apologize for any unintended impacts
- Seek clarification by asking open-ended questions
- Listen carefully rather than jumping to judgments
- Reflect back what you hear from her perspective
- Commit to improved communication going forward
If she feels criticized:
- Ask which behaviors make her feel judged or criticized
- Apologize genuinely while explaining your intention was not to offend
- Tread carefully by thinking through how comments could be interpreted
- Redirect focus to discussing issues without involving character attacks
If you fundamentally clash:
- Have an open and honest dialogue about the state of your relationship
- Explore root causes of dysfunction like jealousy, resentment, or events from the past
- Look for common interests and shared love for your partner
- Commit to mutual respect, if not affection
- Seek counseling if unable to resolve conflicts independently
With purposeful effort and commitment, even complex family dynamics can grow into something more positive. Maintain hope that your patience and understanding will help heal divisions over time.
Here are 10 frequently asked questions and answers related to mothers-in-law and feeling excluded:
10 FAQs About Feeling Excluded by Your Mother-in-Law
1. Why does my mother-in-law exclude me?
There are many possible reasons, such as feeling protective, having different values, or disapproving of your choices. The root cause could also be insecurity, competitiveness, misunderstandings, or fundamental personality clashes.
2. Should I confront her about excluding me?
Avoid confrontation. It’s better to have an open, calm discussion focused on understanding her perspective and sharing yours. Blame and accusations will only cause more tension.
3. What if she denies excluding me when I try to discuss it?
Clarify specific examples of when you felt excluded without judgment. But if she is unwilling to acknowledge your experience, focus the conversation on how you can build a warmer relationship moving forward.
4. How do I deal with the hurt of being left out?
Confide in trusted friends and your spouse for support. Try to have empathy for her motivations. And cultivate your other rewarding relationships. Consider counseling if the hurt dominates your life.
5. Should I exclude her back?
No, retaliating would only perpetuate a cycle of exclusion. Kill her with kindness instead. Making an effort to include her, especially in matters involving her son or grandchildren, can improve the relationship.
6. Will she always dislike and exclude me?
Not necessarily. Many difficult family dynamics see improvement over time. Avoid ultimatums about her “accepting you” though. Focus on building mutual understanding and being the best version of yourself.
7. Should I distance myself from her?
Creating too much distance could worsen the rift between you. Only minimize contact if her actions become toxic or abusive. Otherwise, use patience and compassion even if she maintains some distance herself.
8. How can I be assertive without worsening the situation?
Choose your battles wisely. Redirect conversations about differences back to common interests and mutual goals. And enforce boundaries calmly – don’t demand closeness or control how she behaves.
9. What if her exclusion escalates?
Significant interference in your nuclear family may require reducing contact for a period. But involve your spouse and try counseling before going low or no contact. Ultimatums should be a last resort.
10. How can I foster closeness with her over time?
Focus on building mutual understanding and respect. Look for common ground. Compliment her strengths as a mother and grandmother. Include her in family milestones respectfully. And communicate openly but thoughtfully.
With insight, patience, and compassion, many strained family relationships can gradually heal and grow. Believe that progress is possible.