Q: Hey, Chris. I am sure you get mother-in-law questions here and there. My wife and I have been married ten happy years. We are both in our 40’s and lead a productive and quality lifestyle. The only glitch is my wife insists every Christmas we spend with her folks. Since my parents passed away 15-years-ago in a car accident, it’s not like we have somewhere else to go (other than assorted family members on my side.) I realize after losing my own mom and dad how important it is for my wife to have this special time with them. So what’s the problem? Her mother is hypercritical about everyone and everything – to the point I want to leave within minutes after arriving. How do I cope with her this holiday?

~ Steven in Philadelphia

Hi, Steven:

First of all, I have to say you are a GOOD man and I truly hope your wife appreciates you. Losing your own parents 15-years ago, while still young yourself, also had to be devastating.

The fact you and your wife are so happy together is half the battle already – maybe even the full battle. In other words, just telling me you’ve been married “ten happy years” and lead a productive and quality life is something every couple should aim to claim.

You have successfully tolerated your hypercritical mother-in-law for the ten years you’ve been married. That tells me you can do it again this Christmas, and the holidays after. In fact, I know you can!

Your compassion also shined through when stating the importance your wife spend Christmas with her parents – while yes, they are still alive.

You never have to stoop to your mother-in-law’s level – as I can only assume you’ve sucked it up all this time. Just continue and show her respect while in her presence. Since you didn’t share an example of her less than worthy moments, just be the tolerant and kind son-in-law with statements as simple as, “Hey, ‘Mom,’ lets move on to something we can all agree on” – OR – “I know you didn’t mean that, but in the spirit of the season, I forgive you” (with a smile on your face.)

Now if you wrote me and said you and your wife are miserable due to her hypercritical mom – my response would be different. But you and your wife are happy and productive members of society.

You’re both doing something right. And your wife and mother-in-law are blessed indeed.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas – with special memories of your own parents in your heart always.



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