Let’s say you have a mother-in-law who makes a habit of criticizing you to your spouse or in front of others.
But let’s up the ante and say that your spouse does nothing to stop her.
He doesn’t confront his mother. He doesn’t interrupt her. He doesn’t suggest a sidebar with her to respectfully address and confront her offensive behavior. He just lets it continue and basically puts his stamp of approval on the whole disrespectful game that his mother is playing.
So, if this is you, how should you deal with this issue?
Though you might be tempted to “give your mate a taste of his own medicine” by calling him out in front of his mother or others, you should avoid this “tit-for-tat” game. In fact, to do so is like the “pot-calling-the-kettle-black.” And even though, it might feel good in the moment, it won’t work. It will only backfire on you and in a humiliating way for all to see.
So, guess who’ll end up looking like the “bad guy”? It sure won’t be your mate!
4 Steps for Addressing the Issue . . .
1. Surrender your anger or fear to God.
Trust him to “convict” your spouse or MIL. It’s not your job to convince your spouse of his guilt. Your job is simply to communicate your boundary to your mate, then leave the ball in his court.
2. Seek the perspective and support of a counselor, pastor or objective friend.
3. Plan out “The Talk” with the help of your objective counsel.
Write out what you want to say and practice it (perhaps with a godly and same-sex friend) until you feel ready to have “The Talk” with your hubby.
4. Bite the bullet and have . . . “The Talk”
You’ll want to begin by acknowledging your part in the situation, even if your only contribution was to withdraw or harbor resentment. Doing this helps you gain empathy from your mate and extends the much needed “olive branch” that enables him to drop his defenses and really listen to what you have to say.
Express your boundary with this formula:
I feel (describe your feelings) when you (describe your spouse’s hurtful behavior and not what you think is his motive) and would like for you to (describe desired change). Is that possible?
If you find that you’re not able to amicably discuss the issue using this formula, then you might want to seek the help of a recommended, Christian counselor or pastor to guide you as a couple through this process.
Final thoughts: In this particular situation, I believe the wife shouldn’t initiate this conversation with the MIL. First of all, the MIL is basically acting as “intruder” on this marriage relationship, so the husband and wife should work through this problem together and without the MIL’s input or involvement.
Once you and your husband are unified on the boundary you need to set with your MIL and your husband feels ready to approach her, he should be the one to address this issue and set the boundary with her. It would be best if you went with him to address this, but he’s the representative and advocate for the both of you to his mother. In the same way, you are the representative and advocate to your own parents on your husband’s behalf.
Above all, you must present a united front whenever the boundary setting conversation takes place. If your husband goes rogue on you, do NOT address this in front of your MIL. Simply remain gracious and start these steps over again with your mate until he is able to communicate well the desired boundary.
What would you add to the steps I’ve suggested?
What are some ways that I can pray for you in this effort?
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