Are you struggling with the in-laws? Wish you had an easy solution to family disharmony? Is your mother-in-law driving you bananas? Okay, I'll stop that now because it's reading more like an infomercial...
I really hoped I could open this article with a historically accurate yet hilarious anecdote about how and why in-laws, (especially mother-in-laws) have established themselves as the Kim Jong-Un of family members... but I can’t.
I’ve just found lots of angry websites where people can vent anonymously about their awful in-laws stories, so I’ll move on.
The one thing I do know, is that I’m going provide you with some deep breathing exercises and steps to keep calm and hopefully nurture your relationship with your in laws (you mother-in-law, MIL, in particular). Hopefully these tips help you to enjoy the wedding planning process together, so you can go back to trying to figure out how to get your hair to grow faster so that you can achieve that luscious fishtail braid that you spotted on Pinterest.
1. Block it out
OK, this isn’t the most mature piece of advice to kick it all of but bear with me. I’m hoping if you are planning a wedding, you have chosen to marry your partner because you like them (hopefully a lot!). You laugh at the same stuff, your comfortable sitting around un-showered in stretchy pants without wearing a bra, you acknowledge that you lie to each other about how often you floss your teeth… These are all aspects of your relationship that make you the most fabulous couple ever. You get each other.
You aren’t marrying your MIL. This isn’t her wedding and no matter how much she might try to make it about her… ahem, it ain’t. So, take any unwelcome wedding planning comments and let them slide. Block it out!
Your wedding day is about celebrating these oddities and the love and commitment that you shared together. However, a big part of these oddities (and probably where they came from in the first place) is family. Which leads us to our next step...
Uniting two families really is ‘worlds collide’. You're bringing people together that probably wouldn't be friends or know each other in everyday life. Each family has different ways of doing things, different history, different traditions, different belief systems, different sports teams and certainly different expectations of their child's wedding day. So, whenever you are confronted with an odd statement, a muttered ‘That’s not what I’d do", or "In our family we only eat yellow things", take a special moment, deep breath and ask yourself: why they acting this way?
Now, the simple answer could be just that MIL is an A-hole who deep down believes that you are "stealing her son" who "should have married Brittany when he had the chance". But guess what MIL? Brittany already has a husband, so move on already. Move on.
However, if you peel back the layers of advice and bossiness, I’m betting the MIL really just wants to be a part of wedding planning, and doesn't really know how to communicate that sentiment without making you want to take an extra Ambien (or three).
3. Get them involved
Now I'm sure a few of you are reading this thinking "Lady, the problem is that my MIL is already far too involved and I need her to back off! This is terrible advice". But stick with me.
We’re going to use a little bit of reverse psychology, whereby you massage the situation by helping MIL feel like she’s making decisions. But in reality, you are really just allocating her jobs and organizational tasks that will allow her to feel involved (and appreciated) without taking over.
For example, invite you MIL to taste the cake, or if you really like her, share a special moment like the dress fitting with her. If she’s really keen to "be more hands on", get her to fold every one of those goddamned DIY origami, pop up Save the Date cards that you bought on Etsy and thought would be easy (but actually requires a masters degree).
Other thoughts: maybe MIL is a whizz-bang cook and would love to cater your engagement party or host your Bridal Shower for you. Find her talents or areas of expertise and find a way to incorporate it into your wedding process — it's a win-win situation.
4. Communicate and work together
A lot of the time issues happen because people don't realize how they behaving. Sometimes you've just got tell them. I'm not talking about being rude, I’m talking about being assertive.
If your MIL is being overly opinionated and you are struggling to share their view, you can ease into the conversation by using phrases like: "Now, MIL, you really mean a lot to me", or "MIL, your advice/opinion is really valuable" BUT "we’ll have to take some time to think about having our wedding in your garage" or "I really like your second-cousin-once-removed Darleen, but I don’t really know her well enough to be a bridesmaid in our wedding".
If the polite ‘no thanks’ aren’t working then use my favorite assertive phrase: "That’s not going to work for me".
It’s to the point and when said with a smile, confuses MIL long enough for you to run away and poor a chardonnay. Remember, keeping the peace doesn’t have to equate to being a push over. And remember to set your boundaries early; this is your opportunity to get it sorted now because (hopefully) you’ll be hanging around with your MIL for a loooong time.
If your MIL can see that you are a strong person, someone who won’t be bullied or manipulated, who loves their son or daughter and who’s on the same team as them, then that is the best you can do. Get your partner on board and rock the hell out of it.
P.S. - October 23, is Mother-in-Law Day… mark it in your diary folks!
Aleisha McCormack is a comedian, author of the Save The Date Guide to Getting Hitched and Host of the #1 Podcast about all things wedding-y, Save The Date. Two shows per week, bringing wedding experts, advice and trends straight to your ears! Visit her blog, follow her on Twitter, and subscribe and download the bi-weekly podcast for free here.