Ask Alex: Stressed by my Mother-In-Law

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Hey Alex,

I’m stressed and trying to cope with my mother-in-law coming to live with me and my wife. It’s been rough because she wants to be a good daughter, but her mother is very needy and stressful. She constantly tells us what we’re doing wrong, but is physically unable to really help or contribute. How do I tell my wife that her mother is straining and hurting our relationship without causing more damage myself?




Hey Stressed,

Do you remember the vows of your wedding, for better or for worse? Well, welcome to worse, and I can assure you that throughout your marriage there will be many other ‘worses’, and they will quite possibly be worse than your current situation.

With that being said, you need to take some responsibility over these circumstances. Your mother-in-law might be adding stress, but she is not straining or hurting your relationship. How you internalize and react to the situation is what can cause the damage.

Your wife obviously feels love or obligation towards her mom or your mother-in-law would not be staying with you during a time of need. I am also assuming from your words that the mother-in-law is facing an issue that leaves her physically unable to live on her own. We can only hope that someone will be there to care for us when we inevitably face the time that we can no longer care for ourselves.

Your wife is probably already well aware of the stress that you are feeling, but you need to look at this from her point of view. She loves you both and she not only wants to be a “good daughter” but also a good wife. Don’t put her in a situation where she feels torn between you and her mother.

Approach your wife with solutions, not with the problem. You could possibly say, “Hey. I can tell this situation is adding some stress on the both of us. Why don’t we make plans to get out of the house once a week, just the two of us?”

She will appreciate that you aren’t just thinking of yourself, but thinking of the two of you as a team.


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