Got a question from someone who asked me how to deal with difficult in-laws. She said they are nice to her in front of her husband but when they are alone with her they try to pick fights and then tell her husband that she said things she didn’t say.
If I ever write a second My Mother’s Rules this would be the first rule in it The First Fight is Always with Yourself.
You can’t change other people – only your response to them. So you have to ask yourself: What are these people trying to do? Start an argument? Cause friction between you and your hubby? Figure out what it is and concentrate on putting up a road block between the outcome they seek and the behavior they engage in (since you can’t change their behavior outright). You can adjust it though but only by adjusting yourself.
Here’s what I’d do:
1. Always agree with anything negative they say about me if I can:
Them: “That’s a terrible dress you have on.”
Me: “Really? Fashion is not my thing. Thanks for the heads up.”
Them: “You shouldn’t let your kids to X It will . . . ”
Me: “No kiddin’? I never thought about it that way. Let me talk it over with hubby.”
Them: “You are always …” or “you never. . . ”
Me: Is that right? You know it’s never my intention to hurt your feelings. If I did My Bad.”
Them: “You should stop . . . ”
Me: “You know I’ve thought about that but I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the best thing for me right now so I’m going to stick with it. I appreciate your input, though. Who knows I may come around to your way of thinking one day. God’s not finished with any of us yet.”
Get the idea? If people can’t get a rise out of you they stop. Takes time but they’ll figure it out.
You don’t have to change but you don’t have to defend yourself and you most certainly don’t have to fight with them. But in order to pull this off you do have to fight with yourself. You must fight the urge to respond in kind. You have to fight the urge to get angry or let them bother you. You smile. You tell yourself it doesn’t matter and eventually it won’t. You get good enough at it you will even get amused. My mother said this not too long ago and I think it’s brilliant. When asked of someone’s insult hurt her feeling she said:
“I wear my knowledge of other people like a suit of armor. They cannot hurt me with words”
With respect to starting mess with the hubby how I would handle that is very much a function of who my hubby is. Some different approaches.
1. Anticipate the trouble without starting trouble: For instance when they are about to come over say IN AN AMUSED FASHION: ‘You know I love your family but they’re working me. I promise not to say anything negative today and if I fail I’ll let you know what I said. Full honesty. Trying to get along with them.”
That way if they tell I lie on you he will be more likely to see it as such. And you have to be truthful. if they pulled you into something let him now immediately: “Babe I tried but I did say . . . ‘ This one takes a little time to work.
2. Don’t complain about them to him but ask for his help. “You know I am really trying to get along with your family. Your mom often says X or Y: what do I do to get her to like me/cut it out?” Now listen I’m not saying you have to do what they say but let him know you are trying and are willing to make small meaning adjustments for the sake of harmony. That makes you a bigger person.
3. And don’t forget the Anit-insult edict in my book. It takes you through – in detail – how to deal with people who are negative.
Stay cool. Stay above it. Stay amused. Get your head right before they come. Globalize your Pain Quotient. (You are, after all, not a mother of three starving children in the drought ravaged Sudan) Tolerate the little people well. Can’t let them run your day.
That’s my ten cents worth on that.
On a personal note:
1. Got stood up fro a 6:00 am tennis date. That made me a little warm. Not one of the three other women showed. I am going to assume I got it wrong right now. That’s the best way to take my mood back. I’ll email and find out. Till then, I’m good.
2. “This is not a restaurant!” said that to 14 three times yesterday. He’s always hungary but never willing to eat what I have. I have my own culinary failures so well in sight I have become too accommodating with the meal choice thing. New day. New program. If it’s edible. Eat it. If you just don’t like it. Fix yourself something else. Too lazy? Stay hungry.
3. Jullian I was a little worried when she was throwing up s’mores in camp but by the time I got to the therapist R I was laughing so loud my husband said “what the hell are you reading?” Good recommendation.