How do I deal with a difficult mother-in-law?
The best answer to that is, ואהבת לרעך כמוך – Make sure to love your fellowman like you love yourself. And you can be sure that if your mother-in-law is difficult right now, part of it is due to difficulties in you. And you love yourself anyhow.
At all times, make your mother-in-law feel that you like her. Because that’s what you’re going to want your daughter-in-law do to you. מה דעלך סני לחברך לא תעביד – that which you don’t want done to yourself, don’t do to others.
And remember that someday, you too will be a mother-in-law, and your daughter-in-law will ask the same question about you. And therefore, get busy now and utilize your mother-in-law. Being a daughter-in-law is a training school for you because you will learn how to be a mother-in-law. If you pay attention, you can prepare yourself by learning about what not to do to your daughter-in-law.
Now, it’s also important to never discuss your mother-in-law with her son. Don’t talk to your husband about his mother.
In general, a mother-in-law must be treated with great diplomacy. You must treat everybody diplomatically, but your husband’s mother deserves a good deal of thought. Whenever she gives you advice without being asked, don’t resent it. Now, I’m not saying you should encourage it; don’t go and ask her even if it’s just for politeness sake, unless there’s no risk of her going too far. But if she does tell you something, act like you accept it, and when she hangs up the phone or when she leaves the house, forget all about it.
In case she resents the fact that you don’t consult her, make it a plan to frequently send her small gifts. Always remember her anniversary and you should do it on other occasions too.
And sometimes you can ask her advice about things that are not important – how to make a certain dish or how to soak a certain object. But don’t get her too much involved in your affairs.
TAPE # 40 (November 1974)