Anticipating mother-in-law visit and some of the negative comments that entails

Let me start by writing that, as mothers-in-law go, mine is pretty good. She and I have always gotten along well. One thing I greatly appreciated about her especially when ds was going up were her boundaries about our parenting. In my mind, she has historically been a positive and upbeat person.

However, since fil died two and a half years ago or so, she has become increasingly negative and her boundaries aren’t as good as they used to be. Maybe she was always that way, but any criticism/negativity expressed by her paled in comparison to his. At any rate, at 82, her filter is not what it used to be. She also sort of gets unreasonably irate and defensive. Very harsh and “bite-your head off,” and one never knows what will cause that reaction. At least I don’t. Thankfully, those outbursts are very short in duration. She drinks a lot of wine, and this only seems to curtail her filter even more. She is quick to point out flaws in anything, is highly fixated on the outward appearances (beauty or lack thereof) of people, and kinda expects to be waited on. She will be staying with us a week.

Her last visit was the Thanksgiving before Covid, and it was not a great one because my dh was having terrible back issues at the time. I couldn’t give her the attention I would liked to and felt as though my hostessing was subpar for my standards. In hindsight, she should have canceled, but I guess given Covid, it was good she didn’t. My dh was having a lot of pain, and we were dealing with medical appointments, fitting back braces, etc. BTW, he’s fine now. So, I do want this visit to be “nicer” for her.

I am glad she is coming. Truly. But, I am turning to the collective brain trust of this group to help me come up with responses that are still respectful to her but also let her know when she is not being respectful to me. Does that make sense? I know some snark is coming. I know some criticism is coming. I know some snappiness is coming. I don’t feel the need to respond to every individual negative comment, but I want some succinct go-to replies in my head, so I don’t overreact and become snappy with her. Just sort of things that might diffuse her a bit. I can let a lot roll off my back, but if I stuff my feelings too long, I will snark back, and I am trying to avoid that. I hope I am making sense. I’m not looking for zingy come-backs or anything. I want to be “nice,” but not be a total doormat.


You might be able to use covid as an excuse. “well, we do really like to shop at xyz store as they have the better veggies, but since covid we haven’t been able to do that.” If she criticizes a friend, say maybe she couldn’t have her hair done because of covid.

My mother has changed a lot because of medical issues and I try to let it go, do things her way, but sometime I do just snap. The other day she was digging in a cabinet looking for the pill cutter, and what did I do with it, where did I put it. I said I’d handed it to her the week before. No, she was sure I didn’t and what would she have needed it for? Well, I went over to where she was standing when I handed it to her and it was in a bowl under the cabinet. Oh, she says, she didn’t remember. These are the things that drive me crazy. Really crazy.

So I walk the dog.


Can’t offer any help as you sound like you are describing my mil! :crazy_face: Maybe it’s a part of the aging process for some.

I guess I would monitor her consumption of alcohol as that’s something that can definitely get out of control.

My sil decided things were going so poorly for her, that she pretty much stopped talking to my mil for the last 2 years. I won’t do that because I’m not that person. But it’s tempting to let my husband deal with her. But that doesn’t work well either.


Yes. Dh has come out of retirement since her last visit. He will take some time off, and she will be here over a weekend, but I likely will have three or four days where it is just the two of us during the day.

You could use the famous non-apology apology: “I’m sorry you feel that way.” That makes it her problem, not your fault.

It’s been so long since in-laws visited (they were each ill for a long time before they passed) but I do remember MIL didn’t criticize; just did things that made you know she thought you were lacking. Like ask where I kept cleaning supplies for something that I had already cleaned. (She used to take husband’s clean underwear out the drawer when we visited and rewash it.)

I once was able to use the Henny Youngman joke: “Just got back from a pleasure trip. Took my mother-in-law to the airport.” Because I had and it was.


I have thought of that line. It is a good one.

Okay, my mil is not that bad. Re-washing your dh’s underwear - that’s crazy!

I have a friend who says, “You’re never useless if you can serve as a bad example.” I try to take that to heart in all types of relationships and how I would like to be treated. If and when I am ever a mil, I want to be a good one.


I used this (borrowed from my Daddy and his Texas siblings): “God Bless you”
Reminded me to watch my mouth, and, also I saw that it made MIL “think” for a change.

MIL: “He’s gaining too much weight because of all that Mexican food you feed him”.
Me: “God bless you! Thanks for noticing that I was trying to get him to eat.”

MIL: “He could have done better” (Yes, she actually said this out of earshot of my husband!)
Me: “ God bless you! Thank you for accepting me!”
As she got older, she became increasingly more vicious.

I get what you’re going to have for a week.
These were good lessons for me and what NOT to do when my kids get to the point of having relationships with their future partners.
I pray every night for their partners.


There’s no way I could get that, “God bless you!” out without its sounding snarky. Lol.

I’m so sorry she said that about you. I have heard my in-laws say similar things about my bil (dh’s sister’s husband), so there is likely the same sentiment about me as well. At least to some extent. My “flaws” would be different than bil’s, but I am sure they have pinpointed them - lol. And, to be fair, of COURSE I have flaws - we all do.

My mil did flip me off once in front of a large group of people in her home. This was after we were newly married. Yes, she had had a lot of wine.

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I like the “I’m sorry you feel that way” response.

I also think alcohol makes things much worse for most people, but for sure the elderly who are already losing their filters.

My dad was like that and I had an early exit strategy. “So sorry but I haven’t been sleeping well at all and I need to get to bed early” saved me from many bad situations. And I’m talking about excusing myself before 7 or 8 pm.

I also found that keeping us busy helped. My dad wasn’t very mobile but we’d go for drives, out to lunch (hopefully you have safe some outdoor options), played cards, binge watched a program, etc… When he was younger we could give him a project (he loved to cook so a complicated meal was right up his alley and he’d start prepping mid day).

Hopefully you can find something that works to keep you sane. A week is a long time.

PS. A code word with your husband when you’ve reached your limit could be useful.


One example I am anticipating and trying to think through are comments about the decor of our place. We have moved to a different condo since she last visited. The decor is more contemporary with a bit of a MCM flair. I know she is going to say some things are “weird.” I guess I should let that go. I don’t really have to defend what we chose to buy. As an example, the bathrooms have tile all the way up the walls. Rather than traditional towel bars, we have towel ladders that can be moved around. I love that aspect, especially in our second bathroom because if we don’t have guests, we don’t have to have either empty towel bars or unnecessary towels - the ladder stays in a closet. But, I know she’s going to say it’s “weird.” That’s a word she likes. Ha ha!

I really need to get to a point where I don’t feel the need to respond every time she says something negative.

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I would just smile and say "thank you, we were going for unique (or whatever word you want to use). (FWIW, I love those towel ladders! Feels very spa like to me :))


My mother used to say to me: “Remember that you married HER son, so there’s got to be something redeeming about her”.


Maybe something totally innocuous like “That’s an interesting perspective” or “How interesting” after “weird” comments. Or “Isn’t it nice how changes can freshen a home and keep it from being
boring.” That undercurrent implies if she doesn’t like it, she’s stale and boring :wink:.


I read good advice that worked for me with my rude MIL (God rest her soul). When someone insults you, you repeat back their words to them in the form of a question. For example: MIL: “Those towel ladders are weird.” You would reply, “Those towel ladders are weird?”. And then just wait. It worked well with my MIL who used to make fun of the clothes I dressed our newborn daughter in. (Also, what newborn clothing is ugly?! None! She was just mean!)

Best of luck!


Hard situation. You have my sympathy. I’m assuming that you love your husband, and are doing this out of love for him. So try to look at it this way - you can put up with her for a week, because you love your husband.

Snappy comebacks aren’t going to stop her. Limiting her alcohol consumption may help some, so I would highly recommend that you store it all somewhere (like a neighbor’s), and have to, by yourself, “go out to the store” to get more for her, one small bottle at a time - this will give you an excellent excuse to get a break from her, on a frequent basis, and limit her drinking, too. In fact, many trips to the store, for everything else you need in the house, will help you to limit the contact. And taking yourself out for a walk, any excuse you can use to get some time away from her. And of course there are errands, too, that you’d have to run, one by one.

Clearly, this is already upsetting you, and who could blame you. Maybe the next visit, your husband could go to visit her, briefly? Or the two of you could go to her, but stay in a hotel, so that the visit consists of taking her out for a few meals?

And remember, you have SO much to be grateful for! She doesn’t live near you. Covid gave you an 18 month break from her.

I am assuming that you are all immunized already, and two weeks at least out from your last doses, because aside from all this, it just would not be safe for her to come visit you, if this were not the case.

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Oh man, as soon as I saw this post I was relieved to know I’m not alone, as my MIL will be coming for her first visit in over a year in May. Not having to stress about her visits this last year has been so good for me.

She is good person. She loves her grandkids and is great with them, but her and I don’t mesh well. She has a way about her that is off-putting for me. She’s not very in touch with her emotional side and she can just say downright weird awkward things that really get me fired up.

What I have now decided is when she visits, my husband has to take time off work to be with her. He is after all her son. She’s not really coming to see me. She wants her son and grandkids. I should not have to be the one looking after her. I’m pretty sure she feels the same about me.

I get the same comments about our house and decor or anything else really…mine uses the word weird too. I usually try to just shrug my shoulders and change the topic. I hate confrontation, especially with her. I’m in grin and bear it mode when she stays with us. I conveniently go to bed earlier than normal when she is here :slight_smile:

I agree with others on perhaps trying to stay as busy as possible and also “I’m sorry you feel that way.” I’m definitely going to try that one for the next visit.


When I had a difficult relative stay with me, I coped by turning it into a game. I kept track of every time I bit my tongue instead of replying, and when I got to 10 I allowed myself to buy myself a present. Last time it was a coffee mug that cost $50.

I pass along my reply when asked a question I don’t want to answer: “What an interesting question!”. And then say nothing else.


This is genius! I normally just text my best friends every 5 minute when my MIL is with us because I need to vent 24/7…your coping strategy might work a lot better for me.

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I had a horrible mother in law! And I have 3 sons. I am SO DETERMINED to be the Best Mother In Law In The World!!

I think all it takes is an attitude of “I think you are great!” towards the daughter in law. Also, I think it’s important to start as you mean to go on, so I’m that way with my sons’ girlfriends. (Who are in fact great :slight_smile: )


Oh, and PS, the lessening/lack of a filter can be a sign of dementia fyi as can some of the other things you mentioned. So some of this may be beyond your mother in law’s control.