Dealing With Difficult In-laws

Question: My father in law and I differ. I have on numerous occasions held my tongue and not said anything when he rants about the way I say things, where I am going, why I exist, and everything else that I can even breathe. He never says anything positive and is always filling in my words and others too. I think he thinks women are small and insignificant. I also feel he does not and has never liked me. I am mainly concerned when he mouths me that my children will notice and learn that from him. I don't think confronting him would do a thing, because he is overbearing and will hear only what he wants. I love my husband, but not being able to be around his father. I would enjoy getting to know him, but right now I am scared to say anything, because he is so overbearing and manipulative I don't think I could say what I mean. Also, for example: how to handle him when he starts making statements about me being crazy and worrying and stuff. Please reply something.

Guidance: It sounds like your father in law has a problem within himself, and with communicating with others, and expressing himself in a good way. This makes him come off as a mean old ogre. This is a fault that some people have, and the funny thing is, they don't even realize it when they are being rude and disrespectful. It's like the dad on Everybody Loves Raymond; he is very disrespectful and speaks down to his wife and sons all the time. It is funny because we know it is just a comedy and they are acting, but there are folks like that in real life! And unfortunately, there is not much you can do about it. They have to be able to SEE their own behavior before they will change.

Since we know that your father in-law cannot change by you telling him he is disrespectful, or difficult to get along with, then what you have to do is tell him in other ways through what you do (your reaction) when he talks down to you. If your in-laws talk down to you, or treat you with contempt, I would simply not talk to them. Then they will ask you why you’re not talking to them, and this gives you the opportunity to tell them that you have decided for your own well-being, and your children, that you will not communicate with anyone who disrespects and or trespasses against your spirit. Then, smile and walk away.

You see, right now, you have unknowingly made a pattern with your father in-law. He knows how you’re going to react before he even says anything to you. And by allowing your father in law to talk to you in a negative way he will continue to do so. He is taking advantage of your kindness by making himself feel better in the way he is treating you.

Since you did not give me any particulars, I can only guess at how he is behaving towards you. You have to learn how to detach from his emotional overbearing abuse and let it roll off you. Otherwise if you don't and you continue to allow his rudeness to bother you, it will disrupt your own personal spiritual growth and well being, and that is not right.

Telling someone you will not talk with them until they can talk to you in a respectful manner is being assertive, not mean or unloving. We absolutely have to be assertive with people who want to walk all over us, especially family members that may come over and visit periodically. Don’t be afraid of stepping on toes. On the contrary when we are assertive with people, they actually respect us more for it.

Below are some examples of how we may be more assertive with others through our communication with them. At first it may seem difficult to behave with such detachment, but once you do it, you will feel so much better, and it won't give people a negative toe into your spirit.

Father in law says: "You do not know anything about marriage, do you? If you did then maybe you and Tom wouldn’t be fighting all the time."

You say: Say nothing to this rude comment. Get up and leave the room or leave the house if you’re at his house.

Mother in law says: "Why do you always cook those foods for your family? You need to cook this and this for them?"

You say: "Thank you." Smile. "I will look into that."

Mother in-law says: “The turkey will taste better and not be dry if you cook it like this."

You say: "I appreciate that and we would love to come over to your house for thanksgiving next year and taste turkey the way you cook it."

Mother in law: "You shouldn’t clean the house only once a week. You really need to do it this way?"

You say: "Thanks for that" smile. "I will look into that."

Mother in-law says: "What is wrong with you, why did you walk away from me when I asked you a question?"

You say: "Oh that?" smile. "I have decided that I will not take verbal abuse or disrespect from anyone, including you. But if you would like to talk to me in a nice manner, I would be happy to sit down with you and discuss the issue with you." Smile.

Mother in-law says: "Jane, you aren’t a very bright girl. I don't know why my son married you with so many other fish in the sea."

You say: Say absolutely nothing to this comment. She does not deserve a reply from you. Get up and walk away.

Father in-law says: Jane, you do not know how to talk to people. Why don't you learn how to talk right”?

You say: Nothing. Get up and walk away. Leave his home.

It is not a good idea to let your children hear their grandfather speak to you in condescending ways, you're right. So… if and when he is disrespecting you, or speaking down to you, simply do not have any part of it. Don't give in to the temptation to fuss and argue with contemptible in-laws.

You are a good person, and certainly do not have to allow someone tell you who or what you are. He is basically molding you for his own angry purpose and it is wrong. He is defining you under his own microscope and that is wrong, but the problem is he doesn't care and you cannot change him. So...in the mean time, try to do what I said above. Detach from his abuse.

Right now I can see that he is hurting your ego and self worth as a person and no one needs that. I suggest that you talk with your husband and unite on how you BOTH will handle this issue. Make sure that you will get your husband’s support in this. He needs to agree to detach from his dad when he is belittling and disrespecting his wife. This is VERY important. Only then through the both of you, will your father in-law maybe, see how he is treating his daughter in-law.

As hard as it may be, I encourage you to try to forgive your father in-law for being that way with you. It could very well be that your father in-law is hurting inside and having other emotional and or physical problems that are bothering him. And also it could be that he does not only treat you with disrespect but everyone who is around him. Pray for him and ask God to give you the peace of mind to detach with love whenever you need to.

In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing the incorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed having no evil thing to say of you. ( Titus 2:7,8 KJV)

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Copyright by Angie Lewis.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Angie is a noted author of

How Do I Detach From an Alcoholic Spouse?

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