'Sick of my moody, competitive mother-in-law and constant criticism of our parenting'

By Coleen Nolan

Dear Coleen, I’m having major problems with my meddling mother-in-law. I’m a man aged 36 and my partner is in her 20s, and we have a two-year-old son.

My mother-in-law has always been very critical of my partner, constantly putting her down and belittling her. Since our son was born she comes over to our place all the time, telling us we’re doing everything wrong.

I wouldn’t mind but, in my opinion, she’s been a terrible mother herself, and favoured her son and nephew over her daughter.

She dotes on our son, and tells me he looks nothing like me and that he has the likeness of my partner’s brother!

I’ve found her behaviour intrusive, especially when she decorates my house and changes furniture without asking me. My partner fails to see why this upsets me (probably because she’s used to it), but it’s causing a strain on my relationship.

What would you tell this reader to do? Share your thoughts in the comment section

I want my son to grow up with manners and respect.

She’s so rude to my parents as well – everything is a competition to her and it grinds my folks down. How can I show my partner that her mother’s behaviour is so toxic, it’s starting to cause us problems?

It’s such a hard situation.

Coleen says

It is a very tricky situation. It’s not easy, but you have to put your foot down. She has no right to decorate or change things in your house, so just be polite, but firm – “Thank you for what you’ve done, but we want to have our home the way we like it”.

Perhaps because her daughter is younger and this is her first child, she’s being extra-interfering because she thinks she knows best.

Some of it you can let ride, but other things you have to speak up about.

There’s no excuse for rudeness, though, and I think it’s up to your partner to explain to her mum how she comes across and that people have noted it. She needs to be aware of how her behaviour affects your relationship and wider family relationships.

You have to be strong with your partner, too – this is your relationship, your house and your child, and it’s important to feel that you have control over your lives and bond as a family.

You don’t have to like your in-laws (it’s certainly not a given) and you don’t even have to see your mother-in-law that often if you don’t want to – your partner can see her mum as much as she likes.

And perhaps if you do withdraw a bit and your parents do the same, maybe she’ll get the message that she needs to change her attitude and that none of you are interested in getting involved in a competition.

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