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Girl Talk: When Mom Dislikes Hubbie

Q  I'm a newlywed, and about to become a mom next month. My mother doesn't hide the fact that she dislikes my husband. She never thought he was "good enough" for me. Worse, she doesn't seem at all excited about becoming a grandma. How do I get her to warm up to my husband...and the baby?
[ANSWER {Oh, it would be so very easy to tell you that your mom is unreasonable and that you should tell her so. Or that you should coach your husband to be extra nice to grandma so she drops the attitude. But while these tactics have their place in the overall solution to your problem, they won't solve it.

Why? Because I don't think you can "get" your mom to warm up to your husband. Indeed, nobody can control any one person's feelings. Otherwise, my husband and kids would always do what I asked, while living in a huge house with an impeccable garden because I would be rich from running workshops selling people "the secret to getting people to do what you want." As it is, I have resigned myself to the confines of reality, which in the end cannot be manipulated.

If you don't believe me, ask your mother.

I'm sure she wanted to get you to pick a different man, but try as she might (and I bet she did try), you made your own decision. And no matter what your husband might say or do now, she will always be annoyed by the fact that she was unable to get you to find someone else.

I'm not taking sides here. I don't know you, your husband, or your mother. I have no idea, for example, if you were a straight-A student bound for Harvard who dropped out to be with a man who now hollers for you to fetch him a beer, or if your mom is an overbearing parent who would reject even a Nobel-prize winning neurosurgeon and Matthew McConaughey twin for her beloved daughter. Either way, it doesn't matter, because you can't change people.

Now that we are working from that base of operation, let's talk about what you can do. You can lessen tensions by examining when they arise. Is there one situation or topic of conversation that seems to trigger her disgust? If so, you can talk to your husband about avoiding this and talk to your mom about why this upsets her so. Meanwhile, you can ask yourself if there is anything that you are doing that might be exacerbating the tension between your mom and your husband. When things turn ugly, do you slink out of the room, walking on eggshells? Do you start yelling at your mom, soon rehashing the same fights you've been having with her since you were 16? Neither tactic helps. The only way is to clear a different path and hope that they choose it. And clearing a path means clearing the air.

Talk to your mom (without your husband at first), and tell her that you want her to be a big, loving part of your baby's life, but that you're concerned that it can't happen if she and your husband aren't getting along. Don't be discouraged if one conversation doesn't seem to make any difference. It may take persistent effort on everyone's part. In the end, there may still be problems, and if there are, you need to protect your baby from becoming a pawn. Keep your eye out for that problem and speak up if you think either party is using your child to get what they want or punish the other.

Finally, take a deep breath and remind yourself again and again that you cannot change your mom or your husband or anyone else you care about, you can only love them, support them, and show them that there is a better way. It's good practice for those times after your own child comes into the whole, becomes your whole life, and then decides to live her own.}]

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