How to Respond to a Rude Mother in Law

Marriage isn't just about the joining together of two people; it also involves the intermingling of two families. Trying to deal with an annoying mother-in-law is a classic struggle often depicted in books, television programs and films because so many people can relate to it 1. And if a mother-in-law is obviously and unabashedly rude, it can make for a particularly difficult situation. Instead of waging an exhausting and potentially losing battle, there are certain strategies you can use to handle your rude mother-in-law.

Sit down with your spouse prior to speaking to a rude or disrespectful mother-in-law 1. According to psychologist Dr. Joseph M. Carver, it's integral for both spouses to be on the same page and work as team to resolve the situation. Inform your spouse that you cannot tolerate his mother's rude behavior any longer, and determine a strategy of how to speak to her during a subsequent visit.

Schedule a meeting with your mother-in-law that is free of any outside distractions, including grandchildren. Explain to her that her behavior is rude and is affecting your marriage, the children and your relationship with her. For example, tell her that when she makes a specific comment about your children or the state of your home, you find this offensive and hurtful. Site specific examples and remember to remain calm and non-confrontational.

Allow your mother-in-law to respond to your statements 1. Ideally, she will apologize because she hadn't realized that her words were affecting you so profoundly. However, be prepared that she might respond negatively. If this occurs, try to remain calm, even if your mother-in-law's language or behavior escalates.

Walk away from the meeting if it turns from a rational discussion between adults to a fight. Allow your mother-in-law space and time to cool off. After two or three days, contact her to discuss the conversation. Explain to her again how her rude comments affect you and your relationship with her.

Remind your mother-in-law politely of her behavior, if she suffers a lapse. Instead of being confrontational or rude yourself, take your mother-in-law aside and remind her that the comments, no matter how seemingly benign, are making you upset.


If your mother-in-law continues her rude behavior, Dr. Carver recommends minimizing contact. Schedule dates that allow her to interact with her grandchildren, but try to keep your distance emotionally if she refuses to treat you with respect.