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Caroline Rules

How to Earn Your Mother-in-Law's Respect

Caroline Manzo puts the real in The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and her fans relate to the reality star's no-nonsense attitude, focus on family and, above all, abundant common sense. Check back at Glo every Monday as Caroline helps solve your most pressing dilemmas.

The Dilemma: I'm a newlywed having issues with my mother-in-law: She doesn't respect her son's home (which is now my home), and she always has something to say about how I do things. She shows up at our house whenever she pleases, and tries to stick her nose where it doesn't belong. My husband won't stand up to her—he frankly doesn't see the problem. But it's my woman's intuition that she needs to be stopped before it affects my marriage. How do you suggest I kindly, but firmly, let her know her that I'm now the main woman in her son's life and that I deserve respect? —Joanna

Caroline's Ruling: I wish I had a dollar for every question I get on this subject. You're not alone, Joanna!

I can understand your frustration, but I don't want you to allow it to get the best of you. I'm not suggesting that your mother-in-law's behavior is acceptable, but let me play devil's advocate for a moment: She may be having a hard time "relinquishing" her position in her son's life and is taking it out on you. That's where her comments come in…this is the way I do it, this is what he likes, etc.

You didn't say exactly how long you've been married, but I'm assuming it's only been a short while. Give your mother-in-law a little time to adjust before you go to battle.

Also, know that it will take time for you to plant your roots and stake your claim. I don't mean this in a negative way, but you're going to have to act the part and be the woman of the house in every sense of the word. When your mother-in-law drops in unexpectedly, welcome her, offer her something to eat or drink and tell her that you're happy she stopped by. You'll lay the foundation for hopefully getting the respect you desire. ...Read More

Your other option is to be distant and resentful, but what will that do for you? If you behave in a negative manner, then it will only widen the gap and cause more problems. Instead, when your mother-in-law tells you you're doing something wrong, thank her for her suggestion and simply say you may try her way as an alternative. Throw her a little bone here and there, and trust me, the tables will start to turn, slowly but surely.

Of course, if your mother-in-law becomes more aggressive in her meddling, then don't let things fester. Talk to your husband without putting him in the middle. Tell him how you're feeling and let him know that you'll be reaching out to his mother to resolve the problem. Be positive rather than combative. Your husband will hopefully respect your intentions and help the cause.

The bottom line is this: You're in it for the long haul. Whether your mother-in-law accepts it or not, you are the woman of the house. Be that woman by acting with confidence, grace and compassion. Positive action attracts positive results. Good luck!

  • From marriage dilemmas to family issues, Caroline's got the answers!

    Photo by Michael T. Greco
Caroline Rules
How to Earn Your Mother-in-Law's Respect
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