How can I deal with my sharp-tongued mother-in-law?

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 50s with a part-time job. I married my similarly aged husband 20 years ago and we live together with his mother, who is now in her 80s. She has a sharp tongue and I just don’t like her. I can never forget the cruel words she has said to me in the past, such as, “Your children aren’t well-behaved,” and “Get out of my house!”

Whenever I talk to my husband about it, he gets grumpy and defends her. He says her late husband was violent toward her and he doesn’t want to say anything harsh to her because he knows about the hardships she experienced in the past.

Our house was renovated five years ago, giving my mother-in-law her own separate living room and kitchen. I try to avoid any contact with her, but when we do cross paths, she’s usually very sarcastic.

Occasionally she’s nice to me, but she says hurtful things, too. Sometimes, my husband will check her story, but she lies, saying such things like, “I didn’t do it” or “I don’t know.”

I don’t know how to deal with her in the future.

D, Fukushima Prefecture

Dear Ms. D:

People generally don’t want to have contact with someone who speaks ill of them, but you can’t do that with your mother-in-law.

Reading her comments you consider unforgivable, it seems she is not so much mean as rather someone who simply says what she thinks. She seems to be the type of person who doesn’t care if others get hurt.

She appears to be kind at times and has struggled to deal with her husband’s abuse. Following the renovation you mentioned, you said you are now in an environment where you can avoid seeing each other. For your peace of mind, how about letting bygones be bygones and try starting your relationship over?

As you’ve been married to your husband for 20 years, I think it’s time for you to get the courage to change your relationship with your mother-in-law so that you can speak more directly with her.

We can only build close relationships with relatives by being honest, without holding back.

Once you become able to argue with your mother-in-law, you’ll stop caring about what she says, even if it’s something blunt.

I think learning to face sarcasm with tolerance and discovering the good in others, rather than concluding you don’t like them, are skills worth attaining in life.

Megumi Hisada, writer