I have my mother-in-law coming to stay with me for the Christmas holidays and we simply don't get on. No matter what I do, nothing is good enough for her. She constantly criticises the way I do things, particularly when it comes to the kids. How can I improve this relationship - should I even try?
You might as well master the art of communicating and work towards building a more meaningful and adaptable relationship, since you are probably going to be interacting with her for the rest of her life and much of yours. You want to be loved and appreciated for who you are and not for whom she expects you to be. And so does she desire to be loved and appreciated for who she is, as she is. So, whenever you are challenged by her and she tries to project her values onto you and unrealistically expects you to live in her values and not your own and are wanting to change you and not appreciate you for who you are you can ask and answer the following few reflective questions that could set you free to communicate once again.
First: Identify specifically and precisely what you are actually button pushed about. Ask yourself:
“What specifically is she doing that you find challenging, frustrating, irritating or dislikeable?
List each specific action that pushes your button down on the far left side of a piece of paper.
Second: Just to the right of this first list, list your multiple abbreviated answers to the following question:
“Where have you acted in the same or similar manner toward others as she has done towards you?
Yes, that means you must own the trait that you see in her fully within yourself. You may at first assume that, “Oh no, I don’t or never act that way,” but you must breakthrough that façade and keep looking deeper at your life for times when you have done the same or similar action. Keep making a list of all the people you have acted that way to until you can honestly see that you have fully owned that action to the same degree. This will probably humble you a bit and calm some of your own judgment of her. The key is to keep looking until you have owned it 100% within your own life, which could take as many as 30 memorable times when you have done the same or similar action to others. I have yet to find an action that I have not done within my own life in some form. We generally become button pushed by actions from others that remind us of actions we have done that we still judge inside ourselves.
Third: Again to the right of the second list, list your answers to the next and final question:
“How specifically is the action she is displaying serving you, benefiting you, an advantage to you, helping you in any area of your life?”
It is amazing what will happen inside you when you actually answer this question about 30 times, or until you can actually feel gratitude for her very action. It is never just what happens to you that matters. It is how you perceive it and respond to it. If you see only drawbacks to her action without benefits you will withdraw and feel like a victim. If you find enough benefits to the action to where you don’t react and actually feel balanced you will become the master of our destiny and no longer the victim of your history and you will begin to appreciate and love them for who they are and for what they are awakening within you and teaching you.
Anything you see in others that you cannot own within yourself will run your life until you own it. Anything you see only one side of will run your life until you see both sides of it. By balancing out the perception you have about her you will master the skill of not having her run your life and set yourself free to love and appreciate her in turn. When you love others for who they are they tend to turn into the ones you love. No matter what either of you have done you are both worthy of love.
Dr. John Demartini is a human behavior specialist, educator, international best-selling author and the founder of the Demartini Institute.