1. “You’re welcome to come over any time. We’re always here for you.”
An open-door policy is bound to backfire. For instance, Judy’s* daughter-in-law told her she’d be there for her if she needed anything. “But when my husband developed Alzheimer’s she went AWOL,” leaving Judy hurt and confused. “Making promises you don’t intend to keep leads to resentment,” says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage. Instead, set up times to see each other that work for you both. If you’re asked to make plans on the spot, say you need to check your calendar or talk with your husband before committing.
2. “I didn’t ask for your opinion.”
“When I advised my daughter-in-law about balancing career and family, she became incensed,” says Kathleen.* While unsolicited advice may feel like your mother-in-law’s condemning your way, “assume her intentions are good, say ‘thank you’ and do your own thing,” says Dr. Tessina. If she continues to push her opinions, deflect them by citing an authority. Try: “Thank you, but we’ve decided to take our pediatrician’s advice,” suggests Dr. Tessina. If that doesn’t keep her quiet, recruit your husband and explain together that her behavior bothers you both and certain topics aren’t up for discussion.