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Episode 3 - Your Mother-In-Law






If you've struggled with your relationship with your mother-in-law (or ANY family member... or really any other human), this episode is for you.

I'll be talking about what makes these in-law relationships uniquely challenging, what we do to make it so much worse, and some of my own experiences using self-coaching to improve my relationships with family members.


Hey you guys. I have been so excited to see the reviews and the ratings and the subscribes coming in on the podcast. You are hearing this episode much later than I'm recording it. So we're still in early days over here and I don't even know where the podcast is by the time you're listening to this, but we got a couple, we put out the trailer and a bunch of people subscribed right away and it was just super exciting and thank you so much to all of you who did that.

Now I wanted to just read one review because it has a lot to do with what we're going to be talking about today. So Ms. Clariss wrote "love following first year married on Instagram and excited to follow the new podcast. I'm ready to be challenged and inspired."

So this one's for you, my darling. Thank you so much for that because today I am going to be pushing you. We're talking about your mother in law and this can be about any in law relationship honestly. It could be about your boss, it can be about your children when you have them. It's really about any relationship, but we're going to start with mother in law because that's the one that comes up a lot.

So I just wanted to say this is based on the coaching and training that I did with Brooke Castillo at The Life School and also the coaching that I did with Rea Nibin. Some of this material we're going to talk about today might be very new for some of you and some of you who have coached with me or taken my program, this is very important review. And as you know, this is the kind of work that you really want to be doing it daily and you want to be reviewing these concepts all the time.

But if you are new, I want to just have you be open and see what comes up for you as you hear these ideas, see if you can try them on. You can always discard these ideas after the podcast if they don't work for you. This isn't a major commitment to try on an idea, but if you can really challenge yourself to go with this, I think you're going to find it to be totally life changing. So with that, let's get started.

How to Deal With Difficult In-Laws and Other Family Members

As I said, this really could be about your mother in law. It could be about any family member. It can be about any relationship that you were dealing with. I'm just so beyond fascinated by the whole mother in law dynamic. I see it with my clients and I've experienced it in my own life and all I can say is I don't think there's any other relationship that triggers us in the same way. It is so fascinating to see how the relationship itself comes with so many beliefs and so many thoughts and so much, in some cases, baggage. And I'm sure some of that is from watching our own parents and how they related to their in laws and some of it could be just from the way our culture talks about the in law relationship.

I think a lot of it comes from the fact that it's this very unusual relationship. There's not a lot of relationships in our life where you pick one and then other ones come with it that you didn't pick. But this is what you have when you get married, right? You choose one person and then he's a package deal. He comes along with this other family and while you understand that that's the family that created this person that you chose and that you love, that actual dynamic might not be the person that you would choose to spend time with. So it's often a situation that we haven't really been put in before where you're trying to make a relationship work from the get go, but it's not one that you would naturally gravitate towards necessarily.

I personally have the absolute perfect mother in law to be a good example to you because my mother in law pretty much never does anything wrong. So this might sound like, well then how do I know anything about difficult mother in laws? Because I should have a really difficult mother in law to be able to coach. Don't worry this. These concepts will apply.

What I think is amazing is that any work I have had to do on my relationship with my mother in law has been proof to me how much is happening in our heads, right? That this is all in our heads because of objectively speaking, I cannot ever point to something that would have been like, oh, that was offensive or that was rude or that was mean. She's an angel. Anyone who knows her knows she's just this angel, wonderful woman, and she's very, very lucky.

But with that said, I have still been able to observe my brain going to crazy places and I really honestly think it's simply by virtue of the fact that that is the relationship dynamic that we have. That she's the mother in law and I'm the daughter in law.

How to Improve Your Relationship With Your In-Laws

So here is a challenge thought for you, and I have heard this from a lot of people. I've heard, the one I want you to challenge. Some people are just difficult, some people are just dysfunctional. I want to offer to you that there is no such thing as a difficult person. There is no such thing as an inherently dysfunctional person. All that they are is difficult or dysfunctional in relation to what you want from them, which means that they are not objectively anything. There's no test that can be run to make sure that this person qualifies as difficult or dysfunctional. I mean, sure, there's an online test. I mean, there is not like a DNA test, right? It was not written in on their birth certificate stamped difficult. You shall have a child that has blue eyes and is difficult is not what you get.

And what actually makes them so difficult is what you're thinking and not who they are. This is a really hard thought to accept if you've been very invested in somebody in your life being difficult and that's why, again, I'm really wanting to challenge you and have you just take this on in a spirit of fun and play. Let's just play with our brain a little bit and see what happens if we go a totally different direction.

Here is my proof, if you need it. You have met somebody I'm sure in the course of your life that you had an opinion about and somebody else had a very different opinion about that person. I mean, all you have to do is look at the White House. Obviously there are people who have very different opinions about the exact same person. So again, that means there cannot be a simple genetic reality of difficult or dysfunctional or terrible. It's really all in our thoughts about that person.

And so our thoughts become much more intense with our in laws, whether it's your father in law or your mother in law or you have a brother or a sister in law. And I really think that's because there's this added pressure going beneath everything. It's not just, oh, this person's difficult. It's this person's difficult and I'm stuck with this relationship for life. So now all of a sudden there's this added level of anxiety of either I have to make them change so that I can handle this or now I'm trapped and I need to get out of this. But we sort of put ourselves into this fight or flight scenario.

And again, you might not be resonating with this in terms of your mother in law and it might not even be one of your in law relationships. Most of us have somebody in our life where we really have a really difficult time dealing with them, spending time with them. That's what I want you to keep in mind.

So here we're going to look at some thoughts and sort of play with this idea. So imagine that you are at a dinner table with your in laws and your mother in law is complaining again. And the thought that you have about that, which you might not even be having consciously, but you're just like, oh, she's so negative. Why is she always so negative? And so that might make you feel like disgust or like you just need to get away from her. There's different things you might do because you're feeling that way. You might start arguing with her because you're trying to get her to stop this negativity, but you might also withdraw from the conversation. You might go to your husband and complained about her later.

What actually ends up happening is that because you had that reaction, you now have all this extra negativity in your life, so you really proved yourself right, right? You said this person is so negative and then you created all this negativity around them being negative and so yes. Yes, because you have that thought you've proved yourself, right? Yes. It's very negative.

But let's imagine the exact same scenario. You're at the dinner table and your mother in law is complaining again and you look at her and you think to yourself, she must be so sensitive. That might make you feel empathetic, maybe even curious about how she works, what's going on in there, maybe inspired by her level of sensitivity to what's going on in her world. That would make you wonder about it and that would make you ask her questions and ultimately you would open up the communication. And then you would see a much deeper and more meaningful side to her. And look again, you're proving yourself right, because now that you're wondering and asking and communicating, you're seeing the sensitivity that opens you up in the first place.

She was complaining both times. Am I saying that you have to think that she's sensitive and you can't think that people are negative? No, but what I know for myself is I don't enjoy spending time in disgust and even more than that, I don't like how I behave, who I become, how I show up when I'm functioning from a place of disgust. I don't want to be spending my time arguing and withdrawing and complaining. I would much rather be in a place of empathy and curiosity and inspiration and wondering and asking and communicating. I would rather spend my time there.

So ultimately I'm just going to choose the second one because I prefer it. I could get 80 girlfriends to line up texting with me or on Facebook acknowledging and confirming that what my mother in law said was inherently negative. I could do it. I could get a lot of people to support me in that belief. But all that's going to do is bring more negativity into my life and it. And if that's not, and again I'm not telling you that's not allowed. You can feel and you can think whatever you want.

But if what's frustrating you about your mother in law is the amount of negativity, then what you can do is you can step back and realize that that negativity is coming from your thoughts about her not from her and you can choose a different thought and have a completely different experience and not have that negativity. Which is so fun. It's so much more fun to be spending time with someone and not feeling negative in my mind. So that's the one I choose.

By the way, that's a line I use a lot with people. This person is so sensitive. It covers a lot of scenarios and personality quirks. For me, it really does make me feel interested. Now for some people, this person is so sensitive is a negative connotation and so then that really wouldn't work for you, but hopefully this will just illustrate for you how you use this work.

How to Deal with Sisters-in-Law, Brothers-in-Law, and Everybody Else

So I want to use another one. You go to the salon and you spend $300 getting a haircut and you go out to lunch with your sister in law and she takes one look at you and she says, your face looks so much wider now, and the wedding's in two weeks. All right, this is your sister in law to be. So what thought you have? So now you're immediately interpreting that as, whoa, she's saying that I looked bad and she's saying it right before the wedding and you're thinking of a word that rhymes with witch, right? And so how are you feeling? Anger and frustration and maybe desperation because again, you're stuck with her. After all, this is your fiance's sister. And so let's say that that makes you storm off and you go text your husband.

Well, a bunch of different things can happen from that, right? You're definitely reinforcing a negative relationship with her. You're definitely not changing the tone. If anything, you're making it worse. But the other thing is you actually now do look worse. You look worst to your husbands because now you're texting him, complaining about his sister. And even if he understands intellectually that she's difficult, let's say he said to you right as you got engaged, I just want you to know my is difficult. Do you still want to marry me? And you said yes. Even if he's totally in agreement with your thought that she is impossible or she is a witch, it doesn't matter. You're complaining about his sister. You look worse because you're being negative.

Okay, so let's do it again. How else could you deal with this? Your sister in law to said your new haircut you just spent $300 on makes your face look wider and the wedding is in two weeks. Now, it's not always easy to find a thought that is more empowering, but you can. You really can.

So let's say that you stop and you think, wow, she's really thinking about what's best for me with my wedding coming up. Now again, I might disagree with her ultimately. I might be thrilled about my haircut, but I'm looking at what she's doing and I'm thinking this must be coming from a place of concern. Otherwise she wouldn't say anything. And again, I might, I mean I have to be able to believe it enough, otherwise I'm just sort of saying things to myself. But you can pretty much push yourself to believe things once you realize how much happier it makes you.

Okay, so again, so I'm going to be, I'm going to judge her favorably and I'm going to say maybe that's where where this is coming from. So now I'm feeling grateful and appreciated and trusting, right? Because anyone who's so concerned about the minor details of my wedding must really care about me. What you might do in that scenario is you might ask her to tell you more and tell her why you liked it before she told you that she didn't like it and hear what she has to say. For all you know, she might go, well, I'd always thought your face looked a little narrow and now that you have this haircut you look so much better.

I mean you don't even know, right? In the beginning you interpreted it as an insult. What are you going to get? You're going to get her ideas and suggestions, but more than that, very likely she is going to become more invested in your wedding and your marriage and the wedding day because you are now involving her.

Now I'm not saying that you need to go run out and do whatever she says you need to do. That's the amazing thing, is that when we're aware of what's going on in our brain and when we're aware that our feelings are coming from our thoughts, then we can be open to asking what other people have to say because we're not scared that they're going to say something that's going to destroy us. Because they can't say something that's going to destroy us. It's only our interpretation. It's only what we do with what they say that destroys us.

I'm going to tell you one that I dealt with recently. This was happening all the time. Every time that I was dealing with this person, I would have the same thought. I knew there was something going on. It took me a little while to like actually make myself sit down and do the work and I regret it taking so long. Finally sat down into the work and figured out what was going on in my brain.

So every time I was dealing with this person, I would have thought this person is impossible. How do I feel? I felt trapped. I felt anxious and I literally would start shaking and I could feel my heart racing. Why? I was going into a full blown fight or flight, right? Whenever the conversation centered around us spending more time together or us being more involved or are collaborating on a project or anything like that, all of a sudden I would have this very strong reaction and now it makes sense when I look because I was telling myself, this person is impossible.

If you are putting yourself in a situation where you are now like happens with an enlarged, right, where now you are trapped in this scenario with a person who is impossible. Impossible is a very big word with major connotations, so your brain interprets this like you're saying that you're going to close yourself in a closet with a beer, right? Your brain goes like hyper fight or flight and you can freak out, especially as I've said before, I'm blessed to be a person with very strong feelings and a vivid imagination, so I get to experience all of this in such a lovely way.

How did I act? Basically it was avoidance. If I was in a conversation, I would avoid talking to that person. If the person was talking to me, I would avoid sharing anything or saying anything vulnerable or open. If I could avoid being together at all, that's what I would do.

And so what was the result that I got? Remember, the result always proves your thought right. Guess what? It is impossible to have a constructive relationship with a person that you don't speak with? Newsflash, Kayla, yes, you are making this an impossible relationship, but amazingly, as I said in the beginning of this podcast, even those of you who have been doing this work with me, or even those of you who follow Brooke Castillo and you've been doing her work or Brené Brown is very similar. Even if you know it intellectually, you have to actually make yourself sit down.

So what happened is we were together and I just was sitting there the whole time going, what is the thought? What is the thought? What is the thought? And I couldn't get there. And so finally I just went, okay, well let me just get really clear on how I'm feeling. And once I articulated that very clearly, it was immediate. Immediately I knew what the thought was that I was having. I wanted to get a new thought.

So I took some time to think about what is a thought that I could believe about that person that would help me show up the way that I wanted to. The thought that I chose was what am I meant to learn from this relationship. That made me feel curious, open, calm, and very trusting. Trusting the process. And that allowed me to listen because I was safe now and I was open and curious. It allowed me to express my own opinions because I have to be in the relationship to learn something from. It allowed me to communicate.

I discovered a new dynamic. I learned something about myself. I definitely immediate, like really I would say within three hours of adopting this new thought, saw exactly what I can learn from this relationship. Which is amazing because now every time interacting with this person, I'm just learning it more. The same idea.

I really want you to steal any of these thoughts that work for you. Okay, so the ones that I gave you are she's so sensitive. That works. Again, that works well for many things. I also gave you this person is so concerned. So let's say you have a mother in law who is very, I hear this a lot for my clients, like very involved, right? When are you going to have a baby? What colors are you doing for this? How are you painting? What are you moving into my zip code, right? She's very concerned about me. You can choose some. Even she's very concerned about me might still leave you, like that still feels very real, right? Meaning, you still might feel a little bit of annoyance, but that's very different than this person has no boundaries or she's in my space or I can't handle her. I can't handle this. Those are thoughts that are going to give you a very strong visceral reaction that might not help you show up the way that you want to.

Other examples, he cares so much about justice or he's so driven. Guess what? You can use this for your husband too. Isn't that amazing? So when he's doing something that's driving you crazy and you start to notice that you're upset, so the first step is to notice what you're feeling. Try to articulate what you're feeling as well as you can. You can articulate the actual thought going through your head or you can just describe what's going on in your body, how it feels. And then you can go back and figure out what was the thought that made you feel that way.

So if you're like, oh my gosh, I suddenly my stomach dropped like a pit in my stomach and I lost all my motivation. I felt like the wind went out of me and my shoulders sagged. I just felt suddenly very depressed and low. Oh, it's because the thought was that when he didn't come home when he said he would be home, I interpreted that to mean that he doesn't love me. So now it's much easier to step backwards sometimes from the feeling to figure out what was the thought that caused that feeling.

I know it's very tempting to jump to the new thought. The reason I gave you all these new thoughts wasn't so much to demonstrate to you how to change the thought because that's a whole process in itself. The reason I wanted to give you the new thoughts was to show you that in the exact same scenario you can have two completely different experiences. And the end goal is of course for you to be able to have that self awareness and then to choose a thought that works for you, that you want, that you like, that you like the results of.

But what I really want to challenge you with right now, this is your homework for the week, should you accept, is to notice when you're feeling a really strong emotion and that's positive or negative. Then I want you to go back and figure out what was the thought that you had. And at first this may be hard, but just stick with it.

The point is to really start to see that your feelings aren't coming from what's happening around you. They're not coming from the people and what they're doing. They're not coming from the facts of your life. They're coming from your thoughts. And the awesome part of this is your thoughts are optional.

So I know it's really exciting to start figuring this out and you want to change your thoughts, but really, really take time on that first part. It's very important that you spend time noticing what's going on in your head and what you're thinking and how all that's making you feel.

Where you're going to get to is you're going to really understand in your bones when you get upset, it's not actually the other person. It's not actually the situation, it's not actually how much less money you have in your bank than you thought you did. It's not those things. But you have to spend the time here first noticing the feeling and then the thought that provoked it before you really get it into your bones and then you're able to start sort of bringing in new thoughts.

So as those of you who were in my first course know when I was running my beta course for First Year Married, I was diagnosed with type one diabetes, which is unusual for it to be diagnosed as an adult. And it was a very big blow in theory. It's not a diagnosis you want. It's not what I was hoping to get that day. Obviously. And because I was running the First Year Married course, I was doing tons of thought work and I was coaching a ton on the thought work and I was watching women really shift their experience of their relationships because they were doing this thought work. And I really honestly think if I hadn't been doing this course, I don't know if this would have happened. But what happened was this.

I went home from the doctor's office and I made a decision not to talk to anybody about it. I talked to my husband, but what I didn't want to do is get on the phone with someone who would say to me, oh my gosh, you poor dear. That is so terrible. What are you going to do? And I knew that the people that love me the most would want to be right there with me. And so they would be sharing with me all the thoughts that they would be having in that scenario. And I felt very strongly that this was an opportunity where I was, I think partly because I was just so blindsided by it, it was so big, I really felt like my brain was kind of like, what? I don't know what to think about this because I don't know what is going on. What is going on?

I had this wonderful opportunity to choose my thought on purpose. So I did. And it was a really helpful experience. I decided basically the first thought that I went with was, this is going to be one of the best things that's ever happened to me. Something about being in that brain freeze of the shock of finding out allowed me to totally get it. I think also again, because I was coaching and working with this work so much. But what's amazing is that whatever thought you're having, your brain is constantly collecting evidence.

So I didn't have any evidence yet that it was terrible, right? Other than whatever I had heard about type one diabetes and autoimmune conditions and all that in the past, I didn't have a ton of evidence. I hadn't been spending a lot of time thinking about type one diabetes. Once I made up my mind that this was the best thing that was going to happen to me, then I went in for an appointment with my doctor and she was talking to me about how this is the kind of thing that's very hard to manage and you can't expect perfection from yourself.

And I went, oh my gosh, it's amazing. I've always needed to learn how to not be a perfectionist. Now I'm going to get to learn how to not be a perfectionist, right? My brain was just doing all this work for me. I wasn't sitting there trying to think about it, but because I had chosen this thought, it was collecting evidence.

So what I want to suggest to you is that you have a choice about if you want to be collecting evidence that your mother in law or your father in law or your sister or brother or your boss or your husband, you could be collecting evidence that they're impossible. You could be collecting evidence that they don't care about you or they're insensitive or that they're bullheaded. Whatever it is, immature. Or you can be collecting evidence that they are the most awesome person. You can be collecting evidence that they are extremely sensitive, that they care about you, that they love you deeply. Whatever thought you want to choose. I just gave you a couple today.

But as soon as you take on a thought and you start trying it on, your brain just goes to work. It is unbelievable how much evidence you will get about that new thought.

Thank you so much for tuning in to the podcast. Hope that you have been very brave with me today. I know again that I pushed you, challenged you and I hope that this has helped you open up a little bit. Again, I know that it can be hard to let go of some of these more entrenched negative feelings, especially because we're so quick to validate each other and agree with each other about how difficult that person is. And it feels like that's friendship, but it's sometimes just makes your friend's life worse when you do that.

I just want to offer you that even though you might be able to find a lot of evidence and you might be able to get a lot of people to agree with you, if it's not getting you the result that you want and you're not behaving the way that you like, and that's only you can decide, then you can choose a different thought that's going to give you a different result and it's going to help you behave the way that you want.

Now, I'm not suggesting that your thought is going to change the other person, right? The other person is something outside of your control. But what it will change as your experience of that person and that's better ultimately.

So please subscribe to this podcast. I want you to join me in this journey. This is a a baby, brand new podcast, just like a baby brand new marriage, and I would love to have you here with me. I'd love to have you follow me on Instagram First Year Married. Let me know what you want to hear about. Let me know what questions you're having, what challenges you're having, what your insights you're getting from any of these episodes. I would love to hear about it there.

It really makes a huge difference at the very beginning of a new podcast when people subscribe. So if you haven't had a chance, please subscribe. Please rate the podcast, put in a review if you have a moment. If would be very highly appreciated. If you do want to take this work further, I have a free class on my website. Registration will be closing sometime mid January. So if the time this podcast is airing, we're already getting close to please check it out right away. The website is firstyearmarried.com. I teach you this material in much more depth and I help you really apply it to your first year of marriage so you can basically do what I was doing in this episode, but with a very clear tool.

It's very simple. It's very easy to implement. It's simple. It's not necessarily easy, but it's very simple and straightforward and a lot of support and a lot of community support and a lot of support for me and coaching support from me in that. I also give you a lot of tools that will help you with just understanding your marriage dynamic and male female dynamic much better.

There is a class on my website that is totally free, that goes into this material more. You don't even have to sign up for the course so you can get that at firstyearmarried.com. Thanks so much for tuning in and I hope to speak with you next time. Bye Bye.

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