Bridezilla? What About Momzilla?! Tips for Dealing with a Difficult Mom (or MIL)
by:ADRIENNE LAURSEN, LMFT
Adrienne Laursen, Licensed Marriage Therapist and nationally recognized relationship expert, shares tips for Dealing With a Difficult Mom or MIL During the Wedding Planning Process. Adrienne is the owner of THE ENGAGEMENT COACH, and provides exclusive, customized premarital and engagement coaching to her clients nationwide.
We all know the bride gets flack for being too bossy, too controlling, and too needy when planning her wedding. But what happens when it’s not the bride at all? What happens when your mom (or even worse, your future mother-in-law) is the dreaded zilla during the planning process? There is hope, and following these crucial steps may just save your sanity and keep you excited about your wedding.
1. Let Her Think She Has Control
The word think is very important here. I’m not saying actually give her all of the control, but you want her to feel as though she’s got this thing by the reigns.
The number one rule of dealing with a controlling person is to avoid being controlling in return. Why? Well for one you’ll just drive yourself crazy because controlling people like to, well, be in control, so she’s not likely to back down if it’s something she feels strongly about. And two, the more you challenge someone who feels the need to be in charge, the more in charge they’re likely to become.
So, here’s what you do. Give your mom tasks that she can have full control over. Discuss with your fiancé which elements of the wedding you wouldn’t mind letting go, and give your mom her chance to shine. This will make her feel important (which she is), allow her to feel confident that she’s got a say in the planning, and give you some breathing room while she’s busy controlling something other than you!
2. Understand Her Feelings And Have Empathy
While you may not love her approach, it would be beneficial to remember that your mom gave you life, raised you, and has likely waited for this day your whole life. So, give her some room to act like a crazy lady and remind her that you love her too.
In the moment, it can be hard to remember that control is really a result of anxiety, and being in control feels better for some moms because they’re used to being in charge. Try showing sincere understanding and empathy for her feelings, and let her know you get how difficult this transition is for her. Gently remind her that she’s not losing you, and while change is difficult, she’ll always be your mom, whether you’re married or not.
3. Set Boundaries That Support You and Your Fiancé
Unfortunately, setting boundaries can be hard, especially when you’re setting them with your parents. No one likes doing it, and no one really likes abiding by them. It’s sort of like, “Wait a minute, you’re telling me I can’t do something I’ve always done?” Yes, that’s exactly what you’ll need to say, however, in a gentler fashion.
Talk with your fiancé first, and decide the best course of action. I’m a firm believer that whoever owns the difficult mom is the one who should do the talking. (Meaning, you set the boundaries with your mom, and your partner sets the boundaries with theirs.) First, decide what boundaries need to be set, and then discuss how you will implement them. Here’s a common example to help you out.
The Issue: Your parents are paying for all (or part) of the wedding, and your mom keeps threatening to pull the funding if she doesn’t get her way.
The Couple Discussion: You and your fiancé need to discuss what’s more important, the money or your sanity. For some couples, having their dream wedding is worth putting up with the control. Unfortunately for others, it becomes so exhausting they start to lose interest in even having a wedding. Together, you’ll need to determine what feels best for you as a couple, and how you’ll communicate your decision to your mom or parents.
The Boundary: Schedule a meeting with your mom or parents, and gently explain your feelings. You can choose whether or not to have your fiancé present, but remember they’re your parents so you do the talking. If they can’t be understanding or threaten to pull the plug on the wedding finances, you may have to say “ok” and learn to live with the consequences. The boundary is letting them know you’re not ok with money being used as control, and that you’re not going to partake in it anymore.
Just remember… you’re not alone, this stuff is hard, and if all else fails, reach out to a professional for some help. There’s no shame in needing a little guidance to navigate this thing called wedding planning!
Adrienne offers both in-person and online premarital and engagement coaching, and is passionate about helping couples create a beautiful, successful marriage. Please visit her website, The Engagement Coach, for more information and to contact her directly.