Wayhome Studio/Fotolia

8 Fights Every Couple Has That You Can Totally Blame On Your Mother-In-Law

Ad failed to load

Every couple fights once in a while. Even couples in great relationships disagree. It's totally normal and can be healthy. But then there are the unhealthy fights, often caused by people outside the relationship. Personally, my partner and I endure plenty of arguments that aren't caused by the pair of us, but by his mother. Thankfully, this isn't atypical either. There are some fights every couple has that you can absolutely blame on your mother-in-law, the way she raised your partner, the way she views you, or the things she does to meddle in your relationship.

In talking with my mom friends, I have learned that I'm not alone in this experience. Turns out, mothers-in-law are often a source of marital conflict. According to psychologist and author Terri Apter, Ph.D., this is because, in heterosexual relationships, men have a hard time backing up their wives when it means disagreeing with their mothers. They feel like they are forced to choose sides, their wives feel abandoned, and their mothers blame their daughters-in-law for changing their relationship with their sons. In fact, researchers from the University of Cambridge and the nonprofit Stand Alone surveyed over 800 people who were estranged from a parent, child, or sibling. One in four mothers of sons said not getting along with their daughter-in-law was the reason for issues with their child.

Personally, I feel like the strain my mother-in-law puts on my relationship is completely unfair. And the worst part, of course, is that I feel like there's nothing I can do to fix it. Then again, maybe I shouldn't feel responsible for fixing it at all, especially when it's not really about me at all. So with that in mind, here are a few fights you can expect to endure that are without-a-doubt your mother-in-law's fault.

Ad failed to load

The Fight About Setting Boundaries


Whenever we have an issue with my mother-in-law meddling or making plans for us, my husband seems to want me to fix it. Apters research for her book What Do You Want From Me? Learning to Get Along With In-laws, men often leave the job of boundary-setting to their wives, even when their own mothers are concerned. I know first-hand that this can make their wife feel like she always has to be the bad guy, and can make their mother feel like she is the bad guy, because she is the bearer of bad news or viewed as the source of the problem.

The Fight About Where To Spend The Holidays

Once you get married, or form a partnership with another adult, it can be seriously hard to decide which family traditions to keep and where and with whom to spend the holidays. My parents live relatively close, so it can seem like they get more quality time with my kids. My husband hears about it from my mother-in-law, and inevitably we'll fight about whether or not we should travel or invite her to our house.

We can blame this perceived inequity on my mother-in-law, because she can travel way easier than we can, and it's unfair to expect us to bring five kids on a 10-hour road trip all because she doesn't think the scales are balanced. The same goes for not attending church services or not continuing her family traditions that aren't our style. These aren't meant to be slights, even if she views them that way.

The Fight About Gender Roles


According to psychologist Darcy Lockman, even the most progressive heterosexual couples don't have an equal distribution of labor at home, with women shouldering, on average, more than 60 percent of duties, especially when it comes to child care and even when they work full-time. According to an article in The Washington Post, this behavior is learned and solidified during childhood by observing your parents, and Lockman writes, "Children are gender detectives, distinguishing between the sexes from as early as 18 months and using that information to guide their behavior." So, we can blame how our spouse views gender roles on our mother-in-laws (and father-in-laws), and how they divided tasks and modeled spousal relationships for their child.

Ad failed to load

The Fight About Cleaning

As I recently explained to my husband, if our house is not clean to his mother's standards, she won't blame him or criticize him. Instead, she'll blame and criticize me. While we don't really do traditional gender roles in our house, she totally does in her home. So, when it comes time to prepare for her visit, I expect that he will help (if not take charge of) cleaning up.

The Fight About Honesty


My husband is honest to a fault pretty much all of the time, unless his mother is concerned. He absolutely advocates lying to her to spare her feelings, even if it means us sleeping on a mattress on her basement floor, eating food he hates, or letting her believe he's OK with the plans she made without consulting us first. So, inevitably, if I speak up a fight isn't too far behind.

The Fight About Who's Side Your Partner's On

Other fights ensue when a partner feels like he or she can't say, "no," to their mother, even when it means saying "no" to their partner. When your partner has to choose between his or her mother and partner, no one wins. Personally, it just makes me feel like my husband doesn't love me as much as he loves her, when I know that rationally isn't true.

Ad failed to load

The Fight About How To Parent Your Kids


At times my former mother-in-law seemed like she was on a mission to undermine my parenting, and it seemed in the process to undermine my marriage to her son.

One huge fight I had with my now ex-husband was about whether or not to baptize our children. We were not Christian, but his mother put the pressure on, and he was inclined to give in so we could avoid a fight with her. I, on the other hand was livid that she wanted to impose religion on our family and control such a person aspect of our lives.

According to psychologist Susan Newman, I was right. It's important to set boundaries with your in-laws regarding your parenting. Newman told HuffPost, “When a couple defers to meddling in-laws, it adds considerable stress to a partnership.” This can be done in a gentle and non-confrontational way, or when necessary, you may have to be more direct. Newman adds, "If they’re persistent, you may need to add consequences to whatever boundaries you have set. By letting them know in advance about boundaries and consequences, they’ll be making the choice, not you, for what happens next.”

The Fight About Why You Can't Just Get Along With Your Partner's Mother

Sometimes it feels like my husband blames me for not getting along with his mom, as if I'm the only person involved in the situation. In Apter's research she found that this happens because husbands see their wives as stronger than their moms, or they view them as the one who should concede. This, in my opinion, is complete bullsh*t. My mother-in-law is an adult, not a child (even if I feel like she acts like one sometimes), and she needs to accept blame when something is her fault. I, by the way, am also an adult, and don't need to be nice to someone who is horrible to me.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills