When you are partnered with another person, you have no choice but to become a part of their family. This means you have more than just a new relationship to worry about: but also an entire family you have to get to know as well.

If you’re one of the unlucky women with an unpleasant mother-in-law, learning how to manage the situation without going crazy is critical.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate this tricky relationship and survive future family get-togethers.

1. First, talk to yourself.

Before you can take on your Mother-In-Law, you need to give yourself a time-out to evaluate the situation and develop a game plan that’s right for you. Find a quiet space free of distractions where you can note everything that has taken place to date. This will enable you to constructively take on the situation, coming from a more rational space when moving forward.

2. Try to see things from your mother-in-law’s lens

With or without empathy or sympathy, try to understand how your mother-in-law’s behavior may be a symptom of larger issues she has with herself and her relationship with your spouse — and not you. 

Consider if her actions and words are coming from a place of love and if this needs to be acknowledged. Consider, too, if she’s struggling with feelings of having been dethroned in her family, and if there are ways you can make her feel important and needed in her own way.

3. Accept that She May Not Change

If your mother-in-law criticizes you constantly and speaks about you behind your back, despite your best efforts to win her heart, it’s time to accept that she’s unlikely to mend her ways. The only thing you can do to save your sanity without losing control is to detach yourself from her emotionally. Respect her, but maintain a distance. On the off chance that your mother-in-law seems like she’s turning the other cheek, give it time before deciding whether she’s really changed.

4. Practice “healthy selfishness.”

You have every right to draw and maintain strong boundaries in protecting yourself and your marriage. Nobody has the right to make your life miserable, and only you can make sure of that.

If all else fails, you need to take care of yourself and protect your peace. This involves excusing yourself from family gatherings for some quality “me time,” not answering the phone when you know it’s your MIL, and keeping your distance to take care of yourselves and your family, in spite of expectations.

As Christina Steinorth stated on yourtango.com: “Just because you’re married, you’re under no obligation to be emotionally abused by toxic people.”

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