Q: Hi APW,
My partner and I got engaged over the holidays, yay! They proposed with my dream ring, a simple pearl on a gold band, and I couldn’t be happier.
My issue is that I haven’t figured out how I should take to the frankly, rude, reaction from my future MIL when she saw the ring. The first thing she said was, “Well that’s an interesting choice, I guess you can upgrade it to a diamond in the future.” I froze when she said that and let it slide, I didn’t want to go scorched earth and say something I’d regret!
But as time goes on, I’m realizing I’m incredibly hurt by her comments. My fiancx and their mom have a difficult time communicating with each other, so should I just try to clear the air myself? She is going to be my MIL, after all. Any advice on approaching this situation would be appreciated, I’m trying not to let my emotions get the best of me!
—Ring Shamed BY My MIL
A: Hi RSBMM,
Girl. Between you me and the doorpost (I mean, internet), marrying into a new family is hard AF. In fact, it’s so hard that lots of folks don’t talk about it publicly because, well… throwing their in laws under the bus in public isn’t going to help their situation. You’re marrying the family, not just your person, for better or for worse. You’re going to have to learn to navigate this family’s bullshit—because all families have bullshit—because they’re about to become part of your family. In short: your MIL sounds like she’s not easy, but you’re going to have to learn to deal with that, because she’s unlikely to change. (Sorry.)
Even though I’m someone who has a habit of speaking up… I’m going to suggest that you let this go. I know, I know, it feels like you should say something. But right now your MIL is probably reacting to the fact that her child is getting married. That’s a huge transition for a parent, and the nonsense she’s laying on your doorstep has absolutely nothing to do with you, or your ring. It may have to do with class issues for her, or respectability politics, or fear of the unknown, or who knows what. None of that makes her comment okay, but it’s often helpful to remind yourself that this nonsense is really not about you.
If you really want to talk to your MIL about her comment, I’d suggest you ask two questions of yourself first. One: what do you hope to gain from this interaction? Two: What are you likely to gain from this interaction?
It sounds like your goal is to have your MIL see the hurt she caused you and apologize. But given that you’re describing a woman who made a really thoughtless comment in the first place and who otherwise has issues communicating with her child, I’d guess that’s an unlikely outcome. It seems far more likely that any attempt to “clear the air” will result in a lot more smoke, since you’ll likely just fan the flames of her nonsense.
Instead, this is a great time to start coming to terms with the MIL you have, who might not be the MIL you want. It’s very likely that she may not currently be able to validate you. But the good news is you don’t need that, just like you didn’t need a diamond ring. You picked that ring because you love it. Other people don’t have to love it, or understand your choice, for it to be the right ring for you.
Your MIL said something thoughtless and hurtful. Sadly, if this is her reaction straight out of the gate, there are probably going to be more such comments to come. So use this time to figure out how to let them roll off your back, as much as humanly possible. Focus on your person, who loves you and values you just the way you are. Having a MIL like this is going to require you to learn to set firm boundaries. And one of those boundaries may need to be not rising to her cutting comments, or learning to tell her in the moment that you don’t want to be talked to like that (pro tip: get advice from her child before you decide to take that on.)
But mostly: let it go. Someone made an unkind comment about a ring you love, given to you by a person you just decided to spend the rest of your life with. Focus on that profound happiness, and let other people’s petty nonsense go.
So APW, do you have tips for dealing with difficult family members? What boundaries have you had to draw (if any) with your in laws? Give us your two cents in the comments below!