Relating: Mother-in-Flaw

For better or worse, she's yours - till death do you part

A notch worse than The Molder: The Meddler. She’s gone beyond doling out advice and whipping up window treatments. In fact, she’s got a hand in everything, from your honeymoon plans to your bank account. She’s memorized your social. She finagled a key to your house. And if you invite her to be part of your wedding planning, she’ll take over.

Or so went the case of Kristin from Bryn Mawr. “When my mother-in-law offered either a lump sum towards the wedding bill, or to be put in charge of some task, I thought it would be kinder to let her help,” she says. Her MIL requested to oversee the flowers, and all seemed fine — until the flowers became the linens and then the lighting, placesettings and, eventually, overall decor. “Not only did she steamroll ahead with the planning,” says Kristin, “but she became belligerent. She insulted the caterer, the hotel manager. My friends joked that she would wear the wedding gown. My fiancé and I fought. I should have taken the money,” she says. And then, rethinking: “Or, we could have eloped.”

When it comes to your wedding, says Ellenbogen, only assign tasks that don’t matter as much to you. “Say something like, ‘You know what would be so helpful? If you could make welcome baskets for our guests.’ If your MIL is rushing you, explain that you know she’s excited and so are you, but the pace is making you anxious.”

Also, be mindful that your relationship with your fiancé doesn’t suffer in the fray. It’s hard to talk to him about his mother, so broach the subject with care: “Approach this like he’s the expert on his mom and you’re asking him how to best communicate your feelings to her,” says Ellenbogen. “Or talk to her together. He’s going to feel torn, but if your mother-in-law is being hurtful, he should step in.” (And if he balks at that … well, that’s a whole other article.)

Kristin’s sister Rachel had the opposite problem with her MIL. Enter The Ice Queen. She’s either altogether absent or simply aloof, and wants nothing to do with you or your wedding. That “gaining a daughter” thing? It’s lost on her. Even if you’d like to form a relationship, there seem to be no avenues for it to grow, no shared interests, no bonding-time together.