Dear Therapist: I get anxious while interacting with my mother-in-law
My mother in-law is in town for the first time after the pandemic and I thought we had developed a better bond during this period of distancing. There were no big arguments and everything was going fine. I made the best effort I could to take her out and make her do things she enjoys. However, she recently had an outburst for no apparent reason and started blaming me and shouting like she used to before. I feel like I can never mend things no matter how much I try and all my efforts are wasted. I don’t think our relationship will ever be smooth sailing.
— Name Withheld
Dear Writer, I am sorry that you feel that things are going sour between your MIL and you. You made conscious efforts to repair your relationship with her, but it did not go as planned. You have, however, not considered a few factors here; the most important being that both of you are back together after a gap, and a long-distance relationship is a lot different than being in the same place together. Secondly, it takes two people to build or mend any relationship. The dynamic between you two is not purely your responsibility and it’s unfair that you claim control where you have none. Your mother-in-law also needs to work on regulating her emotions and communication! Now that you are together, few unresolved issues are bound to resurface, which is perfectly valid; when it does occur, use these as opportunities to discuss or introspect on how things can change. The relationship is only a lost cause when your MIL refuses to put in her efforts, so take heart, things can still get better.
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