You may worry about what to say (or not say) to your father-in-law, but do you exercise the same caution around your wife’s mother? If not, you should—and not just because both parents deserve equal respect. It turns out that a good relationship with your mother-in-law could help save your marriage. So, here are some things you should never say if you want to keep the peace.
1. “Interesting approach. My mom always puts homemade biscuits on her pot pie.” Unless you’re coyly and sincerely letting her know that her cooking is way better than your mom’s, do not, under any circumstances, compare your mother-in-law to your own mother. Both moms likely already feel a twinge of competitiveness; there’s no need to make things worse.
2. “I hope our kids don’t inherit your bad eyesight.” You know what? Your mother-in-law hopes that, too, but by saying something like this, you’re basically telling her that if they do end up with some shared negative trait, it’s somehow her fault. Keep that worry to yourself and instead tell her what you hope they will inherit, like her penchant for making everyone feel welcome in her home.
3. “Can you believe Denise won’t let me get a new TV?” Don’t drag your mother-in-law into a petty fight you’re having with your wife because it’s unlikely she’s going to take your side. Mothers and daughters often share the same sensibilities, so you’d do much better asking her how you might be able to make your wife see your side of things. Your mother-in-law will feel useful, and you may just end up with a new flat screen.
4. “Sara can be such a bitch when she drinks.” Don’t talk shit on her daughter. You may have a great relationship with your mother-in-law, but guess what? She’s always going to love your wife more than she loves you. Saying bad things about her baby is only going to make you look bad. Plus, she might tell your father-in-law, or even your wife, what you said. And you don’t want that, now do you?
5. “Our kids really love staying at my mom’s.” By saying this, or something like it, you’re implying that your kids enjoy your parents more than your in-laws. Even if it’s true, there’s no need to bring it up and rub it in. Every grandparent wants to be the favorite. Let them all think they are. (There’s probably more free babysitting in it for you, too.)
6. “Shawna is a really terrible housekeeper.” If you’re complaining that your wife isn’t great at keeping house, maybe you need to pick up a damn broom. Or hire someone to do it. But, whatever you do, don’t complain to your mother-in-law about your wife’s homemaking skills. She may see it as a direct criticism of herself for not properly preparing her daughter for adulthood.
7. “Sorry we’re late. Amy kept me up all night.” Don’t bring up sex stuff. Any of it. Ever. This one should be obvious, of course, but for some reason it’s not. No matter how cool you think your mother-in-law might be, don’t talk to her about the sex you’re having (or not having) with her daughter. And definitely don’t bring up anything sexual from your past.