Is Your Monster-In-Law The Reason You’re Getting Divorced?

getting divorced

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

Getting divorced is never easy, but feeling like your soon-to-be ex-mother-in-law played a big part in it can be infuriating and frustrating. This week’s Love Essentially, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press tells the story of a guy who believes his divorce was caused by his monster-in-law.  

Can a Monster-In-Law Cause Divorce? 10 Tips For Mothers-in-law  by Jackie Pilossoph for Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press

A recent email I received from a reader who is newly divorced:

Jackie, what is the best thing I can do to get over my ex-spouse? I am having the hardest time because she gave up after eight months of marriage and was unwilling to go to counseling. She always talked to her mom and spent a lot of her time with her (three to four times a week.) I voiced concerns about priorities with her in terms of our relationship because I felt her time and devotion were all geared toward her mom. I never told her what she could or couldn’t do, nor did I try to drive a wedge between her and her mother. But, our plans were often canceled because her mom called and needed something. I am just wondering, did I do something wrong?


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There are two issues that come to mind when I think about this poor guy’s situation: boundaries and balance. In my opinion, it doesn’t seem as if these things existed in the marriage.

When two people are in a committed relationship, it is up to both partners to discuss and set boundaries for family members and friends. These questions should be addressed: Is it OK for people to stop by unannounced? What times are appropriate for friends and family members to call? Where do they fit in on holidays? These are all issues that couples should get on the table to avoid arguments and resentment.

Also, a successful marriage is about having a healthy balance. A couple owes it to their relationship to spend time together with no outsiders – not even their kids. Every married couple needs “alone” time to foster a continued connection. It is also important for couples to spend time with family (both sides) and friends. Furthermore, each partner needs to maintain closeness with his or her own family and friends. So, if that means a wife wants to have dinner alone with her parents or a husband wants to play golf weekly with his dad, that’s perfectly healthy. Where problems arise is when these get-togethers become excessive, leaving the husband or wife feeling alone a lot, left out and hurt.

So, did this guy’s mother-in-law cause his divorce? We can’t know from hearing only one side of the story. But what I can say is that some really big problems in the marriage seemed to have stemmed from two women – the wife and her mom, who both forgot what it means to say “I do” to someone.



When a person becomes your husband (or wife) that person is supposed to be your partner, your best friend, and the person with whom you want to spend as much time as possible. Maybe in this case there were other issues that drove the wife away from her husband and toward her mom. Then again, maybe she was a mama’s girl who just never grew up. There is a third scenario: maybe the mother-in-law was a controlling monster-in-law!

On that subject, I’m getting to an age where lots of my friends are becoming mothers-in-law. The mom of two teenagers, I will probably not be a mother-in-law for quite awhile, but I do feel versed in this area having had a less than ideal relationship with my former mother-in-law and watching my mother be a mother-in-law.

Based on what I saw, here are 10 tips for mothers-in-law who want the best possible relationships with their children and the spouses they choose:

1. When you meet your son or daughter’s new love, he or she might not be who you imagined your child would bring home. Give the person a chance and try not to judge right away. Be open-minded and focus on whether your son or daughter seems genuinely happy.

2. It’s not important if you don’t have much in common with your son or daughter’s spouse. What matters is if the two of them have a lot in common. For example, I recently met a woman whose mother-in-law didn’t care for her because she wasn’t a skier. That to me seems superficial.

3. If engaged, try to stay out of the couple’s wedding plans. Only offer advice if asked. Remember, this is their wedding, not yours.

4. Have some alone time with both your son or daughter and with his or her spouse. You will find both special and enjoyable.

5. Make an effort to get to know the other family. Treat them as part of your family because they are.



6. Be sensitive to and respect religious or cultural beliefs and traditions. You could end up learning a lot and enjoying enriching experiences.

7. Don’t talk negatively to your son or daughter about his spouse or the family.

8. Don’t pressure the couple to spend time with you. Remember that they are newly in love and want time alone together.

9. If the couple has an argument, try to stay neutral. Listen to each of them if they get you involved, but don’t offer advice, don’t badmouth either of them, and don’t try to play mediator.

10. In the end, it doesn’t really matter if you and your son or daughter-in-law are best friends. What’s important is the way he or she treats your son or daughter. Does he/she respect your son or daughter? Does he/she show them love and affection? Is he or she kind? And most importantly…(click here to read the rest of the article, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press.)

Like this article? Check out my blog, “The Hardest Part About Getting Divorced: Lack Of Control.”


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    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at:

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