Ferne Kotlyar

How do you deal with your horrible in-laws? How do you stand their jealousy, their judgemental comments, their need for control?  

In this episode of the Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast, Ferne and I explore a case about a woman named Lucy who loves her husband but doesn’t understand how such an amazing man came from such horrible parents.

His mother is rude and judgemental. She spends her time comparing herself to other people and making sure that her things are more expensive than everyone else’s – more expensive clothes, car, dinner plates, anything that someone can see.

Lucy’s father-in-law, on the other hand, is rude and inappropriate. He walks into a room and ALWAYS makes an inappropriate and offensive comment. Lucy can’t stand it any longer. If only she didn’t have to see them anymore.

First, I say that Lucy needs to understand that her happiness comes from her thinking, not from the behavior of her in-laws. Right now, she is using her in-laws as an excuse to be unhappy. Lucy knows that her in-laws won’t change, and she shouldn’t expect them to. Instead, I would encourage Lucy to find some common ground with her in-laws so that she can have a direct relationship with them.

Are your in-laws like this? Do you have another interesting case you’d like to share? Let’s talk! If there's a challenge you'd like to discuss here on the podcast or privately, please reach out to us:



Episode Transcript

Kim Ades: [00:00:05]
Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching, and you have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast.
Today we have a special episode. It's Fridays with Ferne!

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:00:17]

Kim Ades: [00:00:17]
I'm super excited to have her on the call, on the podcast today to share with us a case that she brings to us from her invention.

Ferne, welcome.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:00:29]
Thank you so much. It's always a pleasure. Are you ready for your case today?

Kim Ades: [00:00:34]
I'm ready.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:00:35]
All right. So today we have a case about a lady named Lucy.
Now, Lucy has a relationship. She just got married about five years ago... I guess not just got married then. She's been married for about five years now, and everything is amazing with her husband, except for her in-laws.

So I know this is a classic story, but you know, everything's perfect between them and the in-laws are constantly a source of debate and pain and anger. And it's really a sore point for the couple. So essentially, Lucy's mother-in-law is very overprotective of her son. And she doesn't like Lucy, so she-- well, at least that's the way Lucy perceives it.

So she says things to her son about Lucy, about how she's not, you know, cooking for him every night and she's not living at home and doing the laundry all the time, and she has a job, how dare her.

And the mother, you know, makes these comments and makes Lucy feel uncomfortable because, you know, she's not super warm and friendly, and she makes comments about Lucy's clothes, about the way she does everything.

And the worst part for Lucy is that she has a spare set of keys to her and her husband's house. And the mother will come in sometimes and just kind of make comments and she'll start cleaning things up in the house and rearranging all the things that Lucy put where she wants them, because her mother thinks that-- his mother thinks that she's cleaning things up.

And so Lucy gets really frustrated and her father-in-law, and the other hand, is quite the opposite. He makes Lucy feel uncomfortable because he is... makes sexist comments, racist comments, he's very politically incorrect, and he makes her feel... Yeah, like, just that, very, very uncomfortable.

He'll make sometimes comments about how she looks, about how her quote, unquote, boobs look good one day, and that's just so wildly inappropriate and Lucy never knows how to respond. Sometimes when he's drinking, he'll kind of sit beside her and maybe like put his hand on her shoulder.

And, you know, Lucy feels super uncomfortable with respect to both of his parents, her spouse's parents. And, you know, everything's perfect in their relationship, so she really doesn't know what to do with respect to this because her husband really, really cares about his parents. It's a huge part of him and his existence, and his parents expect to see him at least once a week.

So, a big issue, big sore point, Lucy doesn't know what to do.

Kim Ades: [00:03:27]
Question. What does her husband say? What does he say about his parents' behavior to Lucy? Like, what's his-- if they discuss it, if they argue about it, what's his positioning?

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:03:41]
Right. So, forgot to mention this, but Lucy is also frustrated with her husband because he's an absolute sweetheart, but he hates getting into fights, so he avoids the problem. He says, you know, "you're right", but then he'll never speak up to his parents. He'll never say that, you know, "this is wrong and you shouldn't do that".

And he'll never stand up for her, and Lucy gets frustrated because she feels like her husband doesn't care and like he's not protecting her. And, you know, she keeps bringing it up and he keeps avoiding it.

Kim Ades: [00:04:14]
Okay, great. Got the story. So, there are several things.

Number one is... Lucy, number one, needs to really understand that her happiness comes from her thinking, not from the behavior of her in-laws. Period. That's thing, number one. And she needs to own that.

Right now, she's saying "they are behaving this way and that's the reason for my frustration, my anger, my upsettedness, and we need to reverse that". So thing number one is that Lucy needs to take control or ownership of her own thinking and her own mood, her state, her happiness, her way.

Having said that, the second thing is that she's looking for her in-laws to change in order for her to be happy. She's saying "the way they are behaving, the way they speak, the way they show up in the world is unacceptable to me and I need them to change".

And what I would encourage Lucy to do is understand, to realize her in-laws aren't going to change, and she needs to not need them to change in order for her to be happy.

The third thing that I would recommend is that Lucy's really focused on what they are doing wrong. Right? All the things she doesn't like about them. The way the mother-in-law comes into the house and rearranges everything, the way that she comments on everything. And the first thing I would attempt to do with Lucy is help Lucy focus on what she does want from her in-laws as opposed to what she doesn't want from her in-laws.

So if the mother-in-law comes into the house, she's coming into the house, she's cleaning, the first thing is that Lucy might feel like "that's offensive. Why should she clean my house?" And perhaps I would help Lucy to see that it's a benefit to have someone coming in and cleaning the house. To not get her back up about that.

But then I would also encourage Lucy to perhaps have a conversation with her mother-in-law and identify the things that her mother-in-law is doing really well. "Wow. I really love it when you prepare the chicken for us, you're such a good cook" and start to actually build a direct relationship with her mother-in-law and help her mother-in-law really truly be in a position of helping their family.

Because right now there's this friction, there's this tension, there's this antagonism. They're not on the same page. They're not on the same team. And I would encourage Lucy to be on the same team with her mother-in-law.

But the way that you be on someone's team is by really only pointing out, only discussing the things you want from them, not the things that they're doing wrong, not the ways that they are infringing upon your rights. Right?

This is a long-term relationship. She's got a great relationship with her husband. This is going to be a thing forever. Right? She's not getting divorced over her in-laws. And so the question is, how do we work with this relationship?

In life there are some relationships that we are stuck with, whether we like it or not. Can we reduce our exposure? Of course. Of course, and I would encourage Lucy to say, "Hey husband, sometimes you can go see your parents by yourself". So she doesn't have to see her in-laws every week. Perhaps she can see them every two weeks, or even every three weeks.

She could encourage her husband to go and have a direct relationship with her in-laws. But at the same time, I encourage her to have a direct relationship with her in-laws and start to form a bond. Start to form an allegiance, an alliance so that they're on the same page.

And here's the thing about the two of them is they both have something in their lives that they truly deeply care. She cares about her husband, her mother-in-law cares about her son. So get on the same page with that one thing you have in common. Right? And again, compliment the mother-in-law when she's doing something right.

If the mother-in-law is criticizing you, don't take it in, let it roll off your back. Redirect the conversation, focus on what's right and good. Focus on what you want from your mother-in-law. If she says, oh, I put this let's say salt or coaster in this drawer" say, "awesome. Amazing. Thank you so much for putting it away. Can you put it in this drawer next time?" Right? And here's why.

With respect to the father-in-law...

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:08:56]
Sorry, right before we get to the father-in-law, what if she can't find anything that she appreciates about the mother-in-law? What if that's a really hard thing for her?

Kim Ades: [00:09:05]
Well, there is something she appreciates about the mother-in-law.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:09:08]
What is that?

Kim Ades: [00:09:10]
Her son. Right? So she appreciates that son she gave birth to. And so if you shower appreciation on her son in front of her... obviously she cares about her son. Obviously she wants somebody who treats her son amazingly well... Focus on that.

Right? Does that make sense?

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:09:43]
Yeah, no, definitely.

Kim Ades: [00:09:44]
Right? If you're on the same page about something, they are on the same page about how incredibly important this man is in their lives, then let's both focus in that direction and compliment the mother for raising such an awesome son. That's it.

As for the father-in-law. So he's stepping over some lines, right? He's being inappropriate. And so I think it's very important for her to say, "Hey, that's not cool". It's important for her to say, "you know, I'm really uncomfortable when you speak to me that way. If you think I look nice and say, Hey Lucy, you look nice. Don't point out my boobs. I don't want to have that conversation with you". Right?

It's important for her to tell her what's-- to tell her father-in-law where he has crossed the line, and it's important for her to also give him tools to replace that inappropriate behavior. Right? So, "I don't like it when you point out my boobs. If you want to tell me that I look good. Say this: hey Lucy, you look good". Right?

And so it's not-- it's important for us to not just say "that's bad", but also to say "that's bad and here's what I want instead".

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:11:06]
And how does she get over the fact that she's upset that her husband won't stand up for her?

Kim Ades: [00:11:16]
Well, she believes that her husband's job is to stand up for her. The question: is it? Her husband has issues he has to deal with. He doesn't like confrontation. So, you're pushing him to do something that he's uncomfortable with. So two discomforts don't make comfort, right?

And so the question becomes, where's her voice? And where's her relationship? And so right now she's making him the gateway to her relationship, her direct relationship with her in-laws. I encourage her to have a direct relationship with her in-laws.

Even if that means a little contention in the short term. Even if that means she tells her father-in-law "I didn't like that" and he says, "ah, come on. You're being, you know, ridiculous", she needs to have that direct conversation with her father-in-law.

And to continue to put her husband in the middle, continues to create the tension in the room. So she needs to bypass her husband, actually. It's not a good strategy to keep him in the middle of this relationship because he's not able to represent you properly.

That doesn't mean he's a bad guy, that doesn't mean he doesn't want the best for you. It means he doesn't have the ability to do so. You've got to have a direct relationship.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:12:36]
Makes sense to me. So-- Continue.

Kim Ades: [00:12:40]
I remember I had a client one time that had these in-laws that he really had a hard time with. And he kept telling me how they should behave differently. They should be nicer. They should be more understanding. They should be kinder. They should be more friendly. They should be all these things.

And I said to him, "listen, you know, if you go to the wall over there and you say, 'Hey, wall, why aren't you giving me water?' does that make any sense? It doesn't make any sense. Walls give-- walls are walls. Walls hold up the house. They don't give water. Stop expecting your in-laws to give you what they don't have in them to give. What they don't have the capacity to give. But you can't get water from a wall. You go to the sink and you get water there".

And so this is part of the conversation we're having with respect to Lucy and her in-laws. She wants her in-laws to show up differently. You can't get water from a wall. Accept your in-laws as they are, and form the kind of relationship that you want. Understand that you have an impact in building that relationship.

So just as Lucy's mother-in-law's focusing on all the wrong things about you, you are focused on all the wrong things about her. Something's got to give and you have it in you to change that direction. By focusing on all the right things about your mother-in-law.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:14:03]
Sounds like a big step to take, but one worth taking.

Kim Ades: [00:14:06]
It's a big step, it requires muscle. But the reason we do that is not for the mother-in-law. Like, it sounds like, okay, the mother-in-law's getting all the benefit. No, the reason we do that is so that Lucy can experience more peace. That Lucy doesn't take things personally when their mother-in-law behaves the way she does. That Lucy can have a wonderful relationship with her husband.

So this is all for Lucy. And the people in her life certainly get the secondary benefit from that shift in her thinking, in her mindset.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:14:40]
Makes sense. So, if you were to give Lucy one last piece of advice, what would you say?

Kim Ades: [00:14:45]
I would say two things. Number one is, we get into trouble when we want other people to change in order for us to be happy. So, number one: accept your in-laws as they are.

Number two, build a direct relationship and focus on what you want in this relationship, as opposed to all the things that are wrong in this relationship. And I'll give you one more thing: and stop putting your husband in the middle of this relationship. Remove him from the equation.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:15:15]
Makes sense to me. Well, thank you so much.

Kim Ades: [00:15:18]
Thank you! That was a good one.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:15:21]

Kim Ades: [00:15:22] If you have a challenge that you want to share with us on the podcast or a case that you want us to work through, please reach out to me.

My email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com

Ferne, thank you so much for yet another awesome case.

Ferne Kotlyar: [00:15:37]
Thank you.

Kim Ades: [00:15:39]
Have a great day, guys!

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