Monsters-in-Law Wreak Havoc at Holidays

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"Communicate and seek counseling if it's just not resolving, especially if you hope to have a long and happy life," she said. "You'll put up with it for a long time if you don't nip it in the bud."

For Terri, Christmas is always a booze fest, one fully sanctioned by her mother-in-law.

"Her husband is loud and obnoxious," she said. "At any moment if something isn't going right, he will go off and start cursing whoever he feels deserves it."

When her son, now 12, was born with health issues that eventually resolved, her mother-in-law told the world that her grandson had been born sick "because I did something wrong during my pregnancy," said Terri.

The woman may be generous -- buying her son a new car -- but mean. The couple was just about ready to close on a new house, and the monster undermined the sale.

"She had nothing to do with it, no money down," said Terri. "She just wants to be involved. I was livid."

When the couple went into marriage counseling a few years ago, mother-in-law joined in. "My husband invited her," she said. "They are close."

Mother-in-Law Kills Christmas Cactus

Cheryl, a 40-year-old mother of four from Fort McCoy, Fla., lives less than a mile down the street from her "self-centered" mother-in-law, but the family rarely celebrates the holidays together anymore.

First, there was the Christmas when she was called a "fat ass" in front of the entire family. Then the in-laws played favorites, ignoring her two older children from a previous marriage.

Now, Cheryl says she has decided to cook Christmas dinner in her own home, and her mother-in-law has shunned her.

"Don't get me wrong, I do invite her," said Cheryl. "It is her choice."

One year, her mother-in-law dropped off holiday gifts when Cheryl's family wasn't home. Rather than leave them in an open space on the covered porch, the vengeful mother-in-law dumped them on top of Cheryl's beloved Christmas cactus.

"I cried and cried," she said. "She knew it had come from my grandmother who died."

"I really don't know why she is like this," said Cheryl. "I think it's jealousy. I am at home with the kids and have the life she always wanted."

Jealousy works both ways, according to Martha Chabinsky, a Kripalu yoga teacher from Amherst, N.H., who is also a mother-in-law.

"The most important and hardest thing is not to take anything personally," she said. "A young woman can be intimidated by the relationship you have with your son, just by the fact that he is your son. You are the closest woman to him, and some young women are threatened by that."

Her advice is to treat a daughter-in-law as you would a daughter.

"Listen, be compassionate, speak your mind when you feel it's necessary, don't make assumptions, and show by example how to take care of yourself," said Chabinsky, 57, who has three sons.

But she also warns about "kowtowing" to a daughter-in-law's demands, "if they seem out of line."

"Doing so just makes her feel that she has power over you," she said. "No one has power over anyone here....they should communicate, not make assumptions, and keep strong boundaries."

Her daughter-in-law, Lisa Appleyard, 36, of Bethel, Conn., who has a positive relationship with Chabinsky, agrees.

A good mother-in-law is someone who "can listen without judgment and who is forgiving when mistakes are made."

To find out how to cope with your in-laws, see Gurgle's mother-in-law guide.

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