7 Spiritual Lessons From Your Mother-in-Law

Updated on December 10, 2017
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Lana is a spiritual writer, blogger, and editor who advocates for women to regain their divine power, starting with a family structure.

Believe it or not, your mother-in-law is in your life for a reason. Perhaps you have something called a "soul contract" or she's your karmic challenge. If you meet this challenge, you will learn a great deal about yourself, and become a stronger, happier, more whole person. If you ignore her lessons, you'll be stuck in a perpetual cycle of hate, resentment and misery.


1. The lesson of setting boundaries

Are you emotionally sensitive? Do you tend to shy away from conflict? Do you want everyone to just get along?

If you've answered "yes" to these questions, you might find it extraordinarily difficult to set boundaries for your mother-in-law. Yet this may be the very lesson your MIL is teaching you - speak up, set boundaries, take charge of your life.

You may be immensely frustrated by your in-laws' intrusive ways but it takes two to tango. If you've never set boundaries because you didn't want to rock the boat, is it at all surprising that she continuously oversteps them?

2. The lesson of compassion

Everyone is fighting a hard battle.

She's human. She's not perfect. Neither are you.

Just as you feel that she is intrusive, controlling and manipulative, she feels that you are hostile, ungrateful and argumentative. Or that you're trying to turn her son against her. Or that you're not listening to her valuable advice when it comes to her grandchildren. The list of grievances from both sides can go on and on, and it only proves one thing: we're all human. We all feel insecure at times. We all feel lonely. And we all have a deep need for love and appreciation.

Even the prickliest of mothers-in-law can feel hurt, lonely and insecure at times.
Even the prickliest of mothers-in-law can feel hurt, lonely and insecure at times.

3. The lesson of humility

Astonishingly, not everything is about you. When you take everything personally, you're feeding into the idea that you are the center of the universe, and therefore everything that happens around you is about you.

What your mother-in-law says or does is not about you; it's about her. It's about her ability to give or receive unconditional love, it's about whether or not she feels fulfilled, happy, important etc. It's about her unhealed pain. It's about her inner child.

Remember: people who don't love themselves don't know how to love others. And even if they do "love" someone, their love is conditional, judgmental, fragmented. So don't take it personally.

4. The lesson of forgiveness

Spoiler alert: your mother-in-law is not sorry. She doesn't believe she did anything wrong. She doesn't deserve your forgiveness, and she certainly won't ask for it. That's OK. Forgive her anyway.

Most in-law relationships are so wrecked with animosity and blame, neither side is capable of forgiveness. Which is exactly what creates an emotional entanglement - holding on to grudges, inflating the ego, victim consciousness etc.

Forgive and move on. There's nothing more to it. You'll feel lighter, happier, healthier. And you'll learn a valuable lesson: to forgive is to detach.

5. The lesson of self-love

Forgiveness is important, but it doesn't mean that your give you mother-in-law a free pass to abuse you. That's where self-love comes in.

When you love yourself, you value yourself and your energy. You have a clear sense of dignity and self-respect. When you don't love yourself, you tend to let people walk all over you. You try to please them by trying to be what they want you to be. And as a result, you give your power away...

Perhaps, your mother-in-law is teaching you to love yourself enough to stand up for yourself. And in some cases, if the relationship has become too painful, to let go of that relationship.

6. The lesson of self-awareness

Some relationships bring out the best in you. Others test you, drain you and push your "buttons." Ironically, the latter ones are more transformational, but only in the light of self-awareness.

If you pay attention, you will find that your MIL's most annoying qualities are the very same ones that you don't like within yourself. These "bad" tendencies that we deny need to be brought to light and acknowledged in order to grow. This is our Shadow Self.

On the other hand, your MIL may be triggering your childhood traumas. Do you feel mistreated and rejected by her? Do you feel like nothing you do is ever good enough? Do you feel like she ignores or underplays your accomplishments while constantly criticizing every tiny mistake? Do you often feel bad about yourself after seeing her?

If that sounds true, there may be another parental figure in your life who made you feel that way. Most likely, your biological mother or father. You're looking for love and validation from your mother-in-law the same way you were looking for love and validation from your original parent. Your mother-in-law just triggers those parts of you that feel insecure, unloved and unworthy. The parts that need healing.

A difficult mother-in-law may trigger the feelings of insecurity and rejection you experienced as a child.
A difficult mother-in-law may trigger the feelings of insecurity and rejection you experienced as a child. | Source

7. The lesson of gratitude

Gratitude may be the last thing you feel towards your mother-in-law, and that is precisely why you need to challenge yourself to feel grateful.

For one, she gave life to someone you love - your husband. Be thankful for that.

But more importantly, be thankful for the many precious lessons she has to teach you. She teaches kindness by being unkind. She teaches tolerance by being judgmental. She teaches unconditional love by being withholding and punishing. She teaches honesty by being deceptive. If it wasn't for her, you wouldn't be the person you are today.

And if you don't feel grateful for her at the moment, it's OK too. Give it time. Let yourself feel whatever you feel. And know that you are loved - endlessly, unconditionally, eternally.

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© 2017 Lana ZK


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    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 2 weeks ago from California

      Thank you MizBejabbers! You were indeed lucky, most women are not, I gather. But I don't think it was just luck. Your first mother-in-law disapproved but you were still able to turn it around and have a close relationship with her. I command you for that! It's heartwarming and encouraging to know that some MILs can be like mothers.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 weeks ago

      Very insightful, Lana. I never looked at it that way, but I never had to. I believe I'm the luckiest woman in the world because I've had two most wonderful MILs in the universe. My relationship with my first MIL was uncomfortable at first because we married so young, and I knew that she disapproved. I took it personally. She was a warm, kind, and loving person who understood that I felt insecure, unloved and unworthy (to use your words). She stepped in and, after a couple of years, she made me feel like the daughter she never had. After the marriage became abusive, she helped me divorce her son because she cared about the children and me. So I loved her like a mother.

      My second MIL made no bones about her dislike for my husband's previous wife, and she let him know that she loved me. Maybe I learned well from my first MIL. Anyway, both have passed on, and both have a special place in my heart. I've had three daughters-in-law, and only one of them has had that kind of relationship with me. It was their choice, not mine.

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 2 weeks ago from California

      Thank you Larry! It sure is a good one to learn. Even though it's the kind of lesson that kind of goes against your nature :) Always good to hear from you!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 weeks ago from Oklahoma

      You don't write often, but it's always so intelligent and well done.

      One of the hardest lessons that we learn is that we're not the center of the universe.

      As shocking as that realization can be, it's also very freeing.

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 2 weeks ago from California

      Thank you McKenna! You're so right. Mothers-in-law are tough teachers but their lessons are priceless. Looks like you've learnt yours, and you're a better woman for it.

    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 2 weeks ago from Bend, OR

      Wow, Lana, I hope every daughter-in-law reads this. It's all so incredibly true. I've learned these lessons, but it's taken me over 20 years and lots of heartache. There were so many times when I thought my mother-in-law was critical and unkind. But, honestly, she wasn't thinking of me at all. She has 6 children and 15 grandchildren and I'm really not very important in her life. That realization tapped into lots of my insecurities from childhood. But, what I came to focus on is that she raised an incredible son who's smart, thoughtful, open minded, and sincere—a marvelous husband and father—and that's why I need to honor my mother-in-law. She deserves that.