I Need Spiritual Help Coping with My Mother-in-Law


How do I support myself and what should I do when I am being mentally harassed by my husband’s mother? I am bound with societal obligations and can’t leave house. Can I do something spiritually to bring peace in to my life? My work is badly affected as I can’t focus; I do research and it needs a lot of it. Now I am breaking down and no human assistance (not even my caring husband) seems to be of any use. My last resort is spiritual assistance. I just want a simple life full of love and freedom.

—AL, India


Dear AL,

Let me make a few assumptions before I respond: your mother-in-law lives with you and your husband in the same house? You do research but can’t leave the house? So I assume you have a paid job doing research (presumably online?) from your home? You didn’t mention on what basis your mother-in-law is harassing you? Is it about work? Housework? Children?

Mothers-in-law are famous for harassing their sons- or daughters-in-law. So I’d start with the fact that you are experiencing what millions of others experience century after century! I heard someone say recently that when you are on the brink of marrying someone keep in mind you are also marrying your future mother-in-law! So what do these other millions of harassed kids-in-law do in these situations? (I’ll come to the spiritual suggestions in a minute!)

1. Be calmly honest with her while you stand up for yourself. State your issue, how it impacts you, and request that she “knock it off!” (do this as often as needed)

2. Go out of your way to be her friend, to look after her needs, and do what you can to please her (within limits of your own peace of mind).

3. If the above goes well, find moments to ask her about her life. Her marriage. Her upbringing. And, yes, even her advice! Maybe she needs to be acknowledged and appreciated? Show an interest in her life. If she’s a widow, maybe she’s still grieving. Maybe she’s critical because she imagines she’s being criticized! (A person who tends to be critical naturally imagines they are being criticized. They are often surprised to discover no one is criticizing them.)

Spiritually speaking, then, consider:

1. Early morning and late night, take a few minutes to pray and meditate. Pray especially for your mother in law: not that she change this or that attitude but that she find peace within herself. Harassing someone else is a sign of a troubled heart. Do you do a morning puja? (Would your mother in law even join you in this?)

2. The troubles that come to us are disguised blessings from Divine Mother: to teach us about ourselves, about how we can improve, learn patience, accept life’s challenges and bless those through whom they come. Pray for the grace to accept challenges with gratitude for the spiritual opportunity to mature, to be calm, and to see the hand of God in others and in all circumstances.

3. If you are housebound but otherwise are on the internet, find spiritual resources such as Ananda (Ananda.org; AnandaIndia.org; etc). Listen to talks by Swami Kriyananda; chanting. Take an online meditation course. Read Autobiography of a Yogi (I think there’s a free download at Ananda.org).

4. Are there devotees who you can invite to the house for chanting and satsang?

Banat, banat ban jai!” Doing, doing, soon done. Little by little. There’s a childrens’ movie, quite famous, “Mary Poppins,” who sang: “Just a little bit of sugar helps the medicine go down!” Return scowls with smiles and in time you will be surprised.

Joy and blessings to you and your mother-in-law!
Nayaswami Hriman