I used to think that my mother-in-law was the queen of backhanded compliments.
The morning after the wedding, she told me that "she really didn't think that several of my ideas were going to work out, but it turned out so lovely after all!" and that "I can't believe you made it so nice when it was so cheap!"
These used to disgruntle me, but now I really don't think she means them maliciously. I think it's exactly what she means. Like, not thinking some of my wedding ideas would work..she had never seen a receiving line happen before a wedding before. She had no idea if it was going to work out or not, but she genuinely thought it was wonderful. And she and her family come from a much wealthier background than I do, so it was really tough for her to see her son have his reception in a rented hall and not a fancy ball room or pavilion at Forest Park. She sincerely meant that I made something that looked nice/expensive out of a very limited budget.
She sent me an e-mail last week about the house Coach and I close on next month. She wrote that "I can see why you like it." Which, tone-wise, can sound like that is the one and only positive thing she could think of to say about the house. But now that I know her better, I understand that she really means that she sees why we like it--the 10 foot ceilings, hardwood floors, open staircase, etc. No harm or spite meant on her part. I just have to be open minded and not get defensive when she says stuff.
Maybe it's the nasty, pessimistic side of my that used to jump to the conclusion that what she said sounded like it had an undertone of negative. But I'm not blaming myself...taken one way, lots of what my mother-in-law says sounds really backhanded. I'm just glad I figured all of this out now and not later. Nothing causes more stress with Coach and I than family stuff.
Ever since being married (and now that that huge stress is off everyone's plates), things with the in-laws have really settled. It definitely feels like Coach and I are really easing in to each other's family dynamic. It certainly hasn't always been easy, but it is getting so, so much easier.
Do your in-laws say things that throw you off? Is family a stress for you and your partner?