Your Husband Puts His Mother Before You: 15 Ways to Deal With It

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

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It can be a bitter pill to swallow when your husband keeps putting his mother before you. What can you really do about it? Many wives in this particular position wonder if there are reasonable ways to deal with this particular behavior.

Dealing with this particular situation can be tricky. Ask yourself if you already knew before marriage that your husband would behave in this manner. If so, and if you don’t want to end your marriage, you need to find ways to deal with the discomfort of coming second place – or at least try to solve the problem.

Don’t despair if it feels like you’re coming second place to your mother-in-law. Remember that it’s something he has done all of his life, and he may simply need to learn a new way of being. If you would like to better deal with the situation, here are 15 suggestions to consider.

15 things to do when your husband puts his mother before you:

1. Ignore it and learn to live with it.

If you don’t want to confront the situation and worry that bringing it up will negatively impact your marriage, there is always the option of simply ignoring and learning to live with it. If it doesn’t bother you all that much, let it slide. Of course, if this bothers you, you should tackle the problem. 

2. Talk to him about it – being open and honest is a good policy.

You don’t need to accuse or attack your partner on the topic, but you can ask to talk to him privately and tell him how you feel about it. Choose your words wisely, as this can determine how the conversation goes. You can say something like “I sometimes feel like you are putting your mother before me because of…” and give him the opportunity to respond. Perhaps it will bring to light something he was unaware that he was doing, and if he loves you, he won’t want you to feel uncomfortable or second best. 

3. Cut down on family visits – have a new focus on developing your family unit.

If you don’t want to attack the issue head-on but want to stop experiencing the problem, simply orchestrate your lives so that there is less time for family visits. This may irk his mother initially, but if you persist without making it too obvious, he will soon take on his responsibilities, and she will get used to the limited or reduced visits. Soon it will be the new norm.

4. Work on your relationship.

If your husband has a close bond with you and his every need is fulfilled, his loyalty will certainly lie with you. This doesn’t mean that he won’t hold his mother in high esteem, but it might mean that he starts to take better care of his in-house responsibilities, and that might cause a natural detachment from his mother’s apron strings.

5. Separate immediate and extended family vacations.

When it feels like your husband is consistently choosing his mother over you, joined family vacations can feel like torture. Vacations are meant to be fun and relaxing for everyone involved, and that includes you. If you have two family vacations lined up, suggest that the extended family is only included in one of those. You can use the explanation that your immediate family unit also needs to bond as it’s healthy. 

6. Make sure your expectations are known and understood.

If you have expectations of your husband that he keeps fobbing off because of putting his mother first, have the chat with him. Layout what you expect from your marriage and your partner and ask if he is on board with it. Don’t insist he excludes your mother, but mention which areas you would like to be given first priority in. You might be surprised how willing he is to work with you on it, if he knows where he is going wrong or causing upset. 

7. Schedule “us time” with your husband.

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The more time your husband spends with his mother or includes her in your plans, the more he will prioritize her in his life. You need to remind him that time for just the two of you is very important. Schedule days and evenings each week where it is just the two of you and no extended family or friends. This will help you to start forming a healthier relationship between the two of you. 

8. Start prioritizing your family too.

While tit for tat is never a first option, it can be used as a way to illustrate to your partner how stressful it can be when a partner puts their mother or another family member first. While he is putting his mother ahead of you, start to do the same with your mother. If some of the family money goes to his mother, ensure that some of your share of the money goes to yours. If he takes his mother’s opinion every time, try to do the same. You may be surprised how quickly he cottons onto the unfairness of it. 

9. Distance yourself.

If your husband has no idea from what you say and how you behave that you are upset, he will never just magically find out. The first step to showing your husband that his behavior is impacting negatively on your relationship is to distance yourself from him and let him have some time to think about the reasons behind that. 

10. Be firm with decisions and insist that decisions that impact your marriage are handled strictly between the two of you.

When a mother-in-law comes first, she can start to impose her opinions and ideas on the couple. Often this can lead to your husband simply doing as his mother says when it comes to decisions. That’s understanding considering he spent a large portion of his life doing just that. 

Now things have changed, and you need to remind him and her of that. If there’s a decision that has to be made that affects you and your husband, insist that you talk about it privately and come to the decision before any family members are involved. That’s not being unreasonable – it’s just how a marriage works.

11. Show him the benefits of putting you first.

Every time your husband treats you well and puts you first, reward him. Shower him with love and praise. Do something special for him. Every time he chooses to put his mother first, distance yourself and be pleasant and respectful, but don’t give him the approval he undoubtedly has enjoyed when he is putting you first. Don’t be manipulative, but allow yourself to honestly display how you feel about the situation. 

12. Take on a “we are a team” approach.

Speak to your husband about really being a team. While his mother’s opinions and ideas can stand, you want to be involved in every step of the process because you are a “team”, and your marriage vows are proof of that. By driving the message home that you are the team and not him and his mother, he may come around to your way of thinking. 

13. Ask him why – sometimes he just doesn’t know how to say “no”.

Your husband might not even be aware of the fact that he puts his mother first. It might just feel natural to him, and because his mother has been such a major part of his life, he must simply struggle to say no to her. If you ask him why he has a tendency to put his mother before you and follow it up with examples (gently and tactfully, of course), he may come to his senses and realize how he has been making you feel. 

14. Avoid resentment.

Harboring resentment for the situation without dealing with it is not going to benefit you. In fact, it is only going to drive a wedge between you, which is surely the opposite of what you want. Work on having an outlet for your anger and frustration, and make sure that you don’t take your ill feelings out on your partner. Rather work through the issues than react to them. 

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15. Ask your husband to go to couple’s counseling with you and bring it up there.

Going to couple’s counseling is not only for couples in crisis. It’s also ideal for people who want to maintain and build on their marriage. Perhaps suggest that you would like to do some maintenance couple’s counseling with your husband and bring up the issue tentatively in one of the sessions. This way, a professional can weigh in on the issue and provide helpful advice. 

In closing

If your husband is putting his mother before you, don’t leap into negative action. He could be doing it rather unconsciously or just doesn’t know how to handle the situation. If you want to handle the situation better, apply the abovementioned tips and see how it goes. Good luck with becoming your husband’s number one lady!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He covers topics like spirituality, philosophy, finance, sports, games, and food. JC earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business with a Marketing Concentration at Mercyhurst University. He is a certified USPTA professional who teaches tennis in the New York City Metropolitan area. He has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.