My Boyfriend has a daughter -in- law that is very high strung, she is very on the defensive all the time, how can I better communicate with someone that is always on the defensive? She can be very combative!! it's really her way I believe of being able to control those of us that are around her, so she thinks.
Although it does sound like you and your boyfriend’s daughter-in-law have different personalities (and I will get back to this), the encounter to which you are speaking of isn’t really one I personally would have based any feeling towards her on. Reason being, she was being told a misrepresentation of truths by a third party (your cleaning lady), and you are assuming that she was “keeping you in the dark” regarding what the lady was saying. Sometimes people tell other people things thinking that it is somehow making them more liked, but all it is doing is causing more venom and problems to occur. And sometimes, people don’t say anything because it is none of their business and are not close enough to you to tell you what’s going on. Which is the gist of what I think happened here. I don’t think that the daughter-in-law was deliberately soaking this cleaner for information. It sounds more like the cleaner wanted to stir the pot, and was talking smack about you.
The daughter-in-law does sound like she is being defensive (I say this because generally you do not get into gossip from a cleaning lady unless something is bothering you and you need to spill that info to make a point), but why do you think she feels this way? Have you or your boyfriend ever been even the slightest bit judgmental do you think? Or maybe it could do with something her husband is saying. Maybe the comment you made (but didn’t “mean” that way) is the reason she is so defensive. Only you would know the answer to those questions. But generally (and this is generally) people do not automatically talk in the defensive unless they have something they feel they need to defend. And when it comes to the in-laws (both ways) there are millions of people in that boat.
Talking with someone who is on the defensive does become difficult, because unless the “problem” is resolved you two will always be on separate sides of the field. Having said that, there are plenty of people out there who are in this situation exactly but still manage to be civil. Which I think is the course for you to take if you seriously cannot think of a single reason why she may feel like she needs to be defensive. Being civil and not talking about her behind her back would definitely be the way to go to try and rebuild on the relationship.
I do want to point out something a little ironic from your letter though. At the bottom you state that you are a good person who works with handicapped people. Has it never crossed your mind that this defense mechanism should be treated the same way as a handicap? Many psychologists spend countless hours writing theories on this, and I happen to agree with the theory that a personality trait or reflex on memory/situation is very similar to what we would call a handicap.
To a person with paraplegia their handicap is their legs because they cannot use them in the function that they were designed for. Well in this particular situation, the defensiveness is the handicap because she cannot use her trust and actual persona in the natural non-defensive function. Just think about that for a little while and approach situations with her the same as you would a handicapped person. That will probably be much easier on you and her in the future.
In any event, dealing with a loved one’s family should always be approached with care. And I hope that you can see that the situation you had (with the cleaning lady) is done now, and you also need to move past this. Hanging on to an idea (like that she was purposely infiltrating your home for information) will gnaw and ruin any hope of you repairing the relationship you have with the daughter-in-law. So you need to let go of that before you try to be civil and move forward.
I hope that this has been helpful, and that the two of you can sort things out at least so when you are in each others presence it doesn’t feel like you are walking into a war zone.
In my travels on this earth, I have come across every kind. I have also figured out that there are positive and negative people as well as the energy they bring to the table and our lives. Some call them, "Physic Vampires, " a comical description of those that suck the very life force from us...if we allow it.
Silence is Golden But Duct Tape is Silver
Of course, the first thing I would tell you is to limit any interaction, wherever possible. I'm quite sure you're not hanging around with this person anyway. But in the event you must interact with her, you must own the entire situation. If she begins her negativity do your damnedest to just fall silent. Body language speaks volumes. Just look at her like you've just placed a piece of duct tape over her mouth. This will be a rather comical situation, I guarantee it, (I'm laughing just thinking about it). Yes, it's our very own lil secret.
Remember that in any and all situations, there is a huge difference between being Passive or Aggressive; You never want to be either. No, you must hone your craft of learning to be Assertive in all situations which merit it.
See, every daily interaction with someone of her caliber and you can bet your bippy that they are everywhere, often calls for an assertive stance. This is a self preservation technique/thinking process. You just don't feed into it wherever possible. Fall silent, walk away and own the situation. Have it in your mind, that you will not tolerate the negative bulls***. You must remember that you don't have to tolerate it. Now, this does not mean you need to be ignorant and always on the defense but I know for sure, it's all about body language, innuendo and assertiveness.
It sounds to me like you'd have your hands full trying to change the boyfriend's daughter-in-law. All you can really do is look out for yourself and own every single situation, interaction or conversation with this gal. Limit them, as I said but when and if you must, the very first time she lays out her string of negativity, you hold your hand up and simply state that you will not engage in her negativity trappings and walk away. Eventually, she'll catch on that you just won't and don't need all the drama.
Carry lots of duct tape, lol!
Keeping It Real,