How Brené Brown Saved My Marriage {And Helped Me Kick My MIL Out}

I’ve said this before in an introduction paragraph, but I have a really great husband. Yes, sometimes marriage is hard and we need to have hate dates, but all of our fights have been over silly or inconsequential things. We have never really fought over anything serious. We have never been close to ending it and everything has, in hindsight, run pretty smoothly over the last 8 years of our marriage. 

That is until my mother-in-law moved in. 

You know my MIL. She’s the one that inspired this blog post last year. My MIL and I have never really gotten along, but she really hasn’t gotten along with anyone in her life. I’m a tough pill to swallow sometimes, so when she needed to move somewhere, I thought that we could get past our differences and maybe get along. Plus, I have cute kids. Who can’t have a happy life under our happy roof? I offered for her to move in with us. My husband was not totally on board, but we discussed it, laid some ground rules, and hoped for the best. 

I was completely used to her negative view of me, but being a Southern woman, I opened my doors and prayed that everything would work out. I thought it would be better. We were already at rock bottom in our relationship, so  I thought she would “come around” to tolerating me. I was dead wrong. 

Brené Brown on Netflix

Brené Brown, a native Houstonian, is a vulnerability and shame researcher who has opened her heart and her research to extremely popular Ted Talks, interviews with Oprah, and, most recently, on Netflix. She’s also an award winning author of Daring Greatly, Dare to Lead, The Gifts of Imperfection, and many many more #1 Best Sellers. Not only is she inspirational, intelligent, and has a very moving message, but she’s also hilarious.

I’ll be honest, I knew of Brené Brown a little bit, but I had never really listened to her speak until I was on my way to Austin for a blogger conference called Mom 2.0 in April 2019. She was the keynote speaker for this  conference, so I listened to her Ted Talks and her Netflix special on the drive into Austin. I could not get enough and my eyes were open to what I needed in my life. I need to be honest and vulnerable with my husband. 

To give context, this conference was smack dab in the middle of when my MIL lived with us. I was going through an emotionally dark time  and really soaked up what Brené was saying. She discusses shame, being vulnerable, and having courage in our lives. She calls for us to let go of our armor and be open to love, belonging, and joy. If you haven’t checked out her Netflix special or her Ted Talks, you definitely should. 

Why I was shut down

In my life, my safe space was no longer safe. I had someone in my house openly disrespecting me, ignoring me, pretending I did not exist {until she needed money, of course} and my safe space, the place where I don’t have to be “on” at all became the place I never wanted to be. I really fought with myself about how much I wanted to burden my husband with how I was feeling. I still wanted the house and our family to be his safe space too. It was my job to keep it that way. 

My mom was the same way with my dad. She used to tell us to tell her everything and “we’ll figure out what Dad needs to know,” so that was burned in my head. My husband works really hard during the day and it’s my job to keep the house happy and light as to not burden him with any more stress from the home front. Keep everything happy and he’ll be so excited to come home. It may be flawed, but it’s literally the way my brain works.

He knew I was unhappy. He knew the situation wasn’t ideal. He knew she had to get out, yet he {and I} wanted to avoid the conflict that would come. He {and I} just wanted to take each day as it comes and to get by however we can. I was totally on board with this, until I wasn’t. 


So, here comes the vulnerability part :: I was afraid that my MIL {who, btw would ignore me and the kids 100% of the time until her son came home from work. That’s when she would mosey on downstairs and pretend to be a part of the family} wanted me out. I was deathly afraid that she wanted to take my place, raise my children, be the woman of the house and would stop at nothing to make it happen. Y’all, I literally went to sleep terrified that she was going to end my life somehow and try to take my place. Or that while I was in Austin for Mom 2.0 or out with friends that she was praying for something bad to happen to me. I was also afraid that my husband would look at me {or my absence at that time} and say, “She’s definitely not worth all of this drama. We can do this without her.” and my life would come crumbling down. That’s where my brain space was. It was terrifying and dark.

I want to make it very clear that my husband did not feel this way at all. Not once.

Brené Brown made me open up and tell my husband this. I also asked him to step into my shoes and picture how it feels to have someone in your house, the one that you own and that is your safe space, disrespect you every. single. day. I think that is when the light bulb went off and he fully understood how I felt {And, let me also add that he was completely on my side the whole time and felt the awkwardness, but I think that’s all he thought it was :: awkward}.

Now that my husband fully understood my inner thoughts and fears, no matter how silly they were, I felt like a whole new person. My attitude shifted from upset and scared to determined and strong. I told my MIL how I felt :: that she was a dark cloud on our lives and needed to leave. She was gone within a few weeks. I also said some other things to her that I’m not particularly proud of, but it worked. 

We are stronger than ever

I definitely felt a shift in our marriage after these conversations and being vulnerable with each other. We are able to say what is actually on our mind {Sometimes utilizing the phrase :: “The story I’m telling myself is…” from Brené’s special.} and know that the other person is not going to laugh or leave. I think, in our society, it is so important to show our real selves, live our best lives, and make sure that the people in our lives are there because they are comfortable with you. The Real You. Not just the Instagram You. 

To answer your question, no, I did not go up to Brené Brown at Mom 2.0 and tell her how she changed my life. I wasn’t going to be that person, but from just a few hours of hearing her speak, my mindset definitely shifted and helped my marriage for the better. I also hope that she reads this post and knows how appreciative I am for her words and her work {and that we could become best friends and go to Lake Travis together}. 

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Jennifer is a native outside-the-loop’er growing up and living in the Richmond/Rosenberg area. She has a Bachelors in theology and political science from Texas Lutheran University and a Masters in Liberal Arts from Texas Christian University. She and her husband Greg met in 2010 through and fell in love on their first date. They married exactly one year later and have fought lovingly and constantly since. They have two amazingly brilliant girls, Kaitlyn {June 2013} and Elizabeth {June 2015} who Jen stays home with during the day. When Jen is not curled in a little ball rocking back and forth with Peppa Pig on in the background, she can be found crafting with her Silhouette and/or binge watching The Office for the millionth time. Jen has an uncanny ability to be comfortable in almost any situation put in front of her, thanks to growing up in politics and on the debate team. Before having kids of her own, she had the opportunity to help other kids through teaching, youth ministry, and generally being a helpful, kind soul. You can check out more about Jen on IG @themommymiddle.


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