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Jenna Bush Hager details 'rage' inducing family argument – and an expert tells us her suggestions

A relationship expert weighs in on handling arguments with a mother-in-law

Henry Hager and Jenna Bush Hager attends the 9th annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball at Cipriani Wall Street on December 3, 2013 in New York City
Beatriz Colon
Beatriz Colon - New York
Online News WriterNew York
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It seems Jenna Bush Hager knows all too well how tricky it can be to deal with an opinionated mother-in-law, especially in the first stages of a marriage.

The Today Show star, 42, has been married to her husband Henry Hager since 2008, and together they share kids Mila, ten, Poppy, eight, and Hal, four.

Though the former first daughter and her husband are already over ten years into their marriage, the NBC mainstay still remembers one of the first moments she had to stand her ground in an argument, and not with Henry, but with his mom.

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During Wednesday's episode of 4th Hour with Hoda and Jenna, Jenna and her co-host Hoda Kotb were discussing compromise in relationships. The former then recalled a time when her mother-in-law Margaret Hager gave her an old poster of one of Henry's favorite baseball players, and insisted: "Now you need to put this on your wall. Your husband loves this player."

"I had some sort of rage come out," the mom-of-three confessed, and further remembered the insistent back and forth she and her in-law had over the poster.

She continued: "I said, 'No I will not! This should stay in your home in his childhood bedroom where basketball posters go to die,'" adding: "I probably should have just graciously said, 'Thank you so much for this poster,' and then trashed it later, which I might have done, I don't remember, it was almost 20 years ago."

Jenna Bush Hager and Henry Hager attend The George H.W. Bush Points Of Light Awards Gala© Getty
Jenna met Henry when he was working for her dad, former President George W. Bush

Louella Alderson, a relationship expert and co-founder of dating app So Syncd, also knows a thing or two about tricky family and marriage dynamics, and spoke to HELLO! about what Jenna – or anyone else in a similar situation – could have done about it.

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"It seems like Jenna's mother-in-law was trying to assert her influence and control over her new daughter-in-law," she first explains, and says: "It would have been important for Jenna to stand her ground and communicate her feelings and preferences calmly but firmly. She could have said something like, 'I respect your opinion, but I don't feel like the poster aligns with my personal tastes. Henry and I will figure out between ourselves what we need to compromise on.'"

Jenna and Henry have been together for 20 years © Instagram
The couple tied the knot in 2008

Moreover, she suggests: "Jenna's husband, Henry, should have stepped in and defended his wife's choices instead of allowing his mother to dictate them," and notes the moment "could have been a valuable opportunity for the couple to establish boundaries and show their united front as a team."

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Further speaking on the often tricky relationship between a woman and her mother-in-law, she says: "It's important for women to establish boundaries with their mother-in-laws early on. It can be a tricky balance between respecting their opinions and asserting your own independence, but it's necessary in order to maintain a healthy relationship with your husband's family."

Jenna Bush Hager's son kisses dad Henry on the cheek© Instagram
The pair share three kids together

Louella suggests "having open and honest communication with your spouse about how to handle situations where the mother-in-law may be overstepping or causing tension," and maintains: "You should be able to rely on your partner for support in these moments and work together as a team to find the best solution for everyone." 

Ultimately, she believes that "your spouse comes first" and reminds us: "Saying no to things that cross your personal boundaries isn't something that should be compromised in a healthy relationship… As long as you are respectful and honest, you can find a balance between maintaining a positive relationship with your mother-in-law while also staying true to yourself."

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