When you get married, you are instantly propelled into a relationship that can sometimes be wonderful. But for many brides, it isn’t. What is it? It’s the mother-in-law relationship. People don’t seem to understand why this relationship can be one of the most difficult relationships you will have in your married life. Like many things in life, the better informed you are, the better you can handle things. Here are some things you need to know about a mother-in-law.
He was hers, first
She raised that guy you’re marrying. She changed his diapers, kissed his boo-boos and cleaned up his mess at night when he was sick. What have you done for him? She has done it all, and you are often seen as an interloper. You may even be seen as not having earned what her son is giving you. So when you treat him poorly in her eyes, she is not going to be happy with you. She will question what he sees in you and even ask him this directly. In turn, he foolishly relays this conversation to you and —it’s game on. This is where many mother-in-law relationships start poorly.
She had dreams
When she was holding your guy in her arms, she had hopes and dreams for him. Even though he is grown up she still wants the best for him, and that may not include you. So she is struggling with how to let him be a grown man while also wanting him to possibly make different choices in his life. It’s not a personal vendetta against you. It could be any woman that he chooses to involve in his life. When she talks about the former ‘perfect’ girlfriend, she doesn’t realize that they broke up for a reason. In hindsight, she was the ‘perfect’ girlfriend for the mother-in-law just not for her son.
From the beginning, she was the one he would listen to. Now he is listening to you. There may be a loss of connection, which can be fearful to a mother. She doesn’t know who you are or where you will move to. Will she get to have grandkids? Will they live near her? Will she always be in competition with the other grandparents? These are some fears that race through her mind, among others. Being able to control things in her favor is something she might do, which causes obvious problems.
Perhaps you, like numerous others, want a great relationship with your mother-in-law. It’s not hard to do. It may take a bit of work and some self-reflection on what things matter to you in life. Here are some ideas on how to make it work.
A strained relationship with in-laws is often created when too much information is shared about your relationship. This could be because of you or your spouse. When your MIL knows how much you make, how much you spend or what you constantly fight about, this could mean you are sharing too much information with them. The less they know the less they have to throw in your face. The more they know the more they will stay involved in your business. I have not met any couple that really values the in-laws knowing everything about them and their relationship.
Hopefully, your parents taught you at a young age to be respectful. They also should have taught you the importance of being respectful to potential in-laws. Now, here is a small hint. They don’t need to be respectful for you to be respectful back. I often hear a dumb phrase, “I only respect people who respect me.” People that believe this tend to have poor relationships in general. My STRONG suggestion to you is that you be respectful to your in-laws for two reasons. First, your spouse will love you for it. Second, it’s the right thing to do.
Bite your tongue
There are going to be times in your relationship with your in-laws that you will feel justified to say something that makes perfect sense about an issue. You may even want to say, “I told you so.” Let me strongly suggest you build up the scar tissue on your tongue by biting it. Your goal in your relationship with your husband is to do things to strengthen that relationship. Sometimes that may mean just being quiet even when everything inside wants to scream out. Obviously this doesn’t apply to dangerous and inappropriate behavior you don’t agree with. However, it does apply to interior design choices, politics or the best way to camp.
What you will discover is that the issues your mother-in-law has with you aren’t about you. It is more about the relationship with her son transitioning from her to you. As difficult as it is for you, remember it can be just as difficult for her.