Getting Along With Your Mother-In-Law
For better or for worse, through bickering and agreement, your mother-in-law is part of your family. Relationships with mothers-in-law are the butt of many jokes, but stress between you and your wife’s mom is no laughing matter. In fact, serious strife with your mother-in-law can put a strain on your marriage. When a positive relationship is fostered, your mother-in-law can become an ally for you and your wife together, an important part of your support network, and a valued member of your extended family.
But how you and your mother-in-law get along isn’t solely up to you. As with any other family relationship, it takes two to tango. You can strongly influence the nature of your relationship with patience and persistence. Often it isn’t what you say but what you do that helps you cross the line from being referred to as “my son-in-law” to “my new son.” Whether your mother-in-law lives across the country or down the street, getting along with her is beneficial to you, her, and your wife. Although it’s never too late to work toward creating a positive relationship with your mother-in-law, it’s also never too early. Your efforts can start before the wedding. A few time-honored tips can help you get along with your mother-in-law and work toward building an amiable, if not positive, relationship.
She is a Person. Similar to other family members or friends, at the end of the day your mother-in-law is just a person. She might be shy, but come across as arrogant. She may seem disagreeable, but maybe she just misses having her daughter around on a daily basis. Get to know your mother-in-law better by spending time together as a family. Doing this gives your mother-in-law a chance to know you better, too. Since her child’s happiness is likely to be first and foremost in her mind, time spent together gives your mother-in-law the opportunity to see how happy you’re making her daughter. Over time, any uncertainty on her part will fade as she becomes more confident in you as a person and her daughter’s husband.
Set a Positive Tone. Another way in which you can get along with your mother-in-law is to set the tone for your relationship with her and make it a positive one. Smile upon greeting your mother-in-law each time you see her and keep your mood calm, happy, and light. Take time to let go of stress before family get-togethers through physical exercise, a discussion with your spouse, or prayer. This allows you to avoid carrying your difficulties or bad mood with you and doesn’t give your mother-in-law the impression you don’t want to be there. Should your mother-in-law be in the midst of a bad day, there’s no need to absorb her negativity. Offer an ear, listen attentively, and tell her you are sorry to hear she’s having a difficult day and hope tomorrow will be a better one. By being polite,supportive, and respectful you can help lighten the atmosphere and keep things positive. Avoid the temptation to be sucked into complaining or squabbling, which causes stress to build and can end in disagreements and arguing.
If complaining, bickering, and squabbling are a regular part of visits with your mother-in-law or your wife’s side of the family, exercise restraint and don’t participate in these activities. Although sharing in common interests and activities strengthens family bonds, this is not the case when it comes to negative activities. Maintain your friendly and positive demeanor and politely decline to get involved in negative conversations. It might take some time, but choosing to take the high road earns you respect in the long-run.
Keeping the peace doesn’t necessarily have to mean giving in. If your mother-in-law wants to have dinner together every Wednesday but you and your wife have determined that’s the only night you have free for “date night”, don’t feel you have to forego what’s best for your marriage in order to get along with your mother-in-law. She’s likely to respect you for sticking to your family values or standing by the things and people that are important to you. Be willing to come to a compromise and your mother-in-law will see that your marriage comes first, but you still value time spent with extended family. Boundaries are important in any relationship and when you and your mother-in-law understand the boundaries set for by each other, they can be more easily respected and adhered to.
Mother-Daughter Time. Encourage your spouse to spend time with her mother occasionally if they spent time together regularly before you were married. Rather than creating an atmosphere of competition, you can encourage the strengthening of their bond and let your mother-in-law know she hasn’t lost her daughter by beingsupportive of mother-daughter time.
Offer to Help. Offer to help with household projects or small repairs if your mother-in-law lives alone. It might only take you an hour to dig holes in the garden for new rose bushes, but you’ll reap the rewards for years to come. Gestures of this nature are especially appreciated by a mother-in-law who’s on a fixed income and can’t afford to hire a professional every time something needs to be done. When autumn leaves cover your yard, they’re probably covering your mother-in-law’s yard, too. Take initiative to help with extra chores as part of your efforts to get along with your mother-in-law.
Make the Most of Each Visit. When frequent get-togethers with your mother-in-law are difficult because she lives further away and you only see each other for holidays and other special family events, you have to make the most of these occasions to build a positive relationship with her. During extended family gatherings, make time to spend alone with your spouse and her mom. Bite the bullet and offer to take them to window-shop through town and out to eat afterwards, even if those aren’t your favorite activities. At holiday gatherings, include your visiting mother-in-law in the family traditions you and your wife have started. Engage her in conversation by asking about the family holiday traditions she enjoyed as a child and a young, married woman. You might learn about a tradition you’d like to continue with your wife and eventually introduce to your children.
It Takes Work. Over the years, as you work toward getting along with your mother-in-law remember the choices you make now will affect others later. Someday, when children enter the picture, your mother-in-law is going to want to spend time with her grandchildren and they will benefit from a relationship with her, too. A strained relationship, or none at all, won’t change overnight. Similar to any other relationship, you must give your best effort, on a regular basis, to create and maintain a positive relationship with your mother-in-law, starting from the get-go. Friends might complain, gripe, or joke about their mothers-in-law and the difficulties they cause. But you can sit back and relax knowing the solid relationship you’ve built with your mother-in-law will reap rewards for years to come. In the end, getting along with your mother-in-law doesn’t mean you’re at the mercy of her wicked mother-in-law behavior; it means you’ve gained a new member to yoursupportnetwork, an ally in facilitating the best life for your spouse, and a family member with whom to create memories.