A healthy relationship with your mother-in-law? Experts give their take
What you need to know:
- From the onset, your mom-in-law is likely to feel that she is losing her son to you. Be considerate and compassionate.
- Your mother-in-law may not be fond of the same things that your own mother is fond of.
- You are an adult with the right to disagree and do things your way. When the situation calls for it, take a firm stand.
Family therapist Susan Gacheru says your mother-in-law is more likely to believe that you’re not good enough for her son. However, it is possible for daughters-in-law and their mothers-in-law to maintain respectful, mutually beneficial relationships.
Respect and compassion: From the onset, your mom-in-law is likely to feel that she is losing her son to you. Be considerate. Don’t compete with her. “It will be good if you can find ways to bond early on. Be respectful too and consider that she is older and wiser,” says Gacheru. “Learn to respectfully draw from her experiences in life. By sharing her experiences with you, she will develop a liking towards your that will be the key to establishing a tight bond.”
Acceptance: Your mother-in-law may not be fond of the same things that your own mother is fond of. For instance, while your own mother may adore kids and relish showering her grandchildren with love and goodies, your mom-in-law may not be into children. This may mean less time between her and your kids, which you may dislike. “In such scenarios, understanding her nature, style, and perception in life will go a long way in building a binding union between you and her,” says Ms. Gacheru. “Don’t be the know-it-all you’d loathe her to be. Additionally, don’t force her to be like your mother. She is a different human being with tastes and choices in life that differ from your mother’s. Accept and respect them.”
Character assessment and assassination: If you want to bring up an issue about your mom-in-law with your partner, be careful not to assassinate her character or assess how she behaves. Words such as ‘She is so manipulative or controlling or obnoxious’ could cause more harm than good, and will inevitably injure your partner. If his mother has behavioural flaws, he probably already knows.
Stand your ground: According to Dr. Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author of The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It—and Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever, while it is best to overlook the small stuff that upsets you about your mother-in-law, there are instances when you shouldn’t hold back from speaking out your mind. “You are an adult with the right to disagree and do things your way. When the situation calls for it, take a firm stand. Don’t fall into the trap of behaving and, or thinking like a child when around your mother-in-law,” she says.
Love your partner: “Don’t get lost in the maze of conflicts with your difficult in-laws and neglect your partner. Always make an effort to treat your partner lovingly,” says Ms. Gacheru.
Takeaway for mothers-in-law
Boundaries: According to counseling psychologist Zack Otieno, if you are a mother-in-law, understand that your son and his wife are a unit you aren’t part of. “Together, your son and his wife form a union. You are not part of that union. Don’t poke holes in it to get your way in every decision they take,” he says. Maintain a respectable distance to allow their union to grow. “Keep your calm if she doesn’t do things as you would wish and only offer your parental advice when asked to, or when they are clearly heading down the wrong path. Do it maturely and without reprimanding.”
Grandchildren: Do not be an over-zealous grandma. Do not over-discipline your grandkids or have your grandchildren raised the same way you raised your son. It is important for you to watch how your grandkids are being raised, and use your wisdom to provide guidance instead of trying to replicate age-old parenting methods.