Mothers-in-law have a reputation for being the trickiest members of the family to deal with. And whether you’re one yourself or a daughter-in-law trying to tread carefully around yours, chances are the mere mention of each other has eyebrows going skyward.
It’s hardly surprising that this is a loaded relationship; a man’s mother is often cited as the most important woman in his life – until he meets his wife. But is there a way of seeing eye-to-eye? After all, you both the same person, so how hard can it be?
“The problems between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law often emerge as each feels the other is criticising or undermining her,” says psychologist Terri Apter, author of What Do You Want From Me? Learning To Get Along With In-Laws.
“Although a daughter-in-law is an adult in her own household, a mother-in-law’s maternal expertise is already established and she may automatically expect deference.”
Yet there are mothers-in-law who do make it work – and very well too. They intrinsically understand that getting their son’s loved one onside means they’ll stay part of his life.
And, as every savvy daughter-in-law knows, there’s no point making husbands choose between them or their mothers. That’s a fight you’re rarely going to win.
The three crucial tips for being a great mother-in-law…
1) Keep an open mind
“Realise this new woman is your son’s choice, not yours,” say psychologist Susan Firth. “Give yourself time to warm up to the idea and accept that this is who your son has chosen. It’s not about you at all.”
2) Be respectful
“Don’t feel threatened by your daughter-in-law. You are definitely still wanted in your children’s live but don’t suffocate them with overbearing presence.
“And remember that everyone has their specific way of bringing up children. You shouldn’t assume that your advice is always wanted, or that you’re always right when it comes down to raising children. Allow your daughter-in-law to learn the ropes of motherhood herself.”
3) Keep your thoughts to yourself
“If you can’t be nice, hold your tongue!”