Building a relationship with your mother-in-law can be tricky. Women are strong-minded and emotional beings. When we feel hurt, upset, or threatened, our claws come out. This can intensify when two women love the same man. If you’re not faint of heart and don’t mind my blunt words, then you may be on your way to creating and maintaining a better relationship with your mother-in-law.
My mother-in-law is a bold, tough, family-oriented, talented, entertaining, and supportive woman. She is a protector who will fight for what’s hers. However, underneath that hard exterior is a kind woman who cares deeply about others, and will do anything to make her children and those who are close to her, joyful. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean our relationship didn’t come with challenges, or that I didn’t have to learn the hard way how to navigate conversations with her.
When you began reading this article, I assume you thought this was going to be a typical post where I’ll nag and complain about my mother-in-law and how terrible she is, or find tips and ideas on how to get rid of her presence in your life because you’re right and she’s always wrong — right? I’m glad to say that this is not one of those articles. Instead, I’m going to discuss how you can improve your relationship with your mother-in-law. If you are mature and honest enough with your decision to create and maintain a better, healthier relationship with your mother-in-law, I’m here to help.
However, before we begin I want to mention one thing. If you are still in the boyfriend-girlfriend stage, she is not your mother-in-law. I only say this because right now you are expendable and maybe something temporary, so she is more likely to show you kindness and patience. She doesn’t see you as a loyal member of the family until you sign that piece of paper. As harsh as it may sound, once you exchange those vows everything changes.
Let Your Husband Do The Defending
If you want a good relationship with your mother-in-law, it won’t start with, you screaming at one another trying to get your points across. Defending yourself will come off as childish and immature. You don’t want her to find more reasons not to like you. The love you both share for your husband is the best reason why he’s the number one guy to smooth things over on both sides. He will be able to calmly address the situation and not let feelings get involved. Your husband should be able to defend you to his mother without problems, after all, he knows her better. However, if even he’s upset about the situation he will know how to handle it in a more calm, respectable demeanor, and get the point across to your mother-in-law. By your husband taking the lead and defending you, it sends a clear-cut message that if she continues being hurtful, or hateful towards you, she will risk straining her relationship with her son. Your only job is to smile, nod, and be patient.
Prove Your Loyalty
If you’re newly married into the family, you have a lot of ground to cover. You will have to prove to your mother-in-law and his extended family that you are not temporary, you are reasonable and flexible and will do your part in the family to bring happiness. You are now your husbands #1 women. Your mother-in-law knows this. However, you don’t need to be hurtful and make snarky comments about this fact. Many mothers-in-law aren’t aware of this change or rather ignore it. It’s a hard adjustment for them. The bond between a mother and her son is strong. She has always been his go-to and now another woman has come into his life and has taken her place. Mothers-in-law feel threatened by this and sometimes they will lash out, this can lead to harmful reactions on her part such as criticising your every move, speaking badly of you, or talking behind your back. The worse thing you can do in this situation is to react. Like they say, “the strongest reaction is no reaction.” Rather, remain calm, and positive, in time she will learn that you are unfazed by her behavior and she will come to respect you for being so strong and not giving in to her emotionally fueled behaviors.
It’s Not A Competition
You cannot control what she does, but you can control what you do. Every woman does things differently. The way you make the bed may not be the same way she makes hers. She is upset that you’re doing something one way and you’re upset that she’s not accepting. Both of you must bend and be flexible in order for things to work. Compliment her when she does something well, changed her hair, or has a great idea. Don’t hold back with your feelings. Hug and kiss her when you greet her and when you’re saying goodbye. Spend time with her and just relax, don’t let irritations or fights from the past linger and make your time together unpleasant. Don’t retaliate and don’t try to win anything, it’s not a competition. In fact, you both won, you both have one amazing man in your life. He’s the son to your mother-in-law and you are his forever. If you remain patient, kind, and calm, things will get better as time passes.
Stop Being Overly Sensitive
If you get upset, offended, or hurt by everything, then you may be the root cause of your problems. In order to succeed in this world, you need to have a thick skin, not a thick skull. If your mother-in-law offers advice (which they tend to do a lot) just nod and smile. For example, she walks into your home and says, “Jassica you should really use a soap bar to scuff out the marks on your furniture, it’s noticeable.” What will you do? Pout and tell all your friends about it? Or will you say, “Oh wow, I didn’t know that was a thing? Thanks for the advice!” And smile. Accept criticism when it’s due, it may not always be in the nicest tone, but don’t be whiny about it and complain to all of your friends. If you nag about her to your friends, or on social media, she may eventually cross paths with those people and sense the cold shoulder. It’s easy to read when someone dislikes you. Also, it’s harder for your friends and family to forget the bad things she’s done to you, compared to yourself. If she truly did something that offended you or hurt your feelings, talk to your husband about it and then talk to her. It doesn’t hurt to have his support. Otherwise accept her criticism, or annoying habits, after all, she’s been at this game a lot longer than you have. You may learn a thing or two from her!
Encourage Time Together
It may be hard setting up a new holiday schedule of spending time where and for how long, but once you get over those hurdles or sharing special holidays, take the lead and arrange family gatherings. Don’t wait for your mother-in-law to invite you over, shoot her a text or pick up the phone and call her. It won’t hurt to bring over her favorite wine and everyone gathers in the living room watching movies and enjoying quality time. Sometimes this can be a little hard depending on the relationship with your mother-in-law, for example, she tries to assert dominance with her son. I have heard so many horror stories about this from fellow moms and wives. If this is the case, kindly remind your husband to show you affection, even in the presence of his mother. Some husbands are bashful and unaware of these situations. You are now an important part of her life, as she is yours. Just like you, she cares deeply about the person you married. It doesn’t hurt to get to know her better and learn about her interests, likes, and dislikes. Ask her about her favorite food, or about that amazing cake she makes, or even where she does her hair because it always looks so great.
She’s A Grandparent – Give Her Privileges
Lack of grandparent privileges is a common issue amongst in-laws. Majority of mothers-in-law become resentful if they feel you aren’t allowing them a substantial amount of time with their grandkids. Give her the opportunity to have play dates with her grandbabies, schedule time where she can be with her grandkids without you hovering over her shoulder (perfect opportunity for date nights, or you time), allow her the opportunity to spoil them, after all, that is a grandparents job. She has raised all of her babies, including your husband, and now has the wonderful opportunity of seeing her babies create and expand their own families. Don’t take that excitement away from her.
If your mother-in-law is a kind and sane human, doing these few simple things will change your relationship with her entirely. You guys aren’t enemies. You love the same wonderful man and that bond brought you together. Remember, your mother-in-law is on the outside looking in, she may not know and understand everything but give her time. With patience and kindness, comes a lot of good.
A happy daughter-in-law.