|She's not this bad, is she?|
Since Chris’s post last week I’ve been thinking about that most fraught and loaded of relationships: that between a mother and the woman her son marries. Why is it so rare to have a good mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship? There seems to be so much judgment, resentment and hard feelings on both sides. I have a great relationship with my MIL. I don’t take credit for that, because she makes it easy, but I do have some thoughts of how to improve your in-law relationship.
For the MILs: Put yourself in your DIL’s shoes. Probably she prefers her own family – isn’t that natural? Didn’t you prefer your family to your husband’s? That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you, she’s just more comfortable with her own. Likely, she’s stretched very thin. Raising a family is very hard, and if she’s also juggling a career, free time is precious and scarce. Be the kind of MIL you wish you had. Focus on her positive qualities. Try to see what your son loves in her. Appreciate whatever time you do have with the grandchildren and your son. If they are making time for you, even if you wish there was more, it’s because they love you. Be proud that you raised a son who prioritizes his wife and children, even if it hurts sometimes that he’s gone.
As for the DILs, yes, probably your MIL wants more time with your kids and husband than she gets. She loves them, she misses them. Try not to see that as a condemnation of you. Maybe she doesn't like your cooking, or disagrees with your parenting, or thinks you should take better care of her son. You don't have to take this personally. Let her think what she wants. Try giving her some time with the kids when you're not hovering over her. Send your husband too if she needs supervision. Go have some time to yourself. You know you need it.
For both MILs and DILs, decide to love each other. My MIL taught me that was possible. There was a girl one of her sons dated for a while, and when I criticized her, my MIL said, “I don’t want to hear anything bad about her, because if my son decides to marry her, we’re going to have to love her.” I found this idea radical at the time, but now I believe it to be true. I probably can’t force myself to like someone, but I can decide to love them. How to put this into practice? Imagine your MIL or DIL as a small child, before the world messed them up. Assume the other means well, even if it comes across as judgment. If necessary, limit the amount of time you spend with the person, but when you’re together, focus on the positive, and try to forgive her for the rest.