Mother-in-laws are notorious for being judgmental, intrusive, and disrespectful to their sons’ wives. Some are surely deserving of their bum rap, but most mother-in-laws are reasonable women who want only one thing from their daughters-in-law. She wants you to be a great addition to her already wonderful family. She doesn’t want your presence to change it or detract from it. This may seem like a tall order, but by implementing the five secrets to getting in good with your MIL, you can achieve the kind of relationship with her that most women only dream of.
Simply stated, your mother-in-law wants your RESPECT.
RESPECT her as your elder and as a woman. She has more experience than you in many areas and she can teach you a lot. While she doesn’t want to be your new mother, she does want to be someone you look to for guidance. Ask her advice about things you know she knows more about than you. Stay away from delicate areas like issues that come up with your husband, parenting or anything else you don’t really want her advice on, but look to her for cooking tips, gardening and other “womanly” things like where to brunch with your friends or book recommendations. As you get closer, seek more personal advice in areas like spirituality, making investments, and pregnancy (when the time comes). Seeking advice is a great ice-breaker for new in-law relationships. Give her a call once in a while and invite her to join you for lunch, just the two of you. She doesn’t want to be your best friend either, but she does want to know you and trust you. Develop your friendship as a younger, less experienced woman with an older, wiser woman and things will go well. Ask her questions and get to know her better. Give her a nice gift once in a while, send her a card, and smile when you see her.
RESPECT your man. Don’t ever talk badly about him to your mother-in-law. She is first and foremost his mother, and a mother’s love runs deep. It has been her job to protect him his whole life, and you are not ever going to change that. She will be able to relax the reigns when she trusts you to be on her team (which is also your husband’s team, but your MIL will always think of it as hers). Lightheartedly buddying up with her as women ganging up on the guys at a family function is a good way to bond with her, but make it evident that you play along in jest. Your love for him should be clear even if you are taking her side. Once a daughter-in-law has crossed the line and her mother-in-law’s motherly instincts flare, the game becomes vengeance. Resentment can build faster than you can bat an eye. That kind of wedge in a relationship is hard to undo. Keeping that in mind, make a point to tell her how wonderful your guy is, how great he treats you, and how much he adores his mother.
RESPECT her relationship with your husband. She is just as in love with your husband and you are, in a different way, of course, but just as much. Like you, she has the need to feel needed by him, and before you came along she was probably the only woman in his life that he did need. Sharing that spotlight isn’t easy, so it should be your responsibility, at least in the beginning, to cater a bit to her relationship with him. Until she trusts you fully, she won’t be able to help but feel like you are the” other woman.” Support her spending time alone with her son, just like you want her to do for you. Set up lunch dates for them or encourage him to visit her without bringing you along. Most importantly (for sake of both your relationship with your MIL and your hubby), don’t show any signs of jealousy no matter what!
RESPECT her authority and influence in your new family. As matriarch of the family you are joining, she deserves your respect. Regardless of whether you agree with all her ways, she did raise the man you love and must have done something right for you to be so happy with him. You husband is sure to vent his frustration about his mother to you, but don’t get in the middle. Support him when he needs it, but don’t join in talking badly about her. The respect needs to be there when she is around and behind closed doors. He may sound like he wants you to be upset with her too, but he doesn’t. You need to empathize with him without disrespecting her. As her son, he can’t help but feel hurt if you cross that line. Always encourage him to be true to himself without disrespecting his mother. When you are in her presence, make sure to honor her position by giving her the best of what you have. Be a good hostess to her in your home, a gracious guest in her home, and an attentive companion when anywhere else. That may mean being a little uncomfortable, like giving up your favorite armchair when she visits, holding your tongue when she does something you don’t like, and picking up the check when you paid the time before, but it is well worth it. Don’t cling or dote after her in an attempt to be a good daughter-in-law. That can be demeaning, obnoxious and make you seem dishonest.
RESPECT yourself. No one will give you the respect you deserve if you aren’t first giving it to yourself. Having integrity is the foundation of respecting yourself, so if you want self-respect, and the respect of your MIL, set your own standards high. Strive to be honest, loyal, forgiving, flexible, humble, consistent, and resilient. Those qualities are what make a happy person and the perfect daughter-in-law. Don’t shy away from living up to your potential and, wherever you are on that journey, be your true self. Be on your best behavior, but don’t stuff yourself into a box that you don’t fit into to try and impress her.
Just like anyone else, your mother-in-law wants to be respected for who she is and the position she holds. Your relationship with her is one that needs to be handled with care. Be the first to give respect and you can expect to get it back.
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