Are you desperately seeking reasons to love your mother-in-law? Does it seem really, really hard some days?
When you get married, more likely than not, you also get a mother-in-law, the woman who raised your partner. And quickly there can arise conflict between you. She raised your partner and is used to things being done a certain way and you married him or her and have your own opinions and traditions. This conflict can be really hard on a marriage. It can even destroy it.
By understanding more about how your mother-in-law’s brain works you can not only improve your relationship with her but you can alleviate conflict and thereby strengthen your relationship with your partner.
#1 – Remember that she has experience that you don’t have.
Our mothers-in-law have been doing what you are just beginning to do for probably more than a few decades. That is a lot of experience, experience that you should appreciate and take advantage of. You are new at all of this and, whether you know it or not, can use all of the help that you can get.
An excellent way to get closer to your mother-in-law is to ask her to share that experience with you. Asking her questions, getting her opinions, sometimes even deferring to her wishes, will all help you connect with her. And if she feels like she is playing some part her child’s new life then she will be way easier to get along with.
So mine some of the experience that you have right at hand. You will be glad you did, for many reasons.
#2 – Remember that she did raise your partner.
I know it’s hard to imagine your mother-in-law gave birth to your partner. She fed them and bathed them and changed their diapers for years. She taught them how to do just about everything that they do.
Your mother-in-law had a profound influence your partner’s life for 18 years or more. And that shouldn’t be discounted. She even deserves some credit and respect for the fact that she did that.
My mother-in-law always told me that her son could clean a toilet and vacuum like a madman. I told her that, after 20 years of marriage, I had retrained him: he cleaned nothing anymore. I see now that that was a slap in her face. She worked hard to raise the person that she did and she should to be recognized, and appreciated, for that.
And remember, you did fall in love with the person she raised….
#3 – Remember that she loves your kids as much, if not more, than you do.
They say that being a grandparent is the most wonderful thing in the world. That you get all of the joys of being a parent without all the difficulties. So know that, at the very least, one more person is madly in love with your child.
I know that my grandmother was a huge positive influence in my life. She hadn’t been a great mother to my mother but, for me, she was amazing. And I have learned, from my own mother, that having grandchildren is the best thing that ever happened to her.
So appreciate that this person loves your children as much as she does. After all, every person who loves your child is a gift.
#4 – Remember that she really does just want to help.
Mothers in-law don’t set out to drive us crazy. They don’t mean to criticize our parenting or complain about the state of our kitchen. They are there, in the house, to be with their children and grandchildren.
And, more often than not, their intentions are good.
Perhaps the manner in which they speak up about our parenting or our housekeeping skills is abrasive and stinging but remember they are only human and are most likely just trying to help. Really.
So next time your mother-in-law is in your house, put her to work. She can hang out with the kids or help you fold the laundry or take your partner out for a break. Mothers are used to being busy and when she is at your house, a ‘guest,’ she might feel put out and useless.
I am sure there is some help somewhere that you really need.
#5 – Remember that you are lucky to have her and that she won’t always be there.
So many mothers start out with no support. Their mother and mother-in-law is far away, or no longer alive, or absent for some reason.
When we are new parents, or even more seasoned ones, we are lucky to have someone there who can support us when we need it. My mother lived in Virginia and, while she was there right after my daughter was born, she could only stay a week.
Fortunately, my mother-in-law lived close by. And while we didn’t always see eye to eye, she was there some times when I really needed her. I am very lucky that I had that.
Also, remember, none of us are getting any younger so our mothers-in-law might not always be there for us. Appreciate how lucky you are and make the best of it.
To love your mother-in-law is not always be easy but I promise you, in the long run, doing so will be worth it.
Learn from her experience, have respect for the years she cared for your spouse, know that she adores your kids, put her to work and appreciate that she exists.
After all, your partner loves her. She is his or her mother. You loving her too shows your partner just how much you love them, which makes everybody happy.
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.