Fifty-three percent of all married women describe their relationships with their mothers-in-law as obligatory, cordial but nothing more, reporting a mix of both anxiety and tension. I am the author of The Daughter-in-Law Rules: 101 Surefire Ways to Manage (and Make Friends with) Your Mother-in-Law! and my vision is to inspire more harmony among 20 million mothers and daughters-in-law around the world by teaching all brides to learn the art of making friends with their husband’s mother.
Here is a small parable to illustrate the philosophy behind the Daughter-in-Law Rules:
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Story of a Daughter-in-law, Li Li
A long time ago in China, a girl named Li-Li got married and went to live with her husband and mother-in-law. Their personalities were very different, and Li-Li was angered by many of her constant criticisms.
Finally, Li-Li could not stand her mother-in-law’s dictatorship any longer, so she went to see an herbalist and asked if he would give her some poison. Mr. Huang said, “Li-Li, every other day prepare some delicious meal and sprinkle some on her plate. And when she is dying, be careful to obey her every wish, and treat her like a queen.”
In a few months time, the mother-in-law’s attitude towards Li-Li changed drastically, and they were now treating each other like a real mother and daughter. And Li-Li’s husband was very happy to see the two most important women in his life finally getting along.
One day, Li-Li went to see the herbalist. “Dear Mr. Huang, please provide an antidote to keep the poison from killing my mother-in-law, as she’s changed into such a nice woman, and I love her as if she were my very own mother.” Mr. Huang smiled and nodded his head. “Li-Li, you have nothing to worry about, as the herbs I provided were vitamins to improve her health. The only poison was in your mind and your attitude, but that has been all washed away by all the love and respect which you gave her.”
What I learned from this process was to really and truly learn to appreciate my mother-in-law. And although there will always be problems because of a general lack of commonalities, goals, and cultural pursuits, I just sort of had to give up that fantasy and let my MIL be herself. We must try to always give our mothers-in-law the benefit of the doubt, and put our stubborn natures aside, generously sharing her son and the kids happily for the short time we have to be with her.
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Creating increased feelings of warmth among in-laws helps foster familial ties, which creates pride and loyalty. The benefits of a caring family go beyond tangible outcomes and serve to strengthen our communities, provide for needs, and increase our sense of well-being. I leave you with this wish: that you may develop a respectful and loving relationship with your MIL and learn to appreciate her for who she is, where she came from, and what she is to become.
Take heed to one of the great spiritual laws of success: The quickest way to get what you want is to help others get what they want. Be a loving, kind, generous, openhearted, sensitive person, and the world will reflect that back to you—even in the form of your mother-in-law—and she may just surprise you and turn out to be an ally and a friend. Mine certainly did! As well, my book helps raise money for The National Breast Cancer Foundation, whose mission is to save lives by increasing awareness of breast cancer through education and by providing mammograms for those in need. Think Pink!