When I do premarital counseling one of the issues that is addressed is how the couple feels about their soon to be in-laws. For the most part, the couple is usually very supportive of their mother-in-law and father-in-law. When there is a problem it is usually between the new wife and the mother-in-law. There are many theories as to why this happens. Sometimes mom cannot give up her son, or the new wife wants total control over her husband and she finds the mother intrusive. No matter what the problem is the solution is pretty similar. Basically, when you marry the person, you marry their parents too. You can try to separate from them, by moving far away, but their influence on your partner is far deeper than any place you could escape on the earth.
Parents are the first people we fall in love with. For most of us the first woman we ever loved was our mom, and the first man we ever loved was our dad. Therefore, they are the ones who taught us who we are, how we feel about our body, foods, politics, values and commitment to name a few. We could go on and on and continue the list; it is limitless. Even though you may think you have lived on your own for a long time, and separated from your parents in all ways, you will find yourself sitting in your car, listening to a song and remembering something they told you or a “tape in your mind” that you remember from a memory long ago. Parents really are the first “brain washers” we ever encountered. So forget about it; if you think you can outrun, hide, or ignore their existence.
Learning to get along with your in-laws is so important not only for you as a couple, but for your future children, and for the survival of your marriage. One of the best predictors for how your new husband will treat you is how they treat their mother. Therefore, I have suggestions that will help you rethink your position when you may otherwise want to attack.
Survival tips for dealing with your mother-in-law:
1. Be positive. This is easier said than done, but people react to each other. You change an interaction when you change the way you respond. If you stay upbeat, she will learn to lessen her criticism with time.
2. Never say anything bad about her son to her. Both of you love the same man, and she had him first. If you talk badly about him, she will feel the need to defend him.
3. As much as possible embrace her interests. If she understands you find her interesting, she will not be as focused on possibly losing her son to you.
4. For many moms their son was their close confidante’. You are in a symbolic sense replacing her position. It is normal, it’s expected, but she may need time to adjust. Don’t take things personally the first two years of your marriage.
5. As much as possible include her in your life. A lunch with her is an offering that you want to have a relationship with her as well as being the wife of her son.
6. To circumvent her giving you advice you don’t really want or need, ask her opinion. She will be less likely to offer it unsolicited it if she believes you will ask her for help or guidance when you need it (asking for advice doesn’t mean you have to take it, asking is a way to tell her you value her opinion).
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