How To Ease Mother-In-Law Conflict

How To Ease Mother-In-Law Conflict
Contributor
Family, Self

Ah the mother-in-law. She loves her son and wants what's best for him, which may or may not include you. The cliché, of course, is that you and your man's mother will have a rocky relationship. She'll critique your cooking, your taste in clothes, the cleanliness of your home, your child-rearing skills, your career choices. While this may not be true in all cases, a study by a British psychologist found that 60% of women felt tension with their mothers-in-law, compared with 15% of men.

Psychologist Terri Apter studied 49 couples and 156 individuals over 20 years, and found that women felt their mothers-in-law were irrationally jealous, while the moms felt that their son's wives didn't understand where they were coming from. No surprise there. Apter attributes the tension to doubt on the part of the materfamilias—moms worry that they'll lose their sons to their new wives, that their traditions and ideas won't be valued. The best way to assuage their fears? Contact. Sons who keep in touch help their mamas feel included and reduce conflict between wife-y and mommy. Video: How To Get Along With His Mom

Of course, not all MIL relationships are strained. This week's New York Times Modern Love essayist tells of her incredible relationship with her lover's mother. After her boyfriend of a year dies, author Dianne Nottle developed a close relationship with his mother that lasted years longer than the one she had with her son. "In some ways," she writes, "I was a better daughter to her than I was to my own mother."

Another seemingly cliché-busting mother-in-law relationship comes from our president-elect, whose mother will be moving to D.C. in January and may even live in the White House with the first family. It may sound crazy—who wants to live with a MIL hovering about?—but living with a grandparent is a great way to score free childcare and, according to Apter, it's pretty common. "Grandparents have an enormously strong emotional tie to their grandchildren, and they also are caretakers far more than you would expect," she says.

And then there's this mother-in-law relationship. Reality star Spencer Pratt calls his MIL "Stalker Mom." In this case we're inclined to agree with the stalker, who says, "I think [the marriage] is the biggest mistake Heidi's ever made." Give advice: Does my mother-in-law hate me?

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Tell us, what are your mother-in-law experiences?