You’ve heard it before and seen it portrayed in a thousand movies: the dreaded mother-in-law.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. All mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships are not doomed. I get along well with my husband’s parents and hope to have a positive relationship with my future daughter-in-law (in the far FAR future) too.
This is a guest post from Doris Collins, one of our readers. I had the pleasure to talk with her via email and get to know her a little better. When she told me about her relationship with her daughter-in-law, I asked if she was willing to share some tips on how they built their relationship. We hope you find her tips helpful and inspiring!
6 Positive Mother-in-Law/Daughter-in-Law Relationship Tips
I must admit that when I was asked for advice about being a good Mother-in-law I immediately felt intimidated and overwhelmed. I don’t feel like I “do” anything to be a good Mom-in-law and by suggesting anything people might assume I have it all together. I don’t, but hopefully I do more “right” than I do “wrong.”
By the way, I prefer “Mom-in-love” rather than “Mom-in-law” because love brought this special person into my life and love is a much better motivation than law.
As you read this please keep in mind that these are suggestions not a laundry list of things to check off to get to the prize at the end. It takes practice and you will learn from trying things what works for your relationship. I wish you great success in all your in-law relationships!
First and foremost, PRAY! Pray, pray, pray and then pray some more. Prayer is the best and most important thing you can do for them. ‘Nuff said! As we say in these parts.
Secondly, COMMUNICATE. The first thing I would recommend here is to read the book, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. It may revolutionize your life like it did mine.
In the book, it is suggested that people express and receive love in five basic and very different ways. Discover your new family member’s love language and express love to them in the way that is most meaningful to them. Just a few examples would be helping them with tasks around their house, bringing them a little treat from time to time, complimenting them on their efforts or anything else, greeting them with a hug even if you are not a ‘hugger’, or simply spending time with them doing things they enjoy doing.
Another thing I would like to share here is this: if either of them come to you with a complaint about the other don’t add fuel to the fire by jumping in and joining them. Instead listen with love and support, share insight with them, assure them you will be praying for them (and do) and encourage them to speak with their mate about the situation. Communication is vital to your relationship between your new family member and you as well as between them and your child.
SUPPORT is the third thing I will mention. Your child as well as your new family member need your support. Let them both know you support them and will not intentionally do anything to cause them problems. Support their efforts regardless of your feelings about it (you could do it better, or faster, or you think it is pointless, etc). Keep in mind this person wants what is best for your child too.
RELATIONSHIPS are what I want to talk about now that we are at number four. Relationships are more important than being right or getting things your way.
A wise man gave me this tip. Mending a relationship with your child, as hard as that may be, is still much MUCH easier than mending a relationship with your son or daughter-in-law.
- Keep the long term in mind.
- Ask yourself if what you want to say or do now is worth the effect it may have on your long-term relationship.
- Find common ground and enjoy that.
- Get together over coffee (or in our case Dr. Pepper) and simply visit, no agenda.
- Find a place to volunteer and do it together.
- Take up a new hobby together or participate in one of their hobbies. Ask them if there is something they have been wanting to try and jump into it together.
- Find out what their favorite meal is and offer to make it or pick it up for them after a particularly long week.
- Invite the couple over to your home for supper and their favorite game.
Also, very important, keep in mind how your relationship with your new family member affects your own child whether that is good, bad or somewhere in the middle. This is the love of your child’s life and it is important that you love them as well.
Fifth, SACRIFICE. All successful relationships require sacrifice at times. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that life really isn’t all about you!
- Give them the freedom to tell you when enough is enough. Whether that is with your advice, what you are doing for/with them, the amount of time you spend with them or any other aspect.
- Be yourself but be your BEST SELF with them.
- Also, holidays can be a stressful time. Don’t base how much your new family member loves you on how much time they spend with you over the holidays. Give them freedom and remain flexible.
Now for number six, ADVICE. It is important to remember that even though we have a great deal more experience than our kids and new family members that doesn’t mean we need to advise them on everything they consider doing.
They need your support more than they need your advice so keep it to yourself until you are asked. Believe me they will ask, and when they do they will be much more receptive to what you have to offer.
Remember different doesn’t necessarily mean wrong. Rather than telling them how they should do things watch them; who knows, you may learn something and discover a better way of doing it yourself.
I wish I had a great formula and I could say, “Follow this and everyone will be happy.” I don’t. Remember to pray for both of them and love them.
Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Doris!
What is your relationship like with your mother-in-law or daughter-in-law? What tips would you add – let us know in the comments below!
Wednesday 19th of July 2017
This is nice and wonderful if you ideally live within a half hours drive but what about two hours away? There is no opportunity for hugs, coffee dates, volunteering, etc.
I think I will try praying for my M.I.L. and send some letters just to say, "I love her". Other than that, bonding is tough.My husband and I have been together for more than 5 years and sadly to say, I barely know her. She works often, hard, and is very alone in this world; it nreaks my heart and over-whelms me. I lost my mom after jer 17 year battle with myasthenia gravis. I have lost touch with what a daughter-mother relationship looks like, though I know it's not the same with your husbands' mom. I think I will have to settle with friendship. I will pray for God's will because she will need us someday, and want to be there for her because she has already been there for us in prayer and financially when we're in a bind.
Thursday 20th of July 2017
Hi Becca, I am sorry for your loss. You are right - some of these will be harder if you don't live close together. I think sending her letters is a lovely idea, especially in today's digital world. If you visit each other during holidays, maybe see if an extra day can be planned so you two can spend it together? Or if you can chat with her on the phone?