Thursday, 23 June 2016


No matter how liberated we like to think we are, mention the mother-in-law and most of us probably think of the late Les Dawson and his endless supply of hilarious, but vicious, jokes at her expense.
While most of us wouldn't go so far as to describe her as a fearsome, interfering dragon, chances are our relationship, even if amicable, still needs careful handling.

Chartered psychologist Dr Sheila Rossan thinks the key to this lies in the intensity of our feelings for our own mothers.

'As women, our relationship with our mums is quite distinct from any other relationship we'll ever have,' she says. 'Even if we fight, we can't avoid being close: it is our first relationship and we're so similar, yet different.

Yes, there are those lucky gals who sit around baking bread and trading compliments on Facebook, but for most gals at best the MIL is all the annoying things about your own mother, only she isn’t... so you can’t tell her that she’s annoying you. At it’s worst a difficult MIL relationship is like a football game: both sides feel that the ball (your lovely spouse and her perfect child) “belongs” rightfully to them and therefore they aren’t going to step on the field to hug it out and share. There will be fighting to get the ball to the desired side and all we can hope is that no one gets hurt.....

Women who have the most problems with their mother-in-laws tend to be the same women who don't get on with their own mothers. They may resent mother figures and how they behave. If you want to get on better with your mother-in-law, it might help to first work on what's causing the problems between yourself and your own mum.'
Jealousy puts up barriers in these relationships. 'Daughters-in-law often envy the relationship between mother and son and want to replace that relationship with themselves. Meanwhile, mother-in-law wants her son looked after in the way only she can, which is of course impossible, unless the daughter in law is her clone.'
These differences can soon cause a bitter stalemate. As Relate's Denise Knowles explains: 'The main problem with the mother and daughter-in-law relationship is the feeling of inferiority it causes. If Mum won't give up mothering her son even though he's married, daughter-in-law is made to feel she's the second, not the first, woman in his life.
'Learning to get on better with your mother-in-law is about learning how to feel less of a victim, and deflecting her difficult behaviour.'

You are a grown woman- after all you are grown enough to be married, right? It’s normal and natural to have your own way of doing things — from little things like laundry to big things like celebrating a religious holiday. You are entitled to and should stick up for yourself and your way of doing things should you feel it diminished verbally or bullied behaviorally. It’s important to feel comfortable with how you want to raise your kids or if you want to go to church on Easter (in example) because then you will be able to verbalize your way of doing things and not “fold” under questioning.

Come on, even dragons have their pleasant side! Instead of fuming when she's cleaned your kitchen from top to bottom, why not thank her for being so helpful and feel pleased that you didn't have to do it for once? It's amazing how much gentler she'll be if she sees, every so often, that you do value her.

Ask her advice. She never approves of your cooking? Turn the situation around by asking her: 'I'd like to cook Fred a special meal. Is there anything you can think of that he'd really enjoy?' That way she'll still feel involved, by being given the chance to contribute, but you haven't let her take over.

Visit her. If she's in the habit of turning up at your house unannounced, it's a sign she probably feels excluded from your life, which can make her want to interfere more. It's often easily solved by calling on her instead. Pop in for a coffee every so often, which shows her you're thinking of her but takes away her need to drop in on you unexpectedly.

Keep it light. So what if she runs her finger through the quarter-inch of dust gathering on the windowsill? By turning it into a joke: ('Hey - I keep that there to write 'I love you' to Fred!') you're telling her that you don't have the same priorities as she does...and you're happy with that. You're making an important point in a fun way, without causing offence.

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