There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than meeting your boyfriend’s mother for the first time. But even if your wit and charm won her over, and you think you’re in the clear… it’s a whole new ballgame when you actually marry her son. Because before you came along, she was the numero uno woman in his life. Now she has to take a back seat, which isn’t easy. So what should you do to minimize potential monster-in-law tendencies and build a good, strong relationship with her? Follow these tips.
Reach Out to Her
You don’t have to call her everyday, but try to stay in touch regularly. She shouldn’t always have to call you. Email her if that’s more your style, send her links to articles you think she’d be interested in, or give her a ring on your way home from work just so say hi. Even if you’re not really in the mood, a little effort will go a long way (and you’ll score major points). Plus, if you have quick convos more regularly, you won’t dread those marathon catch-me-up-on-everything talks.
Make a Date
If you live in the same city, make plans to get together… just the two of you. It doesn’t need to be an all day affair. Grab brunch, meet for a manicure, go for a power-walk, or shoe-shop. (There’s something very mysterious about shoes that seems to bring women of all walks of life together, right?)
Put on a Happy Face
On the other hand, some mother-in-laws are more like monster-in-laws. (You’d rather walk across hot coals than go shoe shopping with her.) They get too involved in your business, baby your husband, can’t keep opinions to themselves, and generally drive you nuts. The good news: caller ID exists. Use it. The bad news: she’s here to stay and you have to find a way to deal. Don’t avoid her like the plague or talk back in a disrespectful way. Not only will that cause more issues for the two of you, it could also impact your relationship with your husband.
Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Belisa Vranich explains, “When you talk to your husband about it, make sure you aren’t just venting (use your girlfriends who have navigated their mother-in-laws well for that). This can make him feel trapped in the middle. See if you can talk in a way to problem solve, ‘how does she respond to this?’ or ‘would she do that with your sister?’”
So, do your best to just shake the little things off. Stand up to her if you feel it could be beneficial, but be polite, not overly confrontational. Click here for more tips on how to deal with a difficult mother-in-law.
Ask for her Advice
Remember, she’s been around a lot longer than you. And she definitely has some pearls of wisdom up her sleeve. Ask her to weigh in on work or friend troubles you may be experiencing. Find out what she the thinks of traveling to the Caribbean in the off-season. Get her opinion on a dress you just bought for a friend’s wedding. Letting her know you value what she has to say will mean a lot to her. She also knows your husband pretty well. So when he’s being a big baby about doing things around the house, she’ll probably know the right thing to say to get moving.
Dr. Vranich agrees that a quick way to connect with your mother-in-law is to simply get her talking! “Have some alone time where you ask her about her past. Or remember a detail she said about liking something and follow up on it, for example her liking a certain flower, or type of food.”
Even if you feel totally at home and have no qualms about lounging around in your PJs when you visit the in-laws, good old fashioned manners never goes out of style. Help cook dinner (which makes for some nice bonding time unless she’s a control freak and kicks you out of the kitchen over the way you sliced the onion). Put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Make the bed. Don’t leave your wet towel on the bathroom floor. If you don’t keep your manners in check, there could be some serious consequences. Check out this email that went viral: Carolyn Bourne sent a scathing note to her future daughter-in-law, outlining the many reasons she was appalled by her behavior on a recent visit. Yikes!
Regardless of the type of mother-in-law you have, rest assured, she’s most likely trying to win you over, too.
Have you successfully won over your mother-in-law? Fill us in and leave a comment below!
Jessica Solloway is a Washington, DC based writer and producer. From wedding planning to work, dating to dieting (and everything in between), she enjoys writing about lifestyle topics women want to know about. Jessica received her degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Check out her blog, The Savvy Mrs.