My tips to TAME a mother-in-law

Daily Mail - - Femailmaga­zine - with SUSANNAH CON­STAN­TINE

Of All the dif­fer­ent re­la­tion­ships in fam­ily life, the one be­tween a mother-in-law and daugh­ter- in- law is of­ten the most ten­u­ous.

I have friends who’ve been at log­ger­heads with their hus­band’s mother for years. They dread her vis­its and ig­nore her ad­vice.

far from forg­ing a close bond, there ex­ists in­stead a shaky truce, silently ne­go­ti­ated. (To use the word ‘truce’ might make you think of war, and it’s true — sometimes this re­la­tion­ship can be­come down­right em­bat­tled.)

Take a friend of mine, who is a pe­tite size 8. her mother-in-law, who had lost a lot of weight, sent her bags of her dis­carded size 16 clothes with a note: ‘Thought these might come in use­ful when you want to make Ben proud.’ Wow. Pas­sive ag­gres­sion at its height.

Not quite fam­ily, but never really friends, the mother and daugh­ter-in­law re­la­tion­ship has ten­sion from the start. It brings to­gether women with dif­fer­ent val­ues and up­bring­ings, with the ex­pec­ta­tion they should agree on what it means to be a wife and mother.

I must ad­mit that, when I first met my hus­band, Sten, I feared I’d fallen in love with a mummy’s boy. We met at a party when I was 28 and I quickly re­alised he was close to both his par­ents (his dad, Peder, sadly died last July).

hav­ing had a dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship with my own mother — com­pli­cated by the fact that she was manic de­pres­sive, so, grow­ing up, it was my older sis­ter to whom I turned for sup­port — I found it rather strange that Sten and I were al­ways go­ing to visit them.

No one could say that Sten ended up mar­ry­ing his mother. Prue is or­gan­ised, cul­tured and so­phis­ti­cated, while I have a chaotic mind, am a bit of a philis­tine and gen­er­ally look like a slob.


my pas­sion for Prue comes from her hands- off ap­proach to our mar­riage. She’s never once in­ter­fered with un­so­licited ad­vice or foisted judg­ment on my many fail­ings.

That is not to say she is an un­reach­able wall of si­lence. far from it: I know she is a wise ear when I’m wor­ried and she has proved her­self an in­valu­able source of un­der­stand­ing when I most need it.

The re­sult is a close con­nec­tion that goes be­yond the tra­di­tional ma­ter­nal bond.

To be loved by your mother-in­law is a rare thing. I ap­pre­ci­ate how lucky I am, es­pe­cially as re­search tells us that only four in ten mar­ried women en­joy a stress- free re­la­tion­ship with their hus­band’s mother.

Building a re­la­tion­ship — or even just a truce — takes time and pa­tience, but it’s worth it.

here are some of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way . . .

What makes her tick?

IN MY ex­pe­ri­ence, the best way for moth­ers and daugh­tersin-law to avoid building re­sent­ment is to chat openly about their life ex­pe­ri­ences and views on child­care.

Ask ques­tions such as: ‘ What was it like for you bring­ing up chil­dren?’ and ‘how did it feel?’

After I got mar­ried, I asked Prue so many ques­tions about her up­bring­ing, her mar­riage, her years par­ent­ing three wild boys.

My hope was that she would be open with me and, al­though I took her by sur­prise, it brought us closer. So ac­knowl­edge your mother-in-law’s views.

When you have learnt more about your hus­band’s mother as a woman, then you will know where her ex­pec­ta­tions come from. You might not agree with her, but she will feel val­ued.

Nip feuds in the bud

The eas­i­est way to make your mother-in-law feel that she’s no longer part of your spouse’s fam­ily is to keep her, and any ref­er­ence to her, out of your home.

So make sure you have as many pho­tos of his side of the fam­ily as your own. If you don’t, she’s go­ing to feel slighted. And she may be­gin to feel threat­ened by your side of the fam­ily.

This is how feuds can start: with the ab­sence of a sin­gle photograph.

Flat­ter her

Tell her that she cooks some­thing bet­ter than you, or that her dress looks stylish. Com­pli­ments are an easy way to make your mother-in-law feel good.

If she sees you as com­pe­ti­tion, how­ever, she’ll feel de­moted at worst, and com­pet­i­tive and nasty at best. Nei­ther of those po­si­tions is a good one.

Value the ex­pe­ri­ence

There are al­ways two sides to ev­ery story.

Dis­count­ing your mother-in­law’s view­point as in­cor­rect sim­ply be­cause it dif­fers from yours is a se­ri­ous mis­take.

In­stead, give her the ben­e­fit of the doubt to try to dis­cover why she views a sit­u­a­tion dif­fer­ently.

re­mem­ber, you don’t have to fol­low her ad­vice, but can delve into her years of ex­pe­ri­ence.

Be grate­ful

TheY say that be­ing a grand­par­ent is the most won­der­ful thing in the world and I, for one, can’t wait. You get all of the joys of be­ing a par­ent with­out any of the dif­fi­cul­ties.

So know that, at the very least, your mother-in-law is madly in love with your chil­dren — al­ways a bonus!

Ask her to help out

NexT time your mother-in-law is in your house, put her to work. She can help you fold the laun­dry or take your other half out for a break. Moth­ers are used to be­ing busy and, when she is in your home as a ‘guest’, she might feel she’s been put out to grass.

Reap the re­wards

WheN we are new par­ents, or even more sea­soned ones, we are lucky to have some­one there who can sup­port us. When my mum died in 2007, ten years or so after my dad, Prue stepped in. I know that when I want to con­fide in her, she will lis­ten sym­pa­thet­i­cally. I didn’t just marry Sten, I mar­ried his fam­ily, too. Prue lives five min­utes away. Sten’s two broth­ers and their fam­i­lies are also close by. I can see how happy it makes my hus­band that I love his fam­ily as much as he does. To love your mother-in-law is not al­ways easy, but in the long run, it will be worth it. So put in the ef­fort and reap the re­wards of this life-en­hanc­ing (and mar­riageen­hanc­ing) bond.

Firm friends: Susannah and her mother-in-law Prue

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