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Part 1 - The War Of “The Roses”: A Look At The Thorny Relationship Between Mother-In Laws and Daughter-In-Laws

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

From his brothers, sisters and ultimately his parents, like it or not (and most of the time you WON’T), when you marry the love of your life, you also marry the rest of his family.

Sure, you may know the family for years and get along “famously” but remember, you don’t really know someone until you live with them (or their son), and, until he “officially” puts that ring on your finger there’s generally NO REAL THREAT of you putting the ball and chain around his ankle and noose around his neck.

(Surely, some of you may get “lucky” and meet someone whose parents you actually like, admire, and get along with, but most often, like winning the lottery you’re bound to be miss the JACKPOT by at least one number, and you probably won’t wind up marrying HIM).

Do you think it’s coincidental that shows highlighting this torrid relationship are as successful, popular, and funny due to sheer writing genius? Their ability to explicitly depict reality and allow us to laugh at ourselves is their claim to fame and among the best “medicinal” outlets and therapies for our perpetuating plight.

All kidding aside, tense family relationships between brides and their new mother-in-law plague 60% of the “happily” married population and rank in the top two reasons for divorce.

The irony of the situation is that the same person/people (his mom/his parents) who were eager and enthusiastic about their son’s happiness, assertion into society as a man, and about him finding The Right woman to marry, are now the same people who are the sole source of your marital blisters.

While it’s easy to presume, it’s because they dislike you, it would actually have been any femme fatale who dared to threaten and come between their relationship….YOU just happen to be the “lucky” one HE chose for this esteemed role in the family.

According to experts, parents, but especially mothers, seem to be incapable and/or unwilling to accept their sons as grown men and self-sufficient adults. In fact, many define their role in life by “providing” for their children (even those who no longer live at home or rely on them for support).

Women, especially those who’ve been “stay-at-home” moms with limited outside interaction (beside their family) have potentially serious insecurities about losing their identity, purpose, and perceived involvement and RIGHT to intervene in their sons life, especially to another woman…and remember, to a mother (or to parents in general) NO ONE will ever be good enough for her child. This may actually cause severe domestic disturbances for the couple often leading to the failure and demise of their relationship.

Studies show that (generally) this problem tends to be more prevalent with men (and their moms), than with women and their families. Why? Well, first, and foremost, men more readily and easily accept their in-laws and their doesn’t seem to be as much of a “power” struggle between the two. Secondly, it would seem that both mothers and fathers of girls/women getting married have long accepted their daughter’s assertion of independence and capability to live as a women….and they are truly (and genuinely) glad (if not relieved…unless they really disapprove of her choice) to see their daughter getting married and experiencing life with ONE special partner. Furthermore, as a rule, girls are more capable of confronting their parents and setting limit, boundaries, and parameters that are acceptable and those that are not. Nor do women have trouble standing up (even to their parents) in defense of their spouse….not to mention, that when women get married, very rarely do they severe their pre-existing relationships with family and friends.

According to professionals, while this issue transcends religion and race, some brides may find “some” relief based on age. While mom’s of young grooms (and their new brides) may initially find it difficult to believe or accept that their “little boy” is all grown up and getting married, they somehow find “security” and “peace of mind” in a young bride. According to studies, young brides, especially those who are more “traditional”, conservative, reserved, and less experienced pose less of a threat to dear ole’ mom. A young women who may still lack the experience and confidence in life and in decision making is much less intimidating than a perfectly confident, capable, self-assured, self-sufficient, often “accomplished” women who has definite opinions of her own and is NOT afraid to express them. I may be especially disconcerting and “threatening” if the new bride somehow surpasses the groom’s mother in ability and accomplishment.

Friction, tension and absence of family cohesion is more often than not, the direct result, leaving the husband playing “Malcom In The Middle” and tearing the (new) family apart….perhaps often making the wife feel “resentment” toward her spouse for trying to defend his family and not defending HER and making her feel like part of it. Yet, this complex situation has quite a simply solution according to relationship experts, and while most moms won’t like it, puts the onus on THEM.

Specialists say, that the mother-in-law’s attitude is generally the problem. Her fear of loosing her son is not only destroying his marriage but also often pushing him further away. Clever, Masterful moms take a more diplomatic approach. They understand that adversity between themselves and the new bride will only serve to alienate her son, and thus result in the self-fulfilling prophecy of her worst fear. “Playing Nice” is always a better way to win friends and influence people according to experts. They even suggest moms go that extra mile to extend themselves to the new bride. They recommend (that although you won’t always agree an in fact, that’s NOT necessary) the groom’s mother and family should make obvious efforts in embracing and welcoming their new “daughter” into the family, even if it means “compromising” their “pride”, leaving themselves “vulnerable” to new ideas and opinions, sharing in some of (the bride’s) interests, asking for help and advice and including her in family decisions, plans and functions as well as being excited about being included in all these new and exciting things. The key they remind mother-in-laws is to NEVER undermine the bride (new family member). She is probably trying to “fit in” and make and “impact” and “good impression”, and include you (her new family) in aspects of her life she’s excited about and willing to share. While the groom’s mom (parents and family) may not necessarily mean any harm, remember, experts caution that actions speak volumes louder than words. Declining your (new) family member’s invitations may be interpreted as an insult and a rejection of her (and her marriage and their new life), what she stands for, her interests, ideas and values; and all her hard work and efforts in trying to please you. Furthermore professionals point out that a positive attitude and joyfully embracing the bride, the marriage and all it brings to the family as a (welcome) “adventure” is a much better position and alternative. And they remind mom’s (and dad’s alike) that in the process, you may be avoiding lots of tension, animosity and stress, may help save your sons relationship/marriage, develop a bond and friendship (you never expected), gain appreciation for new things (you may otherwise not have been exposed to or tried), and most of all, keep the door wide open for a happy, healthy relationship with your son (and his children).

Continue to part 2: War and Peace: The Most Common Mother-In-Law “Mistakes” and How To Avoid or Correct Them>>

Long Island Family Life & Parenting Articles > Part 1 - The War Of “The Roses”: A Look At The Thorny Relationship Between Mother-In Laws and Daughter-In-Laws

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