Respectful Mothers-in-Law Create Meaningful Bonds

Reading through some of the comments we’ve gotten from you, our readers, we are again struck by the wisdom and sensitivity of women. The theme of R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as Aretha Franklin put it, dominates the way successful mothers-in-law relate to their offspring and their partners. When we consider the relationship from the eyes of our children and look at the challenges they face, we can focus on how they are maturing rather than on how we are coping with their development. Their growth can give us a sense of pride and satisfaction when we view them as the fellow adults they have become.

As one MIL put it, “Becoming a new mother-in-law last August, I would say that there are subtle changes in a mother’s relationship with her child as well as that child’s new spouse. Basically, the focus for them becomes their relationship with each other, and this changes the relationships with their families of origin. As parents, we must recognize this fact and respect their new challenges and priorities. It may be painful in ways to release a primary relationship with one’s child — almost like ’empty nest’ again — but I don’t believe being married lessens their love, just their priorities.”

Thinking back to the time you were a bride and daughter-in-law yourself can remind you about the needs of the new couple and provide some ideas about how to move forward in transforming your relationship. A MIL continues, “I know I will miss my time alone with my child, but I can also make occasional efforts to arrange some special time, knowing that possibly my child would also occasionally appreciate some private time with me. I often reflect on how I felt in relation to my parents after getting married — and this gives me new insights into how my getting married affected them! It boils down to experiences and emotions every generation shares.”

Another MIL, who was coping with the resistance of one of her children to accept the same-sex partner of another, received these words of support from a reader: “I know the other son will come around. We have friends with a gay son whose oldest son was quite discriminating at first and who now loves and understands his younger brother. I am learning that change takes time and patience.”

This MIL also focused on some of the positives that come from having a good relationship with children-in-law, noting: “I have to say that my daughter’s partner has allowed and even encouraged our daughter to see her parents in a new light. Our new daughter-in-law loves and appreciates who we are and this has given our daughter a new love for the people who raised her.”

So, son-in-law or daughter-in-law, same-sex or opposite sex partner, the issues are often the same. And the solutions too – respect, patience, acceptance, and most of all, love.

Please continue to send in your stories and comments so we can share them with other MILs out there!

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