In The Seven Principles for Making Your Marriage Work Gottman writes "Although mother-in-law jokes told by men are traditional staple of comedy routines, the real family tension is more frequently between the wife and her mother-in-law... Although such conflicts usually surface quite early in a marriage, in-law difficulties can be triggered or revived at many other times... At the core of the tension is a turf battle between the two women for the husband's love. The wife is watching to see whether her husband backs her or his mother. She is wondering, "Which family are you really in?" Often the mother is asking the same question."
My husband and I have had our share of in-law difficulties and have to agree that I have had a tougher time figuring out my relationship with my mother-in-law than my husband has had with my mother. The funny thing is, my mother-in-law was my friend before I even dated her son. In fact, I would have considered my mother-in-law as one of my best friends. And yet, after the wedding, one of the hardest things I've had to figure out was how to turn one of my kindred spirits into my mother-in-law.
Recently, I have been reading about the problems others have had with their in-laws. The Dec/Jan Parenting magazine also includes an article that lists "top hot-button issues" with in-laws: your in-laws are too involved, they think you're over-the-top for being so safety-conscious, they interfere, they criticize your decisions, they don't support your family rules, they expect too much from their son and they don't help out as much as you'd like. As I read the article, I realise what an easy mother-in-law I have. My mother-in-law always ASKS how she can be involved, when she can come over and for how long. She supports our decisions and she helps out more than I would like. For the most part, I feel my needs are understood and boundaries respected. More than that, the longer I am married, the more I respect her for the mother she is. She raised an outstanding man. She is also a wonderful grandmother who is crazy about her grandson, as he is about her.
And, while things aren't perfect between us, I think in my heart and in my mind I am beginning to figure out how I can begin to turn my mother-in-law into one of my best friends - again.
Thank you MJ for being both mother and friend. I am grateful you are in my life.