I am no advice columnist, but may I offer a few wise words to future brides?
I have been married for 25 years and have never had an argument with my mother-in-law. Never! My mother gave me some valuable advice before my wedding that I’d like to pass along. She said, “Always respect the woman who made the man you love.”
I never forgot it, and my MIL has always been welcome in my home for as long as she wishes. If we had any differences, a respectful dialogue was opened right away — especially if it concerned our kids’ education.
We have enjoyed shopping, eating, cooking, parties, caring for newborns and family moments together for as long as I can remember. Sadly, she is now frail and can no longer travel as much as she once could.
The women who made our husbands deserve all the respect we can offer them because if we are happy as wives, it is thanks to all of them.
“I don’t want to be her mother. She already has a mother. But I definitely want to be her friend” said Katya while we sat in a café with steaming cups of vanilla and chai latte. We were discussing the topic of what a good MIL/DIL relationship looks like and how to approach it. Katya has a good relationship with her DIL and had just returned from a weekend with husband, son & daughter-in-law.
It appears that one factor determining the closeness of a MIL/DIL relationship is whether or not the DIL’s mother is “in the picture”. If so, perhaps it is more likely that MIL/DIL interactions will be fewer, less often? It may well be that the emotional ties tend to be weaker if the immediate family is tight and operational. If there is no mother active or present in the DIL’s life, might there be more opportunity for a MIL/DIL friendship to flourish?
Yes, says Suzanne. Her DIL’s mother resides in another country. So, in some sense, it is natural for her DIL to gravitate toward her husband’s family to fill that need or desire for familial relationships. Her DIL’s mother is thankful that there is family to be for her daughter what she herself cannot be because of geographical distance.
Gale agrees. She related that one of her DILS is interested in a more interactive relationship because her mother is not involved in her life. They enjoy quite a few activities together as a mother and daughter might, possibly because she is the mother who’s available.
And what if you are the “third mother” like Donna whose step-son recently married? Can she hope to have any kind of a relationship with her “step –DIL”? Of course. It will take time – that most precious commodity. She hasn’t tried to take on the mother role. And it’s a good thing, too! Who needs three mothers?!
Is it likely that, in general, all of us have a space in our hearts that only family can fill? And if so, might there be room in the heart for two?
We make decisions every day. Decisions about what vehicle to purchase, how much to eat and drink, where to go on vacation, what to name our children, what charities we’ll support …. how to invest our time, energy and money. Decisions which result in blessing and challenge, joy and pain, sickness and health, beauty and ashes.
So, too, in this area, we need to make a decision about whether or not we want to develop or deepen our relationship with our MIL/DIL.
Does it seem worth it to you?
What benefits can you see coming out of it?
What might be the cost?
What might it require of you? And her?
What will you likely miss out on if you don’t at least try?
We live quite a distance from our son & his wife and don’t get to see them as much as we’d like. So, one of the things my daughter-in-law recently did which built up our relationship is to share with me new recipes that they had tried and liked. Both she and our son really enjoy cooking on the weekends when they can do so in a relaxed atmosphere and wind down from the week’s busyness. They had given us a cookbook for Christmas and so could even direct us to the page number of the recommendations. We are planning on sharing the Acorn Squash Bisque with friends this weekend since we found it simple to make and delicious and reported this to Juliana (DIL). We’ll add to it Szechuan Chicken in Lettuce Bundles, another recipe in that same cookbook – Healthy Cooking for Two.
Food does tend to bring people together, doesn’t it? So, if you’re looking for something to share with your MIL or DIL, you might try recipes. It’s working for us!
So, if you’re like some MILS, you may not immediately recognize many commonalities with your DIL. Or vice versa. As one person commented, at first the only thing they had in common was her son! And that may have seemed the case at the time.
But, was it really? Or did they share numerous likes, dislikes, personality traits, talents, passions, etc. and not yet know it? Isn’t developing any relationship an exercise in finding out what the other person is like? What makes them tick? What moves them, motivates them, inspires them, entertains them, makes them laugh and cry?
“….. the things we have in common far outnumber and outweigh those that divide us.” – Walt Disney
Can’t convince me that a man is the only thing two women who love him have in common. Sounds like one of my opportunities is to want to find those common threads that connect us. And to do that, I’ve got to care enough about my son and DIL to invest my time and energy – two of the most important resources I have.
So, let’s tackle this question first: What makes for a great MIL/DIL relationship?
“Wow! I have that with Elaine. We have a lot of commonalities.” – Gayle in Colorado
When a MIL & DIL have quite a few things in common, when they share an interest in the same things or have some significant common experiences or similar backgrounds, there is a connection that makes it easier to develop the relationship. It might be an affinity for getting mani/pedis or massages, or a passion for bicycling, hiking, music or cooking. Maybe they both collect shoes or cookbooks or they work in the same industry. Perhaps they admire the same people or support a common cause. When you meet someone who likes the things you like, a bond is immediately formed. Looking for and becoming aware of these “ties that bind” sets the stage for shared conversations activities and adventures. And a great MIL/DIL relationship is definitely about sharing. Isn’t it?