Mother-in-laws tend to get a raw deal. Are they as bad as they are said to be? Film has turned the mother-in-law into a seemingly demonic being hell-bent on destroying your marriage or, at least, controlling it to ensure that you become the husband she wanted or thinks your wife – her daughter – deserves. The mother-in-law is the ultimate third-party interference that creates more turmoil than anything else. The question is, how accurate is this? How much of a demon is your mother-in-law and does she truly spend her days plotting your increased subjugation?

This is, partly, an exaggerated caricature that lends itself to great television and can make for amusing conversation or expensive therapy. When two people get married, their two families are also coming together and, as is the case with your biological family, you can’t choose your in-laws, even if you can choose your spouse. And, like with your biological family, you deal with it to the best of your ability.

Your father-in-law is often the greater challenge and your mother-in-law can be your greatest ally if you navigate the relationship intelligently.

Get on her good side early but don’t be a pushover
Treat her with respect from the moment you meet. Take time to get to understand her, her likes and dislikes, interests, etc. You do not want to make profound statements and express strong opinions early in the relationship. Listen, don’t talk.

Communicate with your partner
Many women have very open relationships with their mothers and will discuss your actions and missteps. They go to their mothers for advice and it is that advice – which does not take into consideration the unique nuances of your relationship – that could be what brings about your demise, from something that is a non-starter.
You and your partner are a team … the two of you against the world (to paraphrase Tupac Shakur). Talk to your partner about your relationships and how much you will share about the nitty-gritties. Never let “third-parties” come between the two of you… and this includes her mother.

Visiting rights
If you live in your mother-in-law’s house, then you have a serious problem. Get out! In your house, there must be clear rules around visiting rights of parents, on both sides. If your mother-in-law is coming to visit, there must be a time-frame to it. And she must not be allowed to change the entire routine of the household if the visit is longer than a weekend. This can be dealt with subtly and with tact so also don’t storm in and announce that she has two days and then she is out.

Don’t be a mama’s boy
If your umbilical cord was never fully cut, you are in no position to moan about your mother-in-law. If your wife is reading articles, like this one, in women’s magazines and on women’s sites, then you need to keep quiet and focus on ensuring that your mother isn’t the problem.
A mother-in-law can be a great addition to your life. A second mother and a support for both you and your spouse through many of life’s challenges. Allow her the space to do so without imposing her will and ideas on your marriage.