Words of wedding wisdom: FUTURE MOTHER-IN-LAW – tact required?

Welcome to this series of articles based on my popular book, “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” … a few juicy extracts that you might like, to give you a taster of what the book can do to help make your wedding (or a friend or relative’s wedding) superbly successful.

This time, we look at…

The Bride’s Mother-in-law

What would joke writers and stand-up comedians do without mothers-in-law?

My mother-in-law called today…
I knew it was her. When she knocked on the front door all the mice threw themselves into the traps.

A woman walked out of a smart restaurant wearing an elegant real fur coat. She was approached by another woman who asked disapprovingly, “and what poor creature had to die so you could wear that?”
“My mother-in-law,” smiled the first woman.

My mother-in-law and I were happy for 20 years. Then we met each other.

Q: What are the two worst things about your mother-in-law?
A: Her faces.

And so it goes on.  Why is the poor old mother-in-law such a popular source of humor? Because your relationship with her can be one of the most challenging relationships you’ve ever had.

On the other hand, of course, many women have great relationships with their mothers-in-law. And that’s amazing when you consider the emotional issues that often exist between them.

What are her problems?

Just as fathers can be possessive about their daughters and feel grief at having to hand their little girls over to other men, mothers can and often are very possessive about their sons.

Even though she might be quite happy and relaxed about your relationship with her son while you were just going out or even living together, the fact that you are now getting married and that there is to be another “Mrs.” Whoever, changes the picture. Now, she has to face the fact that her son is replacing her as the number one woman in his life – with you.

No matter how philosophical a woman is, I think this is hard for her to accept. I know that when my son gets married I will feel, deep down, a sense of desertion and grief, no matter how much I like my new daughter-in-law. Just as is the case with your own mother, your wedding is a rite of passage for everyone else in your close family, mother-in-law included. The big difference between your mother and your mother-in-law is that the latter lady didn’t give birth to you and doesn’t love you the way your own mother does, although of course she may come to do so in time. So any sensation of jealousy, rivalry, competition, etc., will not be cushioned by any familial love or loyalty.

Your mother-in-law may well have had a very close relationship with your fiancé, perhaps looking after his domestic needs and generally spoiling him. In her eyes this will be a very hard act for you to follow, especially if you, like most rational people, think that the “domesticated little woman” role sucks and that your husband-to-be can damned well iron his own shirts. Worse still, your mother-in-law may try to extend her running of her son’s domestic life into your life together. While it may be handy to have someone to help with the domestics, do you really want your mother-in-law to run your life?

Another mother-in-law issue is that no girl would ever be good enough for what she had in mind for her darling boy. This standpoint is a useful excuse to cover up jealousy, because whatever you are and whatever you do, it won’t be good enough to meet her constantly shifting standards.

Well, that’s all the bad news. What can be done to reduce the negative issues and get into a better relationship with her?

Your fiancé’s role

Let’s face it, if your fiancé has always been a bit of a Mommy’s boy you’re in for an uphill struggle, but it’s a struggle you must get through if there is to be a peaceful relationship with her once you’re married. If things are tricky between you and your future mother-in-law, the first thing to do is to get your fiancé to sit her down privately, point out that he is not a little boy any longer, and that it’s very important to him that you and she get along as well as possible.

He must also make the point that if push comes to shove, he will side with you, not her. That’s something that he will have to stick to, as well, no matter how much pressure his mother might put on him to do otherwise.

He may well dread the idea of confronting his mother in this way and she may well shout and squirm to begin with. However provided that he stands his ground in a kind but firm way, in time she will have to accept it. In fact she will probably come to respect both her son and you more, for the fact that the issue has been faced and dealt with openly.

Your role

I think it’s very important for you, as the bride, to develop your own relationship with your future mother-in-law, independently of your fiancé and other family members.

To begin with, you owe it to both her and yourself to devote quite a lot of time and energy to this relationship. Whatever you may think of her she is still your fiancé’s mother, and as such is a very important part of your lives.

In addition, for all you know she may be more nervous about her new relationship with you than you think, and could feel unsure how to handle it.

Try to organize a lunch or shopping trip with just you and her, so you can get to know each other as people rather than in your respective family roles. You and she might both be pleasantly surprised at how well you get along when there’s no-one else around to divert your attention from each other.

If she wants to be involved in helping organize your wedding, try to accommodate her wish and make her feel not only needed, but admired for her capabilities. It’s very easy for the groom’s family to feel a little left out of things when a wedding is being planned because most of the organization is normally driven by the bride, and by extension her family and her friends. If mother-in-law should, by any chance, become a bit too pushy, try diverting her energy into one specific channel in a tactful way.

For all 174 pages of helpful tips and advice, grab your copy of “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” from Amazon (USA), Amazon (Canada), Amazon (UK) and all other Amazons.