If you’re getting married soon, or if you’ve been married for a while, chances are, you might need a few tips for getting along with your mother-in-law. She’s used to being the most important woman in her son’s life, so the transition to the back burner might take a little getting used to. How can you make the change a little smoother, and keep your new family happy? Here are 7 tips for getting along with your mother-in-law.
1. Listen… or at Least Pretend to
She’s going to have lots of advice, most of which you won’t ask for, but one of the best tips for getting along with your mother-in-law is to listen to her, to give her your ear. Listen while she advises you on how to keep house (even though you already know how) and raise your kids (even though you already know how), and smile sweetly, even if you intend to ignore her advice. A little listening can go a long way. And who knows? She might just have some advice you can actually use!
2. Ask for Recipes
This starts a little stretch of stuff you can ask your mother-in-law that will flatter her, and might just help your relationship over a rocky patch. Ask her for the recipe to that soup your husband loves when he’s sick, or the appetizer she brought to the family reunion last summer. She’ll appreciate the gesture, even if she knows, deep in her heart, you’ll never make it as good as she does.
3. Ask for Photos
I know that, as a mother, I pride myself on being a font of embarrassing photos of each of my children. Chances are, your mother-in-law has a shoe-box or two, or a few albums, full of photos of your husband in that bad 1980s mullet, or the plaid “grunge” flannel from the 1990s, or (perhaps the best yet!) the naked in the tubby baby photos! Ask her for a few, and giggle with her over them. Bonding moment!
4. Ask for Advice!
That’s right! Sometimes, one way to get closer to your mother-in-law is to ask her advice on topics you know she’s actually able to help with. Is she a wine expert? Ask her to recommend a white for Thanksgiving dinner. Does she own the “laundry and stains” category? Ask her how to get that stain out of your husband’s dress shirt. She’ll be flattered that you want her help, and again, she might be an excellent resource!
5. Defer, but Not Too Much!
There’s a fine line between forging a bond with your mother-in-law, and losing her respect for not being able to do anything to take care of her son and grandchildren on your own. Be respectful, ask advice, and defer, but not too much. You are, after all, the woman your husband chose, so she has to trust his judgment, and he has to back you, too.
6. Encourage Him to Be in Touch
Nothing will irritate or hurt his mother more than if he disappears from her life once he marries you. Encourage your husband to be in touch with his mother, with at least a phone call once a week. Clear it with him first, but feel free to ask her out to dinner, so she doesn’t feel like she’s lost her son; she’ll feel like she gained a daughter, as clichéd as that may sound.
7. Give It Some Time
You can’t expect your mother-in-law to embrace you and form a close bond the minute you come back from the honeymoon. Like any other healthy relationship, it’s going to take a little time. But if you work toward it, gradually, you and your mother-in-law will – gasp! – enjoy each other’s company in a matter of months.
Who knows? If you follow these tips, you might even become your mother-in-law’s favorite child. You already have at least one thing in common – you both adore her son, and want him to be happy. Which of these tips has helped you get along with your mother-in-law? Or do you have another idea to share?