It’s a package deal, this marriage thing. You get the guy, but you also get his Mother. Going in, you think about how great it’s going to be, to have this awesome new sidekick who you love before you’ve even met her. She’s an extension of your man, so she’s already amazing. Lunches, outings, and fun family dinners dance around in your head like the prospect of Christmas Eve in the life of a 5-year-old. It’s gonna be great!
…Then D-day comes, and maybe, not so much.
After meeting your MIL, she seems okay, but you’re not sure. Will she turn out to be that mother-in-law of your dreams or the kind who gets up in your grill all the time? But who are you to jump the gun? She’s the mother of your beloved, and he’s not hers anymore. She has to share him with you now. You get it. Deep breath in. You’ve decided not to make any snap or rash judgments, and give her a chance.
You’re sizing each other up right now, and you know earning her trust and friendship is key. So how do you do it? How can you make her your friend?
How to Make Your Mother-In-Law Your Friend
Get to Know Her.
A little attention goes a long way. Ask to spend some time with her and make a date for coffee or lunch in her favourite spot. She may be as nervous and on guard as you are, but take some time to be interested and cultivate a relationship. Find out if you have any interests or hobbies in common and connect on that level, too. Bonus: Mothers-in-law can be great windows into the future when it comes to illuminating certain traits of your guy, and may help to explain more about who he is.
Invite Her Over.
Your biggest brownie points with your MIL are how much and how well you’ve made her feel welcome. Feeling included is on par with feeling acknowledged and being validated, so try to include her your lives, and your home. She doesn’t have to move in, and certainly don’t give her a carte-blanche invitation to come over whenever she likes (that can get a little cozy), but do make your home a place where she feels welcome.
Set the Parameters.
After you’ve gotten to know each other better, gently let her know your rules. Use the “royal we” when discussing those rules so she doesn’t feel as though you’re dictating to her. Instead, use inclusive language so she understands that the boundaries belong to your man as well. Of course, do discuss with him first. Touch on subjects like planning get-togethers, when it’s okay to “just show up” etc. You may be okay with her ringing the bell, grinning ear-to-ear and holding dinner-in-hand, expecting to come in. But you may not.
When it comes to mothers in law, many women say that they “just don’t get her”. So here’s what you’ve got to remember: behaviour is often a symptom of what else is going on in someone’s life. We do, think and say things based on our past experiences, whether good, bad, happy, sad, resolved, unresolved, or ongoing. To “get” someone, you have to try to understand where she’s coming from.
Often we know who we are judging, but we don’t know what or why. Understanding behaviour is tricky. You have to dig beneath that first layer of “are you kidding me?” or “what the f**k?”, take a breath, detach, and devote some time to thinking about the “why” part of the behaviour. It’s worth taking the time to see if you can understand the motive or impetus for her words or actions. Then you can address the behaviour without taking it personally.
Remember the Grandmother Effect.
Yup, she may be the one. The good, the bad, and the ugly, all rolled into one sweet grandmother package. And you’re going to have to deal, so it’s best that you work toward having a nice relationship with her, however that’s going to look.
If having a good relationship with your kids’ grandmother is important to you, you may have to practice being malleable, forgiving, and understanding when it comes to some of her words and actions. Over time, if you’re paying attention, you’ll figure out how best to get along with her, and if you have to, develop coping strategies so it’s a win-win.