Mothers-in-law are most often seen as the monsters or villains who make married life miserable for daughters-in-law. I am a mother-in-law myself, so let me speak from experience. In my desire to help, I often interfere with everything my daughter-in-law does; from meals served, to feeding bottles, to how she could manage my son’s personal concerns; thus encroaching on her turf and responsibilities.
My only genuine desire then, was to make sure everything would be as they should be and I was not aware that I was creating enmity and bad blood between me and my daughter-in-law. Eventually, I noticed the bouts of uncomfortable silent moments that I often had with her, and this made me re-assess why our relationship went sour.
I remembered when I was a newlywed myself and the brief moment that my mother-in-law had stayed with us. I remember how I had “hated” my mother-in-law when she interfered with my decisions and had always made some comments in everything that I did. I realized this must be what my daughter-in-law is feeling right now. With that in mind, I began to iron the kinks that stymied what should have been a good relationship with her.
Below are pointers that I have observed to build a lifelong relationship with my daughter-in-law:
Allow her to make her own decisions.
When you want to interfere with her decisions, think back to the time that you were her age. The only way that you had learned was when you were left alone to make your own decisions. You can guide her by pointing out the pros and cons of both sides of the equation, but she should have the final decision. Consequently, she should accept any consequences that her decision entails. You won’t always be there to decide for her so let her learn now.
Be generous in your praise and slow in your criticism.
This is a motto that is always applicable for any given situation. Destructive criticisms are like red lights; they stop the progress of people. If you have to criticize, do it out of love. You can say something negative in a positive way.
Have some suggestion in mind when you do so. Do not just say: “These curtains are awful”. You could rather say: “”These curtains would look more colorful if they were tied in a bough.” Or: “These curtains are colorful but they should be adorned with something.”
Be innovative and tactful when giving out suggestions. Remember, she is also a lady of the house who is entitled to her freedom of choice.
Be sincerely interested in her as a person
Spend some time with her and be interested in her hobbies. Do some activities together. You could also spend a quiet afternoon in the park just talking.
Times like these would strengthen your bond because it shows you care for her as person.
Don’t impose your old rules on your son.
Your son is married now and imposing the same old rules when he had been a bachelor is no longer advisable. He should be taken cared of by his wife and not by you. So what if his shirt has not been starched? Your work on that area is done. Let the two of them work out things for themselves. This way, they would also learn.
Don’t interfere when she disciplines her children.
This is a big no. Allow her the liberty to institute discipline as she sees fit. As long as she does not physically and emotionally abuse the children, then let her do this tough job. Your work has been done disciplining his husband. Step in only if she asks for help and when things get out of hand.
There are still various ways to build good, lifelong relationship with your daughter-in-law. You just have to remember that you have “gained a daughter” and had not “lost a son;” so love her just like you would your own daughter and she would be a daughter-in-law who would truly love you back in return.