When I was 18, I met my mother-in-law for the first time. I was terrified she would not like me. I could not have been more surprised at how our first meeting would go. We found out that we had been to many of the same places around the country, have many similar interests, and enjoy a lot of the same activities. I know that my relationship with my MIL is the exception, not the rule. However I still think I can give some tips on how to make a relationship you are stuck with for the rest of your married life (let’s just face it), a little bit better.
My mother-in-law carried my husband for nine months, gave birth to him, and raised him for eighteen years before I ever met him. I always try to remember that when I feel she is “meddling.” My son, Gatlin is only two, and I’m already worried about the day I will have to send him off to live with someone I barely know! She really does mean well when she offers advice. I know she is only trying to help me do what is best for all of us. Aretha Franklin knew what she was talking about when she sang about respect. Treating people with even the smallest amount of respect can go a long way in building lasting relationships.
I make it a point to not only include my MIL in things we are doing, but to also plan things that I think will interest her. It doesn’t really require much extra effort on my part, and Gatlin gets to do some pretty cool things he may not have done otherwise. Everyone likes to feel they belong. I understand your relationship may not be to a point yet where you can just call her up and invite her to lunch, but planning a day at the zoo or the park next week may be feasible. Your MIL may decline every offer, but you know that you have made the effort and she knows too.
We lived with my husband’s parents until Gatlin was 18 months old. Pride was a big issue at first. I was a brand new mom. I wanted everything done a certain way. Stubborn pride to center stage. One night, Gatlin had been up for about 24 hours straight, his belly hurt, and I was exhausted. My MIL met me in the hallway and very gently suggested that I put him into a warm bath. When he hit the water, he relaxed and stopped crying. I realized then that I didn’t care whose idea it was if it made him feel better. I had to give up on always being right. My MIL only wanted to help because she wants all of us to be happy and healthy. We had many more midnight meetings in that hallway in those 18 months, and I am grateful for every single one of them.
You have to laugh. I find that being able to laugh really gets me through some of the harder times. Like I said before, we do not have a perfect relationship. There are plenty of times when we are irritated at each other. These are the times humor really comes in handy. My MIL cannot remember anything. She still cannot remember that my brothers are Gatlin’s uncles, not his cousins even though they are about the same age. We have to tell her four or five times what the doctor said at Gatlin’s last checkup. I just smile and tell her one more time. My husband and father-in-law will snicker quietly, but it is just something simple I can do to keep us both from getting frustrated.
On the same token, I had to realize that I am not always easy to get along with either. My husband says am stubborn, loud, and talk a lot. I am thankful that my MIL patiently listens to everything I say and responds a whole lot more than my husband. I can’t expect her to accept all of my flaws if I am not willing to do the same for her. This is my best piece of advice when it comes to dealing with anyone. Looking in the mirror and changing a few things about yourself can do more for improving a relationship than staring at a watch and waiting for the other person to change.
With Mother’s Day right around the corner, I think it would be a great time to make a tiny step forward in building that relationship. Remember, everyone has their faults. I would never say that my MIL and I are perfect, but I do enjoy building a relationship with her for the sake of ourselves, our husbands, and my son.