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While mothers-in-law sometimes do get a bad rap, the fact is that it's not easy for either parents or their adult children to make the transition from the family of origin to a new family, notes marriage counselor Chris Lewis on the Maria Droste Counseling Center website. However, if you want to keep your relationship with your daughter close, you need to make a special effort to develop a good relationship with her husband. Realize that your daughter and her husband are working on their own relationship, so don't put a strain on that by placing demands on them. Consideration is key if you want to be a good mother-in-law.
Avoid making unrealistic requests or having outlandish expectations. This means that you shouldn't pressure your daughter and her husband to join you for dinner every Sunday or plan a yearly family vacation together. These things are good, but they shouldn't be set-in-stone rules or your son-in-law might become resentful. Instead extend invitations, but don't make them mandatory for making you happy.
Consider the other set of inlaws. Don't expect your daughter and her husband to spend every holiday with you. Understand that her husband might have a family who wants to see them, too. Don't make your daughter and son-in-law feel guilty for spending time with your son-in-law's family.
Offer advice only if your son-in-law asks for it. Refrain from offering tips on making your daughter happy or suggestions about the house, the kids or car maintenance. Keep in mind that your son-in-law is an adult and able to care for himself. Constant unsolicited advice can make him feel like avoiding you. Instead, give him your thoughts if he asks, but keep them to yourself otherwise.
Spend some time with your son-in-law. If you're somewhat comfortable together, ask him to lunch or perhaps to play a round of golf. If you're not that close yet, ask your daughter to come along to avoid any awkwardness. However, make a point to try to bond with your son-in-law while you're together. Ask him about his work and his interests. Show your support for his dreams. Work to create a true friendship so you can spend time together without tension or awkwardness.
Honor boundaries. Maybe your daughter and her husband don't like that you stop by unannounced, or wish that you wouldn't constantly ask when you're going to get some grandkids. If they tell you that you're overstepping boundaries by doing these things, or their reactions let you know that you are, step back. Honoring their limits can endear you to your son-in-law and keep your interactions civil and friendly.
Don't take sides. It might be natural to agree with your daughter when she's arguing with her husband or they're trying to make a big life decision together. However, it's important to realize that the issue is between them and not your business. Instead of choosing sides, offer advice for solving the dilemma without pitting yourself against your son-in-law.
- If you simply don't like your son-in-law, a neutral third-party, such as a family therapist, can help you work through those feelings and figure out a solution that works for everyone.
Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.
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