Apr 24, 2012

Building A Better Relationship With Your Mother-In-Law


I know that LOTS of women don't have a good relationship with their MIL. 

I am not most women.

I am fortunate enough to have  a great relationship with my MIL.

It doesn't hurt that she is truly one of the kindest women on the planet, but even with that, it still takes work.

Because EVERY relationship takes work.

And we care enough to do the work to have a great relationship.

Often, I am listening to conversations that involve a friend who is complaining about her in laws, and since they don't ask for my advice, I keep quiet.

But if they did ask for my advice, here are a few things I would say:

1. You Have To Give Respect To Get It.  Some women spend hours complaining about their MIL's and saying mean things about them, and then wonder why she doesn't respect them.  Even if she doesn't hear what you're saying, we all know when someone doesn't like us and it makes it uncomfortable.  Try focusing on the positive and only talking about those things for a while.  It may help to change your perspective.

2.  Appreciate Her Position.  This is the woman who spent the better part of her life raising your husband.  She taught him to crawl, to walk, to talk, to eat, and to play.  She took him to school, nursed him when he was sick, and comforted him when he was upset.  And then he grew up, and you came along.  All of a sudden, he's not just her son, he's someones husband.  I can imagine that's a hard thing to wrap your head around.  And it may take a while for her to figure out where she fits into things. 

3.  Set Boundaries.  This is an important one.  If your MIL doesn't naturally understand the new boundaries of the relationship, you may have to talk about it with her.  Notice that I didn't say, "tell her".  It should be a conversation and both people should be able to have input.  BUT, you are the wife, and while she should know that you respect and love her, she should realize that when it comes to your relationship with your husband and anything having to do with your children, you will make the final decisions. 

4.  Know When To Compromise.  Some things just aren't a big deal, and instead of standing your ground just for the sake of showing her who's boss, sometimes it's okay to give in.  I have seen whole families come apart over something as silly as where to have Christmas dinner. 

5.  Take Her Advice:  Sometimes our MIL's actually have really great advice, but just because of who it's coming from, we dismiss it.  One thing that might help is to ask yourself, "if my best friend gave me this same advice, would I be more apt to listen?".  If the answer is yes, you may want to re-think things.

6.  Don't Be Afraid To Say No.  Sometimes, even after considering what my MIL has suggested, I decide that I want to do things a different way.  That's okay!  She doesn't have to love my choice, or even approve of it.  But she must respect it, (which will be much easier if she knows that I have heard her views, considered them, and then made my own choice!).

7.  Spend Time Together.  Sometimes, the only time that a DIL and MIL spend together is with the whole family present.  That's a mistake.  You can't get to know someone or appreciate them if you are distracted by children, making dinner, or trying to entertain a house full of people.  Try having a monthly lunch date with your MIL.  Get a babysitter and use that time just to focus on the relationship between the two of you.  And if she lives far away, try writing letters back and forth.  She will appreciate the effort and it can become something just for the two of you.

8.  Allow Your Husband To Still Be Her Son.  Sometimes we are so focused on the relationship between our husband and ourselves, that we forget that he still needs to be her son.  Allow your husband to still have time with just his parents, and don't be jealous about it.  Appreciate that he is a great son who still cares about his parents...something you hope your own children will model!

9.  Celebrate Your Differences.  Sometimes, a strain in the relationship between a MIL and a DIL is caused by the fact that the women are so different.  But instead of allowing that to come between you, use it to your benefit.  For example, I am a very outgoing person (shocking, I know!), and always like to be on the go.  My MIL is not.  She is happy to spend the day swinging on the porch, reading a book, and sipping tea.  She's never in a hurry and finds joy in the simplest of things.  My girls love that!  What they get from her, (that they can't get from me), is the wonder in every day things.  She slows down enough to notice a budding tulip, the caterpillar on the railing, and the new birds nest in the tree.  Because of her, my girls get to appreciate the simple, sweet things in life that I am often too busy to notice.

10.  Have Reasonable Expectations.  Not every MIL and DIL will be best friends, but they can still have a wonderful relationship built on trust and respect.  And it may take time to build that, but putting in the time and effort will be worth it in order to have the kind of relationship you can be proud of. 

I hope this helps if you are struggling in your relationship with your Mother-In-Law. 

And if you have a GREAT relationship, be sure to share some of your own tips for how you make it work!

I will be linking up with Many Little Blessing for Top Ten Tuesday and Works For Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.  Be sure to check them out! 

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings


  1. These are excellent tips that are a helpful reminder to me. My mother in law was my middle school librarian and I have been a part of their family since I was 13. In a way, she kinda had a hand in raising me, and still we have our differences. Remembering these tips will help in the hard times.

  2. Great tips! I would imagine it would be hard for a mother to see her son marry off and become someone's husband. It's a life changing event on both ends!

  3. I am getting married later this year, and me and my future MIL have a good relationship. In fact, our relationship was so good in the beginning that my fiance started getting jealous and was acting out a bit. So, I had to dial back on communications with my MIL because she tells him everything. I think I have hit a good balance now and I've made my fiance aware of his behavior when it comes to his mother. He had to laugh at himself but I wonder if the other DILs are suffering from this as they are all described as having had good relationships with the MIL in the past but not now. You do have to be careful when dealing with a man and his mother.

  4. I too think it is also important to make sure your husband continues his relationship with his parents. My MIL and FIL live 4 hours away. Often weekends that I am busy with my daughter for dance when hubby is home I tell him to go visit his parents. Its fine when we are all together but I know it must be very special to just have him visit.


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