When it comes to a new relationship you’re wrapped up in each other. Nothing from the outside world seems relevant or interesting. You’re getting to know each other and strengthening a bond that will hopefully last a lifetime.
While you’re figuring out all the dating rules and keeping your head above water with the rest of your responsibilities in life, the subject of meeting the parents comes up. When you get deeper into the relationship and give you stomach cramps just thinking about it.
Meeting them for the first time can create many questions that pop into your head about your worthiness. Wondering if they’ll like you and praying you to get along for the sake of your partner. You might make their child the happiest person on the planet, depending on your partner. Their childhood and their parents as individuals, your relationship with them is just a game of chance.
Either you’ll have a tolerable relationship, have a close bond with your in-laws and get along like a house on fire, or face an ongoing battle with them for years to come. More often than not couples experience the latter especially from a mother-in-law or motherly figure. We’ve heard our friends’ stories about how hard they can be to deal with, which gives you the extra pinch of anxiety in your gut when the subject does come up with your partner over dinner.
You have to meet them eventually especially if this is the person you want to spend your life with – no, meeting them at your wedding is not an option – so for your partner, you agree to meet their parents.
A unique bond happens between a mother and her child, especially her boy, as they need their mother’s love to build confidence and empathy within themselves; studies have shown boys that grow up with a disconnection to their mother are prone to physical violence and other instabilities.
They must move away from having the mother overrule parts of their life. While most men are willing to embrace the separation, some mothers aren’t ready to let go just yet – that’s where you come in.
In the mother’s eyes you’re taking her child away from her and becoming the dominant female figure in his life which she can’t comprehend. This new separation is difficult for her as it gives her a sense of rejection from her child, and when you get engaged or married and her anxieties become more intense. Subconsciously, the mother places blame on you as you’ve replaced her and as the wedding day approaches tensions are higher than ever – more problems also arise if the mother uses her influence to make decisions about your new life together.
You can be doing everything right on your end but tensions are still high, and she still easily gets under your skin. Your mother-in-law needs to accept and acknowledge her child has a new family and is starting life without her being the major influence, dealing with the fact that her child is an adult and she needs to respect boundaries.
By offering your respect and appreciation toward your mother-in-law, even if she doesn’t deserve it right now, it will give you a better chance at creating a bond with her. She’s going to be standoffish and won’t make the first move but reaching out to her means you’re putting pride aside for your partner.
Ask her for help on an activity as it will make her feel needed and you can show her you see her as a role model. Creating a bond as early as possible will give you the best chance at not just a happy relationship with your partner, but a friction-free outcome with your new extended family.
If you’re planning on having children or already have them, give them an environment that isn’t awkward. This will give them a great chance at getting to know their grandparents and all the work you put into your relationship. Even if it’s tense and difficult in the beginning, you’re in it for the short term pain and long term gain – look at the future to the potential relationship between you and their family, making occasions like Christmas, birthdays and big events more memorable and positive well into the future.
Remember, you and your mother-in-law share the common factor that you both love your partner very much and using them as a bonding tool, or even poking fun at their quirks together, can give you more opportunity to bond over dinner, coffee or in passing. Every effort counts, so even if it doesn’t feel like you’re doing much, a little goes a long way – mothers notice every little detail!
While you’re here, check Dr. Lurve’s advice on whether or not you can stay friends with an ex after a break-up.