Updated: Sep 16
The Role of a Mother and Daughter-in-Law : Part Two
When a woman marries a man, she should always remember that there’s no relationship that is more sacred and more unconditional than the one between a mother and child. Mothers are responsible for bringing all of us into this world and nurturing us into adults. Mothers do deserve that extra love and respect and this does, and should not, change because a man has another woman, i.e. wife, in his life. Daughters-in-law should realize that someday, they will most likely be mothers themselves and would want to receive the same love and respect. On a different note, daughters-in-law, as women, should be more understanding of the sensitive and emotional needs of mother-in-laws who are also another group of women.
I, for one, have always believed that a marriage is not just a between a man and woman, but it is a union between two families. I also believe that it is the union between the two families that makes the whole experience much more blissful and blessed. I have talked in earlier articles about the special nature of the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. I believe daughters-in-law can be linchpin with fostering those enriching relationships.
What can daughter-in-laws do?
For starters, thanking your mother-in-law for her son, the man of your dreams, could go a long way in beginning a family life on the right footing. Obviously you believe your man is a special one. But you cannot forget that it’s his mother who of all people (in most of the cases), helped him become who he is today. I would say that thanking is one thing, but truly feeling the gratitude is another, so make sure to feel the gratitude. I want to be clear that the same dynamic applies to a man marrying a woman and the woman’s mother.
Please do not expect your husband to choose between you and his mother. You would not want your husband to choose between him and your mother. Life’s richness comes from healthy interactions with different people, not just one or two. One should realize that a family is not just a collection of people competing for each other’s love and attention (remember it’s the children who are supposed to act that way) but a healthy family should be a collection of people who all love each other and care for each other’s happiness.
Please remember the first woman in your husband’s life was his mother. Therefore, it should not be surprising nor should it be considered a sign of weakness on your husband’s part that his mother has had and is still going to have substantial influence on his life. Your influence on your husband is at least as important and will be long lasting. Those two influences should create a compliment, not a conflict.
Please realize that if you genuinely show respect to your mother-in-law, she will do everything to help you because she wants to see her son be the happiest he can be. If you end up having a good relationship with your mother-in-law, then suddenly you have two mature women (including your mother) who care about you and your married life. You can draw upon both of them for advice and support to keep your married life wholesome and rewarding. And don’t forget they can also contribute to your personal growth as a woman.
Understanding a person very well requires a very good understanding of the person’s background especially his/her parents. Therefore, getting to know your mother-in-law may provide you with some invaluable insights into your husband’s personality and life philosophy which could be crucial in enhancing your connection with your husband. To this end, spending some time alone with your mother-in-law, whether it is a part of a shopping experience or a hobby, may go a long way and accomplish several goals.
It is always helpful to focus on people’s intentions and not so much on their methods or personalities. Remember some people can be very sweet and charming but they won’t wink and eyelash before hurting somebody. Since nobody chooses his/her parents and, in most cases, nobody chooses his/her in-laws. Therefore, it is utterly important to understand your mother-in-law’s motives and not get caught up in her quirks.
Since you were chosen by your husband to be his wife, you don’t necessarily have to live up to any expectations your mother-in-law might have of you as her daughter-in-law. However, please do not be tempered to shoot down any and all expectations just because they come from your mother-in-law. Evaluate each one of them on their own merit and determine if any of those expected behaviors will help you as an individual and/or your marriage. If they do, then you should strive to meet those expectations, not because they are coming from your mother-in-law, but because they will help you.
In essence when you are dealing with your mother-in-law, you should always keep the welfare and happiness of your nuclear and extended families as your guiding lights. Do not be distracted by the noises of personalities and quirks since all of us have them.
The purpose of this article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical or psychiatric issue. Dr. Rakesh Ranjan is a practicing psychiatrist and a researcher. He is a recipient of several research awards and has authored several peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapter on psychiatric illnesses and their treatments. He is a national speaker for several organizations and serves on the medical advisory board for NAMI for Greater Cleveland. If you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms that would lead you to believe that there could be a mental imbalance, please schedule an appointment at our nearest Charak Center location. You can call 216-587-6727 for further help. Check out Charakcenter.org for more information.