Uttering the phrase “the mother-in-law” is enough to send many men into nervous fits of laughter. Whole comedy careers have been built on mother-in-law jokes. And who can forget (for all the wrong reasons) that movie on the same topic, “Monster-in-Law.”
In spite of all that, I’m blessed. I enjoy a wonderful relationship with my mother-in-law. I often travel with my wife and our three-year-old daughter to see ‘Nana’. We chat about pretty much everything, and I enjoy stepping in to help around her house, be it running errands or doing the shopping. And she’s always there when we need her, despite her living an hour’s flight away in Bahrain. I love how strong her relationship is with our daughter, who regularly wants to see her, and I also realise the importance of her relationship with my wife.
So, why does our relationship work? There are a few simple reasons, which work for both of us and which I hope work for you too.
- She knows I care – Nothing matters more to people than knowing they’re valued. I understood from day one that I wasn’t just marrying my wife, but I was also being taken into her family. I put time and effort into my relationship with my mother-in-law, including regular calls, sharing gifts during occasions such as Mother’s Day, and spending time with her when we’re visiting. My effort, good intention and care for her well-being have gone a long way in making our relationship a positive one.
- She cares about us – I married her eldest daughter, and as a parent myself, I know how strong that bond is between parent and child. She wants to see her daughter happy, and she knows that I try my best to make that happen. She respects that, and it means a great deal to her that my relationship with my wife is so strong. This in turn, has meant our relationship has also grown stronger.
- I give her and my wife space – I also understand how important the relationship between her and my wife is to both; they speak every day and they see each other every month despite living in different countries. I know they both value their time together, and I don’t encroach on that, but rather encourage it. It’s important for them to talk and be together, and I’m happy to take time out for them to do that.
- We involve her in our lives – This may not be to everyone’s taste, but every chance we get, we involve her. If we go for a weekend break, we ask her to join us. We’ve even taken week-long vacations and asked her to come along. She doesn’t always say yes, but she does appreciate that we care enough to consider her a part of our household. And both my wife and daughter love that she’s there as well.
- She didn’t lose a daughter, she gained a son – Our relationship is so strong that she’s often said that I’ve become a son to her. Much of the fear and negativity around the mother-in-law relationship is based on a fear that they will lose their child to their child’s spouse. From day one, my wife and I made it clear that we would always be there with her, to support her and be with her. And as time has gone on, she’s seen those words come true.
I know how lucky I am to have such a strong relationship with my mother-in-law, which in turn has made my marriage stronger. I cherish that I didn’t only marry an amazing woman, but I also formed a friendship with her family, especially her mother. I don’t need to be the exception here; I hope that you’ll be able to take some inspiration from my own words and find a way to love your mother-in-law just as much as I love mine.