You might not feel like BFFs just yet, but here are signs that she does in fact really like you.

By Maggie Burch
Pregnant Daughter Shopping with Mother in Law
Credit: Hoxton/Sam Edwards/Getty Images

Some Southern mamas are notoriously sweet and loving on anyone who crosses their paths. But others can be a little harder to get close to. Nine times out of 10, that tough exterior has to do with protecting her children—no matter how old they are. When it comes to becoming a mother-in-law, those protective instincts come out stronger than ever (see: any movie where a wedding is being planned). It's a relationship easy to dramatize and poke fun at, but unfortunately for some families, that divide is real and relationships become strained. But while it may feel like you haven't quite hit BFF status with your mother-in-law yet, that doesn't necessarily mean she dislikes you. There could actually be hints that she in fact really likes you, even if she doesn't always say it. Below are five signs to look out for that your mother-in-law does really like you—and that you can exhale a sigh of relief.

She wants to get to know you

Sometimes being on the receiving end of 20 questions is a bad sign. When it feels more like an interrogation to find flaws, you know your mother-in-law might not have the best intentions. But when she wants to take you out to lunch (sans son) and get to know you as a person and learn about your past and your hopes for the future, you can assume your mother-in-law is not trying to intimidate you or scare you off.

She doesn't compare you to anyone

A mother-in-law with an agenda is one who is trying to remind her son of what (or, who) else is out there, and sometimes that can come out as blatant references to ex-girlfriends or that family friend everyone "always thought he'd end up with." If you never hear about another woman from your mother-in-law, you can bet she likes you leaps and bounds better than her son's previous girlfriends, even if she doesn't say as much.

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She'll take your side

Remember those mama bear instincts? You may worry they'll come out if you ever have a disagreement with your husband in front of his parents. But a true sign your in-laws respect and like you is if they ever vocally take your side and tell their son he should really listen to your opinion.

She offers to help, not criticize

One aspect of mother- and daughter-in-law relationships that can be particularly touchy is a mother-in-law's criticism (whether it's given intentionally or not) over raising children, cooking meals, and maintaining a house. When you're hosting the big family Christmas party for the first time and your mother-in-law comes over early, you might be prepared for criticism of how you haven't gotten everything just right. But if she surprises you by refraining from saying anything critical and instead simply offers to lend a hand, you know she wants you to succeed—and won't even want to take credit for it.

She doesn't keep score

Some mothers-in-law are particularly territorial because there is an underlying fear of losing their son. You might think that's ridiculous but it's important to be cognizant of that fear even if she doesn't voice it. A telling sign that your mother-in-law isn't particularly worried about losing him? She won't say anything negative when the two of you spend time with your parents. And she won't keep score over which grandparents get more time with your children.