Getting married and joining two families in a union is a beautiful thing. After walking down the aisle, cutting the cake, and having the first dance, you’d think the job would be done. However, there’s one more issue to navigate: The ever-fraught relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.
Indeed, if you think you have a difficult relationship with your partner’s mother you’re far from alone. Though, it really may have nothing to do with you, your cooking skills, or your cleaning techniques (despite what she may say). In fact, it may all come down to biology.
According to Terri Apter, a psychologist at Britain’s University of Cambridge who spoke to the Washington Post in 2016, 60 percent of married women report having a stressful relationship with their mother-in-law. Though it’s not typically because of anything specific the daughter-in-law has done, rather it simply is because we are hard-wired to be kindest to those closest to us.
“We’re most kind and generous to close family members, and we’re often suspicious of those without a genetic link who have influence over our children and grandchildren,” the Washington Post explained. “As a result, mothers- and daughters-in-law have been gently nudged apart for hundreds of thousands of years.”
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Moreover, women simply have a different relationship dynamic with other women.
“The relationship between two women is, on average, more intimate and emotional than men's,” Dr. Deanna Brann, a psychotherapist, and author of Reluctantly Related, told The Telegraph. “They focus on whether they feel connected to their in-law. There is also a competitive aspect that comes into play."
That competition isn’t for the man’s love, but rather over who has more influence over the man, according to Brann.
So what can you do about it? Apparently not much.
"Even if they're both brought up pretty similarly, a new daughter-in-law is still not from that family,” Dr. Angharad Rudkin, a psychologist who works with families, additionally told The Telegraph. “It's a barrier few manage to jump over completely, especially if the underlying position of the in-law is 'are you good enough for my child?' The most you can usually hope for is a compromise where there is openness and honesty."
If you’re having a hard time with your mother-in-law you could always try taking these six steps to improve your relationship. And, if worse comes to worse, it may be best to simply keep the relationship formal. And maybe, just stay out one another’s hair.