As any person married person will tell you, navigating the relationship with his or her mother-in-law is not only tough, sometimes it can feel nearly impossible. But, there is a way to ease the pain of that familial relationship, and it’s a method proven by science.
As Southern Living previously explained, mothers-in-laws are programmed to not like their child’s spouse. It all goes back to the old days when mothers had a deep, animalistic need to protect their young and help them produce more offspring.
But, according to a newly published study in the Spring journal Human Nature, there are ways to actually win the approval of your mother-in-law. And you don’t even need to hunt or gather in the process.
“Parents do not always find their children’s mate choices to comply with their own preferences and engage in manipulation in order to drive away undesirable boyfriends and girlfriends. To avoid this situation, individuals engage in counter manipulation in order to change their prospective parents-in-law’s minds to accept them as mates for their children,” Menelaos Apostolou, a researcher on the project, explained to Reader’s Digest. In other words, we all try to win our mother-in-laws over by tricking them into liking us.
To come to this conclusion, the team interviewed 106 Greek-Cypriots and asked them to all answer a series of open-ended questions. According to the study, this style of questioning revealed 41 separate acts that individuals employed in an attempt to manipulate their partners' parents.
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“These acts included showing the parents how appropriate they are for their child, inviting them for dinner, buying gifts, and even standing up to the parents by telling them they were not worthy of their behavior,” the study noted. Then, the study asked the parents which tactic typically works best.
So which one is it? Apparently, it all comes down to simply showing you’re a good influence on your partner. It is a tactic the researchers dubbed “I am right for your child.”
This means you need to prove yourself up to her standards. Does she cook for her child? Maybe you should give it a try. Does she show a love of knitting sweaters for everyone at the holidays? Well, then it may be time to pick up those needles and show her you can do anything she can do too.
As for which tactic you should avoid, the researchers found that asking your partner to stand up to your mother-in-law for you is a terrible idea. The "Tell them I am good!" approach, as the team called it, was the least likely to be successful.
Or, you could just ignore the situation and pretend everything is fine. Forever. Whatever works for you.