An Important, Yet Often Neglected Relationship: Part One


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The mother-in-law, daughter-in-law relationship is a tough one to figure out. Some would consider it a love-hate relationship. Some would consider it a constant tug of war over the son/husband, and some don’t consider it a relationship at all. All of the above are unfortunate and obviously not ideal for a loving, caring, supporting family unit especially when support is essential to military families. So, is a positive relationship between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-laws possible? Is there a way that both can benefit from loving the same man in different ways?  Is it possible for a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law to be friends? Can there be a ‘happily ever after’ for all involved?  The resounding answer to all of these is ‘yes’, but it takes time and commitment on both ends.

Because the bond a mother feels with her son, most don’t feel any woman will be good enough for him. In her mind no one will be able to care for him as well as she did, because no one knows him as well as she does. At time moms struggle with feeling his wife is replacing her, and become confused about her role in his life after he’s married.  Obviously the wives too have a strong bond with heir husbands. Many times the new wife naturally wants his undivided attention, and feels she needs to prove, especially to her mother-in-law, that she can take care of him by herself, because in her mind know one loves him like she does. 

The truth is, the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law must realize they’re both right in thinking that know one loves him like they do, because although they both love him deeply, a mom’s love and a wife’s love are as different as night and day.  Also, most likely while he was a child no one did know him as well as his parents, and as an adult know one should know him as well as his wife. And no could take care of him better than his mom while he was growing up and no one can care for him as an adult as well as his wife.  The key is to accept one another’s role, for what it was and what it is now.

As a mom of three daughters and one son, I understand readjusting the role when a son gets married can be tough. Even if there is a good relationship between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, the desire of a mom is to be the caretaker, comforter and supporter. A mother realizes her son is an adult, yet in her heart he’s still her child. Whether it’s a good thing or not is debatable, but a mom tends to gain their identity through their children so when the children marry, they may feel useless, and unappreciated.  This may result in her becoming overinvolved in her son’s family’s life, giving unsolicited advice and sharing opinions in order to prove her importance without understanding why her actions are causing problems.

On the other hand, the young happily married wife desires to be the perfect wife, and wants to do things her way even if it means doing them wrong. She already has a mom to go to when she does need help, so she doesn’t necessarily see the need or importance of a relationship with her mother-in-law inadvertently pushing her away.

As a mother-in-law whose son was in the military, and having talked with and ministered to many military daughters-in-law and even many more military mothers-in-law I can’t emphasis enough how a strong relationship between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law can help get through the long days and nights of uncertainties, and how a strained relationship only adds stress, and frustration to the already strenuous situation for all involved.  One thing that always surprises me is that although both want what’s best for the son/husband, they don’t always see how their relationship, whether good or bad, affects him, but it does. He doesn’t want to be the middleman, the referee, the sounding board for negative comments, or rope that’s being pulled back and forth. He wants the two women he loves most to at least respect one another. This is especially true for those in the military because when they must be away from home, war zone or not, they need to be able to focus on their job, not try to settle arguments between their wife and mother.

In part two, I will discuss the steps to take in order to insure that the relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law is respectful.

Leave us your thoughts/comments below!


2 thoughts on “An Important, Yet Often Neglected Relationship: Part One”

  1. Kathy,
    What a great article! I personally don’t struggle with the mother in law issue because my husband is not in touch with his mother, but I know a lot of people do. I would agree that it’s so important for the mom and wife to at the very least respect each other and their relationship with the son/husband because like you said he should NOT have to be the soundboard for the two of them and should be focusing on his job!! I look forward to part two!

  2. I love the relationship I have with my mother-in-law. Thankfully I married a very independent man. Unfortunately he came from a broken home, and his mother has learned to share him over time. Therefore sharing him with me I gather is easy for her. She is supportive and kind, without being overbearing. I am not sure how I would be able to handle a mother-in-law daughter-in-law tug-a-war relationship. God bless those women!

    Great article 🙂

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