The age-old silently waged war between a wife and her mother-in-law is a well-documented, often parodied, and frequently written-about battle. Personally, I’ve always thought this was a rather silly fight and it’s not an issue I’ve ever faced with my husband’s mother, who I love dearly. My partner simply puts me first, just as it should be.
I practice open communication. I never expect my partner to naturally know what is and isn’t OK with me. I tell him straight up when I don’t like something and I listen when he explains why he does those things. The same goes for his relationship with his mother. If I think he’s choosing her over me a little too often and being neglectful of our marriage, I tell him. We sit down and talk about it and find a balance. Most of the time, he isn’t even aware that he was actively picking her over me!
I’m not a pushover. One time, there was an important date my partner and I had planned for weeks. Out of the blue, his mother called and asked him to come over for dinner that same day. At first, my partner said yes, but I had to put my foot down. I mean, come on! This was something we’d planned for ages and was a big deal for us! When my partner realized that I was being perfectly reasonable, he understood where he went wrong. Incidentally, when he told his mom that we had a big date planned, she berated him for not telling her from the beginning.
It shows my husband’s family that we have a strong marriage. When my husband is able to look his mother in the eye and tell her why he has to choose me over her every now and then, what she sees is a solid relationship with mutual respect. He proves that he keeps his promises to me and expresses that he’s a man of his word. This means his mother knows just how important I am to him and that we have each other’s backs. She’s able to see why the boundaries we’ve set are important to us.
I’m not isolating him from the people he loves. I believe in balance and sharing. I actively encourage my partner to be to spend time with his family. I don’t feel like this is a competition because it really shouldn’t be. As a result, the need to choose one or the other isn’t so much a decision but an act of finding balance and compromise, and that’s what healthy relationships are all about.
I respect his mother. My partner’s mother is beautiful, intelligent, and kind. Sure, she’s always been a little tough on me, but I know this comes from a place of love. It’s kind of the same way dads are known for being overprotective of their daughters—women can be pretty protective of their sons! Ultimately, I respect that she is the reason my partner is in the world. I respect her bond with him and I have no interest in tearing that apart. If anything, I think it’s a beautiful thing that an adult and their parent can be so close!
His mother respects me too. I worked hard to get on his mother’s good side. I’ve done everything I can to show her that I love her son and want to do right by him and I believe she’s received that message loud and clear! She understands that marriage changes a person’s life and priorities, and I’ve done my part to prove I’m the right choice for him. As long as he makes sure to visit her, call her regularly, and show he loves her, she’s happy. Besides, she’s been in my shoes before and she didn’t like her mother-in-law hogging her own partner!
It doesn’t always have to be a choice. Let’s say my partner and I want to savor our rare free weekend but he hasn’t visited his mom in a while. Why choose between us to begin with? Instead of trying to pick who gets free reign of the weekend, we just turn it into a family affair. Isn’t that what we are, after all? We can pile into our car and take a trip down to his family home for that weekend. It’s a win-win, and it shows that I’m interested in being an active part of the family.
I’ve become his family. I don’t mean that a mother isn’t family. It’s important for men and women to love and respect their parents always, but my partner firmly believes that when you marry or commit to a long-term life partner, you’re essentially entering a new family that should become your number one priority. I believe the same thing. When you become one with someone else, that is where your responsibility lies from then on. This is perfectly acceptable for women to do when they get married—why shouldn’t it be the same for men?
I talk to his mother. I communicate with my partner’s mother pretty regularly. I want her to know that I value her as a person and that I value being a part of her family. This means there isn’t any animosity between us. If I have concerns, I can go directly to her and she can do the same with me. You’d be surprised how many potential miscommunications can be solved just by talking!
His mother and I want the best for my husband. At the end of the day, both my mother-in-law and I are mature adults. It isn’t all about us and who “wins” my partner and it should never be! The aim is for us to cooperate and it isn’t too difficult when we both want the same thing: my husband’s and her son’s happiness. That’s a pretty great way to reach an understanding!
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