Every time your phone rings, if it’s not your guy, it’s her. She has an opinion on every single thing you do, and she doesn’t “understand” why you won’t bend to her wishes. We’re talking about your future mother-in-law here, and if you’re in the middle of planning your wedding, she’s probably already pushing your buttons. Whether you’ve experienced it firsthand, or have only heard horror stories from friends, it’s no secret that feelings between mothers and their son’s bride-to-be aren’t always peachy.
But does it have to be this way? We asked Jane Angelich, author of What’s a Mother (in-Law) to Do? 5 Essential Steps to Building a Loving Relationship with Your Son’s New Wife to break it down for us. Here she helps us decode your future mother-in-law’s behaviors and gives tips on how to diffuse the unwanted drama.
The Sticky Situation: She’s being cold to you.
What Your Mother-in-Law Is Really Thinking: “I’m worried that, you, my new daughter-in-law, won’t accept or don’t like me, so I’m keeping my distance and rejecting you before you can reject me.”
The Drama Diffuser: Give her breathing room.
If you and your mother-in-law are just getting to know one another, keep in mind that forming a relationship will take some time, and things may not be picture-perfect from the start. “For a mother-in-law, welcoming a new daughter-in-law into the family is something like bringing home a new baby,” explains Angelich. “She doesn’t really know what to expect, doesn’t want to make rookie mistakes, and wants to form a loving bond that will last a lifetime.” Avoid pushing a closeness or connection too early on in the relationship. Angelich also suggests letting your groom step in to help, since he already knows you both so well.
The Sticky Situation: She wants the wedding planned her way.
What Your Mother-in-Law Is Really Thinking: “I have knowledge and experience that I want to share with you. Sometimes, I’m so excited about the wedding that the words come out of my mouth before I’ve had a chance to think about their impact.”
The Drama Diffuser: Keep the lines of communication open.
As the bride-to-be, you want to call most, if not all, of the shots in the wedding planning. But you must remember that your mother-in-law may also have some opinions to share. For her, “it’s tempting to offer advice,” says Angelich. “After all, she is the mother of your soon-to-be husband. Sometimes, when tensions run high, so can the potential for misinterpreted comments and hurt feelings.” Don’t create a wall by not allowing her to talk to you about her ideas. You may not agree with her, but you do need to listen and keep communicating throughout the planning process. If you’re not into what she’s saying, be willing to explain why, and consider finding a compromise when you can. If that doesn’t work the next time you have a misunderstanding, try asking the groom to play mediator and decipher what you’re (really) saying to each other.
The Sticky Situation: She keeps telling you what to do.
What Your Mother-in-Law Is Really Thinking: “It isn’t easy inviting a new person into my life -- especially one who’s so close to my son. Giving advice is a way for me to feel needed, included, or important.”
The Drama Diffuser: Take her opinions in stride.
Your mother-in-law may enjoy dishing out unsolicited advice at will, but it could be driving you over the edge (especially if it’s all wedding-related!). Reacting rudely when you’re frustrated might make you feel better, but it won’t help your future relationship. Angelich recommends you avoid screaming, yelling, or slamming down the phone, and try a more honest and open approach instead. “Get used to repeating certain mantras,” she suggests. “Say things like, ‘Trust your son and me,’ or ‘We know you have wisdom to share, but we want to build our own wisdom through trial and error.’” Tell her you’d prefer to have more of a shoulder to lean on than a teacher right now, and you’d love it if she could take on that role.
The Sticky Situation: She keeps stopping by unannounced.
What Your Mother-in-Law Is Really Thinking: “I forgot that when I was engaged and newly married, I really enjoyed being a couple. You both need time to be alone, and to work things out as a couple too.”
The Drama Diffuser: Draw clear boundaries.
If your new mother-in-law is constantly popping by your house at will, she’s not giving the two of you the space or privacy you deserve right now. You have to let her know that she’s crossing a line, and be up front and honest about when it’s best to visit or help out. If certain times of the day or week are busier than others for you, say that, and ask that she not stop in at those times. Planned visits will work better than unexpected drop-bys. And you’ll want to establish the length of her visit too, says Angelich. You’d all be better off with a few great days together than a week of issues that might turn into resentment in the long run.
Want more great advice? Read more What’s a Mother (in-Law) to Do? 5 Essential Steps to Building a Loving Relationship with Your Son’s New Wife by Jane Angelich and pick up a copy about here. (Note: WeddingChannel.com wrote the foreword to her book!)