I don’t like my mother- in-law.
Really, I don’t. After ten years of marriage, a year or so of therapy, and many choice words and tears, I can finally admit it. I don’t like my mother-in-law. I am okay with that.
My first notion of a mother-in-law was the mother of an ex-boyfriend I dated for several years. His parents were friends with my parents many years before we were even introduced to each other. There was a common ground immediately. They shared similar views of my parents and were never invasive, or even remotely nosy in our relationship. This made for an easy-going relationship with them. I thought all in-laws were accepting, tolerant, and minded their own business.
I was so wrong.
It honestly started when the husband and I first started dating. I saw the signs. They weren’t red flags, they were gigantic banners waving in front of me. Our differences on raising children, politics, religion…you name it, were the complete opposites. It didn’t take very long to realize the future mother-in-law was, literally, no match for me. But yet still, her son was.
Realizing we were so very different was a hard life lesson from someone who is a bit of a “people-pleaser.” It’s certainly a hard lesson from someone who wanted nothing more than to have a loving relationship with a new family. But this isn’t just anyone in his family, it’s his mother. His mother. The woman who rocked him to sleep at night as a babe, the woman who kissed his boo-boos, the woman who helped him learn life lessons and support himself. There are bonds there I can never replace. It’s not like I can make him choose her or me. Nor do I ever want to.
Now hear me out, I am realistic; I understand the concept of marriage. Being blindly optimistic you take two completely different families with various backgrounds, environments, and religions, throw them with another family’s dynamics and congratulations! Here’s your new family! It’s a recipe for disaster. Once you realize the logistics presented here, it is quite astounding there are so many in-law relationships that actually work.
I have always been told oil and vinegar don’t mix.
On the contrary, for a short time, they do. Oil and vinegar can be mixed long enough to form a quick tasty treat; after that, they repel each other. That’s describes us perfectly. I can tolerate her in small doses, then I must retreat. I’m quite sure the feeling is mutual.
Enter children. Of course I want the absolute best for them. I want for every being in their lives capable of loving them to be present. My grandparents passed when I was young and I cherish the few memories I do have of us together. My children are lucky to still have both sets of their grandparents alive and are old enough to spend precious time with them. I had to decide I would never allow our personality conflicts affect their views and/or relationships with them. Sometimes I’d rather pull out my teeth one by one with a pair of rusty pliers than have to deal with her; but it just isn’t beneficial for my children to pretend she doesn’t exist.
I have found, for my sanity, a few remedies to help me along the way.
For starters, I bite my tongue. A lot. Some things are just not worth a fight. You have to pick your battles. When I do decide I need to speak up, I am firm and direct. I do not want any blurred lines on expectations or allowances on my part. This has been tough for me, (remember I’m a people-pleaser,) but it’s been effective.
Another tried and true method is to keep contact at a minimum. I let my husband deal with her primarily, especially when issues arise. That helps keep me out of the “line of fire,” and prevents situations from being blamed on me. I am cordial when I do see her, and I find we have more to discuss if we haven’t spoken in awhile.
Lastly, I try to utilize our relationship as a guide for the bond I want to have with my children and their spouses one day. I really try to learn from each situation, no matter how big or small. After the smoke clears from us dealing with an issue, I like to sit back and reflect in order to learn the best I can from it to remind me of the type of mother -in-law I will, or won’t be, when that time comes.
If anything I guess I should thank her for our differences. I can admit our relationship has taught me patience, tolerance, and the art of controlling my emotions (and facial expressions.) I still don’t necessarily like her, but for now I’ll raise my glass of wine, send a silent shout-out, and thank her for bringing this wonderful man to be in my life.