When we mention the word “mother-in-law”, many negative stereotypes come to mind. We imagine an old lady, more precisely a maruja who feels a great need to intervene in the affairs of her son and his partner.
This stereotypical picture is true that it doesn’t always have to be fulfilled but, let’s be honest, the relationship between most daughters-in-law and their in-laws is usually not one of deep friendship. This is not surprising since these are two women who are neither friends nor blood relatives, but people who have in common that they want the same man.
Although it has been a long time since those days when our husband’s mother could well enter a broom contest today, there are not a few cases of depth. hatred between stepmom and stepdaughter. Below, we’ll find out the reasons for this common feud and see some tips to alleviate the situation.
Hatred between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law: where does it come from?
Many times when one hears the word “mother-in-law”, one cannot help but imagine a stereotypical view of a female figure already at her age. Although in our lives we have had one, the media, our inner circles and popular culture itself they instilled in us an image of the mother-in-law as a mean person. Maybe we imagine her as the typical neighborhood maruja or as a well-dressed lady and a little pijilla, but no matter how she looks, the stepmother figure we imagine her as someone who, if she will have no problem telling us how bad we are.
While there are many stepmom jokes out there and she is often the butt of jokes, it must be said that the idea of them is still an idea. We are aware that they are not all like that and that what they sold us as real witches are nothing more than clichés and stereotypes like the ones we have of any individual. Yet, despite knowing all this, there are few women who, upon meeting their boyfriend or their husband’s mother, find someone who, more than a support, will become an obstacle.
even if hatred between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law is not widespreadAs a general rule, having a more or less pleasant relationship, it must be said that in general the relationship between them does not become as deep as that of a friendship. According to research by Dr. Terri Apter, a psychologist specializing in family dynamics and relationships, about 60% of women see their partner’s mother as a hostile figure, a difficult relationship. On the other hand, 55% of mothers-in-law feel uncomfortable with their child’s partner.
Of course, statistics confirm that the relationship between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law is difficult, strained and can go even further, even in their hands. However, these statistics just confirm to us that there is a bad relationship, but not the why. It’s ironic that two people who want the best for the one they love, the son-in-law, can come to hate each other so much. What makes this possible?
Why are they behaving badly?
While not all mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law have a bad relationship, it is true that their interactions can be one of the most strained. Although sharing best wishes for the same man, the mother-in-law’s son and the young woman’s boyfriend or husband, this bond of love for that person may become the reason for the strongest hatred between these two. women. In explaining why this happens, it should be made clear that here we will be talking about heterosexual relationships and the women involved. Talking about the relationship between stepfather and son-in-law is different, although it also tends to be a bit strained.
The main reason for the disagreements between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law is the way in which the mother-in-law, this woman who has taken care of her son for over 20 years, whom he still considers her little man, has been replaced. by another younger woman. She feels out of place, often unable to prevent her “useful life” from ending, which is nothing more than an old woman who must give way to another woman who has caught up with her son. It is something that, although a part of life, does not tend to be accepted very well at first.
For this same reason, the mother-in-law cannot help but try to reintroduce herself into the life of her son and his partner. You have to see how it goes, if the woman who entered the life of her child is up to the task. This is where the spy behaviors, intrusion and control of the how and, above all, the harm that this untrusted girl does. That in itself shouldn’t necessarily be a source of conflict, because if the daughter-in-law did everything right or didn’t care about her, it would end up making her partner’s mother worry something logical.
The problem is that in most cases this does not happen. The two women interpret the presence of the other as an invasion of their territory. On the one hand, we have the mother, who sees in the daughter-in-law a woman who moves her, her surrogate mother or someone who is going to take her beloved son. On the other hand, we have the couple who see their mother-in-law in a nasty gossip rather than a worried woman, a heavy woman who has come here to hinder the relationship, to sabotage their happiness and that of their son.
Those thoughts, which in most cases are unfounded and are the product of the bad idea we have of mother-in-law in our culture, are a very bad start. They are both tense, ready to attack, ready for what the other party says. A simple comment as to whether the dishes are not completely clean or that one kitchen better than the other can be interpreted as the deepest offense. We don’t have to think of it as part of the ‘female mentality’ or anything like that.But the culture and the situation itself arouse this type of behavior in these two people.
Another reason why this tension arises is the idea that the mother-in-law had of who was going to be her future daughter-in-law. Every parent who wants their child wants to date the best. On more than one occasion, mothers imagine the perfect woman, the one she really wants for her child (who is not the one who can make her child happy). As you meet your new partner and see how far they fall short of their expectations, you can’t help but disappoint and even exaggerate your flaws or try to change them. Trying to “improve” your child’s girlfriend is seen as a personal attack by both the bride and the son.
However, sooner or later he will have to assume that his son is dating this woman, no matter how far he is from his expectations of the perfect woman. Once they go out together or even get married and have children, other reasons arise why the relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law may worsen if it has been very bad luck that the positions were not addressed. Among these causes, we can find:
- Interference affecting the independence of marriage.
- Interference in the education of children, openly saying that he does not raise his grandchildren well.
- Wanting to get involved in financial matters.
- Maintain a relationship of dependency with the child, even if you are already married.
- Don’t be objective with the child’s mistakes or difficulties that affect the couple.
- Not feeling valued enough (both stepdaughter and stepmother)
How bad is a really bad mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationship?
As we mentioned, having a strained mother-in-law relationship is not uncommon and isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is normal for two people who are not friends or birth relatives to feel uncomfortable having to share the life of someone they love., His partner and his son. However, if the relationship is very bad, both marriage and family relationships, the husband will be harmed.
The two parties, the couple, represented in the figure of the bride or the bride, and the family, represented with the mother will reproach him for not having positioned himself.
Although the child-husband, partner and mother form a triangular structure, many more people may be involved in the conflict. children are particularly vulnerable if there are any. They will find themselves in the dilemma of supporting their mother or paternal grandmother, A situation in which no child should be involved. Kids are kids and need strong support figures, the more the better. Making them choose and reducing their family circle involves depriving them of the experiences and love of the people who love them, hurting both themselves and those same people.
No matter what the daughter-in-law has in mind, the fact that she has pitted her husband against her own mother will make her frustrated with her marriage, which she will see as a separate element from the woman who raised her. . to the world and raise it. As for his mother, if he makes her move away from his partner he will see in her a woman who does not let him breathe, who cuts off his wings of independence and who more than wants him to be happy. ‘he does just think to herself in her almost pathological fear of losing him.
Either way, everyone’s sanity is cracking, and it really does. the only person with little leeway is the couple. She decides whether she prefers to continue living in a bad relationship with her partner’s mother or to run away. After all, a couple is a two-person decision, and since a man is very difficult to get rid of an overprotective mother, it is only a matter of time before the woman decides to leave. The mother, as a rule, will try to be on top of her child. He will rarely stop talking – to date this woman, although he will report back to her to do so.
What can we do about this conflict?
What we first want to stress about the hatred between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law is that, if such an extreme has been reached, you should contact a professional, in particular a psychologist specializing in family dynamics and offer family therapy. The situation is serious and requires expert help before it escalates and a marriage ends up breaking down because the stepdaughter and stepmother did not want to end their relationship. disagreements and think about the well-being of that person. so-called love.
However, in case such an extreme daughter-in-law and mother-in-law are not yet reached, they can follow a series of tips that will prevent this unpleasant situation from happening.
What to do with the role of stepdaughter
As a daughter-in-law, the first thing to do is to practice empathy with our boyfriend’s mother, especially if we want to have children or if we already have them. In general, mothers tend to be afraid that something bad could happen to their children and move away on their own. The feelings of many seniors are related to fear of being left alone, longing for the past, and jealousy.. Far from criticizing her desire to spend time with her child, we must accept her with open arms, showing her that she has support in us.
Another key aspect is clearly to avoid conflicts produced by simple ego struggles. Maybe our mother-in-law gives us a little sour comments about what we do, but far from seeing her as gossip and criticism, we have to value her experience which she certainly has because she was able to raise and flourish. a family. Often these are lessons that can be useful to us.
Of course, we cannot help but compare our relationship with our parents to that of our husband with his mother. Perhaps at first it seems so childish to us that this woman treats her son as if he were still a child. It doesn’t have to be a negative thing, because in every family the way love is shown is different and therefore, comparisons cannot be made according to the same criteria. This is why we must avoid comparing ourselves, because we will see more bad things than good things.
It is also very important to understand that the tone and vocabulary in which things are said can be interpreted in many ways. It is possible that there are attitudes of our mother-in-law that bother us, but even so, we cannot respond to her with disrespect or with a mocking tone. There may even be a time when the going gets tough. If applicable it is better to wait for the air to calm down and speak more calmly, Noting that we value your feedback, but we are also free to make our own decisions as adults.
What to do with the role of stepmother
It is essential that if we are the mother-in-law, we understand that our child has grown up. No matter how much it hurts, he’s not 10 anymore, but he’s a full-fledged adult and he’s free to make his own decisions. Unless the woman you’re dating is very mean, we haven’t gotten into her dating life. If he is happy with it, we should be happy for him.
If they already have children, we can offer our mother-in-law our experience as a mother and we have raised children. We must understand that these are recommendations and not impositions. Our daughter-in-law will see in these proposals a little applicable or not according to her own judgment, which may be worse or better but in the end, we may also have made a mistake in the past, and yet our son has achieved adulthood. . There is no one perfect, foolproof method of education, what matters is that it helps create responsible and functional adults.
It is also very important to understand that our daughter-in-law is a person of flesh and blood, not the perfect, idealized idea that we once had. Perfection does not exist in the mortal world, and as long as it gives happiness to our son, our daughter-in-law is the closest approximation to that perfection. It is true that she will have her flaws, but we can’t expect her to change if we squeeze her or remind her how badly we see her. We can recommend doing a few things to improve ourselves, but always out of respect and tolerance.
- Terri Apter (2007). Sister’s Knot: Why We Fight, Why We Are Jealous, and Why We Will Love Each Other No matter what, International Review of Psychiatry, 21: 5, 490, DOI: 10.1080 / 09540260701284570
- Fingerman, Karen and Gilligan, Megan and Machia, Laura and Pitzer, Lindsay. (2012). Relationships of mothers-in-law before and after marriage. Research in human development. 9. 106-125. 10.1080 / 15427609.2012.680843.
- Allendorf, K. (2017). Like yours: Ideals and Experiences of Mother-in-Law’s Relationship. Journal of Family Issues, 38 (15), 2102-2127. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X15590685