Navigating and Building a Stronger Relationship
With Your Mother-In-Law
When I first met the woman who would become my mother in law, I was impressed by her. At first glance, I was taken in by her appearance. She carried herself with confidence and dressed to the nines. It was evident that she took care of herself, and I liked that. Our ensuing conversation was pleasant.
As my husband and I planned our wedding, she was involved but not overbearing. My mother-in-law loves flowers in particular orchids, so she took it upon herself to add orchids to our decorations. These orchids brought the right touch to our celebration, just like my mother in law did to my life.
Our relationship grew stronger after we had children. I remember when she first visited from overseas to spend some time with us. After dancing around gingerly in our tiny apartment while trying to be respectful, she decided to ask me a question that took our relationship to where it is today. She said, “Do you mind if I help?” I said, “No, do whatever you need to do.” I think the fact that I gave her license to be who she is, increased her respect for me.
I’ve heard many horror stories about mothers-in-law, which have baffled me because my mother-in law turned out to be a gem. We get along well, and to the unknowing, it may seem like I’m her daughter. Sometimes I wonder how I was blessed with such a lovely mother-in-law relationship. However, I recognize this isn’t the case for everyone.
I’ve learned four things you can do to help build a healthier, stronger relationship with your mother-in-law.
- Remember you are different, and as much as you desire, having a strong relationship with your mother-in-law is only possible if you are both healthy and mature. Often times, for varying reasons, the mother of your husband isn’t able to have a healthy relationship with you. Maybe she hasn’t fully let go of her son. Maybe she looks to her son for an unmet need. Maybe she is insecure, manipulative, or otherwise unhealthy. Rest assured that you can only do what you can do. Love her well with truth and grace, and release the tight hold you have on what you hope the relationship could be, trusting God and His work in her heart and His timing with your relationship.
- Start with gratitude. Take some time and think about the positive qualities of your mother-in-law. Is she a good cook? A kind caregiver? Is she funny? A great social planner? fashion-forward? Think about these things, and thank God for her. Because of your mother-in-law, you have your husband. His good traits, his character, his mannerisms are often a result of what his parents poured into him, and we are an immediate beneficiary of their nurturing. We can choose to be grateful for this gift.
- Resolve to never compete. If there are any insecurities within your heart, or within your marriage, it’s easy to view your mother-in-law as a threat when she isn’t. This isn’t healthy or ideal. If you are dealing with insecurities, share these with your husband. Tell him why you feel threatened by his mother. Pray together, asking God to take these from you.
If you sense your mother-in-law views you as a threat, first, recognize she isn’t perfect. Determine if there’s a willingness to talk and to share your heart while giving her an opportunity to share hers. Maybe she needs some extra affirmation of who she is in your lives. Maybe she feels forgotten or unimportant. Recognize and care enough to affirm her. If nothing changes after you’ve done this, pray about having a conversation with her about how you feel. Use a statement such as, “When you tell me your distaste in how I make meals for our family, it makes me feel bad about myself. How about you let me and your son figure this out?”
If she isn’t able to respect your request, it shows her heart isn’t able to operate in relationship with you in a healthy way. This isn’t on your mother-in-law to create healthy boundaries but instead is an opportunity for you to learn from this and navigate a relationship with her moving forward.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how to create healthy boundaries with your mother-in-law.
We can remember that although your mother-in-law was the woman who shaped your husband, you will be the woman who enriched him. Our roles are entirely different, and we don’t need to feel competition with her.
- Respect her as you would a friend. Do you and your mother-in-law have common interests? Do you both drink coffee, enjoy taking walks, or enjoy being with your kids? Think through similar interests, and nurture these interests by inviting her to join you in doing them. If you don’t live close enough to meet in person, plan times to Facetime or catch up on the phone to help your mother-in-law feel as though she is an important part of the family dynamic. Take opportunities to learn from each other; to share, talk, laugh, and to become friends. It will hopefully become evident that you both respect your family, your marriage, and that you want the best for your relationship.
We see an example of a strong mother-in-law relationship in the Bible. Ruth’s fidelity to her mother-in -law, Naomi, was born out of a mutually respectful relationship. (Ruth 1:9) Ruth’s determination to remain with Naomi speaks volumes about her character and her love for Naomi. Your mother-in -law is the mother of your husband and that alone merits your love, honor, and respect. But just like we see Ruth and Naomi show mutual respect for each other, a strong relationship with your mother-in-law requires the same.
Pray for your relationship with your mother-in-law and for your hearts to grow stronger for each other. Appreciate her, respect her, and look for opportunities to affirm her and grow in relationship with her.
Wife Step: Set the tone in your connection with your mother-in-law by approaching your relationship with gratitude and respect. The love will come.
Nylse Esahc is a Christian wife and a mother of four who loves life and inspiring others. She recently published her first book – My Best Marriage Advice. She likes to have fun but is very clear on who she is and Whose she is. A prolific thinker, she blogs to encourage others from a Christian perspective at www.lifenotesencouragement.com. She can be found online on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.