Related by Chance; Family by Choice: the Critical Mother-in-Law/Daughter-in-Law Relationship
How’s your relationship with your daughter-in-law (DIL)? Or is that too touchy of a subject? I think a lot of moms of sons are surprised by the challenges of adding a new woman to the family, especially if we have a close relationship with our sons.
I was blessed with a friend who was years ahead of me in the mother-in-law (MIL) business. She was so diligent in maintaining a good relationship with her DIL. She pointed out that when a young man marries, the new wife often sees the MIL as competition. At first that didn’t make sense. Don’t we both love the same man? But that’s precisely the point. And to complicate the matter, most families don’t seem to put words or even cognition to that dilemma, so other conflicts arise to express it. Since they aren’t the real issue, they often don’t get resolved. Hurt feelings abound. And the son we love is caught in the middle. Another thing that happens is making the transition from child to adult and developing an adult relationship with your son and his wife rather than a parent/child relationship. If you’ve been close, that’s a hard transition for both parents and son. And here, the new wife gets caught in the middle.
Deb DeArmond has written a wonderful book about this issue. Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships (Kregel Publications, 2013) talks to both mothers of sons and wives of those sons, addressing the most common glitches in this vital relationship. It’s helpful to see both sides of the issue, as well as the side of what she calls “the man in the middle”—your son. The book is easy to read and features questions and personal evaluations at the end of each chapter to help you be more honest with yourself. And who wouldn’t want the goal: a better relationship with the wife of your son and the mother of your grandchildren.
If you’ve felt that your only option in dealing with your adult son and his wife is to “wear beige and keep your mouth shut,” the book is for you. If you’ve had misunderstandings with your DIL, there’s hope for reconciliation. And if you have a good relationship, you’ll learn ways to make it great.
I’m so thankful for the wonderful relationship we have with our DIL. She’s a treasure, and we tell her that regularly. It hasn’t always been easy, and still isn’t. But we’ve both worked hard and continue to find ways to make our family work. I feel like I’ve given and changed a lot, but I’ve also been very aware of the many concessions she has made to include and honor us. And ultimately, that’s what this relationship is about. Each party respecting the other and creating a delightful, God-honoring extended family.