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Bossy, opinionated, intrusive, nosy, disrespectful, unboundaried, out of line — mothers-in-law-to-be have pretty bad reputations — and sometimes these bad reps are truly deserved. Before acting out from that raging inferno inside of you that wants to make it crystal clear to her to butt out because you’re now the #1 woman in her son’s life, consider these three things.
1. Without her, your great guy would not exist on this planet. At the most basic level, you’ve gotta respect for the womb.
2. You have a lifetime of shared experiences ahead of you (Christmas, Hannukah, Easter, birthdays), so you really don’t want to get off on the wrong foot.
3. The truth is, until you, she has in fact been the #1 woman in his life. Right now, their mother-son relationship is undergoing a dramatic and even painful overhaul and renegotiation as they both make room for you in their lives. This is normal and appropriate, but it isn’t always easy to navigate.
What to do? Being mindful of the deeper psychological goings-on in their relationship may help you access more patience for her. She may be acting out and being awful because it’s painful to be losing some degree of closeness with her son. To you. So bringing an attitude of compassion for what she’s going through may ease your interactions with her.
On a practical level, let your fiancé shoulder the “motherlode” of communication with her — not you. This may sound strange, since most of your interactions with her are about rehearsal dinner menus and MIL gown colors fitting with your color scheme. But consider this: after a lifetime with her, your fiancé has mastered how to approach and handle sticky situations with her. You, in contrast, are a complete newbie. You can’t read each other very well, therefore situation’s ripe for miscommunication and misunderstanding.
In fact, it’s OK to put your fiancé in the middle. It’s even healthy for him. Because one of his psychological jobs now is to figure out how balance the two most important women in his life. It’s his skill to learn and to master — not yours. You’ve got enough on your plate. Plus, you’ve got a long lifetime ahead of mastering your mother-in-law. So, relax: Let him handle it.
Allison Moir-Smith, MA, is a bridal counselor, creator of How Brides-To-Be REALLY Feel videos, and author of Emotionally Engaged: A Bride’s Guide to Surviving the “Happiest” Time of Her Life.