Gender Parity,  Parenting

Clash of the Titans: The Mother-in-Law & Daughter-in-law

Pbar_ww_badegeut a group of young women in a room, and you are bound to have at least seventy percent of them rant about their mother-in-laws. From time immemorial this relationship has been the butt of all jokes. Scores of forums across the internet are flooded on a daily basis, with questions pertaining to tackling the Mother-in-law. Often conflicts turn bitter, and may well become the reason for many a marriage to crumble down.

The Modern Day Mother In-law & Daughter-in-law

The modern-day Mother-in- law, is far more educated than what her own Mother-in-law was. From the personification of pure dominance, today, she is a more sensitive individual. She is more suited to treat her daughter-in-law with respect as she has learnt that to get respect, one must give respect. The Daughter-in-law of today is independent and is well aware of her rights. She believes in equality and thrives on mutual respect. She is receptive and is open to expressing not only her feelings, but her views too.

“Yet, despite these changes, there seems to be no end to the conflicts between a Mother-in-law and Daughter-in-law.”

The Clash of the Titans

I consider myself lucky, to belong to the small percentage of women, for whom, the Mother-in-law factor isn’t really a big issue. Of course, we have had our share of differences too. But over the years, we have managed to settle down these differences amicably.

You’re the daughter she never had, is what it all begins with. And well, you do assume that this purely means she’s going to be supportive of all your choices, staying out of your life and marriage, just being there at the time, when you ask her for help. Looks perfect, isn’t it!! On the other hand, the Mom-in-law has her own little picture of what the Daughter-in-law must encompass. She knows you are crazy about her son. But she also assumes that you see her as an authority on her son. She assumes, you would seek advice from her, and the end result, she can’t wait to start helping…

What ensues is the clash of the Titans, and the reason why women begin to discuss how strained or infuriating their relationship with their Mother-in law has become.

Tracing the Problem

The problems can be traced back to the unspoken yet conflicting expectations and assumptions. For the Daughter-in-law, no matter how modern is the Mother-in-law, she is constantly judged on the standards of a traditional housewife– which is her ability to cook, maintain a home clean, and raise children. On the other hand, for the Mother-in-Law, her decade old pattern of decision-making is suddenly under threat, as the daughter-in-law now likes to do it all her way.

There is, thus, an underlying disappointment felt by both women, giving rise to a distinctive negativity. Add to this, a mother’s possessiveness over her son and a wife’s difficulty as she balances work and home responsibilities. You have the perfect formula for years of trouble. These tensions do more than cause friction within families. They can put even the best marriages at risk.

The Solutions Lies Within Both

As long as there is no abuse, there surely is a solution in tackling this age-old problem. By abuse I mean, dowry harassment, physical, mental and verbal abuse, irrespective of who inflicts it on whom. When such issues arise, there should surely be no compromise and it is not to be tolerated.

“Love begets love; let it once begin and none can tell its end.”

For the mother-in-law, who may feel her domain threatened, must accept that the son is now the object of  his wife’s affection too. Don’t pin down expectations. The mantra is to forgive and forget without any animosity against your son’s bride.

For the daughter-in-law, remember she comes with years of experience. Do not take offense at the smallest of things. Give a relationship time. If your mother-in-law expresses a view that differs from yours, you don’t have to accept it in entirety. Show respect for her experience and at the same time, make it clear that you want to do things your own way.

What surely worked for me is the assurance I gave my mother-in-law that she would continue to be respected, and be an integral part of the family. It made her respect our boundaries, which she seldom crossed over.

For the man of the house, you may feel like as though you are between a rock and a hard place, with a possessive mom on one side and a sensitive wife on the other. But remember you are the link between the two. Either you ease out the tension with your calm and collected way or, simply allow the tension to mount by being a silent spectator.

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  • Kavita

    Completely agreed. Also I feel the son who is also the husband now, should try to balance the relationship by being the thread bringing them closer. Difficult but not impossible.

  • Shilpa Gupte

    Clash of the Titans, indeed!
    It sure is a sensitive topic, and needs careful handling by both the parties as well as the son/husband. As for me, well, I followed my mum’s advice to the T and had quite a peaceful 17 years with my MIL, until she passed away. I am glad that whatever I did kept her happy. It’s really not an easy thing, though. But, strive, you must, isn’t it? The family’s peace is more important than our ego!

  • deepagandhi

    Agree with you Ramya..Its important for both the sides to understand each other. Both shd see each others POV..then only can be an amicable relationship. Nice take on the prompt.

  • Alana Mautone (@RamblinGarden)

    I have been a daughter in law. I haven’t yet become a mother in law but I’ve seen my friends enter that role. Sometimes it turns out well – sometimes not. But you are right, the effort must come from both sides. The one good thing – in my culture, the dowry issue does not come up.

  • Rajlakshmi

    Now that’s the key… Respecting each other boundaries… I loved how delicately you explained this relationship. Even today I see few of my friends having trouble with MIL which in turned strained the relationship with their husbands.

    • Ramya Abhinand

      Thanks Raj. The efforts have to be from both the sides. When either one of them stops putting in the effort, personally its an abuse to the realtionship.

  • Shilpa Garg

    The mother-in-law – daughter-in-law relationship is the most critical relationship in any family and it is the deciding factor in the peace and harmony of the family. Incidentally, I dont have a MIL but I do know that both MIL-DIL need to collaborate and work together as a team rather than act as two warring factions.

  • Mayuri Nidigallu

    Such a refreshing take on the prompt! And so well written too! I truly enjoyed reading this post, despite it sounding utopic to me:)
    But I see trends changing too, and i just hope they change faster.

    • Ramya Abhinand

      Thanks MAyuri. Ofcourse it may sound utopian, but well, we could still try to reduce the stress and strain this relationship often comes with.

  • BellyBytes

    Wise words Ramya.My mother in law very smartly kept out of my way. The day we got married she handed me the keys to her house ( yes believe it or not) and told me to do what I wanted but only asked that I keep her well fed. Of course we have our differences but she very wisely keeps her counsel to herself. She never tells me what to do even if she would have done it differently.
    So the secret I think lies in the mature older woman keeping out of her daughter in law’s hair.
    Fortunately or unfortunately I won’t be able to follow her practice because I don’t have a son who will live with me….

    • Ramya Abhinand

      Thats nice. She sure seems a mature lady. The fact is it is a tough relationship as it is the coming together of two distinctively apart women, unde the same roof. Somewhere it is the responsibility of both to try and maintain harmony in the homefront.

  • Maliny Mohan

    The husband shouldn’t take either side during the conflicts, but be the supportive and understanding one who pacifies them. The issue is dire in some families, whereas in others it is subtle, with constant undercurrents. There is no solution, but to be understanding.

    • Ramya Abhinand

      Shubangi, the husband does face the clash, But he is a party too in this. He needs to be collected and try to ease the tensions rather than being a mere spectator.

  • Kaddu

    Can’t comment, as I’m not even married. But over critical and judgmental people are difficult to live with it, regardless of who they may be. Some people just can’t respect other people’s boundaries. For most other relations, you can just give them a wide berth, but with MILs, you obviously can’t do that. Hence, the battle begins.

  • Obsessivemom

    Hmm… you do have a point. I think it may also have to do with the fact that both the mom and the wife are possessive of the man in their own ways. He plays a key role in making this relationship work. Most of them prefer to ignore it and therein lies trouble.

    • Ramya Abhinand

      Thats right Tulika, I often find men staying away. If only they ease the tension , probably many a relationship could be saved.

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