I am extremely fortunate in that I can say I love my mother-in-law.
No, really. I’m serious.
Both of my in-laws, in fact, are pretty darn great. (We often joke that my husband’s father might actually love me more than he loves him.) And while this doesn’t mean my mother-in-law hasn’t (or never will) do anything that I disagree with, there are a few specific things she does that keep us far away from “monster-in-law” territory.
1. She respects our space. My in-laws live all of 20 minutes from us. While to some brides this might seem like a prison sentence, I didn’t think twice about it and they have never abused the proximity. I actually found out from my father-in-law that they intentionally left us alone during our busy first year of our marriage because they didn’t want us to feel pestered to hang out with them all the time. (I know, right? I told you, they are ridiculously considerate.)
Why it’s a good rule for all in-laws: It’s a known fact that the less you feel forced to do something, the more you actually want to do it. When I invite my in-laws over (or vice versa), it’s out of a genuine desire to hang out—and we all know it.
2. She’s, you know, a nice person. My mother-in-law buys us random presents from time to time. She keeps tabs on us without being annoying about it. She reads my blog and supports all my freelance work. Before I had my own car, she would occasionally step in to pick me up from the train station when I came home from work and my husband couldn’t get me. She and my father-in-law have dropped us off and picked us up from the airport countless times. In short, she treats me like family, instead of like some girl who stole her son away.
Why it’s a good rule for all in-laws: You ever notice how much easier it is to be nice to people who are nice to you? Our relationship of mutual kindness and respect lays the groundwork for even more kindness and respect down the line.
3. She takes her issues to my husband. Whenever any tension arose during wedding planning (and since), my MIL firmly respects the rule that “if it’s his family, he is the one to address it.” She never criticizes me or underhandedly goes behind either of our backs to divide and conquer or stir us up in any way. If there is a problem, she takes it up with him and then lets us deal with it together.
Why it’s a good rule for all in-laws: A lot of daughters-in-law balk at the mere mention of a mother-in-law’s opinion. While I like to think I would be able to keep an open mind based on our prior relationship, sometimes it’s easier hearing a concern from your spouse’s mouth instead of his parents’. You can’t get in the middle of the marriage relationship, but your child can be your liaison. (Though this doesn’t necessarily give you free reign to air grievances with your kid. Which leads us to…)
4. And she knows when to keep her opinions to herself. Here’s a fun fact: My mother-in-law wants grandchildren. My husband is her only married child thus far, so a more accurate statement would be: My mother-in-law wants me and my husband to give her grandchildren. Preferably now. And even though I am aware of this, it isn’t because she’s constantly reminding or pressuring me. In fact, I can only think of one time she even mentioned that she would like grandchildren to me, and it was in a sort-of-joking-but-not-really email. I only know because she has mentioned it to people who have mentioned it to me. Because as much as my mother-in-law wants grandchildren, what she really wants is to be a good mother-in-law. (Even if that means waiting a couple of years until we’re ready.)
Why it’s a good rule for all in-laws: Every couple has to live by a schedule that works for them. It’s important to remember what is your business—and what isn’t—to keep the peace. Think about it this way: Would you have wanted your mother-in-law bugging you about it?