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  • Olivia Sanders
    Olivia Sanders

    Competing Mothers: Dealing With Mother-In-Law Dynamics

    As many soon-to-be daughters-in-law have learned, there is a special kind of challenge that can arise when the mother-in-law enters the picture. It is not uncommon for this relationship to be fraught with tension; with the potential for competing emotions and perspectives strong enough to put either side at risk for hurt feelings and misunderstandings. The key to navigating this kind of rivalry between two women in a family is to acknowledge both sides, and to prioritize meaningful communication.

    On the one hand, both mothers have a legitimate stake in their relationships with the important people in their lives. As a new partner within the family, it is vitally important to respect both mothers’ feelings and acknowledge the unique roles that each carries. On the other hand, welcome the added love and attention the mother-in-law has to offer, without creating an unhealthy competition between the two women.

    It can be natural for a mother-in-law to experience her own expectations about the relationships between her son, her son’s wife, and the other members of the family. It is vital to be understanding of the mother-in-law’s perspective while still being respectful of the different dynamic shared between the son and his mother, and the daughter-in-law and her own mother. While she may want to intervene on a specific issue, it can be important to tread lightly and to gently vet a boundary. Understanding that both sides inevitably have different areas of expertise or interest can help foster a mutual respect and even appreciation.

    It can be helpful to set ground rules to ensure effective communication between yourself and your mother-in-law. Meaningful topics based upon common interests can open the door to a healthy dialogue. If there are certain topics that are best avoided due to past disagreements, then be sure to agree on these beforehand. This can create more physical and emotional space in the relationship, taking away from any lingering sense of rivalry.

    One of the most important things to take away from the relationship with a mother-in-law is to remember that everyone involved brings a unique set of passions and priorities. Embracing the mother-in-law’s relationship with her own son and giving her space to have those relationships on her own terms can set a positive foundation for your relationship with each other, without compromising the bond shared between yourself and your own mother.

    The relationship between a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law can be difficult to navigate but it can also be a source of strength as both sides learn to respect each other’s perspective and give each other the space they need. When done right, the relationship between the two women involved can be a source of joy, support, and insight.

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