Did you know that daughters-in-law being at odds with their mothers-in-law is not a new thing? In fact, in a study conducted in 1954, only one in four women said she was in good terms with her mother-in-law.
The dynamic between a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law have always been fraught with tension and unease, and typically these conditions don’t improve as years go by.
“According to the parenting website Netmums, one in four daughters-in-law actually ‘despise’ their mother-in-law, finding her ‘controlling,’” a Mama Mia report said. “The site found that the daughter-in-law’s resentment stemmed from the mother-in-law thinking that she was the authority on parenting and parenting skills.”
Daughters-in-law also described their partners’ mothers as guilty of “unreasonably jealous maternal love” in a study conducted by University of Cambridge.
They also called their relationship with their mothers-in-law as “hostile” or “difficult.”
“She is a controlling, manipulative witch that my husband loves and adores” one user described her mother-in-law on website Mothering.com.
But like all relationships, this dynamic between females is a two-way street, and many mothers-in-law harbor their own sentiments toward their son’s partners.
On the chat website Gransnet, many mothers-in-law vented out their frustrations.
“My DL is totally possessive with my son and doesn’t like him to visit us or my other son for more than 45 minutes she has a very insecure nature and sees us as a threat although none of us are. At the same time she spends full days with her family,” one user said.
But what is really the root cause of this tension between these women?
According to Sylvia L. Mikucki-Enyart, assistant professor of communication at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point who studied the relationship, it is sometimes a product of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“We expect a daughter-in-law not to like a mother-in-law and to expect her to be meddlesome,” she said in a Wall Street Journal article. Right off the bat the two women tread carefully around each other, reacting defensively, and as a result grow distant over time.
It becomes an ugly family cycle.
But there are ways to help break it, and it starts with the son.
“It’s really up to the husband/son,” Dr. Mikucki-Enyart says. “He needs to step up to the plate. He has to make his wife his priority and let that be known.”
“If his mother often drops by unannounced and this bothers his wife, the husband needs to ask his mother to call first. He doesn’t need to tell her that it upsets his wife,” she added.
A mother is more likely to respond to her son’s request than her daughter-in-law’s.
Furthermore, daughters-in-law also play an important role: they must keep their mothers-in-law involved in the family. That way they are less likely to feel excluded and left out.
“Don’t make it a competition,” says Dr. Mikucki-Enyart. “You both love this man in completely different ways.”
READ: 7 Annoying mom-in-law behaviors that’ll make you want to move out
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