Mother-in-Law's Tongue, with its sharp, blade-like leaves, has been described as "toxic." That is, when it's not being called by its other name, the Snake Plant. Wow, looks the plant world doesn't have a very good view of us mothers-in-law!
But we MILs know that most of the time we don't use our words to cut - we work hard to "hold our tongues" and defuse the situation. That's not always easy to do. We often hear from women who want to improve their relationships with daughters-in-law, but don't know how to do it. As Sally commented, "This sounds like a really helpful book for a relationship that is sometimes fraught with minefields. We all need help in negotiating paths like this!"
One of our readers asked for help in resolving some of the conflicts that come up with her son and daughter-in-law: "I hear what Susan is saying and I agree it would be good if I could act that way, but it's HARD to do. Any suggestions about how to put these ideas into play?"
Another reader described her situation: "When my son and his wife first stated dating and then married, we got along pretty well and I expected to have a close relationship with my daughter-in-law, but it has never materialized. I keep trying but it feels like there's a brick wall between us. What can I do?"
So how can we keep our words soft and steer the relationship toward a more positive outcome with our married children and their spouses? Here are a few tips to get you started in neutralizing the tension:
Recognize that you need to give up part of your former identity, particularly in relation to your son. Let go of your expectations about the relationship and that he’ll turn to you for the things he used to - consultation, validation, advice.
Acknowledge your feelings about these role changes. Accept that there is normal sadness about not being needed in the same ways you had been. Consider other feelings that may be in store - relief and a sense of freedom, excitement about new relationships.
Seek out other MILs and use them as a sounding board. These women can provide information, opinions and support. These three and a positive attitude are some of the coping strengths you will need as you redefine yourself as mother-in-law.
Tomorrow we'll be looking at some tools for you to use as you establish a fresh perspective and a new relationship with your children-in-law. Until then, you can click on the post title above to read our article, "What You Can Learn from President Obama's Mother-in-Law." It gives you useful tips about how to nourish your relationships with your son-in-law or daughter-in-law.