Now, let’s slow down. You did not seriously think a Muslim mama would be encouraging you on anything like that did you? Well keep reading as it is MIL related and if you have got this far you might as well carry on!
The horror stories
During my lifetime I have heard all sorts of crazy MIL stories; from a mother in law attempting to breastfeed her 2 year old grandson in order to console him; to a MIL taking it upon herself to rearrange her son and daughter in laws furniture because she thought the sofa looked better facing away from the TV, the DIL looked on in horror while the rest of the family rearranged her house.
There are millions of MIL’s convinced their sons are being starved by their wives (we all know one!). My personal favourite is the well intentioned MIL who bought two matching sets of sexy lingerie for her DIL’s and let them pick which colour each of her sons would prefer CRINGE!
Now I know we have all had that moment where you look at your MIL and dumbfoundedly in your head say what were you thinking? The psychology of a MIL is complex and in this article we will explore this delicate relationship in more detail.
The Islamic male opinion
Writing for Muslim Mamas I was naturally interested in the Islamic teachings around marriage and the relationship between a MIL and DIL. I scoured the internet and one thing struck me. Most, if not all of the advice was written by men. Now I am no expert but surely the only lived experience for a man is through their mother, wife, sister, daughter etc. The advice albeit well intentioned just felt like reading a woman’s experience of male circumcision in adulthood. You can imagine how the people in the situation feel but let’s face it you will never really know what it’s like!
The idea of a MIL
Since I was young I was exposed to the media depicting mother in laws as villainous, possessive beings who essentially hover over their sons wife and interject having an opinion on anything as big as when you should conceive your first child to insignificant things like what colour socks you should wear. I grew up in fear of this mother in law shaped hole that would inevitably come as part of the package of my at that point non-existent husband and wondered how it would all play out.
Fast forward 30 years and both the mother in law and husband positions have been filled and although it hasn’t been smooth sailing there are a few observations that I want to share with you that I think will make your relationship with your mother in law easier. Who knows you may not have to poison her after all!
Empathy, empathy, empathy!
Whether you are the daughter in law or a curious mother in law reading this just be aware that empathy is the key to a successful relationship. Whether you have newly acquired the daughter in law title or held it for many years the key to managing this delicate relationship is stopping and thinking. If the woman that raised your wonderful husband has said something to advise, offend or even disregard you stop and think before you react. Think about why the person is saying whatever they are saying and why their perspective may be different to yours.
Often you can think of a number of reasons but the key here is to try and remain on a positive track. If you feel your MIL has bad intentions ask why they are asking you to do a certain thing or feeling a certain way. The feeling behind the action is key to understanding the motive which let’s be honest when something negative happens is likely to relate to your MIL feeling that she no longer has her son’s love, attention etc.
By opening the lines of communication and talking things out you stand a better chance of understanding each other and in turn improving the way you communicate in the future. You may be an adult married to an adult but getting your MIL to understand this might take some work because he’s still her “child”. Be patient and gain her respect. It’s all about playing the long game with this family dynamic.
Expectations and honesty
Marriage changes you just as anything else in life does. Whether you knew your partner before the big event or not, something about making that promise ‘to be together forever’ comes with a whole new level of discomfort and comfort. You find yourself starting to set the tone of how your relationship will continue, what is acceptable and unacceptable and even going against your true nature to please others. Understand that this will only lead to disappointment and resentment eventually. What I am saying is don’t be the person you think she wants you to be. Be yourself and encourage her to love you for who you are.
In the thick of it
If you have ever been in a position where you have moved in with your husband’s family you are likely to have experienced this phenomenon. At the start you and your MIL are getting used to each other. You tiptoe around each other or at the very least you tiptoe around her after all you are in someone else’s castle. You feel the need to strike up a conversation if you sit in a room with her and make an effort to always get up first to clear the table. Whether she expects you to help out or not you both eventually find your roles and you settle in.
As much as she can be overbearing or give you a bag full of advice at any opportunity you begin to notice that this situation does have some perks. There is someone to look after your child when you go to work, granted in the way that she wants but have you seen the cost of nursery? She cooks what she likes to eat but at least you don’t have to cook everyday? She steps in when your husband wants to come home late and is adamant that he spends time with the family without having to endure the conflict of being the one to ruin his plans. What I am saying is, what initially may seem stifling can eventually work in your best interests.
Keeping Everything Together
A wise fish called Dory once said …. Just keep swimming. Every relationship has its highs and lows and the one with your mother in law will be no different. Ride the wave so to speak and reserve your flight or fight reflex for the things you really feel passionate about. Try to find something in common with her that isn’t related to her son and get to know her. After all gaining a new family is not something you should just have to tolerate, it’s something to try and enjoy.
Befriend the rest of the family, make time for them, get to know them. They will be your best line of defence if everything else fails and the people that will help you feel more involved.
A Final Note
Sometimes you may find that a good relationship between you and your mother in law was never meant to be. Oppression in order to gain respect, love and happiness in any relationship is not justified. Seek help from loved ones and professionals and vow to do better for your own children. Break the cycle …. But not with poison.
Mum to three teenagers and a little one, master of none. My faith in Allah is what gets me through every situation. For everything else, humour and solace in chocolate is the way to go! The go to person for my straight talking no nonsense approach to life I love sharing my perspective and believe that speaking from the heart will get you where you need to be.