As a former psychology major, social and familial dynamics have ALWAYS been of interest to me. When I was in college, and without a car (when it went to my sister to drive to high school), my dad would pick me up from school for breaks and we’d talk about everything I learned about that semester. I was such a nerd, right? Well, I remember having a deep conversation on one of our car rides home, wherein we talked about the relationships between mother-in-law and son-in-law, father-in-law and son-in-law, daughter-in-law and mother-in-law and daughter-in-law and father-in-law. My dad asked if I knew which dynamic was the most challenging, traditionally, and I immediately went to mother-in-law, daughter-in-law. DUH. No girl can everrrrr be enough for her son (I VERY much know that by now, having a 13-month-old who I know I’ll be guarding with my life later on).
Mother-in-law - daughter-in-law relationships are a beast. And although I have always had a pretty great bond with my own MIL, for the last 12 years, I can wholeheartedly understand why it has the potential to be strained. Slash, Monster-in-Law will always be one of my favorite movies. Jane Fonda. You’re a goddess.
Mama’s boys do as their mothers say, soooo when they have a new girl occupying their time, they may have some trouble cutting the apron strings early on.
No matter what she does to earn respect, love, admiration, a daughter-in-law might just never win with her MIL. Because, obvi, no one’s good enough for her baby boy.
Daughters-in-law pose a bit of a threat. Essentially stealing away time with their sons. And it only gets harder when there’s a ring on her finger.
There are a ton of reasons why this relationship can go sooo wrong. But truly, when you’re planning a wedding, it’s best not to make waves / rock the boat. You can go back to hating each other, once you’ve locked things down for good (JKKKKK), but while you’re in the midst of all the “I Do” preparations - try to keep the peace.
So, daughters-in-law, take a deep breath, throw back a shot, and turn your attention to making your MIL feel like an MVP. At the end of the day, she was the one who raised your favorite person. She made him into the one you love and adore. So, she deserves some props. Also, she’ll SO appreciate your taking the time to make sure she feels included. Really, she will.
Here are a few ways to show you care.
Wine and Dine Her
Invite your future fam over for dinner to show your appreciation and excitement over officially joining the family. Think of it as an engagement party in their honor. And maybe even consider cooking (or catering in, who cooks when there’s a wedding to plan 😉) one or two of your mother-in-law’s favorite things for the occasion. Or picking up a bottle or two of her favorite wine. While you’re showing off your new sparkler, make it a point to compliment her on something she’s wearing, or ask to see her engagement ring. She’ll love that you’re taking an interest in her, sharing some of the spotlight, and some good, old-fashioned flattery never falls on deaf ears. And if she likes to take the reins on the reg, then ask her if she’ll play host for the night! If things are on her terms, she might feel more at ease.
Ask Her For Some Pointers
While you’re having your dinner together, see above ☝, see what your MIL loved planning about her own wedding or maybe what she spearheaded at your future SIL (sister-in-law)’s wedding last year. My own mother-in-law kind of jumped right in by saying that she would love to be as involved as I wanted her to be, and wouldn’t take offense if I wanted her to sit some things out once and awhile. But I kind of took that as a gateway conversation starter to see what she was particularly excited about and how I could let her run with things.
Exchange Numbers or Email Addresses
We’re not saying you and your MIL need to become texting buddies 👯, but if you don’t already have each other’s cell numbers, then maybe it’s time to drop those digits. Maybe you have a question that you want to ask her and would prefer sending her a message instead of typing out an email. Then do it! Maybe she’d like to send you a few links to the dresses she’s been daydreaming about wearing herself, then tell her to shoot you an email and you’ll ‘take a look’ during your lunch break! Just having each other’s contact info can help break down any communication barriers you’ve had in the past. And if she gets a little too text happy (my hubby’s mama is emoji-obsessed), then don’t feel bad about following up with a little ‘new phone, who dis?’ action. We kid 😂
Organize a Mama’s Day Out
Yes, you have your bridesmaids, but your mamas - by birth and through marriage - also have a role in your bridal party. So, if you can, try to ask them to be a part of your girl squad just like you did with the others. Invite both ladies out to mani/pedi appointment and then treat them to lunch or a movie. And then present them with a small gift (some flowers, a Pandora charm, just spitballing a few ideas as a token of gratitude) to go along with your very special ask. Every woman can get down with a girls’ day, and your future MIL will feel so special if you reach out to include her in yours.
Invite Her Out Dress Shopping
When it comes to shopping for your own gown, this one’s completely optional. It’s a stressful scenario anyway, one that sometimes precedes future solo shopping trips. So, if you’d rather not invite another person, with another set of opinions and preferences, to put pressure on your special day, then don’t do it. For real, she’ll understand. That being said, if you do feel comfortable, and want to bring her into the fold, then she will certainly feel privileged to be a part of it. As for bridesmaid dress shopping, this is a great venture to extend an offer to your new mom, especially if you’re including your fiancé’s sister(s) in the bridal party. That way they have each other to talk to, help try on dresses, etc. if you’re busy helping the other girls.
Photo: Charisse Kenion on Unsplash
Consider Asking Her for Your #SomethingBorrowed
If all else fails, think WWKMD. What Would Kate Middleton Do. BTW. The Duchess of Cambridge has shown her departed mother-in-law lots of posthumous love over the years - and a lot of that has been demonstrated through her respect for Princess Diana’s incredible heirloom jewelry collection. She slays whenever she accessorizes herself with iconic items from the former Princess’s royal jewelry box. Meghan Markle will be doing the same if she wears Harry’s mother’s tiara on her day in May. So, as you prep for your own stately soiree, consider asking your mother-in-law if you could borrow one of her own favorite pieces to wear as part of your bridal accoutrements.
Take Her to Your Tasting
A lot of venues will offer their couples a tasting to come, try out fabulous food, and make menu selections for the main event. At least, that’s what my venue did! It was free for me and my husband to attend, and we paid a little extra to bring my parents and his along for the evening. Any night that you can spend getting stuffed on sweets and savories, with the people you love and respect most, is one for the books. Your future in-laws will be psyched to get the invitation, and it’ll help ward off any issues with the menu later on. If you and your bae binge on the short ribs and select it for one of the entree options right away, then they can’t make requests at a later date. They were there! They should have said something if they weren’t on board with your epicurean curiosities.
Photo: Jay Wennington on Unsplash
And finally, if you really want to get on your mother-in-law’s good side, give her something to do!! Whether that’s entrusting her with the rehearsal dinner entirely or letting her be in charge of the guest welcome bags or restroom amenity baskets. My MIL handled both, with some slight directional cues from yours truly, and she killed it. I earned some points for relinquishing control, too!