They might be a go-to joke topic, but it pays to take your relationship with your mother-in-law seriously—especially with her grandkids on the way.
According to Deanna Brann, PhD, a clinical psychotherapist in Knoxville, Tennessee, and author of Reluctantly Related: Secrets to Getting Along with Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law, the MIL/DIL relationship is complicated from the get-go because you didn’t choose each other.
You’re both part of a package deal, and you’re also at different places in life. Still, when it comes to dealing with your MIL, it’s important to remember the big (family) picture.
Get to know your MIL independent of your husband.
You don’t have to be BFFs, but you should be comfortable around one another. Invite her to join you for a pedicure, or ask her to meet you for lunch after one of your prenatal checkups, so you can give her baby’s status report firsthand.
Help your MIL understand her role.
She’s new to being a grandmother, just like you’re new to being a mom. You and your husband can decide how you want your MIL to fit into your lives, then you can both gently explain that you’ll check in with weekly—not daily—phone calls (or whatever you choose).
Realize you won’t always agree.
Misunderstandings will happen, but how you react in those situations can come to define your relationship. In the heat of an argument or a heavy dose of criticism, relieve tension by addressing concerns—yours and hers—right away. Instead of getting defensive, ask her why she’s upset and really listen. Remember that you both want what’s best for your family. You don’t have to agree on everything; you just need to understand how she sees the situation.