How to Love Your Mother-in-Law


You and your mother-in-law want the same thing. You want the best for the man or woman you married. You also want to feel loved by this same man or woman.
My grandmother's mother-in-lawYour relationship with this person goes sour when you disagree on what is best and believe only one of you can be right. And it makes you miserable when you believe your mate has only a little love to go around and you must compete for it.
Want to love your mother-in-law? End the disagreement about what’s best for your spouse. Either defer to your spouse on this one or, if you and your mother-in-law really believe you know better what spouse needs, combine your specs and come up with a Third Alternative you can both support.
Then deal with the jealousy. Check your Love Languages. If your mother-in-law seeks quality time with her child, make some room for this, some time when you are not simultaneously asking for what makes you feel loved.
If your mother-in-law seeks word of affirmation or hugs and kisses, join your spouse in giving them instead of viewing them as evidence you are not as much loved. If your mother-in-law seeks gifts or acts of service, offer your spouse assistance in providing these.
Then be sure you ask your spouse for what makes you feel loved, especially if it is different, because your mother-in-law’s way of loving is the one he or she grew up with and knows best. When you stop expecting any particular act of love and simply Expect Love from your marriage, it likely to look a lot like the best parts of your mate’s childhood.
Once you stop competing, you may find you have an older, wiser woman who will be your ally in life. She is probably also better than almost anyone at helping you explain your spouse’s unexpected behavior when you Assume Love.

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.


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  • I enjoy reading your posts & the have been telling myself to “assume love” when my dh does things that make me crazy. I only read your posts when i get here from another site. I don’t have facebook, do twitter etc. I would love it if you had it so readers could subscribe to have your posts delivered to their email. I don’t see where you have that.

  • Thank you, Kimberly. What a great idea! I added the option to subscribe by email as a link for now, right below the Facebook, Twitter, and RSS buttons. Will look for an email button after Christmas.

  • I love this post. My Inlaws live on our property due to illness. The arrangemant is great for my pre-teen daughters and my wife but sometimes challenges me due to family culture. As it turns out, my Mother-in-Law is my greatest fan after 14 years and has been an object lesson for me in assuming and expecting love in an unlikely place. When all is said and done, we are the nearest each other has to give to and receive love from. There’s alot of it around here and it is a Merry Christmas. To you as well!
    Jon Eric

  • Thanks for the perspective, it’s very helpful. Any ideas on how to handle the conflict when the area is around parenting? My MIL seems to be very critical and disapproving of several of the principles behind the parenting choices DH and I made together, but I seem to get blamed for the “strangeness” and am often at the pointed end of manipulation attempts, rude comments, being undermined in front of my son, treated as if I did;t really know my own child (bear in mind I am a SAHM and she sees her grandson maybe once every two months – of her own choice as she fills her diary with lots of other stuff and family only ever gets the leftovers) etc. DH stands by me and our choices, but it does make for a very wearisome time when we meet and a strained relationship at best….
    Thanks for your insights.

  • Hi, Silvia! It is not just your right but your duty to make these choices for your child. Your mother-in-law had to make them, too, and now the person she made them for is choosing something different for his children. So perhaps she tells herself it must be your influence and not a rejection of the choices she made for him. As a kindness, you might choose to let her believe this, as long as it does not affect what you do for your children.
    When you are with her, the best way to stop her meddling is to invite her participation. Ask her, mother to mother, how she chose her way to handle various situations. Was it tradition, advice, applying her best judgment, or perhaps just trying to avoid a mistake someone else had made?
    She has now had the advantage of seeing how those decisions turned out, so you might ask her what she sees in her grown children as her greatest successes and what she attributes them to.
    After she shares her opinions, tell her you will think about them. Tell her you will not necessarily change what you are doing, but you and your husband will consider her input along with the input of your parents and others with wisdom to share. Then thank her for caring so much about your children.
    My own daughter-in-law grew up in a very different culture from mine. She and my son share a religion that I do not, so they reject a lot of how he was raised. As a mother-in-law, I respect their right to make choices for the children. I try hard to abide by their choices when the grandchildren are with me.
    However, there are times when I speak up, and even more when her mother, who raised five children, speaks up. I am sure it can sound like criticism, because I have been in their shoes, but this is never how it is intended. It is a solemn duty they have toward those children, one I want to support, not direct.

  • I was not lucky enough to have a mother-in-law, my husband’s mother died when he was a sophomore in high school. I try to be a good mother-in-law to my daughter’s husbands. They seem happy with me!
    I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas, Patty! Thanks for all the work you do in writing this blog. It has been very helpful to me.

  • Thanks, Lilian, and Merry Christmas to you, too!
    My second husband’s mother died before I met him, too. Fortunately, I still have a good relationship with my first mother-in-law. It took us a while to get there, so I am glad to still have her in my life.

By Patty Newbold

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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