Your Mother-in-Law: 4 Easy Ways to Win Her Over

When you marry him, you get his whole family. And his mother can be a wonderful part of your life or … one of the most challenging. Here’s how to get started on the right foot:

1. Remember, she knew him first: One of the biggest things you can bring to your relationship with your mother-in-law is perspective. There’s no getting around the fact that she knew him first, and whether they are close, or not, there is a deep bond between mother and son. She changed his diapers, tucked him into bed at night, red him bedtime stories and dried his tears. Relationship experts remind us that respecting and honoring your mother-in-law’s past with your fiance goes a long way for your future, and your relationship with her. And in most cases, she’s not going to want to have that same type of control over her son (after all, you’re the one who, ahem, tucks him into bed now), but she also wants to be recognized as an important part of his past, and respected for it. Remember that next time she insists that your guy takes his Thai food order with two stars instead of four. Some battles aren’t meant to be won, and letting her show you how well she knows the man you love, and respecting her for it, is key.
2. Include her in the wedding plans, and in life: Perhaps one of the most powerful things to win your future mother-in-law’s respect is simply to include her in your life, and his. For example, if she lives nearby, why not ask her to come along to sample wedding cakes? Or if it’s the wedding dress she seems to be most interested, invite her to join you at your next fitting. She’ll be touched, and you’ll score points for the future. A win-win.
3. Forge a friendship beyond her son: Does she like to cook? Sign up for a cooking class with her. Does she knit? Ask her to teach you. No, you don’t need to be her BFF (you already have one, and your own mother too), but building a friendship with her outside of your shared connection—her son—will ensure a less bumpy road in the future.
4. Pick up the phone. Unless your fiance is a mutant alien life form, chances are he doesn’t call his mom as much as she’d like. Guys just don’t. And here’s where you come in: Pick up the phone. Whether you call her yourself, or encourage your guy to, she’ll love you for keeping lines of communication open. In fact, most mother-in-laws will admit that their biggest fear is being cut out of their sons’ lives after the wedding. Assuage her fears by showing her, early on, that you’re a communicator and that you, and her son, still need her—and her famous recipe for pumpkin pie.
—Sarah Jio
November 26, 2013