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Living in Harmony With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law

To avoid setting yourself up for struggles with this new and important relationship -- on both sides of the in-law equation -- let me give you some things to think about that will help you start off on the right foot with your new in-law.
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Wedding season is here again and those wedding preparations seem to take over the lives of everyone involved. There is so much to do -- guest lists to create, invitations to mail, dresses to choose, showers, flowers, ceremony location, reception details, and the list goes on and on. There seems to be an endless list of "to do" details. And it seems so easy to get lost in all the particulars.

Brides -- this is your day and you want it to be just perfect! You may be more focused on getting everything "just right" instead of thinking about how this new woman in your life -- your mother-in-law -- is going to fit into your idea of "family." And let's be honest, it's not easy to let his mother "in" when you are working so hard to establish yourself as a woman in your own right as well as a wife, and, as is the case for some brides-to-be, you perceive her actions toward you to be... well, less than gracious.

Future mothers-in-law, on the other hand, are facing a difficult and often confusing challenge. You struggle to try to figure out where you fit into this new "family plan." He's my son so does that make her like a daughter? What do I want her to call me? How do I interact with her? Can I be completely myself with her? No one has an instruction guide on what a mother-in-law is supposed do or say to make her relationship with her new daughter-in-law a comfortable one. No one talks about how to make this relationship work between two relative strangers. And because this is all new to your future daughter-in-law as well, she is not able to take the initiative (at least at this moment) to guide you through your confusion.

Both of you can make this transition easier by just spending a little time thinking and reflecting on how you want to make the pieces of this new expanded puzzle fit. It doesn't have to be as difficult as it may feel. However, it does take some forethought and mindfulness. So to avoid setting yourself up for struggles with this new and important relationship -- on both sides of the in-law equation -- let me give you some things to think about that will help you start off on the right foot with your new in-law.

Mothers-in-law:

• Be patient with your new daughter-in-law. She is trying to figure out how to be a wife, and how she and her new husband are going to "be" in their new life together. If she feels she is competing with you, she will do whatever she feels she needs to do to create "her place."

• If you are struggling with what your new role is supposed to be, sit down with your daughter-in-law early on and talk with her about it. To say nothing and just guess at where you fit will more than likely cause stress and tension between the two of you. When you talk with her early on it allows each of you to express your vision of this new forming relationship and avoid unnecessary missteps.

• Your relationship with your son is changing. He's a man and he is soon to be a husband -- let him go. Graciously accept your new relationship with him.

• Decide what kind of role model you want to be for your adult son and daughter-in-law -- and for your grandchildren. Then act on it!

Daughters-in-Law:

• This is your husband's mother -- she matters to him (just as your mother matters to you). Respect that she is his mother -- after all, she played a role in who he has become.

• Your mother-in-law is struggling to find her place with you and her adult son -- appreciate her struggle while you help her find her footing in your new family.

• You have more power than you realize in your relationship with your husband and your mother-in-law -- use it thoughtfully.

• Let yourself relax a bit. Mistakes will be made on all sides. Know that, prepare for it, and then let them go.

As a new bride and a new mother-in-law you are embarking on a wonderful journey... but that's what it is -- a journey. It is not something you can completely plan out or plan for, but rather you need to deal with it as best you can. There are no manuals for how to be. So move slowly, gently and find your way one-step-at-a-time. When you mess up, because you will, take a deep breath and realize you can always go back and make things better. Also remember, you both are role models for your future children/grandchildren. The way you treat the ones closest to you is the way your children or grandchildren will learn to treat those closest to them. Enjoy your journey!

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