Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Mothers in law

When two people decide to marry, each makes a pledge that the other will be the most important person in his or her life.

We assume that, when the going gets tough, our partner will be on our side.

The last thing we expect, as we complain about the events of our day, is to have a spouse side with the person we’re complaining about.

If that happened regularly, we’d conclude that there was something rotten in the state of our marriage.

But this is precisely what happens when conflict arises between us and our in-laws

It is surprising how often both men and women will protect their mothers against their partner, seeing the partner as the one who should make allowances.

But when a partner is told: “That’s just the way my mother is; you have to accept that”, for sure they feel betrayed

It starts with love; our first love.

The biochemistry and neural signals that bond infant and parent are the same ones used to bond us to a mate.

A mother and baby lock together in a mutual gaze, each looking back at the other — an activity psychologists call “eye love”, which is also practised by romantic lovers as they gaze at each other in mutual admiration.

However, the absorbing bond with a parent is the infant’s first experience of being one half of a loving pair, and the legacy of this early intimacy has an impact on every subsequent intimate attachment, including marriage.

Though it is often said that the family is in decline, the bond between parent and child remains as strong and enduring as ever.

A parent-in-law may be loving, but this love is rarely unconditional.

A parent’s continual assessment of a son’s or daughter’s spouse, combined with fears about the impact of the marriage on their own special relationship, form the bedrock of the conflict between in-laws

What can a husband do?

Respond to your partner’s anger without endorsing or challenging her criticism of your parent.

Don’t criticise your partner for her feelings about your parent.
Ask your partner to be specific about what she would like to change.
Propose ways to help her negotiate that change.

What can a wife do?

Frame your problem in terms of how you feel, rather than as criticism of your in-law.

Assure your husband that you understand and appreciate how much he loves his parents.
Explain that setting limits on parents is different from rejecting them.
Remind him that in supporting you he is not being disloyal to his mother


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