Marriage is a beautiful thing, yet complicated endeavor. It brings two people together, from different walks of life, who want to spend a lifetime together. Combining cultures in marriage can be difficult, especially if you’ve had minimal exposure to the culture you have married into.
Here are a few tips for successfully getting along with your mother-in-law:
Remember, the differences are what first attracted you to your husband.
Like it or not, his mother is a package deal and she is partially responsible for raising the man who you love. Embracing what makes you different doesn’t always mean you agree.
But I can guarantee that in most cases you will get an A for effort.
So your mother in law serves food that looks foreign to you. The smells in the kitchen, the clothes that they wear, the language they speak is all so overwhelming. You want to feel a part of the family, but you feel like an outsider at family functions.
Establish boundaries early
I get it. Establishing boundaries can be tough, and frankly, a little terrifying.
You don’t want to hurt feelings, but you want your needs to be heard too.
This is where teamwork comes in.
Have your husband articulate issues to your mother in law first. He knows her best and can open the door for communication between you and your mother in law, especially if the relationship between you and her is already strained.
Having a difference in cultures means that family relationships may look different. Some cultures prefer space & others prefer constant communication.
Embrace both cultures
As a married couple, this is of utmost importance, but even more so when you have children.
Your children are a mixture of you and your husband’s family, so you want them to embrace where they came from. They will learn this by your modeled behavior.
My husband has done more than embrace Jamaican culture, he thinks he is Jamaican! One of his favorite meals is baked jerk chicken. When he asks me to make it, he often will suggest an extra ingredient to add.
Being the type A, controlling person I am, I don’t take too kindly to his recommendations of my specialty. But, it does make me feel good that eating Jamaican food is comfort food for him. It also makes my mom happy when he cleans his plate of ackee & saltfish.
When we visited Jamaica in 2013, my relatives, as well as local Jamaicans, were astonished at how much Justin knew about Jamaican food. The look of surprise on their faces made me so proud of him!
If your relationship has gotten off to a rocky start, know that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Make sure that you’ve done some research about your husband’s culture.
Perhaps there is a miscommunication because you were trying to be polite, but did something offensive.
Remember that you are on a learning curve and so is his mother (especially if he’s an only child!) On occasion, there may be a clash of cultures due to each family member having a different way of handling situations or holidays.
Need help communicating? Sign up for counseling. Read some books on communication. Have a date night.
Include Her in Important Events
If she lives across the ocean from you, she would still like to be included on updates with her grandchildren.
If she cannot attend birthday parties and important holidays, be sure to Skype with her, call her on the phone and/or send updated pictures of your child(ren).
I’ve heard both my mother and mother in law say how much joy they receive from being a grandparent.
If you share the joy of your children with her, that’s a surefire way to win some brownie points.
Don’t Engage in a Power Struggle
Sometimes this one is easier said than done. Especially when it involves your husband or your children.
Your mother in law makes (strong) suggestions about the way you parent. She insinuates (or flat-out tells you) that she knows best concerning your husband. This is tough. Her suggestions don’t always come from a malicious place (even if it feels like it). Moms sometimes have a hard time turning off the mom button. Even though their son is grown, they have a hard time not being the mom.
Try to put yourself in her shoes. Transitioning to a new role of mother-in- law and grandmother can be tricky. You and your husband must be a united front. Talk to him about your concerns.
And don’t argue with your mother in law!
At the end of the day, you are the wife and mother. She can suggest things to you, but you make the final call in your home.
Have you married outside of your culture? Do you get along with your mother in law? I’d love to hear your challenges, as well as what’s working. If this post was helpful to you, give it a share!