The Cursed Relationship

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It is a popular prejudice that a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law are meant to hate each other. If not mutual hatred, then it is one-sided ill treatment.
 
Such notions have been reinforced in our society time and again by our beloved movies and soap operas. An innocent and simple DIL is mistreated by her MIL and she is never appreciated for what she does. Or, the simple, innocent and old MIL is mistreated by her evil DIL and is left to fend for herself in her old age. Else, they are simply fighting like cats and dogs.
 
Well, such stories are true but not exclusive. A relationship has multiple facets, and a MIL-DIL relationship is no exception. 
 
Many years ago, a married senior colleague remarked sadly, “The relation between a daughter-in-law and her mother-in-law is cursed. It can never be cordial.” 
 
An aunty said, “I don’t ask my daughter-in-law to do anything around the house. I just want her to take care of herself and do her own chores. Why doesn’t she open up to me? Or at least spend some time with me?”
 
A newly married friend told me, “My mother-in-law can’t be like my mother, ever!”
 
My husband once asked me, “When a mother and daughter fights, it is deemed to be okay. But when a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law fights, why is such a big deal made out of it?”
 
In my understanding, the fragile relationship between a MIL and DIL has a closed-minded and prejudiced foundation.
 
  • Culture shock and adjustments:

Every family and every home is different. So when a DIL is welcomed into a new family, everything is literally new for her. A new home, new ways, new family members, new traditions and new expectations. So begins the process of adjusting, compromising and trying to make a new place for herself in a new family for a lifetime. In this transition phase, she needs the affection, guidance, support and counsel of her husband foremost and then that of her MIL, the lady of the household. However, it is important that she keeps an open mind and heart towards her new family and its ways.

On the other hand, the MIL didn’t raise the DIL. Hence, she needs to be patient with the young bride, try to understand her ways and guide her in her new journey. She needs to remember her own days of being a new DIL and the difficulties she faced, and make efforts to make it easier for her DIL than she had it.

But problems arise when either of them choose to shut herself in and assume that the other simply doesn’t like her.

  • Inability and lack of wish to understand each other:

A mother knows her daughter since her birth. A daughter knows her mother since birth. They know each other inside out. They know and understand each other’s qualities and shortcomings, likes and dislikes, emotions and moods, good and bad habits and strengths and weaknesses.

But a DIL and MIL come into each other’s lives quite late in their lives. And unfortunately they just expect each other to understand and accept the way they are from day one. Sadly, they are not interested to invest their time, energy and love in each other. Hence, clashes, bad blood, anger and hurt follows.

  • Fight of authority over the son and husband:
The role of the son/husband is very important in the relationship between a MIL and a DIL as he is the very reason this complex relationship came into being. Both his mother and wife wishes to have the ultimate authority and right over him. If not managed with love and intellect, his life can become hell.
 
The two women in his life need to understand that they both have different but important places in his life. They have their own roles to play and they are never meant to take each other’s places. The MIL can’t be interfering in the lives of her son and DIL, else she will just end up creating discord between them. And the DIL must respect the fact that as a son, her husband has a responsibility towards his mother too.
 
The son/husband needs to understand that his mother and wife have their own places and importance in his life. It is only natural that both of them will come to him with complaints about each other. But, he is not supposed to react and mistreat the other based on the accusations. He just needs to listen and pacify them both with love and counselling. Taking sides can be tricky.
 
  • Jealousy and competition:

An extension of the above point, a MIL and a DIL often set out to compete with each other to have the upper hand.

The older woman has been managing the household in her own way for many years and it is her fortress. She expects the young daughter-in-law to just be a sentry in this fortress and execute her orders. The young bride comes in with her own dreams and expectations of having a home which she can set up and run in her own unique way. Individual ideas of running a household, even when not cohabiting, lead to clashes.

Alongside, they compete for the affection and attention of the common man in their lives, resources, possessions and authority. This leads to obvious bloodshed.

  • Willingness to accept each other:

Most importantly, the MIL and DIL should be willing  to accept each other as a package. And for that they need to make an openhearted effort to understand each other as a person, and forgo the natural assumption that the other doesn’t like her or is threatened by her.

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Your MIL can’t take the place of your mother. Your MIL and mother are two different persons, with their own unique personalities. And your DIL can’t take the place of your daughter. Your DIL and daughter are two different persons, with their own unique personalities. But if given a chance and if you choose to treat them as you would treat your mother or daughter, they might be able to become as close as them and you can have the best of both worlds. 

Try giving each other a chance, but with an open heart and honesty. And may be, you will be able to see the curse lifting from your relationship. If you don’t, you will always be an familiar outsider in each other’s lives, looking in with a big knot in your hearts.

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