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Developing Healthy Relationships Between Mother And Daughter In Law.

Stacy Grooms

Stereotypes about mother and daughters-in-law are often the subject of in sitcoms and comedies, portraying never-ending conflict over who will win their son or husband’s affection and attention. While it is true that mothers’ ties to a daughter-in-law are the weakest compared to a relationship between mother and daughter or mother and son (Bryant, Conger, Meehan, 2001; Fingerman, 2004), it doesn’t mean that meaningful relationships can’t be developed. In real life, those relationships are more complex.

Communication is key to developing a strong relationship between mother and daughters-in-law. Communication, inclusive behaviors, and time are some of the ways to develop a healthy relationship between in-laws (Rittenour & Soliz, 2009; Santos & Levitt, 2007). Communication needs to be clear and concise and not inflammatory or accusatory. PsychologyToday.com warns against becoming too emotional and saying things that can’t be taken back. Inclusive behaviors foster reciprocity and shows you are interested in the new family member. A good tip from PsychologyToday.com suggests giving your in-laws a task or role so they feel they are needed.  Time is important when fostering relationships. It takes time to get to know someone and to develop rapport with them.

Contrary to the stereotypes we see portrayed on television, having a strong relationship between mother and and daughter-in-law is important to the family dynamic. It is an important relationship to foster and has major consequences for the family system, including marital success (Bryant, Conger, Meehan, 2001)  if there isn’t a viable relationship. Communication, inclusive behaviors, and time are all that is needed to make those relationships blossom.

Bryant, C. M., Conger, R. D., & Meehan, J. M. (2001). The influence of in-laws on change in marital success. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(3), 614–626. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00614.x

Fingerman, K. L. (2004). The Role of Offspring and In-Laws in Grandparents’ Ties to Their Grandchildren. Journal of Family Issues, 25(8), 1026–1049. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X04265941

Greenberg, B. (2017, May 17). Ten ways to have an easier relationship with your in-laws. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-teen-doctor/201705/10-ways-have-easier-relationship-your-in-laws

Rittenour, C., & Soliz, J. (2009). Communicative and relational dimensions of shared family identity and relational intentions in mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships: Developing a conceptual model for mother-in-law/daughter-in-law research. Western Journal of Communication, 73(1), 67–90. https://doi.org/10.1080/10570310802636334

Santos, J. D., & Levitt, M. J. (2007). Intergenerational Relations with In-Laws in the Context of the Social Convoy: Theoretical and Practical Implications. Journal of Social Issues, 63(4), 827–843. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.2007.00539.x

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