I never thought I’d be so happy to be disliked.
I don’t miss any of my old boyfriends. Not a one. But I do miss some of their mothers.
I got along well with many of them. They’d call to talk to me. We’d go to lunch or go shopping together like friends. Sadly, in the end I liked them more than their sons, but had to part ways with both of them. I wish there were a way to check in on them, to know if they’re still alive and how they’re doing. And yeah, I could call them, but you just know that call would get back to my exes and they’d think I still pine for them.
I will not have that problem with my husband’s mother. If we ever divorce, I’ll do my best to forget that woman’s name. Luckily, my lack of affection for my mother-in-law is not one-sided. She doesn’t like me either. At first I thought it might be a lacked of shared interests, until one day I was talking about kayaking – one of my most loved pastimes – and she casually mentioned she owned a kayak. I perked up. I asked her what kind she had, when she bought it, where she liked to paddle, and she curtly responded, “I bought it last year. It’s in the shed,” and immediately left the room.
So much for shared interests.
To this day, I truly believe his mother doesn’t know my middle name, or possibly even my last name (without checking our wedding invitations). She doesn’t know what degrees I hold or what I do for fun. The only gifts she ever gives me are buy-one-get-one kitchen gadgets they advertise on TV, because she buys one for herself and then, well, it’s either give one to me or take it to a donation center.
I, like a fool, spend months trying to come up with the most perfect presents for her, and she shows her appreciation by very deliberately displaying the unused items around her house, still in plastic or with tags attached. To her, I exist only to produce grandchildren to which she can ascribe her own characteristics.
“Your granddaughter is so skinny!”
“Yes, she takes after me.”
“Your grandson is so smart!”
“That’s totally from me.”
If I died, she would probably poison her son and gleefully adopt our kids. It’s possible I’m exaggerating. I don’t really think she’d do that. But I guarantee you she’d consider it.
But it’s okay. Really, it is. In fact, it could be a good thing. At the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research psychologist and professor Dr. Terri Orbuch (who also goes by the nickname “The Love Doctor”) has been tracking hundreds of couples since 1986 and has found that when a husband has a close relationship with his in-laws, it reduces the risk of divorce by 20 per cent. But, when a wife has a close relationship with her husband’s parents, the risk rose by 20 per cent.
Why? Apparently, when a husband gets along with his wife’s family, it solidifies the bond between them. The woman feels cared for, and the man doesn’t feel as if his role as provider is being threatened. But when a woman gets too close to her husband’s family, it leads to friction. Sometimes the wife and mother-in-law join forces to nag the husband, which never ends well. Other times, the mother-in-law feels she is close enough to meddle, offering unsolicited advice on child rearing or making comments that deeply offend the wife’s sense of identity.
Of course, whether you get along with your in-laws or not, it’s important to treat them with respect, if only to keep the peace with their child, your spouse. As for your in-laws, there have to be boundaries. You have to present a unified front with your partner and make an effort to put that relationship first. That’s what seems to keep marriages going, regardless of the good or bad nature of your relationship with the rest of the family.
As for me, I will continue trying to be courteous to my mother-in-law, in person, out of love for my husband. He is well aware that it’s all an act, but he gives me points for trying. But I will continue to rant about her to anyone willing to listen, because my sanity demands it. And while it’s true we will never be besties, I am comforted knowing that research suggests this might be better for everyone in the long run.
Images via giphy.com and youtube.com.
Comment: Do you get along with your mother-in-law?