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Why do some Mother-In-Laws feel the need to compete?

Updated on May 11, 2011

Does the tension ever go away?

Some days the question is quite simple; Why? Other days words come out like fire from the depths of my dragon-like soul. Yet, why do mother-in-laws, or for sake of brevity "MIL's" do and say the things that they do?

Let me be clear: I am not just talking about MIL's from one side only. I am talking about both sides.

My husband and I have been married now for 5 years, together for 12 and the "issues" or tension is just as thick and unexplainable as ever. So, it begs the question: Does the tension ever go away?

Every month of every year is peppered with holiday celebrations and reasons to get together. Upon each one of these sometimes dreaded occasions, I manage to surprise myself with my chameleon like ability to accept the obvious undertones of unaccaptance and put on a pretty face.

The irony is I know, and everyone else knows, the true feelings that have been emblazened on the wall for years now. I am not liked. But is that really the case?

I think I have discovered a greater truth: The MIL feels replaced. Therefore, at every waking chance she will try to demonstrate something superior to her adversary; son-in-law or daughter in-law. She will jump at the opportunity like a cat to a tattered string. An uncontrollable reflex.

As a mother, I somewhat understand. A mother relishes in; the feeling of being needed, the knowing that they have created a role for themselves that no one else can have, and mostly in being the owner of, "the list." The list that dictates what everyone does, and when they must do it. The list that requires everyone to show up even when they don't want to, and to pretend to notice everything that she does and how amazing it is. The list that says that she is in control of her life and everyone else's.

Yet, when you become a MIL, it means that you have entered a time when you are no longer able to control everyone's choices and whereabouts. Kids, though adults now, may come and go whenever and however they please. They may not notice that you just broke your finger or even care that you don't like your job. Worse yet, they may even decide to not spend every holiday with you or every weekend hearing about your new weight loss idea or awful collegue at work.

Why? Because they, those kids, have all grown up. Now they have their own wife or husband to deal with, their own job or colleague they can't stand, and their own kids to create a list for.

It is not because the MIL is not loved (or at least not in most cases). It is simply because life has shifted.

And so, I guess I have discovered the nonacceptance of this unavoidable truth leads to snide comments, fake hugs, photo-shopped pictures, and unfortunately marital problems.

My advice: Buck up MILs out there. Enjoy the new member of your family~honestly enjoy them. Because the truth is; If you aren't good to the son in-law or daughter in-law than your not being good to your own child. And if you are causing tension in their relationship than you are going to be the one person they avoid, rather than the one they etch into their calendar.

Ask yourself: Do you really want to have, "the list," again? Maybe more important than having the list, is being on the list.


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      Jinni 2 years ago

      This is a great article. I support everything that has been said. I, too, am enduring tension with my future mother-in-law. I've tried my best to be respectful, and I know I've made my mistakes, but no matter what I do my efforts seem unsuccessful. So, what I am doing is trying my hardest to have as little contact with her as possible. Sometimes I feel guilty because my fiance doesn't seem to spend much time with her either. I don't ever want to drive a wedge between my fiance and his mother but I don't think I really have to have a close relationship with her myself? I'm always cordial when we have dinner together or when we are at events/get togethers, but she makes it very difficult to be around her. She has to be the center of attention. Only her accomplishments matter. It's always about what she's going to do next: this gallery is showing her paintings, this boutique is selling her jewelry. "What are you doing? Hmm. That's nice. (Pause)." Then back to her accomplishments. I can't stand her.

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      Erin 3 years ago

      I wish I could make my MIL read this. Because if I had the opportunity right now I would take my husband, leave, and never see her again. period. So tired of backstabbing and being treated like a second right person.

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      Anahi 3 years ago

      I enjoyed reading this post and I completely agree to it as a DIL I am. Unfortunately my situation is leading to avoid the MIL as much as possibly I can.