Dear mother in law with the married son,
I receive weekly emails from women who are so frustrated by their relationships with their mother in law. All they want is to feel loved and appreciated by them, yet they feel judged and torn down. They’re tired of criticism, of cutting remarks, of never feeling good enough. I hear from more wives distraught over their mother in law than wives distraught over their husbands.
I know there are two sides to every story, and that you want the best for your son, but please, give his wife some grace! She’ll love you for it, and it would mean the world to him too. After all, he picked her because he loves her, and he wants you to love her too.
The way you treat your son and daughter-in-law makes a huge impact on their marriage. You have the ability to build them up or cause friction between them. Take that power and use it to encourage them and strengthen your relationship with them.
You have a lot more experience, but your daughter-in-law is probably trying her very hardest. She may not have a perfectly clean house or parent her children exactly the way you would, but she is caring for her family in the best way she knows. She loves and adores them, and that’s what is most important.
Encourage her, compliment her, tell her she’s doing a wonderful job at being a wife and mom — it will mean a lot to her. And not only that, but it will cause her to draw closer to you. Over time she’ll feel like she can be real with you, that she doesn’t have to have a perfectly clean house every time you come over, that she can share her struggles with you. The goal is for her to see you as a friend, not a critic.
The very best thing you can do for your relationship with your son is to have a great friendship with his wife. He may not tell you, and it may not seem like it, but he does care what you think. It makes him so happy to see you compliment and build up his wife — because that’s when you start seeing and appreciating her the way he sees and appreciates her.
Please, stop with the cutting remarks, with the hints at better ways to parent, with trying to change her heart. That’s a job for God. Instead, focus on forming a genuine friendship with her. Pray for her daily. Treat her as you’d treat one of your dearest friends. Be the kind of mother in law you would want. Bite your tongue if you have to, and be kind and encouraging every chance you get. Your relationship with her and your son (and your grandchildren/future grandchildren!) will be greatly blessed as a result of it.