There’s a good chance that, at some point, your son or daughter will fall in love. Someone besides you will earn their affection, attention, and time. And if you don’t like the person doing the taking, it could hurt your priceless relationship with your child. Don’t panic. While you don’t have to like your child-in-law for the love of your kid, here are some ways for you to make the best of the situation.
Determine the Problem
Let’s face it; not all people get along. And like it or not, when your child grows up, they get to choose their partner, not you. Add to this the fact that, like all moms, you believe that no one is good enough for your daughter or son, and you’ve got a big problem.
Your first step could be to ask yourself why your child-in-law drives you crazy. Meditate on it. Take a walk. Do some journaling. Or even write a pros and cons list. Write down everything you don’t like about this person. Then get curious about what your son or daughter finds appealing about them. What do they admire about him or her? In reflection, you may discover the problem lies within you and that your own issues, judgments, and personal biases are getting in the way. Understanding your hang-ups can help you decide if you should do something about your troubled relationship or just let it be and focus on yourself and the fact that this person makes your kid happy.
Talk About It
While many maintain it’s best to keep your mouth shut and your thoughts to yourself, if you have strong reservations about your child’s spouse and feel it’s important to express them, then it may be best to go ahead and do so.
Carefully plan out the conversation and what you want to say. Choose a calm moment to share your thoughts rather than sharing them in the middle of an argument. Shore yourself up to keep your cool and remind your child that you love them. You don’t want him or her to get upset, insulted, or offended, but you want to keep the lines of communication open. Raise your issues as “concerns” rather than criticisms. Trash-talking your child’s spouse won’t score you any mom points. In fact, you could become the bad guy, ramping up your child’s attachment to their partner. After all, pride is a strong emotion. So, while unloading may make you feel better in the short run, it can make things worse in the end.
Get to Know Them
How well do you really know your child’s partner? Chit-chat at the family barbecue doesn’t give all that much insight into a person. Plus, certain qualities in people take time to manifest. We’re all probably guilty of writing someone off too soon on occasion. So, when you are struggling with your child’s mate, ask yourself if you’ve really taken the time to know them. Taking an interest in your child’s partner could improve your perception of them. If you look hard enough, most people have some redeeming qualities.
Try to Find Something in Common
Finding some shared interests is the best way to build a solid relationship with your child-in-law. Look for anything you can to bond over. Movies, sports, the arts, the grandkids, etc. You may not have a lot in common, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something there to work with.
Let Go of the Fantasy
You’ve always imagined what your relationship with your child’s partner would be like. You wouldn’t be losing a daughter; you’d be gaining a son… a new best friend… George Clooney. RECORD SCRATCH! At your age, you should know better. Reality never measures up to fantasy, so ask yourself how realistic the person you have created in your mind really is—and cut the guy a break. Resist the urge to fantasize about what a child-in-law should be like, and stay present with who your child-in-law actually is. The more you focus on your own relationship with your child’s mate, as opposed to comparing him or her to others, the better your relationship will be.
Step Up Whenever Possible
Your daughter-in-law doesn’t like you, and you don’t know why. I know this is tough, but you can catch more bees with honey than stinky cheese. Help whenever you can. If she’s overwrought, take the grandkids for a day. When she has a deadline, offer to pick up some household slack. If she gets sick, show up with chicken soup.
Stay Out of Their Disagreements
Sometimes they bicker. Sometimes they fight. Either way, you feel the tension between your child and their spouse. And while this may make your heart ache, there is very little you can do except be supportive. Just get out of the way, and let the two of them work it out. Be there to lend a neutral ear, but make sure not to criticize your child’s partner during these heated times because, as always with love, feelings can change on a dime, and if you’re negative in the heat of the moment, once the heat cools, then you’re the bad guy.
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Think of the Future
If all goes well, you will probably be dealing with this person for the rest of your life. Come to think of it, this person may help care for you someday. And if grandchildren are involved, that’s all the more reason to get along.
The bottom line is if your child has fallen in love, this is something you as a parent should feel proud of. It means you’ve raised your child to separate from you, develop their own identity, and be emotionally available. And while you may not have a great relationship with your child’s spouse, you can definitely work towards it. Remember, some people are put in our lives as a learning experience. Maybe this one is yours. Accept this person as your child’s choice. Focus on the fact that they make your kid happy. And decide not to hate your child’s spouse. In short, get over it!