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The relationship depends on the maturity of not two, but the three individuals involved. The third one being the common factor – the son/husband.
The rivalry and strife between mother-in-law (MIL) and daughter-in-law (DIL) are legendary. But sometimes, the relationship can be one of warmth and cordiality. It depends on the maturity of not two, but the three individuals involved. The third one being the common factor – the son/husband.
An interesting 2018 study, published in the journal Social Work, uses survey data to come up with factors that predict closeness between MIL and DIL. To mention a few key factors, if a DIL is helpful and has similar interests to her MIL, (be it commitment to work or homemaking activities), it augurs well for a healthy bond. Again, if they spend more time together, it makes them feel close to each other. On the contrary, if a MIL is left out of the relationship triangle, it’s a red flag.
Coming to my story, I had to deal with not one, but two MILs in my life. My first marriage ended in divorce. Both MIL relationships were fraught with difficulties, but not without some humour!
My first MIL, let’s call her S, had a 17-inch waistline like Vivian Leigh in Gone With The Wind! If that were not enough to give one a complex, she was an excellent cook and extremely efficient in household matters. Before summer she would make bottles of lemon juice concentrate and refrigerate them. She taught me her son’s favorite recipes and I struggled to replicate them.
She would wake up at dawn to go for a long walk with her husband. Later, she would practice yoga for an hour.
What can an exercise-averse laid-back daughter-in-law do in these circumstances? Sari-clad and demure as she was, she was the epitome of femininity. In fact, she would tell me to tie up my hair like she did. It was her belief that I would win the heart of her son if I imitated her.
My relationship with her lasted barely 10 months.
My second MIL, let’s call her B, was equally efficient in household matters. (Not again!) She had even driven a car in her youth, which was not common for her generation. In fact, it’s something I never got around to doing.
The contentious issue that came between us was her conservative approach to how a menstruating woman should be treated. I understand that she had been conditioned by what she had experienced in her maternal home and with her own MIL, but it was still unacceptable to me.
She believed that a woman who was menstruating had to keep away from others, not eat at the dining table with the rest of the family (forget entering the kitchen!), sleep on the floor, and generally be isolated. And, that’s why we locked horns. I could not accept such alien views which had no logic according to me. And, she would not budge from her stand. So, it was perfect grounds for a MIL-DIL clash that went on for years.
But today, I recollect with fondness her concern for my health and the emotional, affectionate side that came up at times when we met. And, thankfully, she was not possessive about her son. In fact, she often berated him for being too busy with work. This relationship lasted 18 years and it got gentler with time.
Image source: a still from the short film Juice
I am a freelance journalist and write on parenting, personalities, women’s issues, environment, and other social causes. read more...
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