Apr 8, 2012

When his mother has difficulty letting go

We all know someone – or maybe in our own family – where the son is married and has a wife and his mother still lays out his clothes in the morning and still tells him which tie is better to wear, what he should and should not eat and participate in, and still make herself the most important man in his life. His mother is assertive and says openly that nothing has changed and that her son still takes her advice. As a newly married wife you stand idly by out of respect and let her have the kudos, but you are bristling inside. Someone has to tell this mother – your mother-in-law what her position is now. She can be included in a discussion if you both agree, but no longer make the decisions. How does one do this when the mother-in-law is not mean and you like her, but don’t know how to correct the situation without hurting her feelings? Perhaps what is to be clarified and explained has to be done slowly over time and not in one fell swoop.

• First, the duty to tell his mother that things have changed now should come from the son. He is a grown man now and should tell his mother that she is still important in his life but that he has a wife now and she will take care of him. The mother might be a little upset at first, but she must be told, and the son must take responsibility and not leave this to his wife to sort out. Things will take a turn downwards and slowly deteriorate if it is not properly handled. This is an important aspect for a healthy relationship.

• You and your husband should discuss having a special day with his mom when you can all have dinner or lunch together and she does not feel left out. Make her feel part of the family and include her in some of your things.

• Have lunch with her on your own also where you can discuss things that are bothering her and that you can set straight and resolve. It is not easy for a mother to let go and doing it slowly and gently will go a long way to having a good friendship with her. Maybe the two of you can even go to a movie or exchange recipes. Find some common ground that you will both enjoy.

• Once a month you might feel inclined to pick up some groceries for her. There are good and bad ways to curry favor with a mother-in-law. Take the good route; it will help in forging a relationship with your mother-in-law. You know that you have the last name, the man, and his love and respect. He will care for you more when he sees that both the women in his life are happy. Mothers-in-law are just mothers who wrongly fear that they will lose their sons. Make her feel that that is not so.


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