All Things In-Law...

Dr. Deanna Brann's Blog

Husband in the middle between MIL and DILSharing is something we are taught at a very young age, starting with sharing our toys. Our parents told us that sharing is a nice thing to do, and that it will make us feel good—and it does. So over the years, we’ve shared not only our toys with playmates, but also our clothes with sisters (sometimes begrudgingly); food with family, friends, and even strangers; and our knowledge with classmates and coworkers. We’ve shared ideas, feelings, books, and friends. You name it, we’ve probably shared it. So sharing your husband with his own mother really shouldn’t be so different, right?

The sad truth is that sometimes it indeed seems different, not to mention downright difficult. In fact, at times it can feel like a virtual tug of war. That may be because, as his wife, you feel that the influence his mother has had on him up to this point is daunting or disconcerting. Or maybe you feel that by not sharing him, you are letting others know you are the influential one now.

Regardless of the reason, remember that she is his mother, and take heart—it doesn’t have to be a tug of war. Honest. Remember this above all (and exhale): you are his wife; he chose you to marry and spend his life with. So being generous is actually much easier than you might think.

With that in mind, here are some tips that will help you shift your perspective so you can successfully share your husband with his family (particularly his mother):

  • Don’t think of his family as his family. You are starting (or continuing) on a long journey with an extended family. These people are a part of your husband, and therefore, they are also now a part of you and your life together.
  • Develop your own relationship with his mother—one that is separate from your relationship with your husband. Seeing your mother-in-law as her own person and not just as your husband’s mother can help you diffuse at least some of your frustration.
  • Turn the tables around. Think how you would want your husband to treat you if he was helping you adjust to navigating changes in your relationship with your mother. So if your husband is struggling to find where his mother fits into his new life, instead of dictating to him or controlling him, focus on loving him, supporting him, and being his partner.
  • Look at the bigger picture, not just the specifics that are driving you crazy in the moment. I know, this isn’t always easy to do, and you’re unlikely to do it perfectly (unless you’re a saint). But it helps to remember that you are setting an example about how to treat others by what you do and what you say.

So before you dig in your heels to make sure she knows her role; to make sure she knows you are now his priority, think to yourself, How can these tips help me make this transition work for all of us? Because the more you’re able to demonstrate that you and his family are really on the same side, the more everyone wins. After all, as your parents once told you, sharing and feeling good really do go hand-in-hand!

Would love to hear your thoughts about this…

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