A close relationship with your son-in-law can strengthen family ties.

How to Be a Good Mother-in-Law to Your Daughter's Husband

by Alison Williams

In the past, mother-in-laws were often on the receiving end of jokes. In fact, in 100 A.D., the Roman satirist Juvenal said, "Give up all hope of peace as long as your mother-in-law is alive.” The good news is that in 2013, jokes stereotyping mothers-in-law as interfering, argumentative and bossy are no longer in vogue. And as a mother-in-law, you likely want to form a positive relationship with your daughter’s husband, offering friendship, help and support rather than criticism. Close ties with your son-in-law can actually strengthen your daughter’s marriage. A December 2013 CNNHealth article notes that a study of 323 newlywed couples begun in 1986 by author, psychologist and research professor Terri Orbuch concludes that when men reported a close relationship with their inlaws, the risk of divorce for that couple in the first 16 years of marriage decreased by 20 percent.

1. Spend Time Together but Don't Overdue It

Don’t limit the time you spend with your daughter and son-in-law to special occasions. Celebrations, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, are often stressful and arguments can ensue. Make a point of socializing with your daughter and her husband throughout the year. Suggest going out for meals, visiting the theater or seeing a film together. This can help you get to know your son-in-law as a person, as well as help develop your relationship with your daughter as an adult. However, be aware of your limits. Don’t invade every aspect of your daughter and son-in-law’s lives. Give them space and time on their own without being resentful. Also, always call before visiting. Unannounced visits are likely to meet with disapproval.

2. Don't Criticize

Criticism will likely get you nowhere. While you might think that your son-in-law spends too much time at work or doesn’t help enough at home, try to keep these thoughts to yourself. Remember that your daughter chose to marry this man and that she loves him. If you're critical of your son-in-law when speaking to your daughter, not only will this upset her, but she is also likely to tell her husband, which could damage your relationship with him. Choosing not to criticize especially applies to raising children. Let your son-in-law and daughter bring up their children their own way. Accept that they might choose to do things differently from you or might do things of which you don't approve. Unless a situation is harmful to your grandchildren, let your daughter and son-in-law do things their way even if it means making some mistakes. If your son-in-law comes to you for advice, though, be gracious and happy to offer it.

3. The Other Inlaws

You should always try to be considerate of your son-in-law’s parents. Don’t expect your daughter and her husband to always visit you on holidays, but accept that they might wish to spend the holidays with his parents, or simply do some things with just his parents. Understand, too, that when grandchildren come along, that your son-in-law’s parents will want to see them as much as you do. By being welcoming and friendly to his parents, you will build a bond and develop a friendship with your son-in-law.

4. Get to Know Him

If you are planning a trip with your daughter, sometimes invite your son-in-law along, too. Be sure to ask his opinions as to what film he wants to see or where he wants to eat. You'll also want to show an interest in his life and learn his likes and dislikes. Talk to him about his work and be supportive. If he gets a new job or promotion, congratulate him. Also, refrain from being judgmental if you don't like what he's doing. For example, if he left his accounting job to pursue his passion in the culinary arts, show your support for him rather than reminding him that you hope he can make as much money as a chef as he did as an accountant.

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