Your Wife Versus Your Mom. Does a Happy Middle Ground Exist?

The two most important women in your life strongly dislike each other. Your wife feels like she can’t do anything right according to your mother. And your mom, who is only looking out for the best interests of her son, thinks that your wife is trying to alienate her from you. And you, well, you’re the prisoner in this mother-in-law versus daughter-in-law war.  Unfortunately you adore them both and would never want to do or say anything to hurt either of their feelings. This causes them both to accuse you of taking sides. You just can’t win.

As long as there have been marriages, there’s been hostility and competition between MIL’s and DIL’s. It just goes with the territory. Some of us daughters-in-law are lucky enough to love our husband’s mothers like our own moms, feeling a bond from day one; while others would rather listen to a symphony of nails on chalkboards than have a simple conversation with their MIL’s.

So, what about you, the poor stuck-in-the-middle-husband? You want to support the love of your life, take up for her and boost her confidence as a wife and mother. But you wouldn’t dare hurt your own mother’s feelings by making her feel that her well-meaning advice is unwanted.

What’s the right thing to do…or not do in the turbulent family feud that has become your life? According to Sam Love, an aptly named marriage and family counselor who’s talked many a grown-married son down from the ledge, the answer is simpler than you might think. But simple doesn’t always mean easy.

“A man’s loyalty should go to his wife. Even the Bible says that a husband leaves his mother and cleaves to his wife. He needs to be able to set boundaries with his mother and open up communication with his wife in order to meet her needs; and it’s very hard for some husbands to say to their moms, ‘I’m finished with being mothered. Now it’s time for me to grow up and be a mate for my wife.’”

This is easier said than done. “Many men are in fear of losing the intimacy they have with their mothers. They’re subconsciously afraid of not getting the same closeness from their wives that their mothers provide. In most cases, a wife’s love is more conditional than a mother’s love. Wives have expectations and needs to be met (think provider, father, caregiver, lover, companion), while most moms love unconditionally and don’t need much of anything from their sons. Men fear not being able to fulfill the needs of their wives, so they cling to the easier relationship with their moms.”

However, if the husband accepts the challenge of being an adequate mate and is able to fulfill his wife’s needs, the relationship rewards can last a lifetime and far outweigh those that he gets from his mother.” So, the bottom line is that men need to grow up, step up to the plate, stop fearing the loss of their mothers’ love and do what’s right for their marriages.

Now, go do the right thing (as Dr. Laura would say.)

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About the Author: Angela is an award winning humor columnist, freelance writer and public speaker living in Middle Georgia, and the San Francisco Bay Area. She uses her keen insight and clever wit to help husbands understand the complex mechanisms that are their wives. “I like to think of goodhusbanding.com as an owner’s manual for the average wife. Of course results may vary, but we’re all fairly similar whether we admit it or not.” Angela uses her background in psychology, the myriad of learning experiences offered through her ten year marriage, and input from her “in the trenches” audience members across the country as input for her articles.

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  1. Andrew Klino says:

    This article only takes into account for half of the problem — when MIL and DIL have a specific disagreement.  What about when DIL finds MIL utterly annoying, but as son, find no error in her ways?  I think the latter is *far* more common than the prior.

    • Angela says:

      Good point, Andrew. But there are two sides to EVERY story. If son finds NO error in her ways, then perhaps son should open his eyes a little wider. 

  2. Rhonda Wittmer says:

    I had the mother in law from hell who refused to be happy in her own life, and she exemplified the old adage, “Misery loves company.”  That coupled with a disloyal, bipolar husband leaves me a happier divorced woman than I was as a married woman.  Good couples out there, work it out and good luck.

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