In terms of relationships that will make-or-break your happiness level, you can pretty much guarantee on a few to prioritize. First and foremost, self-love and a healthy inner dialogue will help you tackle the many stages your life will present. Secondly (and if you're lucky enough), the partner you select to share your life with has a significant impact on your levels of daily joy and comfort. And while others are essential, too—your besties and your family—there's one that contributes to your happiness in married life. Your mother-in-law. Since she's the most significant female relationship your partner had before he met you, having at least an amicable union with his mom is recommended for a long, happy marriage.
Here, some ways to tell if you're compatible with your mother-in-law, along with some ways to improve your banter if you find yourself at a loss for words.
First, why is it important to have a strong relationship with your mother-in-law?
The greatest risk to your marriage isn't how your husband-to-be sincerely can't be bothered to pick up his sweaty gym clothes, but rather the times when he feels torn between you and his mom, according to Los Angeles-based psychologist Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D. "If you and your mother-in-law have a good relationship, your husband typically won't have to choose or side with either of you," she says. "If your husband is put in the middle between his mother and you, any or all of you can feel distressing emotions such as resentment, anger, betrayal, sadness, and/or confusion within oneself and towards each other."
Also, because the goal of any marriage is to integrate two families together, having your MIL in your court can make the molding seamless. "It is important to get along with your mother-in-law so that there is likely to be more receptivity, cooperation, and acceptance towards integrating the families with each other," she says. "Holidays and special events can be happy experiences rather than sources of stress, fragmentation, and/or upset."
It's a great sign if you feel comfortable.
If you're worried about your mother-in-law's humble (or not-so-candid) opinion of you, Thomas says to tune-in to your own feelings. Are you at ease around her? Feel like you can be yourself? This could be an indicator you share the same page. "It's a great sign if you both can have honest and genuine conversations and communication with each other," she says.
It's a great sign if you have shared values and perspectives.
If you and your mother-in-law may share similar fundamental values and morals, you're golden, says Thomas. This doesn't necessarily mean you'll agree on every last decision—there are generations that separate you, of course—but that you can normally find common ground. "A very positive sign of compatibility between you and your mother-in-law is if you both concur on the boundaries that should be upheld regarding your mother-in-law's role in your marriage," she adds.
What do you do if you're not compatible?
So, if your gut says the struggle is real with your MIL, then take a deep breath and take notes from Thomas, who says with an open mind, open heart, and open dialogue, you can set out to improve this relationship. "Make a pact together to agree to disagree if you two are of very different feelings or beliefs about something, especially regarding those things which are not that significant," she says. "Find activities to do together and topics to talk about which give you and your mother-in-law the opportunity to connect and bond with each other while creating some compatibility."
After all—even if you choose red wine and she opts for white, she has a high-end taste while you are bohemian in style, there is one important share interest: her son, your husband. "Remind your mother-in-law and yourself that you definitely share something very important in common; namely, your husband and her son, whom, hopefully, you both want the best for," Thomas says.