Expert-Approved Tips for Winning Over Even the Prickliest Mother-in-Law
Yes, it's possible to find common ground with just about anyone.
You may never become best friends with your mother-in-law, but winning her over is totally doable—even if she's among the prickliest of moms. Here, experts share six ways you can work your way into your mother-in-law's heart to create a loving, respectful, lasting relationship.
Have a relationship with her outside of your spouse.
"You can win over your mother-in-law when you get to know her better," says licensed marriage and family therapist Kiaundra Jackson, who suggests you regularly reach out to her on your own to see how she's doing and schedule some one-on-one time with her. "I think she will appreciate it—and it will make your partner very happy to see you trying to get along," Jackson explains.
Focus on common ground.
It's only natural that you and your mother-in-law won't agree on everything. But Lisa M. Reid, LCSW, recommends that when you disagree, you should "be patient, open, and respectful—do not argue or try to make her agree with you or on how you do things." Instead of emphasizing any differences between you, "focus on common ground," she suggests, while also acknowledging her feelings by saying things like, "I appreciate your viewpoint," or "I hadn't considered that."
Treat your partner well.
According to Jackson, "There is no faster way to get on your mother in law's bad side than for her to find out you have mistreated her child." You will build trust—and a positive relationship with—your mother-in-law as she sees how well you treat her child consistently, Jackson says. At the same time, remember: "You can't change your mother-in-law—or her adult child," points out Reid. So, "don't complain about your partner or joke sarcastically about him or her to your mother-in-law," she warns. "This is not likely to be well received, even if everyone is laughing."
Share your desire to learn more about your partner.
Every mother loves to share stories about her child or mothering experience—and asking to hear those stories can build a bond between you and your mother-in-law. "Your interest and curiosity are ways to show your investment in her as well as in learning what matters to her," she explains.
Attend family gatherings.
"Showing your mother-in-law that you not only care for her and her child, but also for the whole family can be the icing on the cake," says Jackson. With that in mind, "make attempts to show up and engage in family gatherings," she suggests. "Whether it is for the holidays or a birthday, showing up while bringing something—food or a gift—can help your mother-in-law like you."
Learn her love language.
According to Jackson, "The best way to anyone's heart is to know how they desire to be loved." And this doesn't just apply to romantic partners. Take the time to "find out if your mother-in-law loves physical touch—like hugs and kisses—or if she enjoys words of affirmations—such as being complimented," Jackson says. Then speak that language as you build your relationship.