I’m sure most of you married young ladies have encountered in your life tensions and-or conflicts with your mothers-in-law. By the way, this is not a problem limited to one country. I’m from the UAE and I live currently in Europe. I used to be married several years ago and my marriage ended partly because of a hysteric mother-in-law and a coward son – i.e. my ex-husband who was always afraid to stand up against his mother’s will. The paradox in the Middle East is the existence of Patriarchal systems and mentalities, yet, also, a strong bond between mothers and sons. I can’t but think of the Oedipus Complex as defined by Freud… Sad to see that women don’t help each other – no solidarity – and are always trying to win man’s attention, especially if it’s the son, or the husband. In my case, the mother-in-law seemed at first to be winning the battle… However, I won my liberty, my integrity, my independence, my will to live. Therefore, she’s the one who lost by staying in the same oppressive system and enhancing its dynamics. And please, my advice to married men: don’t lecture us women on your problems with your mothers-in-law. They are far less damaging.
I read lately the results of a research conducted by Terri Apter, a psychologist at Cambridge University, showing that 60% of women who felt a friction with their husband’s mother had caused them long-term stress. Despite all the gags, only 15% of men complained that their mothers-in-law caused them headaches. Conflict arises when the newcomer and the more experienced matriarch wrestle over whose way is best, ex: child care, housework, cooking, relating to the son/husband, cultural/religious differences, etc. Every eight marriage fails due to the mother of one of the partners, with daughters-in-law clearly outnumbering the sons-in-law with their grievances. Also, worldwide studies continue to demonstrate the following: mothers of daughters have an easier time letting go earlier. Girls become independent more quickly and also move out earlier than boys.
Mothers-in-law tend to feel being frozen out of the relationship. And for the younger generations: a sense of intrusion and constant disapproval; they also sense their mothers-in-law being jealous of their relationships with the husbands.
My first advice to you ladies? Distance!! Physical and Psychological. And speak up your mind. Don’t be afraid.
My second advice? Mothers-in-laws should work on dealing with doubt and vulnerability. The root of most problems is the fear that the valuable relationship between mother and son is under threat as lives change… Mothers are left thinking: Will I still be valued for what I bring to the family? Of course!! Start thinking that you aren’t only THE MOTHER OF THE SON! This is a Patriarchal mentality!! And don’t look at your sons as some sort of a ‘partner substitute’ for a husband who is not satisfying all your needs for recognition and affection.
My third advice: sons too have a responsibility here, especially when they are less proactive about that reassurance; and they have to better manage their relationship with their wives. Knowing where the limits should be between their parents and their new family…