When you’re in a relationship, spending time with loved ones can become complicated—there are now two families to contend with, each with its own quirks, difficulties, traditions, and dynamics. Perhaps one of the trickiest relationships to navigate, though, is the one between you and your mother-in-law.
There’s no “right” way to have a relationship with your mother-in-law. You might hit it off right from the beginning, or you may find that you never really have a breakthrough and become friends. That’s okay. You don’t have to become attached at the hip, but there’s always room to bond with your mother-in-law and make your relationship stronger. Having a good rapport (even if it’s not a close one) will make life easier for you, your mother-in-law, your partner, and everyone else in the family. Luckily, there are lots of ways to bond with her; some are about fostering emotional intimacy and others about spending quality time together.
If you’re struggling to get close to your mother-in-law, here are nine ideas to get you started.
If the heart of the home is the kitchen, that’s a great place to start bonding. Offering to help is always a good way to create warmth. Next time you’re over, see if you can help her prepare a meal. If not, keep an eye out for other ways you could lend a hand—maybe she needs help gardening or watching after some younger family members. Just look for a way you can assist.
Ask Her Questions About Her Life
This may seem simple, but it’s so important. Often, we only see our partner’s family as extensions of our partner, and we ignore the fact that they have their own lives, histories, and passions. So, try asking your mother-in-law more about herself. Whether she runs her own business, grew up somewhere interesting, or has a lot of hobbies, try to gently question her (you don’t want to look like you’re prying) and see if you can get your mother-in-law to open up about herself.
If you really have trouble making small talk with your mother-in-law, plays or movies can be a lifesaver. It’s a way of spending time in the same space and experiencing something together while keeping conversations to a minimum—you spend most of the time sitting in silence watching something, after all. Afterward, you’ll have an easy topic of discussion: the show’s plot!
Ask Her About Advice
Another great way to build a connection is to make yourself vulnerable. You don’t have to open up about all of your biggest fears but just asking for advice can help initiate a bond between two people. It doesn’t have to be about something big and life-changing (although it can be), but reaching out and asking for her help might help soften things up, and it also shows that you respect her opinion. Whether it’s asking for a recipe or advice for problems at the office, it’s a good place to start.