Recently, I watched the movie “Monster-in-Law” starring Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda. The movie centers on the unfortunate relationship between a young, newly-engaged woman and her future mother-in-law. The mother-in-law is adamant that her son, her pride and reason for living, never marry. She is intolerant, very controlling, and manipulative toward his fiancee. It was a sad story that promoted cliched mother-in-law jokes and affirmed those age-old stereotypes.

As a mother-in-law, I constantly challenge myself to diffuse stereotypes. I refuse to be a wedge between my children and their spouses. As a priority, my conversations with our two daughters — one married and the other soon-to-be married — centers around encouraging their relationships with their respective mothers-in-law. I understand that in the best of relationships, a mother-in-law/daughter relationship can be a challenge, yet it can be even more challenging when her husband has a mother who finds it difficult adjusting to the “other woman” in his life. I have found my role with my girls as both a listener and an adviser. Here are a few snippets of our conversations:

  • Speak in respectful tones. The tongue can set ablaze any chance for civility.
  • Refrain from being combative. Walk away from land mines that hit your button. It takes two to tangle!
  • Love your mother-in-law as the mother of your beloved. Choose to forgive and love. Don’t hold grudges.
  • Do not be manipulative. Children and your husband should not be weapons of revenge!
  • Be honorable. Reach out and initiate moments to be with her.
  • Be positive. Refuse to take part in character assassination. Find a confidant to vent for clarity and perspective.

We need relationships that model sacrificial love and grace and that bond our families. The legacies we leave deserve much more.