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You and your mother in law may just be biologically programmed to have an awkward relationship. Why, and what can you do to get along anyway?

Sixty percent of mother- and daughter in law relationships are, according to those in them, "strained", "depressing", "infuriating" and similar kinds of negative, research suggests. Even so, my mother in law wasn't your typical woman. Coming from a loving and somewhat sheltered family, she was quite the shock. When my then husband-to-be and I knocked on her door so I could meet her for the first time, her first words were: "So, your mom and dad don't love you either then?"

I could go on to describe the time I literally found my sister in law trying to strangle her mo and couldn't really blame her, or the many times my mother in law treated my husband so sub-humanly that I was tempted to call pest control to do something about her, but I'm not writing my particular in-laws' brand of crazy today. Besides, my mother in law is dead now and I'm no longer married, so it's probably best to let sleeping dogs lie, and there are plenty of other shocking "MIL" stories out there.

Take my friend; who found out just why her husband was so eager to move to her country rather than the other way around after they got married — her mother in law decided, during her first visit, that she didn't like the furniture in her son and daughter in law's house, so she had the whole place redecorated while they were at work, and then wouldn't speak to them when they got angry.

These stories are extreme, but problematic relationships between daughters in law and mothers in law are more par for the course than anything unusual.

They're more strained, both anecdotes and research tell us, than any other kind of family relationship. The relationship between a man and his mother and law, or a woman and her father in law, cannot compare on the whole.

What Is It About Mothers And Daughters In Law That Leads To Conflict?

Marriage isn't a commitment between two people alone. When you marry, you marry not just your spouse but their family as well. This bit of info may seem obvious, and it is certainly something anyone who has ever read "should you marry this person?" type articles before has already heard, but it warrants reflection nonetheless. You know what's less obvious?

You bring your own family into your marriage too. It was your family who created your ideas of what families are and should be like, who determined your expectations. Anything that happens in your spouse's family, you'll judge within the context of your own. 

Your spouse's family culture is bound to be different — and depending on how much you and your spouse diverge culturally, ethnically, economically, and socially, it could be very, very different. Different can, but doesn't have to be, incompatible. It does, always, take some getting used to however. The more expectations your mother in law has of you and the more you have of her, the more likely you are to end up in a strained MIL-DIL relationship. 

Something more primeval seems to be at play too, however, in relationships between wives and their mothers in law.

Your mother in law was the person who raised your husband, the primary woman in his life until the point at which you got married. Not only can your presence seem threatening to her — subconsciously or overtly— but you too are bound to sense this fact. It's natural, when you are establishing your own family, to instinctively seek to be the "alpha female" in the family. That's a place that belonged to your mother in law though, a mother in law who may have a lot of weird feelings about the fact that she now has a grown-up son who is no longer her baby. There you have it: the perfect recipe for strife.  

How can you prevent a nasty relationship with your mother in law then, and what should you do if things have already gone horribly wrong?

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