How to win over your in-laws

Mother in law tongueMy wife and I recently celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. I wrote about our rocky start a couple of years ago. But my wife wasn’t the only one with whom I had a rocky first couple of years – my relationship with mother-in-law was also difficult. While my mother-in-law and I have a great relationship now, it wasn’t always the case.

My mother-in-law was a widow when I walked into her house 13 years ago and asked for her blessing. My wife had made it clear to me that out of respect for her mother, I needed have this conversation before I popped the question. And so I sat and waited on my future mother-in-law’s couch, sweating, as she wrapped up a phone conversation. As she sat down in a chair opposite the couch, I braced myself for the interaction. I doubted whether she would give me her blessing, but I intended to marry her daughter whether she did or not.

I pulled out the ring and said, “I would like to give your daughter this.” She looked at the ring slowly, placed her hands over her face, and said, “We’re not here already, are we?” Then, for the next 2 hours, she grilled me with questions before giving me a half-hearted blessing. It turns out that she didn’t believe that I was the guy for her daughter, and I suspect that she thought her daughter would see the error of her ways before the wedding…. Well, that didn’t happen.

Now that I have kids, I understand where my mother-in-law was coming from. My kids are small, but I am sure whomever they bring home someday will not be good enough for them, at least in my opinion. My future mother-in-law had an image of the type of man that her daughter was going to marry and I wasn’t that man.

The wedding took place, but still there was tension between us. I continued to build great relationships with my brothers-in-law and my sister-in-law, but the relationship with my mother-in-law remained chilly. Things didn’t improve when my mother-in-law moved in with us for a short time after she returned from a missionary stint in Africa. Between the rocky relationship with my wife and the rocky relationship with my mother-in-law, things were unpleasant, to say the least. I tried to be a good son-in-law, but I felt like I could never live up to my mother-in-law’s expectations.

Eventually though, I did win over my mother-in-law.  How, you ask?  Not by going out of my way to be a good son-in-law, but by going out of my way to be a good husband to her daughter. I gave up trying to impress my mother-in-law, but I didn’t give up trying to impress my wife. Things were bad those first couple of years of marriage and it turns out that my mother-in-law was right, I wasn’t an acceptable husband. (She didn’t know that, but that’s beside the point.) As I worked harder and harder to be a better husband, my mother-in-law began to accept me more and more. Now, my wife and I joke that my mother-in-law prefers me over my wife.

So how do you get your in-laws to accept you? Easy – by loving your spouse. By being unselfish and working hard to make their child, the person you both love, happy.  Do that and they’ll have no choice but to love you too.


  1. Good post. Funny, but with all the mother-in-law jokes that circulate, I never thought of myself in the application :-). I don’t remember all the details of this post, but I believe Jason’s memories are correct. He is also correct in that parents usually are won over when they see their child happy in a marriage; also, when they see the parent attempting to be a good father or mother. Jason has become, spiritually, the man I envisioned Cara marrying.

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