• Resolve conflicts. Don't let hurts build up between you unresolved. If one of you wounds the other (as often happens unintentionally), deal with the issue quickly and gracefully. Be humble and willing to admit your part in the conflict. Forgive each other on a regular basis, relying on God to help you do so. Use humor to defuse awkward and embarrassing moments. If either your mother-in-law or daughter-in-law has a destructive habit and refuses to change, remain cordial but keep your distance. Pray for her instead of arguing, and try to make whatever time you do have together pleasant.

• Set boundaries. Clearly define what is acceptable and unacceptable in your relationship. For example, mother-in-laws can agree not to drop in to visit unannounced, but to call first. Daughter-in-laws can agree not to assume that her mother-in-law will babysit frequently, but only on special occasions that are properly arranged. Both mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws can refrain from insisting on certain schedules for holiday visits, and give each other the freedom to work out whatever plan works best for them.

• Bridge the gaps between you. Instead of judging each other for your differences, be humble and recognize that you have much to teach each other about your different generations, cultures, and social and economic groups. Seek to learn from each other whenever you can. Ask God to help you accept each other. Express genuine, mutual appreciation.

• If divorce occurs, try to salvage your relationship. If the tragedy of divorce hits your family, in many cases you can still continue to be friends with your mother-in-law or daughter-in-law. Don't assign blame. Mother-in-laws should keep their opinions of the conflict to themselves, and daughter-in-laws should refrain from speaking negatively about their husbands to their mother-in-laws. Mother-in-laws should also keep their relationships with their sons separate from their friendships with their former daughter-in-laws. Try to view life from each other's perspective and find what you have in common. Help each other however you can.


Adapted from The Mother-in-Law Dance: Can Two Women Love the Same Man and Still Get Along?, copyright 2004 by Annie Chapman. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or., www.harvesthousepublishers.com.

Annie Chapman has a successful, loving relationship with her mother-in-law and is now a mother-in-law herself. A gifted musician and popular speaker, she is also the author of several books, including 10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know and A Woman's Answer to Anger, and she is the coauthor of What Husbands and Wives Aren't Telling Each Other. Annie is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute.