The stereotypical mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is often difficult. Daughters-in-law (DILs) frequently expect mother-in-law (MILs) to be intrusive, highly opinionated, and overly attached to their sons—and sometimes, unfortunately, they’re right.

While the relationships between my daughters-in-law and I are not perfect all the time, we’ve discovered what works for us. By sharing our insights and experience along with helpful Scriptures, we hope to help you too find an authentic and loving relationship with your mother-in-law.

During our research, we heard from many DILs in unhappy situations. Some were living the reality of a difficult MIL. Other DILs were creating drama that made the relationship unhealthy.

Where do we get our expectations about how our relationships with our MILs will work?

  • They may come from our own observations prior to marriage.
  • Perhaps we were influenced by the MIL/DIL relationships of sisters or close friends.
  • It’s possible our hubby-to-be added his own spin on what to expect from his mama.
  • Or maybe late-night TV comedians and the stereotypical Marie Barone of Everybody Loves Raymond have helped shape our expectations.

Mothers-in-law need a better public relations program; there’s a lot of bad press out there. Some of it may be earned, but much, if not most, is wildly exaggerated.

Have you believed that bad MIL/DIL relationships are the norm? Have you joined the ranks of those with high anxiety and low expectations regarding this important family connection? If so, you are living with a lie that suggests that the worst is the standard and nothing more is possible.

It’s critical to understand the role God has given the mother-in-law in your life, and what He expects. She is your husband’s mother and deserves to be honored. You may not like her, but respectful behavior is not optional according to the Word of God. Her behavior may make it difficult to have respect for her. It’s vital to remind yourself that you choose your behavior daily, and behaving respectfully is always the minimum standard of care.

What’s the outcome of disrespectful behavior toward your MIL?

  • You fail to honor God’s Word. Christlikeness is nowhere to be found. Scripture commands us to reach out to those who are harsh; they’re unhappy people, often suffering (James 1:27 paraphrased).
  • The opportunity to influence her for the Lord has been eliminated.
  • Your husband may be terribly hurt. Even if he doesn’t love her behavior, he loves her.
  • You set an example for your children, which, should they imitate it, will cause them to lose respect for motherhood in general and may cause them difficulties in their own in-law relationships down the line.

If having an open circuit of communication between you and your MIL has never been addressed, be the one to approach it. God has equipped you with all you need to approach a difficult conversation. James 1:27 warns us about the power words can hold. “A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it has the power to accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it,” (James 3:5 MSG, paraphrased).

The following suggestions can help build your relationship with your mother-in-law regardless of where it currently stands.

Tips on Making a Place for His Mom

Build a relationship with your MIL. Explore areas you can enjoy together. If she is showing an interest in you or your interests, nurture that. She’s attempting to build a relationship with you apart from being your husband’s mom.