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Border Control

Barbara Bensoussan

The secular media loves to portray mothers-in-law as harping, critical dragon ladies who are never satisfied with their underachieving sons-in-law (and who nevertheless always manage to overstay their welcome). However, with a little effort, sensitivity, and communication, there’s no reason a son-in-law and mother-in-law can’t enjoy a pleasant, if not positive, relationship.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My father z”l was once having dinner with friends when a joke was told about a perfect mother-in-law. One of the men laughed. “A perfect mother-in-law?” he scoffed. “There’s no such thing!”

To everyone’s surprise, my father — not given to discussing his feelings — replied simply, “Oh, I don’t know. I think I had one.”

What a woman wouldn’t give to hear her son-in-law make such a comment. But being —or having — a good mother-in-law isn’t just a matter of mazel. There’s much we can do to make it happen.

 

Fasten Seat Belts

Every family changes over the years, and the arrival or departure of each family member creates a tectonic shift in the terrain of family life. These shake-ups, both happy and sad, require learning to navigate untraveled paths.

Making the adjustment to a new son-in-law can range from adapting to not serving gebrochts on Pesach to getting used to his forty-five-minute Shabbos pilpul or his eccentric sense of humor.

While parents in the frum world will have typically approved a prospective son-in-law even before the couple meets, there’s always an element of the unknown for both the new couple and their families once the chasunah is over. What really lies beneath that beautifully presented chassan package? While you’ve had your daughter’s entire life to build a relationship with her, your relationship with your son-in-law is still in its infancy.

Rabbi Abraham Twerski and Leah Shifrin Averick, the authors of In-Laws: It’s All Relative (ArtScroll/Shaar Press), quip that “There is no way to microwave a relationship” — a mother and her son-in-law have to brew a relationship slowly, over time. But you definitely want that to happen in the most positive way possible, because, as Rebbetzin Baila Willig of Queens puts it, “Your relationship with your son-in-law will directly affect your children’s shalom bayis.” Will you be the mother-in-law who helps her daughter see her husband as a king, or the mother-in-law who riles her daughter against him?

 

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