I am in a position that very few women would want to be in, I have not one, but two mothers in law, and they cannot stand each other.
My BF’s parents divorced about 10 years ago, pretty much as soon as the boys were self-sufficient, and his dad has been living with his girlfriend for almost 9 of those years. The divorce was messy, and the result is that his mom and dad cannot be in the same room at the same time. Trying to include both of them with the kids has been a logistics nightmare.
Mother in law #1, his actual mom, has been cold at best. She is a very imposing person, strongly believes that she is always right, and that she is the only person who knows what is best for her children. Sometimes in that respect she reminds me so much of my step kids’ mom it’s scary, no wonder they didn’t get along, it’s hard for two people to always be right at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, she has always been polite and welcoming, but still very formal and standoffish. My fellow sister in law and I have always felt very much add-ons. We were the women who happened to be with her sons, nothing more. We felt as though we were only worth what we did for her sons. So far our strategy with her has been to try and be patient and understand that our predecessors were not good to her sons, and she is probably wary of getting close.
Mother in law #2 is the complete opposite. She is warm, friendly, and totally accepting. I still find it sad that we were almost a year with our respective men before meeting her. Or boyfriends were not close with their dad, so we didn’t meet her until Christmas last year. Since then she has been an invaluable pillar of support for me. She immediately saw that I was doing my best for my family and hers. She and my father in law have always treated me as a separate person, making sure that I was taking care of myself as well as everyone else. They have both been there to help us make our home for the kids. Helping us to make sure they had clothes and even coming over during the move to help paint and set up the kids’ rooms.
It may be because she too is a later add-on to the family that she understands a little more how it feels to try and find your place in a new family. It may also be because my sister in law and I have both encouraged our boyfriends to build a better relationship with their dad, and she appreciates that by helping us make our families better, she helps us to better her family too. Either way, I have always felt that she and my FIL were on my side, and I have more than once ended up with them for dinner or coffee, even without the BF and kids.
Unfortunately having mother in law #2 be so great only served to make it harder to be patient with mother in law #1’s cold shoulder. I admit, I have lost patience with her and even dreaded going to her house on special occasions. Also difficult was the fact that for many years she had been giving advice to her son, my BF, and was very used to it being treated as gospel. Now that he has been thinking for himself, or discussing things with me, she had gotten increasingly frustrated. I was worried about the battle of wills that would inevitably happen.
Luckily for me, it didn’t. The opposite actually happened. I don’t know how or what changed, but all of a sudden MIL #1 did a 180 and completely changed her behaviour towards me. I think I’ll leave the details of that story for another post.