How to Get Along With Your Mother-in-Law: 8 Expert-Approved Tips

Here's how you can help keep the peace.
Son-in-law hugging mother-in-law with flowers
Photo: Halfpoint Images / Getty Images
Lauren Dana Ellman - The Knot Contributor.
by
Lauren Dana Ellman
Lauren Dana Ellman - The Knot Contributor.
Lauren Dana Ellman
The Knot Contributor
  • Lauren is a contributor for The Knot covering topics such as music, cakes, venues and speeches.
  • She has been published in a wide array of lifetsyle-oriented publications including SELF and Allure.
  • Lauren is a proud graduate of Syracuse University's SI Newhouse School of Public Communication.
Updated Feb 09, 2024

Once you say "I do," you and your spouse—along with your parents and siblings—come together to form one blended family, which means you'll officially gain a set of in-laws! One of the most cherished—albeit sometimes challenging—relationships is that of a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law. That said, if you're wondering how to get along with your mother-in-law, you're not alone. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure a healthy and prosperous relationship that will benefit both of you, along with your spouse, in the long run. Whether you're already married or in the process of wedding planning, we compiled a list of expert tips to help you strengthen and improve your relationship with your mother-in-law.

Set Boundaries

According to licensed relationship and sex therapist Michelle Herzog, LMFT, CST, "It's important to establish boundaries early on to maintain a healthy relationship." What's more, she tells The Knot, this includes communicating your needs and preferences respectfully and also being "willing to compromise when necessary." This is important because "Once you enter into a marriage, that relationship becomes the most important thing to protect from outside influences." That said, "appropriate and well-communicated boundaries can go a long way to ensure a healthy, happy marriage."

Respect Their Role in Your Partner's Life

Per Herzog, it's crucial to "recognize and respect the significant role your mother-in-law plays in your partner's life." Of course, this includes acknowledging the bond they share and being supportive of their individual relationship. However, if there are some elements of their relationship that make you feel uncomfortable (i.e., a lack of boundaries), it's "important to get curious about those dynamics and address them with your spouse."

Be Patient & Understanding

Remember, says Herzog, "Building a strong relationship takes time and effort." With that in mind, you'll want to be patient with your mother-in-law—and yourself!—as you navigate this exciting new chapter. Similarly, she recommends striving to "approach challenges with empathy and understanding," which "can especially be important when your new spouse has a complicated relationship with their family."

Find Common Interests

Do you and your future mother-in-law have any shared hobbies or interests? It's well worth doing some digging to find out. "Whether it's cooking, gardening or watching a favorite TV show, finding common ground can help foster a deeper connection and create a deeper bond," says Herzog.

Remember, Graciousness is Key

This advice comes courtesy of licensed psychotherapist and Deeper Well Therapy founder Annalise Oatman. What's more, she explains, "Make it clear in some way that you want to be a helpful family member (maybe by finding out something she needs help with that you can feasibly help with, or finding out what her favorite bottle of wine or her favorite flowers are and bringing those to meet her, or to ongoing occasions)." While this may sound like a bit much, your future mother-in-law will appreciate the effort—and hopefully reciprocate with kindness.

Make a Conscious Effort

Similar to the above, Oatman advises "demonstrat[ing] in some feasible way that you want to help facilitate an ongoing, positive relationship between your spouse and their mother." While every citation is different—and there may be some situations where the effort may not be appropriate at all—the psychotherapist recommends using your best judgment. "Any simple way of demonstrating you care that your spouse has positive relationships with their family members of origin will do."

Be Kind

When it comes to establishing a solid and successful relationship with your mother-in-law, kindness is key. This means being cordial and respectful on all occasions. Even if your mother-in-law isn't necessarily your favorite person, she's still the mother of your spouse—and thus a member of your new blended family and it's important to honor that by being polite. It's always a good idea to go the extra mile by asking how she's doing, asking her for coffee, surprising her with a small gift when she hosts you at her home or even picking up the tab once and a while.

Include Her in Your Everyday Life (When Appropriate)

Look, we're not saying to invite your mother-in-law out on date nights with your spouse, but it is a good idea to make her feel included—when appropriate, that is. Some examples include holiday dinners and festivities and more casual family activities like BBQs or game nights. By going out of your way to include her, your mother-in-law will feel included, valued and appreciated.

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