14 Ways to Improve Your Relationship With Your Mother-In-Law

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

mother-in-law and daughter-in-law
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While you and your mother-in-law love the same person in very different ways, it can still make the relationship a bit testy between you. A relationship with your mother-in-law can be particularly tricky to navigate, especially if she didn’t take to you on the very first meeting. You may be tempted to put it down to “sometimes two people just don’t click”, but the reality is that how you get along with the in-laws plays a rather large role in just how comfortable and successful your relationship/marriage will be. 

We all want to have a comfortable relationship with our in-laws, but sometimes it just doesn’t come naturally. That doesn’t mean that we should give up and ignore the situation. Instead, you should be ready to put in a bit of extra effort for your sake as well as your partner’s. 

Connecting with your mother-in-law is important, but don’t worry if you haven’t yet; we have a few ways in which you can improve your relationship with that special woman in your partner’s life. Let’s take a closer look at the several ways you can improve your relationship with your mother-in-law.

14 simple ways to make your relationship with your mother-in-law better:

1. Make being polite a number 1 priority.

Even if you feel frustrated and irritated by your mother-in-law being around, make sure that you are always perfectly polite. Bite your tongue if you must, but just make sure that you never let your politeness levels slip. Not only will this make a good impression on your mother-in-law, but it will also take a lot of pressure off your partner. 

2. Ask her for life advice. 

One of the best ways to make someone feel important and respected is to show them that their advice is valued. Asking your mother-in-law to weigh in on certain things happening in your life will make her feel as if she holds importance in your life, and she will warm to you even if it’s just a little. 

3. Offer to help as often as possible.

When you spend time with the in-laws, there will be meals, beverages, and general activities involved. Consistently offer to help and always make sure that you are willing to do things her way. This is a small way to show that you are flexible and want to be involved. 

If the opportunity to help at other times comes up, offer your help even if you don’t really want to. For example, if she is moving house or hosting a stand at a market, you can offer your assistance to show that you care and are available to her. 

4. Don’t get defensive – that’s your partner’s job.

If your mother-in-law says something that gets your hackles up, do your best not to react. Making a snide or snarky comment or getting upset and defending yourself or your beliefs will only shine a poor light on you. After all, your respect for your mother-in-law is paramount, even if you disagree on anything. If the comments are personally offensive, allow your partner the opportunity to defend you or talk to their mother.  

5. Pay her genuine compliments. 

Mothers-in-law love a good compliment. Be genuine about it, though. Compliment her on her cooking or baking. Make an effort to compliment her on her outfit or her new hairdo. Don’t overdo it, but if there is an opportunity to compliment, go for it. 

6. Get comfortable saying “please” and “thank you” a lot.

If you remember your manners, your mother-in-law will remember that you did. Manners are vitally important when striking up a relationship with anyone. When you say “please” and “thank you”, it shows a level of respect and, of course, shines you in a very positive light. She may think that you were “brought upright” or “what a lovely and well-mannered partner my son/daughter has”. These are probably the thoughts you want your mother-in-law to have about you. 

7. Ask questions about her. 

sitting on couch and drinking tea
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Your mother-in-law will want to know who you are and what you are about, so she is bound to ask you questions. You, on the other hand, not so much. 

Understandably, you might not be too interested in who your mother-in-law is. After all, it is her child that you have an interest in, not her. That’s all fine and well, but you have to put in the effort to learn more about your mother-in-law, whether you like it or not. It makes a good impression, goes a long way towards building trust and mutual understanding, and also makes it appear as if you are interested in getting to know everyone better. 

8. Never down talk to your partner to her, even in a joking manner.

You might think that your mother-in-law is warming to you or might agree with you when your beloved upsets or annoys you, but tread with caution here. Most mothers simply cannot or will not see the error in their child’s ways. If anyone is deemed wrong, it will probably be you. Don’t speak negatively about your partner in front of the mother-in-law…ever!

9. Settle into it.

At some point, you will need to come to terms with the fact that there simply is no escape. You cannot escape your mother-in-law unless you plan to leave your spouse. If you don’t plan to leave, then you just have to settle into it. Breathe, go moment by moment, put a smile on your face, and just go with the flow. 

10. Include her in things.

Mothers-in-law may feel like a third wheel when visiting or spending family time, which can be bad for your relationship. Do what you can to include your mother-in-law. Tell her backstories to comments and jokes, ask her what she thinks of certain topics and information, and if you go on a trip with your partner, make a point of sending her a photo or two so that she can be there vicariously. All of these things will go a long way towards making her view you more favorably. 

11. Don’t change who you are, but be flexible and willing to adjust.

There is never a time in life when you should change who you are just to fit in with someone else, but what you can do is be a bit flexible. Not everyone is going to think the same as you or act the same as you, and you need to be open to accepting that and going with it. If something is being done in a way that you don’t particularly like, ask yourself if it really matters before you have a reaction. If it doesn’t, let it slide. Be flexible…adjust. 

12. Try to spend time together – just the 2 of you.

Okay, this one might seem a bit out there if you are uncomfortable with your mother-in-law, but it’s a sure-fire way to bust that awkwardness and start building a real relationship. Show her that you do wish to know her as more than just your partner’s mom. Take her to lunch, do a bit of shopping or treat her to her favorite hobby activity. She may feel uncomfortable at first, but she will soon start to appreciate your efforts. 

13. Find out what her hobbies and interests are and focus on them. 

Everyone has a hobby or interest that they can talk about for days because it simply excites them. Find out what those interests and hobbies are, and then make a point of talking about them. Do a bit of research and make sure that you put in the effort to chat about these topics. It might not be common ground, but she will feel as if you have a similar interest, and that makes it easier to bond. 

standing in kitchen at home
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14. Go out of your way for her.

You might not want to do this one, but try to do it anyway. Be prepared to go out of your way for someone. If you go to a crowded restaurant and there’s a chair short, make a point of getting her one. Make her a cup of tea or lunch. Offer to drive her here and there if she needs to go out. Simply put it out there that you are available no matter what. Having someone to rely on is something that she will appreciate. 

Ultimately

It might seem like you are the one who is putting in all of the efforts, but do it anyway. The reality is that your mother-in-law is your partner’s mother…as such, there’s no real way to escape her. You have to find a way to have a good relationship with her, or you will spend the rest of your life feeling uncomfortable and awkward.

Improving your relationship with your mother-in-law is something that will take effort, but it is absolutely possible to create a comfortable and rewarding relationship. Even if it’s not the best relationship in the world for you, it will really be a good thing for your partner and your relationship – and that’s really important!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.