Understanding the New Age Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships

Updated at: Jan 26, 2019
Understanding the New Age Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships

The Mother-in-law Daughter-in-law Syndrome occurs when the two ladies of the house do not get along, resulting in tension, affecting the overall atmosphere at home. These issues have always been present, but it has become even more prominent in to

 Onlymyhealth Staff Writer
MarriageWritten by: Onlymyhealth Staff WriterPublished at: Jan 26, 2019

The MIL-DIL Syndrome

The Mother-in-law Daughter-in-law Syndrome occurs when the two ladies of the house do not get along, resulting in tension, affecting the overall atmosphere at home. These issues have always been present, but it has become even more prominent in today's changing times. The phrase‘And they lived happily ever after’ should have come with a clause of ‘the in-laws lived happily ever after’!

New age women are known to be empowered as they earn independently, get higher education and manage their own finances. Many reports have been published about the increasing discord between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, leading to altercations in public and assault, needing law intervention.

Also read: Secret to a Healthy and a Successful Relationship

The Problem

  • Skills to manage the in-laws are not taught and every daughter-in-law has a different story to tell, some even more bizarre or hilarious than the others
  • An unhappy daughter-in-law (DIL), unable to cope with the mother-in-law’s (MIL) control over small but important issues, seeks assurance from her husband or parents. If the need for assurance is unheard or shrugged aside, it leads to further discontentment and issues in the marriage
  • Most couples speak about in-laws controlling the decision making arena of their married lives, this ranges from interference on the daughter-in-law's way of living, choices she makes or what she does in general 
  • When asked, the mother-in-law often justifies that it is in good intent, that she is giving advice so that 'children' don't make these mistakes; and that she doesn't mean to control them or their decisions. 

Areas of Conflict

The differences generally crop up after the ' honeymoon' phase is over. It is difficult to put a time frame on when the conflicts begin, but it is often in the first few years of marriage. The conflicts primarily stem from the need to adjust to new experiences, new cuisine, and a new way of daily living. Another common cause of conflict is ‘control and contribution to household finances’; if both the women are working, their control over household expenses is higher. Negotiating these issues and accepting all the above requirements can be hard and difficult to process. These issues can arise even if women don't live with the in-laws or are visiting just for a short period of time.

Also read: Ways to Overcome Conflicts and Solve your Relationship Problems

What's the Way Forward? 

  • There are always two versions of each story; it is important to maintain a transparent relationship when living under one roof. With times changing, egos have to be altered or managed to maintain the decorum of the home. You may seek couples counselling to understand the problems as a couple, where you stand and how you can deal with household issues together. 
  • Women seeking counselling are usually aware that the issues are often petty but intrude on her and her husband’s privacy and decision making space. By challenging the system, nothing will work in one's favour; rather, be vocal and come to a conclusion on what must be done.
  • It is difficult for MIL’s and DIL’s to become best friends. But, a more stable path can be for the DIL to realise that the husband may not support her in the first few months as he has never faced this conflict before, and can't imagine being pointed out that his mother's decisions are wrong. It is ideal that the couple candidly discuss their issues and work on tackling this together; this way neither parties are antagonized and the discussions turn fruitful. 
  • For the mother-in-law, it is important for her to lay down certain expectancies in a subtle way, without implying force; these will only be perceived in a negative manner. Give rational explanations as to why it is expected. But what is even more important is for the new age mother-in-law, to learn to respect another woman's wishes and decisions even if they don't fit in with hers. 

The bottom line is that coping skills should be taught so that women can negotiate better and become assertive rather than becoming aggressive or being meek. Practice tolerance to cope with minor issues, rather than making every issue a big issue!

Inputs by Dr Parul Tank, Consultant Psychiatrist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund. 

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