Have you heard about this story?
A 29-year-old British woman went on a weekend visit to meet her fiancé’s family that apparently did not go well. After the visit, her soon-to-be stepmother-in-law sent her an email with lots of advice on how she thinks she should have behaved. Here is the full article. Below, however, are my favorite tidbits.
“It is high time someone explained to you about good manners. Yours are obvious by their absence and I feel sorry for you.
“When you are a guest in another’s house, you do not declare what you will and will not eat – unless you are positively allergic to something.
“You do not take additional helpings without being invited to by your host.
“I have no idea whether you wrote to thank [your future sister-in-law] for the weekend but you should have hand-written a card to her.
“[Your future sister-in-law] has quite the most exquisite manners of anyone I have ever come across. You would do well to follow her example.
“It is tragic that you have diabetes. However, you aren’t the only young person in the world who is a diabetic.
“No one gets married in a castle unless they own it. It is brash, celebrity style behaviour.
“I understand your parents are unable to contribute very much towards the cost of your wedding. (There is nothing wrong with that except that convention is such that one might presume they would have saved over the years for their daughters’ marriages.)
“If this is the case, it would be most ladylike and gracious to lower your sights and have a modest wedding as befits both your incomes.”
Let me just reiterate a couple critical facts here. We are talking about grown adults. This woman is 29 years old. And she is ENGAGED to the letter-writer’s stepson and has a wedding date set.
The sad thing is that I have seen so many mothers-in-law act like this. I am lucky to have a great mother-in-law, but I have heard horror stories from my friends. I really don’t understand why as women, we are threatened by our sons’ girlfriends and fiancés. What exactly is the point in sending emails like this? This is the woman who could be the mother of your grandchildren one day. And, trust me when I tell you, if you want to be a part of your grandchildren’s lives, you need to be a part of your daughter-in-law’s life now.
In most cases, if a woman has accepted a marriage proposal, she wants to make a good impression on his family more than they know. Cut her a little slack. She has been agonizing over what to wear, how to act and what to say on this weekend visit. Therefore, I’ve put together a few “rules” for this future mother-in-law to follow:
Greet her with a hug. She is nervous to be at your house, so starting off on the right foot and welcoming her to your house makes a great first impression.
Don’t make up silly rules about sleeping in separate rooms. If she’s 29 and engaged to your son, chances are they’ve slept in the same bed already. Point them to one room and let them choose if they’d feel more comfortable in separate rooms.
Ask questions about her and listen to her answers. Your son knows you well enough to know if you’re genuine.
If they get into a fight that weekend, don’t interfere. Taking sides will do no good.
Don’t compare her to anyone else (like her future sister-in-law). Any way you slice it, that will just end badly.
Here’s an idea – write HER a thank you note for coming and say something about how it’s great to see your son so happy.
More advice on behalf of all women:
Please don’t tell her the details of how you nursed your son. There’s just something about that conversation that isn’t right.
I realize it’s much more efficient to do the cleaning, cooking and laundry yourself. But on behalf of your future daughter-in-law, I beg you to make your son do these things now.
If you ever say something like, “Oh, honey, I will teach you to make that dish the way my son likes it…” she gets amnesty to walk away and never return. (Also goes for, “I will teach you how to press his shirts the way he likes it; Clean his apartment the way he likes it; etc.”)
I kid, but at the end of the day, you’re about to be family. Suck it up, take a deep breath and put yourself in her shoes. If you genuinely don’t like her, kill her with kindness. Your son will either break it off on his own or marry her. Either way, you need to keep your nose clean. Think of your future grandchildren.
What advice do you have for mothers-in-law?
Melissa Cruickshank is married with a daughter (and a mother-in-law). She works full-time. Read her every other Thursday on momaha.com.