Dr. Judy Kuriansky—New York clinical psychologist, media personality, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Healthy Relationship and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dating, gives us her answer to this question. First of all it is really important to recognize that there is nothing wrong with you. Dr. Judy empathizes with you; "It is a sad situation when your mother and your husband do not get along and it is wonderful when they do."
What you may have to do when things are less than perfect is…
- Adjust to the fact that you do not have one big happy family and accept that as your reality.
- Consider these two people as you do your friends and view them as separate individuals in your life who you can understand but not control.
- Spend time with each of them separately.
- Talk to each of them and let them know that you are not getting in the middle of them to play peacemaker.
These are the preliminary steps to take. You still have two more important points to consider: what puts them at odds and how you divide yourself between the two of them.
Woman to Woman
Not even Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, got along with his mother-in-law right off the bat. It took three years to arrive at a friendly relationship. Without referring to his own life, Freud later wrote that husbands resent a wife's attachment to her mother. Likewise, he said, mothers are jealous of their daughter's love for someone else.
"Why Don't They Get Along?"
It could be they simply aren't a natural, good fit or that your husband merely never won your mother's approval or there is a rivalry and competition for your time and affection, Kuriansky explains. On a deeper level, Dr. Judy recognizes that there may be other dynamics at work here. Their relationship could have triggered other family dynamics that revive earlier feelings of being left out or transfer a son's disdain of his mother to his mother-in-law. Whatever you uncover, Kuriansky warns, "Don't try to play the therapist."
Rather, she suggests that a therapist move your mother or husband forward to remove this angry element that affects their relationship.
Who Should Get Top Billing?
Dr. Judy answers this part of the question by explaining that both your mother and your husband have equally important places in your life, although generally one's husband has the bigger allegiance. However, there are times and circumstances when one of them has to take center stage—particularly in cases of a mother's illness. It is up to you to evaluate who that will be, and communicate to the other why he or she has to take the backseat at the moment.
Of course it helps if your mother understands that her role and priority in your life is different from your husband's!