Advice for an Almost Mother-in-Law

Learn how to navigate this tricky relationship with these simple tips.

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Photo by George Doyle/Getty Images

Your son has his first serious girlfriend, and you think she might be “the one.” Ellie Slott Fisher, the author of It’s Either Her or Me: A Guide to Help a Mom and Her Daughter-in-Law Get Along ($16, amazon.com), divulges the right way to react.



Your son is in a serious relationship with this woman, but that doesn’t mean you should be, too. “You should welcome her warmly but not get too involved in her life,” says Fisher. Include her in some family events, recognize her birthday with a card or a small gift, and inquire after her when you talk to your son. You may work up to speaking to her on the phone when you call your son, or exchanging an occasional friendly text. But that’s about it. “Your gestures should not be over-the-top. A mother who gives the girlfriend a diamond bracelet? That portends that she is going to be a much-too-involved mother-in-law,” says Fisher. A gradual approach, on the other hand, allows you to get to know each other in a nonthreatening way.

What if you’re not crazy about the girlfriend? Don’t catalog her faults to your son: It will only drive them both away. “We want to keep our sons in our lives forever,” says Fisher. “The way to do that is accepting the person he has fallen in love with.” If you do have a serious concern to bring up, don’t make it personal. You can say to your son, “You’ve only known each other two months. Are you sure you are really ready to get engaged?” You can’t control how he responds. You can only hope that he hears you.