By Ann Blumenthal Jacobs, Patricia Ryan Lampl and Tish Rabe. Authors of "Love for Grown-Ups: The Garter Brides' Guide to Marrying for Life When You Already Have a Life".
Your son is in love and marrying the girl of his dreams so... what do you do if she is the girl of your nightmares? We'd love to tell you that all sons marry women their mothers love as much as they do but honestly, that just wouldn't be true.
When we interviewed women for our book, "Love for Grown-ups: The Garter Brides Guide to Marrying for Life When You've Already Got a Life," we discovered that many moms had to face the fact that, although their sons were head over heels in love and ready to get married, sometimes it was hard for moms to keep their disapproval in check.
Tina remembers, "The first time I met my soon-to-be daughter- in-law my son brought her home for the weekend and it was awkward from minute one. My daughter and I kept staring at each other with 'What do we do now?' glances, but my son merely looked at his fiancé with stars in his eyes."
We know that letting your son know you're not a big fan of his fiancé just puts him in the middle and "the middle" is never a good place for anyone, but we also aren't going to say that knowing what to do is easy. Here are a few tips from Garter Brides who tiptoed through this difficult situation for the sake of their relationships with their sons.
Your Son is a Grown Man, He's in Love and Some Things About Him Will Change: Some of the Garter Brides got in snags with their daughters-in-law by constantly referring to things he "used to do". Melanie remembers, "My daughter-in-law had me over for supper and she was making Thai food. I made the mistake of saying 'Tony hates Thai food' She looked at me and said with a smile, 'Not anymore.' I wish I'd kept my mouth shut."
This is Not a Competition: Try to keep in mind, if you can, that you and your daughter-in-law are not competing for your son's affection. He loves you both in different ways and that's never going to change. By putting your daughter-in-law on the defensive you run the risk of having her tell him she doesn't want to visit you, or want him to visit you, and that's a no-win for everyone.
See Him Alone if You Can: Many of the Garter Brides tried to see their sons alone as often as possible, but this may not be easy. Carla says, "When my son was working in the town next to mine he would often come over after work to see how I was doing. When he got transferred I had to call and find a time he could come over and his wife always came with him. They stayed the shortest amount of time, then left." So when you can, call your son and ask him if you can get together for coffee just to talk, but be prepared if he tells you he can't and do your best to welcome your daughter-in-law when they come over.
Find Some Common Ground With Your Daughter-in-Law: Maybe you both like to read mysteries, like the same television programs or follow college football -- use that to your advantage. It's neutral and can always be a fall-back conversation that doesn't revolve around any sensitive topics.
As Always, Vent to Your Girlfriends, Not Your Son: As we Garter Brides always say "You can always vent to your girlfriends." If your daughter-in-law is driving you crazy call a friend and vent, but be careful about complaining about her to your other kids. Don't put your kids in the position of having to choose between you and their brother. No one wants a family with split loyalties.
It isn't easy sharing your son's affection with the new love in his life. Ideally, you will love her as much as he does, but if you don't, go slow and remember you want both of them to be an active part of your life. Keep in mind that you want them at family events, holidays and one day she'll be the mother of your grandchildren!
How have you handled negative feelings about your daughter-in-law?
Ann Blumenthal Jacobs, Patricia Ryan Lampl and Tish Rabe are the authors of Love for Grown-ups: The Garter Brides' Guide to Marrying for Life When You've Already Got a Life, a relationship guide for women over 35 on how to find Mr. Right, marry and find life-long happiness. The Garter Brides are a sisterhood of women who got married later in life and wore the same garter at their weddings! They offer tried and true advice on how to have the love and life you want.