Can’t Female In-Laws Just Get Along?

Despite all the mother-in-law jokes that poke fun at the tension between a woman and her son-in-law, a new report reveals that the real tension lies between a woman and her daughter-in-law. For her new book, “What Do You Want From Me?,”Dr Terri Apter, a psychologist and professor at Cambridge University, studied hundreds of families over two decades and discovered that while 15% of men reported issues with their female in-laws, more than 60% of women “admitted the relationship with their female in-law caused them long-term unhappiness and stress.” Though some daughters-in-law reported abusive emails and the like from their husband’s mothers, a significant number of mothers-in-law also complained of similar exclusionary behavior. “’My daughter-in-law is so cold towards me,” said one 64-year-old mother-in-law. “She begrudges any time or attention my son gives to me and takes every opportunity to minimize the importance and depth of the bond he and I have.” Dr. Apter explains that the tension between female in-laws is a result of “persistent female norms that few of us manage to shake off completely,” similar to squabbles establishing the alpha-female role on the schoolyard playground as young girls. Another aspect of the tension is a result of the unique bond between the mother and son, a relationship “that contains an element of romance in a way that a mother and daughter bond does not” said Apter. “This unique dynamic can trigger competition when another woman becomes the new closest kin,” she said. On a related note, it will be interesting to see these dynamics play out on the upcoming show “Momma’s Boys,” debuting on NBC later this month, in which mothers are challenged to find the perfect mate for their sons. Don’t they already know there isn’t anyone good enough for their sons (let alone perfect).

So, what have been your experiences? Do you have problems with your female in-laws? And if so, what do you attribute those tensions to? [Guardian, U.K.]