Merging two families through marriage brings with it a dynamic that resulted in the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, focusing on the husband’s dilemmas dealing with the wife and how it affects her mother. However, the relationship between a mother and her daughter-in-law is an area that is one filled with potential topics worthy of exploration.
Patrick Mahony, who has deeply explored the writings of Freud, acknowledges the missed opportunity by Freud. He cites the times during which such subjects were originally discussed as being more male-centric. That one-sided approach likely explains why comedians have mined laughs from the problems between a husband and mother-in-law.
Many such conflicts between mother and daughter-in-law will fade over the course of a marriage. Still, the origin of what can sometimes spiral into heated conflict usually stems from such factors as simple change, which is something that upsets many people involved in lesser circumstances.
The mother is frustrated that her role as protector has been eliminated and seeks to hold her son’s new wife to an impossible standard. On the opposite side, the comfort level the daughter-in-law enjoyed within her own family has now been jolted into a new reality.
The birth of the couple’s first child also can light the fuse for conflict, with the mother finding fault in rearing methods. Other potential emotional minefields include religious education, with the thought of offspring being raised in a different faith often seen as an untenable situation.
One specific reason connected to those components relates to the inevitable generation gap that exists between the two women. Such a clash usually results in some agreed-upon understanding, with failure to do so usually a sign that the marriage could be in trouble either at present or in the future.
During his years as a psychoanalyst, Patrick Mahony has seen a particular phenomenon emerge: an important aspect helping those early conflicts melt into a loving relationship is simply the passage of time. Maturity in all aspects allows the daughter-in-law to gain greater perspective and allows the mother to reassess her early reactions as hasty mistakes.