Reluctantly Related Revisited (★★★★☆)

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Deanna Brann  *  Ambergris Publishing  *  March 15, 2016  *  186 Pages

Advanced Reader Copy provided by publisher.

I’ve been married for ten years. My relationship with my mother-in-law has never been easy or effortless. Our personalities are wildly different, and we don’t have a whole lot in common. We respect each other, and we mostly get along…but I I still get nervous every time she comes to visit. So when I saw this book, I was excited to read it.

Brann packs a lot of information into this little paperback. Lots of good advice and suggestions for improving your relationship with your in-law. I think she’s exactly right when she says that the relationship between mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws is extremely important and influential to the rest of the family, but also fragile. There is an undercurrent of competition, she says, because both women want to feel that they have the most influence over the son/husband.

Some of my favorite insights from this book:

  • We tend to talk and think in abstract concepts, and we focus on what’s lacking. It becomes difficult to notice anything positive, and if we have an all-or-nothing mindset (i.e., either I experience “good” feelings with my MIL or it’s all “bad”), we end up feeling like nothing is changing, nothing is getting better. Brann says that good stuff happens in teeny tiny baby steps, and you have to LOOK for it. Think of what SPECIFIC positive behaviors you would want to see from your in-law–for example, maybe a smile or a kind note; or maybe she will sit next to you on the couch when she visits. If you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, you’ll actually notice it when it happens, instead of relying on your general feeling of “happiness” to tell you how the relationship is progressing. And if you see progress, you will probably feel more hopeful about the relationship.

 

  • If you let your mom baby you in one area (i.e., you let her cook you dinner, pay for your lunch, do your laundry), you’re basically giving her permission to baby you (and your spouse) in other areas. If you don’t want to be treated like a child, don’t fall back into that role.

 

  • Be clear about what your spouse’s expectations are regarding interacting with family and in-laws. For example, just because your husband doesn’t say anything at first about who he wants to visit during the holidays, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a preference or opinion. Get on the same page with your spouse. Then, when you agree on what you guys want, you will be able to better communicate boundaries and expectations with your extended family, especially your in-laws.

I also thought Brann’s discussion on how and why men and women handle relationships differently was fascinating. It helped me understand my husband a lot better, honestly.

I do have one minor gripe. There were moments while reading the book that I had a hard time figuring out how to really apply the advice to my life. For example, at one point Brann says that certain (more aggressive…) mother-in-laws might be so used to getting their way that they need to have clear boundaries set WITH consequences. Well, I wasn’t sure what those appropriate consequences would be: the MIL can’t see her grandkids? She has to go home early? I just didn’t know, and I wish Brann had provided examples.

Still, this book is very insightful. I enjoyed Brann’s writing style and her tone. She’s very kind and understanding, and even though the topic of in-laws can be a touchy subject for me, I never felt defensive while reading Brann’s advice, explanations, and suggestions. Certain points could have been fleshed out a bit more, but, overall, this book turned out to be a very helpful resource.

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