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How Is Your Relationship With Your Mother-in-Law?

06/01/2015 05:51 EDT | Updated 06/01/2016 05:59 EDT
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Read to the bottom for a Mother-in-Law Survey!

Why is there a tendency for daughter-in-laws to have bumpy relationships with mother-in-laws? Is there such thing as the "mother-in-law effect," which could be defined as two queen bees fighting for dominance of the hive? And when does one go from being a simple mother bee, to a mother-in-law killer bee? Does this conflict arise when "mother knows best," goes head-to-head with "wife knows best?"

There's the well-known anagram: "woman Hitler," which is a transposition of the word "mother-in-law." Who felt such venom toward one's mother-in-law to have crafted such an intense anagram? And as there are two sides to every story, one can ponder if it was a mother-in-law who indeed transposed the words: "An idle, raw thug" as an anagram of the word "daughter-in-law."

It's understandable that conflict can arise when two different ideologies collide. Ideologies about child-rearing, domestic chores, finances, "wifely" duties, working outside the home, personal appearance, "husband care" and so on. The situation can be exacerbated when there are also cultural differences in play, or the tension of living at close quarters in a multi-generational home. When a second language is mixed in, it's a recipe for misunderstanding.

But when a mother fails to "let go" of her adult child, and tries to claim dominion over his life, relationships, career, family and friends, this can naturally cause a conflict with the adult child's spouse. Does such a mother-in-law consciously seek conflict, or can it be blamed upon an unrelenting mothering gene, hardwired into moms? After all, it's a mother's natural instinct to nurture. Does this mean that "good moms" are destined to become the nefarious mother-in-law, as their children age? And does a son play a role and influence how his mother interacts with his wife?

Take an informal poll of 100 of your friends, neighbours and co-workers, and a commonality will emerge: the majority will scowl, roll their eyes, grin or chuckle at a mention of their mother-in-law. Why has the mother-in-law become the universal punchline in a joke? Why are the words crazy, insane, useless, worthless, lazy and other 5-letter words commonly used to describe one's mother-in-law? Has anyone studied this phenomena at Berkeley, Harvard or Oxford for that matter?

Is the "mother-in-law effect" imagined, or is it real -- and does it simply boil down to a turf war between two women, who share a common (although conflicting) interest in one man?

How is your relationship with your mother-in-law? In your experience, is "The Mother-in-Law Effect" real? Do you think that conflict with mother-in-laws is as prevalent among women as in men (or is it just as contentious)?

Take The Mother-in-Law Survey!

Keep track of your score, recording either one or two points for each answer. When you are done, add up all your points and check the results, below!

A) I like or love my mother-in-law: 1) True 2) False

B) My mother-in-law likes or loves me: 1) True 2) False

C) My mother-in-law calls my house or spouse: 1) The right amount 2) Too much

D) My mother-in-law visits my house: 1) The right amount 2) Too much

E) My mother-in-law is helpful to my family: 1) True 2) False

F) My mother-in-law says things that are hurtful to me: 1) False 2) True

G) If I ever needed help, I could count on my mother-in-law: 1) True 2) False

H) I consider my mother-in-law a friend: 1) True 2) False

I) My mother-in-law is a good grandmother to our children (or I think would make a good one): 1) True 2) False

J) My mother-in-law has never hurt me physically: 1) True 2) False

K) I think that my mother-in-law is "crazy": 1) False 2) True

How Did You Score?

11 to 13: You most likely have a good relationship with your mother-in-law, congratulations!

14 to 16: It's a work in progress, but with hard work on both sides you might be able to have a good relationship with your mother-in-law.

17 to 19: You have a trying relationship with your mother-in-law, and you view her less than fondly.

20 to 22: Your relationship with your mother-in-law couldn't be worse. Our deepest condolences.

Share your results below in the comments section!

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