The monster-in-laws

Tuesday April 18, 2006

When you're in a new relationship, it soon becomes clear that it's not just the two of you in the picture. Oh, no! You've got the in-laws, the friends, the high school buddies, the extended family and sometimes even the kids that you've got to make a good impression on. So how important is it for everybody to get along?

"I'm always under the impression that my mother-in-law is judging me on everything I do and say," seethes blogger Sith. "It's an issue for my girlfriend and I was just wondering how important in a relationship is the relationship to the in-laws?"

Ah yes, the in-laws. Mention them and despite whether you're in a couple or are a happy singleton, necks are stiffened, shoulders are tensed and hearts are jolted. And that's before we even get started on the female version; introducing the mother-in-law (MIL).

Even in ancient Roman times, the MIL was not a force to be reckoned with. "Give up all hope of peace so long as your mother-in-law is alive," sneered Juvenal, the great Roman satirist in the 1st Century AD.

Yep, the poor woman has long been jeered at, vilified and maligned by scorned partners who have often been at the bottom-end of her stick. And ever since, it's been blatantly clear: thou shalt get along with thy in-laws... or else.

Singer Ernie K-Doe had other ideas. In his 1961 hit song aptly titled "Mother-in-law", he crooned, "mother-in-law, mother-in-law/if she leaves us alone/we would have a happy home/sent from down below/mother-in-law, mother-in-law."
(While the song reached number one on the US charts, it certainly wouldn't have earned him any brownie points with the MIL!)

Then there's the domineering, boorish mother of Ray on Everybody Loves Raymond and if anyone helped to give MILs a bad wrap, it was Marie Barone. (Her message to Ray's sweet wife Debrah? No-one looks after her son like the MIL!)

In the film Monster in Law, the toxic MIL was sent to new heights as we witnessed the hair-pulling, pie throwing, acrylic nail scratching battle between newlywed Jennifer Lopez and her fiance's mother-from-hell, Jane Fonda. (Of course man-eater J-Lo won the round.)

So are all mother-in-laws so toxic? According to my newly-married friend Josie*, these fictional MILs are not far off from the real thing.

"My MIL forced me to uproot her life and move to another state just to get rid of her!" sniffs Josie. "It was a nightmare. For example, during my child's 1st birthday party my mother-in-law wanted to drink brandy, refused to eat the sandwiches I provided claiming they were 'revolting', and continued to belittle me about every detail of my sorry life."

Things only got worse. "She'd insist on joining us when we would be having friends over for dinner, even accompanying us on romantic holidays! Eventually, it was off to Brisbane for us. I envy my single friends," she continues, "be glad you're free from the duty of dealing with the in-laws."

After all, as Mark Twain once said, "Adam was the luckiest man; he had no mother-in-law."
* Josie not her real name in fear her MIL will hunt her down.

How important is it to get along with the in-laws? Share with us your stories.

(For the record, my boyfriends' parents have been nothing short of delightful!)

April 17, 2006 04:13 PM