Mothers-in-law and Daughters-in-law: Understanding the Relationship and what Makes Them Friends Or Foe

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007 - Family & Relationships - 209 pages
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We all know - have perhaps told a few - stories about mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. It seems the stories are nearly always about relationships filled with conflict and abrasive words or actions. But why is this relationship so difficult? And is it always as bad as popular belief would have us think? Deborah Merrill, a woman's advocate and Sociology professor at one of our nation's top universities, has been studying the relationship for nearly a decade and, in this book, explains where the difficulty is rooted, how friendly pairs have made it past problems that surface between a man's mother and his wife, and how they became friends. Dozens of interviews with pairs of women made in-laws by marriage illustrate Merrill's points, from harmful ideas and actions to helpful approaches. At its core, this book holds that marriage requires the creation of a new and separate family, which requires changes in roles, as well as a redefinition of relationships. Hence, family boundaries need to be made permeable to allow for integration of the daughter-in-law, and to allow the son to create his own separate and autonomous family. Family members need to be aware of, and prepare for, this, says Merrill. That, of course, may be easier said than done. But dozens of women who have become friends with their in-laws -- some so much so that they drop the in-law and just call each other mother and daughter -- explain how they got past the old, popular notions and social structure, to create goodwill and grow stronger families.


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I read the excerpt and it sounded good. Would like to buy or borrow from library. I'm a MIL who was taught to be very respectful of elders even if I didn't care for them. I don't find that to be true today; MILs that I talk to are afraid to voice opinions to their DILs for fear of offending them. I do know some assertive MILs that have more timid DILs, but it's rarer.
FILs don't invest as much vocal energy in these relationships. So the MIL jokes can really get old and insulting to MILs who want peace!

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About the author (2007)

Deborah M. Merrill is Associate Professor of Sociology at Clark University. Her areas of specialization are families, aging, medicine, and research methodology. Her previous book with Greenwood Publishing Group is Caring for Elderly Parents: Juggling Work, Family and Caregiving in Middle and Working Class Families (Auburn House, 1997).

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