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By Zenoyise Madikwa | May 03, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

DO YOU have a strained relationship with your mother-in-law ? May 9 is Mother's Day and this could be the perfect time to reassure her that you want to have a fulfilling relationship with her.

Asiphe Ndlela, a psychologist, says any family estrangement can be devastating, but if you and your mother in-law are at odds you might find that Mother's Day is the best time to offer one another the gift of forgiveness.

"Mother's Day is a time of commemoration and celebration for mothers, including mothers-in-law," Ndlela says. "If you want to mend your relationship this day can be an icebreaker. It's a good time to communicate your feelings and could help to fix things."

She says the key to resolving issues and making peace with a mother-in-law is to separate yourself emotionally from her so that you see her hurtful behavior simply as "bad" behaviour instead of taking it personally and holding her accountable for it.

Here are suggestions - broken down according to the type of relationship you have with your mother-in-law - on how to observe Mother's Day from

Best buddies

Description of your relationship: You consider your mother-in-law your second mother and the two of you often communicate and spend time together in a positive way. You already feel like family.

How you should celebrate Mother's Day: Invite your mother-in-law to spend the day with you and do something she loves doing.

You could take a tour of a vineyard if she's a wine lover, cook together if she enjoys spending time in the kitchen or go to a paint-your-own pottery class if she's artistic.

The point is to get to know her better and bond over one of her hobbies. Showing an interest in her passion should help her see how serious you are about connecting with her.

You're bonded by the love you share for your spouse, so you should always strive to be closer.

Barely acquaintances

Description of your relationship: Many couples live far away from their parents. So their spouses have had limited or no contact with the in-laws. Perhaps you only met at the wedding.

With all the hustle and bustle, you didn't get to spend much time getting to know one another. You're basically in the dark about your mother-in-law's feelings, likes, dislikes and so on.

How you should celebrate Mothers' Day: This can be especially isolating and sad for your mother-in-law, who might feel as though she has lost her child to his or her spouse.

Mother's Day is the perfect time to reassure your mother-in-law that you want to have a fulfilling relationship with her and that you'd like your spouse to maintain strong ties too.

By all means, if you can afford it, you should go and visit your mother-in-law.

You and your spouse could spend a weekend with her in her territory. That would send the message loud and clear that you're open to having a more meaningful relationship.

If you can't afford to visit you can send a handwritten note wishing her the best and expressing your desire to get to know her better.

Sending a few photos, either from the wedding or your new home, is a nice touch that shows you and your spouse want her to be a part of your life. Of course, you can also send a gift, something that she alone would enjoy. You can ask your spouse for suggestions.

Be sure to follow up with a phone call to offer best wishes on Mother's Day itself. It's not overkill; moms never complain that their kids call too often.

Send her an SMS or e-mail. You can communicate that way and make it a regular gesture. That would definitely put you in touch more with your new family - and at the very least you could see each other over the computer.

Practically enemies

Description of relationship: You and your mother-in-law do not get along as well as you'd like to. Perhaps you argued during the wedding planning process.

Or she didn't think you were good enough for her child. Or you thought she meddled too much. Whatever the reason, there is tension between you.

How you should celebrate Mother's Day: Now's your chance to make amends - if not for yourself and your mother-in-law, then for your spouse (not to mention your children or future children should you have them).

You can offer her an olive branch, the symbol of peace, both literally and figuratively. For the sake of your spouse go out of your way to smooth things over and be nice to your mother-in-law on Mother's Day.

If you can, stop by her house and drop off a small token of your affection, say a cake or flowers. This shows that you are willing to put your differences aside and be a family.

If she does not return the favour and remains cold and hostile, try to bite your tongue at least for Mother's Day.

Explain that you want to enjoy this holiday together because she is the person responsible for bringing up your spouse, who you deeply love.

You must always remember and honour the role your mother-in-law played in the life of your spouse. That is the Mother's Day gift you can give to your mother-in-law - and therefore your spouse - all year long!


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