Marry a man, marry his ma

PEACE REIGNS: Grace Maubane and her 'friend' and daugher-in -law Zimasa. Pic. Antonio Muchave. 16/01/2007. © Sowetan.
PEACE REIGNS: Grace Maubane and her 'friend' and daugher-in -law Zimasa. Pic. Antonio Muchave. 16/01/2007. © Sowetan.

Some people are cursed with a demon disguised as a mother- in-law.

Some people are cursed with a demon disguised as a mother- in-law.

This demon makes a hobby of finding things wrong with her daughter-in-law: how she cooks, cleans, looks and how inadequate she is at taking care of her son.

Experts say that of all family relationships the mother-in-law, daughter-in-law dance tends to be the most characterised by bruised toes and battered egos.

They say this is because women tend to be the social and emotional arbiters in their families, and therefore the most likely to step on one another's turf.

When getting married as an African woman you must accept that you are not only marrying your spouse, but your mother in-law as well.

There is a sense of rivalry in most daughter-in-law, mother-in- law relationships because you are in a triangular relationship with the same man.

In striking contrast the relationship between Zimasa Maubane and her mother in-law, Grace Maubane is much like the relationship described in the Bible's Book of Ruth between Ruth and Naomi: a caring, supportive in-law relationship.

Zimasa said her relationship with Grace faced some challenges before it reached its present mother-daughter level.

Zimasa said that the secret is knowing and respecting the marital boundary.

"The root of most problems is intolerance. When your in-laws' blueprint is very different from your own, differences of opinion and problems can arise."

Grace Maubane says she treats Zimasa the way she would like her own daughter to be treated.

"Zimasa is everything to me. In her I found a friend and a daughter," she said.

Another happy makoti is Mbali Lesaba of Roodepoort. She said she and her mother-in-law get along well.

But it was not always so and Zimasa said that her mother-in- law "did not like the idea of her Sotho son marrying a Zulu woman". But when her mother- in-law saw the seriousness of their relationship she accepted her.

"Today we have an extraordinary relationship. I've become like her blood daughter and she is like a mother to me."

Relationship expert, Jennifer Angel, offers this advice on improving your relationship with your mother-in-law:

l Personalise your interaction:

Get to know her as a person. Be genuinely interested in her.

l Understand her:

Realising what she was like as a mother to your husband may help you be more patient with her well-meaning but irritating ways.

l Treat her like a friend:

Include her in social events or go shopping together.

l Be direct:

If she's less than courteous to you. have a heart-to-heart with her and ask her why she seems to be so unaccepting of you.

l Ask her advice:

If there's something she makes best ask her advice, because that's the way her son likes it. She'll feel honoured and appreciated.

l Involve her:

If she seems interfering there's a good chance she's making sure she's still a part of her son's life and could feel threatened that you're taking him away from her. Find ways to involve her in your and his life on a regular basis.

l Include her as grandma:

If you have kids, encourage a healthy grandma relationship.

l Be prepared for hubby's reaction:

It's great to have your husband's support, but he might want to stay out of the conflict between you and his mother. This may make you feel like the bad guy and indeed you may have to tread lightly regarding the relationship between mother and son.

l If all else fails:

In the end if nothing you do seems to work or be good enough in the eyes of your mother in-law, you might have to put a healthy distance between each other.