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‘Tis the season to be familial, like it or not

world Updated: Dec 15, 2008 01:22 IST
Vijay Dutt
Vijay Dutt
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Christmas season ushers in a spirit of harmony - except for the stuffed turkey, eaten with much relish. But apart from the unfortunate bird, young wives too dread the advent of the mother-in-law, come Christmas. The latest prediction is that the maximum number of divorce cases would be filed by January 12.

Divorce lawyers, said a young one of the species with a bit of sarcasm, raise a toast for the domineering mothers-in-law and resolve to empty pockets on Xmas eve. “The old hawks wring their hands in anticipation of the big bonanza.”

Linda Blair, clinical psychologist and author of Straight Talking, admitting that fear of the mother-in-law is a widespread phenomenon said, “The clashes are inevitable because ma-in-law treats her son as a child while the daughter-in-law sees a man in her husband. But, he cannot be both.”

Several studies reveal that women have more to complain about when it comes to mothers-in-law. And they’re not laughing at numerous in-law jokes. “Despite it usually being the men who crack mother-in-law jokes, only 15 per cent of them had any cause for complaint,” according to a new research.

The latest research by Dr TerriApter, a psychologist and senior tutor at Newnham College, Cambridge, who interviewed 49 couples and 156 other people for her new book, What Do You Want From Me? also found that the prickliest relationships were between women and their daughters-in-law. This is evident from the revelation of her failed marriage by novelist Anna Pasternak. At the Church, the ma-in-law “expressed her state of mourning by wearing black,” she wrote.

Dr Apter said two thirds of women feel their husband’s mother has caused them long-term unhappiness and stress. Almost 60 per cent of daughters-in-law accused their hubby’s mother of ‘unreasonably jealous maternal love.’
She cited the example of one woman who said she began receiving emails from her fiancé’s mother two months before her wedding. One message read, “What you don’t realise is that my son thinks about me every day, every minute of every day.”

The study found that disputes often started over the newcomer and experienced mother-in-law locking horns over who knows best about issues such as cooking, cleaning and children’s welfare.

The rivalry becomes more personal and emotionally charged at family get-togethers. And such get-togethers are a must during Christmas.