Dear Miss Manners: I feel that my soon-to-be MIL may have some ill will or jealousy toward me. My fiance is the only boy, so naturally she coddled him, but I wouldn’t say he’s a mama’s boy.
I do not find her less of a woman because she does not cook for her family, but I grew up watching my mom work full time and come home to cook, so I do the same. I finished college early, went into the military and have been on my own ever since. I make my own money and am financially stable. If I splurge and buy myself something nice, it’s because I feel I earned it.
She chose not to finish college or get a job outside of small church things, due to his father’s stable job and income. They live a comfortable, upper-middle-class lifestyle and have no need or want for anything.
His parents took a trip to Italy, and afterward, I received a small box in the mail. Inside was a small 3-by-3 frame — no picture, no card or note. My fiance told me it was from his mom, who had told him she got me something in Italy. While I appreciate the thought, it almost seemed disingenuous due to the lack of communication.
I do not want to enter a marriage with tension between her and me. Am I overreacting or reading too far into things? How do I bring this up with my fiance? Or should I address it one-on-one with her?
The empty, noteless frame is odd, but at least your mother-in-law was making an effort. Miss Manners suggests that you not read too much into it. Perhaps it is intended for your wedding picture.
Yet if you start receiving random doll parts, you may have cause for alarm.
In the meantime, you might try to get to know your prospective mother-in-law better and get her on your side early before resentment sets in and stays there. Inquiring into her background and her son’s childhood, as well as sharing anecdotes about yours and the kind of spouse you hope to be, will likely be considered charming.
This is no guarantee that everything will go smoothly from there on out. But cliches such as “The best defense is a good offense,” “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” and any others that are code for keeping a discontented mother-in-law under control are useful.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.
©2022, by Judith Martin
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