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Mothers In-Law and Daughters In-Law Relationships

Marriage, it is said, brings families together, but it can cause a lot of problems to the participating families if relationships are not well managed. Family life is about developing harmonious relationships with family members, whether nuclear or extended. However, many mothers in-law and their daughters’ in-law are often not able to manage their relationships well, and therefore turn to put the man, who is a husband and a son in a stressful situation.

The in-law problem is not to be underestimated, especially in Africa where it is not uncommon to find parents in the same house with their married children, especially at the expanding stage when child minding support is much needed. The in-law problem not only complicates household management problems but also brings about household conflicts which indirectly affect the running of the household. In mother in-law/ daughter in-law relationship, win-win is an absolute necessity. Each must have respect for the other because win-win is the only way to maintain positive relationships. Both mother and wife love the man in different ways and therefore wish him well, but instead of working together to support him, they often work against each other to break him down. Such strained relationships between mothers in-law and daughters in-law rather disturb the man. Whatever is cherished needs to be protected.

The law of contrast states that ‘when two items are relatively different from each other, we will see them as more different if placed close together in time or space’. In the Akan language, one would say ‘dua a eben na etwie’. Different families have different values and standards in their operations and so members of different families will always show differences in behaviour when they come together in marriage. This does not make any of them more right or wrong than the other. They just have to appreciate each other, adopt what is common and modify the differences. The law of reciprocity states ‘when someone gives you something of perceived value, you respond with the desire to give something back’. Whatever you give back should be good enough to support the marriage relationship and not to disturb it. Keeping the win-win philosophy as a benchmark will help to make ethical decisions and maintain healthy relationships among mothers in-laws and their daughters in-law.