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Why men should be nice to their mother-in-law: It might save them from divorce
02:00 GMT, 28 November 2012
If the comedians are to be believed, the chances of a husband getting on well with his mother-in-law are next to zero.
But if the psychologists are to be believed, he really ought to try.
Husbands who get on well with their in-laws have a 20 per cent higher chance of avoiding divorce than the average, an American study found.
Boost: Getting on well with your in-laws could be good for your marriage – so long as you are a man
Oddly, however, women who enjoy a good relationship with their in-laws have a 20 per cent greater chance of separating.
The researchers suggested that wives who like their in-laws may find it hard to set boundaries, and in the coming years may feel they are meddling.
But men do not seem to share such anxieties.
Researchers at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research studied 373 same-race couples over 26 years.
They found that husbands who made the effort to get on with their mother-in-law were the ones most likely to stay married.
All the couples were between the ages of 25 and 37 and in their first year of marriage when the study began in 1986.
Lead researcher Dr Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and research professor, asked each of the couples to rank how close they felt to their in-laws out of four. She has followed them ever since.
Reputation: For decades, the in-laws have been portrayed in popular culture as an unwanted baggage which comes along with a marriage – and can even break it up. This was highlighted in the film Meet the Fockers, pictured
According to Dr Orbuch, it’s a good
thing if men get along with their in-laws because ‘these ties connect
the husband to the wife’.
For women, however, the situation is rather different. She said: ‘Because relationships are so important to women, their identity as a wife and mother is central to their being.
‘They interpret what their in-laws say and do as interference into their identity as a spouse and parent.’
Dr Orbuch tells parents who have a son to tread carefully, as a daughter-in-law will probably be more sensitive to their interference.
Wives should be careful about sharing details of their marriages so that everyone respects each other’s boundaries, she added.
And husbands should make sure they treat their in-laws as ‘special and important’.