“A Son Is Your Son ’til He Takes a Wife”

“A son is your son ’til he takes a wife; a daughter’s your daughter for the rest of your life.” I heard my mother say this old phrase often when I was a child, but didn’t truly understand its meaning until I became a mother-in-law myself. I only have one son, so I wanted a healthy relationship with my new daughter-in-law.

I talked with a number of women of various ages who shared some of their personal experiences. Judy, for example, was divorced with one son. Soon after he married, she was shocked when he said, “Mom, Amy wants to know why you’re mad at her.” Judy protested, “I’m not mad!” but his question made her reflect on her behavior. Now, fourteen years after that exchange, Judy admits that she was taken aback when her son switched his allegiance to his wife. She felt like she was being replaced, becoming defensive and withdrawing emotionally. Finally, she admitted to herself that she was putting him in a position of choosing between her and his wife. “I knew I would lose.”

Judy recognized that her son’s marriage was a pivotal point in their relationship. “He was a man now who would create his own life, but at that time, for me, it was a feeling of loss. I grieved.” Looking back, she suggests that other women in this position acknowledge their grief and their changing role in a son’s life.

The mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship holds the promise of mutual benefit, but to realize that promise, the mother must take the initiative. Judy did,  starting by not seeing the daughter-in-law as a competitor but as a welcome addition to her family. Now she rejoices, “I love, and am loved. I found ways to support their relationship. I’m in the middle of everything and welcomed.”

“A son is your son ’til he takes a wife,” unless you build a good relationship with her.

by Kathleen Vestal Logan, MS, MA                                May 7, 2018


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