Relating: Mother-in-Flaw

For better or worse, she's yours - till death do you part

Again, it’s best to assume your MIL’s intentions are pure, says Ellenbogen. “Some people are aloof because they have social anxiety.” Start with a task — ask a crafty MIL to help with favors — or an outing — like a dress fitting and lunch. Then, bring out the sweetness. Says Ellenbogen: “A great gesture is to send her flowers on your fiancé’s birthday, to thank her for him.”

And yet, sometimes the dilemma seems to be that two women are in love with the same man, creating the most stomach-churning of MILs: The Babyer. You see, he’s her bayyybee, and you, devil woman, will not get in the way of the very, very special bond she shares with her little boy. When you first started dating him and she told you hilarious stories about how he called apple juice “abba juice” as a toddler, whilst dusting off his sixth-grade soccer trophy in his old bedroom, still as it was before he left for college, you should have run. But now, you’re in love with the boy — er, man.

Love it was for Kim from Cherry Hill and her then-boyfriend Christian, when she first had dinner with his family. As all at the table served themselves London broil, potatoes and peas, Christian sat still. His mother made him a plate with the appropriate portions of each item, cut up the beef and finally laid the neat work before him. Now married, Kim says the woeful behavior continues. “She’s always worried he’s not eating enough,” she says. “She tells him when to wear a heavier coat and when he needs more sleep.” Says Ellenbogen: “With dependency issues, it comes down to how he feels about it. If he doesn’t like it, it’s his job to say ‘Stop, this is enough.’”

Yet Ellenbogen claims truly devilish MILs are rarer than we think, and through all her work with brides, she’s only seen a few tough cases. But (as evidenced here) the horror stories are far more fun to recount than the love stories. And though there is a scientific term for fear of one’s mother-in-law — pentheraphobia (symptoms: heart palpitations and nausea) — and experts who will treat it, most MILs are just lovely, or commit only venial sins. Like, say, starting you a collection of Hummels.

I know this, too, because I found love again, not only with my now — boyfriend, but also with his gentle, endearing mother — who encourages my mediocre cooking and permits me to give her son a smack if he gets fresh. Maybe I’m just lucky. But even if I weren’t and even if you aren’t, we’ll simply repeat this: You love him. You would do anything for him. Even put up with the woman who calls your new hairstyle “fun” and writes his name inside his gym shorts. For these things, forgive her — because it’s only because of her that there is him.