Dealing With ‘Arrogant Mother-In-Law Syndrome’

It started off really well. The guy really likes my best friend… the two start talking and get on really well… until his mother decides for one reason or the other that actually, her son who is a Doctor is too good for my friend.

Let’s put this into context shall we? Long story short, we’ve been searching for someone practising for my best friend for a few years now. In that time, at least THREE of the suitors who came for her hand in marriage were medical doctors.

And unfortunately, when a good rapport had been established between the guy and my best mate, it was the mother who ended it. The first time this happened, the mother very coldly told my best friend that ‘we have decided to put all our cards on the table and keep our options open.’

In other words, she was very rudely saying she is ALSO considering several other girls at the same time. Interestingly enough, when we accidentally bumped into the mother a year later, her son was STILL not married. She looked so embarrassed, she didn’t know where to hide her face.

The second time it happened, the mother was unbelievably clingy to her son. She seemed to have trouble dealing with the fact that her son wanted to share his life with another woman other than her good self. The result? After numerous visits between the families spanning over 4 months, she politely made an excuse that the distance between them (about 80 miles) was too great. Wow – you didn’t know that beforehand? It later transpired by a mutual friend that the guy was a ‘mummy’s boy’ and the mother thought her son was too good for my friend.

The third time this happened, the mother took one look at my friend and decided there and then she didn’t think much of her – despite her son wanting to pursue the proposal. According to her, my friend looked ‘too old’ when in actual fact, she looks at LEAST 7 years younger than she actually is. Now I should say that my best friend is practising, beautiful, caring, highly educated and works from home…and to top it all off, she can cook incredibly well.

My friend has seen at least 12 proposals over a 3 year period. Of all of them, it was only the ones who were doctors where the mother was a major obstacle. I once spoke to a lady whose son was a doctor (he was married) and was shocked at her attitude towards her daughter-in-law.

She couldn’t find a single good thing to say about her. All she did instead was pick holes in her character and referenced the fact that ‘my son is a surgeon and could have married anyone. Instead he chose HER.’ Of course, it had nothing to do with the fact this woman was beautiful, educated and independent. A woman, who by the mother-in-law’s own admission, can’t be controlled.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is the problem right there. Arrogant mother-in-law syndrome (AMS), is all about control. Interestingly enough, AMS doesn’t just afflict the mothers of successful guys – but can afflict any mother who has a son!

In fact, one deluded mother made it very clear that her daughter-in-law had to be beautiful but submissive, intelligent and not opinionated, and should NOT be working. In fact, this mother made it clear that whichever woman would come into her son’s life would be looking after her and the home. What exactly was her son? A NOTHING. And I do mean that with the greatest of respect. He had a part-time job in a call centre, was not practising, not educated, had no future aspirations and was certainly nothing to look at. It was quite remarkable really.

So dear deluded mother, you are trying to tell me, that your son who has achieved NOTHING in the deen OR the dunya, has to have the best wife EVER – as long as she is submissive to you and does as you want, with no mind of her own?

Wow! That’s even more arrogant than the mothers of sons who HAVE achieved something in life. At least they have convinced themselves they’ve got a reason for their arrogance – but YOU, you have a special kind of stupid and misplaced sense of arrogance that’s in a league of its own!

 

It’s All About The Control

So this brings me to the all-important question – WHY. Why do so many mothers get AMS when it comes to their sons? Why do they seem to think they can hurt other people’s feelings? Why do they think its ok to mess someone else’s daughter around? And why oh why do they feel so threatened when their son takes an interest in a woman who clearly has beauty AND brains and is independent?

That’s an interesting question – the answer to which is as complex as it is intriguing… so let me make this super easy to understand. AMS has many facets, but it essentially boils down to a few things: it’s all about power, influence and control.

For some mothers, there is also an element of insecurity which leads to clingy behaviour, jealousy, and the constant need to ‘compete’ with the daughter-in-law. This ALSO ties in with the need for power and control in a relationship.

It’s about a mother staking her claim as the only woman worthy of her son’s hard work, affection and time because SHE made the sacrifices to get her son to the level of education/study/work that he is currently at.

And because such guys KNOW their mum has done this (and this is usually through many years of brainwashing and emotionally blackmailing their sons, reminding them of their sacrifice and drilling it into their brains that they have to put them number one), they feel compelled to comply.

Men in these situations are not playing the ‘dutiful son’ role that they THINK they are. Unfortunately for the men, they don’t realise that they are in fact being emasculated by the very women who SHOULD be empowering them to be real men – their mothers!

A real man knows what he wants and can respectfully communicate this to his family without feeling the need to comply to all of his mother’s wishes. After all, the mother isn’t going to marry the girl is she?

The men who CAN’T do this have been disempowered by their mothers and rendered incapable of making big decisions – that’s because mummy dear does all of the thinking FOR him. I mean, seriously, get a grip guys! Your mother is to be loved and honoured, but what about what YOU want?

You spent your life living your mother’s dreams out, but what about your own? If you can’t make a proper decision about your own life, how will you take care of your family when it comes along? How will you deal with the pressures of marriage? How will you stand up for the rights of your wife when your mother mistreats her, because she thinks your wife isn’t good enough for you, or perceives your wife as a threat to her love?

Come on you guys, are you men or mice? Since when is the love you have for your mother so weak and since when is your relationship with your mother so fragile that when your wife eventually does come along, you’ll forget all about your dear old ma?

The truth is, that guys who are ‘mummy’s boys’ and who always do what their mothers say and don’t question anything, are actually encouraging a poor daughter-in-law and mother-in-law relationship. This is because the mother is so used to her son complying with everything he asks, that she then expects the same from her daughter-in-law.

Mothers with AMS think they have a God-given right to do as they please with their sons, so will naturally want a wife for their son who will never (like her son) question her. Someone who is not independent and will basically behave like a submissive doormat.

Now if you are a mummy’s boy reading this, please don’t take this to mean that you should not listen to your mother. I would never ever suggest for anyone to disobey their parents or cause them grief.

However, what I DO mean is that from an Islamic perspective, even though your mother has rights over you, Allah has given YOU the right to marry whom you want without the need for your mother’s permission. This is why in Islam, a man doesn’t need a wali to get married.

This is not free reign to marry whom you please without any regard to the feelings of your mother, but this is a gentle reminder to all the brothers out there that statistically speaking, your mother is likely going to die before your wife, so choose your future partner carefully.

Therefore, when deciding who to marry, marry the one who will make a good companion to you and a good mother to your children. Marry the woman who will support your goals and ambitions in your life and whom you can work together towards Jannah for. Don’t marry for the sake of having ‘someone around’ for your mother. Your mother is not going to be married to your wife – you are. She is not going to be responsible for your wife either – you are.

 

Identifying A Mother With AMS

Ok so we have established what AMS is and why it happens…but what if you’re a sister looking to get married. How do you identify AMS and more importantly, if you are already married to a guy whose mother suffers from it, how do you deal with it?

Firstly, AMS has several distinct characteristics which should make it fairly easy to spot in a potential mother-in-law…

  • she will behave very cold towards you
  • implies you’ll be doing everything once you and her son are married
  • seems to have the last say in all conversations
  • interrupts conversations you may have with her son and stops her son from speaking properly
  • is more interested in what you can do for them than what they can do to support you
  • will glare/talk down at her son when he says something she doesn’t like
  • is tactless in her comments, often saying something insulting or catty
  • makes it seem as if her son is outstanding and constantly makes you feel as if you are the lucky one
  • belittles your accomplishments in life or sweeps them aside as if they are not important
  • makes snide comments about your food/appearance/way you live
  • implies her son has had so many proposals and constantly reminds you of them
  • looks down at you and your achievements – especially if you are more stronger in certain areas than her son is

As you can see from the above list, you really wouldn’t want to be around someone like this – so why give your marriage a certified death sentence by marrying a man whose mother displays these signs?

In general, my advice to sisters who are considering marrying a ‘mummy’s boy’ is don’t marry them unless you like the idea of being married and bossed around by his mother. This is ESPECIALLY true if the mother will be living with you after marriage.

There is a HUGE difference between a mummy’s boy and a man who loves his mother. This is because even if his mother is wrong, a mummy’s boy will never say no to his mum…whilst a man who loves his mother will never allow his mother to abuse her position and will lovingly point out when she is wrong.

Learn to see the difference! In fact, as a sister, you should carefully watch how he deals with the women in his family, as it’s a good indication of how you will be treated too (Obviously, AMS is an exception!).

 

Top Tips For Dealing With An Arrogant Mother-In-Law:

If you are unfortunate enough to end up with an arrogant, interfering mother-in-law who feels it necessary to control your husband and your life, here are some ways to take the sting out of it:

  1. Empathy – understanding (not sympathising or agreeing with what is said) your mother-in-law and recognizing what she wants, but not giving in or complying to her if she is unreasonable. For example, she is telling you how to parent your kids. You can say ‘While I understand you are trying to help and you really love the kids, it is my job and duty to raise my children according to how Allah SWT wants me to raise them. Therefore, we will not be celebrating the children’s birthdays because this is haram.’
  2. Respectful Accountability – holding your mother-in-law accountable by confronting unacceptable behaviour politely in FRONT of your husband. For example, she is rude to you, so you say ‘I’m very hurt by your comments today about my food. I know my cooking style is different to yours and I respect that, but it really upset me’
  3. Setting Boundaries and Limits – make it clear what is acceptable to you and what is not. So for example, if you are working from home, making it clear that ‘I am happy for you to visit me during evenings and weekends, however 9-5 are my hours of work where I am busy and cannot make time for anyone. Outside of these hours, you are welcome any time as long as you give me at least 2 days’ notice so I can make something nice for you.’
  4. Manage Their Expectations – Always be precise in how you manage expectations – so for example, instead of doing as she asks, say ‘I respect you as my mother-in-law, but I also have my own family to deal with and they always come first. My time needs to be spent serving my husband and my children – I can’t think of anyone else until I have fulfilled their needs first.’
  5. Compromise – as long as it doesn’t impinge on the rights that Allah has given you and you have met your husband and your children’s needs first, compromising on  certain issues with your mother-in-law will help to show her that you are willing to put her feelings into perspective and that you care about her
  6. Collaborate where necessary – naturally, women like to be in charge of their own families without someone else telling them what to do. However, if you can collaborate in certain issues and work together as a team, it will show your mother-in-law that you are not the enemy! For example, if you are holding a dinner party in your home, you can ask your mother-in-law to help brainstorm ideas, cook something or get her expertise on a dish or on the menu so she feels important
  7. Prepare to accept when you are wrong – be the first to apologize if you both have a disagreement on something, but ensure you firmly state how you feel/where you stand. For example, you can say ‘I’m really sorry about earlier, it’s not that I don’t value your opinion, but I felt you were trying to push me into making a decision about X that I am not comfortable with.’

The final piece of advice for sisters dealing with a difficult mother-in-law and a mummy’s boy is to ACCEPT that whatever happens in life, mummy dearest will always be more important to your husband than you. Therefore, take heed and avoid confrontation with her in any way, because your husband will never take your side. This is also the reason that when you DO have to deal with a difficult situation with your mother-in-law, you need to do it in the presence of your husband so said mother-in-law can’t tell tales or stretch the truth about what REALLY happened. Everything is out in the open with no room for misinterpretation.

 

Advice To Mothers With AMS

Mothers must understand that Allah has given you responsibility over you sons, BUT you have to fulfil this trust as Allah has enjoined in the Quran. The Sunnah also confirms this command in many hadith.

It was narrated that Ma’qil ibn Yasaar al-Muzani said: I heard the Prophet SAW say: “There is no person whom Allah puts in charge of others, and when he dies he is insincere to his subjects, but Allah will forbid Paradise to him.” 

And in another narration: “… and he is insincere towards them, and will not smell the fragrance of Paradise.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari (6731) and Muslim (142))

So mothers, understand this – just because you are a mother, doesn’t mean you can pervert or abuse the rights Allah has given to you over your sons by manipulating them when it comes to marriage. Your sons have a right to choose who they want to make as future partners, and you have no right to dissuade them unless you have a genuine concern that the girl he is considering for marriage has a bad character or is not practising or some other major issue.

You CANNOT refuse a proposal on the grounds that you feel threatened by her, or you think a girl isn’t good enough for your precious son. Your daughter-in-law is NOT your maid to tend to you and the house just because you desire it. She is your son’s wife and helps him to complete half of his religion. She is not in competition with you, nor is she a threat to you in any way.

Your daughter-in-law isn’t trying to take your son away from you either – rather, she is trying to make a place in your son’s heart to keep him happy, and as Allah SWT has instructed her to do so. To stop your daughter-in-law doing this or by being demanding and ordering her around as if she was your maid is a great sin in Islam.

Your daughter-in-law has no obligation to you whatsoever, and Allah will NOT hold her to account for it UNLESS she mistreats you. However, Allah SWT is the Most Just and HATES oppression in any form – therefore know this: if you mistreat your son’s wife in any way, you WILL be held to account on the day of Judgement.

Be confident in how you have raised your son and stop clinging on to him for dear life. Your job as a mother is to set him up for success –not help him fail his marriage! If you have raised your son correctly and taught him the right values, your son will understand that you are the most important woman in his life and will honour that… but he will ALSO understand that he is responsible for the care and wellbeing of his wife who is ALSO deserving of his time and love. That is the haq that Allah SWT has given her – and one that YOU have no right to take away from her due to your own fears. You have to accept that there are things your daughter-in-law can do for your son that you could never do. And this is just the way it is.

So fear Allah, and do not stand in the way of your son marrying for his future happiness or stand in the middle of his marriage. It could be on the day of judgement that the only thing standing between you and Jannah is your behaviour towards your daughter-in-law, or your pride and arrogance that prevented your son from marrying the one he really wanted.

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