The Newlyweds' Attitude
After you've settled the issue of the thank-you notes, you'll move on to more important life issues — such as why the bride and/or groom seem to be avoiding you. It's difficult for an MOB to switch gears so quickly, to go from being so involved in the wedding to adopting a hands-off attitude with the newlyweds. Realize that the months after the wedding are a crucial time for them. The bride and groom have to establish their own sense of identity as a married couple. The relationship you establish with them here and now is going to foreshadow the years to come.Hold Your Tongue
No one ever tells the bride and groom that learning to live together is always a piece of cake. The smallest problems can be worthy of award-winning dramatics from either newlywed, and brides are especially prone to telling their mothers far too much. Is your new son-in-law refusing to pull his weight around the house, leaving all the chores for your daughter? Is he hitting the bars with his single friends? Is he careless with money?
Obviously, any new wife would have a hard time dealing with some of these issues. It's likely that she wouldn't want to share her anxiety with a lot of people, and she may not trust anyone like she trusts you. This puts you in a tough spot. You're hearing the worst of it, but remember, you're not expected to pass judgment. (In fact, even if the bride requests judgment, keep it to yourself.)
What can you do here? Listen. If she wants advice, offer the most neutral, nonjudgmental guidance you can muster. Let her know that every newly married couple has issues to work through. Even when she's upset with him, her primary allegiance is to him. Maligning him will only cause a rift between you and your son-in-law (because somehow, somewhere, your daughter will repeat your words to him), and that's sure to cause trouble between you and your daughter.Back Off a Bit
Even if you are the least judgmental mom on the planet, you can still cross the line into meddling territory if you're simply around too much. Remember, the newlyweds need time to get used to living together — they need to get a feel for each other's daily rhythms, habits, and quirks. They need quiet time to sit and talk. They need to do things together, alone.
The newlyweds haven't moved to Mars. Chances are if you're living in the same area, they may want and need your assistance from time to time — with decorating, or with laying out a budget. No one is telling you that you can't see them. Just don't smother them.
They're only going to be newlyweds once, and for a relatively short time. It won't be long before they fall into the routine of many long-term marriages, where one of them is working too much, and the other one is anxious to have visitors. They'll have kids of their own soon enough, and they'll need help with the babysitting and carting the tots around town to playdates and preschool. In other words, there will be plenty of time for you to be with them somewhere down the line. Don't crowd them in their first year of marriage, when every minute they spend together — no matter what the setting — is worthy of a romantic journal entry or an ardent poem. When they want company, they'll invite you to their home. Avoid popping in to surprise them.
Even if you are extremely close to your daughter, you have to give her and her new husband room to breathe after the wedding. Your exceptional relationship will very likely continue, as long as you don't put her in the awkward spot of having to avoid your phone calls and ignore your knocking at the front door so she can snag some private time with her hubby.Traditional Hotspots
So now you know to never badmouth your son-in-law (or at least not while the kids are still settling into married life), and you know you need to give your daughter and her new husband plenty of space. You should also be aware of some of the other ways well-meaning mothers-in-law get themselves into hot water with one or both of the newlyweds. Stay away from these touchy subjects:
Suggesting upgrades to their home. If your daughter has always been accustomed to having the best that money can buy, it may disturb you to see her living in newlywed pauperism. They won't be broke forever, and they will resent your implying that they should be fabulously wealthy right now.
Talking about the past. Your daughter was seriously considering marrying another guy (or you were dreaming of their union), or you feel she gave up a career for her husband. Drop it. Dwelling on what might have been is a big waste of time for you, and incredibly irritating for everyone else.
Talking about the future. Don't push your dreams onto the newlyweds. If she and her husband are talking about starting a family, and she's going to be staying home for a few years, don't push the topic of her finishing her PhD right now. (And don't push kids right away if she wants the PhD first.)
Blaming the son-in-law. When a daughter makes a choice that is unwise (as far as her mother is concerned), it's common for Mom to look to the obvious source of the problem — her son-in-law. That's unfair. Your daughter has a mind of her own, you know.
There are countless variations of these topics, of course, and numerous other issues, as well. You're thinking that this is unfair, and that you'll either resign yourself to a life of keeping your mouth shut or you'll be criticized for everything you say to your daughter and her husband.
That's not exactly true. As time goes by, you'll learn what's acceptable to them, and what isn't.
You'll also learn to care about some things, and to forget others. You may not give a darn if your son-in-law gets angry with you for encouraging your daughter to take the full-time job she's considering; on the other hand, you may decide that what your daughter and her husband do for a living doesn't really affect your life, so … why should you lose sleep over their decisions?
Don't criticize the groom's family. No matter how bad you or the bride might think they are, they're still his blood relatives. If you can't say something nice about them, try to forget they even exist.