Study: Loving Your Mother in Law Might Lead You to Divorce

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Study: Loving Your Mother in Law Might Lead You to Divorce
Sat 01-12-2012

A new study shows that the pressure to charm the mom-in-law falls heaviest on the husband; a son-in-law who wins over his wife’s mother reduces the couple’s chance of divorce by 20%.

That statistic comes from a 26 year longitudinal study of 373 couples who were first married in 1986. Dr Terri Orbuch, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, asked the couples how close they felt to their in-laws when they married and then continued to collect data over the decades. When new husbands reported being close to their in-laws at the beginning of their marriage, the rate of divorce was 20% lower than the group over all.

"These ties connect the husband to the wife," Orbuch told The Wall Street Journal. "They say, ‘Your family relationships are important to me because you are important to me.’"

But why did those mother-in-law bonds not hold up as a marriage boost for wives? Perhaps, Orbuch speculated, women who initially feel close to their husband’s mother, come to resent the relationship, especially when kids come along.

Orbuch goes on to offer some sage, if not surprising, advice. To parents with a daughter-in-law: be aware she will be more “sensitive to meddling” than a son-in-law. Meanwhile, parents with a son-in-law would do well to bond with him.