I'd better start this post with a disclaimer. I've been wanting to write a post like this for a long time. It is not pointed at anyone in particular. If it helps you great. If it doesn't apply to your situation, which I hope it doesn't, that's great too. These are just some ponderings I've had on this topic....
I write this for anyone who struggles with this relationship. I might even go so far as to say that this tie between in-laws is the most difficult relationship there is. I don't think I feel about my husband's mother how others feel about theirs. I have to say, though, that it was a conscious decision. Forgiveness is a conscious decision as is working to repair things.
At one point, early in our marriage, I think this relationship could have gone either direction, but I decided that when I chose to marry the Warden (20 years ago on the 21st), that I also chose his parents as mine; unlike my parents, these are the parents I selected. Since that was my choice, it was also my choice what to do with that relationship. I could make it or break it. I couldn't just expect it to work out and leave it alone. I also couldn't look at it as "oh, they're just my in-laws" and expect it to be all that that term entails. I had to DO something to make it work and work positively. I owed this to my husband and my children but mostly to myself. As a result, this has ended up being one of the most rewarding relationships in my life.
I will share that it hasn't always been sunshine and roses, but I would also assert that they have never earned the name "in law." They are great people. They are also VERY different from my own parents.
I know that there is nothing I can do to change anyone else's behavior toward me, but I can choose to forgive, and I can choose my own behaviors toward them. This is especially true in a volatile relationship such as this one. I have to give them the "benefit of the doubt;" if something happens that offends me, I need to believe that they didn't mean it the way I took it and quickly forgive them--even if they did mean it the way I took it. I can't judge them by their motives, I can only be responsible for mine. If my motives are bad, then I have some changing to do.
When there have been down-er times in our relationship, most of the time it's either been because I have chosen to be offended by something that's been done or said, or I have been careless; I have neglected to send pictures of the kids (something I'm TERRIBLE at) or forgotten to invite them to join us for fun things we do or not sent a little note or called from time to time. Like with all relationships, I know that I need to make some thoughtful gestures from time to time, or that relationship will die. This also goes along with the saying, "In order to have a friend, you have to be one."
I wish everyone could have the Warden's mother as their mother-by-marriage or someone just like her. The Warden's mom has made me her traveling companion a couple times--just the two of us--when I was a mother to a bunch of little, tiny ones and really NEEDED to get away; she saw that need and filled it. She also, after #6 was born, hired a housekeeper to come in once a week for the first couple months knowing that that's probably what would be the best baby gift for a recovering mom of many. She's AMAZING, and I love her! Who knows, over time, if your side of the equation tries extra hard, maybe it could become this way.
I am grateful that I have forgiving, loving parents-by-marriage, but I want to encourage anyone who might struggle with their in-laws to try something today. It's never too late to start; today's as good a day as any.