Saturday, September 29, 2012

I also wrote features in between the movie reviews and columns

May 10, 1987
Standard-Examiner staff

If man's best friend is his dog, how might his mother-in-law be described?

Popular stereotypes certainly hold that mothers-in-law are a bane to happy marriages -- an anathema, in fact -- and a nuisance at best, always interfering and dishing out unsolicited advice.

In reality, though, mothers-in-law might be getting a bad rap. At least that's what Betty P. Janiak, an Ogden psychologist who has experience sorting out such problems, says.

"I wouldn't say that (mothers-in-law) are the primary problem" in conflicts between married children and their in-laws, Janiak said. "A lot of the time adult children have trouble separating from their parents emotionally.

"Once a son or daughter gets married, she said, a certain degree of independence from parents is essential to the success of the new relationship. In most instances of trouble, the psychologist explained, the fault is "two-sided," and not always due to an interfering mother-in-Iaw. Very often, she said, it's linked to a child's immaturity.

"Family relationships can be rewarding if (parents) allow the child to grow up, become adults and become friends with them," she said. "Or if one of the marriage partners ... is unable to form a family relationship with their spouse's family, problems can arise."

Remedies, she said, are successful only if all the in-laws are willing to work hard at finding a solution.

In theory it all sounds pretty simple. But in practice -- as anyone who's married knows -- relationships with mothers-in-law can resemble anything from a tiptoe through a mine field to all-out thermonuclear war.

There are no fast and easy answers to getting along with a mother-in-law, since each one is an individual. With that in mind, here are a few comments from mothers of large families, all of whom are mothers-in-law several times over:

Four of Martha Johnson's six children are married. She first became a mother-in-law eight years ago. "I've really enjoyed it,'" she said, adding that she enjoys forming new friendships
with people. But Johnson, a resident of Ogden, candidly revealed that she has experienced trepidation at the marriage of at least one of her children.

"Of course there are disappointments," she said. "But that's the person they want to live with and you have to accept it."

Katherine Liljenquist, of Ogden, said she's never had any regrets: "Oh heavens, no. I guess I'm just easy-going or something; I always looked forward to it."

Liljenquist accorded her happiness and success at being a mother-in law to treating her five sons-in-law and one daughter-in-Iaw as if they were her own.

"We just all get along really well," she said. "I cannot say one bad thing about it. They're all such special kids, each one brings something different to the family."

JoAnn Smith of Mountain Green says she's absolutely taken with her six daughters-in-law, and "loves" being a mother-in-Iaw. There was no nervousness about becoming a mother-in-law to begin with, she said, since her first experience went so smoothly.

"Oh, my first daughter-in-Iaw," Smith said excitedly, "the first time we met we just feIl into each other's arms."

The key to being a successful mother-in-law, according to Smith, is to always be "loving and accepting" and to "only give advice when it's asked for."

"I used to listen to advice from my mother and mother-in-Iaw," she recalled. "And then I'd decide for myself."

Smith also tries to devote equal time to her various children and their wives, inviting them to dinner on a rotating basis. As proof that everyone gets along well, Smith said the whole family -- including her 21 grandchildren -- spent Easter weekend together in St. George. The only regret Smith has about being a mother-in-law, she said, is "that I didn't know (my daughters-in-law) when they were kids. I missed out on their childhood experiences. I really do love them as much as I do my own."

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