An article written by
Madeleine A. Fugère:
My friend Renee* recently married the love of her life, Byron. All of Renee’s friends and family members love Byron, but, unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Byron’s friends and family. Specifically, Renee’s mother-in-law doesn’t like her and it’s straining the marriage.
Many women report tension in their relationship with their mother-in-law, a conflict that is associated with increased marital dissatisfaction. This sad situation got me thinking about the stereotypical mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. Do our mothers-in-law really not like us? And if not, why not? The actual reasons for this common conflict are somewhat surprising and likely stem from our evolutionary history.
Madeleine A. Fugère, is a professor of Social Psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University, where she teaches courses in Social Psychology, Statistics, Research Methods, and Attraction and Romantic Relationships. She is the author of The Social Psychology of Attraction and Romantic Relationships (Palgrave Macmillan) as well as numerous journal articles related to attraction and romantic relationships.
Editor: Arman Ahmed
You Are Probably Not the Partner Your In-Laws Would Have Chosen for Their Child
Why did you choose your romantic partner? Physical attraction? Creativity? Intelligence? A good sense of humor? The traits that we value in our mates are not the same as those our parents value in mates for us. While we value traits such as physical attractiveness, an exciting personality, or a good sense of humor, our parents are more likely to value characteristics such as a good family background, sound financial prospects, or a similar religious or ethnic background. Because of these different preferences, we may choose mates for ourselves whom our parents would not have chosen for us. This may lead to an initial dislike on the part of our in-laws, which can be difficult to overcome.
You Are Too Attractive
Some of the largest conflicts in mate preferences between adult children and their parents occur on traits associated with physical attractiveness (e.g. good looks, height, physical fitness). According to evolutionary theory, we value those traits in a mate because we want to secure good genes for our future offspring. Our parents, however, may have good reasons to object to physically attractive partners. Based on evolutionary theory, women who are more attractive than their male partners think more about leaving their relationship and show more interest in alternative partners and men who are more attractive may be less inclined to invest in or care for future offspring.