Singaporebrides | Relationships

January 2013

When My Mother and Fiancée become BFFs

Women and their mothers-in-law typically go together like water and oil. But what happens when your wife and your mother become best friends? Fu Jinming shares his tale of woe.

It was almost noon when I woke from my customary weekend sleep-in. As I staggered across the floor to my bathroom, I heard a smattering of voices coming from the living room. They sounded spritely, excited and rather merry.

Laughter broke and I decided to see what the joke was. I found my mother and my fiancée on the sofa, happily laughing at something they’d just found amusing. Then they saw me, and just as suddenly as they started, they stopped. I realised with a sudden dread that they had been trading stories about me again. Ones that should have remained private between wife and man, or mother and son.

It is not the first time it has happened. My classified files – in all their embarrassing, side-splitting, face-palming glory – have now become public property. All thanks to the fact that the two most important women in my life have now become best friends. And best friends share everything.

It is a conundrum most men might envy me for. After all, women and their mothers-in-law aren’t expected to be the chummiest of buddies. They are likelier to trade sarcasm and insults than endearing stories about the man they love – in different ways of course.

According to researchers in the US, nearly 60 percent of all marriages suffer from some form of mother-in-law-related tension, usually between the daughter-in-law and her husband’s mother.

Just look at Taiwanese or Hong Kong soap operas. Or better yet, sit through one of those South Korean sob fests. The classic plotline is almost always the same: Bride marries into the family. Mother-in-law picks on everything the wife does. New wife tries to please mother-in-law at first, but decides to stand up to her eventually. Mum-in-law is massively displeased. Both women implore the main man to take their sides. He bangs his head on the wall and escapes into a coma.

Or something like that.

History has had its spectacular share of wife-versus-mother-in-law feuds too. The late Princess Diana had her problems with Queen Elizabeth, who in turn had her spats with her son’s current wife, Camila Parker Bowles, who is now at odds with her step-daughter-in-law, Kate Middleton. Talk about a royal mess.

BFFs with Mother in law

Sharing Secrets

Closer to home, I’ve lost count of the number of times my female friends complained about their overbearing mothers-in-law – in various pitches of exasperation and resignation.

So I suppose I should feel fortunate that my wife-to-be gets along famously with my mother. But I can’t help but feel vulnerable by it all. Because when two women start talking, nothing is safe. Not the story about how I pooed my pants in kindergarten; how I ate an ant when I was five; the time I went blonde at university; my first date with my wife-to-be – and the fact that I can’t remember where we went.

It’s like having my life vivisected by two daytime talk-show hosts, musing and laughing at the maladies that are my misadventures.

And the paranoia goes deeper. For what’s to stop them from sharing more sordid details? Like what happens in the bedroom – or doesn’t.

While I’m happy that my mum finally has someone she can talk to – she usually gets monosyllabic replies from my brother and I – I feel stark naked whenever I’m around the house with the both of them. Facts get shared. Decisions are made. And I’m usually the last to know.

Like when they decided it was time I grew out of my superhero t-shirts and conspired to give half my collection away to charity while I was away at work. Or the time they planned out an entire Saturday programme where they’d have brunch, send the dogs to the groomer, go shopping, and I’d get to play chauffeur – all while I was still in bed.

The Good, the Bad and the Long-suffering

Yet, two women sharing secrets is infinitely better than two women tearing each other’s throats out. Nobody needs to be the wife- or mother-in-law from hell, which saves me from peacekeeping missions at home.

And if we all fall into the waters, I’d never have to worry about whom to save first; they’d probably save each other (which means I’d better improve my swimming).

But how do I stop them from sharing secrets about me?

Truth is, I don’t think I can. Women share – it’s an instinct as old as Time itself. One brought about by a woman’s primordial role within a community.

While we armed ourselves with spears and stones, women armed themselves with information. Information that will protect their young, their families and their livelihoods.

Over time, that data evolved to include gossips, recipes, tips, laments – anything that will better their lives. That unfortunately also meant information about their men, especially the ones who matter to them.

In the case of my mother and my better half: me.

While the Laughs Last

Though I don’t know how discussing my bowel movement helps improve their lives (yes, they do that, to my exasperation), I certainly appreciate the harmony that exists between the two most important women in my life – while it still lasts.

For we all know how things can go really pear-shaped between women, really fast.

What could they possible fall out on? O, let me count thy ways.

There’s the impending wedding – an event that never fails to provide fertile grounds for a bust-up. The venue, the flower arrangements, the guest list… the possibilities are endless.

Then, there’s the apartment. When it comes to house-cleaning, my mother adheres to one standard and one standard only. Hers. She has raised the bar so high, no one – not me, not my brother, and certainly not my fiancée – can ever match her benchmark in domestic cleanliness.

And let’s not forget the grandchildren that will (hopefully) follow. Already, I sense a quiet discontent bubbling beneath the surface over the family dog. My mother and my girlfriend both adore our live-in Shih Tzu. The two parties have their own ways of feeding, disciplining and spoiling the dog – and their methods don’t always agree. I expect things to get tenser with babies of the non-furry variety.

Indeed, the friendship that currently binds the two ladies may just be a passing thing. The quiet before the storm, perhaps.

But until the storm hits, all I’d do is enjoy the wind in my sails. Let them talk behind my back, share my secrets, plan my life. I’d rather be tormented by embarrassment than be dispirited by disharmony any day.

Besides, I’ve got my own dirty little secrets about them as well.

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When My Mother and Fiancée become BFFs