Mother-in-law jokes focus on the husband's pain, but female in-laws wage the biggest family battles, the Guardian reports. A 20-year study of hundreds of families shows that 60% of women blame their female in-law for feelings of stress and misery. Mothers-in-law complained of feeling isolated and unappreciated, while daughters-in-law were shocked when hubby's mom became critical or demanding.
Terri Apter, author of What Do You Want From Me?, racks it up partly to the jealous love a mother feels for her son. "This unique dynamic can trigger competition when another woman becomes the new closest kin," she said. Husbands, meanwhile, learn to separate and maintain relationships with both women, whose conflict may be based on "persistent female norms that few of us manage to shake off completely," said Apter.