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What Do You Want from Me?: Learning to Get Along with In-Laws Hardcover – July 6, 2009

3.5 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though it's often said that you don't just marry a person, you marry their family too, these complex relationships are often reduced to mother-in-law jokes and cruel stereotypes. Apter, a writer, psychologist and Cambridge University fellow, explores the mysteries and conflicts that come with the in-laws, including mother, father, sister and brother. Offering compelling insights into the power these relationships over a marriage, and the well being of both partners, Apter bases her report on interviews with 150 volunteers, in both the U.K. and the U.S. With professional grace, Apter exposes the emotional minefields that couples often navigate around in-laws, and the ease with which they become stuck in negative (and familiar) attitudes toward them. Apter moves beyond convenient labels, for example readdressing the idea of a mama's boy and what he can mean for a new wife, and convincingly demonstrating why women bear the brunt of the tension from both sides of the family. Self-help-standard questionnaires, exercises and coping methods-mostly practical-are also included in each chapter, giving readers knowledge and skills to relate more openly with the loved one's less-than-loveable family.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Apter's books include the "lucid, funny and illuminating" (The Sunday Times) The Sister Knot (ISBN 978 0 393 33062 5); The Confident Child (ISBN 978 0 393 32896 7), "one of those texts whose reputation has been spread by word of mouth" (The Times Educational Supplement); The "excellent" (The Observer) Myth of Maturity (ISBN 978 0 393 32317 7); and the "wise and understanding" (The Times Educational Supplement) You Don't Really Know Me (ISBN 978 0 393 32710 6).
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (July 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393066975
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393066975
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #478,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Wallis on July 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is great if you are willing to let your mother in law have an equal say in your home, family and parenting. I do not agree with this theroy so this was not a helpful book for me. I'm sorry but my mother in law had her chance to be the mom, my having children with her son does not equal a do over her for. Grandparents are not a "primary relationship" for children, that is infact a parents role, and the granparents take on a supporting role. I'm sure this will be a helpful book for some(mostly baby boomer who are trying to justify their pushiness as grandparents rights..) TRY TOXIC INLAWS FIRST, real life help!
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Format: Paperback
If you don't follow the Judeo-Christian philosophy of "leave and cleave," then this book is perfect. The author argues against the "myth" of the nuclear family and, yes, to other reviewer's points, seems to strongly advocate for a mother-in-law to have as much of a presence in her son's marriage as does his wife. I'm all for sons maintaining close, healthy relationships with their moms after they marry, however, I found this book to be very undermining of a woman's role as a wife and daughter-in-law. Not totally surprised since this was written from the perspective of a mother-in-law...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I felt like this book is good for the mother-in-law to read, but from the daughter-in-law perspective, it was not what i expected. I got from this book that it was ok for mother-in-laws to be invasive and controlling because thats their natural motherly instinct. Seems like it made excuses for the mothers and not enough solutions for the daughters.. I have now order Toxic In-Laws as recommended above.
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Format: Hardcover
"What do you want from?" explains why in-law relationships can feel so uncomfortable. I like many things about in-laws and I really try to get on with them, but I have never understood why my efforts don't pay off. Terri Apter shows what is really going on underneath. Common sense doesn't go deep enough, but Apter's descriptions of family systems make sense, and will help me be a better daughter-in-law. And I no longer feel ashamed of how I feel.
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Format: Paperback
When the title says "Learning to get along with in-laws," it means your mother-in law. Oh and "you" only applies if you're female. I'm knocking it slightly for that although I was aware of the mother in-law/daughter in-law focus. I have issues with both my mother and father in-law, but thought this book could give me a good perspective with the former. I'll be honest, I didn't read the entire book. I got about 58% through according to my Kindle. It's amazing I read that much! It does have some good points. But, early in the book the author explains the mother's feelings towards her son in romantic terms like how her and the baby's eyes lock and they lovingly gaze into each other eyes and how mothers want to be the most important woman in their son's lives. The author's not saying mothers sexualize their sons, but it does seem like she basically wants to say mothers are in love with their sons. I don't doubt that there's some truth to it, but "in love" carries a sexual overtone to me and that overtone obviously is taboo and very uncomfortable. Thus that description skewed my entire perception of the book. When reading about how they compete over the son's love, that taboo was hanging over it, and I saw it as them trying to be more desirable to the son than the other. I hope in a day or two I can completely forget about what I read otherwise it might have actually made the situation worse. HOWEVER, if you can separate the subtle differences between the romanticism of a mother and that of a spouse then it may be a helpful book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book addresses in-law contention with a focus on mother-in-law/daughter-in-law contention. I would recommend this to someone who is not yet married or who has only minor contention with in-laws. For me, it was not very practical and it seems the majority of the advice was appeasement-focused. The other downside was that it read like a dissertation-turned-seminar-lecture (like reading a professor's PowerPoint), which was terribly distracting and unengaging. I should have seen this coming when the author made apologies for her writing style in the preface.
If you have serious/severe contention with your in-laws, try Toxic In-Laws by Susan Powers instead.
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This book was extremely helpful in explaining why getting along with in-laws is so tough--specifically why it's so difficult for wives and mother-in-laws to get along. Particularly interesting and insightful was her explanation that girls are better at establishing their autonomy as teens while simultaneously reassuring their parents that they still love and need them (albeit in different ways), so that by the time they are married, they've already established that they are grown women with their own separate lives. Boys on the other hand are not as good at this and subsequently many men expect their wives to do the work of creating boundaries for them! Ironically, these men don't realize they are doing this and often criticize their wives for doing exactly what they have been nudging them to do. (raises hand!)

However helpful and cathartic it was to read about the underlying psychological issues and feelings that lead to these disputes, I wish Apter had added a chapter about dealing with in-laws with personality disorders and did a more concrete job in explaining at what point the couple should recognize that a relationship is no longer possible/salvageable and go "no contact" (she mentions this only briefly in passing).

Apter says at one point in the book that the relationship can always be turned around. I feel that Apter's statement gave my husband a bit of false hope. That may be true if you're talking about a normal psychologically adjusted person with basic human respect for other people.
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